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Authors: Robert Reginald

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Melanthrix the Mage

BOOK: Melanthrix the Mage
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BORGO PRESS FICTION BY ROBERT REGINALD

THE NOVA EUROPA FANTASY SAGA

The Hieromonk's Tale

1.
Melanthrix the Mage

2.
Killingford

3.
The Dark-Haired Man

The Archquisitor's Tale

4.
The Righteous Regicide

5.
The Virgin Queens

6.
The Exiled Prince

The Protopresbyter's Tale

7.
Brother Theo's God

8.
Quæstiones

9.
“Whither Goest Thou?”

The Hypatomancer's Tale

10.
The Cracks in the Æther

11.
The Pachyderms' Lament

12.
The Fourth Elephant's Egg

Other Fiction:
Academentia: A Future Dystopia
*
The Attempted Assassination of John F. Kennedy
*
Dead Librarians and Other Shades of Academe
*
The Elder of Days: Tales of the Elders
*
If J.F.K. Had Lived
*
Invasion!
(War of Two Worlds #1) *
The Judgment of the Gods and Other Verdicts of History
*
Knack' Attack
(Human-Knacker War #2) *
The Martians Strike Back!
(War of Two Worlds #3) *
The Nasty Gnomes
(Phantom Detective #2) *
Operation Crimson Storm
(War of Two Worlds #2) *
The Paperback Show Murders
*
The Phantom's Phantom
(Phantom Detective #1)

melanthrix the mage

The hieromonk's tale, book one

Being the First Romance of Nova Europa

robert reginald

THE BORGO PRESS

mmxi

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Copyright © 2004, 2011 by Robert Reginald

FIRST BORGO PRESS EDITION

Published by Wildside Press LLC

www.wildsidebooks.com

DEDICATION

To the memory of

Dr. Fran J. Polek

(November 11, 1929-December 26, 2002)

and his creative writing class

at Gonzaga U. more than four decades ago;

and

For
Mary
,

who has given

so very much

of herself—

to my life

to this book

to everything.

L'ENVOI

O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue

To drown the throat of war! When the senses

Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,

Who can stand? When the souls of the oppressed

Fight in the troubled air that rages, who can stand?

When the whirlwind of fury comes from the

Throne of God, when the frowns of his countenance

Drive the nations together, who can stand?

When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle,

And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death;

When souls are torn to everlasting fire,

And fiends of Hell rejoice upon the slain,

O who can stand? O who hath caused this?

O who can answer at the throne of God?

The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!

Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it!

—William Blake

AUTHOR'S NOTE

For those of you who care about such things, this novel is an alternate history set in a Europe whose geographic features are similar or even identical to our own, with the major (but not sole) divergence from our timeline having occurred in the year 363
ad
, when Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, Constantine I's nephew, was
not
killed in battle against the Persians (as he was in our world), but lived on for another forty years.

For the geographic and personal names herein, I used mostly Slavic, Hungarian, German, and Greek models; there are no silent letters in such constructs. Forward accents are intended to provide guides to stress in Slavic words, such emphasis often appearing in locations unfamiliar to west­erners; in Hungarian names, however, the accents merely indicate differences in vowel sounds. I've employed circum­flexes in Greek words to distinguish between the letters ep­silon and êta, and omicron and ômega. Umlauts can denote gutteral vowel sounds—or dress up otherwise pedestrian names. The letter “ß” stands for “ss.”

In the end, of course, I have my own ideas about pronunciation, and each reader will undoubtedly have hers or his. Mangle them as ye will, folks, and no one will be the wiser, unless you actually hear me read a passage someday, and then you can tell me, with as haughty an air as possi­ble, that I've got it all wrong!

I do try to have fun when creating these things; some of the names here have been invented from the flimsiest of constructs, bearing no discernible relationship to anything that anyone but I will ever be able to determine. Oh, well!

PROLOGUE

“SILENCE!”

Anno Domini 1166

Anno Juliani 806

The men came out of the night as a pack of wolves, running silently and low against the ground, taking advan­tage of every furrow and bush to erase any sign of their presence from the pale starlight. Anyone eying the scene would have spied no more than the occasional wavering of a shadow to betray their presence. They stopped just be­yond the flickering aura of light cast by the torches sur­rounding the perimeter of the emir's camp, hidden from sight by a shallow declivity; and then the lycomorphs rose slowly from the ground, reconstituting themselves in human form, complete with dark gray mantles and hoods.

“Remember,” hissed their leader, a tall, bearded man wrapt in a black desert
qaftan
, “no unnecessary killing. No noise.”

He glanced around once to make certain everyone understood. Each nodded in turn, his head barely outlined against the horizon.

Then their leader raised his right fist, the ring on his smallest finger briefly glowing a dull crimson, and again the hunters rushed forward in a wave. The captain took the first sentry himself, surging swiftly into his mind, while simultaneously covering his mouth. He compelled the guard to walk out into the darkness to the nearest bush, there to sleep the night away. One by one the picket line was whelmed, until none remained. Then the wolves went searching for other prey.

The tent they were seeking was located on the south side of the encampment. It was set a little aside from the rest, large and looming, its canvas doorflap emblazoned with the crouching striped tiger of the House of Tighris, a creature that seemed to stalk back and forth as it flapped in the desert breeze. Tölgy spotted it first, and whistled the clear, piercing call of the desert nighthawk, immediately drawing the others nigh.


Csendes!
” whispered their captain in the common tongue, “
silence!

He then sent Páston to loose the emir's steeds, and ordered young Kyrik to guard the area just outside the tent. The rest would follow their captain inside.

The leader carefully slit the ties holding the tentflap shut, and led his cadre into the black interior, extending his senses throughout the space.

The servants sleeping on the floor of the outer chamber were taken by surprise, being placed into trances from which they would not waken for hours. The Psairothi bodyguard was muted by the onslaught of a dozen and one minds.

The hunters paused just outside the entrance to the inner sanctum. Their leader raised his arm once more, his hand self-illuminated with a rosy glow, and then folded his fingers over one by one. At the count of three, they rushed in, fanning out to either side to assume control of the chamber.

The woman was instantly awake in her bed, her de­fenses flaring in reaction, creating a brilliant blue aura around her body in response to the unauthorized intrusion. She was preparing to blast the invaders with all her might when the captain let his own flame re-emerge, just enough to show the two-year-old boychild dangling from under his right arm. An empty flock bed lay nearby, its covering still warm.

The soldier held up the lad to show his control of the situation. Then he nodded to either side, and his com­panions allowed their own auræ to illuminate their hands and bodies and gradually the entire room.

“What dost thou seek?” the woman hissed.

The covers fell away from her body as she sat up, but she paid them no mind. Her auburn hair tumbled loose around her full, bare breasts, gleaming dully in the dim light.

“You already know,” he said softly, indicating the child.

She started to scream, but he cut her off by flexing his big fingers around the child's tiny neck.

“If you cry out,” the captain said, “
he dies!
If you raise the alarum,
he dies!
If you fail to follow my lead,
he dies!
They told you that this day would come. You have two choices, madame, and two alone: you will let me take the boy away, or he will perish here. I give you my word that he will be protected, educated, and nourished. Open wide your heart, lady, and read the truth writ plain upon mine
espiritus
.”

“We see it,” she said.

“You must choose now,” the soldier demanded.

Then a mooring tore loose in her heart, as she silently screamed her soul out, unable to voice her despair and her sorrow, rocking back and forth on her haunches, her creamy breasts and dark hair bobbing in the cold light reflected from thirteen pairs of crystalline orbs. Finally, she found a place deep inside herself to hide, and would have remained locked away there for the rest of her days, had not the captain forced her back out.

“Lady,” he prodded, his own heart grieving for her loss, “you
must
decide.
Now!

She raised a tear-streaked face to him.

“Have mercy!” she said. “Take us, if thou must, but let the boy go free.”

“You know I mayn't,” he said.

“Then damn thee to Hell!” she said, her voice cracking with the strain, “damn thee to Hell forever more!” The tent shook with the rocking of a small earthquake.

She began sobbing in earnest.

It was her son's frightened whimpers that finally opened a chink in her armor.

“He must not die!”
she managed to gasp, choking out the words, coming to some resolution within herself. “He must live so that we may live. Pray allow us to kiss our precious babe one last time.”

The soldier said nothing, but just nodded to her. The woman composed herself and rose from her pallet, carefully wrap­ping the bedclothes loosely 'round her body. Silently she padded over to the warrior on bare feet. She looked up at the man towering a head above her, and then bent to her son's squirming form, tenderly stroking his head to quiet him, and brushing his lips with hers, her tears wetting his forehead.

“Mamá!” the boy cried out, raising his arms to her.

“Yes, dearest one, Mamá is here,” she murmured. “Mamá will always be there for thee, even when thou'rt far away. Thou must never forget our love for thee.”

She again passed her hand over his head, murmur­ing a few words under her breath while she traced a symbol on his forehead.

“Never!”
she said. “Now, be thou a good lad. Obey this man and he will protect thee from harm.”

Her cold blue eyes again pierced the soldier's black ones, as she slid from her left wrist a slender gold bracelet endangled with a bronze torc inscribed incusely with the cuneiform script, and carefully unfastened the metal clasp of the collar. She placed it about her son's tiny neck, idly brushing aside the captain's giant hands, and squeezed the supple metal ring shut with a loud click.

“Remember us,” she breathed, softly blowing the wind from her lungs into the child's open mouth. “Rememb'rest thou thy mother, and lovest thou no other. Á
nnash Vórlshar ran Mórlanndriyàzh
.”

Then she touched his heart, and just for a moment enveloped both boy and soldier with a vermilion glow.

“What have you done, mistress?” the captain wanted to know.

But the child just squirmed and giggled, thinking that she was playing with him, and she tried to smile back.

She let her right arm slowly drop to her side, seemingly in resignation, and then, with a sudden glint of light, quickly raised her hand and struck downward at the warrior, her small dirk glancing off the chain mail hid­den under his robe. He abruptly transferred the child to the man on his right, and wrested the weapon easily away from her. She cried out in pain, and let the knife fall, her makeshift cloak slipping to the floor.


Disznó!
” she said, “
pig!

Raw hate flared in the azure sapphires of her eyes.

“Someday we will finish that stroke,” she said, her naked body quivering with passion.

“Perhaps, madame,” the man said, “but you will do nothing here until an hour has passed. Should the emir's men catch us, your son will be the first to die.”

Then he motioned again to his men, and they silently withdrew, their lights going out one by one. Köl­bas restored the boychild to his keeper. As the captain himself retreated, he turned again to the wretched woman, who had sunk to her knees in despair, tearing her hair and weeping most piteously.

“I swear unto you, lady,” he said, “upon my sacred honor as an adept, that the child will receive every atten­dant care, every possible beneficence.”

The lad cooed his acquiescence.

“Save for his mother's grace,” she managed to choke out, “save only for that, captain.”

Then she regained her composure and gazed up at him once more.

“Know this, sir,” she said. “This damnable sacrilege, this blasphemy of
injusticia
, cannot and will not stand. Though it takes us a hundred years, though the pil­lars of Heaven itself be shaken into oblivion, he will be found. All of thy magics, all of thy brave men, will not rescue thee, will not save thee then.”

Her bejeweled fingers were now ensheathed in a light blue flame that crawled up and down her hands and arms and alabaster shoulders, up and down and around, like aqua-tinted millipedes idly caressing her lambent limbs.

“You speak of sacrilege, lady,” the captain said, deliberately spitting on the ground before her, “but you knew the limits under which you lived, and you knew the boy would be for­feit. You would disobey the orders of your master.”

“We
have
no master,” she said.

“So 'twould seem,” he said, the disdain evi­dent in his voice. “Then I leave to the One True God the elucidation of the future and the reconciliation of the past, whatever that might be. The game never ends, as well you know. Alas, madame, that I am rooted to
this
time and
this
place, and thus I must bid thee
adieu
.”

The captain bowed his head slightly, placed himsefl before the lines that he'd opened in the æther, and stepped backward into his destiny.

The boychild traveled with him.

BOOK: Melanthrix the Mage
6.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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