Return of the Voths
Richard Dalglish is a freelance editor and writer as well as the author of five published fantasy novels and two fantasy legal thriller novellas. The novels are “Day of the Fastle,” “The Grenling Abduction” (the first book in a series of fantasy detective mysteries), “Murder in the Querl,” “The Last Witness: A Fantasy Legal Thriller,” and “Return of the Voths.” The fantasy legal thriller novellas, titled “The Healer” and “The Pearl,” were published together in a single volume titled “Tales of a Rogue Advocate.” His science fiction romance parody short story “Love’s Galactic Passion” appeared in the inaugural issue of “Sci-Fi Lampoon Magazine.” His nonfiction articles have been published in “Jewelers’ Circular Keystone,” “The JCK Show Daily,” “Philadelphia Magazine,” “High-Volume Jeweler,” “New York Diamonds,” “Trendz,” “Lancaster County Magazine,” “Baselworld Selection: Stones and Pearls,” and “The Giftbook” (published by “Gifts and Decorative Accessories” magazine). Dalglish is the former managing editor of “Jewelers’ Circular Keystone” (JCK), a business magazine covering the fine-jewelry industry in the United States and internationally. He completed the Gettysburg (Pa.) Marathon in three hours, fifty-six minutes, fifteen seconds. Dalglish earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pa. He lives in Yardley, Pa., with his wife, Julie, and their cat, Carli.
As war looms in the far west of the known world, Jarn Theffig, an officer in the Vothan Riders, is ready to do battle against the Acrinites, who rule the Voths. But a chance encounter with a young Wyndoran named Kel Crecerelle changes the political landscape. Kel entered Vothan territory to search for his missing father, but the Acrinites claim he’s a spy and demand custody of the young man. Jarn knows Kel is no spy and suspects the Acrinites do, too, and he’s determined to find out the real reason they want him. Years of oppression have taught the Voths how to survive, and before the Acrinites can interrogate Kel, Jarn and his men employ some inspired trickery to rescue him. But Kel won’t be safe from the Acrinites, so Jarn and a young Vothan Rider named Bleuek take Kel to Rynland, a thousand miles east. There they visit Jarn’s old friend Tolpin Tassage and ask him to hide Kel until the trouble blows over. They also meet a powerful virrling named Zauph Rauthen, who devises a plan to protect Kel. Sailing Zauph’s boat, Tolpin and Kel head north on the Kanniss River toward safety, but a freak storm sinks the boat and nearly kills them. They continue on foot and encounter various perils, including a pack of dangerous animals. When the creatures attack, a mysterious young waif named Aarla appears out of nowhere and rescues them. But trouble has followed Kel, and he’s abducted by a sorceress named Astil, who’s working for the Acrinites. Meanwhile, mistakenly believing Kel is safe, Jarn and Bleuek return to the Vothan Territory and learn that the Acrinite war of aggression has begun. But before Jarn gets into the fight, he’s tasked with discovering the real reason the Acrinites wanted Kel. If he can uncover the secret, the Voths may finally rid themselves of Acrinite subjugation Meanwhile, Zauph, Tolpin, Aarla, and a recluse named Yellig are heading west toward the war. They know the Acrinites have a formidable accomplice, the dark sorcerer Grune Grohar, who’s using his powers to sow dissension among the allies. If Zauph and his friends don’t take command, the quarrelsome allied armies will defeat themselves before they can face the enemy.
Tolpin and Aarla waited quietly. Outside, a ruddy sun was poised on the horizon, and the western sky flamed red. The sun finally disappeared, and for a few minutes the silent forest glowed like polished copper. Twilight turned to dusk, and Yellig got up and lit some candles. He set one in the middle of the table. He sat down again and stared into the candle flame for a long time, until the moon had risen into the evening sky and poured its pale light over the meadow. Finally, he turned to Tolpin. “Has Zauph ever spoken of the great parleys we once held?” Tolpin nodded. “They must have been something to behold.” “They were,” Yellig murmured. A stillness settled over the room. It was not like the heavy stillness of a hot afternoon in late summer but like the buoyant quiet just before a storm, when the breeze suddenly dies, and the unmoving air is balanced for one perfect moment between earth and sky. It was a stillness filled with anticipation. No one spoke. They stared into the candle flame and watched it sway to the rhythms of their breathing. It seemed to Tolpin to change shape as it moved and flickered, from a fiery charging horse to a golden winged creature soaring through the sun to a hideous, monstrous beast. Whether these images were in the flame or in his mind Tolpin didn’t know, but he couldn’t take his eyes from the candle, even when grotesque creatures prowled there. Moonlight spilled in through the open window, and a soft breeze filled the curtains like ocean winds filling the sails of ships. The candle flame guttered and hissed out, its afterimage still dancing ghostlike in the darkness. Tolpin thought he heard the cry of a falcon in the distance, and when he gazed out the window, he saw a winged silhouette briefly outlined against the bright disk of the moon. Tolpin was weighed down by a sudden weariness. He closed his eyes for a moment and slipped into a dream. He was at the wheel of a great wooden ship, with dozens of white sails billowing above him, sailing through the night sky toward a gigantic moon. The stars glittered like diamonds, and he reached out and plucked one from the sky. He heard a falcon’s cry again and opened his eyes. Outside, the breeze had freshened and set the curtains streaming and flapping like pennons. A storm was gathering. For the third time, Tolpin heard a falcon’s cry and was startled by its closeness. The moon was nearly blotted out as the bird soared across the meadow and settled on the windowsill. Its black eyes stared into Tolpin’s as it gave one final cry. All the candles winked out, and the room dissolved into perfect blackness. Tolpin ducked and closed his eyes, as if he expected an explosion, but none came. He opened his eyes again and looked up. As he squinted into the gloom, straining to see, a sudden flash of lightning illuminated a tall figure standing in front of the window. There, dressed like an ancient warrior prince, stood the wizard Zauph Rauthen.
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