The Blackstone Temple
« Chapter 1 »
Charity Tyr Elise finally reached out and took what she had been looking for. The document, owned by her father, Beaumont Tyr Elise, had been stolen the week before. It held the deeds to the ownership of a small temple high on the ridges of Blackstone, a place situated west of Caddoan Castle in the Kingdom of Oberon.
Smiling, she placed it inside her jacket, then closed the lid on the ornate box, musing that no one ever stole what rightfully belonged to her father.
The temple itself was not lavish, rather plain on the outside with about thirty resident monks tending to it. Neither was it worth a great deal of money for the land it stood on was surrounded by a rocky forest high up on a windswept cliff. What had interested the thief, however, was the rumour that hidden beneath the temple was a horde of treasure.
Charity had known the second the document had gone missing who had stolen it, because Trey Delatoy had, on many occasions, tried to buy the temple from her father.
Beaumont had outright refused because he did not like Trey Delatoy. He was a greedy, ruthless young man bent on amassing whatever riches he could get his hands on. He’d even tried asking for Charity’s hand in marriage. Of course, he had no real interest in Charity for she was a headstrong individual who refused to bow down to anyone; rather it was the temple he was after through the marriage.
When Charity’s father had refused to sell the land or allow his daughter to marry Delatoy, Delatoy had lost his temper, vowing that one way or another he would gain possession of the temple.
Charity’s father was now in ill health and Delatoy had been circling in the wings waiting for an opportunity to swoop in and take what he wanted, even if that meant forcing Charity into marriage to achieve it. Part one of his plan was to steal the deeds to the temple, part two was to kidnap Charity and force her to sign the deeds over to him. If she refused, then he would simply marry her with or without her consent and the deeds would automatically become his by rights.
Delta had already stolen the deeds, but Charity was no one’s fool. It had taken some time, but she had tracked the document down to Delatoy’s small castle in Trolcar, north-east of Caddoan Castle.
It had not been easy breaking in because Delatoy had enough money to hire guards. Still, Charity mused with a wry smile, they’d wake up, eventually. To disarm the guards she had used a small blow dart laced with a sleeping potion. Its effects were only temporary, but left the victim feeling groggy with a blinding headache when they awoke. If Delatoy wanted to play dirty, then so be it, Charity would employ the same methods.
Charity’s amusement faded however when she heard footsteps coming down the long corridor outside Delatoy’s bedroom. For a disguise, Charity had smeared mud all over her face and lifting the hood of her cloak she glanced around the room for somewhere to hide.
“My guards you blind fool did not just fall asleep. Someone drugged them and I want them found!” Trey Delatoy bellowed as he glared down at Niall, one of his more senior guards.
“But I don’t understand how it could have happened, sir.”
Grabbing Niall by the throat, Delatoy waved one of Charity’s small darts in his face. “But it happened, see this, a poison dart no doubt. Now, unless you want the very skin flailing off your back, I suggest you find whoever is responsible for this. When you do, bring them to me. I shall enjoy teaching them the error of their ways. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” Niall said with a quick succession of nods.
Delatoy shoved him aside. “Then get out of my sight.”
Bowing, Niall raced down the corridor to instruct the few guards who had recovered from Charity’s darts to search the castle.
Charity’s heart was racing; she’d scaled the castle by throwing a grappling hook up over the towers crenulations. The rope hung from an open window in Trey Delatoy’s private quarters.
Glancing out of the window and down into the courtyard below, she mused that if anyone should see her, they would no doubt cut the rope before she reached the bottom of the three-storey tower. Brushing her worries aside, Charity opened a large wardrobe door and shot inside. Her rapid breaths were in danger of giving her away. Closing her eyes, she calmed her nerves.
Peering through a thin gap in the door, Charity cursed as she watched Delatoy storm into his quarters. Angry, he kicked over a chair sending it crashing to the floor. Delatoy did not understand why anyone would want to drug his guards, but he knew one thing, if he caught the perpetrator they would pay dearly for it.
Unbuckling a harness that held a very ornate sword, Delatoy cast it onto his bed. Unfastening his studded leather jacket he cast it aside. Lifting the chair with the tip of his boot, he slammed it down on the wooden floor. Dropping into it, he raked his hands through his shoulder-length blond hair, cursing that someone had somehow gotten the better of him.
Charity knew that Delatoy had little or no patience, in fact, he had a reputation for being a cruel man. He’d often had servants flogged for something as trivial as dropping food or speaking when not directly spoken to.
Charity mused that her father had been right to warn her about Delatoy, he was a greedy, ruthless bully who needed cutting down to size. Trouble was, it looked more and more like she was the one who would be cut down to size, especially if Delatoy found her in his wardrobe.
It occurred to Charity that she should not have lingered in the room and escaped through the window straight away. With some of Delatoy’s guards now recovering from the sleeping darts it would make escaping the castle more difficult. She mused that at home, it had appeared a simple task. Break into the castle, steal back the document and leave. Unfortunately, her plan had a fatal flaw; she hadn’t banked on anyone finding the guards before they awoke.
Rising to his feet, Delatoy snatched a decanter of deep burgundy wine and poured himself a glass. Drinking the wine in one go, he slammed the glass onto a small side table.
Charity could see the anger flashing in his steel-blue eyes. He was a man who did not take kindly to being crossed, not when his enemy was proving so elusive.
When Delatoy poured himself a second glass of wine, his eyes fell on the ornate stone box resting on a merchant’s cabinet. Pausing as the glass pressed to his lips, he narrowed his eyes, for he never left the box out on view. So who had?
Charity realised her mistake when she looked across the room to see the box. Silently she cursed her stupidity for not replacing it back in the cabinet.
Casting the glass of wine across his room, Delatoy rounded his bed. Snatching the box off the cabinet, he cursed as he flung it open. The box was empty and roaring in anger he threw it out of the open window.
When the box finally hit the ground and shattered, Delatoy frowned. His window had not been fully open when he’d left his room earlier, only half open.
Narrowing his eyes, Delatoy scanned his dimly lit room, for it was late in the night. Whoever had broken into his castle they had known exactly what they were looking for.
With a face contorted in rage, he growled, “Beaumont!”
To fool Delatoy into thinking that the robbery was random, Charity had planned to take other items from his home, but Delatoy had returned early and cut her plans short. And with nothing more than the document missing it would be painfully obvious who had stolen it. Still, Delatoy had no proof and he could not go to the authorities because he would have to explain how the document had illegally come into his possession.
Charity now had two problems, the more pressing one was how to get out of Delatoy’s castle alive, the second was that Delatoy would now seek revenge on her ailing father for something she had done. Her father knew the document was stolen from his home in Galleria, and by whom, but a bad run of health had stopped him from doing anything about it. Neither did her father know that she had donned a disguise and taken things into her own hands.
When Delatoy began a search of his room, Charity panicked. First, he looked under his bed, then behind a large tapestry that revealed a secret door, then lastly, his gaze fell on the large wardrobes that stretched the length of one wall. Knocking the chair out of his way, Delatoy stormed toward the wardrobe and when he finally grabbed a handle to wrench it open, Charity shifted back, raised her foot and kicked the door. When the door slammed into Delatoy’s face, he staggered back onto his bed. Bouncing, he rolled off and hit the floor. Shocked and dazed, he lay still.
Charity wasted no time in darting out of the wardrobe and swinging her legs out of the window, she grabbed hold of the rope and quickly descended.
When Charity was six feet off the ground, Delatoy slashed the rope with a dagger, falling, she landed with a thud on her back. Cursing, she gazed up to see Delatoy scowling down at her.
When his nose bled, he bellowed, “Guards!”
Charity was thankful she had entered the castle at night, but the moon now illuminated areas once cloaked in shadows. Creeping around the castle, she disarmed Delatoy’s guards one by one until she made it to the unmanned portcullis. It was a struggle, but Charity raised the portcullis off the ground using the winch. Her victory was short lived when she not only heard but saw Delatoy racing across the courtyard to stop her.
Releasing the winch, Charity jumped over the low wall and dived under the lowering portcullis. Rolling free as it hammered into place, she scrambled to her feet, pausing only to glance back at Delatoy as he slammed his fists on the portcullis separating them.
The moon lit Charity’s face, but the mud assured that Delatoy did not recognise her features. Raising her hood, she smiled and waved.
Angry at her mockery, Delatoy turned to a guard, yelling, “Raise it, now!”
Spinning on her heels, Charity ran across the drawbridge and down the hill toward the river. Once there, she swung into her saddle and raced across the open land toward a large forest.
Delatoy wasted no time in following Charity and as he skidded to a halt by the moonlit river, he called out, “I will find you thief!”
When Niall his senior guard halted beside him, he informed, “The guards are ready to give chase, sir.”
“Good, I want the thief found and quickly.”
Niall held a torch in his hand and taking it from him, Delatoy scoured the ground for tracks. Crouching, he traced his fingers in the thief’s footprints. He mused that they were the footprints of a very slim built man.
Rising, Delatoy followed the thief’s tracks. “They fled that way, toward the forest.”
“I’ll tell the men, sir,” Niall said as he ran back to the castle.
Gazing out into the inky blackness, Delatoy searched the edges of the forest for movement. He could still sense his enemy watching him.
Charity moved her horse forward, and riding into the moonlight so that Delatoy could see her, she raised her sword in victory as her horse reared on its hind legs. Incensed by the arrogant gesture, Delatoy ran toward her.
Smiling, Charity spun her horse around and headed into the forest.
When Delatoy reached the line of trees, his guards on horseback joined him. Halting the men before they entered the forest, Delatoy growled, “Wait!”
“I thought you wanted us to follow him, sir,” Niall said.
“For now he has an advantage, it’s too dark, best we wait till sunrise before picking up his trail.”
“As you wish sir,” Niall said and dismounting he gave his steed to Delatoy.
Following Delatoy, the guards whispered that unless they wanted to catch Delatoy’s wrath, they had better find the thief and soon.
Charity had left her home in Galleria the previous night, her plan was simple, steal back the deeds from Delatoy and to her surprise, it had worked. Besting him at his own game had given her a newfound confidence. She mused that she could get used to scuppering Delatoy’s plans.
Delatoy had amassed his fortune by bullying simple landowners out of their estates. He had a habit of stealing people’s deeds, forcing them to sign them over to him and then claiming the land as his own.
Charity mused that if she could steal her father’s document back, then what was to stop her from doing the same for her neighbours. She would do it in the name of the downtrodden. She would show Delatoy that there was someone not intimidated by his tyranny. He was not the only one who could play mind games.
When Charity was young, she had heard whispers of a secret hidden deep beneath the Blackstone Temple. Her mother and mother’s mother as far back as they could remember, had all been the guardians of this secret.
The temple was built over a warren of caves that few had ever seen. At the core of the main cave, those with the power to see could communicate with an ancient Blue Moon Dragon. On her mother’s side of the family, dragon guardians had always been born female. A true dragon guardian was born with a mark, the mark of a dragon, which snaked its way up their spines, its head finally resting on their right shoulder blade. Charity bore such a mark.
Delatoy in his lust for power and wealth believed that the temple hid a treasure of gold or other such riches. The real treasure was knowledge not physical riches, but Delatoy refused to believe this and sought to own the land any way he could.
Charity would stop him at any cost, but Delatoy did not intend to let his thief in the night escape without some kind of retribution. He would hunt them down and make them pay with their life.
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