Authors: Steven A. Tolle
SWORD OF LIGHT
Book 2 of the Jake Thomas Trilogy)
Steven A. Tolle
©2013 Steven A. Tolle
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, physical or digital, without the express written permission of the author.
This is a
work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Renaissance Drive, PMB 2233
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Cover by Roy
Maps by Cleta Gidcumb
Table of Contents
I would like to thank
Tim Leffingwell, Rich Cole, Shelly Kidwell and Lisa Kowalski for reviewing and proofing the draft of the book and offering suggestions to make it better. I doubly appreciate them since they freely offered their time and set aside that time in their busy lives to help me.
acknowledge Roy Migabon, the creative talent behind the covers of my books, for his grasp of my vision. He is a joy to work with.
my deep gratitude to my friend, Cleta Gidcumb, for working outside of her comfort zone to create the maps that I use in these books.
While working on this book, I was shocked by the sudden and tragic passing of Sharon Howze, the beloved wife of my friend of decades, Ted Howze, and loving mother of their three sons. She was a kind and caring soul, taken unexpectedly, and she will be missed. May she rest in God’s peace.
To those who seek
o bring the Light into the world
Keria turned at Dominic's soft whisper. Her heart ached as she saw Jake lying limp and unmoving in Dominic's arms, tears coming to her eyes despite her attempt to be strong. He had not given any signs of life other than the rise and fall of his chest since that final brilliant display of power that had enabled Creatos’ destruction.
"You need to help Jonas." Dominic said quietly.
In the confusion following Creatos' demise, they had escaped the cliff fortress and were making their way up the surrounding hills to enter the forest. The few scattered groups of demons and half-men they had encountered were quickly overwhelmed by Jonas and Hailyn. Keria had been stunned by the power Jonas wielded when he fought off the attackers. Like an avatar of Light, his dazzling magic had forced back the darkness and destroyed the half-men and Imps with seeming ease.
Looking past Dominic, she saw Jonas in the pale moonlight stumble along, clearly exhausted. Even so, he continued to scan the surrounding area for any threat, his staff gripped tightly in his hand, face determined. Even as she watched, he almost went down as his footing slipped, but he planted his staff to prevent it.
"Go back and lend him support." Dominic continued. "He is out on his feet and my hands are full."
Keria nodded and fell back to Jonas. She stepped close and wrapped her arm around his waist. Jonas gave her a tired smile and put his arm across her shoulders as they continued along. She saw Marcus turn back and frown when he realized that she was at the rear of their line, but he turned back after a short, sharp gesture from Dominic.
They reached the tree line and made their way over the top of the rise and into the forest proper. Keria’s eyes and thoughts turned back to Jake, his head just visible around Dominic's back, rolling slightly with every step Dominic took. He had risked everything for her, appearing like a hero from one of her stories to confront the demon lord. He had fought to rescue her from a fate that was too terrible to contemplate. The mere thought of it sent cold shivers through her body. In the end, he had used his own life force in a desperate attempt to save her when the demon lord moved to kill her. She prayed that Jonas could help him; she owed him her life.
They continued back to where the group had left their horses, weaving silently through the trees. They could hear in the distance the sounds of the half-men riding to and fro, punctuated with faint shouts and curses. Marcus was sure in his direction and they arrived back at the stand of trees that hid their horses. They found the horses unharmed, though Dominic's warhorse was lathered and had several large wounds visible in the faint light.
Safely in the shelter of the trees, Keria saw Hailyn briefly embrace her power and lay her hands on the horse. Keria watched, fascinated, as the gashes closed and the stallion shook its head. As Hailyn reached up to stroke the horse’s head, she released her power, plunging the area back into darkness.
"Princess, you take Jonas' horse; he will ride Dontas." Dominic said as he carried Jake over to Shadow. He gently laid Jake down next to the horse, and then turned back the group. He walked over to stand in front of Jonas.
"You are in no condition to fight." He said, looking intently at Jonas. "Give the girl your staff. She appears to be in better shape than you."
Without waiting for Jonas to respond, Dominic glanced over at Hailyn. "Do you think you can protect the group?" He asked quietly, trying to determine her strength.
"I can, Dominic." She replied resolutely. "I'm tired, but not to the point of exhaustion."
He turned back to Jonas, holding out his hand. Jonas hesitated, but finally nodded and placed the staff in Dominic's hand. Dominic handed it to Hailyn, and then helped Jonas over to Dontas. Dominic helped him into saddle and set his feet in the stirrups, where Jonas swayed slightly as he tried to retain his balance.
"Princess, you will need to ride next to Jonas to keep him on his horse." Dominic said. "We need to get back to the wagon before we can allow him to sleep."
Keria nodded and went over to Jonas' horse, where Marcus helped her onto its back. Keria returned his tight smile and he squeezed her hand before he headed to his horse.
What a tangled mess this is.
She thought as she watched him mount up. He had made his feelings for her clear and now she owed him a blood debt as well; he had also braved the demons to rescue her.
Dominic quickly organized the small party. Marcus led, then the princess and Jonas, followed by Dominic with Jake, and Hailyn guarding the rear. They would stay close and ride as quietly as possible. Dominic wanted to avoid any further contact with the demons and half-men, if at all possible.
Dominic lifted Jake into saddle, keeping him secured with one arm, and swung up behind him. He wrapped his arms around him to grasp Shadow's reins and hold him in the saddle. He nodded to Marcus, who led the small band away from the demons' lair.
Striving to stave off the tiring effects from her use of power, Hailyn scanned the surrounding forest, straining to hear any sounds of approaching danger as they made their way back towards the wagon. The forest was quiet, the darkness oppressive, surrounding them like a cloak, making it hard to see very far as they traveled. As she gripped the staff in her right hand, she could feel the carved runes against her palm while she controlled her horse with her left. In the darkness, she could just make out Marcus as he led them through the trees. Her gaze shifted to Dominic, stopping as she glimpsed Jake, unconscious and wrapped in Dominic’s arms. The sight tore at her, but she tried to force herself to focus on the task at hand, though her eyes returned to Jake time and again.
With her attention somewhat distracted, she was startled when Marcus suddenly let out a loud curse as an Imp and four half-men appeared. They had arrived without warning in an opening in the trees. He immediately spun his horse and charged at the group, sword out. Hailyn, shaking off her surprise, quickly embraced her power. The staff magnified her
might, her shining form blazed brightly and lit the area. Raising a hand, she unleashed a massive burst of clerics’ fire into the demon. The demon staggered back, cursing in pain, its flesh blistering, while Marcus rode into the half-men, sword moving, scattering them. Before the demon could set itself, Hailyn followed up with another blast of magic, this one overwhelming the demon’s defenses and reducing it to ash.
With the demon destroyed, she shifted her focus on the half-men. She saw one closing with Marcus from behind, sword ready to plunge into his back. Before she could react, a bolt of clerics’ fire struck the half-man and he exploded into ash. She saw Jonas, glowing in power and swaying in his saddle. The princess, her hand on his arm, was supporting him as he struck out again. Hailyn sent a wave of fire racing towards the remaining half-men closing in on Marcus, quickly destroying them.
She rode over to Marcus, scanning him and his horse for any injuries. She reached over to lay a hand on him to be sure when he waved her off. “I’m fine, but they scored my horse.” He said, while continuing to watch the surrounding woods.
Hailyn leaned over and set her hand on his horse. She sent her power into it, feeling the wound lining the side away from her. Concentrating, she closed the gash, keeping her power in the horse while making sure it was healed properly and there was no poison in the wound. Satisfied, she sat back upright in her saddle and Marcus gave her a nod of thanks. He turned his horse back towards the direction they were traveling.
As she headed back to her position at the rear of the line, Hailyn glanced over at Jonas, the glow of his power now gone. He gave her a weak smile and a nod, his face tired and drawn, the princess right next to him, hand on his arm. As she passed Dominic, who had drawn his sword with right hand while holding both his reins and Jake with his left, he said quietly. “Well done, girl; now release your power before we lose all of our night vision.”
Embarrassed that she had to be reminded to do so, she released her power, plunging the group back into darkness. She took up her position again and they continued on.
Shortly after their fight, Hailyn heard the sounds of half-men calling to each other in the distance from time to time, but those sounds eventually faded away. They avoided any further contact with their enemies as they rode. After what seemed to be an interminable period of time, riding quietly through the dark forest with only the soft sounds of the horses in the air, she was taken by surprise when the trees suddenly ended and they came out onto the forest road where they had left the wagon.
As Marcus gathered his bearing and turned onto the road to lead them back to where the wagon lay hidden, Hailyn took in a deep breath and sighed as she surveyed the open space along the road, the faint moonlight seeming bright after the forest darkness. She continued to regard the open road, relieved to be out of the trees, as she took her place as the rear guard.
It took them another half hour to find the wagon, searching in the dark, as they had come out of the forest a couple of miles east of its hiding place. Once they gathered near it, Dominic called the group together.
“We only have a few hours before sunrise.” He said quietly. “We will move the horses into the forest next to the wagon. We should feed and water them and let them rest. I will put Jake in the back of the wagon, but I do not want to attempt to hook up the wagon in the dark. Once the sun is up, we will start moving back towards Alleon’s forces.” He glanced at Jonas, almost asleep in the saddle. “This will also give Jonas time to sleep and recover some of his strength.”
Hailyn and Keria moved rapidly, clearing a space for Jake in the wagon bed, laying down blankets on the wagon floor. Dominic, with Marcus’ help, carried Jake to the wagon, removed his armor and sword, and laid him down. Keria covered him up with another set of blankets and made a pillow for his head. Recalling Jonas’ warning of the dangers of the clerics touching Jake, Dominic waved away Hailyn to ensure no accidental contact with the boy.
Dominic grabbed some blankets and spread them out on the ground next to the wagon. He helped Jonas down from Dontas and led him over to the blankets. Jonas sank to the ground and was quickly asleep.
Dominic and Marcus fed and watered the horses, while Hailyn and the princess brought out and prepared some of the travel rations. After they had all eaten a small meal, Dominic spoke. “Princess, try to get some sleep as well. Marcus, Hailyn and I will keep watch.” Dominic moved back to Shadow, stripping off his torn and bloody shirt and pulling out a clean one.
Hailyn watched as Keria climbed into the wagon bed and lay down next to Jake, moving close to him with her hand resting on his chest, almost cuddling. Hailyn sighed bitterly and turned away, as she felt the pangs of jealously surge through her, unbidden tears springing from her eyes.
As she turned, she saw Marcus also looking at the wagon, his face a mask in the faint light, eyes dark and brooding. He was clearly not happy about the arrangement either.
Suddenly, Dominic was there, glancing at the wagon with knowing eyes. His voice cut through the night. “I need you both focused.” He said firmly. “We do not know what will happen in the days ahead; fate is a strange thing. Whatever happens will happen, but for now, you need to be alert and put any other thoughts aside.” With that, he moved off into the forest.
Hailyn shared a look with Marcus before she headed out to guard the eastern approach. She found a place next to a large tree with several large bushes near its trunk where she could watch the road without exposing herself. She sat down, leaning back against the tree, trying to stay focused on her task. But with sleepiness spreading, her thoughts began to wander.
She was heartsick that she could not touch Jake or make an attempt to help him. Her only option was to watch him lying in that wretched state.
Would he recover? What had he done to himself? Would he be the same?
Her worry for him overcame the feelings of jealousy as she wrestled with her unpleasant thoughts.
After what seemed an eternity, the sky began to lighten in the east. She sat there quietly, shaking herself from time to time, her eyes drooping despite her best efforts, waiting for the sun to rise. She sat there until the sun, in a flare of reddish-gold light, lifted into the sky over the mountains. She wearily stood and headed back to the wagon.
When she arrived, she saw that Dominic and Marcus had already returned and were quietly harnessing the horses to the wagon, to allow Keria and Jonas to sleep. Once the wagon was ready, Dominic went over to wake Jonas.
It took several gentle nudges from Dominic before Jonas woke with a groan. His eyes fluttered for a few seconds, then opened. He took a moment to get his bearings and slowly stood with some help from Dominic. His face was still drawn and tired, but his eyes quickly regained their focus. He looked around, saw Hailyn and moved over to her while Dominic went to wake the princess.
“You did well, my dear child.” Jonas said gently to her. “Now, you can rest while I watch over you.” He said with a smile as he held out his hand.
Hailyn quickly put the staff in his hand, relieved that Jonas was up. “Are you sure you are strong enough, Master?” She asked, concern in her voice. “You only had a couple of hours of sleep.”