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Tamal's Journeys [The Shayton Chronicles Book 2] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Karen Fainges

eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: The Shaytonian chronicles continues around the Circle. Talkar. Is he the tool of the Council or the fangs at their throats? Shaytonians will use anything and anyone to succeed. So why does it always seem to fall on him? And what of the Enemy? "She is the start of the Circle, you are the end." That did it, Talkar exploded out of his chair and began to pace. "Great. Now I know I am in trouble. When a woman starts to quote mysterious phrases I am going to end up trying to save the world--again. And it is not as if I even like this world."

eBook Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, Published: 2006
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2006

2 Reader Ratings:
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Pressure, darkness and then a searing light. He was being crushed against his own ribs. The pain was unbearable. The Power was eating him away, even as the room imploded around him.

Grimly he held on. He had to hold the Power within the Link. He knew that he would have to die to make sure that was done--and he could not fail. Too much depended on his success.

He wanted to say goodbye; hold his son, make sure his sister was safe. But there was no time. An eternity of pain and no time. Only the Link.

* * * *

He awoke to the harshness of bark against his cheek and the feel of grass and twigs along his back. For a long while, he lay still, trying to escape the pain. He knew it would hit him all the harder when he opened his eyes.

Sounds began to fight their way through the pounding of his head. Male voices, horses' hooves, the sounds of a chase. Sounds that were getting closer.

He forced his eyes open.

A woman riding a pure black horse was galloping towards him, her horse running at full speed across a rolling meadow. She lay close to the horse's neck, not worried about where she was riding, just concentrating on fleeing. Behind her, six men rode strong horses that were obviously bred for battle. The horses' harness rang with the metallic sounds of weapons and armoured legs. Dressed in dark tunics, they bore wolf-head badges on their tabards. Warning bells began to ring in his mind, though he had no idea why. All he was sure of was that he knew Wolf Heads were enemies.

Slowly, he forced himself to his knees. Stars of pain burst across his eyes.

A cry from the pursuers forced his attention away from himself and back to the fleeing woman. They had almost caught up to her. In spite of her lighter weight and obvious riding skills, they had the advantage of numbers. Slowly they were herding her towards the trees that would turn her back into their arms.

He looked around him. He had no armour, no clothes, but there was a weapon lying on the grass, a dark sword. He gazed at it for a moment. He could not fathom the sort of metal that would give such a dark finish, but this was his weapon. It called to him like an ancient weapon of legend.

He lifted it. The grip and reach were moulded to his needs. It felt right. As he raised it, the accustomed weight almost brought him strength instead of costing him. Feeling more secure, he began to study the pursuers in depth.

He made a decision. Reaching for a stone, he drew himself up to his full height. Allowing the woman to pass him, he waited until the nearest pursuer was well within range. Then he let fly with all his strength. The ringing sound of stone meeting helm surprised him. His blow had unseated the rider and thrown him backwards over the horse's rump. He realised he was strong, far stronger than a normal man. He mentally catalogued this with the other facts he was slowly gathering.

Reaching out, he tried to gather in the horse's reins as it cantered past. The reins were almost in his grasp when the pain blurred his vision again. The horse thundered away.

Ignoring his failure to stop the horse, he tried to force his eyes to focus on the remaining attackers. The five remaining riders had seen their companion fall. As one, they veered to confront the one naked man that stood between them and their goal. Another stone flew. Another rider fell. The horse behind the fallen rider stumbled as it tried to avoid the limp form on the ground. Its own rider fell prey to another blow. An arrow appeared in the ribs of another. The remaining two hesitated.

They all followed the arrow's path back to its origin. More riders. He noticed that the woman had changed course and was now riding towards the new arrivals. A Raven's-head badge declared them, if not friends, at least different enemies.

He braced himself as one of the remaining wolf-heads shook off the surprise and rode towards him. He tried to cleave the man from his horse. His sword whistled through the air but the pain pulled his blade. So much for the dramatic. He lowered the sword and as the rider turned to attack again, he grabbed for the nearest foot. One heave pushed the man from his saddle. This time, he succeeded in taking his place.

Astride the horse, he hesitated for a moment. The remaining enemy had turned to flee. Should he give chase? The woman called to him. He turned to see her now escorted by the Raven riders. As a group they beckoned him to hurry. He rode towards them, seeming to fly across the intervening ground.

He had barely drawn aside her, when the woman flung herself into his arms. "Tamal, again you have saved me." She reached her arms around his neck, drawing him into a deep kiss. After a moment's surprise, he returned the kiss, enjoying the moment.

"Highness, please, we must hurry." The guard captain eased her away, smiling indulgently at Tamal over her shoulder. He offered his cloak to Tamal, which he drew over his shoulders covering most of his nakedness. The squad wheeled and galloped back over the hill, Tamal with them.

Excitement gone, Tamal leant back into his saddle struggling to stay conscious. To keep the darkness at bay, he began to review the things he knew. His name, evidently, was Tamal. He had to admit, it sounded familiar. Familiar, just as the soldier's badges, even her Highness's kiss, had seemed familiar. It all seemed second hand, as if suddenly he was now a character in a favourite book.

If he concentrated he could remember the road, the next turn, that tree. He could even remember the guard captain's name. It was Harold. Harold's face brought images of evenings spent by the warmth of a fire and battles fought, some on this very ground. Carefully, he examined his companions, trying to test if his memories were real, or were even his own.

The princess rode tall in the saddle. With some mental figuring, Tamal judged that, standing side by side, she would come up to his chest. Her shining, blonde hair was bound in a decorated leather thong. Untied, it fell to her waist. He remembered it in such a fashion, surrounding him with a shimmering fall of light. The memory was so vivid, that for the moment, it seemed real. Her lightly tanned skin brought memories of horse rides and long hours in Council. Whenever she faced him, he could see the chiselled features, the beauty that used to make him lose his breath. Memories battered against him, trying to make themselves his.

Tamal shifted his scrutiny to Harold. A big man, he had the heavy build that spoke of a life spent in armour. A slight greying of the hair showed just how long a life that was. His worn face showed battles fought in the heat of summer and the snows of winter. It was all off-set by a ready smile.

That smile was the real man. A fighter he may be, but he was above all a loyal follower of the King, a father of numerous children, and a good friend. At least he was when Tamal had been here before. If only he could shake the feeling that Tamal was not really him.

Fighting the growing frustration, he scanned ahead. They seemed to be heading towards a village that sheltered at the foot of a stone castle. Slowly, he forced himself to relax. It was only when Harold brought his hand up to catch him, did Tamal realise that he had started to sag. The Princess also noticed his weariness, and dropped back to ride beside him. Riding three abreast, they continued towards the castle.

Eventually they came to the first straw-thatched cottages of the village. Townsfolk watched them pass, some cheering, others in content silence. All seemed overjoyed to see the return of their Princess. Many called out to her, some reaching up to touch her hand in greeting. She smiled down from her mount, returning the greetings, often calling the watching peasants by name.

Their only reluctance seemed to stem from his presence. Some greeted him warmly but most were cautious. Maids seemed to smile, only to be drawn away by guardians. Tamal began to realise that something other than his nakedness caused their reactions. Some seemed to be fascinated, others wary, maybe even fearful. Harold noticed Tamal gaze at one particularly fetching miss. She was definitely not afraid.

"You have not changed, my friend. Still have your appetites." Harold gave a wolfish grin. "All your appetites, I have no doubt. Well, you should be able to satisfy them all soon enough." He seemed to be implying more, something that caused Tamal to question the implication. Before he could probe Harold more deeply, the Princess heard them speaking and turned to follow their gaze.

"Yes, he will have all the fighting he can handle." She said looking back with a stern face. As Tamal looked down at her, her look softened to a smile. "And other things too, if you are worthy," she added. Seeing him about to reply, she cantered forward, suddenly eager to gain the castle walls.

The horsemen clattered across the cobbles in the castle courtyard to be met by pages. As each rider dismounted, the horses were led away to the stables. Tamal felt the strange mixed sense of remembering. He knew where the stables were, even the groom's name. Wondering how he knew, he almost missed the Princess being whisked away by concerned ladies in waiting.

Suddenly, she was the gracious Royal again. Tamal watched her go, conscious that only her slightly askew hair showed any sign of her recent ordeal. She was a strong woman.

She turned to blow him a kiss and then she was gone, gathered into the protection of the castle like a straying chick. Her maids definitely appeared to be mother hen types. He smiled at the contrast between the confident rider, terrified girl and gracious Princess. It was interesting that they were all the same person. There seemed to be a great deal to explore in this one.

Harold returned from seeing to his men and beckoned to Tamal. "Come, my friend, let us retire to your old room. There should still be some of your clothes there. I will show you the way." Harold's smile melted into a knowing, concerned look. "You have forgotten everything again, have you not?"

Not knowing how to respond, Tamal merely nodded. Harold led the way up a staircase to a tower room. As he stepped aside to let Tamal into the room, Tamal took the chance to look around. A sparsely furnished room, it looked like a place to sleep rather than a place to live. Still, the furniture was solid and well-made.

He stepped around the curve of the tower, to find a small dining table and benches. Further around, he spotted a sleeping area with shelves of clothes and books and a large bed. Brushing his hand along a thick decorative wall hanging, he felt behind them. His hand touched solid stone, no chinks to let in winter cold. A fireplace promised more warmth when it was needed.

These were a noble's quarters, but the tower seemed to be a strange place for them to be. Tamal studied the room, remembering them in that same strange way. It was still as if they were all from a story told to him so many times that he could picture himself there.

Maybe this was all a dream. An astonishingly real one. He could remember so many details. The creating of this room when he first came to this castle. The relieved looks from both the staff and nobles alike when they learned he was not to stay in the Castle proper.

Harold strode to the shelves, assuring himself that everything was as it should be. He turned with some clothes in his hands. "These should do you for now. I will let Mother know that you are returned. She will be glad to hear you are back." Harold then left the room to let Tamal dress.

A soft knock heralded another guest. A maid dressed in serviceable brown stood just inside the door. Her downward cast eyes and demurely folded hands showed the proper respect. Slightly taller than Alicia, she was pretty rather than beautiful. Straight, brown hair that framed large, brown eyes and rose lips on a tanned face. Peasant stock, solid but still young enough to hold the bloom of youth. He smiled and beckoned her enter.

It struck him, how did he know the Princess's name was Alicia? He seemed to realise that very few would know it; true names were a closely guarded secret. He blinked and forced himself to concentrate on what the servant girl was saying.

"Lord, I have prepared you a supper." She hesitated and then slowly lifted her eyes to his face. "But if you would rather feed first." She ended on a hopeful note, hesitantly stepping closer. She reached up, drawing her hair from her throat leaving it open and inviting to his gaze.

Suddenly the need hit him. Hunger surged through his mind. He could feel his fangs ache with desire. The fight, the ride, and before.... the Circle, they all demanded that he should feed.

It had all been building. It was not until Elizabeth had offered herself--again her name surfaced unbidden from his memory--did he realise what he had been feeling. It was strange. He had no memory of himself, of anything, and yet all these things seemed natural. He knew that Elizabeth had offered herself before. And that he had accepted. Then.

Tonight, something held him back. There was too much happening. Could he trust himself when there was so much he could not remember? He was not sure he could.

"Not tonight. I am tired. I will have the supper and then retire."

Subdued, she immediately lowered her eyes again, "Yes, my Lord." She poured him water to wash in and helped him dress for bed. He barely managed to finish the small bowl of gruel before he found himself dozing. He dragged himself to the bed to find it turned down and warmed. Slowly, he eased between the sheets. In spite of the thoughts coursing through his mind, his eyes were closed almost before his head hit the pillow.

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