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The Tale of Briton's Fury
 

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The Tale of Briton's Fury


  The Tale

  Of

  Briton’s Fury

  A Steward Saga Novella

  ––––––––

  By Janelle Garrett

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  For Nanny. I know you would be proud of me. | And I’m pretty sure you would love Colin and Tiberius, and probably cook them some fried chicken.

  Previous books by this author | Rift in the Deep: Part 1 of the Steward Saga | Rise of the Warlock King: Part 2 of the Steward Saga | The Tale of Briton’s Fury: A Steward Saga Novella on Amazon as an eBook

  The Survival Guide for Nursing Students: short, quick read for those considering nursing school, or already in a program.

  Previous books by this author | Rift in the Deep: Part 1 of the Steward Sage

  The Tale of Briton’s Fury: A Steward Saga Novella on Amazon as an eBook

  The Survival Guide for Nursing Students: short, quick read for those considering nursing school, or already in a program. Available in print, eBook, and Kindle Unlimited

  For Nanny. I know you would be proud of me.

  And I’m pretty sure you would love Colin and Tiberius, and probably cook them some fried chicken.

  Previous books by this author

  Rift in the Deep: Part 1 of the Steward Saga

  Rise of the Warlock King: Part 2 of the Steward Saga

  The Tale of Briton’s Fury: A Steward Saga Novella on Amazon as an eBook

  Free for subscribers to the author’s mailing list

  The Survival Guide for Nursing Students: short, quick read for those considering nursing school, or already in a program.

  Part One

  GETTING OLD WASN’T worth it. It just wasn’t. Brother Tiberius shoved himself up from the straw mat and swept his eyes over the room for his walking stick. Where in the sphere was it? Not where he had left it on the floor.

  A chicken clucked outside the window as the morning light streamed in. Dust motes hung in the air, spinning in lazy circles. A crackling fire in the front room of the house sent smoke drifting in. He needed to tell Brother Stock to fix the ventilation. Breathing it in wasn’t a good idea. Many a villager had come to be Delved to find out why they were sick all the time, only to find out it was because they were inhaling too much smoke.

  He sighed and cracked his neck then his knuckles. These old bones wouldn’t hold out much longer. Come to think of it, he should get Brother Stock to make him one of those new inventions. A bed, was it called? Something elevated and easier to get in and out of. Beat sleeping on the floor.

  He shoved to his feet, once again craning his neck to search the room.

  “Ah, Brother Tiberius.” Rosa Snow Block poked her head into the room. “I thought I heard you moaning and groaning in here.” Shrieks behind her were followed by a scampering, chubby form that hurled itself through the room to grasp Brother Tiberius’s knees. Jace grinned up at Tiberius with fat cheeks and hair that stuck straight up on his scalp. Tiberius ruffled it, running a few soft strands through his fingers.

  “Thank you for stoking the fire. I barely managed to get off the mat, let alone fix my breakfast.”

  Rosa blinked at him sagely. “Now, Brother. Enough with that talk. You are sprite yet.”

  Tiberius chuckled and extricated himself from Jace to follow Rosa into the front room. His walking stick was flung across the floor. Jace ran to pick it up and started swinging it like a staff.

  “Jace!” Rosa grabbed it from him right before he struck himself on the head. “That’s Brother Tiberius’ stick!” She handed it over to Tiberius with a smile. “Sorry. He must have snuck in and grabbed it.” She bustled to the fire and removed a loaf of bread from over the coals. Tiberius’ mouth watered as the scent of warm yeast wafted through the air.

  A shout outside the hut filtered through the thatch. It seemed like several people were gathering in the front yard. Tiberius shuffled to the door and flung it open. The sunlight hit him square in the eyes. He raised his hand to block the light and took in several men from the village rushing toward him.

  “Brother Tiberius!” Rhem Fleet Climber stopped before him, breathless. “Briton the Brown is on the road, headed this way.”

  Shock raced through his chest. Briton? In the Scrape Lands? The Warlock Council would not be pleased. No, not in the least. “Send word to Radan, and quickly.”

  Rhem nodded and ran off.

  “We shouldn’t have let them hide here!” Yoro Mountain Yielder’s face turned a shade of red. “It was dangerous enough to allow Radan here, but the rest of the Council? Madness!”

  “What should we have done? Denied him shelter when he asked for it?” Paul Truth Sayer stood true to his name. “Besides, they only want to talk peace. They are divided enough as it is. Let them argue their differences and come to a conclusion.”

  “We couldn’t have shamed ourselves by refusing.” Tiberius gazed out toward the road as the men squirmed in front of him. “Quickly...send for Elder Walker from the Fallen Library. And fetch the rest of our Library and have them come to me.”

  “It’s already being done. We sent runners as soon as he was spotted on this side of the border.” Yoro frowned. “What will you do, Brother?”

  Tiberius ignored them and went back into his hut, closing the door firmly. Rosa stared at him, eyes widened. “Are we safe? Should I take Jace and go?”

  Indeed, that was the question of the hour. “I’m not sure. Briton clearly is searching for Radan and the Warlock Council. It is possible we can hide their whereabouts...” He stopped. The male accessors were shielded, of course. But word of the warlock’s presence here was bound to get out at some point. “Perhaps you should take Jace to the Secluded Library. At least for the time being. Gather the other women and children and tell them to make haste.”

  Rosa nodded and picked Jace up in her arms. “What of you, Brother? You will stay?”

  Tiberius nodded. “We aren’t without provisions if something were to happen. Briton may be a madman, but the Brothers have been Delving since the dawn of Time itself.”

  “But the Deep...” she stopped, eyes shifting to the door before they turned back to Tiberius. “I trust that you will protect us, Brother. You always have.” She slipped from the hut. The loaf of bread waited for him on a cloth on the table, a cup of tea waiting beside it. Truth bless the woman.

  He sat on the chair and sighed. Hopefully her trust in him wouldn’t be in vain, this time. The seventy winters he had lived on the sphere had brought many hardships, joys, and successes. Briton was bound to be the biggest challenge he had faced to date.

  COLIN REDSTONE SHIVERED as the wind reverberated throughout the cave. The small fire crackled on, the flames swirling as the wind tossed them about. It was almost put out but managed to keep burning as the wind dissipated for a few short seconds. He filled with the Deep and sent a shaft of power to ignite the wood. Best not to freeze to death. Grole was relentless when it came to the wind.

  A squawk outside the cave startled him. His heart raced before slowing down once more as a raven flew inside the cave’s mouth. A note was attached to its leg. He sensed the enchantment right away. Someone had impressioned its mind to bring him word. It must be important.

  He extricated the parchment from its leg, then tossed it a piece of the salted meat he was saving for his breakfast. The raven gulped it down, and with one last ruffle of its feathers, it took to wing and flapped from the cave.

  The enchantment would lift once it had succeeded in its mission. Who had sent it, after all? Colin glanced down at the letter, and with a sigh, he eased back down to the cold stone. It was addressed to him in a familiar hand. One he couldn’t quite place, but that he had seen bef
ore. Perhaps Radan? Or Brother Walker?

  The parchment wasn’t faded, so the raven hadn’t been flying for too long. Someone within the Scrape Lands, then. Was Radan still in Shroud? Last he had had heard, the warlock hid with the Brotherhood there. Too close to the border, by Colin’s estimation. Best to hide at the tip of the sphere itself. Hence, the cave. And the cold.

  He opened the note.

  Colin, the Council will convene within three cycles of the sun. The peace talks have dragged on long enough. The decision must be made. If you are able, could you join us? We would hear your story, and I think the Hovels will come to our side.

  —Radan, for the Warlock Council

  If the Hovels needed more convincing about the danger Briton posed, they were all fools. And they deserved the fate they received because of it. Did anyone listen the first hundred times he told his story? No.

  Well, not entirely true. Radan had listened. But of course, Radan knew Briton personally, too, when they were young men and first practicing their accessing. If Colin could go back to those days and do things different, he would. He wouldn’t ignore the signs as he had before, the signs that pointed to Briton’s madness. His lust for power.

  But that wasn’t all there was to it, if he was honest with himself. Colin was the one who comforted Briton after the death of his mother. He saw with his own eyes the anguish her death caused him, the way he grieved for her with unrelenting pain. That Briton was the cause of her death—had that been the turning point? Probably. Not many people could come back after something so harrowing without it taking a piece of their sanity. And Briton was already becoming unhinged even before that.

  Colin rubbed his temples as his mind surged with the memories. The past was the past. There was nothing he could do to change it. The question was, would he give the Council his story yet again? Let the warlock Hovels decide what to do? It would mean leaving Grole. Leaving the safety it provided. But really, was it safe from Briton? Nowhere in the Four Lands could truly be.

  “TIBERIUS!”

  The call jerked him from his slumber. When had he fallen asleep? The tea was cold in front of him, the loaf half-eaten. Was he really that old, taking cat-naps just a few minutes after rising for the day?

  “Tiberius, they are here!” Rhem stepped into the hut, his outline accentuated by the sun. Tiberius grunted and heaved to his feet, hand grasping the walking stick.

  “Yes, yes. I am coming. All of them?”

  “The ones that remain. Most, I think.”

  That was a lot of warlocks. Truth, maybe Yoro was right. But no, he couldn’t think that way. For all their faults, the warlocks weren’t entirely to blame for the war. The Three Kings couldn’t let go of their pride and ambition. And if rumor had it, Briton was the reason. Not that it concerned Tiberius, except that the Jin’tai were now tossed in the middle just for hiding Radan and his people.

  A group of simply-clad men, maybe sixty in all, stood outside, eyes warily shifting to and fro. Radan stepped forward, brown hair and beard disheveled and shot through with gray. His green eyes pierced through Tiberius as he approached. The man looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week.

  “Why do you dawdle, Tiberius?” He strode forward and stopped inches from Tiberius’ face. “Send your men out to stop him!”

  “You are my guest here.” Tiberius tried to stifle irritation at Radan’s demanding tone. More than likely, it came from fear, and therefore there was no reason to take offense. “Besides, are you not accessors? Can you not defend yourselves?”

  “Yes, of course.” Radan stepped back, crossing his arms. “But...” his eyes shifted to the road, as if Briton would appear at any minute. “We can only assume he knows we are here. But that is not a certainty. Right?”

  “I do not know. But my main priority is my village and their safety.” Tiberius gripped his walking stick tighter, taking a small step toward Radan. “I have sheltered you and your council.” He looked over Radan’s shoulder where the others watched them, eyes alight with a strange fire. Yes. It was fear. These men were terrified. He looked back at Radan. “We do not involve ourselves with the worries of the other Lands. This is your problem. You must take ownership and come up with a plan.”

  “Your apathy does you no credit!” Radan waved a hand. “You would sit back and watch the sphere destroy itself?”

  “What the Kings do is their business. As long as it doesn’t interfere with us—”

  “Yet here we are.” Radan sneered. “You cannot keep your head buried in the sand, Tiberius. Now is the time to act! Now is the time to choose a side. We are hunted like dogs! The domai—”

  “The domai are few, my friend. Besides, whose side are the warlocks on?” Tiberius shook his head as Radan paused, uncertainty tainting his face. “The Green Lands and the Triumphant King? Eldwin the Wise does not live up to his name, if the stories are true. Some would say he is the opposite of his name; impetuous, is what I hear. Or how about the Bright Land’s King? Yarborough the Peckish, as he is now called.” Tiberius inched forward as Radan shook his head. “Or the King who sits on the Stone Throne? I hear Joash is more bloodthirsty than anyone in living memory.”

  “What is your point, old man?” Radan asked, but he wouldn’t look Tiberius in the eye.

  “The warlocks must also choose a side, Radan. For Briton comes from your midst. And accessors have not been known to be—how should I put it? -—restrained in their use of the Deep. The people fear you for a reason. You could say that the Council has played it safe long enough. Briton is of your creation. Therefore, he is your responsibility.” Tiberius took a breath and stepped away. Radan’s face turned red, but he didn’t disagree. Instead, he stalked back to the other warlocks, who refused to look at Tiberius.

  They must know he was right.

  COLIN ANGLED DOWN THROUGH an outcropping of rock, nearly losing his footing. He grabbed hold of a groove and eased ever downward, the wind buffeting at his body and threatening to toss him from his perch. The ground sloped to a small path that would lead to the Library at Loun. They would have a donkey he could use to make the descent to Shroud. Perhaps Elder Braille would accompany him. The company would be welcome. Living alone in hiding at the top of the sphere was lonely, and the isolation would drive him mad.

  It was worth it. Briton was going to destroy the entire sphere, given time. Colin needed to protect the parchments and scrolls, and write a history of the fury that was certainly due to ensue.

  He reached the path without falling, thank the Truth. He was a strong man, but the treachery of Grole could break the leg of the most physically fit climbers.

  The sun was just reaching its zenith when the Library came in view. It was small; little more than a hut. At least they hadn’t built it of thatch. Instead, it was wood, with a slat roof. Seven Brothers made up this Library, all of them sleeping in one room, the scrolls and parchments in the other. They didn’t seem to mind. Last time Colin had been there, maybe a few weeks ago, they were content to study, straining their eyes into the deep watches of the night. The main thing they spent their coin on was candles. Almost more than their food.

  “Ho, Colin!” The call echoed up the path as Colin came into view. Elder Braille was working the garden, a straw hat adorning his wide head. Everything about the man was wide, actually, right down to his feet.

  “Greetings, Elder.” Colin wiped cold sweat from his brow as the wind picked up. Braille’s expansive girth was covered with a plain robe and tunic cinched at the waist with rope. He didn’t seem to mind the cold in the least.

  “What brings you from hiding?” Braille set down the hoe he had been holding and grinned, his cheeks nearly obscuring his dark eyes.

  “I’ve been summoned to Shroud.” Colin stopped and gratefully took a water skin from Braille. The liquid soothed his parched throat.

  “Tiberius needs you?”

  “No.” Colin wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Radan calls for me. Apparently Briton has found them.”

&nbs
p; Braille’s grin faltered. “Indeed.” He glanced back to the Library. “I must say, if there is to be a confrontation, it will need to be marked for posterity...”

  “My thoughts exactly,” Colin answered when Braille’s voice faded. “Would you come?”

  “If I can be spared.” Braille shrugged, his grin returning. “The Brothers can nary read a word when I’m gone, if I’m not here to remind them the difference between a vowel and a consonant.” He broke into hearty laughter as Colin grinned. They were the most learned men in the sphere.

  “I must make haste. Radan intends to hear Briton out in three cycles of the sun.”

  “Ah, yes, well...” Braille pat himself as if looking for something in non-existent pockets. “I cannot make such a quick decision.”

  “Come, Braille. You know you want to be a part of history. The Brothers will be fine.” Colin handed the water skin back to him and strode for the barns. “I’ll get some mounts. You get the food and tents.”

  LOUN WAS ALMOST AS treacherous as Grole, especially on the main path down the mountain. It eventually evened out to a small village. Perhaps twenty families in all settled in the lush ravine protected by high walls from Grole’s breath. Colin shifted on Moon, his donkey, the ache between his legs unfamiliar. He definitely preferred his own two feet for transportation, but that wasn’t an option.

  The trial edged through a thick wood as they left the village behind. He would have liked to stop and mingle with the men, but urgency stirred in his chest like a coal coming to flame.

  “Brothers!” The call came behind them. Colin turned and pulled Moon’s reins. A small woman rushed after them. She was not even five feet tall and bundled up as if going on a journey. Her rosy cheeks peeked out around thick, dark hair and a cap on her head made of sheep’s wool.

 
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