Lore of Sanctum


Excerpt

Tristan recently celebrated his thirty-fifth birthday, and it was the last he shared with his mother, for Curin passed away a week later, without warning.
He remembered her smile, her joy for life, her love, but already her features failed in memory, and he hated that memory proved ephemeral, when it should not, not for a Valleur.
Valleur and Valla. He grimaced as he wandered down to the beach. To discover he was Valleur had proven an astonishing challenge, but knowing he was Valla also proved as difficult. And it helped not a whit in recalling his mother’s face.
The sand was waterlogged. The tide was in and it rained continuously. Booted feet sank to ankle depth in the swirling mini currents, but as he was already wet it did not matter.
He stared over the darkening ocean. A storm approached from the south, which was unusual, and when it made landfall it would be an event seldom seen this far north. Ice lay in the strengthening wind.
His father had locked himself away on their farm near Linmoor. Samuel, bless him, took Curin’s death hard, and this son understood. They would talk about her soon, once Samuel was prepared to face the world again. He missed his father, however, and needed to ask if Samuel could bring his mother’s face to mind …
Tristan swore. Futile thoughts. Of course he would recall; he was, after all, Valleur. Valla. This current failing spoke of grief.
A blast of frigid air slapped at him and he headed back to the Palace. The storm was forecast two days back; every preparation to endure its fury was in place. His staff now waited on him in order to secure the final entrance into the building.
Gods, he would rather be out here amid fury and elemental temperament than sit in the manufactured warmth of a Palace he could not regard his own. Damn it, he wished his father was with him.
Tristan trudged up to the great entrance and noted all but a small space rolled down and secured, and noticed too the relief in his retainers when they saw him approach. Ah, well. If he stayed outside all kinds of alarms would sound and he would face the irate council of Elders over it.
Sometimes pandering to duty and expectation was the simpler of choices.
He entered, heard the door close behind him, the bolts slide home, and headed up to his suite. He trailed water across the tiled floor and up the stairs as he walked, but did not care.
If he could not have privacy outside, he would command it inside. He told his valet he needed no help as he entered, and watched the man leave.
The storm unleashed. Lightning forked against black sky and thunder pealed out in rolling waves. Rain drummed loud on the roof. Tristan dragged sodden clothes off, drew on a warm robe and stood before the uncovered windows. It was vicious, worse than forecast. It would also be short-lived. A southern storm could not long maintain intent in the north.
Tristan gazed upon the flattening palm trees in the garden. They would survive, but the shrubbery in general would require restoration. As he watched, a rose bush uprooted and went cartwheeling north.
His domain, he thought. The Western Isles were the testing of Tristan Skyler Valla, oldest heir to the Throne.

He clambered into bed, snuggling into the warmth and comfort there, hopefully to forget for a time how uncertain his future was.


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Excerpt

In the last two days the wind veered between warm and icy.
Spring was around the corner, it said, but the cold was not done. A slight thaw was swiftly followed by renewed ice. Tristan, pacing the patio, wished fervently for warm weather. His pacing, though, had as much to do with keeping warm, as it had to do with forcing his thoughts into coherence.
His main dilemma at present was whether to inform Teroux and Tianoman of the situation.
He tracked Caballa to this cottage under renovation, recognised it was for the two of them, but the appreciation, the sharing, was overlooked, and would be unspoken for the foreseeable future. He discovered Caballa and Lowen locked in trance as he arrived … gods.
Tristan halted and stared over the snow-covered landscape.
The women saw the four beyond the door, in total darkness, then drowning in pea soup and thereafter stranded on an island. That was not the worst of it. Apparently all four were without their powers. Would they get out?
Lowen left yesterday upon his command, ordered to return to the Dome to inform the Kaval of developments, but Caballa was inside entering and exiting trance with too few periods of rest between. She searched for fresh glimpses, perhaps an answer, an answer, as he tried to tell her, they had no way of relaying back to the four.
Tristan swore soundlessly, feeling helpless. This morning he went to Echolone to collect Caballa’s trove of rugs, and lingered to speak with Allith’s father. Anethor revealed they, too, had a return of visitations from the spirit world, but could not add clarity to a cloudy situation. He thus returned with rugs and no new insight.
“Tristan?”
Her voice sounded thin and stretched, and he quickly entered the cottage. She was in the small and empty room she set aside as a study, sitting cross-legged on a threadbare carpet.
She was pale, hair hanging limply, and his heart constricted. “Caballa, please, enough,” he murmured as he sat beside her.
She found his eyes slowly. “I know my limits and, yes, I have reached them. I need to sleep.”
Relieved, he was on his feet again. He bent and lifted her into his arms and carried her through to the bedroom, and laid her on the huge bed she discovered in Galilan. The bedroom was beautifully done in warm tones and romantic lanterns. and on the bed itself was pure comfort and luxury. Downy-soft quilts in rich burgundies and coffee-creams, with fluffed pillows to lay a head forever upon.
“I can manage,” she smiled at him.
“I know, but I want to do this.” He proceeded to undress her with gentle hands and then rolled her into the soft luxury.
“That’s all?”
He sat and took her hand. “My head is in a whirl and you need to rest now.”
“You won’t go?”
“I will be here, promise.”
She sighed and then, “You fetched the rugs?”
“Yes. Quite the collection.”
“Liar. You haven’t looked at them. Fetch the wine-red one. It has brown and gold edges.”
“Now?”
“I want to see what it looks like … chose it for this room …” Her eyes closed and she forced them open. “Please.”
He understood it was normality she was after, not aesthetics, and went to sort through the rolled stack near the front door. Muttering, he sorted through all before he found it at the bottom. Of course, at the bottom. Hefting it, he returned to the bedroom. Caballa was fast asleep.
He smiled and laid it out on the dark floor, and had to admit she chose well. It completed the room.
“Go see Tian,” she murmured sleepily. “It looks good, doesn’t it?”
“I thought you were asleep.” He crossed to the bed.
“Almost.”
“It looks fantastic,” he said, leaning in to kiss her.
Her eyes closed and he retreated.


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Excerpt

Tunnel of trees

The tunnel was a lane of trees and it elongated, the kind of action featured in dreams where nothing followed rules.
The trunk walls curved strangely, first bulging out and then curled inward to form an impenetrable ceiling. All light extinguished only to return in spotlights. Every sense of comfort vanished.
Elianas laughed in disbelief. So many ages, and the manipulation came in the form of a dreamscape? He had expected more. He expected challenge.
He turned to find Torrullin and froze in that twisted position for long moments.
No Torrullin. No Tristan.
He was alone.
Elianas strode forward, every step revealing his disdain for this mundanity. And his heart thundered. Hands clenched on the Lumin Sword; it sparked blue and gold in the shadows of the dreamscape.
Whispers dogged him, inane sounds containing little meaning, and merely served to underscore ordinariness. If someone desired to frighten him and throw him off the scent, this certainly was not the manner in which to achieve it.
Where was imagination? This tunnel lived in the nightmares of children only.
Right. And sweat beaded his brow.
Elianas walked on with a smile, expecting dreadful creatures with fangs and vicious intent, perhaps even an otherworldly screech or two to round the whole off.
He could deal with that.
The rain, however, entirely changed his sense of perception.
It began with a drip, drip, drip on the cusp of hearing.
The smell of damp earth came next.
Elianas came to a halt. A storm would be more fitting in this type of dreamscape. The lowered skies Torrullin had demanded for place of confrontation could be manipulated to unleash an unholy event. It would form part of the whole, as creatures of nightmares would right now.
Rain, slow drips finding chinks in the armour of the tunnel ceiling, signified … reality.
What did it mean?

Where was he?


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