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T C Southwell writes epic fantasy books and science-fiction novels, e-books series. This excerpt is from Starsword.

 

Chanter’s Run

An excerpt from

Star Sword

 

 

Talsy gazed at the distant city visible through the dead trees' black trunks. Her breath misted before her face as she sighed, thinking of the people trapped within it, condemned to die by the swords of the Hashon Jahar and hated by the land upon which they lived. Thousands of innocent children were doomed because of the sins of their ignorant, bigoted parents, who could now only await the fate that they had unleashed upon themselves. The dead forest was testament to their destructiveness and their wish to dominate and shape the world against its will, until it fought back. A sense of doom suffused her, coming not only from the murdered trees. A strong foreboding filled the air and made her shiver at its sinister touch, an unsung funeral dirge for those soon to die.

Snow began to fall in a shifting veil between her and the doomed city, greying the night and covering the ground with its pale shroud. Chanter raised his face to its frigid touch. The flakes settled on his features and gathered in his hair as he closed his eyes. Talsy shared his joy at the soft snowfall, the healing touch of frozen water that fell in a billion uniquely patterned flakes, each a wonder of artistry. The enchantment of snow and land filled her with its wild rapture, and her soul longed to fly as free as the wind that played with the drifting flakes, making them dance between the blackened trees. A fall of Shissar that promised renewal for the dead land under the glow of moonlit clouds, the sweet vigour of the untamed, somehow stronger for its rebellion. Talsy held out her hand to catch a dainty flake, admiring its fragile beauty in the instant before it melted. Such was nature, to create something so exquisite for a mere moment of wonder, before it was destroyed as swiftly as it had been born.

Chanter grinned at her, his eyes bright. “Come, run with me. Feel the wildness of Mujar. There shall be life here again, in the memory of trees.”

The Mujar stepped away and raised his arms in a gesture of giving and restoration. Earthpower filled the air, summoned from the ground by his silent call, as cold as the snow that fell from above. He turned, scattering the magic with a sweep of his arms, sending it into the trees to fan the spark of life that nestled deep within their roots in the bosom of the frosty earth. She sensed the rising Earthpower like a tide pouring from the soil, carrying in its freezing magic the bounty of life. It rose within her like a warm wash of blood, defying the chill that nipped her skin.

 Brimming with sudden joy that made her want to weep and laugh, she followed Chanter's dancing steps as he twirled among the blackened trunks, the Earthpower swirling around him like a mantle. Where it touched, green shoots sprouted from the charred bark, twisting and swelling. Others thrust up through the thin crust of snow, dancing to the unheard music that the Mujar spread about him. A wondrous strength infused Talsy as the burgeoning of a pure, unfettered magic lifted her spirit and cleansed her soul.

The wild magic flooded the air and brightened the starlit landscape, turning the snow into a bed of sparkling crystals that formed a pristine backdrop to the stark black trunks now furred with greenness. The scent of new life added its sweet tang to the glittering air. The rustle of growth and the creak of swelling wood as sap rose to invigorate the trees was like faint music to which the Mujar danced. She laughed and danced with him, the spell of freedom enthralling her with an ecstasy that buoyed her up and carried her feet lightly over the snow in his footsteps.

With a swift burst of iciness he became a black wolf and gambolled through the snow, his breath steaming from a wide, panting mouth gleaming with white teeth. Broad paws crunched the snow in a meandering track as he soaked the forest with life-giving magic. A spreading green wave followed the dancing Mujar, and Talsy's laughter mingled with Chanter's panting yelps of joy. The squeaking shush of their feet on the crisp snow was a soft beat to the music of happiness. A distant wild cry came from the living forest in a mournful, wailing call that drifted on the air amid the falling snow. The wolf pack came running to greet Chanter, and she laughed at their playful gambolling, so full of joy and wonderful wildness.

Surrounded by the pack of lithe, bounding wolves, she followed Chanter in his dancing run, which had almost taken them halfway around the distant city. Ahead, dead trunks loomed, behind them living trees thrust out newborn branches. As a small part of this miracle, Talsy experienced the ecstasy of nature and the pure untamed joy of life as never before. The trees' restoration brought a sensation of being at one with the land, as if her flesh was soil and her blood the water that fed all the growing things that yearned for the sun. Under the star-sprinkled skies with their gentle fall of snow she experienced a rebirth, a purification of body and soul as the wind tugged at her hair and chilled her skin.

Talsy ran as one with the wolves, her feet barely seeming to touch the ground, buoyed by the flow of Earthpower and the life that it bestowed. A black wolf with blue-flame eyes and the joyful prance of a pup led the way, drawing in his path the beauty of life. He summoned from the land the power to recreate that which had been lost, bringing back the forest destroyed by Lowmen savages with fire. Never had she been in the midst of so much power and joy. The land rippled under her feet as growing things thrust up from the soil.

 This was the power of Mujar, as much a part of the land and trees as the forest itself. What she could sense was but a fraction of it, yet it was enough to make her life before this pale into insignificance at the beauty of this moment, when death became life, springing as eternal as hope as it flooded from the soil. Like a vastly accelerated springtime, the forest was reborn verdant and fecund. Only the blackened treetops too burnt to be restored told the story of the fire that had once destroyed this forest.

When at last they reached the living trees that marked the beginning of Chanter's run, Talsy flopped down gasping, reaching out to stroke the smooth fur of the grey wolves that pressed close around the Mujar. They paid her no heed, but raised their muzzles to howl a savage song. Chanter stood panting, then in a flash of Dolana became a man again, gazing at the tall stone walls that guarded and imprisoned the people within. The magic ebbed back into the earth from whence it had been summoned, and with a flick of his hand he sent the wolves away. They frolicked towards the twisted trees of an angry Kuran, and he sank down beside her. His skin glowed and his hair glittered with the strange wild power that he possessed.

Now she understood how his nights in the wilderness restored him, for she was sure that her skin glowed and her hair glittered just as his did.

“This is Life, Talsy,” he whispered into the stillness of the night and the lingering enchantment of the forest. “This is the joy that Lowmen have lost. Only nature holds it in such abundance, yet it's free for all who wish to partake. No other joy is so strong and pure. No other power can uplift as much as Life.”

“That's what Mujar are, isn't it?” She gazed at him. “You are Life itself.”

He nodded. “Mujar are redemption, as the Hashon Jahar are retribution.”

“And the Lowmen have the choosing. Life or Death.”

“They have chosen Death, little one. You alone had the wisdom to choose Life, and in doing so you saved your race.” He nodded at the distant city. “But they have chosen Death by sowing it, and with the dawn, it comes.”

 

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Copyright © 2011 T C Southwell