Romenel: Voyage Into Twilight
Sandra C. Stixrude
Website: Cold Facts Meet Flights of Fancy
Excerpt rated PG
Something is hunting mercenary commander Romenel Devar, a monster disguised as friends and loved ones, so he can't even describe it. He knows it's slowly killing him, though, and he desperately needs help.
Marya and Roke have retired to their house on the steppes, their lives finally peaceful and uneventful. When Romenel collapses on their front doorstep, Marya reminds her husband that no one retires from being a hero.
Their journey takes them to the other side of the world where hordes of monsters lurk and the rules of society have been turned on their heads. Romenel needs to understand both this strange new world and the hints from a distant, shared past to unravel the means to stop the monsters' deadly hunts.
Sergeant Mardis shook his head. “Sorry about that, sir. He had no right to talk to you like that.” Then he turned to Romenel, his face carefully expressionless. “We brought you upstairs to the loft, sir, where it’s a bit warmer. The men are downstairs with the harduks.”
A wave of panic engulfed him. He grabbed the sergeant’s arm. “Mardis, you’re not going to leave me up here alone in the dark, are you? Send some of the boys upstairs, stay up here with me, at least leave a lantern on!”
The Sergeant sighed, no longer able to keep the concern from his face. “Sir, we’re right downstairs if you need us. I’d be glad to sit with you a bit if it helps you get to sleep, but, sir?”
“Yes, Sergeant?” Romenel struggled to sound calmer.
“I wish you’d tell me what’s going on, meaning no disrespect, sir, but me and the boys are worried about you.”
“If I told you, I doubt it would make you feel any better.”
“Are we staying, sir? At least a day or two so you can rest?”
“No, no, we can’t.” Romenel rubbed the side of his face and yawned. “We’ll ask around town tomorrow, then we’re moving on. I have to find them.”
“Yes, sir.” The Sergeant’s tone implied he did not agree but he would never say so. “Try and rest. Commander, go to sleep. I’m right here if you need me.”
Romenel nodded, exhaustion finally winning. He drifted into an uneasy sleep, full of evil dreams.
It seemed moments later when he woke again with his mother sitting beside him. He was still in the barn loft, still lying on blankets in the straw. His mother rested one hand on his forehead and the other held his hand gently.
“Mama?” He croaked out. “What are you doing here?”
“I heard you were sick,” she said, smiling her warm, sunny smile. “I came to help.”
“It’s… good to see you, Mama.” Something nagged at the back of his mind, something he should remember. “I think I am sick. I feel so weak, so tired…” It felt as if he sank into a fever dream, so weighted down by fatigue. Maybe with his mother here he could finally rest.
“That’s it,” she murmured. “Go back to sleep. You need to rest, son, just rest…”
Son? She had never called him ‘son’. Sweetie, darling, honey-cake and when he had been small her pretty, golden moon pup, but never son. With a jolt of horror, he remembered. His mother had been dead for almost two years. Oh, gods. Terrified to look, he glanced down at the hand that held his. Her fingers ended in long, gray claws.
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