The ties that bind are not always visible, the universal concept of love, not always seen clearly through the eyes of the wandering traveler. This is no truer than in the case of Solan, a warrior with an unknown destiny in “Finding Eternity.” Wounded on the battlefield, his rescue by a vampire who yearns to be his proves to be too much for a man with no concept of ownership.
Light from an explosion blinded him. Another detonation rocked the ground beneath him, forcing him to his knees. Solan gripped the hilt of his sword, pulled it from its sheath and stabbed the ground. Using the sword for leverage, he forced himself to his feet in time to free the sword and counter the attack coming at him.
His blade connected with the other man’s and rang out, sparks flying.
“You die now, warrior.” Grunting, behemoth swung his blade at Solan.
Solan parried and jumped back. Eyes narrowed, he focused on the weak spot in his opponent’s armor. Dressed in leather boots, gauntlets, and clean rust colored armor, the man known simply as an Outsider heaved his sword back. With one hand, he swung the giant blade at Solan.
Solan jumped away and charged in, swinging his sword across the Outsider’s midsection. He cut into the leather but barely scraped the skin.
The Outsider laughed and struck back, lunging at Solan, fist cocked back.
Solan took the blow to his lungs, wind whooshing out of him. He swore bone cracked. That wasn’t good. No hospitals in the area for at least two days journey meant he’d probably have to repair the injury himself, along with other cuts and scrapes he’d acquired in battle.
In rapid fire succession, the Outsider jumped again at Solan, thrusting sword and fist at him.
Solan leapt back and away. Each time, the Outsider swung, wind from his attacks bit into bite into Solan’s skin.
His strength would only hold up another few minutes at best before the Outsider’s blade cut into him and tore him to pieces.
“I could keep this up,” the Outsider swung again, “for hours. My strength is legendary. If you’d left well alone after I brutally killed that petty human, you wouldn’t be in this position.”
Solan said nothing as he blocked the sword coming at his head. Straining, he parried the blade away and countered with an attack of his own.
The Outsider stopped his advance, held up his free hand. Thick fingers curled and uncurled, a white ball of light formed and hovered above his palm. Soundless energy swept up into a point, making the air crackle. Solan saw his chance.
The Outsider cocked his fist back and started to throw the light.
Solan ducked, barely missing the strike before he thrust his sword up, catching the Outsider below his ribs. “Victory will be mine.”
Surprise slowly spread across the Outsider’s face. He coughed blood and looked down at the new wound in his chest with wide eyes.
“You cannot heal that wound. This blade is made from special iron and has been blessed by the Goddess Herself. This battle,” Solan withdrew his blade, “is over.”
The ball of light dissipated into glimmers of light, disappearing and the Outsider fell to his knees, blood dripping down his chin. Solan had cracked ribs and his blade punched through the attacker’s body completely. Solid metal pierced the lung, silencing the wounded man.
The Outsider swung one last time.
Too close to deflect the blow with his weapon, Solan spun away in attempt to catch the blade in his weak arm.
The tip of the blade caught him, tearing deep in his flesh.
He grit his teeth, wiped sweat from his brow and looked around, scanning the barren land. Several hundred yards from where he stood, an army made its way through what used to be lush forest and crystal clear streams.
Now, only soot and gunpowder filled the air. The blue skies had turned gray, the ground empty, devoid of life.
Another explosion landed near him, sending him flying several feet back. Mortar and shells fired off in rapid succession as the invaders sieged the lands and pushed back the humans attempting to defeat what Solan knew as otherworldly beings.
He had to get away. The wound on his arm was one of many he’d acquired.
He’d lost a lot of blood. Only dedicated skill had saved his life. The Outsider had him outweighed by at least a good hundred pounds of solid muscle. His skill, speed and strength combined had him in Solan’s face so using his whip remained impossible.
Two attackers forced him to leave behind his short sword. He’d pinned them to a tree. If he pulled the blade, they’d heal. If he left it in, they’d die in hours.
By a miracle, he still breathed.
His lungs burned inhaling smoke and death, his eyes stung, sweat ran down his forehead. He reached into one of his kilt pockets, pulled out a rag and tore it into strips. With difficulty concentrating, he tied the makeshift bandage around his arm.
His stomach grumbled. He hadn’t eaten in two days. The last village he passed through had been terribly impoverished. His warrior’s code wouldn’t let him take from those with less.
Silence echoed loudly around him, indicating the army had long moved on from this front, Solan found himself left alone with only his thoughts.
“No cut too deep,” he took a step forward. Then another. Dirt and gravel crunched beneath his boots. “No road too long. No wind too hard…” The words came out by rote, a chant he’d heard ever since coming to consciousness one day. Strain in his voice became apparent.
Nothing around the desolate battlefield could sustain him. With darkness setting soon, his only respite would be sleep, if he could find shelter.
The war between humans and the Other raged endlessly.
When he awoke to find the palace he called home ablaze, he knew only one thing. Find safety, then regroup. He’d been on the road so long that safety was no longer a priority. He’d soon discovered the world was in a chaotic state. The Others tried to conquer the humans, and the balance of power shifted often.
He supposed in the end, he was his own side.
Solan had to survive; he had a destiny to fulfill.
His vision blurred. Something dug into his uncovered knees and cut his skin.
Solan realized it was his scream permeating the air.
Tears streaked down his cheeks. Failure was not an option as long as blood flowed through his veins and his heart beat. What he wouldn’t give to end his loneliness.
Someone, something, in the air flew toward him. A figure. He could only make out slender features in the fog and mist before the ground came at him too quickly and he saw black.
* * * *
Something wet and warm slid across his forehead, bringing him back from unconsciousness. Solan didn’t move, but he opened his senses. The softness of pillows and blankets cradled his body.
“No night too dark.”
Dripping water pulled his attention to his left, before warmth of a washcloth brushed over his forehead again.
“No road too long.”
The voice was feminine, soft, with a foreign lilt that sounded sweet to his ears.
“No wind too strong.”
A washcloth. Reality intruded the dull haze he’d been in as muscles ached and he let out a groan.
Carefully, he opened his eyes.
Blurred vision gave way to reveal the face of an angel.
Or a demon.
Midnight blue hair hung straight, framing an oval face. Ruby red lips meant for easing the suffering of man caused him to harden.
Her eyes seemed lifeless at first glance.
Solan stared harder into the pools of her irises, found himself sinking slowly into the depths of Krylon blue before shaking himself out of a trance.
Pain sliced through his limbs.
“Be careful. I’ve given you something for the pain, but,” she ran a hand through her hair and he imagined what it would feel like to tangle his fingers in her long locks.
She smiled, showed tiny fangs.
He gasped, “You’re a,” he tried to move, agonizing pain cut through him. He clenched his teeth, the warrior in him refusing to scream.
Her brows furrowed together. “Yes, warrior. I am the undead.”
“Where did you learn those words?”
“I don’t know,” she set a washcloth back in the basin. “They have been in my head for many years now. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t think of them. Why do you ask?”
Solan closed his eyes. “No reason.”
Her arm brushed against his, sending a jolt of arousal coursing through him. Again, he grunted, more in frustration at not being able to move or react, than anything else.
“This will sting a bit, but it’s necessary to change the dressings on your shoulder. The cuts are very deep and we had to replace a lot of what you lost.”
His eyes widened.
“No,” she shook her head, “Not with our blood. There are willing humans who donate to us as we require in return for our protection. The damage to your body was so great that our herbs would not cure you.”
The first time in ages he’d talked to someone who wasn’t trying to kill him and she had to be a vampire. What did that say of his life? “I see.” He inhaled slowly, careful not to send another shock of pain through his system. Exhaling was slightly more comfortable.
“When I found you, I tried to heal you with magic but the wounds wouldn’t close. Something bad…”
“An Outsider.” He turned his head to look at the basin and remove her pretty face from his sight.
“Yes.” She picked up something metal, he caught the gleam of candlelight reflecting off it. “You’re not-“
Two fingers pressed against his mouth. “The razor is sharp. You have bomb shrapnel in you. I’m simply going to remove it.”
The contact of her fingers against his lips made his throat dry. He had to have her despite her being…
“Look away, it will hurt less.”
“You don’t have medicine to numb me?”
She swiped the knife through a flame, studied the blade at eye level and blinked. “I do not.”
Eyes wide, Solan jerked against her, sending pain lacing through his body. His heart skipped a beat. “You can’t bespell me?”
She shook her head from side to side. “Sadly, no.”
His eyes met hers and he found himself getting lost in her gaze, yet it wasn’t the intentional power of persuasion screaming in his head that stole his focus. It was just…her.
With careful attention, she brought the knife to his flesh and cut along the injured area.
Solan stared down the line of her body, jerked from the knife cutting and pain, but found he liked the way the purple dress fit her. Large breasts spilled from the lace top. If he had to guess, the dress reached floor length and tapered at the waist. He couldn’t move past her breasts.
Her eyes met his and her lips curled up in an appreciative smile. Then she frowned.
“Ouch,” the sting bit into him, and his arm suddenly felt lighter.
She pulled out the metal and dropped it into a container beside her. “Just as I suspected. The Outsider’s blade had magic woven into the folding of steel.”
Solan arched a brow. “You can detect magic?”
She nodded. “There are many things not understood about our race, but the humans won’t ask. And the Outsiders seek to control us.”
“What do you want?”
Her face lit up, then a mask concealed her former joyous expression. “We want the same thing every being wants. Peaceful days.”
“Can you overpower the Outsiders?”
“We can. But they outnumber us since our race is dying.”
He’d heard. The Outsiders sought to rule and blanket the world with chaos. Humans fought bravely but lost out due to the sheer size and strength of the typical Outsider. Vampires didn’t appear to be a factor. “Rumors and legends abound about your kind.”
Again, she nodded, and the light reflected off her pale skin. Shadows danced over her flesh. Solan swore he saw demons running over her skin but then again, he could be hallucinating.
“The spell works to slow down the opponent upon drawing blood. It’s as though weight is added to compound the severity of your injuries. The mind cannot process the additional weight so fast, so you end up spent before your much larger opponent.”
Slowly, Solan let out a deep breath. “No wonder he seemed so much faster.”
“I am Katherine, by the way.” She threaded a needle and began stitching the wound in his arm. “Most of your other wounds I can heal with magic if you will allow. For now, you should rest.”
Solan started to protest but the pinch of her needle stopped him. His stomach grumbled.
“I have no doubt a fierce warrior like you needs provisions. I shall see to it that you are fed. Right now, we’re hoping the blood we gave you remains in your system.”
He cocked a brow. “My body could reject your blood?”
“While our magic is strong, our knowledge of medicines and the human body is…lacking.” Her voice dropped. Katherine looked away.
Though it pained him, Solan lifted his left arm, grit his teeth and touched her cheek.
He had no idea her skin would be so soft.
Running the pad of his thumb along her jaw line, he turned her face toward him. “I can only thank you for your kindness. If I can do…”
Katherine smiled. “Your kindness is all I ask, warrior. Do you…” she set a hand on his chest lightly, “have a name?”
Heat warmed him, hardened him. Despite his wounds, intense desire coursed through him for Katherine. A warrior’s name was something to share exclusively with trusted company. Right now, Solan felt like he could trust her, even if she was one of the walking dead. He closed his eyes, evened his breathing and enjoyed the warmth settling around him.
“Very well, Solan. I shall love you back to full health.”
The last thing he heard was the sound of her breathing before sleep overtook him.
To read more AND find out what worlds authors Bonni Sansom and Margie Church delved into,