Tendrils of Darkness — Epilogue
Epilogue With No Man’s Land finally behin...
Tendrils of Darkness — Epilogue
Epilogue With No Man’s Land finally behin...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 50: Final Confrontation
Final Confrontation Years of sentinel train...
Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 49: Secrets Revealed
Secrets Revealed Circling Copius, the owlbe...
Pa’hu paced from one end of the canvas tent to the other, thinking on all that had been accomplished since he had taken over the role of Schie Bura of the Capkecka clan. Four of the five Northerner clans had been united under his leadership, some by diplomacy, others by subjugation. Petty squabbles had been set aside, replaced by a common goal: the creation of a battle-ready army.
His people had spent the past two summers preparing for war. Mounds of weapons and armor had been fashioned and cartfuls of arrows fletched as they amassed the tools for a campaign against the humans of central and southern Draza—the ghasiv, the Undeserving. Their unified effort stood unprecedented in Northerner history. They did this for revenge, and to take the ghasiv’s plentiful land for their own. But mostly, Pa’hu had chosen this path to stop the bloodshed between clans.
Pa’hu had no idea it would take so much effort to bend the will of his people to this one task. Resentment on all sides was as evident as birthmarks on the skin. Those chomping at the bit called the preparation for war a wasted effort or even a stalling tactic of the cowardly. After all, the clans had been raiding each other for years without this type of stockpiling. Others opposed leaving their homeland for a fistful of blood and a promise of a better life.
Pa’hu directed the war efforts knowing that sacrifices would be made for his ambitions. Resources spent on armaments meant less for acquiring the food and furs they needed to hunker down for the winter. Frostbite and famine were on the rise, as was death.
Many perished in skirmishes between the clans. Pa’hu did not wish this. Every dead clansman meant one fewer to fight for the cause.
It would have been easier if the weaker clans hadn’t been so intractable. But like a pack of wild dogs, a leader could only be decided by a contest where some combatants ended up brutally wounded before falling into line. Pa’hu had to make an example of the Clan of the Bear to show the others his strength.
But even that was not enough for some. He was forced to compromise and form treaties. In one instance, he agreed to take on the daughter of the Dehiar’s chieftain to make peace. Pa’hu would control both tribes while Baesa, the chieftain’s daughter, would be anointed his matrari in charge of his household. Their children would include the next chieftain. Traditionally, the role of matrari was assumed by the chieftain’s dirksa, but Pa’hu insisted that Baesa would neither take on the role of dirksa nor share his tent. His decision on this matter was unmoving, and a treaty was eventually signed despite more than a little ill will.
Pa’hu pulled his hand through wavy black hair in frustration. Time was wearing thin, or so he’d been warned by the messenger of Azren, and yet he was still missing an integral piece of the puzzle. While he was now considered the war chieftain for four of the Northerner clans, the Rulakon had been steadfast in their resolve to remain independent. They would prefer the blood be squeezed from their bodies than swear fealty to another clan.
Pa’hu had hoped this rare opportunity would cause them to reconsider. When reason failed, he chose to simply wait for someone other than the pigheaded Vergud to take control of the Rulakon clan. Their leader was anointed through a series of physical contests, and Vergud had held onto the post for the past three years. With time slipping by, Pa’hu’s options were narrowing.
He squatted down and smoothed out the dirt in front of him. His scouts kept him informed which area of the mountains the Rulakon were currently roaming. Drawing a crude map, Pa’hu planned out how he could crush the Rulakon between his forces. He held little doubt his four united clans would win. It was the casualties that worried him. Much like their clan animal, the uoko, the Rulakon warriors were fierce, and their numbers blackened the peaks of Ked’coon. Bloodshed would be heavy, and the conflict would diminish what could be an overwhelming combined force.
Pa’hu brushed away the dirt map in frustration. His only other option was to call for a rocca, a one-on-one battle between himself and Vergud. It was a risky ploy. Vergud would never agree to a neutral site. Pa’hu would have to go to him, and there was no guarantee he would arrive safely. Even if Pa’hu made it to the rocca alive, victory was far from certain. Vergud was an unbridled beast who had never been defeated in battle.
Pa’hu rose to his feet with determination in his heart. To leave his people in the hands of Vergud would be an abomination. But to command the four clans into battle against the Rulakon was unthinkable.
He stepped through the flap of his tent. Outside were several warriors keeping watch and his clan’s beliei, a middle-aged warrior with owl wings woven into the leather armor that protected his shoulders. The beliei communicated with his clan animal as if he himself was of the same species.
“Cawa,” Pa’hu called out. The beliei turned to him. “I have a message to be delivered to Vergud. I issue him a challenge of rocca. To the victor shall go the control of all five clans.”
“Yes, Schie Bura,” he said with obedience. Cawa hooted, and a snowy white owl dropped from the sky and landed on his outstretched arm. Cawa scrawled symbols on a small piece of animal skin and then rolled it around the owl’s leg, sending the winged servant on its mission with an exchange of hoots and trills. “It is done.”
Pa’hu watched the snowy owl flap toward the tallest mountain peaks. Before he could further reflect on his decision, the owl had disappeared into the light of the sun.
Tendrils of Darkness: Book 1 of The Black Trilogy comes courtesy of a partnership between Will Spero and Best Fantasy Books. Enjoy a new chapter every Sunday available right here.
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings -- cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings' laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha'ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings' mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings' power...if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don't find her first.
Will Spero grew up in a world of Dungeons and Dragons, David Eddings and The Princess Bride. A time when heroes were meant to be, well, heroic, and villains had the blackest of hearts. These early indulgences to his imagination might explain why he made a career out of embellishing the ordinary (a.k.a. “marketing”). Will enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids as well as a lap-sitting terrier. When he is not conquering the world of the mundane, he writes fantastical stories for any who wishes to read along.