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Within the Myst

Within the Myst is book 2 in the Mystical epic fantasy series, a series within a series. I had started writing this book in early 2019 and by March 5, 2019, I had written 20,105 words. It’s time to get back to the draft and finish it.

This book picks up three weeks after Beyond the Myst ended. It opens with Ob Ryder Somerled in his cell and being summoned to meet with the Elders.

Chapter 1, Scene 1

In it’s initial first draft, unedited form

Steel grated against steel. The scraping noise descended the hallway to the cells deep within the damp dungeon of Castle Cothromach. A few prisoners sat up, curious to see who entered their space, while others remained on their cots counting the stones in the wall or dreaming of outside.

“Just guards,” grumbled a prisoner in the dim light.

Ryder, who lay on his back on his cot, glanced at his cell mate, an older newlin who had been in the dungeon for longer than he could remember. His crime had been simple: crossing into Hillock without the proper authorization and without supervision.

“Comin’ this way.” His voice softened, and he gripped the bars as if they came for him.

“Ye deserve release.” Ryder tossed the ball he’d made from his socks into the air, caught it and sent it up again.

“I do, I do.” His feet patted the stone floor softly. “They still comes this way.” His breathing laboured, and he pressed his cheeks between the bars.

Two pickets in neatly-pressed uniforms, ones not usually worn by those who served in the dungeon, stopped at the cell door. They glanced past the older man, who looked at them eagerly, to the inside of the cell to the man stretched out on the cot.

“Ryder Somerled?”

“Who’s asking?”

“The Elders seek consultation.”

He caught the sock and stared at them questioningly. “The Elders remember ah’m here? Ah’m impressed.”

“Rise.” One of the pickets produced a ring of keys, inserted one into the lock and pulled open the door.

Ryder unwrapped the ball and stretched out his socks. They held several holes and didn’t smell the greatest, but they were all he had after being in the dungeon for more days than he could count. From his estimation, from counting his meals and shift changes, he’d been forgotten here for more than eighteen days, give or take five. He slipped on the old socks, then tugged his boots over them, tying them slowly and making the pickets wait until his task was complete.

He stood, shook his shoulders and straightened his pants, then took a better look at the men who waited for him. Although he’d been a picket for more than a dozen years, he’d never seen these two, which meant they served their time at Hillock, probably within the castle given their tidy uniforms.

“This way.” The man with the keys stood aside.

“What about me?” The older prisoner stepped towards the door. “I’ve been here longer than he. I should be released first.”

“He’s got ye there.” Ryder paused. “Ye sure ye seek me and not this wretched soul who should ‘ave been released weeks ago?”

“Our orders are clear. I know nothing of this man.”

“You’ll ask for me, won’t you?” The man grasped Ryder’s arm. “See my family, see to it I’m released?”

“Aye. Ah’ll see what ah can do.” He patted his arm. “Ye offense was small. Ye should have been out ‘fore ah came in.” Releasing him, he stepped out of the cell and waited for the man to lock the door before proceeding down the hallway, stretching his legs and back as he moved, working out the kinks that had gathered on his forced respite.

They travelled in silence, passing the guard station at the head of the dungeon and ascending the steps that took them to ground level and outside. When the sun touched his face, he squinted from the brightness but didn’t turn away. The warmth on his skin reminded him he was alive, a free man in many senses of the word even if he’d been trapped behind metal bars all this time. His spirit lived free, and he knew many  on the outside worked to see him again, ones who’d badger the Elders until he had his day of speaking.

When he entered the Room of Justice, he saw a few of their faces, but he didn’t see the one he longed to behold since the men grabbed him weeks ago near the Myst. That woman was near, he had no doubt, but she’d not be permitted to attend the discussion of his future because like him, she was a servant to the system.

Jack Asuwish’s children, the ones remaining in Knavesmire, sat watching him with solemn expressions. Acacia, the oldest, along with her mate Lorcan Elrick, sat in the prominent position and would receive the most authority over the hearing. Hickory, Linden and Thorsten, the only son, sat behind them and would speak only when asked by the Elders.

Elders Saywood, Murtagh and Dagan sat in comfortable chairs at the head of the room, flanked by two pickets on each side. They wore their official dress, robes of deep blue trimmed with gold, and sat up with indifferent expressions as if they’d been casting aside unwanted shoes all day.

The pickets at his side directed him to the golden circle embedded in the stone floor ten feet before the Elders.

“Stand in the centre,” instructed one. “Do not move or speak unless given permission.”

“Thank ye.”

The picket frowned, then took up a position by the other five feet behind him.

He cast an enquiring glance at Acacia who held her stern expression though her eyes indicated she had plenty to say. Her strawberry-coloured hair was lighter and tamer than her sister Willow’s, and her austerity was in sharp contrast to Willow’s easy-going, relaxed nature. As Nyx had said many moons ago, She was good in small doses. He didn’t doubt that.

“Ob Ryder Somerled, My Elders.” The picket behind him bowed.

“Thank you.” Elder Murtagh considered the prisoner with cold eyes. “You have been charged with unlawfully directing an individual who was under the care of the castle. How do you plead?”

“My Elder, I plead not guilty.”

“Were you in the presence of Willow Asuwish when she entered the Myst?”

“I was there for emotional support only.”

“Did you instruct her on how to enter the Myst?”

“No, My Elder. She told me she was confident she could cross the Myst without anyone’s help.”

“Did you try to stop her?”

“I spoke with her at length of the dangers, but her mind was set.” Over the years, he’d tried to talk many out of entering the Myst, and while he convinced more than half to return home, some were determined to challenge the Myst regardless of what he said.

“How do we know you speak the truth? Do you have witnesses?”

“I have none as she approached me alone.”

“I have information, My Elder.” Acacia held up her hand. “Permission to speak.”

“Permission granted,” said Elder Murtagh.

Acacia stood and clasped her hands in front of her. “I spoke with Willow the morning she set out to cross the Myst. Ob Somerled was not mentioned. My sister was determined to take action and while I did not know she planned to enter the Myst, I sensed I could not stop her from carrying out her plans. I doubt this man, only a picket from Midground, could have stopped her if he tried.”

Ryder clamped his teeth together to hold his tongue still. He could have stopped her if he wanted to, but it would have been only temporary; Willow was determined to enter the Myst and whether it was that day or another, she’d have done it. He guessed Acacia’s attack on his abilities came only to protect him from further damage to his reputation, so he’d allow her insult to gain his freedom from this unreasonable charge.

“A picket unable to do his job is far from a worthy picket.” Elder Saywood frowned at him.

And that’s why he would have preferred Acacia to have said something else to defend him. He liked being a picket and didn’t want a dishonourable discharge.

“Elder Saywood, you are well aware of my sister’s abilities as well as her stubborn attitude and her dedication to Sir Humbeldon,” said Acacia. “You couldn’t control her; how do you expect any picket, regardless of station, to stop her from setting off on a mission to rescue her friend?”

He clamped his teeth tighter together less a smirk on his face reveal his entertainment at the woman’s degrading of the elder’s skill. The elder’s eyebrows pinched, and her mouth clamped shut.

“Given the unusual circumstances of this situation,” said Elder Murtagh, “I grant this man a pardon under the condition of a report from his superior, Sir Byrnes. If the report is satisfactory, then he will return to regular duty without a mark on his record. If the report is unsatisfactory, he will be dishonourably discharged.”

Ryder withheld his pleasure at hearing the news. He knew Sir Byrnes would provide a glowing report, so he’d remain at his post. Yet, he didn’t want to give the Elders the satisfaction of knowing he cared what they thought; he didn’t. They were unimportant in his life, and if not for becoming friends with Nyx, he’d never have had to deal with them.

“Return the man to Midground Post and release him into the care of Sir Byrnes.” Elder Murtagh addressed Ryder. “Do not leave Cothromach until this matter is settled. Failure to comply will lead to an immediate dishonourable discharge. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, My Elder.” He bowed.

“Follow me,” ordered the picket behind him.

He turned, and with his back to the Elders, winked at Acacia as a way of thanking her for her contributions to his release. Her face remained blank, though he could see thoughts tumbling around inside her head. He’d speak with her later when they could speak freely. She knew her sister was entering the Myst before Willow left; he’d sent the message to her, and he had no doubt the woman he admired most had delivered that message.

The pickets led him out the door, and as he walked to the waiting cart, he discretely scanned the area to see if he could catch a glimpse of Wynter, the woman who had filled his dreams and thoughts during his time in the dungeon. Her image made him hopeful he’d not spend endless weeks locked up, forgotten about like his cell mate.

The busy entranceway made it difficult to see anyone, but as his foot rose to climb into the back of the cart, he caught a glimpse of her dark head, her hair pulled into a braid and hanging over her shoulder. He imaged those grey green eyes watching him, studying him to see if he was well. Straightening his back to hide the ache due to lack of activity, he leapt into the cart as if he were as fit as the picket he walked in as, sat down and casual let his eyes roam the landscape until he found her. A smile he couldn’t trap before it escaped leapt upon his lips, and he gazed at her, unable to break the stare even when the cart jerked forward and the pickets carried him away into the afternoon sun. He watched her until they passed through the gates and around a pole, until her quick steps couldn’t keep up with the cart and made her fall behind. He settled in the cart, watching the last spot he’d seen her, hoping by day’s end, he’d see her close up, in his arms if she’d let him. Though the woman denied her feelings for him, he knew she was the one, and time would bring her to realise the same, then they’d unite and be together every day. That thought warmed him, filled his belly where only bread and water had passed as he whiled away the hours in the dungeon.

. . . end of Scene 1