In the western-most crumbling halls of a mountain citadel lives a lonely wizard named Urien, a master of his art and a fledgling priest of a primordial goddess of transformation. Though his training is extensive, no training could prepare him for a broken heart. For years he has lived on the fringe after having loved and lost a powerful male wizard on the verge of ascension. But such wounds do not hide well. When he delves into the darker powers at the bidding of a shady priestess, Urien’s heart reveals itself as a grim warning from the goddess herself, in the shape of a wolf.
In the wake of this unsettling experience, Urien discovers that his most gifted apprentice, a beautiful, wild-tempered woman—and the partner of his erstwhile lover—is in grave danger. A series of swift-moving mishaps including a second warning and a badly backfired protection spell lands Urien into a love triangle that exposes not only his deepest desires but also the black machinations of the priestess who deceived him. When she wields her full power against him, he must reconcile his heart in order to save his lovers and himself from isolation and death.
The present is a vortex from which all structure is created. In the calm, deep waters of the mind, the wolf waits. – From The Theory of Structure and Formlessness
Urien of Eyeroth, a Master of the Eye of the Order of Raven, hurried along the winding forest path beneath a sky shrouded in midnight. Restless wind stirred the trees, and the air smelled of rain and moldering leaves. The light from his torch painted the barren forest in shades of his own reflection, black-haired, gray-eyed and pale for want of a touch. He pulled his cloak close, unable to determine which made him more uncomfortable: the dreary woods or the new moon settling onto his heart like a cloud of moths.
Earlier, he had been ensconced in a comfortable chamber high in the citadel of Eyrie, home of the Keepers of the Eye, reading a text on the principles of structure and formlessness. He had not wanted to leave when the sun descended into the mists, and dusk cloaked the land in damp, unpleasant cold. But he had agreed, under the hollow gaze of the high priestess Wilima, to look into the Void.
He had to ignore his unease that something bad would happen if he did not. Indeed, the most compelling thing about the ancient rituals of the Old One was that peculiar anxiety that accompanied any feelings of resistance.
He pictured the last line of spidery scrawl on the age-stained page he had read just before banking the fire and reluctantly leaving his studies: Desire gives formless identity structure in the form of conscious boundaries. These boundaries are subject to the forces of the Old One, who destroys old structures to create anew.
As he trudged beneath the trees, Urien told himself he had not agreed to this because of some anxious compulsion, but because he honored the forces of change.
The affirmation failed to convince him.
Water Dark was originally published by Wild Child Publishing, 2013.
This novella is now included in the Second Edition of Wizards, Woods and Gods, a collection of twelve dark fantasy tales exploring the mysteries of the Otherworld through tree and animal lore, magic, cosmos, love, war and mysticism.
© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.