Authors: M. A. Nilles
Part 1 of 5
Nadia wants no part of the shevoru, the dark blade that has gained power by possessing the souls of raging half-bloods and monsters she has killed. Since learning the secret of the dagger and the spell that the sorcerers taught her to use, she has freed herself from its influence. She is finally ready to make the journey to rid the world of its evil by using the power of an ancient device.
The Adept leaders desire the power of the dagger to serve their purposes, but the messenger they sent to retrieve it from Nadia is the last person she wants to see…
Part 1 – Hunters
M. A. Nilles
Spirit Blade is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters, names, places, or incidents to reality is pure coincidence.
E-book Copyright © 2014 by Melanie Nilles
Copyright © 2014 by Paul Davies.
Published by Prairie Star Publishing; Bismarck, North Dakota. Smashwords edition.
All Rights Reserved.
For information, contact Melanie Nilles at [email protected] or online at www.melanienilles.com.
Table of Contents
More to come!
PART 1 – HUNTERS
"It is my hope that one day those adept at dispiriting the beasts may serve to fulfill a higher purpose, that generation after generation, their gifts prove bountiful as their race. In this new capability to overpower the harshest natter, they will open a gate to the survival of their kind and potentially remove the mistakes of those too ignorant to see the dangers of their ambitious experiments. It is with a full heart that I will do all I can to guide them to use this developed power as a means to an ends to restore the bounty that was once Derandria…"
– Lady Te'Mea's translated address to the conclave
Durani thar Orokan
The symbols glowed beneath her finger on the rim of the bowl. Del'Aru watched in wide-eyed fascination at the magic awakening on the ancient object. One of many of the magic-infused artifacts left after the disappearance of the Old Ones, the ancient race that once dominated Derandria. There in the ruins of one of the old, hidden studies, she had revived the Vessel of Ukalov.
"Treak!" she called. The goblin would want to see the results of her efforts to reveal the magic of the large bowl. She was near, her scent strong yet amid the musty shelves of the old temple.
From around a desk came the rapid patter of goblin feet. The bald green head bobbed in the faint light over the level of the desk top, with fanlike ears that pointed up along the dome of the head. Treak stood no taller than Del'Aru's hip but reached her side in a blink.
In her simple long shirt belted at the waist with a vest keeping it snug around her scrawny body, the goblin climbed onto the table on which the vessel sat. Large dark eyes widened in fascination.
Del'Aru removed her finger from the brim of the silver bowl and the symbols faded. The bowl returned to its normal, tarnished state. "Incredible."
The goblin nodded agreement, a smile revealing pointed teeth in her mouth.
"I can't believe it was hiding in plain sight." Del'Aru turned her eyes to the book on the table next to the bowl and flipped the page to drawings of the vessel and its many symbols in the language she was just beginning to understand.
"It would seem the Old Ones knew how to hide their most precious knowledge." She looked about at the dusty study with its walls of books, the tables of artifacts with the sediment of time coating them, and, in the center, a statue of three exquisite women holding rings slanted on tangents to each other around a wide center.
A tug on her brown sleeve—her scales transformed into clothes to protect and warm her human form—pulled Del'Aru's eyes back to the goblin. The quick run of gestures had her nodding in agreement. Although goblins couldn't speak in the presence of demonlords, Treak and she had worked out a system over their years of friendship.
"Yes, they didn't want it falling into the wrong hands. But they can't keep their secrets forever. I am immortal, and if it takes an eternity to solve the mysteries of the Old Ones, then that's what it'll be. I won't give up, Treak. I need to know what my dreams mean."
Another series of gestures left her puzzled while the goblin hopped from the desk and ran across the dusty floor to one of the shelves. Treak scurried up the ladder to pull out several scrolls of parchment. With them tucked under her arm, she pressed her bare feet on the side of the ladder and slid down with a squeak of skin on metal.
Del'Aru had left the goblin to the lighter items, although Treak could move the larger books with magic. But it didn't feel right to leave the goblin to such tasks to strain her when Del'Aru was more than capable.
Del'Aru joined Treak at the second of the two desks, where the goblin unrolled the old parchments slowly. The first appeared to be a list of names, demonlord names of various clans, including her own Del'Rayk, but one that hadn't been heard from in hundreds of years and was probably dead; demonlords might be immortal, but they could be killed by other demonlords. The clans had warred and fought for territory for over two thousand years off and on. The text above the names indicated an agreement of guardianship of the First Ones, whatever that meant.
"First of what?" she questioned aloud. Some of the names rang familiar, even chillingly familiar, like Te'Mea, the demonlord who organized the first Adepts, humans with the power to dispirit lesser demons but not demonlords. Her blood ran cold at the realization that she had heard recent rumors of some of the demonlords on that list since leaving her clan's self-imposed isolation from the world—some were still alive. What were they the first of?
"Why didn't you show me this sooner?"
Treak blinked and pointed at the vessel.
"You can interrupt me."
Treak folded her arms in an impatient look.
"All right. So, I don't like to be disturbed, but this is important." Far more important than the vessel.
The goblin opened her arms and waved as if to include the entire study.
Del'Aru huffed. "So, it's all important. I understand. But do you know what this means?" She lifted the paper, studying the names, memorizing them. "If these are the first demonlords, they might have known the Old Ones, know what all this means, what happened and why I'm having nightmares about it. And maybe why they are called the 'First Ones' and how they got here. This is the key to unlocking the secrets, Treak. This is what I've been searching for, and I know where the closest one might be."
Treak smiled and gave a nod.
"Ready to fly?"
The goblin paled and her ears drooped.
She signed the word.
"I can't risk waiting. I promise not to play this time."
Treak rolled her eyes and headed for the door of the study. With a hint of magic, Del'Aru sent the parchment back to its place with the other scrolls, where it would remain hidden like the study. Her research of the Old Ones, the first sentient race considered to have inhabited their world and disappeared, would go much quicker if she could find one of these First Ones, these Guardians, to advise her. Seeing monsters drawn in their books that she had dreamed about had been only the beginning of the end. She was much closer now to learning what it meant.
Excitement coursed through her. She wanted to play in flight, but she had promised Treak.
Nadia dared not blink. The half-blood was good, maintaining control in a fight instead of losing control in the blood rage. Rather, Je'Surana was sharp and focused, even in the use of her claws and teeth. Few half-bloods could fight without the killing instinct taking over. Nadia had only known one other, but he didn't have the advantage that Je'Surana did.
As regrets crept into her heart threatening to distract her, she shook them away.
None too soon. Je'Surana struck, whirling with the speed and agility of her demonlord half.
But Nadia was no ordinary human. An Adept by birth with the demon-controlling dispirit power and a full-fledged demon hunter by training, she easily flipped the half-blood over her head.
Je'Surana sprang back to her feet, white and black strands of hair falling loose from the tight tail of hair on her head. Pale blue eyes scalded Nadia and a feral snarl issued from the girl, exposing the growing points of teeth.
This was what Nadia expected. This was the fight she craved to harden her heart from the grief still haunting her five months later.
She would likely lose if the girl succumbed to the blood rage, but she might not. It would test her theory after what happened with Je'Rol at the battle of the Nik'Terek Gate. But that wasn't what she had been asked to do.
Nadia glanced aside to the steward in the shadows of the chamber, the man in the white and black blouse and pants formed from his tiger hide by the power of magic and imagination. He tipped his head.
Exactly what she had expected. He wanted her to challenge the girl, and that's what would happen.
Nadia sprang for the girl, ducked a swipe of Je'Surana's claws, and yanked the dagger from her own belt in one motion. She whirled, but the girl leapt over her with the power and grace of her demonlord half.
A quick calculation passed through her head based on the arc of the girl's jump. Nadia whirled and drove the blade into Je'Surana's side.
Pain creased the poor girl's face as blood stained her shirt around the dagger's crossbar. "Nadia..." She stumbled backwards into a pillar at the edge of the fighting floor.
Nadia stood over her, catching her breath and trying not to feel. The training had started out as it had every day for the last four months, slowly building in intensity as the girl displayed ever-improving fighting intuition.
It wasn't fair to her, however, as the man who had requested it refused to allow Je'Surana to use her full power against Nadia. Always winning did little to help Nadia hone her fighting skills. There was no challenge in defeating a young, inexperienced half-blood holding back the blood rage, a remarkable feat to be sure but one which left her vulnerable in some ways.
That had improved when Lord Je'Kaoron ordered Nadia to push Je'Surana to test the limits of her control. As the daughter of a demonlord and an Adept, Je'Surana was the only half-blood with the power to
the demon half of her blood. The blood rage could only be sated by the taking of lives as an instinct of the predator demonlord side to hunt and kill. Unfortunately, the human side was not strong enough to control the blood rage, which could take over in any situation of intense emotions. Je'Surana had proven that not all half-bloods were a threat to humans.
"Nadia, please," Je'Surana begged. Teeth and fingers had returned to normal. Pale blue eyes like the royal Je'Gri who fathered her turned aside. "My lord."
Nadia waited, struggling against her desire to pull the dagger from the girl. It should never have happened. Damn him for allowing this! And to his own child!
Lord Je'Kaoron's soft steps stopped at the girl's side, but he made no effort to help her. "Get up."
Nadia blinked, uncertain she had heard right. Didn't he care?
Yes, he did. The flash of a swallow and the twitch of his eye gave it away, yet he maintained his cool composure. "This is but a minor injury for one such as yourself. You're stronger than this. Get up."
Je'Surana's face creased into confusion for only an instant before smoothing into determination in accepting his order without consideration to herself. Amid twitches of pain and using the column for support, the girl climbed to her feet. The stain in her shirt grew, spreading down to her waist.
Lord Je'Kaoron made no move to help but stood like a statue watching.
Her back against the pillar, Je'Surana gripped in both hands the dagger handle now dripping blood. Amid grunts of pain and gasping for breath, she pulled it from her side. Her trembling hands dropped the blade. It clinked an echoing note on the floor, and she pressed her empty hands to the wound. In her weakness, she sank against the pillar.