Hallsfoot's Battle

Hallsfoot's Battle - Extract

Chapter One: the darkness

Duncan Gelahn

Failure tastes like darkness on his tongue. It is not a taste that the mind-executioner is accustomed to. Not at least in recent year-cycles. Hartstongue is more powerful than he has imagined and he has been a fool not to understand it. This is one of the many things Gelahn regrets. The sharpest of them all is the loss of the mind-cane.

When he opens his eyes however, the first thing he remembers is the death of the woman. Isabella Montfort. She had been one of his best servants and he wonders if he will find her like again. Even Tregannon, with all his power and privilege, was not such as she was. Gelahn misses her. More than he thinks necessary to acknowledge.

Around him, the jagged mountain roars its fury at the fact that he finds a refuge here. No matter. The skills and depths of his mind have enabled him to deaden the effects of the sound. Something he learnt in the Elders’ foul prison. He smiles when he sees the faces of the mountain people. They have not been able to withstand him.

Because the place he finds himself in now is once more a prison. Something he is used to of course but, this time, the bars – unseen though they are – are not for him. No, in the mountain, it is the beings who dwell here who are the prisoners. Not him.

Still smiling, he rises to his feet, pushes aside the ancient texts he has been studying in order to hone his mind-skills yet further and strolls towards those he is holding captive. They do not flinch and he is glad to see it; the mountain people do not show emotion easily. This makes them easier to manipulate of course. Even now, when their home has been all but destroyed in the recent mind-wars, they are as still and eternal as the stone they come from.

‘It is not over yet,’ he whispers. ‘I have you and the desert-people to do my will. The scribe – poor fool – only has the cane and he is too weak and limited even to comprehend its power, let alone use it.’

He cannot be sure, but did the stone he speaks to quiver? Something in the atmosphere between executioner and rock has altered. He reaches forward, but the first of the mountain people stands erect still. Gelahn allows his hand to run over the smooth surface of stone. Slowly. It feels cool to his touch. He knows the contact will cause his prisoner pain. This is why he takes his time. The development of fear in those he plans to use and use well can only be a good thing. His long year-cycles of life have taught him that.

Because while failure is the taste in the air for now, it will, he promises himself, not always be so.

For next time, with or without the mind-cane, the battle between Simon Hartstongue and himself will be a fiercer, more physical one and next time it is he who will be the victor.

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