Five hundred and eighty-three years after the Battle of Ak’horokaš…
Hâr-Tharion, Ser-Mathion, and Ser-Mathios were riding along the Red Mountains, returning home after holding council with Belevâk, the Mountain-lord of Hádakaš. Belevâk was now very old. Having been nine hundred and six years old during the time of the Great Alliance, he was now eleven years shy of his fifteenth century, and there was far more grey to be seen in his hair than when Mathion first met him. Mathion had changed as well. No longer counted among the “young people” of Ánovén, Mathion had only the year prior reached the age of one thousand, during the course of which he had garnered many victories against the Kânín.
His son Mathios was now four hundred and twenty-eight years old, and a perfect replica of Mathion himself at that age, save for Mathios’s red hair. For much of the last ten years, Mathios had spent his time in Kôvudén, joining the Watchers guarding King Lehadi X. As a result, he had adopted many Kôvudénean customs, and now rode with his sword sheathed behind his back.
Tharion, by the grace of Ka’én, was now one thousand, five hundred and twenty-four years old, the oldest King of recent memory. Not only was his sheer age a rarity, but Tharion succumbed to neither senility nor dementia, two maladies which often plagued many of the Elders in their waning years, as had been the case with Mahavir of the clan of Úrevos. Tharion was neither crippled nor bent with age, but tall and proud as ever, save that his hair had now become as white as Elekan’s fur. Some said that it was not simply by the grace of Ka’én that Tharion had lived for so long, but that Mathion’s Wolfstone had blessed his entire family.
“Do you think Belevâk will send more Red Guards northward as you requested?” Mathion asked his father.
“Of course,” Tharion replied. “I have not asked anything of Belevâk for over two hundred years.”
“I know, because I have,” said Mathion. “The Kânín are pressing further and further into Ánovénean territory, Father. We are being worn too thin. And without the last Wolfstone, Hádakaš is still blind.”
“I have sent Kir-Belevâk report of everything that has been said through the Stones,” Tharion retorted. “The last stone will be acquired in time.”
“We don’t have a lot of time left, Father.”
“What about all those stories I’ve heard of you two?” Mathios asked.
“You are here to learn, not speak, Mathios,” Mathion said sternly.
“Oh hush,” Tharion interjected. “Council is over and done, let the boy speak as he may.”
“You’ve certainly changed since I was young.” Tharion smiled.
“Grandchildren have that effect on you, my son.”
Ic óm atar? said Elekan.
(What is that?) Mathion turned his head this way and that, but saw nothing, though he smelled a sweet fragrance from the flower fields south of their path.
“I don’t see anything, Elekan,” he said.
(See with your mind.)
Mathion closed his eyes, and the Wolfstone shone as bright as the noonday sun above their heads. Mathion had long since become used to the sensation of soaring out of his body, over the trees and high above the mountaintops, seeing the world as if from a bird’s-eye view. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and scratched Elekan’s head.
“Maybe age has finally caught up with you, my old friend,” he said. Elekan merely snorted.
“Please, Father,” Mathios said. “Elekan’s going to outlive all of us!”
Mathion laughed, “He very well may, my son.”
“Mathion,” said Tharion, “there are matters that we need to discuss when return to—”
Out of nowhere, a ravenous werewolf leapt upon Tharion. The King fell from his horse, and with a howl the Kânai ripped it in half, spilling blood and entrails on the verdant grass. The werewolf leapt onto Tharion and snarled viciously as it raised one of its great paws and held Tharion’s head down. Mathios leapt off his horse, unsheathing his sword with such speed that it may have well been summoned, but it was too late. The werewolf opened its jaws wide and sunk its fangs deep into the king’s flesh. Tharion cried out in such pain that Mathion felt it as his own.
Bé-tathálij ktildo! Mathion had no sooner thought the command when his great sword Aelak’ra flashed into his hand. Elekan bared his teeth and let loose a terrible howl that flung the werewolf aside. Mathios pounced forward between the beast, his father, and his grandfather. He widened his stance and held his sword at the ready. The werewolf rose onto its four powerful legs and crouched, primed to pounce on the king and this little warrior standing between them.
“Mathios, get back!” Mathion roared.
“I can fight!”
“I said now, ictola!” But it was too late. With a roar the werewolf bolted at Mathios, gnashing its jaws violently. Mathios crouched and leapt in a great arc over the beast, slicing its back. Wounded, the werewolf fell to the ground. Mathion stepped forward and Aelak’ra shone with a brilliant golden light. With one motion Mathion stabbed the werewolf’s neck, and the Kânai was consumed and destroyed in flames. Mathion said nothing as he recalled Aelak’ra, and immediately ran to his father’s side.
Tharion’s throat and shoulder had suffered traumatic damage. Dark red blood flowed from several large, deep gashes caused by the Kânai’s fangs and Tharion was wide-eyed, struggling to breathe.
“Wolfsbane,” Mathion said, and Mathios rushed through a bag hanging from Mathion’s horse. Mathios pulled out a small bundle of pungent blue leaves and stems and handed it to his father. Mathion chewed the lot and packed it into the deepest cuts on Tharion’s neck. Taking a strip of cloth and wrapping it tightly around Tharion’s wounds, Mathion removed his Wolfstone and placed it around his father’s neck.
“Stay with me,” he said as Tharion’s eyes fluttered. Mathion turned and glared at his son. His eyes flashed angrily, but Mathios held his ground.
“I said I could fight, and I did.”
“Now is not the time,” Mathion shot back.