Draconis’ Bane Sample

Draconis’ Bane is my first novel and after years of writing short stories, it was a major departure for me from what I was normally doing up until that point. I had intended to write 60-70,000 words, something that was a challenge but not an insurmountable one. The novel ended up taking on a life of it’s own and after completing the story, I ended up leaping right into the sequel Deadly Intentions.

The story follows Tristan Vallious, the second son of the King and Queen and a royal pain in the backside. He’s everything your worst impressions of royalty could possibly be, until he’s attacked by a cult of anti-dragon fanatics. The spell they cast on him is meant to force the target to live out their greatest fears, eventually sapping away their will to live and killing them. With the help of his family, Tristan defeats his own demons and awakens from the spell a changed young man with no memories of his life prior to the attack.

Confronted with his own short comings, all of which he cannot even remember, Tristan’s new mission in life is to be worthy of the sacrifices his family has made for him and prove his worth to himself and his kingdom. During all of his struggles, the cult of fanatics have not given up on killing him and bringing war to the Seven Kingdoms.

After I completed the sequel, I spent another year re-writing, editing and polishing Draconis’ Bane, I hope you enjoy the sample chapter and get yourself a copy!

 

Draconis’ Bane

Chapter 1

Silver Spoon


“That’s enough!” Swordmaster Fallon shouted.

Tristan had barely broken a sweat by all appearances, though his sparring partner could scarcely claim the same small boon. Mixed in with the sweat that was pouring down his face was his own blood, which was also pouring freely from several wounds the Prince had inflicted on him. The combination was soaking his white tunic, making the wounds look that much more horrible to the untrained eye.

“If Jason can’t keep up Swordmaster, that’s hardly my fault.” Tristan goaded, casting his opponent a baleful look.

Jason Yunis was a cousin of the Princes’, being the third son of one of his uncles, Samuel. His uncle had sent the lad here to learn swordplay from the masters the King employed. However, from the moment the young man had arrived, he’d been bullied about by the Prince. It wasn’t that Jason was a poor swordsman mind you, he was quite gifted in fact. The Prince though, had been training under several masters since he’d been old enough to hold a blade.

The King had hoped that learning a skill would funnel the young Prince’s more questionable behavior and give him focus. Before, he was merely the King’s middle child. He was an impetuous and spoiled brat of a monarch. Now, though, he was a spoiled brat who could best most of the soldiers and masters in the country. There were only three people he couldn’t regularly beat in a sword fight; his older brother, the Swordmaster and his little sister.

Eurydice Vallious was one of the very few people in the palace the Prince didn’t bully around. In fact, he was very fond of his little sister and doted on her, as did most everyone who met her. The little one’s love for life and bright heart lifted even the most jaded people to joviality. Even so, Tristan’s pride wouldn’t let him give less than his all in a swordfight, even with Eurydice. Her speed bordered on the supernatural and while she wasn’t as gifted with the blade as her brother…she was fast enough that it didn’t matter on most occasions. There were times however, when the Swordmaster was hard pressed to distinguish between the two of them. Tristan’s own natural ability with the sword and his own speed often created contests between the two of them that most found difficult to keep track of.

The main reason the Prince was in such a foul mood today was that word had obviously reached him that Jason Yunis had been paying an exorbitant amount of time with the young Princess. The Swordmaster could clearly see that the spoiled Prince didn’t approve; an understatement that could become fatal if they weren’t separated. The instructor called the two young men back to the center circle to begin again.

“Bow.” The instructor ordered sharply.

Both young men barely moved their heads in each other’s direction, causing the instructor to sigh and shake his head in disgust. Things were coming to a head with these two, Swordmaster Fallon decided. It was probably time to send young Jason back to his father, he mused, before the lad was sent back in a brier.

“Engarde!” The instructor shouted and then quickly stepped back to his appointed place.

The boy’s sabers crossed, each of their forearms flexed with effort as they each sought to push the other blade aside. An act of defiance and anger as they both glared at each other with open rage.

“Duel.” The instructor called.

Jason feigned high. Tristan brought his blade up and the pair met for the briefest moment. Jason snapped his wrist and brought his blade across the Prince’s stomach. Tristan leapt backwards, barely avoiding the blow. Jason closed in on his off-balance cousin with a clumsy thrust which caught Tristan in the right shoulder.

The young Prince gasped as he backed away, bringing his blade up to defend. He needn’t have bothered though, as Jason had stopped his advance with a self-satisfied grin on his face. Tristan reached up to his shoulder, feeling inside his tunic. He drew his hand out and rubbed his fingers together as his face went red with rage.

The wound was a superficial one at best, perhaps merely breaking the skin. The damage to Tristan’s ego was palpable in the room. Other combatants stopped their sparring and turned to watch the enraged Princes’ bout closely.

Fallon was sure that all of them had wished at some point for at least this small wound. However, the Swordmaster was already worried about the backlash from the clumsy and misplaced strike. The instructor called for both young men to come back to the center. Tristan’s breathing was deep and deliberate and he balanced his weight on the balls of his feet. Fallon thought about intervening to stop further bloodshed, but thought better of it. These lads were going to work their frustration out eventually and it might as well be where he could keep them from killing one another.

“Engarde!” The instructor shouted again and quickly stepped back.

The stain on the shoulder of Tristan’s shirt began to move down the sleeve. Again the sweat mixed in with the blood and made the wound appear to be quite serious. It was easy to tell that the Prince wasn’t in the least bit injured as he flexed his shoulder and forearm, pushing Jason’s blade to the side as their dangerous and childish byplay continued unabated.

“Duel!” The instructor’s voice cracked ever so slightly, betraying his fears.

Fallon knew the instructor was loath to call an end to the contest. Tristan had seen more than one instructor of the blade fired from the palace staff. This appointment, despite its charge, was what most masters of the blade aspired to after all; the King’s Palace.

Jason came in high, attempting to feel out any stiffness on Tristan’s part. Fallon chuckled in spite of himself thinking that even if the Prince was injured enough to become stiff, his ego wouldn’t allow him to show it. Tristan’s sword was quick as lightning; batting Jason’s aside and followed by a left cross punch, sending his cousin to the mat.

“Hold!” The instructor shouted, shaking the fear of keeping his job with the total lack of swordsmanship from the Prince.

Neither young man heard him, of course; both had now been shamed in the eyes of their peers and each other. This would need to be settled here and now, or at least so their young code of honor told them. Fallon leaned back on a pillar behind him and sighed theatrically as Jason wiped away the blood from his split lip. His eyes took on an intensity that Fallon had never seen the young man exhibit before.

Showing false shaking in the knees, he used his sword to support his weight as he got back to his feet. Tristan, being too wrapped up in his own emotions, snarled as he closed in on his opponent. The Prince used a backhanded swipe designed to decapitate his opponent. Jason was ready and raised his sword, taking the blow near the pommel. He used his leverage to draw Tristan’s sword around in an arc to the opposite side, effectively trapping the blade and forcing the Prince forward and off balance. The Prince grunted as the tip of his sword made contact with the mat. Jason used this perfect opportunity to drive his right elbow back into Tristan’s face with an audible crack.

Fallon flinched, knowing that he’d likely broken the Prince’s nose. Tristan stumbled backwards, bringing his sword instinctively up to defend as another blow rang on his blade. Some small sense of survival must have sprung up in the Prince as the ball of Tristan’s right foot connected with the mat and he pushed forward, regaining his balance. He grabbed his cousin’s right forearm and drove his head straight into Jason’s face. Another audible crack echoed off of the chamber walls as several onlookers groaned in sympathy. Jason stumbled backwards, shaking his head in an attempt to clear his mottled thoughts.

The instructor had long since given up trying to control the two lads and had run out of the room, presumably to fetch a pair of soldiers to help him break up the fight. Swordmaster Fallon was secretly enjoying the contest though. He still held to his belief that these two boys needed to iron out their differences here, rather than in some tawdry gambling hall down by the docks later. He had no delusions over the meaning behind this ridiculous charade. Both young men were fighting for the same girl. Tristan fought for the honor of the sister he doted on and Jason for the young woman he was beginning to fall in love with. The Swordmaster was just musing on which young man he sympathized with most; the one thinking with his crotch, or the one trying to protect his sisters, when the instructor burst back into the room with two men-at-arms flanking him.

Each soldier looked at the fast young men unleashing a hell of a battle on one another and then looked at each other before settling back against the wall on either side of the door.

The instructor was beside himself.

“What are you waiting for!? Split them up!” He shouted anxiously.

The older guard chuckled darkly.

“And how would you like us to do that, sir?” He asked.

The instructor turned and watched the lightning fast parries and strikes for a moment before looking back at the soldiers, even more disheveled than before.

“I don’t know! Tackle them?!!” He shrieked.

The younger soldier looked at his superior.

“I don’t know about you Tom, but I’m not taking a saber to the head trying to get between those two.”

Tom chuckled loudly.

“Too right Jimmy. Too damn right.” He turned his head towards the instructor. “They’ll tucker out soon enough, sir.”

Fallon Hawkings, the Swordmaster of Metao and the Royal Family of Vallious for over thirty years, laughed in spite of himself as the instructor shakily wiped the sweat from his brow and looked nervously from one soldier to the other before turning around and forcing himself to watch the Prince and his cousin fight each other unhindered.

Each of the young men bled quite freely from their noses and various other slices all over their bodies. They were a patchwork of cloth, leather, steel and blood. Fallon was deeply impressed at any rate. What had begun as a haphazard sparing match, where Tristan clearly had better form, had boiled down into a game of survival. Each of them used their fists, elbows and at time’s feet to try and gain the advantage. Tristan’s tutelage had been purely based on form and tradition; he rarely let his anger show when he was dueling. Whilst Jason had clearly been taught a more mundane and infinitely more suitable form of sword craft where one used any means necessary to survive.

Tristan blow came in high; Jason deflected his cousins’ blade and used his forward momentum to push the Prince off of his feet and closed in. He flipped his blade in his hand and readied himself to strike down into the Prince’s chest. Tristan kicked Jason’s left knee out from under him and was rewarded with his cousin’s scream as he dislocated his knee.

Tristan was back on his feet in seconds and closing in on his cousin. In desperation, Jason used the bell of his pommel to drive his thigh back into alignment with his lower leg. His face went white as a loud snap could be heard around the chamber. The knee was more or less back in place. Fallon grimaced in sympathy.

Jason rolled backwards, using his right leg primarily to get back to a standing position as Tristan stalked his prey with a cold grin. The Prince slashed downwards at an angle and Jason caught the blade with an upward block. Tristan snapped his wrist around, going for a lateral strike across Jason’s chest. The lad was ready and ducked under the blow and delivered an uppercut to the Prince’s face with his free left hand.

Tristan was lifted off the ground and landed hard on his back, knocking the wind out of him and sending his sword sliding across the mat. Jason tossed aside his blade and leapt on top his cousin. Primal rage had taken hold and he wrapped his hands around the Princes’ neck. The shock of the punch lasted only moments as Tristan gave Jason a right cross which knocked him backwards onto his backside.

Fallon laughed and nodded in the direction of the two soldiers who rushed in and tackled each young man. Now that neither of them was armed, they were more than willing to break up the fight. The older soldier pulled Tristan back by the collar of his torn and tattered tunic as the Prince cursed loudly.

“Get the hell off me! I’ll have you hung for this! Treason!” The spoiled young man shouted.

Fallon stepped forward and backhanded his King’s son, rendering the lad unconscious. Behind him, Jason was breathing heavily and when the Swordmaster turned around, he saw the young man smiling. Blood was running down his chin from the corner of his mouth and it completely covered some of his teeth. Otherwise, he looked remarkably unharmed. Fallon sighed before taking a step forward and backhanded him as well.

He sighed again and tilted his head sharply to one side, cracking his neck. Fallon loathed explaining his actions to people. The King would understand the boys had a bout of the usual male posturing present in the young, so he wouldn’t likely expect any explanations. His wife and daughter, though; would. Entertainment or not, these two were going to cost him hours of interrogation by Queen Annadora and Princess Eurydice. Fallon sighed yet again and motioned for the soldiers to carry the boys back to their respective rooms. He absent-mindedly patted the instructor on the shoulder as he walked through the doorway behind the soldiers.

“Damn kids.” Fallon cursed.

His only hope was to get the Prince back to his rooms without running into any of the ruling women of the castle all the while hoping to run into the King on the way. The old soldier had Tristan’s limp body over his shoulder as the pair of them hurried through the castle, taking the long way to avoid many of the Queen’s favorite rooms. Quietly they crept through the halls until they came upon the Princes’ apartments. The Swordmaster motioned for the soldier to deposit the young Lord inside his room. He then breathed a sigh of relief.

“Fallon?” A clear female voice called.

Prematurely.

Swordmaster Fallon swore under his breath and pushed the soldier into the room and slammed the door. He spun around and greeted the Queen with a low bow.

“Your Majesty?” He greeted her.

When she didn’t answer him, Fallon looked up to find the Queen fixing him with a look reminiscent of his mother catching him taking cookies from the jar. He ventured a wolfish grin.

“You know.” She began in a tone also reminiscent of his mother. “When my husband informed me that our son would take sword training in an effort to direct his more aggressive tendencies, that wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned.”

The color appropriately drained from Swordmaster Fallon’s face as he realized the Queen must have been observing everything from the stands above the training floor. He cursed himself for being so narrow-minded.

“Your Highness, I thought it better the lads work out their differences on the training floor rather than the courtyard in front of everyone.” He stammered a little too quickly.

“That was quite good Mr. Hawkings, do remember that load of rubbish for my husband.” She instructed humorlessly as she nodded towards the Prince’s chamber. “Open the door.”

The Swordmaster pushed the door open and bowed low before his Queen and followed her into the room. As he passed the soldier, he whispered run before proceeding into the Princes’ rooms.

Fallon stayed an appropriate, respectful distance behind the Queen as she approached her son’s bed. It was uncharacteristic of Fallon of course, though his usual cheek wouldn’t earn him any bonuses at the moment, so he tried his best to look compliant.

“Don’t do that Fallon; you know how irritating I find all that pomp.” She said calmly and slightly bemused at his act. “Is he harmed?”

The Swordmaster chuckled darkly. “Only his pride.” He said with a shake of his head.

“Humph.” She replied. “He could use a little less of that anyway, I suppose.”

“Indeed Ma’am.” He replied.

The Queen looked her son up and down, and finally sighed. “Wake him.”

Fallon smiled sadistically and walked over to the washroom. He used the pump to fill a small bucket of cold water. The iron rings and grommets groaned slightly as he filled it to nearly overflowing, intending to enjoy his duty. The Queen laughed in spite of her mood as the Swordmaster walked back into the bedroom making a show of the bucket being heavy.

Fallon wasn’t as typical servant of the Crown. He’d once been a slave and the King had purchased and freed him. King Dion had long held slavery as the worst invention mankind had ever orchestrated. When he’d offered the Swordmaster a post in his army, Fallon had quickly agreed. At the time, it had been the best opportunity for a slave turned freeman. Looking back, Fallon had wanted to earn Dion’s respect. Still, old habits die hard and the old Swordmaster had never been the placating servant some of his peers had been.

He hefted the bucket high over his head and glanced mischievously at his Queen. She nodded once, smiling despite her aggravation.

Tristan cursed loudly as he sputtered and spit out the water that had found its way into his slack mouth. He flailed about on the bed, uttering threats as he often did when forced to do or learn something he didn’t wish to. He opened his eyes and became silent as the grave as he stared up at his mother.

The Queen wasn’t a very foreboding looking woman; she was of average height with a slim build and long dark hair. Though her green eyes communicated her anger clearly enough. Her voice hid the anger behind disappointment.

“What in the Gods names were you thinking, Mykl?” She asked calmly, invoking the pet name she used for all of her children.

Tristan had the good grace to avert his eyes from hers.

“You could have killed him.” She continued. “My nephew.” She accused.

Tristan couldn’t make eye contact with her. Fallon looked on, feeling sympathy for his young charge despite his many faults.

“Just what were you trying to prove?” She said with rising anger. “Your sister’s honor is perfectly safe and even if it wasn’t, her virtue is mine to protect. You, your overblown ego and your sense of entitlement are going to get you killed and I’d rather not burn your body thank you very much.”

Fallon felt supremely uncomfortable being in the room with them and doubly so due to his mother having similar words with him as a youngster. He felt the Queen was being a little harsh though. If Eurydice had been his sister, he couldn’t honestly claim he would have done any differently. Be that as it may, he was a soldier and not a Prince. For Tristan, the stakes were higher, which was probably why the young man rebelled so regularly. Fallon knew that the responsibilities of office were something the young Prince never wanted. The young man tried his best to hide it, but the weight of other men’s lives depending on his decision frightened him.

“Another stunt like that and I’ll have you tossed into the bay!” She yelled, finally allowing her anger to show. “Have his wounds cleaned and dressed then bring him to afternoon court. I’ll let his father met out the punishment.” The Queen ordered as she stormed out of the room in a flurry of hair and dress.

Fallon had never seen the Prince ashamed of himself before. The old Swordmaster wasn’t sure he liked the sight to be perfectly honest.

In mere moments there was a knock at the door and the nurse came in to dress the Princes superficial wounds. She clicked her tongue impatiently as she dressed the dozen or so small abrasions. Within the hour the Prince was dressed and summoned to court.

Foreboding tension was thick in the air as though the Prince knew he’d gone too far one too many times. Fallon escorted him through the hallways towards the main audience chamber where the Housecarl beat his metal tipped staff on the floor to announce the entry of the King and Queen thru their private entrance to the central room in the Palace.

Fallon could hear the Prince flexing his toes in his boots, clearly showing nervous tension at the very public dressing down he was likely about to receive. In retrospect, Swordmaster Fallon wondered if he should have put a stop to the fight rather than let the childish scrap play out. He felt nearly as responsible for what was about to transpire as the Prince should.

“May I present, Prince Tristan Vallious!” The Housecarl shouted from the front of the room.

With a gentle nudge from Fallon, the Prince walked forward. He made his way forward, into the chamber with as much poise as he could muster. The Swordmaster was sure that the Queen’s recriminations were still ringing in the lads ears as he came to a halt in front of the throne and respectfully bowed low.

“Well.” The King said loudly enough for the whole room to hear.

“We understand you took it upon yourself to instruct the Swordmaster’s lessons today.” He accused, casting his eyes toward Fallon, who had quietly taken his place to the right of the throne between the King and Housecarl.

King Dion Vallious wasn’t an overtly serious person, though he had a quiet authority that gave the impression that he was always deadly serious. In reality the King was a good natured man and more often than not was the mastermind behind pranks his children played on their teachers. For Dion to adopt a serious expression, as well as his choice of words, he betrayed his temper boiling under the surface of a calm façade. Fallon decided that the King must be furious.

“Yes, father.” Tristan admitted, lowering his eyes.

“Since you’ve clearly gone from pupil to teacher, there is nothing our home can offer you anymore.” The King announced.

Tristan’s head snapped up, looking at his father in open shock.

“With that said, we’ve decided it’s time for you to earn the reputation you seem to think you deserve.” The King ordered.

Tristan looked back down at his feet.

“You’ll be leaving at the end of the week for Kenting. There you will assume the post of Man-At-Arms under your brothers’ command until such time as he thinks you’re ready.” Dion said in his most commanding voice.

“Ready for what, father?” Tristan asked quietly, still keeping his eyes downcast.

“Ready to grow up!” The King shouted.

 

“Hold!”

The Prince looked over at the Swordmaster, irritation clearly evident on his face. Again Fallon was forced to admit that while the Prince was quite gifted with the sword, he found the young man’s attitude irritating.

Apparently the chastising he’d received from his father yesterday afternoon had long since been forgotten. The boy was a talent and his abilities led him to impetuous moves that would likely earn him an early death if he couldn’t reign in his arrogance. Even as a child, the eldest son of his King and Queen had shown great promise. He lacked the discipline or at the very least the desire to see it through though.

It was very disappointing. The best his teachers could expect was a competent administrator, though Dukes had been made of far worse material he grudgingly admitted to himself. Fallon would have liked to have broken the Prince like one would a horse and reformed him into someone much less arrogant and spoiled. Today he was conducting the lessons as none of the other instructors wanted to be responsible for a repeat performance of the previous day, unlikely though it was. Jason had been chastised in a much less public way and quietly sent home before the sun had set.

“My Prince. After the riposte, you need to remember not to leave yourself open.” Fallon instructed.

The Prince rolled his eyes, a show of disrespect that would have earned one of the other students a sound beating.

“My opponent is too slow to take advantage of any opening I leave for him anyway.” He shot, looking over the Swordmaster’s shoulder at his sparring partner.

There, Fallon was forced to agree. There were few other options though, as many of the most gifted students simply refused to spar with the spoiled Prince. Even if they did beat him, the Prince was full of excuses and accusations that robbed them of any pride they felt at their victory.

 

An ear ringing explosion launched the Swordmaster across the room. He slammed against the opposite wall and gasped as he felt ribs break with the impact. Pain shot through his body and he felt his arm snap as he spun through the air and collided with a support pillar. He cradled his broken limb as he shakily pushed himself against the wall. He struggled to breath, which only brought tears to his eyes as he attempted to push himself up against the wall.

A robed man stood in the doorway with his arms outstretched, his hands glowing with a strange blue light. After a few moments, a beam shot from his hands and hit the Prince, who was still dazed and laying on the floor a short distance away from the robed man.

The Swordmaster stood and fought to stay conscious; spoiled brat or not, he was still his Lord’s son. He took a staggering step forward, only to have his vision collapse in on him. He fell forward in a heap; the last thing he heard before he lost consciousness was the sound of sandals running away down the hall.

 

Chapter 2

Nightmare


Eight years old, Tristan sat on the edge of his bed, his head in his hands as he tried desperately to deal with a single unarguable truth.

His grandfather – was dead.

Years of his laughing face teaching Tristan all sorts of things, at the time it had seemed so trivial. Those memories came flowing back to his mind…unbidden.

 

“Remember Tristan.”

“Yes?”

“A man is judged by the quality of his work, not the quantity.”

“But Anne gets everything grandpa. How come I have to earn it?”

“Because Tristan. That’s what men do.”

It didn’t make sense then and it definitely didn’t make sense now as Tristan could hear his mother fussing over the state of his younger sister in the next room.

“I DON’T WANNA!” His sister yelled.

“Anne. Please. Not today. Just be a good girl, put on your new dress and come downstairs.” His mother begged.

New dress, scoffed Tristan. Of course she had a new dress. Here Tristan sat, partially dressed in the hand-me-down suit he’d been given two years ago by his cousin. The cuffs of his dress pants were shorter than he would have liked and revealed his mismatched socks. It didn’t matter though, none of his relatives would notice. Quiet little Tristan, never raised a fuss, never complained, always did as he was told. The socks didn’t appear to be mismatched from a distance anyway, he mused darkly. They were both, after all, black. One sock was a sport sock…already making his left foot sweat in his dress shoe a size too small. The other sock had black designs cut into it, another hand-me-down from his cousin, Greg, who was four years older than Tristan.

Everyone was in fours in Tristan’s family. His eldest cousin, Joy, was eight years older than he, his cousin came next, then Tristan and then…much to his irritation…Anne. Everyone in the family doted on Anne. She was the baby; she was so adorable, so cute, and so funny.

Mocking laughter, another wonderful side effect of Tristan’s pathetic life; everyone around him seemed infected by it. When Greg would pick on Tristan, Tristan got in trouble for antagonizing him. Just walking into the room was enough to raise Greg’s ire.

“Hey Pud! What are you up to!?”

Wincing at the name Pud, such a clever and witty nickname he agonized. Not that brains factored into its creation mind you. It was his nickname for anyone he wished to associate with the male reproductive organ.

“Nothing.” Tristan would often reply sheepishly.

“Yeah, right. Come here!”

More often than not, this simple phrase meant…flee! In whatever direction was the clearest path to safety. More often than not, his short strides were never enough to escape. He often sported black eyes, bruised ribs and sprained fingers as each was pulled painfully back towards the back of his hand. Tristan then had to endure ministrations from his mother, dark looks from his father, and Greg, so proud of his accomplishments, smiling as Greg’s mother reprimanded him half-heartedly.

When Joy was around, she would then offer to take care of Tristan while his relatives would return to whatever adult conversation they were in the middle of. Using spelling for words, they didn’t want Tristan to know and eventually another language when he’d learned how to spell. The times Tristan spent with Joy though, were the happiest of his childhood memories.

She would introduce Tristan to all her friends, who simply loved this adorable, quiet little boy who never once complained about having tea parties or listening to God awful boy-band pop music. Today there would be no comfort, though. Grandpa had passed away. He was Mom’s father not Dad’s. Dad’s father was still very much alive, overly sensitive about being bald, but still alive.

 

Tristan sighed as he looked up. Staring at an ornate dresser, most likely made by Grandpa since it was passed down to him by his mother. It was raised three inches off the ground with carved legs, three drawers on both sides, and a bank of three smaller drawers up the middle. All of the drawers had antique metal handles that clanged when he shut them. There was also a hutch on this particular dresser, the center of which held a large mirror that occupied the entire length and height of the hutch. Intricately carved support posts rose from the simple flat top, to support the top most shelf which held all of his trophies.

Those trophies never seemed to matter much to his father though. Things like “Most Improved Player” or “League MVP” meant very little if they weren’t sitting beside a “1st Place”. Good at everything, but never the best at one thing. That was the definition of Tristan’s whole life to this point. Being thrown into baseball, softball, soccer, karate…all supposedly to make him a man, all of them Tristan was quite good at. It didn’t matter though. Mom spent hours with Anne shopping or spending time with her. Dad, well…Dad worked a lot.

 

Shaking his mind of all of the dark random thoughts Tristan opened one of the drawers and pulled out his tie. He straightened up and glanced at the mirror. There was his face, untidy hair, which everyone assumed was always painstakingly brushed, his hazel eyes…today more brown than green or gray, but…something was different. His face seemed harder, less youthful, and his skin was darker, must be the light. He lowered his gaze and set to tying the knot in his tie. When he looked up, he was just as he should be.

“TRISTAN! Are you ready yet!?” His father yelled.

“Yes. I’m coming.” He answered.

“Quit dawdling!” Father scolded.

“I’m not dawdling.” Tristan muttered under his breath.

Dawdling. He was always dawdling these days. Two months ago Tristan had dawdled after his Karate class. He was caught up in the joy of playing tag with three of his friends from class. Dad arrived and honked the horn of the car. Tristan hadn’t even heard it. He was too busy having fun. His Dad honked again. Once again, Tristan hadn’t heard a thing as one of his friends yelled as Tristan got close enough to tag him.

It happened in a flash; Dad stormed into the Dojo and grabbed Tristan painfully around the bicep. Half dragging him out to the car as his friends looked on, shock clearly evident on their young faces…the other fathers shaking their heads and going back to their conversation. When he got home, his father dragged him up the stairs, threw him on his bed, removed his belt and proceeded to strap him with it so many times, Tristan had lost count.

The first few connections with the leather belt stung so bad that Tristan cried out. Tears flowed from his eyes as his father continued to beat him until he stopped screaming and simply lay there, flinching, not making a fuss, as was expected of him. When he’d finished Tristan’s father put his belt back on and said to him;

“When I come to pick you up, be ready. Don’t dawdle around playing with your friends!”

No answer greeted him, instead he turned and stormed out of Tristan’s room, slamming the door and sending Tristans’ hand-me-down framed poster of a 1985 White Lamborghini Countach crashing to the carpeted floor. Tristan cried himself to sleep that night. The next morning, he woke up, had a shower and went to school as was expected of him.

 

Tristan dare not dawdle today though; Mom was already very upset at the passing of her father. She was just as likely to break another yard stick over Tristan’s backside. Almost a year ago Tristan snapped in the middle of supper. He was being told that he was complaining too much about his poorly cooked meal.

“Yeah, well, you’d complain too if you got the most overcooked piece of fish and it tasted like moldy cardboard.” He’d shouted.

That was enough to end supper right there, well for Tristan at least. He was dragged to the basement door, it was flung open and his mother reached inside and grabbed a yard stick she presumably used for sewing. She wound up and swung so yard at Tristans’ hind end that she snapped the yardstick in half. Of course that didn’t phase her one bit. She sent Tristan up to his room, his cardboard fish stick left unfinished and his stomach grumbling in protest.

He’d cried himself to sleep that night as well.

 

Today was a different story, though. Tristan couldn’t seem to cry. He didn’t really understand why, but it made him feel guilty that he couldn’t express his grief. For years he’d been punished, beaten and then he would cry. Today, the tears wouldn’t come. Perhaps this is what it feels like when your soul dies he mused darkly.

“ARE YOU COMING?!” bellowed his father.

“Yes!”

Tristan hurried from his room, closing the door behind him. Why he felt the need to close the door was quite simple; if he didn’t, it just invited Anne to rifle through his things. Always ignored, bossed around and beaten and yet his little sister would add to his misery by going into his private sanctuary and playing with his toys, the few he still had were safely locked away now.

He existed in a kind of solitary confinement and his only freedom was being sent outside to play with his few friends or being sent off to summer camp, the first of which was coming up this summer. Still two months away it was all that he looked forward to, and his parents knew it, so naturally they used it as a weapon.

“TRISTAN!” his father screamed.

“What?” replied Tristan from inside the car.

“Well, finally!” he scolded.

Tristan sat back in his seat, his features clouded with anger. Of course, why mention that he was the first one in the car? His mother and sister were still upstairs, God forbid he bellow for them. Staring out the window of his mothers’ station-wagon he sighed, again biting back the comments he wanted to make and knew he couldn’t. Gazing off into the clear blue sky Tristan daydreamed of a life full of people he could trust, people who loved him and he could love.

 

Day dreaming had become something of a habit of his lately. Between his punishments at home, the constant fear that he would anger his father into another belting session or get another ruler broken over some newly healed body part from his mother, his slow torture on the school bus ride to and from school and finally the pain of having no friends at school….day dreaming had become an escape; an escape from the never-ending loneliness, solitude and pain.

Living in a suburb renowned for its large houses and yards had conspired to set him apart from his classmates. Even though their houses were the same size as his, and their parents made the same living as his, he still lived in a “rich” suburb. He certainly didn’t dress like it, hand-me-down clothing from Greg, shoes a size too small, and jeans, tattered from their previous owners use and worn further with Tristans use.

He was small, even for eight, he was small. He was the smallest student in his class, and often was bullied by the larger boys. The girls always seemed to like him though, no matter how many black eyes he sported or how many times three of the larger boys would gang up on him the girls would stick up for him. Their defense only served to give the bullies more ammunition. This year Tristan had taken to playing football with the boys in his class over recess. Being the smallest the first few weeks were made memorable and painful as no matter how many people were covering him, the quarterback would always toss him the ball on the first down so that all the boys could tackle him, often the tackle ended in a pile-on where fifteen boys would pile on top of him, including members of his own team.

No matter how hard he got hit, he would get right back up and get ready for the next play. After a month of this repeated beating one of the boys started being almost nice to him, after one particularly large pile-on a hand reached down and pulled Tristan out from under the rubble. Tristan was helped to his feet and he looked to see who had rescued him, assuming it would be a teacher or a girl. Much to his surprise Paul smiled back at him;

“You alright, Tristan?” he asked.

“Er….ya Paul. I’m fine.”

“Great. Ready?”

For weeks the two of them would run plays together at recess, sit next to each other in class and conspire to have each other over for sleepover’s and camping in each other’s back yard. Paul became one of Tristans few friends. Until of course, his father met Paul. After almost a month of planning and two sleepovers at Paul’s house, Tristan’s mother finally relented and agreed to let Paul sleep over.

At the end of school that day Paul caught the bus home with Tristan. They joked around on the ride home and then dropped their bags off and Tristan introduced Paul to his three friends. The five of them started a game of football in the back yard and played until the sun went down. Tristan and Paul were called into the house for supper and they all agreed to play football again tomorrow.

Tristan was happier than he had ever been before. He sat down for supper, his sister making a rude comment that completely escaped Tristan. Paul spoke up and she was silenced, he then turned to Tristan and said in a hushed voice;

“Just call her meatball when she attacks you, it’s what I do to my sister and it works every time.”

Laughing, Tristan and Paul began to eat. Tristan looked up as he heard the garage door open, his mood slightly darkened. What kind of mood will Dad be in tonight? I hope he doesn’t yell. None of my friends know he yells at me. Oh God. Please let him be in a good mood.

“WHY HASN’T THE LAWN BEEN MOWED!?” his father bellowed.
Oh no. Oh please, no…not now…not today.

“Tristan! Didn’t I ask you to mow the lawn?” his father demanded.

“Y…yes Dad. I thought I would do it tomorrow afternoon, you know, after Paul goes home?”

“PAUL! Who in the hell is Paul!?” his father demanded.

“H..he’s my friend from school. Don’t you remember? I asked if he could come out and sleep over tonight.”

“Well, I’m not driving him home!”

“You don’t have to. His parents are coming out to get him…I told you that.”

“Fine! But I want that lawn mowed first thing in the morning!”

“But Dad….Paul’s only here until noon. Even if I get up at eight I won’t be done until eleven…” Tristan stammered.

“I don’t care…you have responsibilities. You should have mowed it yesterday.”

“…but, I had Karate last night. I…”

“SHUT UP! I don’t want excuses. Mow the lawn!”

Tristan hung his head, his larger than average ears completely red. Anne smiled across the table as Paul tried to make Tristan laugh with a couple jokes as Tristan’s parents started discussing today’s news. When Anne had friends over Dad never yelled, she always got to leave the table early and go play. But after supper was over Paul offered to help Tristan clear the table.

Depressed and feeling very self-conscious Tristan led Paul up to his room where they played board games and listened to the radio for the rest of the night. Paul never mentioned what happened earlier, probably sensing that Tristan was too embarrassed to talk about it. Before they went to sleep, Paul in a sleeping bag on the floor and Tristan in his bed, Paul offered to help Tristan mow the lawn tomorrow. He was greeted by silence as Tristan nodded off to sleep.

The next morning Tristan was up at seven and finishing mowing the lawn around ten as a car pulled into the driveway. Sweating and exhausted he looked up to see Paul getting into his parents’ car, he smiled and waved and Tristan returned the wave, his heart sinking as Paul’s parents backed their car up and left, two hours early.

For weeks afterward there was no mention of the incident at school. Then, on their way in from recess another friend of Paul’s asked about a bruise on Tristan’s shoulder.

“Did your Dad give you that?” he asked.

Tristan made eye contact with Paul and knew as his gaze dropped that Paul had told his whole class about Tristan’s treatment at home. He had thought everyone was taking it easy on him because they were starting to like him; instead it was pity.

“Nah, that’s from playing street hockey.”

“Oh! Cool.” Someone replied.

“…ya. It’s almost as rough as our football games.” Tristan chuckled.

Everyone laughed, but inside Tristan was dying a little. He was never very proud of his home life, but one of the benefits of living so far away from his classmates was that he could keep it a secret. Now everyone knew, some decided that his home life was punishment enough; others decided to use the knowledge as a weapon. Either way, no one else ever slept over at Tristan’s house again.

Thus, at the age of eight, the ‘wall of silence’ was born. The more people knew about Tristan, the easier they could hurt him. In one of his classroom daydreams Tristan decided that ‘The Wall’ as it would later be simplified, was the only way to keep his heart from breaking.

 

Finally, his mother came out of the house, his little sister in tow, protesting every inch of the way. She was put into the car and the two hour drive to the place where his Grandpa was to be buried began. I’ll save you the time and point out the obvious, the entire drive was punctuated by his sister hitting and biting him, Tristan retaliating, his father yelling at him, Anne’s self satisfied grin as Tristan looked back out the window, ranting inside at the injustice of it all.

Arriving an hour before the funeral was to start Tristan was sent into the church while his sister got to stand around outside with his parents. He slowly walked up to the front of the church, where the coffin sat, turned sideways so that the longest side was exposed to the assembly. There were four steps that would take the shorter people up to eye level with what was inside the coffin….Tristan slowly proceeded up to the front of the church.

Each step was like a burning agony. He was still unable to cry and his grief and guilt welled up inside him. He’d overheard his mother and her brother talking about the arrangements and discussing how horrible Cancer is to take their father. He slowly made his way up the four steps and peered into the casket.

Grandpa laid there, an odd expression on his weathered old face.

 

“Tristan!” Cried an unfamiliar voice.

 

Tristan whipped his head around, assuming he was in trouble, but no one was there. He slowly walked down the steps and walked to the back of the church. Looking out of the window next to the thick, heavy wooden door, he saw outside his family, most of whom he’d never even been introduced to. No one was near the door. He walked around the church, looking for someone maybe hiding between one of the pews. Not finding anyone he headed back up to the front of the church again. Climbing the four steps he gazed down on one of the only three people that had shown him unconditional love. His cousin Joy wasn’t here today for him to lean on and his Uncle Stan, was outside consoling his sister.

 

“TRISTAN! CAN YOU HEAR ME?!” Cried the voice again.

“YES!” He replied.

No one answered.

“…great, now I’m going insane.” He muttered to himself. “Well, that figures. Beaten, abused, neglected and here I stand looking down on one of the few people who ever gave a damn about me….won’t Dad be happy.” He complained.

Tristan looked up at the stained glass windows casting their multi-colored lights down on him, completely lost in his thoughts and grief he barely noticed a hand moving towards his arm. The hand’s iron grip caught his wrist startling Tristan who slipped off the steps and landed hard on the concrete church floor. Frightened, he looked around the church for his assailant. Just like the voice, he couldn’t see anyone.

“Wonderful. Just wonderful, I’m hearing voices, having hallucinations…great.” Tristan turned in place and yelled into the rafters. “You see what you’re doing to me?”

“No.” Replied a confused but calm voice.

Frightened and taken off balance Tristan toppled over into the first pew. He landed hard on the seat and then bounced off. He hit his head on the back of the pew in front of him and then landed face down. Slowly he got back to his feet, rubbing his head where the pew made contact. He looked around for whoever spoke, once again, finding no one.

“Awesome, just great.” He muttered, still rubbing his forehead.

“What is?” Replied a voice behind him.

Tristan shouted and jumped sideways. An iron grip caught him before he could topple over again though.

“Easy.” Said his grandfather.

“Wha…..who….whe…” Stammered Tristan.

“Relax Tristan. Calm down. We don’t have much time and I need to tell you something important.” Explained his grandfather.

“But…you….you’re….” He continued to stammer.

“Dead?” His grandfather offered with a characteristic smile.

“Yes, well…more or less, dead here anyway.” He admitted.

“I…I don’t understand.” Replied Tristan.

“I wouldn’t expect you to son.” He replied.

“Son? …I’m confused.” He stuttered.

“Come, sit down. I have very little time.” He explained. “You aren’t who you think you are. You don’t belong here. This is a dream.”

“A what?” He asked.

“Well, more of a nightmare really, think about it Tristan. You don’t act like an eight year old. You’re constantly being punished and beaten. You live a horrible existence from one great pain to another.” Continued his grandfather.

“Yeah, well my friends’ parents have favorites too. That doesn’t mean anything.” Tristan shot back.

“Stop. Remember the old priest who looked after you, Father Downing?”

“No one knows about that…how do you know about that?” He asked in shock.

“I was Father Downing.” Replied his grandfather.

Tristan’s mouth opened, closed, and opened again. Words wouldn’t come out. He stood up and walked brusquely over to the coffin. Peering in, he saw his grandfathers’ body laying there. Turning around, he looked back at the old man still sitting in the pew looking intently at him.

“How…I…I don’t understand.” He admitted finally.

“Here. Let me simplify things for you.”

Right before Tristan’s eyes the man who looked like his grandfather changed. A flash of light briefly blinded him and when he could see again, his cousin Joy sitting there. Then there was another flash of light and the smiling face of his Uncle Stan was staring back at him. Another flash and Father Downing was sitting there.

 

Two years ago his mother had decided to re-affirm her Catholic faith. She started going to church and she dragged Tristan along with her. At the time there was a Deacon Downing there, who later became a priest. He was put in charge of Tristan’s Catholic education. Twice a week they would sit together and Tristan would tell him all about how horrible his life was and how no one liked him, how he felt alone. Deacon Downing started teaching Tristan how to meditate. How to clear his mind and focus, but shortly after becoming a priest, Father Downing was sent to another part of the country and Tristan never heard from him again.

Until today.

“What’s going on?”

“Excellent. I knew you’d recover quickly. You always were a fast learner Tristan.” Complimented Downing.

“What…is going on here?” Tristan insisted.

“In due time Tristan. First, we have to separate you from your nightmare.”

“Well, doesn’t that sound fun?” Tristan brooded. “Where were you eight years ago?!”

“Tristan, son, it hasn’t been eight years. It’s been a month.” Replied Downing.

“A month? A month since what?” He asked.

“A month since you were attacked.”

“What in the hell are you talki….”

A flash of light burst from somewhere out of sight and Tristan hit the floor. His hands pressed to his temples and he clenched his teeth. He looked up and Father Downing immediately rushed to his side.

“Don’t fight Tristan. You have to let go!”

Tristan’s teeth clenched and he ground his teeth together as he gasped for breath.

“Let…..go….of….WHAT!?” He demanded.

“Your nightmare.” Continued Downing. “This isn’t your life. This is a nightmare, the Palace was invaded and you were hit by a spell! You’ve been unconscious for over a month.”

“I….don’t…understand…Palace?” Gasped Tristan.

“You don’t have to. Trust me.” Replied Downing.

“I can’t.” Tristan replied as tears began gathering in his eyes.

“You must!” Begged Downing. “Don’t fight! Annadora is trying to free your mind; it’s going to hurt more if you fight it. You must relax! You must calm yourself! Like I taught you!”

“Taught me and then abandoned me!” Tristan accused through the pain.

“I’ve never left you, son. You’ve been stuck in this nightmare for over a month….”

“EIGHT YEARS! I’ve been in this sad excuse for a life for eight years Fath….” He stopped abruptly as his eyes lost focus.

Tristan shook his head and stared at Downing. Another life, a better one was intruding on the life he remembered. Flashes of odd images of strange places and creatures seemed to overlap the world he accepted as his own.

“Annadora….is…my mother…..wait, what’s going on here…” He asked.

Fear was beginning to take hold. Tristan screamed again as his mind was being fully torn from all that he knew and accepted as reality.

“Son! Please! Stop fighting! Relax your mind! You must!” Pleaded Downing.

“Are you going to hit me if I don’t?!” Tristan challenged through his clenched teeth.

“Tristan…Tristan…look at me.”

Still kneeling on the hard concrete floor of the church he felt every imperfection in its surface. He could feel the fine dust that covered the surface, the smell of cleaning product. Something stranger then happened. Tristan’s vision ripped in two. With his left eye, he could see Father Downing, kneeling in front of him, concern clearly evident on his face. With his right eye, he could clearly see the ceiling of a candle lit room. He could feel the imperfections in the concrete slab he was laying on and the rolled up patterned pillow under his neck and a familiar hand holding his. He felt fingers spread out over his head; the nails slightly dig into the flesh of his temples.

Father Downing helped Tristan stand and sat him down in the front most pew. Still kneeling in front of Tristan he began to calmly help him clear his mind.

“Remember what I taught you, breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale slowly out of your mouth. In deeply, out slowly…calm your mind…don’t try to understand anything right now, just calm yourself son.”

“Why…do…you…keep…calling….me….son?” staggered Tristan.

“Because you are my son, Tristan.” He said far too dismissively.

“Is your mind clear?” He asked quickly.

“Y…yes.” replied Tristan.

“Excellent. Alright, your mother needs me to do some damage repair from inside your mind. I need you to listen to me son. Can you do that?”

“I’ll listen…I still don’t see what is going on.” Tristan fearfully admitted.

“That will come in time….I hope.” Muttered Downing.

Both of Tristan’s eyes focused on him.

“You hope?!” He demanded in a panic.

“Son, you’ve been unconscious for over a month. We don’t exactly know what happened or why, all we know is this; you were training with Fallon, do you remember Fallon?”

“My Swordmaster…” Tristan blurted.

His eyes once again registered shock; he blurted it out before he’d even thought of it. Uncertainty crept up inside Tristan again. What was wrong with him? Fallon, his Swordmaster, and Gerald, his mentor…or Dana as his people call them. His people…what the hell was going on? He didn’t have people. Tristan, the skinny little big eared lonely introvert, didn’t have people. He was alone.

 

Not alone. A female voice echoed inside his mind.

 

“WHAT?!” Tristan shouted aloud, falling off the pew again.

You aren’t alone, son. The voice consoled.

He really was going insane. Now voices were inside his head, not just in some creepy empty church in front of a dead body.

You are as sane as I am. She assured him.

Oh that’s comforting, Tristan thought to himself.

The female voice laughed lightly in his head. He couldn’t place the feeling, but her musical voice calmed him and helped Tristan clear his mind as he was asked. In his mind’s eye his world was still ripped in two. He could now hear into the other world too. He could hear the musical laughter coming from above and behind his head. He craned his neck slightly back, trying to see who was laughing at him now.

I’m not laughing at you my Mykl. She said quietly, invoking the pet name she used for all of her children.

Tristan continued to crane his neck back barely making out a soft maroon silken gown, pale arms and a mane of black hair before being unceremoniously torn back to the church.

 

“What in the hell are you doing!?” His father screamed.

Eight years old again, he sat alone in the front of a church staring inside the coffin at his dead grandfather. His father came storming up the aisle towards him and fear began to creep into every fiber of his young body.

“I said; What are you doing?!” He demanded.

“I’m just sitting here, like Mom told me to.”

“You’re supposed to be out front with the rest of us.”

“But…Mom told me…” His voice died in his throat as his father’s iron grip tightened around his bicep again and he dragged him out of the church.

Just inside the church doors his father released him and brushed out the wrinkles he’d caused in Tristan’s jacket sleeve. He pushed him unceremoniously towards the door once he was satisfied that the wrinkles were gone. That’s right, get rid of the evidence, Tristan thought bitterly. God forbid anyone sees what you do to me behind the privacy of our doors.

“Found him sitting in the church, sulking like a baby.” His father whispered.

“Come here and hold your sister’s hand.” Hissed his mother.

Fighting mightily not to roll his eyes, lest he get another yard stick snapped over his rear end, Tristan marched forward and grasped his sisters’ pudgy hand. Standing there, like the robot he was expected to be for the next twenty minutes he tried to think about what had just happened in the church.

 

Fight.

 

What?

Again, that soft musical voice filled his head. Fight it Tristan.

Fight what?! You both told me to calm my thoughts! Make up your minds!

Calm your mind so I can bring you home Mykl.

Stop calling me that! I am home. Look at them. Abusive father, neglectful mother and spoiled sister; this is home. What more could I ask for?

An image came into his mind’s eye, an image of a family, six of them, standing there, smiling at him. Tristan shook his head. Another day dream, now he was having them so often that he was standing and sometimes in conversations as they were happening. He felt as though he was being torn in two. One boy, eight years old, frightened abused and alone, the other boy, so much older, happier and nourished.

Please Mykl. Please, let me help you! The voice called urgently. Tristan!

 

Tristan grunted and his hand shot out of his pocket and to his right temple, making those near him flinch and pull away from him.

“Stop acting like a baby!” His father hissed in his ear.

Through clenched teeth Tristan faced his father, anger like burning embers in his eyes.

“I…am…not…a…baby!” He hissed.

The look he was rewarded with wasn’t apologetic, not angry…it seemed…excited.

“We’ll talk about this when we get home.” He announced with relish.

Once again, fear gripped his very soul. He knew a lashing was coming again, no one else in his family seemed to have witnessed the exchange, and no one was going to save him. At the edge of the crowd Tristan caught sight of Father Downing. His eyes were unreadable but his posture obviously protective.

Your father will save you Mykl. Let him. Let me. Please Tristan!

“Stop calling me that!” He screamed out loud.

Everyone turned and looked at him. His mother began making apologies of the usual sort, the stress of losing a loved one, grief, guilt and so on. His father’s iron grip once again found his bicep as he squeezed harder than ever, half-dragging Tristan back to their car. He unlocked the door, rolled the window down, barely an inch tossed his son unceremoniously inside the car and slammed the door.

“Don’t you move from that spot! You’re an embarrassment!” He shouted.

Rubbing his arm where the skin was slowly turning back to its usual shade, Tristan’s eyes filled with tears again. Staring out the window, he felt the sweet musical voice in his head as Father Downing came walking brusquely around the building towards the car.

Mykl. This isn’t your home, this isn’t your life. You’ve been attacked; I couldn’t even get to you until today. I’m not giving up on you. Please! Fight! Calm your mind and allow me to help you!

“Tristan. I know it’s hard, I know you don’t know who to trust and who will bring you more pain. You were in the training room in our palace, can you remember?” Downing asked as he approached.

“NO! I can’t remember! I remember you teaching me meditation and healing. I remember Joy showing me love and compassion. I remember Grandpa showing me…” Tristan broke off as he finally began to cry.

Tears streamed down his face as he attempted to wipe them away as quickly as they fell. His father would be so angry that he was crying again.

“I’m not angry.” Downing commented.

“What?” Asked Tristan

“I’m not angry. I’m proud.”

“Proud that I’m crying like a little baby?!” Demanded Tristan, his temper flaring again.

“Tristan. Lesser men, fully grown men, have died because of the spell that was cast on you. You never gave up, you fought…you survived. The spell is losing its power, we’ve never seen this before, your Dana isn’t sure if it’s going to kill you or set you free. Our time is up. We must wake you.” He urged.

“I don’t understand. I…this is my life. I don’t know what you’re TALKING ABOUT!” Screamed Tristan as the pain in his head intensified.

Tristan could hear a loud smash as the window of the car was broken; a bloody hand reached in and unlocked the door. Father Downing got into the car and sat next to him.

“Face me Tristan. Turn and face me.”

Tristan slowly, painfully turned in his seat; each miniscule movement caused a wave of nausea and pain to sweep over him. He nearly vomited from it until he finally had turned to face Father Downing.

“Remember the temple chakra Tristan?”

“Y…yes….” Tristan grunted through clenched teeth. It felt like his mind was going to explode.

“Put your hands on my temples.”

Slowly, hands shaking and his face losing color by the moment Tristan reached up and touched Father Downing’s temples. A bloody hand and a clean one reached up and made contact with Tristan’s temples. Immediately the pain ceased and Tristan’s eyes shot open. His vision was torn in two again, the left eye saw Father Downing, the right eye was back in the candle lit room, staring up at a fabric canopy over his head. Slowly, almost imperceptibly the right image began to shift over the left one.

That’s it Mykl! You’re doing it! I’m so proud! Keep fighting!

“I CAN’T!” He screamed out in pain. “IT HURTS!” Tristan cried out.

“You can son! You must! Fight!” Urged Father Downing.

“Oh no.” Tristan whispered in terror.

Dion! He’s coming!

From around the building Tristan’s father was storming over the church lawn, undoing his belt as he came; the anger coming out of him was like waves of intense heat. All of the color drained from Tristans’ face as he realized with uncanny certainty; He’s going to kill me.

No he isn’t! You have to fight! You’re almost there! FIGHT!

Tristan’s father was getting closer, the image he perceived out of his left eye was half the size it used to be, and the right was becoming more crowded. Four people were standing over him, concern on their faces. A young girl was crying, her tears running down her cheeks and onto his hand.

Wait – onto his hand.

He’s getting it Dion! Hold onto him! Mykl! Fight Mykl! FIGHT!

“I am! I…”

An ear piercing sound like an enormous window shattering was abruptly followed by absolute silence and darkness so profound that it swallowed his very soul.