A Dark Heart Rises:I is the third installment of ‘The Khalada Stone’ series. It follows Ohrl and Faerl in their quest against the rightful heir to the mind of Husam al-Din.
Against the threat of war, six priests of Johsala forged their greatest weapon, a man named as Husam al-Din: the Sword of the Faith. His will to dominate and control all living souls united the Eastern Tribes against the Kjatmir, an enemy from a barren land devoid of water.
Peace reigned after the unification, but al-Din was betrayed and murdered by his wife, Maymunah. She sought to claim Husam’s power for herself and their unborn bloodline, and secure the Great Depression for her native Kjat. Al-Din’s priests saw through her ruse, and in a final attempt to save the desert they harnessed Husam’s strength into six harmonic stones. They fled Johsala, and disappeared beyond Maymunah’s reach.
Since that day, Maymunah’s bloodline has feverishly sought the stones, feeling a pull toward them, but it was not until twenty generations later, when an explorer named Hallen accidentally triggered the Stone of Imad al-Din, that any hint of their existence was revealed. Now it falls to Na’ilah, blood heir of al-Din, to begin reclaiming the stones.
Russell Meek – Author / photographer / traveller
It was the windswept deserts and ancient routes of the Middle East that set me on this journey. A 23yr old photographer, hitch-hiking across Syria in what is now a war zone, driving the King's Highway through Jordan, skinny dipping at midnight in the Dead Sea, and standing inspired by the magnificence of Petra as dawn rises. That was the beginning of a year long journey that took me from the Saharan desert to the Guatemalan jungles and the thirty meter high swelling seas while crossing the Atlantic to do so. It was an adventure that has never left me and, in 2007, those adventures began seeping their way into the pages of 'The Khalada Stone' adventure fantasy series.
I work as a commercial advertising photographer. After 8 years living in the UK and photographing throughout Europe and the Caribbean, I returned to my native New Zealand, where I now live by the beach at Mount Maunganui. I travel as much as I can for work and for inspiration, shooting the cover of A Brother's Bond in China and A Dark Heart Rises:I in Southern Spain. My visual eye is also the catalyst for the creation of a cinematic film trailer, which is currently at the beginning stages of production. I tour NZ and Australia at major expos and pop culture events, as well as smaller events in rural NZ.
“Drop a rope. Bring them on board.”
At once the archers lowered their weapons, exchanging them for rope ladders and flung them onto Tarly’s exposed deck.
Elsa climbed first, and embraced her brother. Baelin was slow to respond, but she soon felt his arms lightly close around her.
“We are four more,” she whispered. “They must be seen safely from that boat.”
Dressed now in the robes of lesser maids, Na’ilah, Mihja, Loviisa and Terttu emerged on deck. Elsa saw Na’ilah whisper to Tarly, who stood rather confused as his charges were removed from his care. Lena came first, her eyes flicking toward Baelin’s, but she remained ignored. As soon as Na’ilah was safely on board, Elsa gently took her brother’s arm.
“Dear brother,” she whispered, “our journey here was one of ill treatment. These men will seek reward for our return, and you may grant it if you wish, but they are not men worthy of our fleet, nor your gratitude.”
Baelin’s eyes flared. “You were… mistreated?”
“We fought each day for our survival,” Lena said, standing strong as Na’ilah, Loviisa, Mihja and Terttu removed their hoods. Upon seeing their beauty, Elsa could feel her brother’s pride spark. His anger quick to rise, Baelin turned upon Tarly and his men.
“You dare touch the daughters of Nazh-rndu’ul? Archers, fire this wretched boat! Sink her to the depths of the harbour. Let none of this filth make claim on our island ever again.”
“No! Wait,” Tarly cried, but he said no more as a burning arrow pierced his throat. The rest of his men turned to flee, shot down as they dove into the water, or burned as Baelin’s men rained scores of flaming arrows down upon their ship. Elsa felt the rush of battle course through her veins, the power of her family once again remembered. The small ship that had so secretly stolen Na’ilah into Sama’ad’s lair exploded into flames. The fire lit up the faces of those by her side watching the horrors below, as the last of Tarly’s men sunk beneath the surface of the sea.
Consumed by flame, Tarly’s ship filled with water and joined its crew as it plunged into the depths beneath Nazh-rndu’ul. Elsa heard Baelin’s order to turn his ship toward the cliffs, and the great loch that would carry them to the main port above.
“Welcome home, sister,” she heard him say. “It has been too long since you were gone.”
Knowing she had fulfilled her duty to her master, Elsa courteously lowered her head. Without acknowledgement, she walked past Na’ilah, her arm undeniably linked to the second most powerful man on the island.