Preview: The Lost King

This is the first chapter from my book, The Lost King. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

The tall, thick trees had begun to thin out, revealing a cloudless blue sky. Griegiery Salsizern rode his gray mare up the weed covered path, furrowing his brow. It seemed that the imperial soldiers failed to maintain this particular road, although few people traveled this way. Most citizens of Vazlon preferred the main roads. Griegiery did not. He could do without the peasants on the side of the road, dressed in scant rags, heavy bundles carried on their backs. He could do without the loud soldiers, the trade caravans, and the other travelers who accosted him from time to time, peppering him with friendly conversation. Griegiery would rather be alone with his thoughts than have to converse with busybodies.

It felt like he had been making this journey his whole life. “Can it have been ten years?” he whispered to himself. That was when his wife, Lierah was taken away from him by the Four, the sons of old King Marik. Griegiery clenched his fists. It was not supposed to be this way. The Goddess did not chose any of the sons of the old king to become the next ruler of Fzelgara. She chose Kentriez, their uncle, instead. It was well-known that Vensarth, Phosair, Mroldar, and Xarias were arrogant and spoiled, something that King Marik had neglected to correct in their youth. “Shameful behavior,” the people whispered among themselves. “They will not survive a full year on the throne.” But no one could have predicted that they would try to kill Lierah herself when she came to the citadel to crown Kentriez. If Meshrala had not intervened, his wife would be gone.

Griegiery came to a clearing and the temple of Meshrala came into view, the old majestic spires glittering in the afternoon sun. He tied his mare to a nearby tree and walked up the stone steps to the door. Before he reached for the rusty handle, it swung open. In the hallway stood a young novice dressed in a white robe trimmed with blue. She bowed to him slightly and he returned the gesture. “High Priestess said that you would be arriving today to see the lady. Follow me.”

Griegiery followed the novice down the large entryway, walking past other novices and priestesses dressed in deep blue. They turned a corner to the right, down a dusty-looking hallway, the spider-webs hanging down from the ceiling. The novice stopped in front of a small door, unlocking it with one of the many keys at her waist. Griegiery swept into the room as the door shut quietly behind him. The small room looked tidy, as though the old floor had been cleaned that morning. It was mostly bare, with a small table, two chairs, a small lamp, and a bed. Griegiery grabbed the chair and moved it next to the bed. Sitting, he looked down at his wife.

Lierah lay on the bed, the pale linens pulled over her chest. Her small black curls were loose about her head, covering most of the pillow underneath and the dark brown eyes that he loved so much were closed.

“You have not aged at all,” Griegiery whispered. “I just found a gray hair yesterday.” He sighed and reached for her small hand hidden under the covers. “How much longer must you lie here sleeping? Kentriez is no longer in his prime and his magic is not as strong as it once was. The Four have aged as well but they still hold much power. They are biding their time, waiting to take Tratiella from Kentriez and divide it up among themselves.”

Griegiery squeezed his blue eyes tightly against the tears that were threatening to become visible. He rubbed his eyes hurriedly. “Please, Meshrala, Divine Mother of all, give her back to me.”

Griegiery looked down at Lierah. She had not stirred once, her brown face frozen in sleep. He bent down and kissed her lips. Rising, he moved the wooden chair back to the table. Pausing to look back one last time, Griegiery turned toward the door and left. The novice was waiting just outside the door, key in hand. She locked the door back and led Griegiery back to the main entryway. “Thank you.”

The novice blushed slightly. “It was nothing sir. Good day to you.”

He watched her scurry away, then walked down the large hall to the small temple, bowing politely to the older priestess near the doorway, who handed him a small string of prayer beads. He joined the other pilgrims in front of the large statue of Meshrala. The statue was dressed in purple cloth with its stone feet visible. The Goddess’ expression was benevolent with the palms outstretched in a kindly manner. The altar before the statue was strewn with flowers and offerings of fruit and coins. Griegiery added three coins of his own to the altar and began his silent prayers.

He clenched the beads in his fist, the wooden shapes digging into his palm. His mind began to wander toward Lierah, back before the Four had struck. An image of her floated forward. She was wearing a long green dress that hugged each curve of her body. A brown belt woven with gold thread was around her waist. Griegiery had given it to her for her birthday. He could see her bright smile, when he had handed it to her earlier that day. She stood next to the lake, rolling up her skirt, revealing her long brown legs. “Come on Grieg, the water looks so delicious.” She had grinned at him before turning to pin up her black curls and set a foot into the cool water.

A light touch on Griegiery’s shoulder brought him back to himself. He turned to see the High Priestess Kalritha. Although she was not that much older than he, she seemed to exude a quiet confidence and wisdom, which was enhanced by the lock of gray hair near her right ear. Griegiery bowed to her.

“Hello, Good Mother.”

“Hello, Grieg. All is well in Tratiella, I trust?”

“Yes. Kentriez is still healthy although he is nearing the end of his life. Mozriel is ready to assume his mage responsibilities.”

“Excellent. Your wife has not changed. We take good care of her, make sure that her room is clean, that her bed is clear of dust and spiders, but still she sleeps on.”

“If Lierah were able, I know she would be appreciative of all your efforts on her behalf. I just wonder how much longer the Goddess intends to hold her spirit.”

He sighed and looked down at the beads in his hand. He would love nothing more than to hurl them across the room at that serene statue. Kalritha smiled at him gently. “Meshrala will bring her back to you. She is a kind and fair Mother to us all. She knows that you are suffering. You must believe that.” Griegiery nodded slowly, his eyes meeting hers briefly. “I must be going, Good Mother. I have business to attend to in Yehlal. I will return soon.”

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Kentriez could hear a sweet voice singing but he could not make out the words. He pushed the gauze curtain back and gasped. She had her back to him, smelling the tiny purple buds on the tall bushes in front of her, but the golden aura that surrounded her told him exactly who she was.

“Great Mother!”

Kentriez fell down before her, prostrating his body respectfully. Meshrala turned to look at the old mage king and sighed.

“Oh, Kentriez, stop that. I did not come to you so that you could cower before me like a meshreltant. Rise, my son.”

He rose slowly, looking up at the Goddess. Her dark brown hair was pulled away from her face and she smiled sweetly at Kentriez. Her dress was immaculate and she wore no shoes.

“Listen carefully, my child. The time of the Four has come to an end. They worship me with their bloody hands and lying tongues but I shall grant them no reprieve. Only the memory of my faithful servant, Marik, has kept them from my judgment but no more. Gather your forces and make preparations for battle. My beloved servant will return to you and help you to bring together the five pieces of Fzelgara. My children cry out to me in their prayers and I cannot deny them. Unity and strength are needed for the times ahead.”

Meshrala gently cupped Kentriez’s face. “Soon, my faithful one, you will be weary no longer. I promise you.”

Kentriez’s eyes suddenly flew open. He sat up slowly, the ache in his back getting stronger with each movement. The old mage swung his feet over to the side of the bed with a groan. He pulled the silken bell cord hanging near his bed. At once a servant girl appeared at his beside.

“Tell Moz to come here at once, even if he is sleeping. And have breakfast brought to me. Quickly!” The girl bowed low to the king before hurrying to do his bidding. Kentriez sighed. Much needed to be done before the return of the sleeping sorceress.

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Lierah could feel something touching her hair. They were brushing it a little hard. She opened her eyes, a blue blur crossing her field of vision. She heard a gasp and what sounded like a brush and comb fall to the floor. She turned her head to see a priestess dressed in deep blue clutching her prayer beads in her right hand. The sorceress slowly sat up in bed, smiling slightly.

“Forgive me, priestess, for startling you. I did not know I was being so well cared for.”

The priestess bowed shakily. “Praise Meshrala, you’ve returned to us. I must got tell High Priestess Kalritha.”

Lierah pushed the covers away from her and swung her legs to the floor.

“If you will wait a moment I will come as well.”

“But you’ve been in a deep sleep for so long-”

“I’m perfectly fine. Where are my shoes?”

The priestess rushed over to a small closet and pulled out a pair of soft brown boots. Lierah pulled them on and rose slowly. She stretched her arms over her head and leaned from side to side. She smiled at the priestess who was eyeing her warily.

“Now let us go see the High Priestess together.”

Lierah strode from the room, the priestess trailing after her. She reached the main entryway and was greeted by silence. The novices and priestesses in the hall stared at her, mouths gaping, frozen in their movements. Then, remembering their manners, they bowed low to her. Lierah returned the gesture and walked until she reached the gardens. The sun warmed her brown skin as she followed the stone path to the heart of the garden. The songbirds chirped in the tall trees above her head. She paused to smell the deep blue galmaia flowers that were still blooming near her feet.

“They said you had wandered out here.”

Lierah turned to see her childhood friend, Kalritha standing beside her. The sorceress grinned and embraced her.

“So you are in charge now, Little Bird?”

“ Yes. Azlandaia died about three years after you went into slumber. I was chosen by the Goddess to be the next High Priestess.”

The two friends continued down the path. They came to a stop in front of a statue of the Great Mother Goddess, who was surrounded by small stone animals who knelt before her. Both women lifted their hands in silent prayers of thanks. As they walked back to the temple arm in arm, Kalritha looked over at her friend. “When you were asleep what did you see Lierah?”

Lierah’s dark gaze drifted away for a moment. “I was with Meshrala in her dwelling place in the Summerlands. Even though Kentriez was able to stop the spell from killing me, it was still very powerful. I felt drained and tired. So I traveled with the Goddess in spirit while my body rested. I saw so much, Kalritha, I can scarcely describe it all to you. Faraway lands, strange creatures the likes of which I have never seen. I was also able to see what the future may bring to us, all the things that are to come before our greatest struggle, which may lead to our greatest triumph.”

“What do you mean Lierah?”

The sorceress shook her head. “I’ve said too much already. Meshrala has forbidden me to tell what I know. When the time is right, I will tell you. I promise. What of Griegiery? Is there any news of him?”

Kalritha smiled. “He has come to see you many times. I believe that he will be back here shortly, having gone to Yehlal on business. Word will be sent to him immediately.”

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Griegiery stared at the letter in his hand. He read it again just to make sure his eyes had not deceived him.

Grieg,

She has returned to us. Come quickly to the temple. She awaits your arrival.

-Kalritha

Lierah, his Lierah had come back to them. “Great Mother be praised,” he murmured. He pulled the bell cord near the wall. A red-haired manservant appeared. “Have my horse saddled immediately. I will ride out tonight.”

The man bowed and exited the room. Griegiery looked out the window at the setting sun. “Soon my gentle one, I will be with you again.”