The friendship Erich shared with Nash withstood the test of time that allowed the next generation to mirror their path paved by war and deceit. Their friendship was based on trust with an underlying hint of secrecy. They fought kings, enemies, and each other but their bond has endured until now. Will their friendship be shattered by Nash’s curiosity? Will the Dweller nation force Erich to choose the life of one man in order to protect the future of a nation?
A howling cry echoed through the Forbidden Forest. Blood and sweat poured from Nash as he began his long walk into darkness. At night, the Forbidden Forest was a playground for things that come alive in the dark. His only guide was the fluorescent glow of insects playing hide-and-seek through the trees. Faint glimpses of light momentarily vanquished the darkness. Two steps forward and a sharp turn to the right just in time to elude a statuesque tree ruling the forest floor. A flicker of light steered him toward the right and then to the left until finally…a pathway. Pausing to grind his boots in the dirt, Nash inhaled deeply. The aroma of pine was mingled with oak, honeysuckle, primrose, and the scent of civilization. The smell of men consumed the air, temporarily confusing his senses.
Nash closed his eyes. In the crevices of his mind, he saw blood and heard the echo of Erich howling. The horrifying look in Erich’s eyes and the bitter smell of blood forced him to face an old enemy. Nash opened his eyes staring down a dark pathway. The further he traveled out of the darkness, the brighter faint torches glowed in the night, illuminating a path to the arch of Peerless. Nash walked the path, ignoring the hidden Stringers spying from within the trees. He continued his trek toward his destination, where he knew he would find Artemis, the most powerful man in three kingdoms.
Artemis yawned. He stared into the flame of a lone candle sitting in the center of the table. The flickering flame danced ominous shadows around the room. When the door opened, a night breeze swallowed the flame, engulfing the room in obscurity. When he relit the candle, he was no longer alone. Artemis yawned again. “Darkness suits the commander of Meir,” he said, staring at Nash. “Why do you walk alone in my domain?”
“Is anyone truly alone in the Forbidden Forest?”
“Don’t look surprised to see me…I’m sure the wind spoke my name,” said Nash.
“You and I are not friends,” answered Artemis. “What possessed you to come to me at this hour?”
Nash looked through the candlelight. He thought he saw a sneer on his face. Nash slid a slip of paper across the table.
Artemis glanced at the paper. “What is this?” he asked.
“A fair trade,” said Nash.
“What could you have that I want?”
“Your contract,” spouted Nash.
Intrigued, Artemis leaned forward. “Why is the commander of Meir desperate?” mocked Artemis. “What do I have that you want?”
“How much do you trust Erich?”
“I don’t trust Erich,” confessed Artemis. “When he was Victor…I trusted him with my life.”
“Do you believe Victor have visions?”
“What did he see!” shouted Artemis.
The urgency in his voice stunned him. Nash saw by the expression on Artemis’ face that he believed. He purposely waited, wanting to stir Artemis’ curiosity. When Artemis shouted again, Nash finally replied, “He saw Kane kill Daniel.”
Artemis leaned back. He rubbed the curls of his beard. He was grateful for the darkness, it hid the trembling of his hands. “Why have you come alone…why didn’t Erich come?”
“Because I’m going to do what Victor couldn’t,” confess Nash.
Artemis slightly smiled. “What do you want me to do?”
“Bring Kane to me and the contract is yours.” Nash pushed the contract across the table.
Artemis pushed the contract back toward him. “Keep it. This is a freebie,” muttered Artemis.
Nash walked back into the darkness. After riding for miles away from Peerless and peering eyes, he rendezvoused with Erich at their arranged meeting place. Erich was leaning against a tree. Nash stood in front of him. The haggard look on his face hinted Erich hadn’t slept in days. The men stared without speaking.
“Did Artemis believe you?” asked Erich softly.
Nash nodded. “What are you going to do with Kane?”
“I will not let Kane kill Daniel,” Erich snarled. “I will not let my father kill my son.”