Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Fantasy  ➡  General

The Fate Healer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FATE HEALER

 

by Noel Coughlan

 

THE FATE HEALER

Copyright © 2016 Noel Coughlan

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover by The Cover Collection (http://www.thecovercollection.com/)

Edited by Finish The Story (http://www.finish-the-story.com/Editing.htm)

Additional Proofreading by Proofed to Perfection (http://www.proofedtoperfection.com/)

Published by Photocosmological Press (http://photocosm.org/)

Epub Edition: ISBN:978-1-910206-10-2

Build: A2

I

 

In frustration, Draston slapped the moldy tome shut, catching his long, wiry beard. With a snarl, he tugged it free. His research had reached another dead end. It might lead to his own dead end very soon. It wasn’t easy being an ambitious tyrant’s personal genealogist. Hamvok’s self-proclaimed epithet was “the Merciful,” but he had either chosen it ironically or he didn’t know what the word meant.

The door of Draston’s study swung open, and the self-made King of Hamvoksland swaggered inside, red-faced, his lips pressed together into an uncompromising line. He leaned over the table and glared. “So, Draston, have you made any progress?”

Draston couldn’t think. “Eh, eh, eh.”

Hamvok slammed the desk with his fists. “So, you have failed me again.”

Draston pressed a tremulous hand to his forehead. “Perhaps the kings of Kalidoon—”

Hamvok’s lower lip pushed upward as he shook his head. “You tried to link me to them six months ago and failed, as you failed with the great earls of Freeg, the high lords of Pharmus, the princes of Melior, and a dozen other noble lines.” He pounded his chest with his fist. “I am obviously of royal blood. Otherwise, how could I be such a natural leader of men? How could I win victory after victory against my less noble rivals?”

Draston nodded with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Please, don’t pull me up by the beard this time.

Hamvok’s bobbing head mocked him. “And yet, you have failed to associate me with the pettiest of noble bloodlines!” he roared. “Something that even the poorest apprentice in your profession could do in an afternoon!”

Draston’s gulp hurt his dry throat. Hamvok’s recorded ancestors were all pig farmers. They had never strayed from their mountain village. Nobility had never sneezed on them, much less married into them.

Draston raised his trembling palms in a placatory gesture. “I have another lead, a strong one. I didn’t want to bring it up because…” Why? Why? Why? Damn it. It was so hard to think beneath Hamvok’s brutal gaze. “I wanted to complete some preliminary research first before I mentioned it to you.”

Hamvok’s scowl deepened.

“But the evidence I’ve found so far,” Draston hastened to add, “while circumstantial, is extremely positive.”

“What house is it this time?” Hamvok grunted, rolling his eyes.

Draston’s mind blanked. His genealogical lore evaporated in an instant. Sampton, God of Wisdom, save me from this monster.

Draston raised a finger. “Something far better than nobility. Descent from a god.” He smiled in triumph.

Hamvok frowned and rubbed his belligerent jowls. “Which god?”

“Sampton,” Draston said. God of Wisdom, forgive me.

“Hmm. When will you have conclusive proof?” Hamvok asked.

“I should have it in a few days,” Draston said, haphazardly rearranging the scrolls piled on his desk.

Hamvok’s mouth split into a threatening grin, his eyes sparkled with rapacious delight. “Take a month.”

Draston took a deep breath as Hamvok lumbered toward the door.

The tyrant paused and looked back over his shoulder at him. The smile had vanished. “This is your last chance. You’ll not get another. Don’t disappoint me.”

“I won’t, I won’t,” Draston promised.

With a grunt, Hamvok stomped out the door, leaving it ajar. As his plodding steps down the stairs faded into the distance, Draston took a deep breath. He swept a little space on his desk and repeatedly banged his head against the bare wood. What had he done?

II

 

Draston banished all visitors from his study for the next month. He never left the chamber, either. His impudent apprentice, Ericarl, delivered his meals and emptied his chamber pot without ever entering. Draston was terrified someone might snoop around while he wasn’t there. Nobody must have any inkling of his experiments in forgery. He had always been an honest man and a conscientious scholar, but now truth had failed him. He could only save himself by turning a lie into incontestable fact.

In retrospect, he should have manufactured Hamvok’s aristocratic lineage long ago and avoided this greater sacrilege, but he no longer had the option. Dazzled by the prospect of divine ancestry, Hamvok wouldn’t be satisfied with kinship to some obscure family of minor nobility.

Forgery wasn’t a simple business. Hamvok might want more than anything to believe Sampton was his forbear, but even he would not accept obviously falsified documents. And the evidence had to convince not just laymen but also the learned genealogists serving Hamvok’s rivals and allies.

In matters such as this, less was better. A single stroke of the quill was harder to challenge than a fabricated document. After a great deal of painstaking research, Draston found exactly what he needed. The name of one of Hamvok’s male ancestors, Vilorn, could be transformed by two simple strokes into the hero Valarn, popularly remembered as the Cantankerous, a descendant of the god Sampton. Fortunately, Valarn the Cantankerous had mysteriously vanished, presumably murdered by one of his many enemies, while nothing was recorded about Vilorn other than his name. It was conceivable that Valarn had secretly taken refuge from his foes in Hamvok’s ancestral village. For the dates to work, Valarn had to be siring children in his nineties, but descent from a god made anything possible.

Two strokes—their combined length less than the width of the nail on Draston’s little finger—were all that separated him from salvation. And yet, it remained a terrible distance. Those two strokes would be the most important that he ever made. They had to perfectly harmonize with the dry ink already on the page.

He had tested dozens of recipes to find a match. After two weeks of experimentation, he found a blend indistinguishable from the original ink. He had practiced the two strokes over and over. They had to be perfect. A slip, a wobble of his hand, would damn him.

The time had come. He could delay no longer. He cleared his desk of everything except his quill and inkwell, a candle, and the dreaded record. He couldn’t afford the slightest distraction.

He cupped his hands around the candle’s heat to warm away the stiffness from his chilblained fingers. He lifted the quill and carefully removed the excess ink. He held his breath as he made the first stroke. He studied it. It looked all right. He drew the second line. It, too, was perfect. He returned his quill to its well and vented his stale breath.

He paced to and fro while the ink dried. Terrified of smudging the lines, he waited for longer than should have been necessary. He gently picked up the book and brought it over to the window. Sunlight provided a more damning test than any candle. He had kept the window shuttered, afraid that somehow someone might witness his criminal endeavors through the thick, knobbly glass. Draston angled the page so the wedge of light passing between the shutters fell across the modified lettering. Oh no! The new strokes were slightly darker than the original letters. The difference, though subtle, would be enough for a keen eye to detect.

Sampton, save me! What am I going to do?

Perhaps if he left the page in the sun for a while the new ink might fade a little. He opened the shutters, plonked the book on the table beneath the window, and resumed his pacing.

After the bells announced evening, he examined the book again. The new ink had faded to the point that it was indiscernible from the original.

He clapped his hands together. “Thank you, Sampton!”

To make absolutely sure, Draston rubbed a little dust onto the page. He sat back and examined his handiwork anew. Those two lines looked as though they had been on the page since the first day a quill touched it.

He closed the book and hugged it. He must show it to Hamvok immediately. He raced out of his chamber, down the spiral stairs to the king’s private quarters. Hamvok often supped there alone when he had no occasion for a banquet.

As Draston entered, the welcoming smell of cooked food made his mouth water. The dining table was festooned with pies, breads, roasted fowl, and hocks of ham, but the seats were empty.

Draston turned to the servants patiently waiting beside the table. “Where is—?”

The double doors swung open, and Hamvok, encased up to his neck in gore-splattered armor, clanked inside. The leather sack in his hand held something round, like a ball. Grinning maniacally, he flung it to one of the servants.

“Put that head on the highest spike on the battlements!” he bellowed. He waved at the food-laden table. “And you can forget that snack. We’re going to have a proper feast in the great hall. Now, prepare a bath for me. I can’t attend the celebration smelling of other men’s putrefying innards.”

As the servants scattered, he turned to Draston and sneered. “I hope you have good news for me.”

Draston nodded. “I have conclusive proof that you are descended from Varlarn the Cantankerous, a great-great-grandson of the god Sampton.”

“Splendid!” Hamvok roared.

Draston shuddered as the tyrant’s gauntleted hands, like terrible metal claws, grasped his forearms.

“My illustrious pedigree is finally put beyond doubt on the same day the last high earl of Freeg”—Hamvok’s eyes twinkled mischievously—“is in the bag.” His chuckle expanded into a guffaw.

Draston emitted a frightened squeak of laughter.

Hamvok’s grip tightened. “You’ll be properly rewarded for your hard work. I knew you could do it…with the right encouragement.” He withdrew his claws, looking unusually thoughtful for a moment. “Get down on your knees.”

With some reluctance, Draston obeyed. Oh, Sampton, save me. What is he going to do?

Draston shivered as Hamvok drew his sword.

He knows I doctored the records. He is going to kill me to ensure my silence.

Draston squeezed his eyes shut. Something flat tapped one shoulder and then the other.

“Arise, Lord Draston, Earl of Freeg,” Hamvok said.

Draston opened his eyes and looked up at the tyrant’s ferocious grin.

Hamvok directed a menacing finger at him. “You’re only getting the title, not the lands. And remember, you are an earl, not a high earl. Don’t make me regret my generosity.” He stretched. “Now, get out of my sight.”

Draston didn’t have to be told twice.

III

 

Draston stretched and yawned. His new cushioned chair was so comfortable.

“Do you want any more raspberry tea, master?” Ericarl asked.

Draston shook his head. He closed the book on his desk. “I’m not really thirsty.” He licked his lips. Something tasty might be nice. “Have we any sweetmeats left?”

“They’re all gone,” Ericarl said apologetically. “I’ll run over to the kitchen and get some more.”

“There’s really no need,” Draston said, leaning back in his chair and spreading his arms in a leisurely stretch.

Ericarl shook his head. “It’s no problem at all. I need the walk. Any preference?”

“Some pynade would be nice.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Ericarl said as he rushed out the door.

Draston admired his plush new quarters. It was so nice and warm. He didn’t have to wear two coats the whole time. It had belonged to Jarik, the astrologer, but Hamvok had ordered the stargazer to move into Draston’s old, draughty chamber in the tower “so that he might be nearer the stars.”

The weeks following the discovery of Hamvok’s divine ancestry were the happiest that Draston could remember. He no longer faced the threat of imminent execution. Because Hamvok obviously favored him, everyone, including young Ericarl, treated Draston with the utmost respect, even fear. He slept blissfully every night, now that it was less likely to be his last.

Someone knocked on the door. It must be Ericarl. The boy’s deference had begun to get irksome.

The door swung open. “May I come in, Lord Draston?” Without waiting for an answer, Hamvok stomped inside, slouched and frowning gloomily.

Draston lifted off his chair. “Of course, sire,” he squeaked.

Hamvok collapsed into Draston’s vacated seat and rubbed his hands together. “Something terrible has happened. Or rather, several terrible things have happened this morning. A rock dropped from the sky and smashed my statue in the city square. The tapestry honoring my first victory mysteriously ripped in two. My three sons are afflicted by different diseases at the same time. My horse has gone blind. My best hound was eaten by his brethren. My favorite mistress”—he blushed—“can find no joy.”

Draston looked at the window. Acknowledging a tyrant’s embarrassment was dangerous. “How is your wife?”

Hamvok snorted. “All right, I suppose? Of course, she would be.”

For once, Hamvok wasn’t the focus of Draston’s fear. Divine retribution was far more terrifying than any horror that the tyrant might mete out. Draston had caused this catalog of misfortunes by sinning against Sampton. Soon, the God of Wisdom would punish Draston for his misdeeds.

Wait. Why had Hamvok come here? Had he guessed the truth?

“Why are you trembling?” Hamvok demanded. “You’ve no need to fear me. I like to think we’re friends.”

Draston nodded so enthusiastically his neck hurt. “Of course I’m your friend.” Well, as close to a friend as I could be with a homicidal maniac.

“Lord Draston, you are the most learned man in my court. You must go see the Fate Healer on my behalf.”

Draston’s head spun. He gripped the table to prevent himself from falling.

“Are you all right?” Hamvok asked, leaning forward in the seat.

“I’m fine,” Draston said, pressing his hand to his forehead. “I just felt a little faint.”

The Fate Healer was renowned as the wisest oracle in the world. They said she could see into a man’s soul like it was glass, and Draston couldn’t afford for her to glimpse his. If she knew his crime…

“Perhaps Jarik could go,” Draston suggested.

Hamvok shook his head. “No, you are wiser than him. Especially now that I had him beheaded.”

“What?” Draston squealed.

Ericarl sauntered into the room, a pouch of sweetmeats swinging in his hand. His eyes widened upon seeing Hamvok ensconced in Draston’s chair. His mouth wobbled with indecision before he swung around and crept back out the door.

Hamvok winced. “Jarik claimed that these calamities were written in the heavens and nothing could be done.” He wagged a finger. “I told his severed head those born of gods are not ruled by stars and planets.” He shrugged. “I was, perhaps, a little impetuous.”

Draston squeaked. Words were beyond him. He had to get away. The journey to the Fate Healer might provide an opportunity to escape.

Hamvok grinned. “No need to worry. I’ve arranged for a hundred of my best warriors to accompany you to her temple. They’ll make sure you arrive there safe and sound.”

“Great,” Draston said, incapable of mustering even a false smile.

Hamvok rose to his feet and headed for the door. “Good-bye, Lord Draston. I know you won’t let me down.”

As soon as the doors clicked shut, Draston vomited.

IV

 

Draston’s reluctant tramp faltered. He looked about helplessly. Behind him, his hundred-strong escort watched from a safe distance. Ahead, perched upon a low hill, the Fate Healer’s temple, an enormous sphere of clear crystal, glinted in the sun. Nothing lay in between except flat, rusty scrubland and the howling wind. Draston had nowhere to hide. If he tried to flee, his so-called protectors would no doubt kill him. He trudged onward.

On reaching the hill, he climbed the gentle incline to the temple. He circled the sphere, looking in vain for an entrance. He stared at it in frustration. Great. He couldn’t go back to Hamvok empty-handed with such a lame excuse. Perhaps if he knocked…

His arm passed through the apparently solid surface, followed by the rest of him. It was as if the temple itself had suddenly pulled him within—not a pleasant thought. The size of the sphere was dizzying. The sun refracted on the great dome above him like a huge condemning eye. In the distance stood an attractive female figure clad in a slender, white dress. Her rainbow-colored hair hung down to her knees. Jewelry gleamed from her face and hands. She was far too young to be the Fate Healer. She must be the oracle’s servant.

“Come to me, Draston the Wise.” The thunderous voice echoed through the chamber.

Draston hesitated, then obeyed. What else could he do?

As he neared the woman, it became clear his initial impressions were false. Her posture might have been youthful, but her face was haggard and ancient. Worse, far worse, were her terrible mutilations. Beneath her hooded eyelids, crystal gems resided in empty sockets. Her earlobes were not adorned with gold but made from it. Her nasal passages gleamed—they, too, must be covered in gold. And the gloves were not gloves at all. The gold skin on her hands fused seamlessly with the flesh of her wrists.

The woman’s ugly grin assaulted him. Her mouth split open to reveal pointed gold teeth. “Flesh corrupts perception. These gems see the world clearer than any carnal eye. These ears hear better than any organic ear. This nose smells”—her nose whistled softly as she inhaled—“the truth.”

Draston nervously patted his forehead with a handkerchief. This place was like an oven. “Are you the Fate Healer?”

“Others call me that,” she said. “I have no name. I have no need for one in the service of Fate.”

She gently stroked her chin with the backs of her fingers. “I smell fear. You are afraid, but another man’s fear also clings to you. Hamvok, descendant of a thousand pig farmers, was too frightened to come here, so he sent you in his stead.”

That made sense. Who wouldn’t be afraid of this monster?

She sneered. “He isn’t afraid of me. It is Fate he fears. He likes to believe that his will can shape it. He is afraid he might learn otherwise.”

Did she know what Draston was thinking? Could she read minds?

“I hear thoughts,” she said. Raising one hand, she spread its fingers. “And feel emotions.”

Draston shivered.

She chuckled. “You are responsible for Hamvok’s recent woes, but not for the reason you think. Sampton is not upset with you. On the contrary, he is delighted that you have associated him with Hamvok the Merciful. Your king might be a boor, but he is already renowned as a brilliant general. Soon his exploits will make him a legend. The gods are vain and covet affiliations with such men like a mortal might desire precious baubles. But the other members of the Supreme Pantheon are jealous. The only way to placate them is to prove that your ruler is also their descendant.”

Draston pressed his hands to his cheeks. “But there are twenty-seven gods in the Supreme Pantheon—”

The Fate Healer shrugged. “Sampton is done already, so that leaves only twenty-six.” She smiled slyly.

Draston shook his head. “Do you know how hard it was to manufacture the evidence in Sampton’s case?”

“Two strokes,” the Fate Healer replied.

Draston’s indignation overcame his terror. “And a lot of painstaking research.”

Her crystal eyes narrowed to slits. “Well, whatever the effort required, you must do it, or Hamvok the Merciful won’t be alone in suffering the gods’ wrath.”

“What do I say to Hamvok?” Draston asked.

“You tell him there is a price for seeking my wisdom, and when I visit him, he must pay it. You must decide for yourself what else to say. Now, be gone.” She dismissed him with a wave of her hand, and suddenly, ground and sky rotated about him. He was outside the temple, rolling down the slope.

V

 

Draston rubbed his bleary eyes in a fruitless effort to dispel the ache behind them. He was wrecked from sleepless nights, concentration, and stress. He must have aged ten years in the last month. He glanced around his old chamber, now devoted to his terrible mission. His more opulent quarters had been temporarily left to Ericarl.

Remembering the two strokes he had made to turn Hamvok into a descendant of Sampton, Draston laughed. Nearly every volume on the shelves or in tottering stacks on the floor had been amended in some way. A few documents had been fabricated from scratch and left on the table by the window to age artificially.

He had certainly learned a lot about inks, vellum, parchment, and bookbinding—probably more than any scribe in Hamvok’s domain. One learned fast when the smallest slip could cost one’s life. A few errors must have crept into his copious alterations, but as he couldn’t find them, hopefully nobody else would notice.

Of course, he had made one big mistake. Early on in his research, he had kept Hamvok informed of his successes to assure the tyrant that he was making progress in lifting the gods’ curse. The rewards showered on Draston—the new titles and lands, even his hasty marriage to Hamvok’s only daughter Jevel—meant nothing when he realized too late that showing pages to the tyrant prevented him from doctoring them again. This forced Draston to find increasingly convoluted means to establish this or that god as one of Hamvok’s forebears.

Proof now existed that Hamvok descended from twenty-six gods. Only Hissimir, God of Malevolent Weather, remained. He would be difficult. Records of him siring children were sparse.

Draston stared at the page before him, trying to make sense of the blurry writing. Perhaps if he rested a little…

He laid his head on the desk, using his crossed arms as a pillow, and closed his eyes. His beard, curled against his shoulder, tickled his chin. He pulled it under his forearm and settled again.

He started. His strained imagination had woken him again. The candle had burned down almost to the holder, threads of wax fringing its edges like miniature frozen waterfalls. At least he had slept a good hour.

“Did you have nice sleep?”

The words jolted Draston. He picked the candle up off the desk and stretched it toward the shadowy figure standing by the window.

Ericarl leaned against the table, his arms crossed, a smirk on his pimply face.

“What are you doing here?” Draston demanded.

“I might ask you the same question”—Ericarl’s smile swelled into an ugly grin—“if I didn’t know the answer already. You see, I’ve been watching you, visiting your little record factory at night when you sleep. I know all about your fraud.” He uncrossed his arms and waved the vellum sheets in his hand. “I have even been collecting your mistakes.” He shook his head. “Very sloppy of you not to notice their disappearance.”

Draston’s hand gripped the edge of his desk. “What do you want? A fair share of Hamvok’s gifts, I suppose?”

Ericarl tossed back his head and laughed. “A fair share. What’s a fair share for the humiliation you have inflicted on me through the years? You could have invited me to join your little scheme. You could have treated me as the equal that I have become. Instead, you used me as a skivvy while you kept all your ill-gotten gains for yourself. I want it all, and I mean to have it, too, when I expose you as a fraud.”

Draston spluttered. What was the young fool thinking? “If you do that, I won’t be the only one losing his head. Hamvok won’t forgive the man who makes him a jumped-up pig farmer’s son again.”

Ericarl snorted. “Save your clever words for Hamvok. You must think me a fool—”

White light bleached the room. Ericarl screamed as he burst into flames. Draston reached for the stricken youth, but the heat proved too intense. He grabbed the book on the desk, catching his beard in it as he slammed it shut, and fled as fire swept through the room.

“Fire! Fire!” he roared, racing down the spiral staircase. Why did nobody answer? If he didn’t get water up there quickly, all his hard work would be lost.

 

VI

 

Draston stared up at the tower’s blackened window before laying his head in his hands again. Too weak to lift a full bucket of water, he had been forced to leave the fire to younger, stronger men.

“I am sorry for your loss,” he said to Hamvok. The tyrant’s two younger sons had risen from their sickbeds to help fight the conflagration, only to burn to death on the stairs.

Hamvok patted Draston’s shoulder. “It’s a blessing in disguise. Now, my eldest son, Gormranth, is my only heir, other than yourself.” He guffawed. “And you are one son-in-law who won’t challenge his claim to my throne when I die. When you complete your research, the gods will be appeased, and those unsightly boils covering Gormranth’s body will heal.”

Gormranth had always been Hamvok’s favorite. He was a younger, meaner version of his father. Draston shivered. How could he tell Hamvok that his research would never be completed now?

“A miracle!” a guard yelled as he ran toward them. “It’s a miracle!”

“What is?” Hamvok grunted. He straightened. “My sons aren’t alive, are they?”

The guard gulped and shook his head. “I’m afraid not, sire. Lord Draston’s books survived the blaze. The flames never touched them. This one lay on the charred remains of your desk.” He offered the tome to Draston.

Draston frowned. The only book that had been on the desk lay beside him. He took the volume. It was weighty. Precious gemstones adorned the unfamiliar cover. Draston cracked the book open and read the first line:

 

Herewith is recorded the tale of Shalma, mother of Falmvok, and the proof that the god Hissimir fathered her.

 

Falmvok was Hamvok’s great-great-grandfather. Draston flicked through the pages. It was a long, sprawling epic, no doubt eulogizing Hamvok’s ancestors. At the back were appendices—reports of eyewitnesses corroborating the book’s assertion. The pages looked genuinely ancient, even to Draston’s now well-trained eye.

A second guard raced over to Hamvok. “Sire, the Fate Healer is at the gate,” he panted. “She demands to see you.”

Hamvok sighed. “Show her in.”

Draston cringed. He had forgotten to mention to Hamvok that the Faith Healer would come for her due. This wasn’t likely to end well.

The Faith Healer swept toward them as if floating on air. Behind her on a tether, a fat pig trailed.

Hamvok, turning pale, dismissed the two guards with a grunt. “What do you want?” he snarled, his voice retaining its usual bravado.

“I have come for my payment,” she said. She glanced at the pig. “I met your son, Gormranth, at the gates.” Sunlight flashed on her gold teeth as she smiled.

Hamvok drew his sword and waved it at her. “Release him from whatever spell you have cast on him, now, or—”

The Fate Healer threw back her head and opened her mouth, but thunder spilled out instead of laughter. Hamvok’s sword wobbled.

“Long ago, the prayer of a childless pig farmer was answered,” she said. “A piglet was transformed into a child. Now, a man must become a pig to balance that act of generosity.”

The pig grunted.

Draston’s eyes rounded at the implication of her words. Surely, what she said couldn’t be true.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Hamvok demanded, puffing out his chest.

The Fate Healer grinned. “Be glad that your son-in-law has proved beyond all doubt that your mother wasn’t a sow.”

Draston quailed before Hamvok’s savage gaze as the tyrant pointed his sword at him.

“Bah!” Hamvok roared, throwing his sword down. “What’s the point? If you weren’t my heir, it would be some other clown. You can still father children at your age, can’t you?”

Draston nodded as if his life depended on his answer. Because it most certainly did.

“You had better give me a grandson to succeed me,” Hamvok growled. “At your age, even if I die tomorrow, you won’t last too long after me.”

“True,” Draston squealed. Thank Sampton, his hair had prematurely turned gray. If Hamvok realized that his genealogist was only thirty-five years old…

Hamvok pounded Draston’s shoulder. “You’ve not let me down yet, I suppose,” he said cheerfully. “And we are friends after all. I wonder what epithet you might take if you were king. Draston the Wise, perhaps.”

The Fate Healer had used the same phrase at her temple. Did it mean—?

“Escort me out of the castle, Draston,” the Fate Healer said.

Draston nodded. “Of course.” Anything was better than staying with Hamvok.

They walked in silence until they had crossed the drawbridge.

“What will happen to Gormranth?” Draston asked.

The crystals in the Fate Healer’s eye sockets sparkled as she smiled. “What happens to any pig? I’m partial to bacon.”

A panicked grunt came from the pig.

“I’m only joking,” she assured it.

Draston glanced around to confirm that he could not be overheard. “And the new book. Where did it come from?”

“Hissimir created it while he dealt with the threat posed by your deceased apprentice,” the Fate Healer said. “He also fixed a few errors you made in other documents. Your additions are now as genuine as anything in creation.”

“Am I going to become king?” he asked.

“A token of the gods’ appreciation for all your endeavors,” she said.

“Thank the gods for me,” Draston said.

The Fate Healer emitted a tinkling laugh. “Thank them with your prayers,” she said. “I serve Fate, not them.”

“Then thank Fate,” Draston urged.

The Fate Healer grinned and shook her head. “But Fate doesn’t care.”

She and the pig disappeared, leaving Draston, the future king of Hamvoksland, alone.

A Word From The Author

 

 

I hope you enjoyed The Fate Healer. Please check out my other fantasy stories.

 

It would mean a lot to me if you left an honest review wherever you purchased it, and/or at Goodreads.

 

If you want to keep up with my future projects, join my email list at http://eepurl.com/OVUjf, follow me on Twitter (@noel_coughlan) or Facebook (Noel Coughlan – Writer), or check out my blog at http://photocosm.org/.

 

Feel free to email me at [email protected] to ask any questions or comments you have about this book.

 

Best wishes,

 

Noel

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

 

I want to thank the good people at Finish The Story for all their work—Bryan Thomas Schmidt (developmental and line editing), Claire Ashgrove (copy editing) and Alicia Dean (proofreading). I also want to thank Pamela Guerrieri-Cangioli from Proofed To Perfection for her additional proofreading. I also want to thank Mags Murphy for her comments.

 

 

 

About Noel Coughlan

 

I live with my wife and daughter in Ireland.

From a young age, I was always writing a book. Generally, the first page over and over. Sometimes, I even reached the second page before I had shredded the entire copy book.

In my teenage years, I wrote some poetry, some of which would make a Vogon blush.

When I was fourteen, I had a dream. It was of a world where the inhabitants believed that each hue of light was a separate god, and that matter was simply another form of light. Thus, the world of Elysion was born.

I tinkered with the idea for a couple of decades, putting together mythologies, histories, maps, etc., but world-building isn’t worth much without a gripping story. Finally, I discovered a tale so compelling I just had to write it—The Golden Rule Duology.

I also write other fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories.


The Fate Healer

A five thousand word short story where the quill proves to be more dangerous than any sword. The genealogist Draston is charged with the impossible. His master, Hamvok the Merciful, craves a royal ancestor or two to legitimize his tyranny. But every avenue of Draston’s research comes to a dead end. Nobility has never sneezed on Hamvok’s ancestors, much less married into them. And now Draston’s time has run out. To save himself from Hamvok’s violent displeasure, Draston promises to prove the tyrant is descended from a god. In doing so, he commits himself to a path of forgery and sacrilege. His enterprise will risk the wrath of gods. But, far worse, it will draw him to a shadowy figure more terrible than all the gods combined, the Fate Healer.

  • ISBN: 9781910206102
  • Author: Noel Coughlan
  • Published: 2016-08-02 16:35:09
  • Words: 5381
The Fate Healer The Fate Healer