The Vaelinel Trilogy Book 1
by Andi O’Connor
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Following her father’s murder, Irewen is betrayed and left for dead in the forests of Mistwood. Rescued by an elf, Irewen awakes an exile with no home, no country, and no people. But as the horrific memories of murder and betrayal return, she realizes the nightmare is only beginning.
The world of Vaelinel is failing–its fate bound to her in ways no one fully understands. A mysterious elven prophecy may provide her with some answers, but continuously hunted and fighting for her life, Irewen quickly learns that unearthing the truth will be more difficult than she ever imagined.
Can she accept the friendship of the Wood Elves, or will she stand alone against the terrifying evil now threatening to destroy the entire world?
If Laegon had been in a foul mood when he entered the meeting with Lord Brandir and the twelve members of the Elven Council, he was downright fractious when he left. After his discussion with his father the previous evening, he’d expected to shoulder a heavy part of the burden in the coming weeks and months. What the Council demanded, however, was impossible and, in his opinion, completely outrageous. Not only was he expected to design and oversee the making of new armour for Mistwood’s entire fighting force, including Guardians, war horses, and all warrior divisions, but he also needed to recruit enough elves to double the ranks of the foot soldiers.
What baffled him was that the Elven Council even took the idea seriously. There were simply not enough elves qualified to fight with any degree of success. He understood their desire to strengthen Mistwood’s forces, but they were simply asking too much. Realistically, he could supply them with a few dozen more foot soldiers at most, not hundreds. Nevertheless, they insisted, and he had no choice but to agree to the demand. He had no idea where he would find such a large number of recruits. He would have better luck trying to sprout hundreds of miniature elven warriors out of his ears.
Laegon sneered. Perhaps I should recruit those lazy fools in the Council. That would give us a dozen swordsmen right there.
Taking a sip of hot mint and lilenberry tea, he scowled while quickly pushing the idea from his mind. Even if he managed to convince them to join the ranks, they wouldn’t last five minutes in battle.
He shook his head dismissively and turned his attention back to the meeting. The Council’s first two ideas had been inane; the rest were utterly absurd.
Once he’d somehow miraculously completed those initial feats, he’d been ordered to oversee the recruits’ training as well as continuing to sharpen the skills of those already in service. On top of that, the Council, in their infinite wisdom, declared that if the Drulaack posed as great a threat as he seemed to think, all warriors, Protectors, and Guardians needed to remain in Mistwood. They would not hear of even a handful escorting Irewen to Lilendvelle. Not even Silevethiel.
He and his father argued with them for hours, suggesting that once Irewen was safely in the city, the warriors could return to Silverden. But none of the council members were even willing to come to a compromise. All twelve of them emphatically declared that Mistwood’s defense was of the utmost importance. No one could be spared for any reason. The decision was unanimous. Lord Brandir had no choice but to agree.
In one cycle of the moon, Irewen would set out for Lilendvelle on her own.
Laegon cursed. Of course, none of the Councilors were willing to give her the news. Stating that he knew her the best, they readily assigned the task to him. He had no idea how the hell he was even going to broach the subject with her. He’d had a difficult enough time that morning telling her he needed to remain behind. How could he possibly tell her the Council expected her to make the journey through Lündvelle completely alone, without even Silevethiel by her side?
His fury continued to escalate during the rest of the meeting while the Council assigned him various other tasks, which he did not care to think of at the moment, and he figured he did a decent job of keeping himself in check. But once Brandir insisted Irewen needed it, the one job the Council hadn’t wanted to give to Laegon, because they felt his emotions would hinder his ability, was Irewen’s training.
That was when he completely lost his temper.
Jumping up from his seat, he screamed and spouted more obscenities than he even realized he knew, watching with satisfaction as all twelve of the Councilors’ faces turned completely white. They’d never seen him in such an infuriated state. No one had. Not even him.
It was disrespectful and completely out of line for any elf, especially one who was both a Protector and a prince, but he simply didn’t care. He’d had enough of their doubting and idiotic ideas. He was the most skilled Protector in all of Mistwood as well as the most accurate bowman. There was no one better qualified to train Irewen. As far as he was concerned, the only way she would be instructed by anyone other than himself was if one of them stood up then and there and killed him on the spot.
He’d looked at each of the Councilors, challenging them with his penetrating gaze, waiting for them to object, but no one moved. They were all riveted to their chairs, staring at him in utter shock and fear. But the real reason they didn’t object was because they knew he spoke the truth. Not only was he the most skilled in battle, he was also the only one in Silverden who had ever fought the Drulaack. Halthed needed to remain at the watchtower, and Perendin was injured. There simply was no one else to train her. He wasn’t being arrogant. He was simply stating a fact. And even the members of the Elven Council, who apparently lacked an iota of common sense, were able to come to that realization.
Once he’d been satisfied they were not going to argue with his decision, he informed them that if anything happened to Irewen while she was on her own, he would kill all twelve of them himself. He then swiftly told them where he thought they could shove their idiotic and useless Council, included a number of choice and extremely creative phrases provided by Brégen, and stormed out of the hall, completely blocking his mind from everyone except his loyal Guardian.
He’d returned to his quarters, telling himself he needed a cup of tea to calm down. But in reality, he was simply using it as an excuse to delay the dreaded discussion with Irewen.
«Those bastards should know better,» he fumed.
Somehow, Brégen managed to sound even more enraged than him. «Aye, they should. But it is obvious they were raised by some unknown species with lesser intelligence than of a box of hair.»
Despite his ghastly mood, the Guardian’s words brought a smile to Laegon’s face. «Where do you come up with these comparisons?»
«It’s a gift.»
The prince grunted. «Useful.»
«You found it amusing. Did you not?»
«Aye. I certainly did.»
«Then do not argue with its usefulness. Some day you will find everyone begging to have such fine and admirable qualities as I display.»
«I very much doubt it.»
«What I want to know is how all twelve of them could be so utterly senseless,» Brégen continued, swiftly returning to the task at hand. «In all my years, the entire Elven Council has never unanimously agreed on anything.»
«Exactly,» Laegon agreed. «Why now? There must be a reason.»
«It was almost as if they want to fail.»
Laegon paused, recounting all of the words that’d been exchanged during the meeting, and realized that Brégen made quite a chilling point. Yet, something about his statement didn’t seem quite right. Then he remembered a rather scathing remark Erondelthen, the eldest member of the Council, had made during one of the arguments. «They do not want our people to fail. They want us to fail. Me in particular.»
«What drove you to that conclusion, my dear Protector?»
«Care to elaborate?»
«For reasons I cannot explain, he was extremely disrespectful towards me weeks before we left on our patrol. I did not think anything of it at the time, believing it to simply be the ramblings of a grumpy old elf who had lived for far too many years. But during the meeting, he said something I do not think he intended anyone to hear. While my father and I were arguing with a few other members of the Council about sending an escort with Irewen, Erondelthen muttered, ‘only a fool cannot control his Guardian.’
«It was irrelevant to the discussion. I dismissed it immediately, focusing on the meeting. But now, I believe whatever he is referring to is the cause of our problem. He is the eldest and longest running member on the Elven Council. He is also the most influential and selfish. If he feels strongly enough to oppose someone or something, especially if it will benefit him in any way, he would influence the other members of the Council in a heartbeat. He has never particularly liked anyone. And come to think of it, he has especially never liked you. I have always been surprised that he has never been voted off the Council, and more importantly, that he was even chosen to be on it in the first place, though I have my suspicions regarding such a miraculous feat.»
«Ah…» Laegon’s silence to the lion’s reply was deafening. «I may have an explanation.»
Sighing, the prince rolled his eyes. «Tell me.»
«A rather unfortunate incident occurred about three weeks before our scheduled patrol.»
«What did you do?» Laegon asked with vexation, wondering if this was what it would feel like to have a hopelessly unruly child who you knew couldn’t set foot out of the house without falling into some sort of trouble.
«I take it you are aware of Erondelthen’s rather new, but extremely incessant hobby of playing the five-course lute, though he is a musical ignoramus.»
«Of course,» Laegon answered curtly, his patience growing thin. «Get to the point.»
«One afternoon, accidentally on purpose, I may have put my front paw through his beloved instrument. Twice.»
«You did what?» Laegon didn’t know whether to laugh at the image of Erondelthen’s face when he saw the splintered wood and broken strings, relieved that for at least a time no one had to listen to his horrible music, or furious at Brégen for destroying the Head Councilor’s property.
«I can assure you it was done with the best intentions. I was merely concerned for the welfare of the community. If left unchallenged, all of Silverden would have slowly grown insane from prolonged exposure to such a barbaric form of torture. I would not even subject my worst enemy to such horrific sounds. Erondelthen could kill a man at thirty paces with that so called music.»
Unable to help himself, Laegon laughed hysterically. «Perhaps we should present him with another lute and position him in the front lines. Even possessed by an evil spirit, the Drulaack would run away screaming.»
«I would not even subject King Elthad himself to such horrific pain.»
«Good point. No one deserves that form of punishment.» Laegon paused, attempting to regain his focus. «So,» he finally continued, «we know the cause for his animosity towards both of us, namely you. And we know his reasoning for wanting to get his revenge for your despicable actions, though they were well justified. But what I do not understand is why he would choose to do it in this peculiar a manner and at such a crucial junction in our society’s history. His childish act of retaliation could lead to the downfall of all four elven races.»
«Aye, it is quite puzzling. He has nothing to gain. If we fail, so does he.»
«Indeed,» Laegon replied. «Unless…» The only reason he could think of why Erondelthen would even consider acting at such a critical time was if the failure of the elves affected him in a positive way. And even the thought of what that meant turned Laegon’s heart cold from fear.
«Exactly.» Brégen paused. «So, oh mighty Protector, what do you propose we do?»
«WE are going to do nothing. YOU are going to see if our suspicions prove true. And if they do, you are going to find a way to expose him and prevent him from doing any more damage.»
«Is that so?» the lion asked. «And do I have a choice in the matter?»
«Indeed you do. You can either do it willingly or unwillingly.»
«I see. And what will you be doing in the meantime other than dreaming of Irewen’s kisses?»
«While you are lounging about trying to find others to do your job,» Laegon retorted, «I will be doing everything in my power to make the Council’s desires come to life. Because if I don’t, no matter Erondelthen’s motives, Mistwood will fall.»
«So, I see you will not be doing anything critically important.»
Laegon smiled. «Not in the least, my friend. Not in the least.»
The Vaelinel Trilogy Book 2
The Vaelinel Trilogy continues with this absorbing sequel to Silevethiel!
Alone and hunted by the Drulaack, Irewen takes advantage of her only option for survival. Pushing her concerns aside, she lets the dead keep her.
But her refuge doesn’t last long. Driven out of their hosts by Laegon, a handful Drulaack have returned to the Spirit World. No longer having the protection of the dead, Irewen is forced to return to Vaelinel.
Finally reunited with her companions, the burdens placed on them are taking their toll. Thoughts of suicide and mistrust plague the company. Slowly unravelling, they must conquer their personal battles before standing against the evil threatening the land.
For the Corrupter thirsts for revenge. And he’ll stop at nothing to satisfy his hunger.
Irewen turned, searching the darkness. “Father? Where are you?”
Since first communicating with her father, she’d entered the Spirit World numerous times. Each encounter went smoother than the one before, but she still wasn’t comfortable being the only living person in the land of the dead. Regardless of whatever ability led her to this place, she didn’t belong.
“I’m here, Father.” Instinct told her to continue searching through the penetrating blackness, but experience told her otherwise. This wasn’t her world. She wouldn’t find him. He had to come to her.
A soft white light appeared before her, barely able to fight against the dark. “Irewen.” Her father stood only feet away. Shrouded in an eerie violet mist that seemed to flow through him, the Spirit World didn’t allow her to forget that he was a ghost. No matter how much she wanted him to be real – to be alive – he wasn’t.
They were standing so close all she had to do was reach out her arms and pull him toward her in an embrace. But she couldn’t. She’d tried touching him during a previous visit by running her fingers down his cheek, but her hand had passed through him. Touching nothing but air, the experience left her with a suffocating sense of emptiness and a lingering icy pain on her fingertips.
She’d never be able to touch her father again. The pressure of his warm lips against her forehead would never again greet her in the morning before they sat down to breakfast. His comforting hugs wouldn’t ever be there to help fight her growing loneliness. She couldn’t go to him when she needed to ask advice or when she simply wanted to talk. Not truly. Not while being in a world where they both belonged.
“It’s good to see you, Father.” Irewen said, being sure to keep the distance between them.
“Likewise, my daughter.”
She smiled, remembering when he’d first tried to speak to her in the Spirit World. The words wouldn’t come and he’d been forced to show her images in order to help her understand his message. Now, he spoke in death as effortlessly as he’d done in life.
“What do you wish to tell me, Father?” She didn’t waste any more time with niceties. Chatting in the Spirit World, even between father and daughter, wasn’t welcomed among the dead. He’d come to give her information. Nothing more.
“The Drulaack. There are six of them. They passed through Mistwood undetected, avoiding Silverden completely. The elves sent you to your death. You will not reach the border of Lündvelle.”
“No!” Irewen insisted even though she’d had that very thought only hours before. “There must be a way I can defeat them! I did before with the magic of the Sea Elves.”
“That magic is unpredictable and unreliable. Until you are taught how to use it properly, it is useless. It came to you before out of desperation. It may come again. It may not. You cannot depend on that to save you.”
“What can I do, Father? I’m alone. My Guardian was ordered to remain behind. None of the Elven Knights or Protectors were sent to escort me. Thanks to Laegon, I’ve had some training with weapons, but my skills aren’t great enough to defend myself against six Drulaack. Their speed alone would see me dead in a matter of minutes. I can’t outrun them—even with the remarkable speed of Lord Brandir’s horse Melldren who he was gracious enough to lend me for the journey.”
“You can stand your ground, Irewen, or you can flee. No matter how each choice is weighed, the outcome will be the same. They will both end in death.”
“I refuse to believe this is the end!” Irewen balled her hands into fists, channeling her mounting frustration into the fingernails digging into the soft flesh of her palms. “I refuse to believe my fight is meant to end even before it’s truly begun! Elthad cannot be left unchallenged, Papa! By his hands, the entire world of Vaelinel will be destroyed! There must be a way for me to finish what I started!”
Her chest heaved with each quick breath as she tried in vain to control her frustration. She could hardly believe the words had sprung from her lips. Hours earlier, she had given up on her convictions, surrendering to the death she knew awaited her. But hearing her father speak so candidly of her demise as if her existence had never mattered sparked an intrinsic determination to prove him wrong—to prove herself wrong.
Her father’s grey eyes, once vibrant and full of life stared at her from behind the mist, completely devoid of emotion. “There may be a way.”
She had to fight to control her excitement. “Tell me.”
“It is dangerous and will most likely still end in death.”
“That’s a risk I must take.”
“There is a place where the enemy cannot sense you. There is a place where Elthad’s bond cannot reach you. Walk in the shadows.”
“What does that mean?” she asked, irritated at her father’s answer and subsequent silence. “I don’t understand!”
A faint trace of a smile flitted across her father’s lips and disappeared before she could be sure it ever existed. “Let the dead keep you.”
She didn’t have time to react. Her father’s apparition faded into the darkness, once again assimilating with the one and the many.
She spun around, hoping to catch a glimpse of her father hovering somewhere else in the abyss. “Papa! Wait! Don’t leave me!”
Her cries were useless. He was gone. No explanation would come. He’d left her to figure the rest out on her own.
She sank to her knees, going over his words in her head. It seemed like absolute drivel. There wasn’t anywhere she could go where Elthad and his army wouldn’t be able to sense her. Walk in the shadows. Her father’s thin voice seemed to echo throughout the Spirit World. Let the dead keep you.
“No,” she whispered. “He couldn’t mean…” Her voice trailed off. The penetrating cold lessened, and a friendly warmth filtered into her body. A faint breeze floated about her, carrying the soft murmurs of the dead. She couldn’t make out any distinct words or phrases, but she somehow understood their message.
She studied the blackness, searching for the strange white light and violet mist. It wasn’t there. No one had come. She remained alone. But for the first time in all of her visits to the Spirit World, she didn’t feel like an outsider. The dead reached out to her. Caressing her, they welcomed her into their community. Tears filled the corners of her eyes.
Let the dead keep you.
The meaning of her father’s words was suddenly as clear as if he’d written it out for her and handed it to her in a sealed envelope. The dead were offering her safe passage through their world.
They were giving her their protection.
Yet, that didn’t feel quite right. Something else her father said tugged at the back of her mind. Then she felt it—the slight hint of hostility. It only came from a tiny, distant section of the many, but it was there all the same. Not everyone in the Spirit World felt she deserved their safekeeping, and rightly so. She was of the living. They owed her nothing.
If she accepted her father’s proposal, their hostility would fester and propagate. Asking for their aid would instigate war among the dead. And her life would be the price of victory.
The tears finally glided from her eyes, disappearing unnoticed into the blackness. If she said yes, she would bring war to a world she had no right to enter. If she said no, the Spirit World would remain untouched, but her death would allow the Drulaack to roam unchallenged and destroy the world of the living.
Hugging her arms to herself, she tried to control the growing sense of defeat. No matter how she analyzed the situation, all she saw was death. She didn’t want either option. But while one was certain, the other gave the people of Vaelinel a slight glimmer of hope.
“What choice do I have?” she whispered.
A Prophecy Fulfilled
The Vaelinel Trilogy Book 3
Regrouping after their escape from the Light Elves, Irewen and her companions fear the worst after black smoke plumes on the horizon. Allowing compassion to rule over reason, they ignore Finnwyn’s warning and return to Lilendvelle, hoping to help some of the survivors stranded in the city’s wake. Instead, they run into a trap.
Completely surrounded by an endless army of Drulaack, they fight for their lives, but their efforts aren’t enough. Irewen is captured and dragged into the heart of the Corrupter’s lair.
Having his prize, the others in the company are granted their freedom, but at a great cost: the one named in the prophecy who is meant to unite the elf forces and stand against the Corrupter is lost to the world – trapped beneath the Corrupter’s talons.
With the aid of his mother’s spirit, Brendell must now find a way to gather an alliance strong enough to march against the Corrupter and his army, but his time is running out. Each day that passes brings Irewen closer to death.
And the world closer to destruction.
Unexpected chills ravaged Greldir’s body. He stiffened, intently searching his study for the slightest sounds of disturbance.
Long minutes passed, his chills refusing to abate. The temperature in his room shot up. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead. After slowly closing his leather-bound journal, he placed his hands on the smoothly polished wooden desk and pushed himself up from his chair.
The moment he stood erect, a loud bang resounded through the room, followed by a cold rush of wind. The candlelight flickered and died, leaving him in total darkness, save for the sliver of moonlight filtering through a small gap between the curtains.
Greldir peered into the blackness. Everything fell still once again, causing his short breaths to echo like thunder in his ears. His heart pounded in his chest.
Something emerged behind him.
He held his breath, trying to discern who or what it might be, but his efforts were in vain. He’d never known a silence so intense. It called out to him, begging to be released from its own prison.
A baritone laughter filled the room. “You were always easy to scare.”
Greldir couldn’t force himself to turn around, even if doing so would have been beneficial. “Who are you?” he croaked, hardly recognizing his own voice.
“Oh, come now, you can’t have blocked me completely from your memory, although I’m impressed with how hard you’ve tried.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Do you not? Brother?”
“Kildür.” The name barely managed to escape Greldir’s lips.
“That was my name once. Now, I am the Corrupter.”
Greldir shuddered, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end when his brother’s presence leaned closer. “You’re dead.”
“I was. That much is true. But I am dead no longer.”
“That can’t be. I locked your corpse in a tomb thousands of years ago.”
“And now, the body of a Wood Elf rests in my place.”
“But…” Greldir continued to stare straight ahead into the darkness, afraid to move. Afraid to believe.
“I see you still don’t trust me. That was a problem I always had to deal with. No one ever trusted me. No one ever accepted me. No one ever loved me.” The bitterness rising in Kildür’s voice was startling. “Turn around and look at me, if it will put your mind to rest. Face your demon from the past.”
Slower than he thought possible, Greldir turned and gazed at the black figure silhouetted by the thin trickle of moonlight. Small yellow flames once again graced the candles placed about the room, finally revealing his brother’s face. Greldir’s breath caught in his throat. The harsh features of the elf he’d all but wiped from his memory stared back at him.
The overly pronounced nose, olive skin, full cheeks framed by thick black hair, and light brown eyes set beneath bushy black eyebrows were exactly as he remembered.
“Your scar is missing.” The words were out of Greldir’s mouth before he realized he’d spoken.
“Yes,” Kildür snapped, anger flashing in his eyes. “You gave me that scar, brother. I wasn’t about to keep a feature with such unhappy memories attached.”
Greldir’s eyes widened in shock. “I did no such thing!”
“Oh, but you did. You were jealous because our uncle gave me a toy boat for my birthday that he’d hand-carved himself. Once, I was shown the tiniest amount of love by someone, and you couldn’t handle it. You ripped the boat out of my hand, broke it in half, and sliced the ragged edge down my cheek. All the while, you laughed, mocking my darker features so unusual among the Light Elves. You proudly stated that you’d given me something which would match my natural ugliness.”
“You must be mistaken.” Greldir couldn’t mask his defensiveness as faint memories of that day began to trickle through his mind. “I never would have done something like that.”
“Of course you wouldn’t,” Kildür sneered. “You were perfect. Beyond any wrongdoing or fault. You were everything our parents wanted in a son. I was a mistake. An unfortunate accident they were cursed with for the remainder of their long, tedious years. No matter what I did, it was never good enough. Never right. Never deserving of their praise.
“You, on the other hand, could do no wrong in their eyes. Our parents gave you nothing but praise. You had no way of understanding the pain you caused me. You were told to believe that it was normal. That it was right.” Kildür’s expression darkened. “But regardless of what you were taught, you were cruel to me. Crueler than anyone else. And I never forgave you. And I never forgot.”
Greldir’s palms turned clammy, and he nervously wiped them on his trousers. “We were children,” he said. “Surely, you can’t still hold a grudge now, tens of thousands of years later. All siblings tease each other. Even my own sons continue to tease one another, and they’re both nearly five thousand years old.”
“No, my brother. The time for excuses is over. What you did to me was far more than playful teasing. It was abuse. It was torture. And I will have my revenge.”
Greldir couldn’t speak. The paralyzing fear consuming his body was unlike anything he’d ever experienced. The room felt like it had expanded to a hundred times its original size. He stood in the center, surrounded by a pack of furious Guardians hungry for his blood. They slowly closed in around him, snarling as they inched nearer. There was nowhere for him to hide. Nowhere to run. No way he’d succeed in a fight.
All he could do was cling to a feeble hope that what remained of Kildür would spare his life.
Kildür slowly leaned forward. His face hovered inches before Greldir’s. Shadows from the flickering candlelight danced about Kildür’s already menacing features. His lips curled back, revealing a devilish grin.
“Welcome to Hell, my brother.”
Andi O’Connor is a multi-award winning author of epic fantasy novels and short stories with a healthy dose of paranormal mixed in. She sits in front of her typewriter (yes, typewriter!) every day and loses herself in her worlds and characters in hopes that her readers will fall in love with them as well. When she’s not clacking away, you can find Andi dancing her butt off in the ballet studio. Rest assured, she’s not the next Natalia Osipova, but she has a mean collection of leotards and always finds an excuse to buy more.
She loves bats and dreams of turning her yard into a certified bat habitat. She has three dogs who constantly work hard to drive her insane, but their fluffy cuteness outweighs any insanity they can bring. Her husband ‘Honeybee’ is wonderfully supportive of her author life, and her son ‘P’ may or may not have claimed her typewriter as his own on several occasions. Deadpool is her spirit animal, and her motto is Embrace Your Crazy. We’re all unique and crazy in our own ways, and Andi hopes others will join her by being proud of their quirks and embracing their crazy!
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eBook set of the Dragonath series by Andi O’Connor