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The quest for hope, p.1
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       The Quest for Hope, p.1

           A. S. King
 
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The Quest for Hope


  The

  Quest

  for HOPE

  Book 1

  By A. S. King

  (A Servant of the High King)

  Written under the inspiration of the High King

  Copyright © 2016 Eric Griffin.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Archway Publishing books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:

  Archway Publishing

  1663 Liberty Drive

  Bloomington, IN 47403

  www.archwaypublishing.com

  1 (888) 242-5904

  Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

  Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only. Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

  ISBN: 978-1-4808-2526-0 (sc)

  ISBN: 978-1-4808-2527-7 (hc)

  ISBN: 978-1-4808-2528-4 (e)

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2016901558

  Table of Contents

  Prologue

  The Loyal Remnant

  Discovery

  In The Beginning

  The Heir

  Life For A Princess

  Sir Raz the Calculating

  The Dungeon

  The Prisoner

  Betrayal

  The Tutor

  Teague Sunray

  Impossible

  Grandmother

  Warning

  The Escape

  Believing

  Choice

  The Change in Plans

  Transmogrification

  The Pursuit

  Teman River

  The Livids

  He Did Not Create Him to be Evil

  The Pronghorn

  The Keepers of the Gem

  Trust

  The Ice Witch

  The Lost Princesses, Elsie

  Sorrow, Swift, Battles Fought

  The City of Brance

  Harboring

  Salem Forest

  The Loyal Ones

  Queen of Novus

  Epilogue

  Join the Invisible Battles community

  Prologue

  Into the company of the crowded hall entered an Erela: a warrior, seemingly sculpted of diamonds—the many facets of his form catching the light and releasing it in dazzling patterns. He paused for a moment, facing the King and Queen of Novus, who were seated on the raised dais at the far end of the room. Then, he began to move slowly and purposefully toward them. His dark eyes pierced deeply into their souls.

  Once he arrived at the foot of the thrones, he spoke. It was a strong and powerful voice—a voice not easily ignored. “I, Zohar, Chief Commander of the High King, have come to you on his behalf. He knows of your worries and has sent me to ease your concerns.” His tone became soothing, melodic. “The High King is concerned that this task He assigned you is simply too much for you to bear. I have requested, on your behalf, to be allowed to relieve you of some of that burden, so that your lives might be easier. In time, you will be better equipped for your new responsibilities. Until then, I have been tasked to share with you my wisdom and strength until you are ready to rule on your own. The High King did not mean to leave you so unprepared.” Reaching into dark folds of iridescent cloth, Zohar withdrew a small object. “As a token of my solidarity, I bring you this, the Gem of all Knowledge. With this in your possession, you will be able to serve and protect your people, especially, your daughter—”

  The Queen let out a sharp breath, and her eyes widened with longing.

  Zohar gave her a kind, understanding smile, and focused the full force of his spirit on her alone. Very slowly, he held up his hand. The jewel sparkled, taunting her with its untapped beauty and power. Colors soared through the room in a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of light and shadow. “Come now,” he whispered, offering the Gem up to her.

  Malka, Queen of Novus, rose carefully and took a small step forward, scarcely aware of her action. The beauty of the Gem was hypnotizing, and she found that she could not look away. Wisdom, he had promised. She would be able to better know how to serve those around her. Queen Malka moved to the end of the dais, stopping within reach of the gift. A hint of doubt crept in, and she tore her gaze away long enough to look back for her husband’s approval.

  King Lev sat frozen, as though in a trance. Something did not ring true. He had heard of this—the Gem of all Knowledge—there was something he should know … no. He fought to remember. What was it about this Gem? The High King had said to … or not to … not to what? King Lev shook his head. Something did not ring true—and yet his wife looked so hopeful. He should do something. He should—

  Zohar’s hand shot out and seized Malka’s outstretched palm. The queen’s eyes snapped back to connect with His. She was almost entirely in his power, and yet, the choice had to be hers. Ever so slowly, he moved the Gem closer. Glancing back once more, Queen Malka be held no movement from her husband, no indication that he was even aware of the situation. Very carefully, very consciously, she reached out with her free hand and took hold of the Gem of All Knowledge.

  The instant she made contact with the Gem, a rush of energy flowed through her being. A joyful, knowing smile lit up her face. She reached out to pull her husband nearer, to give him the opportunity to share in this wondrous gift. He did not get up. He did not take her hand.

  She turned to look at him, still holding the amazing gem. “My king, it’s wonderful. All the knowledge we will ever need is within this jewel—I can feel it pulsing within me—Zohar speaks the truth; we will be able to better serve and protect our people with such knowledge. Come, take hold of it. Join me—” The Queen held up the jewel toward the King, enticing him to come forward.

  Releasing the Queen’s hand, Zohar watched carefully to see if Lev would respond to his wife’s beckoning.

  The King, finally seeming to come out of his trance, reluctantly stood up and stepped forward. He placed his hand on the gem—connecting himself to the knowledge it possessed. His eyes widen and, like his Queen’s, his face lit with enlightenment.

  Zohar smiled and reached out to cover the King and Queen’s hand which held the Gem. “And this is my real gift to you, your Majesties. May it bear much fruit.” The second pulse of energy shot through the King and Queen. The thin veil of light Zohar had been wearing since his arrival is dissipated. In its place was a darkness which radiated from him into the Gem and the surrounding hall.

  The suddenness of the dark knowledge stunned them both. They realized, belatedly, that perhaps it was not wise to know everything all at once. The initial enlightenment they had experienced disappeared. Their faces fell. Joy gave way to pity, sorrow, disgust, shock, desperation, horror, despair … guilt. The Queen closed her eyes and shook her head violently as though to free herself of things she did not want to see. Unable to escape this knowledge by closing her eyes, she opened them again and reached frantically toward her husband. King Lev held his wife but felt helpless to console her. What had they done?

  A black fog swirled about them and sprang out in every direction like ink splayed across the clean white paper. Dark thorns grew instantly out of potted flower basins. Once mild animals became fierce and s
tood with bristling hair, ready to attack. Slowly, yet with fearful persistence, the dark fog spread throughout all creation, devouring everything it touched. What once was good, was now broken.

  Suddenly, as if another fog had been lifted, King Lev’s memory returned. The Gem of all Knowledge was something the High King had promised to give them himself, a little at a time, once they had finished their training. They weren’t supposed to receive all of it at once! And certainly, they weren’t meant to receive it from anyone else! How could they have forgotten something so important? He looked into the beseeching eyes of the woman he loved. Wide eyes full of remorse and uncertainty stared back. He knew he should find a way to lift her from the despair he saw encroaching in the corner of her eyes. He knew he should beseech the High King for forgiveness. As if reading his mind, Malka quivered her head back and forth. She was afraid, and so was he. They had no choice; their mistake was far too grave. King Lev took his Queen’s hand and darkness that had gained a foothold within her latched more into them both.

  “The High King will be furious with us,” the tormented King whispered.

  “Yes, there is no doubt that he will be,” assured the glimmering Erela with gleeful confidence. “He will never again allow you back into his presence. What you were, has now been broken. It will always be this way, and there is nothing you can do to break the curse—” The dark tone was mocking and sharp with unbridled resentment. “But rest assured, I will protect you from his wrath. With me at your side, you will have no further need of the High King.”

  His last words, dripping with disdain, sent chills up their spines. King Lev wavered for just a moment before dropping his head in reluctant resignation.

  “What would you have us do, Commander?”

  “Call me.” Zohar paused, and then spat sarcastically, “Call me the Dark One. As for my advice,” he continued, “I highly recommend that you rid this kingdom of anyone who remains loyal to the High King. Those people must be utterly destroyed.”

  A hushed gasp ran through the crowded hall.

  “Come now, don’t look so horrified.” The Dark One’s voice took on a melodic note, hypnotizing nearly all who were in attendance, “After all, we can’t have this kingdom divided now, can we? A divided kingdom—will surely fall.”

  ***

  The pen paused in its labor. A white-haired man lifted his tired eyes from the parchment he had been focused on and directed his senses to scan the environment around him. After a few moments, he shook his head and returned to his work.

  “Grandpa,” spoke a young boy softly, “What if they find us?”

  “Oh, they will certainly find us,” answered the older man calmly. He turned with an affectionate and understanding smile to look upon his young apprentice. “It is not a matter of if, but when, and when they do, you must do exactly as we have practiced.”

  “But what if I can’t? What if I get scared and forget everything? What if my spirit isn’t right?”

  “All the what-ifs in the world cannot prepare you for the future. Instead, trust and focus your thoughts on the High King. He is always watching, you are never alone. Remember what it is you have been and are being trained for. Think of the strength and power of the High King who has given you your abilities—”

  A faint din sound interrupted the conversation, soft at first as the sound made its way through a long cave-like tunnel. Gradually, the noise grew, and shouts could be heard amid the clattering of armor and heavy boots.

  “Quickly now,” whispered the older man.

  A few moments later, the door was thrown open. Human soldiers and towering Hellions, their distorted faces and monstrous figures casting eerie shadows on the walls, burst into the room, ready to seize and destroy anything in sight.

  All they found was an empty table and two small chairs situated in the middle of a dark, dank room which had the appearance of being more of a cavern than anything else.

  Howling with anger, the human leader cursed and hacked away at the only objects present on which he could vent his fury. The table and chairs were quickly reduced to a pile of scrap wood.

  From a small hole in the corner, two small mice safely observed the proceedings without detection.

  Many years later…

  1

  The Loyal Remnant

  Elsewhere in Novus

  In the southeastern corner of the land, beyond the darkened city of Zion, across the raging Teman River, past the rolling hills and sunlit plains of Alsta, over the treacherous mountains of the White Country and the flowering mountains of Ebrodon, is a place where members of nearly every race dwell together in peace and unity. Here, in the Valley of the Ronan, human Adamas, goblinesque Yylecks, large apelike Zobeks, tree-esque Livids, giant Noroks, and goatlike Pronghorns all live and work side by side.

  This all but unknown community rests safely sheltered from the presence of unwanted guests by a majestic mountain range to the north, a vast forest to the west, and a mighty river that winds its way along the eastern and southern borders. With little need for strong, human-made defenses, this settlement is enclosed by a small stone wall that serves only to confine the livestock being raised within.

  On a cool spring night, the wind whispered softly through the trees while the river roared in jubilant contentment. And in the undisturbed settlement, an invisible being slipped into the house of a peacefully slumbering couple.

  Ira, Ovadia, spoke the unheard voice.

  The man to whom the voice was directed awoke slowly and looked around. Though he could see nothing, he instantly knew who the visitor was and from whom he had been sent. “Forgive me,” he moaned softly so not to disturb his wife. “It seems my second sight has not yet awoken.”

  He felt a smile arise from the spirit of the unseen figure. At the same time, he felt his wife stir beside him and was aware of her gradual return to consciousness.

  After a few moments, their second sight was fully awake. A glorious, translucent figure stood before them. His head touched the ceiling. Powerful, shimmering wings were folded neatly against his back. His armor was smooth but majestic. His radiant form filled the small sleeping cell with numerous multicolored lights.

  Greetings, Melhem, chief commander of the High King. Ira doubted his physical voice was alert enough to carry on much of a conversation, and he strongly suspected it would sound a bit rough if he did attempt to speak. Fortunately, his spirit-voice was sufficiently awake and able to communicate more coherently.

  To what do we owe this visit? Asked Ovadia, conveying a welcoming heart in spite of the lateness of the hour.

  The High King says the time is beginning. Melhem’s eyes lit up even more with excitement, and the light within him waxed even brighter, dancing joyfully against the walls as he relayed the words spoken by his master. You have done well leading this settlement. Those under your guard have been learning and responding well. Now the time is near at hand for those outside this valley to hear the truth. They must be shown that which has been so well hidden from them for many years.

  I would by no means disagree with the plans of the High King, responded Ira, his brows furrowed in deep thought, but how is such a thing to be accomplished? By now, those of us who live here are completely unknown to the rest of Novus. Why would anyone listen to strangers who suddenly appear out of nowhere? They would need—

  Someone with whom they are acquainted, finished Melhem, knowingly.

  Yes, and someone who can—

  Unite them, broke in the Erela again. He gazed sympathetically at the aging man. Do not worry, Ira. The High King knows all these things.

  Ira’s head bowed in shame. After all these years and after all the stories from my father, I still forget. Please, though, who is this one of whom you speak?

  One from the lineage of the Writer.

  “The girl.” Ira’s wife spoke aloud. It was evident her mind had grasped hold of the significance of the moment.

  Ira, too, was struck by those simple words and the impli
cations they carried. Tell the High King I shall ready myself to leave immediately. He moved as though to begin making preparations but was stopped as Melhem stretched out a halting hand.

  You will not be the one going. The High King has selected another to go—your young apprentice.

  “Levi?” Ira asked aloud, exchanging a doubtful look at his wife. Do you really think he is ready? He turned his eyes back to Melhem. All he saw, however, was the room exactly as it had appeared before they’d gone to bed that night. In the split second he looked at his wife, the Erela disappeared.

  2

  Discovery

  While Ira and Ovadia discussed the implications of the message, a lone shadow moved silently through the morning darkness, making its way to the southern river. Once there, the shadow’s form altered as it disappeared into the water and moved quickly and effortlessly to the island in the middle of converging streams. The shadow changed again as it emerged onto the land and swiftly worked its way up the slopes of a small mountain. At the top, the shadow changed form once more, revealing the silhouette of a man of average height and build with light brown hair and dark brown eyes. Finding a place at the peak, he sat down—watching … waiting … looking to the east.

  He was not disappointed. Before long, the song of sunrise began. Myriad colors burst across the sky. Everything around him lifted its voice in perfect harmony. The light started in the East and made its way across the land, chasing away the darkness of the night.

  Levi breathed it all in, relishing the joy, the peace, and the new life flowing through him. His eyes lifted and caught sight of an eagle, soaring on the colors of the morning. With a slow smile, he reached his hands upward. His spirit lifted even higher until it connected to the essence of the Eagle. Energy surged through him as he stood and raced to the edge of the mountain. With a great leap, Levi bounded into the air, his body taking on the form and characteristics of the eagle above him.

 
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