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Authors: PL Nunn

Dockalfar

BOOK: Dockalfar
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Dockalfar

P L Nunn

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This story is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

Dockalfar Copyright © 2002 P L Nunn

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For more information please visit my website at http://www.bishonenworks.com

Smashwords Edition 1,
March 2010

 

Smashwords Edition, License
Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Published by P L Nunn
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Prologue

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The spriggan did not like the goblins.

They were malicious little suckling insects that hid behind Zakknr’s impressive bulk. Evil, hairless little beasts that enjoyed nothing so much as making another suffer. Not that Bashru did not have his moments of maliciousness – it was just that he did not like the attitude directed towards himself. Especially when Zakknr was likely to take offense if Lifroth or Swarn happened to have an untimely accident. Bashru did not like the situation at all that the master had put him in. Sending him off with the likes of Zakknr and his cronies, and the assassin of all creatures, on a task that the master had only hinted at the consequences of.

Bashru scratched the mammoth slab of flesh that served as his nose and glared under shaggy, curling brows at the pair of sniggering goblins.

Pests. Pests and assassins that he was thrown in company with. It was a dire day that he was set out on a mission with this motley group.

They rode through the forest on nighthorses, the ogre always leading the group as if he knew the way better than a spriggan might, who knew all the woods.

The two pests rose behind him, always whispering among themselves, casting furtive, evil glances back at Bashru.

Cooking up, no doubt, some way to get him into trouble with their fearsome protector.

Of the assassin they saw only glimpses. The occasional movement of shadow through the trees. Movement that Dusk most assuredly allowed them to observe, least they forget his lethal presence. No one saw a night sidhe in the dappled shadow. If there was a spot that light did not reach or a corner that threw a patch of shadow, then the dark assassin would make it his ally. Damned unnerving attribute, thought Bashru, who could make use of dark places right well himself, yet still felt his heart jump right onto his tongue when the assassin stepped out of nowhere, pretty as you please. Graceful and slim of limb like all sidhe, but deadlier than the most hideous troll.

Anyone who looked twice at a dark assassin and misjudged his worth, never got a third estimation.

Bashru scratched at a bothersome insect that had made a home in the tangle of hair behind his ear. Hundreds of others swarmed about him as he rode on the sleek-coated, red-eyed nighthorse, who unwillingly carried him down the Kazarum forest trail. Horses in general tended to shy away from spriggans and the like. Some inner sense warning them that spriggans especially liked horse meat.

This particular animal twitched its long, tufted ears, irritable at each grunting noise that issued from Bashru’s throat. It kicked its razor sharp hooves at the yielding earth in defiance of its rider’s every move and took all available chances to wipe the lump of flesh that smelled considerably worse than it did, off on the gnarled trees of the wood they traveled through. Bashru, for his part, threatened to boil nighthorse flesh over low fires and use nighthorse hide for winter apparel at each infraction.

The animal cast many a baleful red glare back at its rider.

For two appearances of the moon they rode through the sparsely wooded foothills of the Desney mountains before they entered the thicker foliage of the forest Alkeri’na. The pixies swarmed around them like curious bugs, until the ogre roared at them to be off and the entire colorful swarm of the little creatures dispersed into the dense, primeval growth.

The pixies never left, though. They always harassed travelers with their chattering and their pestering. Tiny, colorful little bodies, devoid of sex, with translucent wings that put the most magnificent butterfly to shame. Pixies, if one could catch them, made good stew. But they were hard to trap and inevitably, swarms of the things harassed a body who ate one of their number. It almost made the meal not worth the trouble. But spriggans were known to go to great lengths for a proper meal.

Half way through the forest and the ogre turned their trail to the east, heading for the more malleable land of the Hallow Hills, Bashru’s own homeland.

They traveled close to the boarder of the forest for a fortnight’s ride until the rolling hills began to grow in magnitude and they found themselves at the beginning of the end of the world range. It was a range that was taller and less agreeable by far than the Desney mountains where Azeral held his court. Only trolls and dwarves lived in its inhospitable mazes of cold and rocky heights. Only the dwarves could claim some resemblance to civilization. The trolls, even a hearty spriggan, stayed far away from them.

But the living inhabitants of the end of the world were not what Azeral had sent the little company after. And Bashru’s always active mind could not stop imagining what use Azeral might have for what he did send them to fetch. He was dwelling on just that subject, shivering from the frost that literally floated throughout the air of the range’s rocky foothills, when the young troll appeared.

He knew it was young because it only stood half again as troll as the ogre and any mature troll would have topped Zakknr twice over. But it was wielding a club that was the length of Bashru’s body and snarling in what could only be prideful imitation of its no doubt fearsome papa. It came down over a rocky rise, kicking down a small avalanche of pebbles and small stones. It had visions of a well-stocked cook pot, no doubt. Bashru could tell a hungry look when he saw one.

Zakknr let out a roar and drew his might war ax, even as Bashru was struggling to back his frightened nighthorse away from the meaty apparition that was clambering down the slope.

There was enough snow to make the descent an ungainly one. Zakknr, being an ogre and not the brightest of beings, urged his mount forward and swung his gleaming ax at the troll. The blade thunked against the great club and when the troll yanked the wood back, the ax jerked out of Zakknr’s hand and came with it. Grinning a foul, yellow fanged grin, the troll spread both arms and made to descend on the surprised ogre.

And suddenly faltered, its small eyes widened in shock. It stumbled, looking about wildly. Bashru did as well, wondering what had caused the great lumbering thing to pause. Then his eye caught a shift in movement in the white and gray back ground of snow and rock.

The snow seemed to slip up and under the troll, then away, trailing a tiny trace of red. Bashru likely saw the assassin before the troll did in its last moments.

Cloak and skin and hair all white and gray, camouflaged so subtly that it was hard to track him even after one was aware that he was there. The telling trace of red was the smear of blood on the tip of his blade and that he quickly wiped off, kneeling in the snow, confident of his success even before the troll fell. The shadow assassin stepped off the slope, onto the darker ground of the path they were following. His coloring slowly shifted, brown like the earth about the legs and the lower part of his cloak, but his hair, whipping out from the crevice of his hood, still gleamed the creamy white of snow. Last night, Bashru remembered, it had been the midnight black of a starless sky. He shivered, eyeing the assassin warily as the ogre and his henchmen dismounted to pry the ax free of the club and search the body for anything of value.

Swarn took a necklace of teeth and placed it about his own scrawny neck with leering goblinish pleasure. Jealous, Lifroth glared at his companion for the remainder of the day.

They rode into the steeper paths of the true range. Bashru kept a sharp eye for troll signs. And despite all his efforts to keep tack of where the assassin roamed, he could not discern the dark sidhe from the landscape about them. Just as well, he supposed. Neither could any passing troll.

And within just a very few days they would reach the portal at the end of the world, accomplish their task and be on their way home to the more hospitable mountains of Desney.

No trolls lurked there. Only the incomprehensible machinations of the sidhe.

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Part One

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1944

The mortal world

He awoke with the sound of fifty caliber guns ringing in his ears. The buzz of Rolls Royce Merlin engines vibrating his body until his very blood echoed the trill of the P-51’s pulse. His hands were sweaty and cramped as if he had been holding the joystick for too long a ride.

Too long a ride in the cramped cockpit of the Mustang, over any number of God forsaken, nameless Pacific islands.

For a while, he lay twisted in sheets, staring at a ceiling that was featureless in the dark, trying to control the tempo of his breathing. He did not know exactly where he was. The base on Saipan, or Tinian?

Or the navy hospital on St. Matthias island? Other than the memory of the dream he could not hear the roar of aircraft engines, or the voices of marines, or the night-time insect serenade that lulled every man on base to sleep. There was something. A static, metallic beat and the whispered hint of a woman’s voice.

Alexander Morgan took a deep, calming breath, relaxing in the realization that he was home. That he was in a bed with clean white sheets and a thick mattress. That the only Japanese aircraft that he was likely to see were on the news bulletins before the matinee movie. It was just a dream. A nightmare. A reoccurring vision of his last active combat duty.

The battle of St. Matthias, March 1944, would live forever in his memory.

A victory for the American forces, a nightmare in the making for Alexander Morgan, flight lieutenant for the 52nd combat squadron out of the 7th AAF. He was home because of it. Home before his tour of duty was over, before the war was won. And he had floated in an ocean with the debris of his own aircraft for over twenty hours to achieve it. He would never, ever forget that twenty hours. The sound of guns overhead always reminding him of the turmoil that raged above. He had a medal to prove that he had been injured in the line of duty, but a piece of metal and a ribbon could not salve the terror. The voice drifting out of the darkness from outside the bedroom could.

He closed his eyes, forcing out the last remnants of the nightmare, then swung his legs over the side of the bed and felt for his robe. His shoulder was still stiff.

He worked it, grimacing. There was a nice scar there, where he had come down into the welcoming Pacific and scraped against a jagged piece of his own downed plane’s fuselage. He had been lucky against all odds, he had been later told, that the sharks had not come at the scent of all the blood he had leaked into the ocean.

He padded across the cool wooden floor, squinting his eyes in the tiny bit of light that wafted out from the living room.

It was a small apartment. One bedroom, one bath, a kitchen and a living room. It was not his, nor had he ever lived in it before being called to war.

It was Victoria’s. She had waited for him to come back to her, but she had not been idle the two years he had been gone.

BOOK: Dockalfar
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