I have to admit, I kind of liked this one. It is a good length for internet writing and it strikes a good balance between exposition and action. I'd encourage Elie to be careful about using so many italics (since the great majority of editors like to delete them at will...probably because they don't often come through when you cut and past them to a blog), and to watch out for small grammatical issues, but overall, I think he has some promise. It will be fun to read her writing when he tackles some larger issues, but for now, "A Brother's Hate" is a good start.--Walter Rhein
A Brother's Hate
The wind howled and tore at him with frozen claws but he still plodded on. Coat and cloak were next to useless in this blizzard, and his sword hung limp from frozen hands, but Theron Shan had faced down worse foes than a mountain blizzard, or so he told himself.
He could feel them on his trail, feel the kresh slavering as it tugged on its leash.Revolting creatures, he thought. Sickening things, trained to hunt for souls! He could hear the grim soldiers, somewhere behind him. The wind carried their voices to him, the low sibilant hiss of the ikaroi ringing in his ears. Darren must really be desperate, to unleash them on his own kin.
The snow snapped and crunched beneath his boots, and he heard other crunches coming from behind. They were gaining on him, sick and tired as he was, and they would catch up to him soon. He would have no chance, out here where they could surround him, and no way to evade the kresh’s hungry flair.
Tugging his cloak closer to him, Theron Shan kept walking, held upright by the same iron will that had seen him rise from the baseborn son of Thelamon Shan all the way up to a Warlock of the Lotus Clan. His sword felt heavy and his feet were numb, but his mind raced like it always did when he readied for battle. A furious river of thoughts and ideas, a shapeless chaos out of which would come his way to triumph, like it always did.
And I’ve already won. They don’t know about Leanne. They’ll never find out about her child. With that one thought in mind, Theron wrapped his hand around the crystal amulet he always wore around his neck. Thirty years he had worn it, thirty years since his father had given it to him, along with the story of his island-born mother. Thirty years since that flash of jealousy in Darren’s eyes. He’s never forgiven Father for it, nor will he ever. It had been so long ago, but the Warlocks could live forever, if they so chose. What do thirty years mean, in the face of an eternity of power?
Theron whirled around, his sword singing in the blizzard. They were closer now, close enough that he could see shadowed shapes in the snow. They would corner him soon, capture him and flay his soul, expose his dearest secrets to Darren’s will.
‘Never!’ he cried. ‘You’ll never have me, Darren!’
Oh but I will, Theron. Darren’s voice crept insidiously into his mind, cold and liquid like a serpent in the grass. I will have you all to myself, Theron, and I will make you pay for your years of humiliation.
‘I never humiliated you, Darren! I’ve always loved you as a brother!’
Never? The hiss grew angry, an image of bared fangs and bloodshot eyes. You always shamed me, Theron! You were always his favorite, his pride and joy. And what was I?
‘You are one of the greatest warlocks who ever lived, Darren! I laid down my claim when I traveled west, you know that. I turned my back on the throne more than a year ago!’
But the throne never gave you up, Theron. The Lyrium Throne never turned its back on you, and you remain a threat to my rule.
Besides, I wouldn’t want to break tradition, would I? A Warlock has to kill the other pretenders.
This is it, then, Thought Theron. This is all he wants, and this he shall have. For Leanne, and our child!
‘Fine! Come and get me, Darren! Take me if you can!’
Why would I risk myself, Theron? The ikaroi will prove adequate for you.
As if they were drawn by their master’s voice, the pale things stepped into Theron’s sight. Tall and gaunt, white as the snow around them, their empty eyes burned with an ice-blue fire that spoke volumes of their hunger. The Soulless, they were called in the Old Tomes, and Theron had seen them prove that name countless times. He felt his lips draw back in a smile, cracking and oozing blood as they did.
‘You’re wrong, Darren. Your pets are no match for me.’ The crystal erupted into light, bright blue beams stabbing into the white darkness, scattering snow and wind. The kresh yelped, hiding its head under misshapen paws from the angry glow, and even the ikaroi recoiled, but the light was not the main danger. In his veins, in his muscles, in every fiber of his being, Theron felt the sacred anger of the camorra rise.
And so it ends. With a flick his sword sang, whistling through the snow and the ikaroi’s chest. Its comrades scattered, trying to surround him but Theron danced among them, the curved saber slashing and stabbing, blocking swords and hacking arms. Blue-tinged blades surged at him but he dodged them at the last instant, suffering only minor nicks as he turned and swirled like the snow itself, a deadly threat to any mortal in his path.
But the ikaroi were far above mortal men. The creatures felt no pain, no fear or tiredness. They were unaffected by the grievous wounds he dealt them, and even the minor cuts he suffered were dangerous. Their night-cold poison would seep into him, slowing him, weakening him, turning him into helpless meat for their amusement. The camorra burned the venom in his veins, but even he could not sustain that level of exertion for long, and his sword grew heavy again, although his grim, glorious dance never slowed.
Theron found himself remembering the gardens of Sengan, the stone paths among the trees where he practiced sword craft and wizardry with Thelamon and uncle Barsoom. It would make them proud to see him know, a god of war in his bloody glory. Only blood never flowed from his enemies’ cuts, and they were hemming him in, nearing the moment where they would catch him and pin him under icy hands, and open his spirit wide for Darren’s rape.
Darren's voice had grown silent during the fight, but now Theron heard him again. You won’t last long, brother. You’ll falter soon, and I’ll skin your soul like a deer. I’ll finally know what made you so powerful.
‘Nothing, you fool!’ Theron shouted as he blocked a slash. ‘My strength was always my own!’
Nonsense! We’re twins, equal in every way. You must’ve had some outside aid to best me so often!
‘Weaver at his Loom! I never did, you bloody idiot!’
Yes you did! It was that crystal Father gave you. It must be some kind of conduit!
The crystal! Always the crystal!
‘It’s nothing but a trinket, Darren! Nothing but a jewel our mother wore!’
I don’t care about that stupid whore! I want that crystal! I want your soul, and I want to rip it open and find out every secret you ever had! I want to know who helped you when we were children, and who supported your claim! And above all, I want to know who hid you for a year!
Leanne! An icy hand gripped Theron’s heart. If he ever caught hold of Leanne… But Theron knew how to stop him. One final escape, the final price to pay, the last expiation of his sins.
With that final word, Theron twirled his sword around until it pointed towards his heart, and forced it in.
Theron fell to his knees, clutching his sword. The blood’s mad whirls and curves melted the snow, and the crystal’s light dimmed around him. Darren’s shouts faded in the howling wind and the ikaroi’s hiss grew silent. They cared nothing for dead meat.
Then, at the final instant before the Weaver called him back, Theron Shan, Lord of the Morning, heard a child’s cry, and he knew his son was born. He died smiling.