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Children of Destiny is a high fantasy novel about a group of men and women who are cursed by a witch that roams the kingdom of Lurasia to avenge those she believes have wronged her. Although the men and women hunted by the witch do not know one other, as the story unfolds their destinies become deeply intertwined. Each action, each step one takes has consequences for the others. Until they meet the curse. . . .
Gelad stepped through the forest with calm and confident strides. Dry leaves and twigs crunched under his boar-skin boots. Trees that had once stretched proud and green into the sky now bent down and were casting their worn leaves into the wind. The outlaw was as indifferent to the stinging wind and the dancing leaves surrounding him as he was to the dried blood on his hands and wool shirt. He gazed straight ahead.
This part of the forest was thick and the twisted tree branches created an eerie scene at night. But there was still an hour to go before sunset. An hour was more than enough. Only a single prisoner remained. One more and this long day would be over. But this prisoner seemed different from the rest. She had been impossible to restrain, so his followers had confined her by tying her hands behind her back and carefully guarding her where she sat nestled amongst the leaves in front of an old tree.
Gelad hadn’t seen the woman yet, but his men said she claimed to be a witch. They had tied her hands, for fear of what she might do to them. None of the men wanted to be close to her. Their fear made Gelad angry. He wanted to meet this woman. A witch? These simple soldiers wove a new tale each day — demons in the north, sea serpents in Niktah. The truth was simpler than these tales: a witch could undermine his power as king.
He saw the small form of the woman from afar as she leaned against the tree. He approached her but as soon as he came near, his angry thoughts faded away. She was exceedingly beautiful and he could not stop staring at her. She had a round face with prominent cheek bones. Her eyes were a deep blue, and her straight blonde hair broke into curls just below her shoulders. She wore a simple cotton shirt and pants, and her feet were bare.
Gelad was struck by her beauty. How foolish of his men to consider her dangerous. How could such a beautiful being be a creature of darkness? To him, she seemed a gift from heaven. He approached and sat across her on a flat rock. She was not especially young — he could see some wisdom in her face. He guessed she might be more than thirty. She was staring at a hole in the ground as though he wasn’t even there.
He smiled warmly at her and said: “That is not a snake nest, my lady.”
She looked up, and he continued to gaze at her. Her eyes seemed empty, soulless almost — the eyes of a corpse.
“Gelad, so we finally meet,” she said. He sensed that she was not afraid.
“You do not know how delighted I am to meet you,” he said. “It fills me with pleasure but unfortunately I do not know your name.”
“Aren’t you wondering how I know your name?” she said.
He smiled. “The soldiers that accompanied you were trying to hunt me in this forest. Do you expect me to believe that they did not know my name?”
“Some of them doubted you even existed,” she said.
“Perhaps your loveliness left them confused?” he said.
“Let’s not waste time speaking of unimportant matters,” she said. “Why don’t you do what you have come to do?”
“And what is that?” he said. “I do not plan to hurt you. I only wish to ask you some questions. Why did you help the emperor’s soldiers? Why should a distinguished lady follow a regiment of soldiers into the forest? Were you. . . .?”
Gelad stopped himself, but she guessed the rest.
“Was I entertaining the men? No. I was guiding them. I was taking them to you.”
“Can I ask you how you accomplished this?” he said.
“I am a witch,” she said.
“Then you must not be a powerful witch. Not one person from the Third Regiment stands. Seventy died during their attack and the rest died afterwards. You are my prisoner and your life is in my hands,” he said.
“No, some live. Three got away when your first bullets were shot from among the trees. They headed south. One of them will die of hunger. The other two will find safety within Buvan. One of those two will flee from the army and go to Tafroon. He will live another fifty years. The other will return to his base but will fall off his horse and die three years from now. I know everything, Gelad. I warned the commander you would ambush them but he did not value a woman’s knowledge when devising strategy for war, so he did not heed my warning. He paid with his own blood and those of his men,” she said.
Gelad tried to remain calm. He did not believe in witchcraft. These were merely the negotiations of a woman, a prisoner, trying to free herself. She thinks if I believe her I will set her free. But there was something in her eyes that made him uncomfortable.
“And maybe my blood too. Kill me, Gelad, so that I can curse you.”
Gelad forced himself to smile and said, “I am sorry, my lady, I don’t believe a word you have said.”
“My curse does not require you to believe,” she said.
By this time he was getting fed up with her unchecked impudence. “And what type of curse is yours?” he said.
She smiled a cold smile, “Tell me, Gelad, what is it you want? What do you seek to accomplish in your lifetime?” she said.
Gelad paused. He never discussed his aspirations. It was a dangerous thing to do. But he did not like giving no answer. He did not want her to think she had won.
“I want to rule all of Lurasia,” he said.
“But Lurasia has been without a king for four hundred years. How do you expect people to accept a bandit from the forest as their king — especially when the imperial council has so effectively provided governance all these years?”
“I have plans,” he said.
“Yes, I know your plans. My curse has to do with your destiny. You have a clear destiny, Gelad. But my death will not be the end. My curse will dance with your destiny. As soon as you seem close to your goal, your destiny will find you. There will be no escaping it,” she said.
Gelad was sitting still but he felt her words beating on his mind, like so many fists in battle. What was the force in these words? He wasn’t feeling well. Her eyes continued to stare at him, as if there was nothing else in the world for them to look on — those corpse eyes.
Gelad felt bile rising up from his stomach. Suddenly, he looked away from her and stood up.
I am a king, he thought to himself. There is no such thing as witchcraft. But he could feel the shadow of some uncertainty hanging over him.
“I am sorry. You presume too much. You should not have angered me,” he said.
Then without a word he left and returned whence he came. He no longer dwelt on her beauty. His steps were uncertain. No leaves fell from the trees. When he reached his men one of them came forward and stood by him. The man was not tall but had wide shoulders. A great scar decorated his face.
“Did you see her?” he asked.
Gelad did not look his way but nodded yes. He was fearful of showing weakness in his face — anxiety, fear, anger.
“And your decision?” he asked. . . .