This is a story of faith and redemption. Tavius, a young hunter turned warrior, inspires hope to a nation on the brink of war. Meanwhile, Luzalo, born into darkness and tragedy, begins her long journey to redemption. As their paths collide, an adventure unfolds that sheds light on the power of God’s love for those who earnestly seek Him.
One “How deserted lies the city, once so full of people. How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations. She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.” -Lamentations 1:1 The air felt different in Lach Highland that night. Too cold for summer, with a heavy dry wind that blew up from the south. Not a cloud in the sky remained to break the perfect chaos of the stars as they gleamed around the moon. Everything looked sharp in the blue light. The way was clear for miles as if the sun had risen. The night creatures sensed strangeness in the hour and shrieked their warnings to a deaf world. The only city in the land, the fortress of Great Hall, sat in darkness under the shadow of a hill. Most slept fitfully through the odd weather except the guards on the wall tops and Cirrus, the young Lord of Lach Highland. He sat alone in his courtroom, surrounded by walls covered in tapestries and the trails of his own thoughts. His head was bowed, his shoulders bent, and his pale hands clasped each other until the knuckles turned white. A scowl twisted his mouth in a deep frown as his empty stare fixed on a knotted sword at his feet. His eyes ran over the rusted blade: the enemy’s taunt against him. He tried to purge it from his mind and bury the sight behind his eyelids, but the weapon was imprinted in his memory. He could hear the laughter behind it, mocking him, reminding him that he had failed. Cirrus straightened. He wanted to get rid of the sights. He wanted no more memories of that horrible day. He wanted freedom from the invisible hand that closed around his chest to break his ribs and stop his heart. In a blurred movement he snatched the sword and hurled it across the room. It thudded against an oak door and clanged to the floor. He stood on the dais, jaw clenched, veins rising. He wanted to scream, but held back. He wanted to cry, but pride would not let him. A block of lead sank in his chest. The fury passed. Cirrus tried to sit, missed his chair, and hit his knees on the ground. He grasped his head in pain and rocked against the voices inside him. “Get out,” he kept whispering, “Get out. Get out.” The door opened. He heard it but refused to look. “Cirrus?” Mira, his wife, stood quietly behind the entrance. Her black hair fell around her shoulders in distressed knots. Darkness rimmed her tired eyes, the result of the sleepless nights they’d suffered. She closed the door and went to him, “Are you all right?” “He’s gone,” Cirrus felt his voice crack and he angrily wiped the tears from his eyes. Mira said nothing. She lowered her head. Her hair fell away and revealed the sharp ears of her race. A lake woman. Cirrus took one look at her face and regretted ever meeting her. If he’d not dragged her from her home, she would not have to endure this. He was the reason she suffered. He stumbled to his feet, “We’ll go out again tomorrow. We’ll try to find the trail. Maybe we can track them.” She didn’t respond but he saw the doubt in her face. She had no willpower to say what was on her mind. He started to feel the rage again, “We’ll find him.” She still said nothing. Her silence was worse than if she had spoken. It made him mad, “Say something!” Mira’s eyes were pleading, “You know it too.” Cirrus did know it, but he refused to accept it, “I won’t leave Airan in the hands of those monsters!” “If we wait for your brother-” “Hang my brother!” he roared, “It takes him weeks for his court to decide anything!” “He won’t hesitate-” “He follows rules, Mira! He won’t come!” The guilt, the rage, and the helpless anxiety took their toll. He swung at the wall, took the skin off his knuckles, punched it again, and wilted. He slid and sat on the floor, burying his face in his hands and holding back the screams. Mira’s voice shivered for control, “Airan is safe. I know the Emperor will watch over him. I trust everything will be all right.” Cirrus was too emotionally spent to either accept or reject her words. He just let the feelings pass and tried to keep breathing. He had to keep breathing. The blood from his raw knuckles touched his cheek. He wiped it away in disgust. A heavy knock sounded on the door. Cirrus regained his feet, “Enter!” The door swung open. Foru Longstor, steward of the Hall, shoved past it. He looked frightened. Sweat plastered the thick hair on his head. He took a breathless gulp to steady himself, “Cirrus…come quickly. Outside. You have to hear.” “What’s wrong?” Mira was already halfway to the door. Foru shook his head, “We don’t know.” Cirrus grabbed his sword from behind his chair and strapped it around his waist, “Show us.” They hurried through the fortress of Great Hall to the outer courtyard. Foru took them up the stairs to the top of the inner wall and stopped, facing the city and the world beyond it. The numbing chill caught them by surprise. Cirrus and Mira shivered beside the nervous steward, straining their ears for a sound. Nothing. Cirrus shot a glare at his friend, “I don’t hear anything.” Foru wiped his face, “Exactly, sir. Not a sound. There were all kinds of night noises moments ago. Now they’ve stopped. Something’s out there.” Mira tilted her head to the sky. Her eyes widened in horror. A mass of clouds rolled from the south and covered the heavens. The wind rushed by. A blade of fear shot up her spine, “Cirrus…” A desolate wail lifted its voice from beyond the city limits. They froze and stared out at the forests even as darkness took over the world. Shrill howls joined the initial voice. Clear and ringing. They were close.
Rachel Metzel’s flair for rich description and engaging storytelling has been a lifelong passion. Growing up in a military family, Rachel spent most of her childhood moving across the nation, while entertaining her two younger brothers with Tolkien-like stories of intrigue and adventure. Her God-given skills as a writer and artist continue to bless those who come in contact with her inspirational work. She is currently studying English at Letourneau University in Northeast Texas.