Excerpt from Chapter 4
Halldor: The Color of Memories Lost
Halldor rode his horse through the forest as the dim light of evening faded slowly into night. Across a small valley amidst two hills, he could see a strange naturally formed line of darkness where the shadow of the smaller hill hit the larger. Above the line was a blue dusk, with strips of green from the setting sun shining through the canopy; below was the shadowy indigo of night. The forest was peaceful, as the insects and night birds began their song.
It was a mysterious and beautiful evening that he couldn’t enjoy. Halldor had trouble getting the images of the tribal village’s docks out of his mind. The fleet of ocean going whaling boats that were tied up neatly at the shore line contrasted with the piles of the dead that lay next to them. A few days removed from the grisly scene, Halldor knew he should not have reached out; it was one thing to see what had happened, but quite another to feel it.
He shook his head, trying to clear his mind, he was getting close to his destination, and his mind had to be free of distractions. Still, the feelings were so strong: the dying children, the weeping of their mothers, the gruesome discovery by the returning men. All of these echoes of the past that he had sensed rattled in his mind and threatened to overwhelm him. So many dead, and none spared that he could tell. Halldor thought of the sister he did not remember, why he was here, why he was riding in the forest in the middle of the night in a land hundreds of miles from, if not home, then where he thought home should be. After what he’d seen, he felt there would be little comfort to be had anywhere if he and others died because they were dwelling on horrors that could not be made right.
He stopped the horse and closed his eyes, reached out to the peace of the forest, and waited for the echoes of the dead to pass from his mind. He considered that Orin might have caught up to the Band of the Southern Sun, and that the army of the Eluvenoi would not be far behind him. Halldor had to find both Orin and The Band, and all before the second army attacked, as it no doubt planned to. He was in a race, and he knew it; one tribe was gone, and others might fall before he had the answers he needed. He touched the scroll case that hung from his belt, a common, almost unconscious gesture for him, checking that it was safe.
He waited, his head cleared, and he nudged his horse forward.
Riding over the larger hill into a small field, he saw something that made him sigh very deeply. Four mounted men just below looked at Halldor in surprise. They all wore armor of a very particular type: splint mail on grey fabric marked with enneagrams on each shoulder. Though the images in his head of the slaughter of an entire people lacked such detail, Halldor knew that similarly clad men were the perpetrators. They were members of the personal guard for the Eluvenoi. In recognizing their armor, Halldor might have reasoned his way into killing these men anyway had those images, those feelings he picked up from the village, not been his constant companion for the last two days. It might make sense, rationally, to dispatch them before they could do whatever it was they were riding in the forest at night to do. But as things stood in Halldor’s mind, he looked upon these four men as corpses the moment he saw the enneagrams.
“Good e’n stag’r” said one out of the shadows of his helmet. Halldor nodded, but more to check their mounts than out of courtesy. Two of the horses were young and fast; those riders would die first.
“Strage place t’take a ride,” the man continued.
Halldor ignored him and closed his eyes. He reached out with his mind into the ground and sky, felt for the vapors of the earth, the stuff of life and death, and pulled it to himself.
“What’a wrong wid dis one?” asked another.
“Not’ing much for long,” said the first, drawing his sword.
Halldor raised his hand as if in peace, but his brown speckled sea-green eyes flared open and spoke of quite the opposite. He lifted his hand higher, and the man who had just spoken lifted out of his saddle. Three more swords came out of their sheaths as Halldor waved his hand lazily to the left. The man floating in the air jerked to the right, and then shot through the air to the left as though he’d been launched from a catapult. His body hit a stout tree with a crunching sound and crumpled to the ground, broken.
The other men reacted by spurring their horses forward. Halldor lifted his hands quickly, and the mounts reared back as if pushed. Two of the men fell from their horses. The third held on, spurred his horse again, and wheeled about to escape. Halldor pushed both his hands forward, his hands flat, parallel to the ground. A ripple of invisible energy struck both fallen men in the chest, bones crunching under the assault. One died instantly, the other, more barrel-chested than his companion, fell to the ground struggling for breath, his lungs collapsing fast.
Halldor looked to the escaping man who was already halfway across the field, his horse galloping at full speed. Halldor pulled his hands down to his sides, reached into that same place between the air and the ground below, and pulled the energy together into a ball before him. It was white, beautiful, elusive, it lit the whole field like concentrated moonlight, and it was infused with two days’ worth of Halldor’s anger and frustration. The light seared the skin of the men already dead. Dropping his hand, Halldor let go of the orb of light and it flew with the speed of an arrow from a long bow, straight and true. It struck the back of the fleeing man, bursting through his body, and he flopped from his horse quite dead.
Halldor hopped off his own mount and walked over to the man on the ground who was still gasping for breath. Images of the village then rushed back to Halldor’s mind as he watched the man slowly and painfully suffocate.
Once the man died, Halldor checked all their possession. If they were scouts, they were ill equipped for it; if couriers, they carried no parchment, no scrolls. Halldor reasoned they might have been sent to carry a simple message by mouth, but they were coming in from the west. The field was small, and the tall grasses were pushed down in an obvious path that led back to the south-west. Halldor was neither scout nor woodsman, but he considered it likely that he had overshot what he was looking for. He turned north.
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