The Mithe-Hart: A Novel

Presenting!  A sneak preview of my first book and children's fantasy novel: The Mithe-Hart.

The complete work is available HERE



Prologue


Two swords crashed together in midair, sending reverberations down the arms of the fighters.  A little girl in the crowd gasped.  The two men fought furiously, stroke following stroke in rapid succession.  The child drew behind her mother’s skirts, little understanding what was happening.  She could not know, at such a tender age, that the throne, the nation, the course of her own life hung in the balance.  The victor would be king.
The first combatant, a well-muscled man, drove relentlessly forward.  Eyes narrowed, breath coming in deep draughts, he cared not what the other felt.  He had, he thought, only to prove his strength – and in that he was not lacking – and take back what was rightfully his.  What mattered it that his father, the late king, had chosen this whelp of a brother as his successor?  What mattered it that the old fool had declared him – the strong one, the clever one – unfit to rule?  What a blessing that his opponent – his brother - clung so stubbornly to ancient traditions!  He had accepted the challenge at once, and all because it was lawful and “honorable.”  The fool.
The other combatant, sturdy but by no means as strong as his older sibling, watched the other’s sword with a calculating eye.  He had to think fast in order to counter the reckless blows, but this proved no great feat for his sharp wits.  Each step, be it forward or back, each block and counter-strike, he could work to his advantage.  Now he would see an opening, now lunge forward – then fall back, hefty blows raining about his head.  There!  He saw it.  The strike that would finish the fight; his brother would have to yield.  But no – as he struck the blow he could not have missed, a strange thing happened.  His eyesight became blurred and a terrible burning weakness surged through his body.  He missed.
Staggering backward to avoid the counter-attack, the world seemed to spin around him.  Something was not right.  As he sought to regain lost ground, feeling terribly ill, he thought back to the cordial both men had drunk in preparation for the fight.  Had his been somehow different?  He had not time to think further.
The older brother felt a little thrill of satisfaction.  All was going well.  He glanced into the crowd, his eye picking out the one who came to help him.  The man gave an almost imperceptible nod.  Concealed in his accomplice’s hand, the brutal fighter knew, was the tiny weapon that would ensure his ascension to the throne. Now.
The younger man dropped to the ground, a cry of pain on his lips as his right leg collapsed beneath him.  Perhaps, the sly one thought, it would appear that his last stroke, aimed low, was a good one – or that the one-who-would-be-king had stepped badly.  Anyway, it did not matter.  No one knew what he, the stronger son, knew.  No one except his helper.  With a cry of triumph he struck the fallen man’s head with the flat of his blade, then raised the sword high and shouted in the tongue of his fathers, “He yields!”
A roar went up from most of the crowd.  They swept him up, the victor, and bore him to the palace. Behind them they left the battleground, now deserted but for a few downcast stragglers.  The younger man still lay upon the churned earth, his sight and hearing completely confused.  What had happened?  Who was there?
The little girl came and knelt at her father’s side, not comprehending what had occurred.  Her pale-faced mother, meanwhile, turned him gently onto his back and began to tend his hurts.

The victorious one, now called king, entered the throne room alone.  This was a tradition, he knew, that he must go through with for the sake of appearance.  He would come to the foot of the Dias where the ancient throne sat empty.  The Old One would approach and deliver to him, the new king, the ancient prophecy.  It was simple, but he must bother with it.  Silently he crossed the hall and stood where he knew he must.  Then, from a side door, a second figure entered.
Bent with age, the Old One hobbled to where he stood.  Looking up, the Old One’s eyes met his, and something in them troubled the new king.
“You… have done wrong, Ceallach, son… of Artegal,” the Old One said, his feeble voice cutting the silence.  Ceallach stood uncomfortably for a moment, looking at this weak relic of a prophet.  He was wrong.  The throne was his – his birthright!  Ceallach opened his mouth to reply but the Old One spoke first.
“I… can-not give you…the prophecy.  Crown… or no, you… are not…the king.”  Rage flared in Ceallach’s breast.  How dare he – but the thought went unfinished.
The Old One’s voice rose in strength, as though age no longer had power over him, and recited:
“Now let your brother anointed be,
With him, the son of the prophecy.
And last the one as yet unknown -
They will strip from you the Hartish throne!”
An icy stillness hung in the air for a full minute.  The only words Ceallach could find he spat out as though at a dog.  “Get out of my sight!”
The Old One turned to go, giving no acknowledgement.  “And if you speak of this to anyone,” Ceallach hissed at his retreating back, “I will kill you.”  The Old One turned and fixed Ceallach with a stare.  A long, tense moment passed.  Then the Old One left the hall.  The prophet knew.  He always knew.  Ceallach rejected what the eyes so clearly told him; it was all lies.  If he, Ceallach, would not bend to the truth, then the truth must bend to him.  He was king, he thought, sitting himself upon the ancient throne.  He and no other.




Copyright 2012, Caitlin M. Clancy
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law, or in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

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