Anniversary of the Veil by Vanna Smythe

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chapter 2 - Hatred and Death

The air stood still in the mid-morning heat, but the fields surrounding the village of Sarron were empty. An ox still pulled a plow and had trampled all the neat planting rows with no one to guide it. Baynard stopped and held out his arm to halt Orn. The former Protector turned and looked at him, one flame-red eyebrow raised. "What is it, Baynard? Another pebble in your shoe?"

Baynard ignored the jest and the edge in his friend's voice. This was the first village they'd seen in two days and they hadn't eaten in longer. Baynard knew that all Orn wanted was a hot bowl of something and a bed. He wanted the same himself. But the empty field and the untended ox were odd.

Baynard pointed at the field. "Where are all the peasants?"

Orn shrugged his shoulders and started walking again. "I don't know. Maybe it's a feast day or something. Let's just get to the tavern, Baynard. There's no need for all this caution all the time!"

Orn's Protector staffs were well-hidden by the rough brown cloak he wore over regular clothes, and his thin, sharp Protector sword was well disguised as a regular broad sword. Still, one could never be too cautious. Baynard kept his own sword wrapped in rags, its black hilt covered in brown leather. He had taken the sword from the armory at the Protectors' Keep before he and Orn fled after the carnage of Ardnan's war. Baynard was a priest, not a Protector, yet he had to learn to excel at sword fighting in the last couple of months. Especially here, so near the Forest of the Dead, in outlaw country.

"I think we shouldn't enter this town," Baynard called after Orn. He couldn't explain the fear he felt, but something was telling him to turn back, leave. Once he would've associated such a foreboding with the Life Force, but the Life Force was gone.

"Nonsense, Baynard! Even you can fight well enough now to defend yourself against common thugs. There's nothing to fear here and I'm hungry."

Baynard practiced with the sword every morning and every night. He could even best Orn two times out of five now. But this wasn't the time to remind Orn of it. Orn soon disappeared behind the first row of houses in the village. Baynard jogged to catch up.

The former Protector waited for him at the start of a wide thoroughfare, staring off into the distance, mouth open. Shouts came from the far side of the street from where the road bent out of sight and must have led to the village square.

Baynard stopped beside Orn and pulled his hood up over his face. "You must've been right. They're having a celebration."

Yet the shouts weren't merry, not joyous.

"Kill them!" A woman's high-pitched yell reached them. Baynard's throat constricted.

Orn tapped his index finger on his lips and walked off the main thoroughfare and along a row of low houses. They met no one as they approached the village square. But the shouts grew louder, the words clearer. The peasants all called for murder and blood.

Orn gasped as he peeked into the square from behind the corner of a house. Baynard looked too. And wished he hadn't.

Two men in black trousers and shirts knelt on a raised scaffold in the center of the square, their hands tied behind their backs. Thick ropes ending in nooses swung from the rafters behind their backs. One of the men's head hung lifelessly against his chest, his face an unrecognizable mass of blood and bruises. The other man looked around wildly with his one good eye; the other was swollen shut beneath a mass of black and bloody flesh. His chest heaved as he struggled for breath.

"Hang them both, the Protector scum!"

"I'm no Protector! I killed the man and took his clothes!" the conscious captive yelled, then gasped as a coughing fit took him.

"Lies, all lies!"

Duty versus love is the one battle warrior Kae doesn’t know how to fight.

Kae has trained his entire life to become an elite Protector of the Realm. But when he earns that honor he finds himself protecting something far greater: the Veil separating two worlds. On one side of the Veil lie untold stores of magic. On the Realm’s side, magic is all but obliterated, and Kae is one of the few who can use it. The priests who secretly rule the Realm will do everything they can to control his growing magical abilities. He’s willing to pay the price, even though it comes between him and Issa, the princess he loves.

But the Veil has weakened over a thousand years and powers on both sides will stop at nothing to keep it intact. Strangers from the other side have kidnapped Issa to take her across the Veil and sacrifice her to strengthen it. Kae is the only one who can find her. If he goes after Issa, he loses everything he’s worked so hard for. But if he chooses duty over love, Issa will die.

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Kae, a warrior Protector, has followed Princess Issa across the Veil separating two worlds. They were told Issa will play a crucial role at the Anniversary of the Veil, but have been mislead! Kae will face a terrible choice once the Anniversary finally comes. He is the Decision Maker and must play his part in a ceremony that will reunite Issa with the man from her dreams, her other half – but in so doing, leave her senseless or worse, dead.

As the King fights to find his daughter, as the Priesthood is falling apart; Kae must make his choice between stopping Issa’s Joining and force her into a life of unhappiness, or allow her to Join and thereby leave her a mere shell of herself. Meanwhile friends and foes alike are showing only half-truths to both Kae and Issa, and the right choice depends entirely on who you ask. Will Kae be able to make the right choice?

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The Anniversary of the Veil has come and gone, for better or worse. Now all is left is to pick up the pieces and move on. Easier said than done, that!

Kae only wants to be left alone to live and die in peace, Issa makes plans she can’t realize and Alet is drowning in her own guilt. Yet someone must rise to wake them all, rouse them and let the past truly become the past. Only, can it still be done?

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Genre – Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Rating – PG13

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