The Nectar of Power
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
This is the first chapter of a book that I will be releasing in a serial format on this site and on Wattpad. I will release a new chapter every week, which should be around 2 or 3 thousand words.
The description of the story (still a work in progress) is:
A thousand years ago, the First Great Draught drove the Korrs from Alba. When the Second Great Draught forced them to wander again, they began searching for the way back home.
The Si have built their society in the treetops because the ground below is populated by dangerous creatures. Only the most elite among them are capable of harnessing the power of the Fuil Bláth, a nectar which unlocks various latent abilities in whomever drinks it. Many lesser Si who have attempted to use it have died.
Freya has chosen to join the forces of the Ard Rí after a herd of trows destroyed many of the Korr villages on Innis Tìle and left her with no reason to stay. But she will need to prove her worth to herself and everyone else if she ever hopes to make it to Alba.
Kevron's youngest sister has been taken from his family, as brown skin Si like his mother are unfit to raise blue skins, and their small village has no available proxies. Fighting his own guilt over his part in this loss, he must harness a dangerous power and travel to the capital and petition for her return.
Now, without further ado:
Chapter One: Kevron
Kevron knelt on a branch about fifty feet above the ground, surveying the stream that flowed beneath his feet. He had been out here for three days without a single drop of rain, and he needed water. The parched trees and stale air would still have supplied adequate hydration for him, but using the Fuil Bláth diminished his ability to absorb and process the water. For now, he needed to drink.
He unhooked the flask of nectar from his belt, removed the lid and tilted it slowly above his outstretched tongue. A single drop eased its way out and down. As he reattached the flask to his belt, his tongue still protruding from his mouth, he could already feel the effects of the Fuil Bláth taking hold. He stumbled as he wrapped his arm around the trunk. Once he pulled in the drop, before he could even swallow, it hit him like a stone over the head. A rush of adrenaline, a sharp, piercing headache, complete loss of vision and a dizziness that would have made him vomit if he had anything in his stomach.
His eyelids held as tight to each other as his arms did to the trunk. The pain would only last ten seconds. He breathed deep to find his center and prevent himself from screaming. When he opened his eyes again, as the pain subsided, the brightly colored forest was even more vibrant. The nectar had begun its work on his brain, pushing his perception of the world far beyond his natural ability. Each leaf edge was vivid and crisp. Flower petals burst with bright pinks, oranges and blues. Every divot in the bark, every ripple in the stream was clear, as if it were inches from his face. He saw a small amount of heat emanating from a piece of scat five feet on the other side of the stream. The animal must have left it at least a half hour before. He could see the heat from the sun dissipate at the edges of the shadows. There were still some drops of moisture in the air, more heavily concentrated above the stream as the sun evaporated water from the surface.
Kevron loosened his grip on the trunk and listened to the world around him. A family of chipmunks scurried through a nearby tree, and a light breeze rustled leaves. With no visible or audible sign of nearby beasts, Kevron jumped down to the ground below, landing a few inches from the scat near the bank of the stream. He retrieved his bow and nocked an arrow, but he did not draw back. He expected no trouble, but he knew better than to be unprepared.
Last year, he had been out with Mare and Conlan when they decided to head groundside for no other reason than because the young sometimes like to make poor decisions. They thought they had taken every precaution necessary before heading down, but as the last of them hit the ground, a pack of Cait Púca rushed out from the trees. Kevron, knowing that he had no time to grab his weapon, jumped up the nearest tree and turned to help the others. Mare was already attempting to climb, but her leg was gashed by one of the Púca’s claws as Kevron helped to pull her up. Conlan was still fumbling with his knife, having already attempted a fruitless shot with his bow, which was now laying on the ground.
Mare and Kevron both drew their bows, but by then, all four Púcas were already on top of Conlan. His arm flung wild, stabbing one and causing it to run off. The next two followed close behind with arrows in their sides. The final one, the smallest of the feline creatures, slashed at Conlan’s face, its back feet digging into his chest. From their angle in the tree, any useful shot would have gone through the creature and into their friend.
Kevron’s instincts took over as he unsheathed his knife and leapt onto the creature, sinking the blade deep into its back. It knocked him to the ground and ran into the woods with his knife still planted near its front left shoulder. Both his friends lived, but their recovery was long, and Conlan would wear the scars for the rest of his life.
Now, on the banks of this stream, there were no creatures leaping out from the trees. Kevron’s heightened senses would give him ample warning should anything approach. He kept the bow in his right hand, his index finger wrapped around the nocked arrow. Kneeling, he used his other hand to scoop water into a bowl which he had detached from his waist.
After drinking four bowlfuls, his mouth was as dry as ever. He had no memory of ever feeling this thirsty before. Frustrated at how long this was taking, he pulled the bladder off his back and dipped it in the stream. The gentle splash against the surface followed by the light swishing and bubbling of the water rushing in were calming. His heightened senses rarely caused discomfort. More often, they were relaxing. He was at one with the world around him, fully capable of distinguishing each detail.
To enhance his hearing further, he closed his eyes. He listened to the water, the wind, the family of chipmunks, now chomping on fresh plucked leaves. Another family chittered at each other as they played. A bird pecked at twigs; he was certain it was working on a nest.
He felt the temperature drop. Just my luck. I finally make my way groundside just before it starts to rain. He looked up, but he could not see the rain for the treetops. He closed his eyes again. He could hear it coming. It was close, and it was dense. Then another sound, this time from across the stream. Twelve distinct paws were coming fast and heading toward him. He grabbed his bowstring with his left hand and pulled.
The beasts would catch him before he could reached a nearby tree. Kevron knew this, but determined the nearest trunk anyway and moved toward it. He was halfway there when he caught the first glimpse of what was coming, still weaving through the brush and trees a couple hundred feet away. Without the enhanced sight the Fuil Bláth provided him, the three Coiníní Púca would have been well hidden by the underbrush. It took only a moment to determine the exact path they would take based on their current movement and the layout of the woods.
He loosed his first arrow, pointed upward at a slight angle to account for the distance. It soared through the air, flying past a branch on the other side of the stream, knocking loose one of its leaves. Kevron watched as the arrow split the air. The moisture parted around it, pushed in every direction. A rain drop hit the arrow as it started its decline, knocking it off course, though not enough to cause it to fail at its purpose. The farthest Púca’s head came into view from behind a tree just as the arrow pierced its right eye, sending it tumbling to the ground.
He preferred to take out the group from back to front, even though it increased the chance the leader would reach him. He could not account for how one animal would respond to another falling in front of it. By starting from the back, each creature’s death would not impede the progress of the others. By the time the first arrow found its target, he had already released the second. The angle was only slightly lower, though the creature would be much closer, because he needed to account for the rain which had already made its way through the trees.
There was no time to watch the second arrow find its way through the downpour. The leader was nearly on top of him already. Its large rear legs propelled it forward at a pace unmatched by any creature he knew of. The second arrow found purchase in its target’s skull just as the final Púca lunged over the river.
When standing on its back legs, the Coinín Púca was about seven hands high to the top of its head, just under half his own height. Long black fur covered its body. Its ears and tail, each adding two hands to its length, shared the same color, though the fur was much shorter. Most Púcas had a similar hair color and texture, though their varied shapes were distinguishable, even from a distance. The primary feature that set the Púcas apart from any other animals, though, was their eyes. All Púcas had eyes of a similar shape to the Si, but they were yellow instead of white and had a strange glow.
With the intensity of a midnight moon, the light from the beast’s eyes illuminated the wet black fur around it as it tore through the rain toward him. Dropping his bow to the ground, he unhooked his knife as the creature approached. He stepped right to avoid its thrust. The beast responded, as well as it could, by throwing out its left arm to catch his torso. The arm resembled his own, though covered in fur and with a smaller hand and long, sharp claws on each of its four fingers.
Kevron grabbed the wrist with his right hand and stabbed its upper arm with his left. The beast screamed in pain as he removed the knife. Its arm stretched, which only intensified the pain, as his grip allowed him to use the beast’s momentum to spin and release it to tumble across the ground.
It stood up on two legs, its arms held out to its sides, and it screamed a cry more of rage than of pain. It’s left arm leaked blood that mixed with the rain water as it soaked into its fur. Coiníní Púca ran on four limbs, but they did almost everything else on two. Their hands were similar to a Si’s hands, and their feet were large, supported by powerful legs designed for jumping. It was fortunate they were not adept at climbing trees. A Si only needed to be higher than the Púca could jump to avoid attack.
The beast jumped again toward him, this time aiming to land about a foot in front of him. As soon as the creature landed, it lunged again, but while Kevron was prepared for it to jump toward his face or above his head, it aimed its jump lower. His attempt to adjust was too slow, and it jumped between his legs, slashing his inner calves. He closed his feet in time to catch its tail. The Púca fell on its face, flipped over and kicked once at the back of his legs.
Kevron could no longer stand, each of his lower legs having sustained multiple gashes, the muscles weak and burning. His knees buckled, and he fell to the muddy earth, catching himself with his hands. Idiot! You need to pay attention. There is no excuse for getting cocky and assuming you know what will happen when you can just observe and react.
Kevron closed his eyes and focused on the sounds behind him. He heard the creature’s feet splash the water on the ground. He heard its tail flick through the air, colliding with dozens of droplets on the way. He heard the squish of the ground as the beast pushed against it, followed by the quickening sound of rain colliding with its body as it rose into the air. He felt the air pressure change as it moved away and again as it returned. And moments before the creature’s crouched body landed on top of him, he rolled his right shoulder, flipping onto his side, and launched his left arm into the air, his knife entering the Púca just under its chin.