The Hunt: Excerpt
Galen remained motionless, not giving the riders standing behind him any reason to touch him again. They’d pulled him away from Rob, their touch
momentarily paralyzing him behind a cold layer of swirling mists. The fog cleared in time for Galen to see his brother dragged into the pond by the
each uisge. He held his breath, counting the seconds until the creature reappeared with Rob. It carried him to the altar and dropped him there. Galen’s eyes were fixed to the spot, watching as the ritual played out. He knew the moment Rob began to be pulled away to the Hunt. Rob’s body arched in pain, reacting to the touch of the man. In that moment, the Gift, his healing, the gentle pulse of power along his spine was back full force, warming him, letting the bond snap back into place. The connection was still muted, the whisper of Rob’s presence nearly silent, but it was there. He felt the touch of the knife on Rob’s throat as the wound was made.
The man straightened from the altar. He spoke a few quiet words, his face shifting like the fog. Turning, he walked to where Galen stood and stopped in front of him. Galen met his look, wondering what Rob would have seen there—what Galen could see was horror enough. As the face shifted it moved from human to skeletal, young to old, and not just one face, hundreds lurked there under the surface, like a darkened pond full of the corpses of ancient trees.
The man spoke to Galen, at first the words made no sense, but they slowly formed into meaning. “He is better than we could have hoped, for one who has fallen.” Something like a smile crossed his face. “Your sacrifice will be honored, your blood will pave the way for our new king.” He laid a hand on
Galen’s shoulder. Galen braced himself, focusing the Gift to block the effect of the touch. The man pulled away, staggering back. “Who are you? What have you done?” He cast a glance at Rob, motionless on the altar, then back at Galen.
I did nothing,” Galen answered truthfully. He spoke English, unsure if the man would understand.
No,” Rob said softly in the same language the man was speaking. His accent was different, but the man understood, he turned to where Rob was struggling to stand.
“No?” the man said with a growl.
No.” Rob’s voice was firm despite the blood running down his neck. “I offer myself, I stand for the ritual. As it once was.”
“As it will be,” the man replied.
“The sacrifice must be met,” another rider said, stepping forward. Galen narrowed his eyes, from the way the other acted, his clothing and the sword he was carrying it was the king’s champion, the man Galen would replace.
“No.” Rob shook his head, swaying on his feet. “There is no need. I am joining of my free will.”
“But still blood must flow,” the champion insisted.
“You violate the ritual,” Rob snapped, his voice commanding. The champion reeled back from the derision in his voice.
“We honor the Tradition.”
“You know nothing of the Tradition. You defile the Tradition. We stand together. We join together, my brother and I, we honor the Tradition.”
“Who are you, that lectures me on Tradition?”
“Rob smiled. “Robert Emrys.” He drew himself up, Galen felt a gentle tug through the bond, he let the light flow along their connection. Rob took a deep breath. “I stand as King, I accept this place, I honor the Hunt, I seek this honor.” The words were formal, Galen understood they were part of the ritual.
“Your turn,” “Rob said through the bond.
Galen had no idea what he was supposed to say, he needn’t have worried, Rob supplied the words, the language and cadence flowing through their connection. He opened his mouth and the words flowed out of him. “I stand as Champion, I serve my King, I accept this place, I honor the Hunt, I seek this honor.”
“No!” the champion said, stepping up to Galen. He raised his hand and would have stuck him, but the other man grabbed his arm, skeletal fingers wrapping around the wrist in a tight grip.
“That is not for you to decide!” the man said angrily. He turned to Rob. “The ritual will be as it was, as it has not been for these many centuries. It is
good, it is right, it is joy.”
“It is good, it is right, it is joy,” Rob echoed.
“Tonight’s ritual is met, until the morrow.” The man turned and strode back to his horse. Until the morrow.” Rob lifted his hand in farewell.