The BloodIn the dim past, the Blood had been a secluded race living on the island of Melka, off the coast of H’rhan. As the humans had spread west, the Blood – the name they had called themselves is lost now – had watched the migration with some trepidation, as the humans seemed to move on the winds of war. The Blood were a peaceful people – not because they couldn’t wage war but because they chose not to. They could have draped their island in Mist and remained invisible and apart from humankind but instead chose to greet the newcomers.
Soon our two races began to intermarry and breed, and a new race of Blood Singers arose. The new Blood Singers seemed less adept in their use of the Blood; sometimes their castings seemed to lose control and go awry, leading to results and consequences the caster had not intended. However, the lack of skill and strength meant they lived centuries longer then those who were wholly of the Blood, and none knew why. Of greater concern, though, were the ones who were stronger than those wholly of the Blood. Shorter lived, certainly, and that was widely considered to be good, for they were the Blood Singers who lusted after power and would stop at nothing to achieve it.
Over generations more and more half-breed Blood Singers were born and soon we began to outnumber those who were full-Blooded. Slowly the balance of power shifted. With more of the half-breed Blood Singers, there were more of the power-hungry short-lived Blood Singers. Soon we found the cause of their diminished lifespan; it was the constant use of their power that caused it. For the half-breeds to Sing the Blood, we had to unknowingly tap our life force for casting. Those who lusted for power Sang the Blood for power, using the Blood to force their will on others. The more they Sang, the easier it was to tap their life force, thus shortening their lives. Once they had become a strong Blood Singer, their lifespan was no longer then two years, even when they stopped Singing the Blood.
On the other hand, the Blood Singers who lived by the Code of the Blood lived for centuries. We would only Sing the Blood when needed, and for no other reason. Somehow, from not Singing the Blood, our life force was enhanced, prolonging our lives. But even then, there was a price; the consequence for living by the Code of the Blood was less ability and less control over our casting.
In the year of the Dragon, war came to the Blood Singers, a war that engulfed the world. Later it was known as “The War of the Blood” as Blood Singers waged war on each other and the nations of the world. Our Darker kin, though short lived, took control over nations and spawned more Blood Singers like themselves. The pureblooded Blood Singers could not match the power of the half-breeds, and they would not break the Code of the Blood that forbade them to Sing violence. Soon they were hunted to extinction.
Those of us half-breed Blood Singers who remained true to the Code were ignored. Our Darker Kin did not fear us. We posed no threat to them because we didn’t even have the fraction of the strength of the purebloods. So they ignored us while they hunted the purebloods. Soon the nations came to us in desperation; we were weak, but were we also their last hope.
Perhaps it was our human side that allowed us the break the Code of the Blood like our Darker Kin – perhaps it wasn’t – but like them we broke it. Soon we had their attention and something unexpected happened. We were becoming stronger, more skilled very quickly as we Sang the Blood more, and eventually we became stronger then our Darker kin.
But like them, we could not escape the price of greater power. However, unlike our Darker Kin our lives were counted in months, not years. Through our sacrifice the nations were able to defeat the “Dark Blood Singers” as they came to be known. But we had paid a high price; the war had lasted for one hundred and fifty years and those who once taught our children to Sing the Blood were long dead. Those who should have been students became the teacher. Much knowledge was lost.
Next year is the year of the Dragon, the six hundred fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the War of the Blood and the five hundredth since its end. In the air a fell wind blows, and we of the Blood have felt a forgotten evil rise once again.
Haran and Analise
It is year of the Wolf, in the seventh century of the third Millennium. The world has been at peace for over two hundred years since the Covenant War that formed the Council of Kings, the Portents be thanked. All the Nations have co-existed, largely without turmoil, and the people have prospered.
It was in the last Council of Kings, when Barak the Brave was chosen as OverLord of the Council and, as such, has served ably these last seven years. King Barak rules Corallain from his capital of Karesh, and is considered a wise and noble Lord who is a friend to all. Beloved of his people, and widowed, he devotes himself not only to his beloved country but to his only child, a daughter, Analise.
Foremost among the king’s advisors is the Blood Singer, Haran. Of the Blood to the Seventh Degree and an Elder in the Circle, Haran has served his king since appearing in Karesh twelve years ago, even as his predecessor lay dying. Haran is now 460 years old, and in his prime. Tall and spare of frame, with the silvery eyes of his race, he delivers his wisdom to the King in a soft voice. He sparingly Sings the Blood for King Barak – Seeing what is permitted of the Maze, Soothing the Waters and Stirring the Fire so that he might help guide Corallain and keep the peace.
Sparingly because, as with most of the Blood since it was diluted with the blood of humans, Singing can shorten the life of the Singer if he or she inadvertently taps the life force. It isn’t that Haran is afraid to die, the Code of the Blood that he lives by only allows Singing of the Blood as a necessity. Besides the Code, however, he would be loath to lose the treasure he found in Karesh. For while Haran had been prepared to honor and respect King Barak, he had not expected to surrender his heart to the child Analise, but a man cannot control his heart.
Graced with raven-black hair and eyes of smoky blue, the princess has grown into a young woman of breathtaking beauty. The servant boys in the palace could not help but notice the beauty walked amongst them, even wily old guards would neglect their duties when she passed. The beauty also came with more spirit than considered seemly by the stream of governesses who had matched wits with the girl. Preferring the palace stables and mews – much to the delight of the young men who worked there – to a stuffy classroom, Analise had seemed destined to be a Royal illiterate until Haran came along.
Early in his tenure, he had listened carefully when the governess of the moment – a sour-faced woman whose ample bosom heaved indignantly – recounted the failings of the princess to her employer. Haran’s solution had been simple: teach the girl in the surroundings she preferred. The governess’ mouth all but disappeared, so tightly did she compress her lips in disdain over the suggestion. The king, on the other hand, turned to his new advisor. It’s never been done said the exasperated father. The Blood Singer shrugged. Does it matter, my king, where she learns to read, as long as she learns? The governess immediately disavowed herself of the entire unnatural proceedings, and Haran found himself spending a part of each day teaching the princess Analise. In the stall of King Barak’s warhorse, Paladin… amidst the feathers and droppings of the Royal Mews… in the Great Kitchen, watched by the cooks and wide-eyed serving girls… from the back of a horse in a meadow or in a tiny skiff bobbing along the River Gar…
Through this unorthodox approach, Analise discovered the joy of learning. And Haran learned unexpected joy…
It is the duty of royal princesses to marry. It is the lot of many of those princesses to have the decision of who they shall marry taken away, even by loving fathers and faithful advisors. Being an only daughter of a King, Analise never had the option to marry who she chose, only the one chosen for her. At the suggestion of General Cerwin Valga, the commander of Corallain’s national defense, a candidate is presented to the king and council for consideration: one Tomas Kasvinn, Lord of Corman. By General Valga’s accounts, Lord Kasvinn had served bravely during the Raider War in the Fire Mountains.
Lord Kasvinn was a man who Analise had met only once, when she was fourteen, but even at that age she had decidedly disliked him and considered him pompous and a liar. She scoffed openly as Lord Kasvinn presented his affections in a series of flowery letters to the princess and invited her to survey his estates in Corman, in the shadow of Cal’hazaran in the Fire Mountains. At the urging of General Valga, King Barak agrees and within weeks, accompanied by an entourage hand-picked by the General himself and resigned to her fate, Analise sets out on her journey…
But treachery lurks in the shadows…
Unbeknownst to everyone a trusted advisor dreams of righting what he considers an ancient wrong while plotting against the man who had trusted him most. General Valga is not the trusted advisor that all believe him to be. Even Haran fails to See the danger in the Maze, and the Fire in Valga’s heart is closed to him. For Valga is also one of the Blood – albeit to a lesser Degree then Haran – but unlike Haran, Valga is sworn to the Dark. He had lusted after the Power as a youth and, having found himself able to Sing, saw it as a way to achieve all of his dark ambitions and desires. On the day of Analise’s departure, he was hard-pressednot to lick his lips in anticipation as he watched the caravan with the princess disappear from view.
Satisfied that all was going according to plan, he practiced the patience that had seen him rise to his position in the kingdom, and counted the days until this most important pawn was within the grasp of his co-conspirator, Lord Kasvinn. On the eleventh day, when he calculates the journey to be near its end, he strikes. Taken by surprise all of the Guardsmen loyal to King Barak are killed in a swift, brutal battle within the palace walls.
His victorious army then sweeps out into the city of Karesh, rounding up the citizens and herding them to the Great Square where they join the courtiers who had survived the coup. Valga displays the wounded, vanquished King Barak to all assembled and announces that heis now the undisputed ruler of Corallain. When he invites any who would disagree to step forward and state their case, no one volunteers and Valga knows the prize is at hand…
Not even the disappearance of the Blood Singer concerns him overmuch.
Haran had departed the city earlier in the day, so much of his time now unclaimed with Analise gone. Taking a small boat, the Singer drifts along the river as he and his student had done so often over the years. His thoughts begin to wander, Seeking along the Winds. Suddenly, he sits up in the boat, fixed by a Foreboding! So strong is the feeling and the certainty that it centers around the princess that he goes so far as to Sing a Seeing of the Maze, hoping to ease his fears. But the vision is murky. He sees her riding fearlessly into a ring of Gold and Fire, a sword hovering over her head. What is unclear is if the sword is poised to strike her or shield her from another.
Shaking his head to dispel the image, he takes the paddle and turns the tiny boat back toward the palace landing, intent on warning the king. Only a mile from the landing, however, he sees something that turns his heart to stone. Floating in the slow current is the body of a palace guard. With the paddle, Haran gingerly turns the corpse over and sees a young man he had known, Lewis Coldwell, who had loved his king and country more then life itself. He sees the vicious wounds that had robbed the young man of life. Close fighting, hand to hand.
The Singer lifts his head, silvery eyes fixed on the distant bulwark. He sees the battle and, instantly, all the vague worries that had plagued him in recent months fall into place. Valga has betrayed them all – King and country! And Analise is to be sacrificed on the altar of the General’s ambition!
Haran brings the skiff to shore. All around the palace, soldiers – Valga’s army – is sweeping through the streets like a plague, rounding up the populace and herding them toward the Great Square. Casting himself in Mist, he follows them unseen. There he hears the dread news, sees an unconscious – or dead – King Barak dragged away between two of Valga’s elite Guard. For a moment he considers chancing a foray into the palace, to see if his liege is indeed beyond life, but he knows what the king would say. My daughter, old friend, she is what is important now. See to her safety above all else. Haran bows his head, acknowledging the unspoken command. I will, my liege. Even now, there is a safeguard in place. If he can be warned in time. Feeling the drain from the day’s exertions but with a renewed sense of urgency, the Blood Singer slips away from the Square, to find a place of solitude where he can send word to the one charged with Analise’s security. Then, and only then, will Haran rest.