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28 April 2009 @ 01:32 pm
The Gauntlet Thrown Chapter Thirty Eight  
CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT

DUTY


A persistent shaking awakened Brydon several hours later. The room was dark, but a lamp burned on the bedside table with a faint light. Brydon raised his head to see a very alert-looking Toryn pushing at him.

“I’m awake,” Brydon growled.

“Finally. I thought you were dead,” Toryn replied.

“I was,” Brydon responded with a groan. He shook off the last vestiges of a wretched nightmare—no doubt the result of his foray into Toryn’s mind.

“I’m starved,” Toryn went on.

“You woke me because you’re hungry?” Brydon grumbled.

A rustle in one corner of the room drew the attention of both men and Brydon actually rolled off the bed. He reached for the sword-hilt that was… not there—he had left it in the Great Hall. Imbedded in Reed, he recalled.

The potential threat materialized into a slip of a girl—the same one that had helped Brydon guide Shevyn to safety. She grinned pertly as she turned up the lamp.

“Good eventide, gentle sirs,” she said in a soft voice. Her eyes darted to Toryn. Brydon knew the Redolian had made another conquest without even trying. Toryn crossed his arms behind his head and appraised her while Brydon sat on the bed and pulled on his boots. Someone—Verana, most likely—had removed them.

“Her Majesty awaits you in the Secondary Council Chamber,” the girl told Brydon, who stood and stamped his boots into place on the carpeted floor.

“Where might that be?” Brydon asked.

“Down one level, turn right, and it will be on the left past the dining hall.” She turned her attention back to Toryn. “Do you desire anything, my lord?”

“Food... first,” Toryn replied.

Brydon snorted loudly and went out, though he was relieved that Toryn seemed to be suffering no ill effects. He made his way to the “Secondary Council Chamber” where he was greeted by Shevyn, Kerryn, and a dark-haired man Brydon had not met. His attire proclaimed him to be a Gauntlet Knight and he held himself with a proud bearing. Brydon felt himself being judged by the weight of the man’s stare. The man nodded finally and Brydon breathed a sigh of relief. He had often wondered if the Gauntlet Knights held themselves superior to the other Orders.

A roaring fire burned in the huge fireplace and Shevyn placed a goblet of mulled wine into Brydon’s hand.

“Welcome, Sir Brydon,” Kerryn said. “This is Sir Montyr, Knight Commander of the Gauntlet. He is in command while the Marshall is recovering from an injury.”

Montyr nodded. “An injury which has a good chance of healing, thanks to your Healer.”

Brydon dipped his head toward the man in greeting. Shevyn looked at Brydon questioningly.

Kerryn caught the look. “What are your plans, Sir Brydon?” Kerryn asked. Brydon wondered how it was that her cousin could apparently read her mind when he could not. Familiarity, he supposed. Kerryn went on, “You are welcome to stay here. We will need cool heads and possibly cold steel to hold what is rightfully Shevyn’s. There are many who are not pleased to suddenly find themselves ruled by a woman. No offense, cousin, but Ven‑Kerrick has always been held by men. We all know that the Gauntlet is useless now. Thank Adonai most do not know of its theft; that is a secret we’ve managed to contain. Thus far, at least.”

Brydon looked at Jace, confused. He had not told them? Brydon said, “But Toryn brought the Gauntlet back. He acquired it on his journey through the Ven-Horns. Rather than risk losing it, we left it in the caverns.”

Shevyn put a hand on Brydon’s arm. She looked from him to Jace, whose face held a pained expression. Jace said quietly, “We recovered it from the caverns. It’s a fake.”

A fake? After the scene we witnessed with Sellaris, Keev and the Parmittans? They were escorting it with a small army!”

“Reed had to have known it would be tracked. Kerryn tried to send a force after it, as did Berikon. It was a decoy. Sellaris and the others likely had no idea it wasn’t real. Reed was willing to sacrifice them all in the event the caravan was waylaid, plus it had the added benefit of exposing his enemies. As soon as we tried to take the Gauntlet, Reed turned up. Apparently he found you to be a thorn in his side. At that point, he decided to rid himself of you.”

Brydon felt sick. “What of the real Gauntlet?”

“It was most likely smuggled by a single messenger. Chances are it has been in the hands of the Dark Master for quite some time, if that is where Reed sent it.”

“Has anyone been sent after it?” Brydon asked and moved to stand before the fire. The pleasant evening had suddenly acquired a chill. His gaze shifted to Montyr, who swore roundly before looking at Shevyn apologetically.

“Sir Jace and Lady Verana are leaving tomorrow. I would send a contingent of Gauntlet Knights with them, but I cannot. The Concurrence strictly forbids any militant person of the Four‑Kingdoms—and Ven-Kerrick, obviously—from entering Parmitta. The agreement was made with the King of Parmitta and even though his line is long-since dead and gone, we cannot break it. Crossing into Parmitta would be considered an act of war and would sever the Concurrence. The fact that the Gauntlet has been taken to Parmitta suggests that a new king has begun to reign there. If so, it is even more important that no Gauntlet Knight steps across the Ven-Horns.”

Brydon looked at Montyr. “But Jace is going.”

Montyr smiled shrewdly. “That is our only avenue. The Concurrence states that ‘No militant person employed by, residing in, or swearing fealty to the members of this Accord, including but not limited to, the Knight-Priests established in Ven-Kerrick, whether secular, religious, or of any other nature, shall under any circumstances set foot on the lands south of the Ven-Horn Mountains currently known as Parmitta.’”

Brydon was amazed that he could remember it all, but Montyr gestured to the round table upon which lay several rolls of yellowed parchment. “We have been studying it. However, the Concurrence says nothing about militant persons employed by, residing in, or swearing fealty to the northern countries. Jace, as a Knight-Priest of the Shield, can go where he will. Verana, as non‑militant, is exempt.”

“Jace the Wanderer,” Brydon breathed, wondering if Jace was somehow fated because of the name he had chosen.

Kerryn’s next words halted that line of thought. “And you, Sir Brydon. As a Lance Knight, you may cross into Parmitta without affecting the Concurrence, even if you choose to go for the sake of Ven-Kerrick. You do not reside here, you are not employed by us, nor do you swear fealty to this throne.”

Brydon drained his goblet. He looked at Shevyn for a moment, but her features were blank, queen-like. Brydon smiled.
“Actually, I have a far more selfish reason to go after the Gauntlet,” Brydon said at last. “I am on a Quest to bring the Gauntlet back to Falara.” He held up a quick hand to still the expected outburst. “Not to claim it, merely as proof that I have fulfilled my Quest, as my duty commands. It would be returned to you immediately thereafter. Ven-Kerrick would be hailed in the north for its goodwill and, as you have said, the Gauntlet is useless now with the Kerrick males gone.” He glanced apologetically at Shevyn as he said the last and she looked away for a moment.
She moved to the table and picked up a quill, which she dipped into ink. She wrote swiftly. She blew on it for a moment to dry the ink and then handed it to Brydon.

He skimmed it and then read it aloud. “We hereby agree to the terms set forth by Sir Brydon of Falara. If he should find and return the Gauntlet of Ven-Kerrick, it shall be loaned to him to present to his homeland with all due ceremony, after which it shall be returned to Ven‑Kerrick.” It was signed Queen Shevyn Kerrick, 315, 45th Year of the Lance. She took the document and held it out to Kerryn and Montyr to endorse as witnesses. Kerryn shrugged and Montyr grumbled, but they both signed. Kerryn handed it back to Brydon, who refused to take the parchment.

“It may get lost where I’m going. I trust you to keep it for me.”

Kerryn tossed it absently at the table where it fell among the scrolls of the Concurrence.

“When will you depart, Sir Brydon?” Montyr asked.

“As soon as I’m satisfied that Toryn is fully recovered. I doubt that he will allow me to leave here without him.”

Shevyn looked pointedly at Kerryn and then gestured toward the door. Her cousin took the hint. “I believe I shall turn in. It has been an arduous day.”

Montyr agreed. “I will prepare your provisions for the journey, Sir Brydon. Your horses have been brought in from the catacombs. That is a very fine red stallion. It is yours?”

“Toryn’s,” Brydon responded, making a mental note to get that tale from the Redolian as soon as possible. Montyr and Kerryn departed and Shevyn picked up a the parchment and paper again.

She wrote, I believe you will succeed, but I do not want you to go. Below that, she had written, I thought he had killed you. She looked at him and her blue eyes sparkled with tears. He felt a pang and wondered what she had suffered at the hands of Reed. She could not even speak to help ease the memory. A fierce desire to protect her welled up in him and he stepped forward and folded her in his arms. She held him tightly.

Brydon soothed her, caressing her hair and murmuring to her gently. After a time, she drew back and gazed up at him. She seemed so vulnerable. Brydon leaned down and kissed her soft lips, which trembled beneath his.

He sighed. “I do not know what the future holds for us, Shevyn,” he admitted. “For now, the paths of our duties run parallel. But if I should take the Gauntlet to Falara in time...”

She nodded curtly and pulled away. She seemed to pull on an invisible mantle and become once more the Queen of Ven-Kerrick. He remembered her standing beside a stream, combing her wet hair and her blue eyes flashing fire; the carefree days of easy comradeship were gone forever.

His hands dropped to his sides. Was duty always to be a burden to him?

“You will be far too busy here to worry about me, Your Majesty,” he said softly. “I will return with the Gauntlet. For your honor.”

She smiled at him ruefully and he bowed and went out with a heavy heart.


Brydon’s room overlooked the courtyard and he sat on the window seat gazing out at the moonlight. He still shared the room with Toryn, though he had left the large bed to the Redolian, content to sleep on the valet’s bed in the antechamber. A servant had informed him that the room formerly belonged to the crown prince. The Council had convened earlier that day and Brydon wondered what the outcome had been. Jace and Verana had departed. Jace planned to detour to the Black City and ask if Rakyn had any information on where the Gauntlet might have been taken. They planned to meet Brydon and Toryn at the guard post on the banks of Lake Sparkle in Bodor, the final checkpoint before entering Parmitta.

Brydon walked to the bed, intending to turn in for an early start. He staggered against the bedpost and grasped at it for support as a mental blast brought him to his knees. He could see nothing through the agony but glaring whiteness, and hear nothing but a piercing howl until a voice like stone on stone overshadowed it.

I have been watching you, the voice boomed in his head, though he shielded against it with all his might. Your feeble powers are nothing to me. Know this: I have the item you seek.

Brydon saw a clear picture of the Gauntlet, glittering and cold, before the image was snatched away. He held onto consciousness by a thread.

I am not pleased that you did away with Reed. He was useful to me. However, all is not lost. I made arrangements in the event of Reed’s failure and my plans shall proceed. You will do well to return to your homeland and forget the Concurrence. Without the Gauntlet they are doomed. Heed my words, Falaran, and go away. If you are fortunate, I will not turn my attention to the north for many years to come.
The evil laugh sounded again, so strongly that Brydon thought his skull would burst, and then the presence was gone.

He struggled to stand, using the bedpost for support. A sharp knife of fear pierced his soul and he remembered Reed’s last words with a chill. It could only be the Dark Master. What sort of man could hold such power? Rakyn had said that no one could speak across long distances without having a former connection to the recipient, and Brydon knew he had never encountered the presence before.

He sank down on the corner of the bed, stunned by the revelation. His plans would continue. What sort of plans? Conquest, obviously, and he had taken the Gauntlet to prevent the Kerricks from using it against him. But was that the only reason? Could the Dark Master put it to use?

Brydon sighed, knowing his Quest had taken on an entirely new dimension. The Gauntlet was no longer a trinket to take him and display for his bride to be. It could be the key to survival for them all, except that no Kerrick males were alive to wield it. Even so, the loss of it would demoralize the members of the Concurrence. How long could they keep the knowledge of its theft from the public?

Brydon curled his hands into fists. He was a sworn Knight-Priest first and foremost. The Falaran throne would have to wait.
I will find you, he vowed. I will find you and the Gauntlet and see an end to this. He sent the thought in a broad range, not knowing if it was received.

He groaned as a more immediate worry occurred to him. Shevyn would likely wish to accompany him and Toryn would be impossible to convince to stay behind. He hated to expose either of them to more danger.

Brydon spent a sleepless night pondering the dilemma until the cold light of morning brought him the promise of a bleak future.

~~~~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

OMFG, I can't believe it's FINISHED!!!  Well, Book One, at any rate.  BWAHAHAHA!  Sorry it took so long to post this last chapter; it actually ended on a MAJOR cliffhanger before.  At least it has a bit of closure now.  *grin*  I'll most likely finish the trilogy one day.  The second book is done, I just haven't edited a SINGLE WORD of it, so yeah... it's a mess.  And I'm about a third of the way through writing Book Three.

SO many more things to come.  More magical objects, a character death, the return of Sellaris, political machinations...  I love Book Two.  So, shall I keep going?

 
 
 
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Rachelgatehorse on April 30th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
Yes, please keep going! I can't wait to read moe.
Lunalunasky3 on April 30th, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)
"Brydon raised his head to see a very alert-looking Toryn pushing at him." Push Toryn! Push! *giggle*

And is that even a question! KEEP GOING! Death? Is it someone we like? MORE SOON1
Faithfaithwood on April 30th, 2009 10:38 am (UTC)
Okay that first scene? For some reason I imagined that Brydon and Toryn were naked and that girl who burst in is totally me a pervy slasher. :D

I like the ending. The quest continues but there's no cliffy. I should have known that the Gauntlet was fake. *shakes head* It couldn't have been that easy.

So, shall I keep going?

Er, duh?
XC Publishingxcpublishing on April 11th, 2011 03:13 am (UTC)
HAHAHA Thank you, my darling! :D

*GLOMPS*
Jill's Mythjillsmyth on February 13th, 2010 11:16 pm (UTC)
I just finished reading. I really liked it and would definitely be interested in reading another book.
XC Publishingxcpublishing on April 11th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Thank you! Second book is finished and being edited now. :D
chuck_gregory on April 26th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
Excellent read, where's the sequel?
I enjoyed this very much and hope to continue following the excellent story.
XC Publishingxcpublishing on April 11th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Re: Excellent read, where's the sequel?
Thank you so much! I just started editing the sequel.
(Anonymous) on September 12th, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
Gauntlet Thrown
loved this book...waiting for book 2.....:)
XC Publishingxcpublishing on April 11th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
Re: Gauntlet Thrown
Thank you so much!
(Anonymous) on April 8th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
Cassie
Fab novel! It kept my hanging and was a great rollicking ride. Please finish editing Book 2 soon and post the thing in a great shabam!

Also, perhaps it's because I've been reading too many Draco/Harry slashes on Cheryl Dyson's fanfiction page, but I kept seeing similarities in Toryn and Brydon with the two HP characters and wished they'd get together. They have such chemistry and complement each other beautifully.

Post the second of the trilogy soon!
XC Publishingxcpublishing on April 11th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Re: Cassie
I'm working on book two now! :D

Thank you so much - I do love those boys, and they love each other, although quite platonically at the moment. :D
mugglegatomugglegato on September 4th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC)
I finally got around to reading this, and couldn't stop the whole way through. I loved it and can't wait to read more. This really reminds me of the Conan books that my husband introduced me to many years ago. I really hope you start posting Book 2 or publish it. I will gladly buy it and Book 3.
XC Publishingxcpublishing on October 1st, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D Trying to work on it now. :D
(Anonymous) on September 16th, 2011 05:20 am (UTC)
Book 2??
Just finished this and was saddened by the fact that book 2 is not yet available.

Very baaaaaadd........I'm going through Gauntlet withdrawl....help me, somebody make it stop.........I...NEED...the...next...bo..oo..k.....!!!!...Please?
XC Publishingxcpublishing on October 1st, 2011 07:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Book 2??
HAHAHAHA Okay, okay, we don't want to cause any withdrawal damage! :D
(Anonymous) on January 1st, 2012 10:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Book 2??
whats the title to the second book gonna be called?
(Anonymous) on October 28th, 2011 07:43 am (UTC)
Great book
I just finish reading this book it was really something, it was exiciting and it made me mad and happy at time, i do hope you keep on working on the sequel i be happy to by then.

Just one question do you have the Title for the second book, just asking so i can order it once it come out.
something clevershantismurf on October 29th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
This was so much fun to read! All of your characters are so well-drawn and lively, no matter how large or small a part they play. You have such a fine sense of pacing and action. Things did seem a little slow to develop at the very start, although every event was totally necessary to establish characters and build relationships, but once Alyn was introduced the story flew and I simply could not put it down.

The only thing missing that might have been nice to refer to while we bounced all over was a good map of the continent. I'm sure you know an artist or two who would be up to the challenge! Also something that struck me, not so much as odd as just maybe a little overdone, was the overwhelming use of "yn" in character names. At first it seemed strange, but once it got to maybe 70-80% (it seemed) of the names I just accepted it as the way most names are in this world. Still, with so many varied cultures to use such a similar naming convention just stood out as strange to my mind. Only with the Voor did you really seem to establish a completely new culture in that way.

I'm so excited to see that this is a trilogy! I can't wait to read more and I sincerely hope you find some way to make money off of all the hard work you're putting into this project! If you ever decide to sell copies I will buy one! By the way, I really loved the play on Gauntlet thrown/throne. So clever! And "Challenge Accepted" is a great title for the second...I am so excited to see what will happen!

Now, I've been so totally engrossed in this that I am sorely deficient on slash and need to go get a quick fix. :D
(Anonymous) on December 11th, 2011 08:50 am (UTC)
The Gauntlet Thrown
I loved this book and can't wait for book #2!
(Anonymous) on January 4th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
Gaunlet thrown
Read the book in one sitting!! Fantastic!!! Perfect ending as well. PLEASE HRRY AND PUT OUT BOOK TWO
XC Publishingxcpublishing on January 4th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Gaunlet thrown
WORKING ON IT! :D

(Anonymous) on January 10th, 2012 05:05 am (UTC)
Sequel
So when do we get to read the next one?
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )