Printed from WriteWords -

Crystal Sorceress CH7

by  Patsy

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2006
Word Count: 2352
Summary: Corwin and Validamir argue about Shallon. Validamir meets an old friend.

Chapter 7
Validamir sat and watched uneasily as his brother paced the confines of the barn at Shallon's Way like a caged animal – his fury almost a tangible presence in the room. Corwin yanked the silver clip from his hair and threw it on the table where it bounced and skidded, but didn't fall off.

"She's helping, Galen," he said, spitting the words between clenched teeth. "So much for your defender of good – some great and wonderful discovery you made, Validamir. We've handed our enemies the key to our destruction on a silver platter!" He kicked a milking stool across the barn, sending chastised soldiers scurrying for cover and throwing up a shower of hay and dust.

"Something isn’t right," Validamir insisted, stifling the urge to sneeze with difficulty.

Corwin let out a humorless bark of laughter. "Yes! She's supposed to be on our side."

"She wouldn't aid them willingly," Validamir said, leaning forward in his chair. "He must have threatened her, or . . . or lied to her!"

Corwin was pacing again – taking tight back and forth turns in the confined space. “She didn't look forced to me. In fact, she looked quite comfortable where she was."

"Then he's tricked her somehow," Validamir insisted. “She’s not evil.” If she was, he would have known it – he would have felt it. He knew her heart, and he would allow no one to make him question that knowledge again – not even his brother.

Corwin spun to face him. "What would you have me do, Validamir? Would you have me surrender and let Galen win? Should I let her destroy us and apologize for it later?"

"I don't know!" Validamir shouted. He hated it when Corwin fired questions at him like this without giving him a chance to sort things out in his mind first. He took a deep breath. “Give me time to figure out what’s going on.”

Corwin fingered the silver clip he had dropped onto the table – the clip that had been a gift from his beloved wife. "Time is a luxury we don't have," he said softly. “I thought differently once, and it cost me my wife and son.”

Validamir looked up into his burning eyes. "Rushing in can be just as grievous an error as waiting too long. What about Kato? Has he reported in yet?"

"No. I haven't been able to reach him for several days. Galen probably has him off on some errand." Pocketing the clip, he stood and started pacing again.

"Our spy needs time to get a report to us. The question is, Brother, will you wait for his word before you act?"

Corwin turned a glare upon him. "I don't know if we can afford to wait – you saw what happened today. Would you have me risk the safety of us all just to satisfy your curiosity?"

Validamir frowned. “I think you know me better than that, Corwin. Shallon needs our help.”

“Our help?” He laughed. “Our help is the last thing that woman needs.” He fingered the hilt of his sword. “She’s chosen her side. I think we should eliminate her while we have the chance.”

Validamir leapt to his feet. "Kill her! That’s your grand solution?" The thought of her dying by his brother's hand was enough to make him sick. “She could have wiped us out back there, but she didn't. She even saved my life!"

Corwin’s attention came abruptly back to him. "What are you talking about?"

Validamir sat back down in his chair, confident he had his brother’s full attention at last. "One of Galen's soldiers tired to stab me in the back. She stopped him, and the two that were trying to distract me. She saved my life, Corwin. Why would she do that if she were evil?"

"It could have been a set-up to gain your trust," he replied stubbornly.

"She didn't even know who I was," Validamir said in exasperation. “Besides, you didn't see the way she looked at me." There had been a longing in her eyes that had raised chills on his skin.

"We caught gazes when she gave us the chance to retreat," Corwin told him.

"And what did you see," Validamir challenged.

"I don't know," his brother replied, not meeting his eyes. "I don't read people as well as you claim to." Corwin's resolve was slipping – Validamir could see that, but in the next instant, he clamped down and shook it off. "What difference does it make? She's helping Galen. She could be the end of all that we've worked for." He was fingering the silver clasp again.
"I think we should kill her and have done with it," Jehan agreed, nursing his arm where a medic had dug a hunk of splintered catapult from his flesh. "She's dangerous."

Validamir rose angrily to his feet. “You just think about this, Corwin. We led Galen to her and whatever she comes to suffer at his hand is our fault. You're wrong about her – both of you. And I'll find a way to prove it." He stormed out of the barn before any of them could stop him and set off at a southward jog out of the village.

He had to find some way to prove her worth to them before it was too late. They were so blind! She could have killed them all, but she didn't, and still they were not convinced.

Corwin might have been a tactical genius, but when it came to Galen, he allowed hatred to blind him – he wasn't even going to allow Shallon a chance to defend herself!

Validamir increased his pace to a run, his sword ticking against his side. She had to feel lost and alone – she was one hundred years out of her element. Any friends, or lovers she had would be long dead by now. Lovers -- he felt the jealousy rise in him at the thought of her having other lovers. His pace through the forest was now a pounding sprint.

He couldn't believe what this woman was inciting him to do -- to think. He had held her as only an image within his mind for so long – a mere unattainable dream, that the prospect of her whole and real before him was overpowering. The desire to go to her was so strong it had almost become an obsession.

His chest shuddering, he slowed his careening passage through Dark Timber. Dark Timber? He had left the Emerald Forest behind without realizing it. Panting, Validamir came to a stop, shocked to find that his furious sprint had taken him all the way to Haunted Glade, the spectral, mysterious clearing that cut a circle through the forest of Dark Timber.

Validamir collapsed beneath some sheltering trees at the edge of the glade.

This place held fantastic memories for him of childhood exploits. Most people feared and avoided the glade for its legends of roving sprints and dangerous beasts, but the legends had only attracted Validamir to this spot. It was here that he and Corwin had found Sultan, Corwin's jebba.

Shedding his sweat soaked shirt, he splashed his face and the back of his neck with cool water from a small, pool, then adjusting his sword to a more comfortable position, he leaned back against the trunk of a mammoth gnarled tree.

"What do you do when your brother wishes dead the woman you have dreamt about your entire life? I cannot have found her only to lose her this way. I am right about her. I know it, and I dare anyone to say otherwise," Validamir sullenly challenged the empty glade.

"You are right about her," a voice said from his left.

He sprang to his feet, his sword out of its scabbard and into his hand with a speed that had become legendary, but Validamir’s mouth fell open as Firelancer jerked itself free of his fingers and floated into the hand of a man standing in shadow at the edge of the clearing.

It had to be a trick of light and shadow, but he would swear the man was surrounded by a faint misty glow.

"I see you've taken fine care of my blade," the spectral figure told him with a smile, stepping out into the open.

Validamir stared hard, certain he was seeing things as the man had an odd hint of insubstantiality about him. His hair was long and black and his build and features resembled Validamir’s so closely, it was almost as if he was gazing into a fog-shrouded mirror. It hadn't been a trick of the eye – the man was glowing.

"Who?" Validamir murmured. The man was familiar to him somehow, but it was as if the memory of him was shrouded in fog as well.

"You know me, Validamir," he said with a grin. "You and I have met here before many a time, starting when you were just a mere boy."

Validamir frowned, searching for the memories and not finding them.

"Think," the man urged. "You will remember."

Validamir thought back to his many adventures in this glade, and one certain one pushed its way to the surface. He remembered coming here after his father had been killed – another life lost in trying to restore this land to its former glory.

At the moment of his father’s death, Firelancer had appeared in Validamir’s hand like magic, and he’d taken the sword with him to the glade, hoping to catch his Father’s spirit there before it passed on. But a glowing man was waiting there instead.

This man had instructed him further on the use of his new sword, teaching him things his father hadn't had a chance to demonstrate. He had shown Validamir special things about Firelancer that no one knew, and made him promise to always take care of her. When he’d asked him who he was, the man had replied with a bow and a flourish: "Arik, long dead Prince of Tia's Crown, at your service.” Then he vanished, his laughter echoing through the empty glade.

Validamir had returned to the glade many times in his youth for instruction, and Arik had always been there. Arik’s spirit told him that a unicorn had given him Firelancer when he had been a mere boy and that only very special people would she allow to wield her. But one day, he had stopped appearing and memories of their encounters had grown fuzzy and faint – now those memories came back sharp and clear.

"Prince Arik,” Validamir said.

Arik smiled, "Very good. Do you remember all that I taught you as well?"

Crossing the glade to stand in front of him, the spectral Arik slashed the air effectively with Firelancer. The tracery on the blade glowing with an intensity that was almost painful to behold.

"Your teachings and those of my father have saved my life many times," Validamir told him.

“You are truly the one,” Arik said, handing the blade back to Validamir. The brilliance of the tracery immediately faded back to normal as he did. “She told me that she was having visions of me, but I never believed her.” He stared at Validamir intently, then shook his head. “But now that I look upon you as a grown man, I can understand how she would have been fooled. You look so much like me – much more than any of the others."

"I’m sorry, but I don't understand."

"Shallon – the one you call your lady in red – has had visions since childhood of a warrior in silver and black. She was convinced it was me in those visions, but somehow I knew that she was not meant to be mine. We were confused, because she was so positive that her dreams were true.” He gestured at Validamir. “Now it all becomes clear."

"It was me," Validamir said softly. "But how can that be? That was decades before I was even born."

Arik laughed. "Haven't you ever heard of destiny, boy? You are the one – Shallon’s dreams will come to pass after all – just not with me," Arik added with an odd mixture of sadness, and satisfaction.

"That is if my brother doesn't kill her first," Validamir said in disgust.

"Yes, Corwin,” Arik said with a rueful smile. “His temperament is much like mine. You must convince him that he is mistaken, Validamir. Shallon has the purest heart of anyone I've ever known. She has searched her entire life for you – you cannot let anything jeopardize your finding one another. You must prove to Corwin that she is on his side."

Validamir shook his head. “He will not listen to me. He is too angry – all he sees is her helping Galen.”

"That will shortly end," Arik assured him. "Shallon is no fool – he will not trick her for long. In the meantime, you must find a way to convince Corwin that she is a creature of light. If he kills her, all will be lost. She and you are the only hope for an end to this conflict. Only together will you conquer the evil that has run rampant since her imprisonment."

"Me?" Validamir asked in confusion. "What have I to do with winning or losing?"

"Mark my words. Only together will you defeat your enemies. You must find her. You must go to her and set everything right," Arik said, beginning to fade.

"But wait!" Validamir protested. "How? How am I to accomplish this?"

Arik only smiled. "Love her as I could not. Together you will triumph.”

With a nod, he vanished as if he had never been. Validamir slumped against the tree. "Everyone seems to have grand ideas for saving Corinth," he grumbled, "but no one seems willing to share them."

He stood with a disgusted sigh. At least the long walk back to Shallon's Way would give him some time to formulate a plan to accomplish the near impossible tasks that Arik had set for him.