Continued from Snippet #1.
“HAIL, SIRE, AND GOOD MORROW,” said Ser Lasrien Falcor, the last remaining son of House Falcor. The Lord Marcher Falcor and his other son, Lasrien’s elder brother, Lukas, lay on the ice-rimed slopes of Mount Riva, roughly twenty leagues away. They lay twice-dead, his father now headless, and his brother tossed from the cliffs into the ice-cold sea.
For a young man who had slain his family less than four days ago, Lasrien seemed rather lively.
“Good?” said Marcus.
“Yes. Every day we serve the Light is a good day, Avin Willing.”
Where is Avin now?, Marcus asked himself. The thought caused him to grimace. After all, he wore the black and white tabard of the Avinon Order, emblazoned with the six-pointed golden estoile—the symbol of the Dayseer. As a matter of fact, they were often called the Knights of the Harbinger, as if they hailed from the Golden Gate itself.
Young Ser Falcor—Marcus thought it funny to think of Lasrien as young, since he was actually a year his senior—was a knight of another order, from the rank and file of the Luminary Knights, typically placed in command positions within the legion.
In spite of the past few days of running and fighting, Lasrien still cut a dashing figure. He was trim and graceful. His helm, tucked in the crook of one elbow, exposed a handsome face with lean masculine features and tired, red-rimmed eyes beneath close-clipped black hair. Lasrien wore his panoply of plate armor well, the breastplate fitted with a gold and silver image of the Bestia Lumina, the Illuminated Beast, a golden phoenix encircled in a halo of light. His tattered blue cloak also bore the same symbol embroidered in gold and silver thread.
It was said the Beast represented a rebirth of men’s souls. Marcus used to consider this concept a wondrous thing. But upon witnessing all that he had seen in Gurthkam, a rebirth of the soul had taken on an entirely new meaning for him—a marred and grotesque one.
He glowered at Lasrien until the knight blanched.
“Sire?” The knight looked at Marcus with a questioning glance. “Have I offended you?”
“No.” Marcus hadn’t realized his brooding thoughts were etched on his face. “No, good ser,” he repeated. “I was just lost in thought.”
“Very well, sire. The Gurtham scout, Sidgur, has informed me the way forward into yonder vale is clear, but it seems trails of smoke rise up from the woods beyond. He says he thinks it’s the Volgawud. What are your orders, sire? Shall we delve further?”
Marcus glanced over to where his friend and companion sat on the edge of a large boulder. Tisarian was wrapped in a tattered brown cloak with the hood drawn up, hiding his face except for his beardless chin. Dark green trousers and black boots were his only other apparent garb.
“Just tell everyone to stay put,” Marcus said to Lasrien. He didn’t wait for the knight to reply or salute, but rather walked toward his friend. Tisarian had his cloak tight about him and was visibly shivering. His head hung low. It was more than just the cold of the Forsaken Lands. He had evidently taken ill.
“How are you feeling, Ri?”
Tisarian’s head rose quickly, surprised by Marcus’s sudden presence. “Eh?”
“I asked how you’re feeling. Are you well enough yet to move on?”
Tisarian knuckled one eye and suppressed a yawn. He stood up and gave Marcus a faint smile. “Ready,” he said.
Marcus gripped Tisarian’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “We have to keep moving. Every moment we delay—”
“Is another moment Ekron’s forces get nearer to Falahan’s borders. Yes, I know,” said Tisarian. “Let’s move on, then.”
Marcus’s concern grew and he hesitated. Tisarian had always been slender, but now he looked perfectly frail. His body took on a stooped posture as he pulled his cloak tighter around him. The hood pulled away from his face and Marcus could see his blue lips. In addition, Tisarian’s skin was pallid, nearly gray. His eyes looked tired, the whites a sickly pink hue, the lids drowsy.
Tisarian took a few steps and turned to see Marcus standing in place, watching him. “Well? Are we going? Or are you just going to stand there imitating a—oh, I don’t know—a Cathedral goon?”
Marcus’s eyes narrowed. “That’s the best you can do? Something must truly be wrong.”
“I’m not necessarily on top of my game today, Gray. A wee bit cold and tired.” Gray was Tisarian’s childhood nickname for Marcus, which he once explained was derived as a combination of the surname Grivna and Marcus’s tendency to lack ‘color’ and ‘dimension.’ He added one time, during an uproarious bout of barroom camaraderie among soldiers, ‘quite honestly, he’s a bit of an oaf, which has nothing to do with color or dimension, but he is one nonetheless.’ Said in jest, of course. In social gatherings, Tisarian’s incessant need for attention had his friend often playing the harlequin.
Marcus started moving again, stepping toward Tisarian. “Truly, Ri. Is something wrong?”
“Oh, no, I’m as fierce as a famished wolf, hardy as an oak. Can’t you tell? Or is it because I look like I’ve been dragged through nine icy, wind-blasted hells by the Carrion King’s own bung-sniffing cart driver?”
“Because that’s how I feel right now. But let’s not mull it over. We need to keep moving, so please let’s do.” Tisarian waved his hand, gesturing Marcus to walk ahead of him.
“You’re not yourself.”
“By the Pillar, would you leave off?” Tisarian took two steps and stumbled.
Marcus barely managed to catch him before he hit the frozen ground.
 A league is measured as the distance a person can walk in one hour, commonly about three English miles; hence, 20 leagues approximates to roughly 60 miles.
 Avin is the greatest and most popular champion of the Illumination. He is referred to as a paladin, wizard, and priest, who wrote the Inspiratum and established the Church of the Illumination. He ascended into the heavens at the celestial point of his life, and the path of his ascendancy is still evident in the city of Veranda, where a great beam of light, called the Prophet’s Pillar, still shines bright to this very day. He is most commonly referred to as the Champion of the Light and the Shining Prophet.
 Avinon Knights, also called the Harbinger Knights, are charged with guarding the faith against the corruption of Drear.
 In terms of heraldry, an estoile is a six-pointed star with wave-like rays. The Avinon Order uses a golden estoile, representing the Dayseer (the sun), as well as the Six Points of the Sacred Covenant, per the Inspiratum.
 The Golden Gate is represented by the sun, which is the portal through which all the souls of the departed must journey.
 Luminary Knights are the highest position of officers in the Luminary Legion and are considered the regulars among the rank and file of all Fahani knights.
 Cathedral Knights, also called Temple Knights, are charged with the defense of large churches and places or relics considered sacred in the eyes of the Church.
Read Snippet #1 here.
All fiction and snippets contained herein are © 2009-2010 J.M. Martin. Do not copy or distribute. All rights reserved.