Date Published: 10/11/2021
Publisher: Global Book Publishing
— Along with awesome power comes the greatest test of will —
Despite his humble farming roots, young Fearn displays incredible powers. Blessed by Dainua to harness the strength of every soul surrounding him, he’s known as an Asinta and could help the kingdom vitally. However, due to dark events that marred the name of those akin, Fearn finds himself distrusted by the superstitious villagers and even his own father, Dair . . . effecting untold sorrow.
To overcome the ancient ills of prejudice will not be easy. Luckily, there’s magic, too, beyond the spatial world — in words. As taught to be a “teller of tales” by Dair, who long has honed the craft, Fearn learns with creativity to also quickly capture minds. When wicked comes to visit, however, one mentor alone will guide the boy — a mentor with a story that has yet to end with due revenge.
Fearn soon shall discover the cost of love and loyalty — of hate and betrayal — and venturing to save his land, he’ll run the risk of losing himself, as deamhons play for keeps.
Dair teetered on the edge of the wooden chair, staring at the dying flames in the hearth as he tried not to focus on the sounds coming from the bedroom. His callused fingers alternated between tapping rhythmically on the lip of the chair and tracing the outlines of the raised grain in the wood. He was trying to ignore the Crop Burner that sat behind him in the dark. Sweat trickled down his neck at the thought of it. Turning his attention back to the fire, he noticed it had burned down to its last log. The light of the flames barely lit the small, sparsely furnished room. As he watched the flames dance across the oak, the sound of his wife’s screams rattled the walls of the adjacent room.
Why did I allow her to bring that into our house? Dair asked himself, though he knew the answer—he would do anything for his wife.
He reassured himself that there was no reason to worry; no child of his would be one of them.
The cries of childbirth grew more pronounced. Getting up slowly, the chair creaking as his weight shifted, he moved to the pile of wood next to the hearth and carefully selected a log that would give enough fuel to stoke the fire but conserve the dwindling fuel supply. It had been a harsh winter, and despite spring’s approach, the cold still seeped into every nook and cranny at night. Dair had not been able to go out and get fresh wood the last few days. Needing to preserve what they had, he picked up and meticulously weighed the log in his hands, placed it in the hearth, and grabbed a long metal rod, prodding at the embers to help stoke the fire.
He turned back to the table and looked up at the Asinta seated across from him. The man had been there for most of the night. A thick winter cloak was draped over his shoulders and fastened around his neck with a thin metal chain. Under the hooded cloak, the man wore a fine woolen tunic with intricately embroidered golden hands clasped at the wrist over his left breast. The man’s face was covered in shadow; just his lips could be seen. Dair surmised the man to be about his same age. To get his mind off of his wife’s screams, he gave in and derided the man. “So, Crop Burner, you spend all of your time harassing farmers? Or do you get time to kill their crops as well? I bet you’re pretty disappointed that the winter weather has spoiled any fun you might’ve had killing everything I own before leaving.” Dair spat on the dirt floor next to the man’s worn leather boots.
The man scowled, pursing his lips together as if to speak. Finally, his face slackened and he shook his head in disgust before replying. “Your wife is the one that summoned me here. I would have been more than glad to have come during the spring. I am surprised we were requested, as you Northerners rarely comply with testing your children.”
Grumbling, Dair responded, “I would’ve been fine if you didn’t come at all. She’s been sick for the past few months and got it into her head that you had to be here. Oy, Dainua knows I tried to talk her out of it.”
The screaming from the other room suddenly quieted. No sound followed, and time seemed to stop. The silence washed over Dair and the stranger like a wave, drowning Dair in fear. Just as he was about to bolt to the bedroom door, a new cry broke the silence. He stared at the door. A moment later, it slowly opened, and the midwife beckoned him into the room. As he approached, she put up a hand.
“The baby is doing well, but I cannot do any more for your wife. I’m sorry.” She slid past Dair into the other room with the baby swaddled in her arms. As Dair peered into the room, the strong smell of iron assaulting his senses, he noticed the bedding was dark— almost black in the light of the lantern on the nightstand. Speaking to himself somberly, Dair mumbled, “Oy, the bedding is so dark. How can all of that blood be hers?”
He stumbled towards Lia, who lay on the bed among rumpled sheets. Her rosy complexion was gone, replaced with a pallid gauntness. Her eyes were sunken, peering at him as if within a deep well. The taut skin made her cheek bones flare out like those of a bird about to take flight. The beautiful lips that had been full and vibrant sat flat and pulled back, her gums and teeth showing through her weak smile. Every breath she took contorted her face into a grimace of pain and agony.
“My love, everything will be fine,” Dair lied, thinking that she was too pale.
Her lips began to quiver, and her mouth opened as if to speak, but not a single word was uttered. As he leaned closer, she strained to whisper faintly, “Fearn… name him Fearn.”
“Shh. Be still, my love. Everything will be alright,” Dair replied, trying to reassure himself as much as Lia. The weight of the world seemed to be crashing down on him. Sliding to the floor and putting his forehead to her icy hand, tears started to pour down Dair’s cheeks. Her hand moved, reaching to brush away his tears. Looking up at her through bleary eyes, he saw her smile—the same smile he remembered from their wedding day as she said ‘I do’. After a moment, her eyes closed, and her pure face showed no more pain. The hand that touched his face slowly fell away. “I will always love you. We’ll name him Fearn, after your father,” Dair whispered. Pulling himself up, Dair leaned over Lia, his tears raining gently on her face as he kissed her one last time.
Dair stumbled out of the room and slumped back into his chair. Laying his arms on the table, he buried his face and wept. “Oy, Dainua, take me in her place. What did I do to deserve this?”
A faint and muffled cry broke through Dair’s sobbing. Sitting up suddenly, trying to wipe the tears from his face and wetness from his nose, Dair looked to the midwife. “O Dainua! The baby! How is the baby?” The midwife walked over and placed a hand gently on his shoulder. Glancing up into her face, he blathered, “Umm… is it… no, I mean the girl… uh, boy… doing alright? Oh dear, if it is a girl, I can’t name her Fearn. But I made a promise.”
“The baby is fine and it is a boy. Here.” The midwife slowly lowered the baby into Dair’s arms. The baby was strangely quiet except for a few soft whimpers. Dair asked, “Are babies supposed to be this quiet?” Those he had encountered in the past were always crying over something. The midwife smiled a knowing smile and nodded.
Running his hand over the baby’s head, he wondered aloud, “How can something so perfect come from such chaos? Oh, why did she have to die?” A gloved hand reached out and patted his arm. Looking up, he realized he had forgotten all about the Crop Burner. As the Asinta walked around the table, he pulled back his hood. He had closely cut brown hair, a day’s worth of stubble covering his chin, crow’s feet near his brown eyes, and tan skin weathered from a life spent on the road. Dair recognized a smell that reminded him of his wedding day while standing under the great oak: the smell of the grass beneath his feet and that beautiful flower his wife wore. What flower was that? Why are memories so hazy? Dair wondered.
“Are you well enough?” the Asinta asked.
“Eh? Oh, sorry.” Dair mumbled as he pulled himself out of his reverie. “Get to doing what you need to do so I can be rid of you,” he huffed.
Leaning forward, the man gently lifted the baby out of Dair’s arms and placed him on the table. Searching in his robes for a moment, the man finally withdrew a small metal box, opened it carefully, and placed it on the table at arm’s length. Searching again in his robes, he pulled out a finely-made pair of silver tongs. Using these, he pulled a flower from the box, one with flawless petals of the deepest shimmering blue Dair had ever seen. The emerald green stem looked as if it had been carved by artisans. As the man quickly closed the box, Dair noticed that there was a second, identical flower still inside. “I never get tired of looking at these,” the Asinta sighed.
Reaching down, the man unswaddled the baby until the pink skin of his tiny chest was exposed. The Asinta placed the flower gently on baby Fearn’s chest. “This should take only a few moments, and then you can be rid of me.”
“Wait! What is that? No, that can’t be! He has Telgog’s curse,” the midwife gasped and shrank away as the flower started to change. The cobalt blue of the petals slowly started to fade. Black veins began to creep up around the petals, the green in the stem seeming to melt as a black hue boiled to the surface. The stem curled, writhing like a snake. The black veins in the petals grew wider and longer, a plague enveloping the blue until nothing but black remained. The once pristine flower that lay on Fearn’s chest was now a bright, glossy black reflecting the flames in the fireplace.
A loud crash echoed through the room as Dair desperately tried to back the chair away from the table and instead knocked it over, toppling to the ground himself. Dair continued backing away until he was against the wall. “Get that thing out of here!” Dair screamed. “I won’t let this thing mock my wife’s death or taint her father’s name. It won’t be living under this roof. I’m a respectable farmer and won’t have some deamhon killing my crops!” Fearn began to bellow. Rushing over, the midwife quickly swaddled him and pulled him up to her chest. Swaying back and forth to try to calm him, she looked to the Asinta and said, “The baby is going to need to feed soon.” The Asinta pulled a heavy leather purse from his belt and held it out to her. “Take the boy to the closest wet nurse,” he directed. He looked over at Dair, still flat against the far wall. “Better yet, arrange for the baby to be taken care of until it can be weened, at which time the baby will be returned here.” Dair started to stammer in protest, then stopped and looked back through the door to where Lia lay.
“I will feed and clothe him, but not for you, Crop Burner. I’m doing this for my Lia,” Dair insisted. Standing, he walked over to the chair that lay on the floor and picked it up, turned it to face the fire, and sat down. “Get out of here, both of you,” Dair growled. “I’ve had enough for one night.”
The Asinta glanced at the midwife. “You better get going. Wait, though. I almost forgot I need one more thing. Please let me see the baby’s shoulder.” He reached into his robes, withdrew a small bottle and pulled a knife from his belt. “I will need a sample from him so we can determine where his powers may lie.” The midwife did as she was told. Grabbing the baby by his hand and pulling his arm straight, the Asinta slowly carved a small square of skin from Fearn’s shoulder and dropped it in the bottle. Fearn burst out crying again. The Asinta pressed his hand over the wound and grabbed the midwife by the arm. Before she could ask what he was doing, a sharp pain shot from the center of her body to the arm he held. Just as she was about to scream, the pain ceased. He removed his hand and, where the small square was cut in the skin, a fresh pink scar had appeared. The Asinta hurriedly picked up the box and tongs, put them away in his robes, and without another word, left the small farm house. Gathering up her supplies and baby Fearn, the midwife followed the Asinta out.
About the Author
Gavin Black lives with his wife and two boys in Reno, Nevada. Growing up, he spent his formative years in the hospital due to a congenital lung malady. He found an escape in fantasy and science fiction novels, beginning with the books of David Eddings and followed by so many of the greats: Tolkien, Heinlein, and Asimov, among others. He was always drawn to stories with deep character development and that defied readers’ expectations. When not writing, he can be found playing board games with his family and friends, reading, or discussing the varied merits of many a pop culture franchise.
Gavin and his wife, Ann, met at Renovation, the 2014 WorldCon. Together, they enjoy attending numerous conventions – always in cosplay! – including D23, WorldCon, Wizard World, and any others that come within 100 miles of Reno. Gavin’s favorite panels always include learning more about the creation process in any media form. He’s also attended courses by Neil Gaiman and Brandon Sanderson on the ins and outs of writing fantasy.
Before he began writing, Gavin imagined up dozens of worlds and characters, often inspired by the unique folks he met traveling while working as a systems engineer for different gaming companies. Although only a few have found their way into his first novel, he swears he has a never-ending supply for future tales!