The children of isador, p.1
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       The Children of Isador, p.1

           Sam J. Charlton
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The Children of Isador


  The Children of Isador

  An Epic Fantasy Adventure

  SAM J. CHARLTON

 

  Epic Fantasy by Sam J. Charlton

  The Palâdnith Chronicles:

  Deep-Spire (Prequel novella)

  Journey of Shadows (Book 1)

  The Citadel of Lies (Book 2)

  The Well of Secrets (Book 3)

  Stand-alone novels

  The Children of Isador

  The Lord of the Rings Fan Fiction

  The Witch of Angmar

  All characters and situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

  The Children of Isador by Sam J. Charlton

  Copyright © 2012 Samantha Charlton. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

  First Edition Published in Australia 2007

  Equilibrium Books

  Second Edition Published 2012

  Third Edition Published 2016.

  Map by Samantha Charlton

  Sam J. Charlton’s website: www.samjcharlton.com

   

  To my mum – for her love, support

  and invaluable editorial skills!

   

  Come my children and I will tell you a tale

  Of men of old and their fortunes foul and fair;

  Of the nameless land far-off to the South

  And of the evil residing there;

  Dark times they were, for centuries of war

  Had fragmented this noble land;

  Each race distrusted its neighbor,

  Ignoring the peril at hand;

  The cruel shadow did lengthen,

  Over continent did creep;

  For darkness thrives in darkness,

  Beware where malice sleeps.

  CONTENTS

  Prologue: Ill - Tidings

  Chapter One: The Last Stand of the Ennadil

  Chapter Two: The Orinians Unite

  Chapter Three: Captives of the Morg

  Chapter Four: The Siege of Aranith

  Chapter Five: Trouble in Brenna

  Chapter Six: An Unexpected Ally

  Chapter Seven: Across The Water

  Chapter Eight: The March North

  Chapter Nine: The Bounty Hunter

  Chapter Ten: The Occupation of Serranguard

  Chapter Eleven: Reunion

  Chapter Twelve: Adelyis Takes Her Chance

  Chapter Thirteen: The Prophecy

  Chapter Fourteen: Paths Taken

  Chapter Fifteen: The Power of Three

  Chapter Sixteen: The Tarzark Stir

  Chapter Seventeen: A Weakness At Last

  Chapter Eighteen: A Company of Four

  Chapter Nineteen: Tarzark On The Move

  Chapter Twenty: The Bait

  Chapter Twenty-One: It Begins

  Chapter Twenty-Two: Finding Courage

  Chapter Twenty-Three: The Hidden Stairs

  Chapter Twenty-Four: End of the World

  Chapter Twenty-Five: The Storm

  Chapter Twenty-Six: Parallel Paths

  Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Tide Turns

  Epilogue: Separate Ways

  Other works by Sam J. Charlton

  About the Author

  PROLOGUE

  ILL - TIDINGS

  The servant hurried through Serranguard’s airless corridors, nearly causing the torch he grasped to gutter and die, such was his haste to reach his lord’s chambers. The evidence he had been instructed to find had finally presented itself.

  Hugo hoped Lord Brin would not be so consumed by rage upon receiving this news that he would forget the promotion he had promised. Hugo allowed himself a cunning smile as he reached a heavy wooden door and knocked. Such a meteoric rise from dogs-body to the Lord’s chamberlain would allow him to harass any of the serving wenches he pleased from now on.

  “Enter!” The City-Lord’s flinty voice brought Hugo back to the present. He felt a twinge of fear. Ambition over-rode good sense, however, and Hugo pushed the door open.

  “Milord.” At the sight of Theo Brin sitting on a chair directly opposite the door, watching him under heavy lids like a malevolent toad, Hugo decided it was better to come straight to the point. “Lady Myra and Jennadil . . . I’ve seen them together . . . in private milord.”

  The heavy-lidded eyes widened and something dark moved in their depths. “Where are they?” Lord Brin spoke slowly, deliberately. His voice was calm, betraying no inner emotion.

  “I saw them go into the wizard’s chambers milord,” Hugo replied, suddenly wishing he had not been spying on Lady Myra and Serranguard’s wizard. It was too late for such regrets now though.

  Theo heaved himself up off the chair. Standing, he looked less toad-like and more threatening. His robes swished against the stone floor as he moved with surprising speed towards the open door.

  Hugo watched his master leave and hoped, once again, that Theo was a man who kept his promises.

  Jennadil Silverstern drew the curtain closed around the bed and smiled at the young woman sitting naked on top of the covers. Eager, and innocent, Myra Brin stared up at him. Jennadil saw the devotion in her eyes but focused, instead, on the slender curves of her naked body.

  Jennadil organized their encounters with military precision lest Theo Brin discover his wife’s betrayal. Jennadil knew he was taking a massive risk continuing with the affair but the danger only added to the excitement.

  Lord Brin had been duped again.

  Jennadil shed his clothes with practiced ease and slid into bed next to Myra. He smothered her giggles with his mouth and pulled her urgently against him. Their time together was always so brief and passionate—exactly how Jennadil liked it.

  A short while later a sound intruded on their haze of passion. The sound was unmistakable: the rattling of the iron doorknob—the grating of a key turning in the lock.

  Jennadil’s blood turned to ice. No one else had a key to his chamber. The only other key belonged to a master set, and that belonged to . . .

  Jennadil hissed a curse and pushed himself up off Myra.

  The door unlocked with an ominous clunk and screeched inward on un-oiled hinges. Myra cringed down against the bed sheets while Jennadil leaped off the bed, intent on reaching his staff. Instead, he somehow got himself entangled in the voluminous curtain shielding his bed from the door. Panicked, Jennadil struggled to get free but only succeeded in entangling himself further. The curtain ripped off its railing with an obscene tearing sound, exposing Myra’s nakedness for all to see.

  Jennadil toppled forward, limbs flailing, onto the floor; landing heavily on the flagstones. Pain lanced through Jennadil’s jaw as his chin hit the floor and he bit down on his tongue. He swallowed a mouthful of blood and tried to recover his wits. It was then he saw two expensively slippered feet beneath a sumptuous velvet robe stop before him.

  Myra’s sharp intake of breath was the only sound in the silent chamber.

  Jennadil would have preferred to remain cowering on the ground, pretending to be invisible for a while longer, but he could feel cold, hard eyes boring into him. Reluctantly he felt his gaze drawn upwards.

  Lord Theo Brin glared down at him. The City-Lord’s face was the color of raw meat—his jowls quivered and his eyes glittered. Jennadil’s first reaction was to bluff his way out of the situation. It had worked many times for him before, albeit in less dire situations.

  He even opened his mouth to make some elaborate excuse, but something in Theo Brin’s glower choked the words
before they reached his mouth.

  ***

  Ill-tidings, like a bad omen or a sign your luck is about to turn for the worse, arrives in many guises.

  The lowland peasant folk had a finely tuned sense of such matters. They lived by the seasons and by the eternal cycles of the sun and moon. They were suspicious of change or of anything out of place in their pastoral idyll.

  So it was on this late summer’s afternoon, as the sun was sinking towards the western horizon and the still air shimmered and shadows were long, when the reapers in the barley field were thinking about finishing for the day, that such a sign appeared.

  The men and women felt a vibration beneath their feet and the sound of approaching thunder in the distance. Some leaned on their scythes and looked up, while others continued reaping, too tired to care. Not a storm cloud marred the pale sky. A few of the peasants watched the edge of the barley field, where the road rose above the rippling waves of golden barley before disappearing amongst undulating folds of land. The storm sounded as though it was rolling in from the south.

  As they waited, instead of rain clouds, galloping white horses broke over the crest of the hill and thundered down the incline. The riders, crouched low over their horses’ outstretched necks, were Ennadil. Tall, dark haired and pale skinned; their fair faces were grim. No one had seen Ennadil in these parts in years. Children abandoned their task of bundling the barley stalks into sheaves and gathered at the roadside, watching the horses approach. The Ennadil streamed past, paying the locals no heed. Dust boiled up behind them and when it settled, the horses and their riders had disappeared to the north, towards Serranguard. However, it was some time before the echo of galloping hooves faded.

  Unease and worry settled over the men and women in the barley field. Some of the older ones whispered amongst themselves. The presence of Ennadil in these lands was an ill omen.

  The riders galloped onwards, oblivious of the stir their passing created. They had been on the road since daybreak and they had no time to admire the unfurling patchwork of cornfields, woodland and the meadows of the lowlands spreading north towards their destination. Finally, sweat-soaked and dusty, they reached the ridge of the last hill. The head rider brought his horse to a skittering halt and looked upon the scene before him. There, perched like a sentinel upon a rocky outcrop commanding over its lands, sat Serranguard.

  Not taking his gaze from the castle, he reached forward and stroked his horse’s slick neck. His horse’s flanks were heaving like forge bellows. They had left Aranith a week earlier—and now the journey was nearly over.

  The rider glanced over his shoulder at his companions. They were not looking at him; instead, their gazes were fixed on Serranguard. It was indeed a mighty fortress. At this time of day, its walls glowed with a radiance that made it look as if it was lit by some furnace within. Four towers rose up from the square keep. A green flag hung limply from its pole atop the southwestern tower. There was not a whisper of a breeze on this sultry afternoon.

  The Ennadil’s gaze followed the road ahead as it dipped between two hills and then re-appeared, crossing the River Serran. The body of water resembled a thin silver ribbon at this distance, but it was the same great river that flowed south through Ennadil Territory before it finally reached the sea. After the river, the road wound its way up from the base of the outcrop, spiraling upwards until it reached Serranguard’s gates.

  The Ennadil rider sighed. That was where they were headed, where he would seek an audience with Serranguard’s City-Lord. For the first time in centuries, the Ennadil nation would ask for help from the Orinians. Not wanting to dwell on this unpleasant necessity a moment longer, the leader of the Ennadil party spurred his horse on. Seconds later, his companions did the same. Fleet, as if carried in by a strong wind, the white horses galloped down the hill towards the fortress.

  A pale yellow moon rose into the night-sky. It was a hot, airless evening. The aroma of roasting meat wafted through the lower levels of the Keep and only the murmur of voices, bursts of laughter and a baby’s occasional wail broke the night’s stillness.

  Lassendil Florin, the leader of the Ennadil party, was rapidly losing his patience. Upon arriving at Serranguard, hours earlier, they had left their horses at the stables and requested an immediate audience with Lord Brin. The City-Lord had sent a servant to escort them down to one of the stuffy visitors’ chambers, along with the message that he was momentarily indisposed and would not be able to speak with them until dinner time. The Ennadil had waited and dinnertime had come and gone. They were now hungry and furious. This was no way to treat weary travelers. They had not ridden non-stop for a week to be ignored upon their arrival.

  Lassendil paced across the narrow chamber and whirled around, facing his companions. “It seems Lord Brin has forgotten his manners. Let us go and educate him on how guests should be treated.”

  The Ennadil stormed out of the chamber and nearly collided with a squat, greasy-haired man who was hurrying towards them down the corridor outside.

  “Ah, kind sirs.” The man squinted up at the Ennadil. “I am Hugo, the Lord’s Chamberlain. My Lord will see you now if you would care to join him for dinner?”

  Lassendil looked down at the chamberlain coldly. “Take us to him,” he snapped.

  The servant bowed and they followed him to a stairwell, which curled up one of the towers. He led them up worn steps, his torch throwing long shadows across the ancient walls, and, finally, they reached the top of the tower. Lassendil breathed in deeply, relieved to be free of the castle’s fetid atmosphere. Ennadil castles were bright and airy compared to the airless fortresses in the City-States of Orin.

  It was considerably cooler up here. Battlements ringed the tower’s flat, square roof. Candles perched on top of the battlements, illuminating the night in a soft glow. In the center of the roof stood a large, rectangular table covered in a white table-cloth and a lavish spread of food. At the head of the table, seated upon what appeared to be a throne, was Serranguard’s City-Lord.

  Two men stood either side of him. To his left was a short, lithe man in his early thirties. He had wavy brown hair, a long white scar down his left cheek—and the bearing and dress of a solider. The other man was enormously fat, even more so than the City-Lord himself. He looked to be around forty-five and he wore plush velvet robes that were making him sweat copiously in the heat.

  Lassendil and his companions bowed briskly. “Lord Brin. I thank you for your audience. I represent the Elder Council of Aranith. I am Lassendil of the House of Florin. These are my companions, Essel, Farindel, Sariddil, Tellendel and Miradel.”

  Theo grunted rudely before motioning to the man to his left. “This is Will Stellan—Captain of Serranguard’s army.”

  The soldier nodded coolly. He had the quick, intelligent gaze of a man who missed little.

  “This is Vermel Ham, my Counsellor.” Theo motioned to the man to his right.

  The Counsellor mopped his sweaty brow and acknowledged their guests with a frown.

  Lassendil nodded politely, as Ennadil custom required, before turning his attention back to Theo Brin.

  “Lord Brin, we have traveled here with great urgency to …”

  “Please, please.” Lord Brin cut Lassendil off mid-sentence with the wave of a pudgy, ring-encrusted hand. “I cannot talk on an empty stomach. Let us eat first.”

  Lassendil took a deep, steadying breath to curb his growing irritation. Stiff with annoyance, the Ennadil took their seats at the table. As they did so, Lord Brin scrutinized them with interest. They were an attractive race, the Ennadil; tall and lithe with beautifully molded faces, alabaster skin and bright, intelligent eyes. They wore their dark hair long and were dressed in simple green and brown outfits, sleeveless jerkins, leggings and hunting boots. The Orinians were a shorter, stockier race than the Ennadil. They had light brown, red or blonde hair and ruddy skin and were rougher in manner. It was common knowledge that the Ennadil considered th
em to be uncouth and barbaric. Back in the mists of time, when the Ennadil had arrived upon these shores, it was said they had brought the Orinians with them as slaves. Thousands of years had passed since then, and the Orinians had escaped slavery and traveled north to create their own territory, but neither the Ennadil nor the Orinians had forgotten their common history— and as a result, relations had always been strained between the two races.

  Lord Brin did not like Ennadil. He read their serenity and good manners as calculating and cunning. You could never win an argument with an Ennadil, simply because they refused to be manipulated. They rarely lost their tempers, and they used your own words against you. However, it was their superiority that Theo hated the most about them. All the same, he had been curious enough to agree to see this Lassendil Florin and his friends. Visits from Ennadil were rare in Serranguard and Theo welcomed the distraction after the day he had endured.

  Theo helped himself to a large plateful of spiced beef and roasted vegetables. Without preamble, Theo started on his meal in a mechanical fashion, eating more out of habit than hunger. He raised his hand and clicked his fingers. The sound cracked like a whip in the humid air. A servant materialized at his elbow and filled his goblet with wine. Theo noticed the Ennadil refused the offer of wine, sticking to water. He was not surprised—it was obvious the Ennadil were not here to be entertained. Theo gulped down some wine and turned his attention to the leader of the Ennadil.

  Even if Lassendil Florin had not made the introductions for himself and his companions, Theo would have guessed him to be their leader.

  The Ennadil looked around thirty, although it was difficult to tell as Ennadil aged much slower than Orinians. His proud bearing and self-confidence marked him as a member of a highborn family. He had long black hair that fell over his shoulders and piercing blue eyes. Theo had noticed however, that something set this Ennadil apart from the others. Lassendil Florin was having a lot of trouble hiding his impatience. This intrigued Theo, as the Ennadil only sent their most unflappable diplomats to speak with other races. Lassendil Florin was no diplomat.

 

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