A promising young warrior, what life changing event made Thea Stealle switch to the path of the cloth?
Thea Stealle is a strong young woman who is fiercely independent and staunch in her convictions. The sister of Lloyd, she plays a prominent role in Protector's of Penwick, book two of Rise of the Thrall Lord (ROTL) series. As a member of the Stealle family, Thea had been introduced at a young age to the ways of the spiritblade. Kratos and Lara treated all their children equally: Pallas, Thea, and Lloyd alike. All had been given the choice to follow the path of the blade like their father or magic like their mother. Yet Thea ended an entirely different path from her siblings, the way of the clergy.
Initially a spiritblade, what caused such a drastic change in the young lady's life? What led Thea to forsake her family traditions and strive to become an Auric Priestess of Arenor? Furthermore, why specifically the way of the cloth?
The events that shaped Thea's decisions are touched upon in this full chapter excerpt from Protectors entitled Dark Treasures. It gives some insight as to the fatal encounter that changed young Thea's life forever. It also explains a bit about how Ruka and Thea first met five years prior to the events that unfold in the Heroes of Ravenford series.
Still, the entire story behind Dark Treasures is far more in depth. It has been partially written by my friend and co-author from Tales from Thac, Tim Doran. I only hope he finishes that work someday. It is an amazing story. For now, however, please enjoy this excerpt from Protectors of Penwick:
Thea had not led an easy life. Perhaps it looked that way to those who envied her family, but for her, life had always been a series of trials. She had learned at an early age not to depend on her mother—not that she held a grudge against her, mind you. No one could ever stay mad at Lara Stealle, one of the most selfless, giving individuals in all of Thac. When not performing her wizarding or council duties, Lara would be somewhere about the city, helping with community projects or social programs.
Thus, Thea had modeled herself after her mother. By the time she passed the toddler stage, she had already begun to look after her baby brother, Lloyd. Thea also fiercely admired her handsome and dashing father. She initially took up the art of the spiritblade to be closer to him, but soon found that she was quite good at it. Her deeply spiritual side made her a formidable student of the blade.
The road Thea traveled now was not an easy one, but it had its rewards. Still, every so often, she found herself missing the old days.
“So where are we headed first?” Elladan asked as they descended the steps from the Stealle Academy.
Thea cast a sidelong glance at the handsome elf and shrugged. “That depends on what you’re looking for.”
Elladan stopped at the base of the stairs and ticked off a list of items on his fingers. “Cooking utensils, seasonings, rations, armor, weapons”—he paused and flashed her a knowing smile—“Lloyd loves new weapons.”
A soft chuckle escaped Thea’s lips. “He certainly does.”
A sudden flash of intuition washed over her. She pursed her lips together and narrowed an eye at the flamboyant elf. “You watch out for him, don’t you?”
Elladan’s eyes lowered and his cheeks reddened slightly. “Guilty as charged.”
There was something so genuine about his reaction that Thea felt a sudden warmth well up inside of her. As charming as Elladan had been since they met, she found his concern for her baby brother far more alluring than anything else he could have said or done.
Elladan raised his eyes to meet hers, his hands waving about as he attempted to cover his embarrassment. “I mean—he’s the nicest of guys—and he also has lots of potential. Since we’ve been traveling together, I’ve tried to teach him a thing or two about tactics and diplomacy.”
Both Thea’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “My brother? Lloyd? Are you sure we’re talking about the same person?”
Elladan laughed, his tone rich and lyrical. “He’s got his rough edges, for sure, but you’d be surprised at how he’s learned to handle himself.” He paused and winked. “If you don’t believe me, just ask Andrella.”
Thea’s brows knit together as she puzzled over this enlightening information. She had been quite worried about Lloyd when he left, yet it seemed he had fared better than she ever imagined.
Thea reached out and placed a hand on Elladan’s arm. “Thank you. It’s good to know he has someone else looking out for him.”
Elladan gently patted her hand. “Honestly, it’s been my pleasure.”
Thea met his blue-eyed gaze and felt something stir deep within her. This Elladan was not at all what she expected. Considering his good looks, she assumed he’d be stuck-up. He seemed anything but, however.
They held each other’s stare for a few moments before she remembered herself. She pulled her hand away and turned on her heel to hide her embarrassment. “Well then, we should probably get shopping before our hour is up.”
“Lead the way,” Elladan urged as he fell in step beside her.
Thea had never met someone who liked to haggle as much as Elladan. He was good at it, too. She had taken him down to the south market, where they could hit a number of shops at once. In the short time they had together, they covered nearly a half-dozen stores. In each one, Elladan searched out the best items and bargained the owners down to outrageously good prices.
Their bags full, she led them north, back toward the Lucky Heroes Inn. They had just exited the marketplace when he brought up the one subject she had hoped to avoid altogether.
Elladan cast her a furtive glance. “This may be none of my business, but what exactly is the story behind how you and Ruka met?”
Thea abruptly froze in her tracks, a myriad of emotions welling up inside of her. Though she tried to suppress it, Elladan must have caught a hint of her inner turmoil.
“Never mind. Forget I asked.” Elladan held a hand up in front of him, his face gone gray with anguish.
Without realizing it, Thea’s spiritual senses kicked in. Piercing the veil, she observed the energy around him that emanated from his spirit. Aside from a couple of dark spots, which could easily be attributed to the harsh effects of the material world, his aura was basically pure.
Wrenching her vision back to the third plane, she gave him a wan smile. “No, that’s alright.”
She started walking again, slower this time, her voice strained as she spoke. “It was four years ago. My friends and I had been searching in and around the city for any sign of Eboneye’s treasure.”
Elladan tilted his head to one side and raised a dark eyebrow at her. “Eboneye’s treasure?”
Thea leaned in closer, the tension starting to drain from her shoulders as she whispered conspiratorially to him. “The pirate clans occupied Penwick for close to three months, far longer than it would take to merely loot the city.”
A stray wind blew across the streets as they turned the corner. Elladan slicked back his thick mop of jet-black hair as comprehension dawned on his brow. “So they were looking for something.”
“Exactly,” Thea confirmed, a touch of the old excitement stirring in her gut. “They were searching for something called the Crystal Key, and in the process amassed every jewel and gem they could find in the city.”
Elladan pursed his lips together, his mind whirring as he drew to the next obvious conclusion. “A city this size? That’s a lot of gemstones.”
This Elladan was sharp—she liked that. “About the same time we found out where they had stashed them, this strange girl showed up in town asking about Eboneye.”
“Ruka?” Elladan hazarded a guess.
“Ruka,” Thea confirmed with a sly nod. She paused a moment as they passed through a crowd, then continued as they reached the foot of the Lord’s Bridge. “She ended up joining us on that ill-fated journey to Thorn Isle.”
As Thea uttered that name, the revery she’d been experiencing suddenly vanished. This was the part that haunted her in her nightmares. Her eyes shifted away, looking out over the crystal-blue waters of the Penderbun River as it passed beneath them.
After a half-minute of silence, she felt a gentle hand on her arm. “It’s totally fine if you want to stop there.”
Thea let out a short sigh. She had started the story, and she wasn’t some milksop who blanched at the first sign of discomfort. She resumed the tale as they left the bridge and turned up the road toward her mother’s school.
“Let’s just say that instead of some legendary treasure, we ran afoul of real pirates on that isle.” Thea paused a moment, a lump forming in her throat. “It didn’t end well for any of us…”
Thea mentally berated herself for the umpteenth time. She had been so stupid—so naïve. They had all paid the ultimate price for it—Dom, Vic, Lynn, Alys.
She suddenly felt a warm hand engulf hers. Normally she wouldn’t entertain such advances, but from the look on his face, she realized it was meant as a form of comfort.
Steeling her nerves, Thea forced herself to finish the rest of the story. “We woke up later that evening in the Temple of the Ralnai. All of us had been raised, the fee paid by some mysterious benefactor.”
She paused a moment, forcing back the moisture that had begun to form in the corners of her eyes. “It wasn’t until later that I found out it had been Ruka. That day was the last time I saw her—until now.”
Elladan squeezed her hand, his voice soft. “How could you know? You were just a kid.”
Thea gave him a grateful smile as she slowly pulled her hand away. “Maybe, but it’s a lesson I’ll never forget.
“Anyway, we’re here,” she added as they turned the last corner just before the northeast city gate. The Lucky Heroes Inn sat two buildings down the street from where they stood.
“Aren’t you going to join us?” Elladan asked, the look of disappointment on his face painfully obvious.
Thea considered it for a moment, but she was feeling a bit too emotional right now. She needed to meditate and recenter herself first. She gave him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I need to get back to the temple. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.”
“I look forward to it,” he said with a charming grin. Elladan took her hand, bowed, and kissed it.
Thea felt hard-pressed to keep her cheeks from turning red. She stood there for a few moments as he strode away down the crowded city street, then mentally chided herself.
Now, don’t let yourself go falling for some handsome elf—no matter how charming or understanding he may seem. With that last thought, she spun on her heel and marched back down the street toward the temple grounds.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave your comments or thoughts below. In the coming months, I'll have more a few more excerpts from Protectors. I'll also start providing some details on the next book in the ROTL series, Raiders of the Dark Coast. Early next year, I should also have an excerpt from the audio book version of Dark Monolith.