Sorcerer's Child, cowritten by myself and JanaLee
Stocks, is my first full-length novel. The series
is planned on three full novels, the second of which (Sorcerer's Journey) is half completed at this time.
The novel is just under 500 pages long, and obviously is of a fantasy nature.
The Sorcerer’s Child: Chapter Six
The splash caught Renissa's attention and she immediately began running along the edge of the bank after the horse. Each step threatened to make her see stars, but they couldn't afford to lose Mica if they were to maintain their pace of travel. Not to mention Tyrin would be heartbroken. She shouted to Tyrin, “She has to go with the current! If she doesn’t fight it, we can possibly get her close enough to shore at a fishing shallow downstream.”
Tyrin only half heard the words, fighting mightily to resist the urge to jump in after the mare; he’d be useless in the water, especially since he wasn’t fully sure he remembered how to swim. He ran ahead of Renissa, moving faster than her since she was wounded. He whistled to try to get Mica’s attention. “Mica, please! Swim with the current, or you’ll drown!”
Incredibly, the horse gave Tyrin a strange look from the water, and immediately began to swim with the current, angling toward the shoreline as she did so. Tyrin came to a dead stop, incredulous.
The huntress didn't stop running, caring only that the horse kept moving. Even with the swiftness of the water, the horse's weight made it possible for Renissa to get ahead of the animal and clamber halfway down the bank. Her attention was split between her footing and how far they'd gone, and she was relieved to catch a glimpse of the expected shallow ahead. It was deeper than it should have been, but still eddied enough that, with some luck, they could get the horse out.
Sure enough, Mica headed to the shallow, though she stumbled as her footing returned. The mare lurched to one side before she managed to stay on her feet, finally finding relatively solid ground and standing there motionless, planted and braced against the water. Her breathing was heavy and a bit rapid from the exertion, but otherwise she appeared fine.
“Good girl.” Renissa's voice was a low croon as she approached the river's edge. “You're a lucky lady... let's try to get you up out of there.” While she wasn't entirely comfortable with the animals, Renissa understood that the mare shouldn't stand in the water any longer than she had to. The cold would eventually seep through even her thick hide.
Tyrin finally remembered that he not only still had feet attached to his legs, but that they worked quite well. He ran to catch up to them just as Mica started to walk toward the bank. The horse moved slowly, as if she was aware that slipping would just send her back downstream again. Without a thought, Tyrin waded into the water the moment he got close enough to reach Mica quickly. Immediately, he started to lose feeling in his feet and legs; the water was so cold, it was like walking through liquid ice. Shivering, he approached Mica as the water continued moving up his body. “Hold on, girl. I’m c-c-coming.”
“Tyrin! Get out of there!” Renissa snapped at him, muttering to herself as the water licked the edges of her boots. “Stupid stable boy.” A crashing in the brush behind her turned Renissa's attention, and she stepped back from the riverbank as she saw Guir approaching. She moved quickly to the horse, fishing a length of rope from the saddlebags and fashioning a slip loop in it. “Tyrin! Catch! We'll pull you out.”
Renissa aimed carefully and tossed the rope to Tyrin. It took three attempts, but finally he caught the chord and looped it around Mica’s neck, pulling it taut with trembling fingers. Mica remained as calm as a horse could under Tyrin’s guidance; but when the rope was pulled around her, she started and reared back, trying to thrash free of the restraint and the water.
As she reared back, Tyrin tried to calm her, his hands sliding along her wet hide. He never stood a chance at retaining his tenuous footing and with a startled sound, the man disappeared into the water underneath Mica, reappearing a good distance further down the shallow. He immediately staggered to his feet and started making his way back to Mica, stumbling as he fought the current and the mud.
Growling a string of very unladylike words, Renissa pulled the rope taut as hard as she could, bracing herself against a tree. This was exactly the reason she traveled alone. If she hadn't been defending Tyrin, she could have outrun or out-fought the ogres and crossed at the ford where they were supposed to instead of trying to fish him and a horse out of an icy river. She shouted to Tyrin, “Get up on her leeside, where she can block the water.” Renissa looped the rope, trying to provide enough tension, “If you get caught in the main current, you'll be swept away and there’s nothing I can do to help at that point.”
Tyrin shook his head, his voice shaky. “There’s p-plenty of footing here, Renissa, and the current isn’t too s-strong at all. Just pull on her, she’ll c-come up easy enough.” Tyrin stood easily once he’d regained his footing. Though he was cold, his mind was first on getting the horse to safety. He’d worry about his own safety later.
Renissa adjusted the rope slightly, pulling back steadily as she did so. The bank beneath her was lower and less cut away, which allowed for better footing and the tree took much of the stress. As she pulled she continued to quietly mutter curses... whether it was Tyrin's fault or no, the whole thing was striking her badly.
Guir approached Renissa then and, without so much as a command from either Tyrin or Renissa, he took the rope in his mouth and started walking the other way with it, helping to pull Mica from the frigid waters. With the added pull from the larger stallion, Mica started walking toward the bank easily, only stumbling once before she reached the edge of the back and emerged from the water. She shook herself, sending freezing water in a spray from her coat before she turned to look back into the water.
Surprise broke through Renissa's other thoughts as Guir began helping. For all of his attitude issues the animal was uncannily intelligent; and the help, though unexpected, was appreciated. Once Mica was free of the waters, Renissa reached a hand out to Tyrin, dragging him up the shore once she caught his wrist. “Come on. We need to set camp now and get you both as dry as possible before the sun sets and the cold comes.”
Tyrin nodded shakily as he knelt down near Mica. The horse, though still a bit wide-eyed from the experience, seemed to be in good condition. She nudged up against him as he started checking her out for injuries. “Just w-want to make sure she’s al-all right.”
“You're more likely to freeze than she is.” The comment was dry for all of its honesty and Renissa untied the rope, returning it to the remaining saddlebags before she glanced over the area. One of the bags Mica had carried was gone, and she made a mental note to look for it as soon as things were more settled. “Over there. There's a clearing that will work.” She shook her head, reaching up and tucking back a stray lock of dark hair from her face. “Next time let's negotiate a moment before you plunge into icy rivers?”
Tyrin nodded, shivering. “As long as negotiate means never again chasing a horse downstream in freezing water, I’m all f-f-for it.” He motioned back toward the river. “Since I’m al-already as wet as I can b-be, should we go ahead and cross now?”
Renissa shook her head. “No. It looks shallow here, but the middle isn't. We'd get sucked down, and then we’d all need to be rescued from the water. We need to ford at a proper fording.” She led the three of them to higher ground, deciding quickly on a place to wait out the night. She gave Tyrin a measured look before commenting, “I've not much for spare clothing, but we'll see what we can get dry.” Her own injuries were forgotten for the moment as her attention shifted to the needs of the man and the horse.
Tyrin followed as Mica and Guir started walking away from the river, nearly falling over his own feet once or twice. Mica hadn’t been in the water long enough to do more than scare her, and the heat from her exertion had been enough to keep him from worrying about her all that much. The horse would be fine. Now it was time to concentrate on keeping himself from freezing, the thought of which kept him from arguing when Renissa decided on what they were going to do.
Renissa brought them into the clearing and erected the shelter as quickly as she could, trying to ignore the throbbing of her head. She unfolded the bedroll inside and looked to Tyrin. “Strip off out here as much as possible, so you don't carry the wet with you. Then get out of the wind and wrap up in the blankets. I'll deal with getting a fire going and food.”
The young man nodded, removing every layer of clothing he had down to the skin. She’d seen him naked already, back at the farmhouse; this was no different, though colder. Shivering and with his skin turning slightly blue, he quickly crawled into the itchy blankets and buried himself in them.
Ignoring the bustle of the two humans, Guir had wandered away from the campsite and was walking around with his nose very near the ground. He passed by a few edible plants without a single response and it appeared that he was searching for something specific. Mica walked around toward the edge of the camp, digging through the snow and pulling up some grasses as she walked, an occasional shudder of her muscles sending more water from her skin. It would have been better if she'd been properly dried, but she was managing.
Once assured that Tyrin was doing as asked, Renissa moved away from the makeshift tent, gathering flammable materials as she walked. Most of the wood in the area was wet from the earlier snowfall; but by pulling apart a fairly rotted log, she was able to amass enough materials to get a decent flame going. The ground around the fire hissed as the moisture began to evaporate and Renissa found herself glad that the storm had only lasted a short time and that the day had been warm.
A sudden high-pitched noise caught her hearing and her attention snapped over to Guir, who stood in a slightly more open patch of the field. The horse had stepped deliberately on something on the ground, and was now looking back at her with a very calm look as if expecting her to come investigate. He hadn’t moved his hoof off of whatever he’d stepped on, and the squealing continued to shriek from underneath it.
Renissa blinked several times, the sound both very familiar and surprising to hear now... Her hand moved to her back, releasing one of the blades that hung there as she moved towards the horse. She came to a stop and stared between the horse and the animal trapped beneath Guir's foot. She stood there, doing nothing, for another moment before she eyed the horse. Living with sorcerers had done strange things to animals before, but she'd never seen anything like this. She knelt down to the soggy earth, catching the rabbit behind the ears and breaking its neck with a swift and merciful jerk. Slowly her gaze went back to the big horse. Wryly, she said, “And he tells me you don't eat people...riiight.”
Guir just flicked his tail in response as he moved away, his nose close to the ground again. The rabbit was a rather large one and would provide a good bit of meat, which would be a welcome break from trail rations and roots.
She watched as the horse paced away and worried at her lower lip. It just didn't seem... right, but Renissa could hardly justify slaughtering the horse just because it caught a rabbit. Even if it was on purpose. She stopped herself on that line of thought, realizing just how odd it all sounded. Slowly she rose to her feet, taking the rabbit with her. The hide would be useful later and there was enough meat for a stew at least. Not that there was much to go with it, but it was a start.
It didn't take her long to skin and gut the rabbit, and Renissa kept an eye on the shelter as she worked. After a time, she set aside the meal long enough to clean her hiding blade and return it to its sheathe, the small dagger from her belt a much more appropriate choice for the food preparation. The water in the pot began to boil and she added chunks of the rabbit meat, humming absently as she worked. Once the stew began to simmer properly, she left it and stretched Tyrin's clothing over stones, close enough to the fire to dry quickly without catching flame.
Tyrin was still shivering underneath the tent when the smells first reached him of the stew. He had a feeling he’d been in the water too long, and he wasn’t warming up nearly fast enough to prevent hypothermia. And, to make matters worse, he was getting extremely sleepy, which he knew was a death kiss approaching.
He rationalized that there was nothing else he could do. He had to try to use his magic again or he was quite likely to die, despite Renissa’s efforts to the contrary. As calmly as he could, he reached inwardly to the place he’d found before. If he could help heal a concussion, he reasoned that perhaps healing the cold would work as well.
For a long moment, he felt nothing. Then, he felt the warming sensation he’d felt earlier begin, and this time he didn’t release his hands after they started to itch. Almost immediately, a core of heat began to grow inside of him, and color started to finally come back to his extremities. Gasping, he moved his hands, releasing his magic as he fell back against the bedroll.
Unaware of what was happening in the shelter, Renissa moved further out in her search for more wood that could be convinced to burn. Her mind was still trying to deal with everything that had happened and had been seen in the last few days, and she was not coming to any conclusions that she wanted to dwell on.
Guir looked up at her as she approached, a good portion of one of the low-lying shrubs in his mouth. He snorted once before dipping back down to the plant and continuing to strip if of any leaves and small twigs. His tail flipped a few times, just to let her know that he was aware that she was there and that he could still kick her if he wanted to.
She found a large log on the forest floor and settled down on one end, watching the horse. Everything came settling down harder on her senses as her mind raced to digest all the facts that she knew. Tyrin spoke to his horses and they understood him. He'd somehow managed to get her away from Northern Ogres, not known for giving up their prey. He'd survived a battle between an army and two sorcerers, and in the process had somehow ended up naked and at the bottom of a crater that was created by a great deal of force. He wasn't what he seemed... he couldn't be. She chewed on the inside of her lip, unwilling to voice the conclusion that she was being driven towards.
A quiet snap of brush from further away distracted Renissa's attention for the moment, but she couldn't shake her thoughts. She was trained to know a sorcerer when she encountered one. Trained to find them, to fight them and to kill them. So why did the thought that Tyrin might be one bother her so...it was her duty, and a mercy. She drew her blades, resting them against her lap and staring at her reflection, twisted through the scrollwork.
If he truly was a witchborn, then her reluctance could be the first sign that she was falling under his thrall, which she couldn't allow. She couldn't. Her fingers flexed around the grips and she pushed to her feet, slicing through some nearby foliage grumpily. She'd only known him a few days... if it must be... it must. She wavered another moment and then strode back towards the fire, intending to confront with the man.
After a few minutes of warming recovery, Tyrin clambered back up into a sitting position. He was now fully warm again, enough so that he felt he could brave the outside world. He wrapped the blankets around himself, reasoning that modestly still had its place as he stepped out barefoot into the snow.
The sight of the man standing there in nothing more than a blanket brought Renissa to a halt, still some ways away. She couldn't just attack him. It wasn't right, and what if he wasn’t a sorcerer at all? He didn't set her senses tingling the way her prey usually did. The Huntress stood still for a long moment before she finally replaced her ulinar into their sheathes. She would wait... a little longer, at least.
Tyrin made his way to his clothes quickly, hopping over the snow as best as he could. The clothes were mostly dry by this point and he pulled them on quickly, especially the boots. Though a little moisture remained it was not uncomfortable, and they would dry on him well enough. He sighed in relief as they were rather warm from the fire and the warmth felt comforting on his bare skin.
He turned and saw Renissa returning from the forest and smiled at her. “I think I’m warm enough now to survive. I see you found dinner readily enough.” He motioned to the stew.
She nodded a bit, managing a wan smile. “Guir and I did. I've never seen a horse that thinks it's a good thing to step on a rabbit. The meat will need a bit to cook to tender, but it's better than any more of that weed you called supper last night.”
Tyrin nodded, though her words took another few seconds to filter down to his brain. He stopped halfway through fastening the cloak around his shoulders. “Wait. What did you just say?”
“Your demonic horse stepped on a rabbit.” Renissa gestured towards the pot, watching Tyrin's reactions very carefully. Maybe her thoughts had been wrong, and it was the animal that she should be examining more carefully. She'd hunted a sorcerer that could take an animal form once before.
He cocked an eyebrow and glanced toward the edge of the forest, where Guir was munching happily. After a moment’s reflection, he shrugged. “Well, he has always been a really smart horse. Maybe he just stepped on it by accident, or something along those lines.” Tyrin shook his head, unable to believe that Guir actually knew the difference between a rabbit and a root.
She looked up at him and shook her head. “He stepped on it and held it there until I came to kill it.” Renissa was silent a moment. “I'm beginning to wonder if the horse was affected by the sorcerers that died.”
Tyrin frowned. “That’s… just odd.” He studied Guir for a long moment. Guir, for his part, ignored the two humans as he continued to forage for food. “I don’t honestly know. I mean, he’s always been the smartest horse at the farm for many years. Whether my employers had anything to do with that, I don’t know.”
Renissa nodded, offering him the flask that he'd seen before. There was enough left for one more draught. “Drink up.” She glanced over at the horse, trying to ignore her headache. “We'll have to keep an eye on him. Things get too weird and...” She trailed off leaving the thought.
“And what? You’ll kill him?” Tyrin took the flask and drained the rest of the fire water, barely even coughing this time. “There’s no real reason for that, Renissa. I saw him birthed, and he gets a lot of his antics from his father. They were both ornery. Though Guir shows more intelligence than any horse I’ve seen, I don’t think it necessary to kill him for it!”
“I said nothing about killing him, just that we'd have to do something. Whatever it is, or might be, isn't his fault.” She rubbed her forehead, half closing her eyes. “Do you really think I solve everything with the business end of a knife?”
“This whole outside world is fairly new to me, Renissa. You’ll have to forgive me if I make some assumptions.” He glanced at her before he continued. “But my employers were killed for simply being something no one else is, and you were on the way to do the same if the army had not gotten there first. You don’t seem to be a bloodthirsty killer to me, but there’s a lot I don’t know.”
He sighed, shaking his head and suddenly weary. “I… I’m sorry. It’s just been a long couple of days, and I’m not sure I’m taking all this as well as I could be.”
Renissa pushed to her feet, disgusted. "Fine. I think I'll go...kill something, I don’t know. There's a spoon there if you wouldn't mind keeping an eye on the pot." She kept her tone civilized whether she wanted to or not as she stalked away with a lengthy stride. The moment they hit town she was getting rid of this farmer. Assumptions, indeed.
Tyrin sighed, shaking his head as he sat down to warm his hands at the fire. Growing up on the farm hadn’t necessarily given him much interaction with anyone other than his family. He’d had very occasional trips into town, usually when Papa was selling or buying some livestock. Plus, there was the extremely rare visit from someone from beyond Rebün, always to buy one of their horses.
None of these trips and visits had done anything to prepare him for a conversation at length with anyone, much less an attractive woman that carried two very sharp-looking blades at the ready. He sighed again then picked up some snow in his hand and popped it into his mouth.
Tyrin looked up as Mica returned, and he smiled gently at her. Her limp was still noticeable, but he was glad to see that she was all right. He walked over to her and rubbed her side gently, talking to her under his breath. People, he might have problems with. Horses, never in a million years. Mica returned the affection, nipping at his hair.
Renissa backtracked where they'd come from, her head pounding with each step. “Stupid stable hand...” She growled the words, considering again the fact she would be almost to a nice warm bed and bath by now if not for him. She cleaned up some of their back trail as she went, an old habit from her own travels. Near the riverbank where Mica had first fallen, she found one of the saddlebags caught half in the river and half out. There was a rip in the leather and Renissa hauled the contents out to determine what had been ruined. A large piece of wadded up hide caught her attention and she tugged it out, her brow wrinkling as she did so.
The feel of the hide was odd and she turned it over, rubbing her fingers along it. The realization she came to made her jerk back, the parchment falling to the muddy earth as she released it in horror. Flesh... human flesh. She rubbed her fingertips against her leg and muttered a soft prayer against evil that she had learned at her foster mother's knee. Where had this come from?
The touch of the wind caused a chill to run down Renissa's spine and she glanced back towards where she'd left Tyrin. It took a supreme force of will for her return her attentions to the hide and study the roughly sketched map. It seemed to lead off somewhere in the western hills. Renissa frowned, looking over the area again. They were the only ones that had been here...and she knew she hadn't brought it with her. That only left one possible option.
She was quiet for a long time, barely breathing as she stared at the stained chart. How had Tyrin got her away from the ogres? If he was a sorcerer, had it all been a complex ruse? Was he working with them now? Hiding behind a mask of innocence? There were too many questions...and not nearly enough answers. Growling softly, she began walking back towards the camp, her expression stormy.
Tyrin bent down on one knee and clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. Obediently, Mica raised her wounded foot up so that he could inspect it. He pushed on the pads of her foot, as well as inspected the hoof and shoe. She would need re-shoeing soon enough, and that made him worry. He had no money to buy new horseshoes for her, much less a way to get them on her.
He sat back with a frown, ignoring the snow underneath him. He pulled her hoof closer, not noticing Renissa approaching again as he did so. He could make out a bruise underneath the skin, which was both good and bad. Bad, because she’d hurt for at least another two days; good, because that also meant that she was healing, and would suffer no permanent damage.
He smiled and released her foot. She turned and nuzzled up against him, and he laughed as he scrubbed on the top of the horse’s head. “Ah, Mica, as long as you don’t try going swimming again, you’ll be perfectly fine. Dumb horse.” It wasn’t said with malice, and he pulled at her ear affectionately.
The scene was at odds with Renissa's mood and she tried to shove it away as she walked up and dropped the parchment, letting it collapse to the ground in front of Tyrin. Her voice was sharp and irritated. "What... is... this...?” The swinging of doubts and possibilities was making her more out of sorts, her head pounding.
Tyrin’s blood turned to ice, and he sighed. He still hadn’t worked out what, if anything, he’d have to tell her if and when she found it; and now was definitely too late to do so. Nothing he could really do now but tell the truth. “I don’t rightly know, Renissa. I haven’t opened it, since I can’t bring myself to really touch it.” Any minute now, she’d draw her blades and kill him, he was sure of it.
“Where did it come from?” There was ice and steel in Renissa's voice, and a haze around the edge of her vision. She was pushing herself too hard after the injury and she was ignoring it. She knew she’d have to answer for it eventually, but for now her anger was fueling her fully.
Tyrin motioned back the way they’d come. “From the ogres. As part of letting both of us leave without getting eaten, I was told that I have to visit the location marked on the map.” He remained seated on the ground, very uncomfortable in her gaze, the map still lying in the snow.
“You were told?” The fingers of her right hand twitched slightly. “Tyrin... people do not speak to ogres, they get eaten by them.” She reached down and grabbed him by the scruff of the shirt, yanking him to his feet. Her eyes flashed as she said, “I am grateful to not be ogre meat, but either there is something going on that is very wrong, or you've been lying to me.” She shoved him into a tree, the sparser vegetation breaking some of the force of the shove. “I want answers.”
Tyrin winced at the pain of the impact and nodded as the color drained from his face. “A-Aye, just put me down. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Please…” It was fairly hard to breathe, considering how tightly she was holding him to the tree. He hadn’t realized just how strong she was, and he was quite aware of just how tenuous his hold on life was at this moment.
Dark eyes flashed as Renissa locked gazes with him. She was close enough to him that the pain arcing down her spine was almost visible, even as she mentally tried to block it. She'd walked miles on a broken foot, using much the same force of will that she was now using to force away her concussion. Very slowly her fingers released some of the pressure on his throat. “I want to know everything.”
Tyrin gasped a bit as his access to air returned. By the gods, he suddenly missed the quiet life on the farm! He’d never had anything more threatening than the fire mites come anywhere near the farm, and now he was on his third encounter with death in as many days. “Everything I know. I promise.”
The haze crossed Renissa's vision again, and it took an iron will to not allow herself to topple over or back off. She half pushed, half threw him towards the fire and the log there. “Sit down then... and we're going to start from the beginning.”
Tyrin stumbled as she threw him, but he managed to keep his footing. The walk to the fire, though short, was longer than the walk back to Rebün would be. Finally, though, he reached the log she’d indicated and sat down on it grimly.
Mica had affixed the two of them with an odd look, but when Tyrin started walking back to the fire, she flicked her tail and moved off, rooting around in the snow again as she did. Guir was still near the edge of the forest, rubbing his hindquarters against a tree in an effort to stop an itch there. Snow crashed down around the stallion, though he ignored it for the most part as he scrubbed away.
Renissa took a deep breath as he settled and strode over to where Tyrin sat, lowering herself to a nearby perch. She didn't draw the ulinar, deciding she didn't need that kind of intimidation...at least not yet. “Well?”