Emerald: Good and Evil

The Stones of Power #5

by M.D. Grimm

Home. Family.

Those words often invoke a sense of love and comfort. But for the dark mage Morgorth, they mean hate and pain. As the seventh son of a seventh son, many believe Morgorth's destiny is to become the Destroyer. His father embraced such a future and trained Morgorth through torture and fear to become his weapon. Morgorth managed to escape his father's cruelty, but not the nightmares that still haunt him. For many years he's lived with the stain of his father's savagery, but now he must confront his nightmares head-on.

His father has found a stone of power.

Morgorth must return to his land of birth, to the memories he's tried his entire life to suppress. Aishe is determined to help Morgorth defeat his inner demons, but he knows he might not be enough to save Morgorth from embracing his darkness. They know it will be a fight to the death and that Morgorth won't be the same if he survives. With Aishe by his side, Morgorth hunts for his father, and finds answers to questions he never dared to ask—and must live with the truths they reveal.

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Excerpt:

Chapter One

Present time

 

Aishe

 

Something was bothering Morgorth. He’d seemed distracted for the past week. I struggled to let him brood and decide to talk to me voluntarily, but I feared I couldn’t keep silent much longer. He was fidgety and would disappear for long periods of time in the vastness of his castle home, Geheimnis, or into the dark realms of his forest, Vorgoroth. He made excuses, tried to wear a mask of contentment, but I knew him too well to be fooled. And it hurt a little that he would try to keep something from me. Hadn’t I proven time and time again he could trust me absolutely? But sometimes that was simply how he was—he had to mull something over before speaking of it. I still resented it.

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A small fireball shot past my right arm and brought me abruptly back to the present. The heat seared my tunic sleeve. I ducked and rolled before crouching behind a tree. I pressed my back against the trunk before nocking an arrow. I took a deep, calming breath. Then, in the space of a heartbeat, I jumped to my feet and swung around the tree, aimed, and shot. I expected Morgorth to dodge or to form a shield. He didn’t. The arrow punctured his bicep, jerking his body back, causing him to fall to his knees. He cried out with what I suspected to be more shock than pain. At least at first, then he started cursing in several different languages.

“Morgorth!” My heart in my throat, I ran to him, jumping over roots and ducking under the swinging branches of the playful trees. I fell to my knees beside him and grabbed his good arm.

“Why did you not dodge or block?” I scowled as my panic subsided to anger. “We shouldn’t be training if you’re not up to it.”

“Just heal me,” he said through gritted teeth. His glowing skin and eyes dimmed as his magick settled back into his core. I clenched my jaw and quickly snapped the arrowhead off before gripping the shaft and steadily pulling it from Morgorth’s arm. Morgorth was silent as I worked, his other hand balled into a fist and pressed against his thigh. After the initial shock of pain, it didn’t surprise me he went silent. He knew how to deal with pain; he’d had it inflicted upon him at too young an age.

A normal arrow wouldn’t have penetrated his magickally woven jacket. But he’d modified all my arrows with his own magick, and that meant the magick canceled itself out. His jacket became just fabric and my arrow simple stone.

Once the shaft was out, I pressed both hands to either end of the wound and called upon my own brand of magick: healing. Yellow light glowed as I used my own life energy to gently knit the muscles back together, then the skin sealed itself. It was a small wound and didn’t require much energy, which was good, since healers had to be careful when we heal, for fear of giving too much energy to a patient. It could kill us if we weren’t careful. The energy we gave to our patients enhanced and sped up their body’s own natural ability to heal wounds and cure illness. It wasn’t like the magick Morgorth wielded—that was far more powerful than my own. It was a greater difference than between a dull kitchen knife and a battle sword.

I let out a large breath as the yellow light dimmed. I removed my hands, wiping them on my leggings, slightly nauseated by the sight of his blood. I wasn’t squeamish, as I was a warrior who’d been in numerous battles and had taken lives, but to see Morgorth’s blood made me slightly ill. I rolled my shoulders and stared intently at Morgorth’s face. He looked at the ground, his body slowly relaxing.

While Vorogorth, the dark forest we were in, was full of life, both predator and prey, the only ones to witness this incident were the trees. When Morgorth flung magick around, creatures and beasts became suddenly scarce. Even the pack of wichtln, fierce hunters similar in form to wolves but much bigger and far more intelligent, disappeared when Morgorth and I trained together. They were hardy and strong and owed loyalty to Morgorth, yet they were wary of magick in general. Wise of them, in my opinion.

We were silent for a short moment before I spoke. “Don’t you think it’s time you told me what is bothering you?”

He lifted his head slightly but didn’t meet my eyes. “Aishe—”

“If you tell me nothing is wrong with you, I will stick that arrow back in.”

He snorted, met my eyes. “I’d like to see you try, dialen.” His smile relieved me. But then even that playful light was gone, and he just looked tired and strained.

“I was going to talk to you, Aishe. You must believe me.” I nodded. He sighed. “I just needed to think about it, and, well, wrap my head around it before I broached the subject.”

“I understand, Morgorth. I tried not to push, but this—” I gestured to his arm. “This is becoming dangerous. We both need all our concentration when we train, when you’re throwing magick at me. And should our roles have been reversed just now—”

“I will never harm you.” His voice was so calm, so matter of fact, and it rendered me silent for a moment. His eyes, a deep, rich brown, stared directly into my own, and I knew it to be nothing but the surest truth. He’d told me this before, numerous times, but it never failed to rattle me a little. His determination to protect me bordered on the obsessive, and while part of me celebrated and even triumphed over the knowledge such a mage was devoted to me, another part feared the lengths he would go to, to keep that promise.

But he was not the only one to feel such protectiveness. I would do everything within my meager power to keep him safe and by my side.

“I’m sorry I cannot say the same.” I gently touched his arm, rubbing the healed wound gently.

“That was my own fucking fault.” He shook his head, his face showing disgust at himself. “Look, I’ll tell you what’s been on my mind. But not here.”

I nodded and helped him to his feet. He wrapped his arms around my waist, and I gripped his shoulders. I couldn’t stop from closing my eyes as we teleported to the front landing of our home. I hated teleporting but it was the fastest way to travel anywhere. The vast forest of Vorgoroth spread out underneath us, surrounding Geheimnis and the mountain it sat upon . Trees were the most numerous of Morgorth’s minions, and they had some intelligence and enjoyed lopping off heads. They found it amusing. Morgorth claimed this territory that had long been disputed between two kingdoms to the north and south. Now he ruled this place, as well as the small village of Happy Valley. He was the Dark Mage of the North, or the East, depending on the location of those spreading rumors. He bowed to no one, he challenged any and all comers, and his enchantments were swift and deadly to any who dared invade his sanctuary.

We walked across a small jut of rocky cliff that stood right outside the front doors to Geheimnis. It wasn’t very large, and it was impossible to climb to unless someone knew about the one hidden trail along the side of the fortress. Only Morgorth and I knew about the trail, as he had formed it just for me. That meant I wasn’t dependent on anyone for transport, whether it be him or his stone gargoyles that roosted on the soaring towers of Geheimnis.

Morgorth’s castle sat upon a large, sheer mountain. In fact, she looked as if she was part of the mountain. Indeed, certain parts were carved from the mountain itself, and her massive towers were like sharp swords stabbing the sky. But the majority of her structure was brought there and built by Morgorth himself with the help of his boygle minions. It was impenetrable with more enchantments than even I knew about, both inside and out. If that weren’t enough, an intruder would first have to journey through Vorgoroth, a forest filled with dark predators and vicious trees loyal to Morgorth. It wasn’t a venture anyone took on lightly.

I fingered the amethyst pendant that hung from a chain around my neck, currently hidden under my tunic. It was the first gift Morgorth ever gave me, and it had once allowed me to traverse Geheimnis without any of the enchantments affecting me. But now there was no need to wear it, as Morgorth had changed every single enchantment in the vast castle to recognize me. I simply wore it as a token of love from my mate, the one who owned me heart and mind. We approached the large, reddish doors of Geheimnis with their payshtha-headed knockers, and I noticed the vines wrapped around the exterior of the castle tremble in Morgorth’s presence. With a simple wave of his hand, the doors swung smoothly open, and we walked through into a sea of blue. The stone floor was a polished blue, and placed on top of it was a dark blue woven carpet with a design representing the Hunter. The ceiling had an intricate carving representing the Mother, our creator deity. The doors thudded gently closed behind us.

A few boygles, ugly little creatures with leathery skin, sharp fingers, and vicious eyes, quietly left as soon as we stepped in, disappearing down a hallway. They tended to dye their clothes red with the blood of their enemies. The boygles used to be hostile toward me, but no longer. I’d proven myself to them by showing them how cruel and violent I could be, earning their fear and respect. Morgorth had cowed them after destroying half their clan when he’d first arrived in this land. As long as he and I showed we were the toughest and most powerful, they would follow wherever we led. It was a similar case to that of the wichtln, except I knew there was some love mixed with their loyalty. Grekel, the alpha of the pack, had known Morgorth since he was a pup, and had shown devotion beyond what wichtln were supposed to be capable of.

Morgorth led me into the largest parlor on the first floor. The fireplace was cold, as the weather had changed from frozen death to a mild wetness. His home, despite the impressive and intimidating exterior, was warm and comforting inside. Done in rich purples and white wood, the largest parlor held lush, full sofas and chairs that encouraged one to nap or curl up with a good book. Vivid, woven tapestries covered the walls and the ornate carvings cut into the ceiling matched the rugs under our feet. The fireplace mantle held small decorative items, most of which I knew Morgorth had collected on his travels. He’d made this his home, his sanctuary. He’d built this place with his own sweat and blood, and I loved every square inch of it.

I set my bow and quiver on a polished table by the entrance to the parlor before coming to stand where Morgorth stood. Though garbed in his customary black, his style was very different from other mages. He didn’t wear robes, but loose trousers tucked into laced boots that came up to mid-calf. His tunic, which he called a jacket, had a high collar that covered his neck and clasped all the way to his waist before dividing and flaring out around his legs like a cape. His sleeves were long as well, coming to end just past his wrists. He was fully covered, his shame of his scars causing him to be so. But there were a few spots of color on his garb: silver thread created intricate designs on his cuffs and collar, and his belt that held pouches full of magickal implements was also silver.

It always made my heart take a great leap whenever I really looked at him and remembered what we’ve been through together; to know he was completely mine. His slick black hair bordered a lean, almost bird-like face. Sharp and angled, I liked the rough look of him. He was quite pale, the color achieved from little time in the sun. Some might call him scrawny, but I knew he had subtle muscle curving his body. He was slightly shorter than myself, and whenever he looked at me, as he was now, as if I was the only thing that mattered, it made my world complete.

He held out a rolled letter tied with a ribbon. “Read it. It’s the reason I’ve been so distracted and distant. It came a week ago, and I hardly know what to make of it.”

Then he sat down heavily on the sofa, stretching his legs out and crossing his ankles. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the carpet. I sat next to him and curled my legs under me. Then I unrolled the letter and proceeded to read. What I read shocked me. My heart pounded faster, and I grew hot. I had to read it twice before I managed to lift my eyes and look at Morgorth. Silence stretched between us before I managed to speak.

“Well, now I can see why you’re troubled.”

“Yeah,” he whispered.

My anger blasted through me, and I crinkled the parchment as my hands clenched. “The nerve he has! How dare he write to you as he does? What sort of foul creature is he that he thinks you want to hear from one of your brothers?”

The sheer nerve of the sender made my gut clench in hate. One of Morgorth’s brothers, individuals he wanted nothing to do with, had written him, and worse yet, begged for his help.

“You can’t believe a word he says, Morgorth. You can’t. There is no proof to his claims, and just think: they are remarkably outrageous. Your father finding a stone of power? I just can’t—”

“Aishe.”

His calm, tired voice broke through my tirade. I realized I was panting and close to shredding the parchment. I slammed it down on the table before jumping to my feet. I vibrated with emotions close to rage and struggled to calm myself. What Morgorth’s family had done to him was unforgivable, and to have such a reminder penetrating the sanctuary he had created for himself...it was unbearable.

I looked at Morgorth, and he was looking up at me with a tired smile and dark eyes. “I had about the same reaction as you did. Only with more fire and destruction.” He patted the seat next to him. “Sit down. You need to hear the whole story.”

Curious, I sat. “What do you mean by that? I know the story of your family and your escape.” I still acutely remembered when he trusted me enough to open up. It had been on our hunt for Kayl and after Morgorth had nearly died. I healed him and asked him about his scars. He told me briefly about his father’s abuse and I learned more later on. It wasn’t something I could easily forget.

“Well, not all of it,” Morgorth said. “There were parts even I forgot.”

Intrigue helped calm the rest of my anger. I wrapped my arms around one of his and laid my head on his shoulder, suspecting we both needed the contact. He kissed the top of my head before speaking.

“The one who wrote the letter, Olyvre, is the only one of my brothers I don’t think of with hatred.”

I blinked in shock and raised my head, meeting his eyes. “Why?”

“He was only one year older than me and...quite gentle, actually.” He took a deep breath. “He helped me that night, Aishe. He helped me the night I escaped.”

I gaped. “How could you forget something like that?”

He laughed slightly. “I have no fucking clue. Not one. I guess, I only think of that time in regards to finding my magick and calling it to me. I rarely think about or consider the moments before that cave. But when I read the letter it all came back.”

“What happened?”

Morgorth found one of my hands and linked his fingers with mine. “I pocketed a dull knife from the kitchen when no one was looking. I used it to pick the lock of the cellar door. I was so scared, nearly petrified. But I had come too far to back down, and the allure of freedom was too great to resist.” He paused, cleared his throat. I once again laid my head on his shoulder. “I might not have needed Olyvre’s help if I didn’t stop in my escape plan to contemplate stabbing my father to death.”

I tightened my grip on his arm and he patted my hand. “Easy there. But even as I was about to execute that crazy plan, which would have surely gotten me caught, a bedroom door opened. It was Olyvre. We just stared at each other, and I couldn’t say who was more shocked. But then he ran to me, and pushed me to the front door. He said, ‘Escape and don’t come back.’ He shoved me outside and I ran.”

I looked back at the letter and considered Morgorth’s words. “You believe him. What he says about your father.”

I felt a tremor run through Morgorth’s body. “I have to. If I don’t and it’s true... by the cosmos!”

Morgorth suddenly leapt to his feet and fisted his hands in his hair. “How can this possibly happen? How could such a monster get his hands on a stone? And what sort of havoc and despair is he wreaking now?” He spun around and his eyes were faintly glowing. I felt the heat pump off his body in waves. “I’d hoped he was dead. I used to pray someone had killed him. But they were just fantasies. Delusions of a victim.” Sheer bitterness dripped from his words. “I should have killed him long before now, but I was a coward.”

“No, you weren’t!” I stood and gripped his shoulders. “You were surviving. You had to put aside the past to gain any sort of happiness for the future. Morgorth, you did what you had to do to survive.”

He stared at me, his pale face reddened by his anger and distress. His eyes were dark, but still glowed, indicating his magick was near the surface.

“And look what happened since I ran away.” He gripped my wrists and continued to hold me close. “I hope to the Mother and the Hunter that Olyvre is mistaken. But my gut says he’s not.” He squeezed my wrists. “I’ve tried to ignore what’s been going on in the land south of Raskalin, but I can’t. Not now.”

“What do you mean? What’s happening?”

“For the past several months, that land has had unusual crop failures and storms. There’s been a few earth tremors and freak rainstorms. A few of the smaller forests have blight on the trees and the animals seem to be sick.”

I shook my head slowly. “I still don’t understand. What does that have to do with your father?”

“It’s the stones, Aishe.” Morgorth sighed heavily and sat on the edge of the sofa. He rested his elbows on his knees and linked his fingers together. “When the stones are used, they usurp the Mother’s will and her power over the land. The world tries to balance itself by extreme means, because the stones are extreme. It’s all a balancing act and the Pferun Dulleriin are imbalance incarnate.”

“Does that mean your father is in the lands south of Raskalin Kingdom?”

Morgorth shook his head. “The land attempting to balance itself doesn’t happen where the stone is being used. It usually happens opposite it, which means good ol’ dad is probably in the land of my birth.”

I sat down next to him and rubbed my hand over his shoulder. It was tense under my fingers.

“Someone has a stone of power, Aishe,” Morgorth said softly. “And considering the strong weather and blight, I have to consider it’s a major stone.”

I exhaled slowly, keeping as calm as I could even as fear fluttered in my stomach.

Morgorth’s father with a stone of power was bad enough, but a major stone? That was terrifying even to consider. As Morgorth had once explained it to me, lesser and minor stones have power over certain elements or creatures, but it was restricted to those specific things. Major stones, however, gave power over everything and everyone, and it only took the unlocking of those powers and the imagination of the user, to accomplish devastation. But one major flaw in all the stones was their disloyalty. They enjoyed abandoning their users before all their powers could be unlocked, before the user achieved mastery over them. They were teases, temptations, and their voices were alluring, a spell that if not broken, would destroy those who sought them.

I’d heard their voices since Morgorth had several locked in one of his towers, guarded, imprisoned. I was proud and terrified for Morgorth and his quest to capture all the stones and hide them away. He detested them and I shared his sentiment. It was a stone of power, a ruby named Rambujek, that had caused my tribe to be massacred. My tribe had been the guardians of the stone and Kayl, a power-hungry, weak mage, had come and taken it by force—using the vicious monsters, called lutin, to accomplish it.

I was afraid that by keeping the stones Morgorth painted a target on his back. Granted, most didn’t know for a fact he had them, and the powerful enchantments around his home were formidable, but what if he himself succumbed to their temptation? I did not doubt his strength, but though he wasn’t a villain anymore, he was still a dark mage. His past had dark pockets I only learned about recently.

“The strange thing is,” Morgorth’s voice broke through my thoughts, “ever since my time travel experience, I’ve been thinking about my family. I’ve been considering going back and maybe, finally, putting that part of my life to rest.”

“You didn’t tell me.”

“I hadn’t made a decision yet. Then that letter came.”

I held both of his hands between my own. “Why did you want to go back there? To all that pain and sorrow?”

“Your family.”

I jerked in shock. “What?”

He gave me a strained smile. “I got to know your family, and it made me think too much about my own. And your father....”

“My father?” I prompted when he stopped.

“I...I told you he gave me consent to be your mate. But he also had some things to say about my family.”

“What did he say?”

“He...” Morgorth suddenly laid his head on our joined hands, his voice growing quieter. “He said that if my family couldn’t appreciate me, then they were a family of fools. And my father was the king of them all. Then he hugged me. He hugged me, Aishe, as a father would a son. As I’m sure he hugged you many times.”

Even as grief, perhaps not fresh or new but still potent, stirred my gut, I understood what my mate was saying. “You were shown what a family is supposed to be. You want answers.”

“Damn right.” He raised his head and my gut tightened again. His eyes were dry but dark, filled with old grief, an old wound rubbed raw. “Your family welcomed me, accepted me. I became a part of your tribe. I need to know why I wasn’t given the same from my own. I need the entire story, because I know there is more to my father’s motivations, to his schemes. There has to be more.”

I nodded. “It would seem you’ve already made your decision.”

He rubbed his eyes before meeting mine again. “Baby, I would’ve consulted you. My mind wasn’t made up yet.”

I believed him. “I’m going with you, Morgorth. Don’t you dare argue.”

He smiled. It was small but genuine and full of the warmth I’d become accustomed to from him. “I would argue, Aishe, if I thought I didn’t need you. But...” he paused. It was still hard for him to express his emotions, his needs; to reveal any vulnerability. “But in this journey I know I will need you more than anything. I never wanted you to meet any of my family, but I don’t have a choice. I, um....”

“Tell me everything, Morgorth. Just speak.”

He suddenly cupped my face, looking me dead in the eye, and what I saw in his nearly broke my heart. He’d always told me there was a darkness inside him, and I accepted that. But there was also a sadness, a heavy misery in him I couldn’t accept and did everything I could to alleviate.

“Aishe, I don’t know how well I will come out of this one. I’m going to need you to hold me together. To hold me back or push me forward. I trust you to know what is needed. If my father has a stone of power, I will kill him.”

My eyes widened but I said nothing.

“I need answers, Aishe. Please help me find them, and restrain me if I’m about to kill without gaining them. I’m so sorry to ask but...can you do this for me?”

More weight settled upon my shoulders, and I accepted it as the price to pay to have such a mate. A mate who was the seventh son of a seventh son; a mate who had a destiny filled with darkness and blood. I’d accepted it many years ago when he first came into my life and pursued him when my tribe had been taken away from me in blood and fire. He was all I had, he was all I wanted.

I kissed him, hard enough and long enough to have us panting. Then I pulled back and pressed our foreheads together. “I can do anything for you, my love. Ask what you will, and I will give it to you.”

Morgorth shuddered out a breath before wrapping his arms around me and crushing me to his chest. He held me so tightly I could barely breathe, but I said nothing.

“You’re my reason,” he said softly.

I smiled, my entire being devoted to loving him. “And you are mine.”

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Kara on Inkd Rainbow Reads wrote:

This book was such an awesome addition to this series!

So with this book we get more of Morgorth and Aishe which I loved! They grow much closer in this book while they both go to where Morgorth’s father has called him out. This book had so much action and steam between these two men. There was also the way you could feel how much Morgorth loves and cares for Aishe and how protective of him he is. Then there was Aishe who loves and cares for Morgorth even when sometimes Morgorth’s magic may scare him. He is also very protective of Morgorth too.

I have to say I loved the way this author created this world and these characters. With every book in this series you get so much action and on the edge of your seat moments. You also get these two men together as they fight other mages and evil people who would seek to hurt them but also grow closer too each other at the same time. I do not want to give away any spoilers because you really need to read this series for yourself so I will leave this review with…

I 100% loved this story and I would definitely recommend this series!


About the Author

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier. Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.


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