Authors: T C Southwell
Tags: #destiny, #kidnapping, #fate, #rescue, #blackmail, #weapon, #magic sword, #natural laws, #broken world, #sword of power
His head lolled
and his eyelids flickered as fresh blood stained the bandages on
"Stop it. You'll shake him to death."
Talsy sagged in
despair. "If only it could heal him."
"But it can't,
can it?" Kamish said.
rattled as keys were applied to it, then the door banged open.
Several soldiers strode in, led by Darton, who recoiled at the
sight of the sword in Kieran's hand, then noticed the Prince's
comatose state. His men drew their weapons and herded the prisoners
away from Kieran, holding them at bay. Darton bent and wrenched the
Starsword from Kieran's hand. The weapon hit the floor with a
chiming clang, almost pulling Darton down on top of it. He tried to
lift it, but the blade might as well have been glued to the floor,
for it would not budge. He straightened and turned to a
"You, go and
tell the Prince."
The man hurried
out, and Darton glared at the prisoners. "What good did you think
this trick would do you?"
mad," Ardel said. "He'll doom us all!"
forward. "General, you must join us. We must overthrow
"You're the one who's mad, Roth. Tyrander is no worse than usual.
He defeated your Prince, so he's in charge."
trickery!" Roth said. "That was not a fair fight, using
"Kieran had a
magical sword. A duel would have been unfair."
offered a fair duel. Kieran would have agreed."
hesitated, a flash of uncertainty crossing his face. "The judges
deemed it fair."
won't argue with Tyrander for fear of their lives, as you
"Do they now?"
Tyrander sauntered in, the soldiers bowing and sidling from his
path. He picked up the Starsword, sheathed the ebon blade and faced
Roth. "I tire of this game, Roth. I'm sick of harbouring a viper at
my bosom. I'll bring the Mujar here now, no more waiting, then
you'll all be executed." He turned to Darton. "Chain them and bring
them to the great hall, I want them all to watch."
him." Tyrander glanced at Kieran. "Have the doctor give him
something to wake him up."
Darton bowed as
the Prince left, waiting until he was out of sight before giving
the orders to his men. Some soldiers marched out to fetch chains;
one ran to call the doctor. The rest remained to guard the
prisoners, their swords drawn.
Roth glared at
Darton. "You're making a big mistake."
"My dice are cast."
around the great hall, shivering with apprehension and dread. Her
hands were bound behind her back, adding to her sense of
foreboding. The rebels stood along one wall, chained together at
the wrists and ankles. Even the Queen was shackled, her eyes full
of sorrow when she gazed upon her sons. Tyrander sat smugly on the
gilt throne at the end of the hall, while Kieran was barely
conscious on a litter at her feet.
An air of gloom
and trepidation hung in the hall, at odds with the bright sunlight
that streamed in through high windows to light the jade floor to a
soft, glowing green. Tyrander twitched with delight, caressing the
hilt of the Starsword at his waist. The Staff of Law hung in its
golden cage on his chest for all to see. His men lined the hall in
the shadows behind the pillars, and a crowd of courtiers and lords
stood behind the throne, their faces set in expressions of bland
apprehension. Darton stood beside the throne, expressionless.
torturers waited on either side of Talsy, one holding a loop of
rope. A gold chain linked each man's waist to hers. Tyrander was no
fool; he knew that Mujar would not kill. The torturers' inability
to leave her side made sure that Chanter would not use fire against
them, and gold was the one metal he could not break with Dolana. As
long as they were bound to her with gold, he could not free
smashed the thick silence that had fallen when the rebels had
finished shuffling into place and the clinking of their chains had
her chin and glared at him. "You'll regret this, Tyrander!" she
cried. "Summon a Mujar at your peril!"
He giggled, his
eyes glinting. "Mujar are harmless, little girl."
stepped closer and one placed the loop around her neck. They
twisted it tight, then slipped lengths of wood into the small loops
on either side of her neck. Talsy coughed, straining to free her
wrists from the ropes. She tried to kick a torturer, but he skipped
aside, twisting the piece of wood. The rope tightened, and a
roaring filled her ears.
throat closed, she cried, "Chanter!"
his head jerking up. Behind him, Sheera stumbled to a halt and
stared at him in confusion. The Mujar stood poised, his nostrils
flaring. Dolana's warning thundered through the ground and hammered
at his senses more strongly than ever before. He swung to face
Sheera, making her recoil.
The drumming of
the warning made his feet fly over the ground as he took a few
steps and leapt high. Ashmar rushed around him, filling the forest
with the beating of wings, and a tiny black bird shot skyward.
after him, and Shern hurried to her side.
"What is it?
Where's he going?"
"I don't know,"
she replied. "But I think Talsy's in trouble."
She glared at
him. "We're to wait here for his return, of course."
have to stay out of their way, won't we? Send some of the young
ones up trees as lookouts. If they see them coming, we scatter and
run like hell. I've survived it before, so will most of us."
at her doubtfully. "I hope you're right."
"We've got to
learn to look after ourselves. We can't rely on Chanter all the
He nodded. "I
the wind with the wings of a swift, yearning for more speed. He
commanded the wind to carry him, more than doubling his velocity,
and rode a howling gale that swept the land below him, bowed trees
and ripped leaves from their branches. The ground flashed beneath
him, glades and streams, rivers and forests gone in a wink. The
clouds above raced and swirled with the wind of his passing,
gathering behind to form angry grey thunderheads. Still he urged
the wind to greater speed, his tiny wings powering him onwards,
outstripping even the wind that screamed its wild joy as it raced
released Talsy as she slumped, loosening the rope with rough tugs.
She gagged, then drew in a great breath. The blue tinge faded from
her lips as air rushed into her lungs. The pain of her crushed
throat made her cough and swallow convulsively.
forward and smiled. "Unpleasant, isn't it?"
she savoured the sweet air and glanced at the silent rebels. The
Queen stared at Tyrander, pale with sorrow. Roth and Ardel met
Talsy's eyes with looks of deep sympathy and despair. Kieran gazed
at her with helpless anguish, breathing in wheezing gasps. The
torturers stepped closer and dragged her to her feet.
at his brother. "Enough! He's coming, damn you!"
laughed. "I know, but I'm enjoying this."
"Kill me, if it
makes you happy. Don't torture an innocent child."
Brother," Tyrander sneered. "Your turn will come."
Kieran groaned, sagging back.
placed the rods into the loop about Talsy's neck again and twisted.
She kept her eyes locked with Kieran's, drawing strength from his
steady gaze as the pain started. Before her throat was pinched
closed, she took a deep breath. The pain soon became a distant
thing as the blood was denied access to her brain. Kieran looked
away as her eyes closed and darkness slammed down.
A sharp pain in
her cheek jerked her back from the black abyss, and she drew in a
rasping gasp. The torturer who had slapped her watched her recover
impassively. Talsy coughed and retched, her head bowed, blood
singing in her ears. Tangled blonde hair hid her face, and this
time she did not look up. The torturers dragged her to her feet,
and she stood with difficulty, swaying.
slipped the pieces of wood into the loop around her neck once more,
intent on their work. A distant, muted howling became audible,
coming from without and growing in volume. Talsy glanced up at the
windows, where the sky had become pink-tinged and flags visible on
the outer walls whipped in a sudden, powerful wind. Her heart
swelled with gladness, banishing the pain of her injured throat and
her despair. She glanced at Tyrander, who stared out of the
windows, his expression unreadable. The wind moaned in the
battlements, and she wondered if it was Shyass.
The huge paned
window above the double doors at the end of the hall imploded with
a crash of shattering glass, making everyone jump. A giant barred
daltar eagle flew through it, sending cascades of flashing glass
falling to smash on the floor. The eagle unfolded his wings to
glide silently down. One backstroke of the mighty black and white
striped pinions slowed his flight, and he landed lightly on the
jade floor, talons clicking.
dropped the rope loop around Talsy's neck and pressed daggers to
her ribs, holding her tightly. The mighty wind howled around the
castle, stronger in the Mujar's wake, whipped the flags outside to
a frenzied flapping and blew dust past the windows in a red storm.
The eagle folded his wings, then a rush of wind filled the great
hall, the sound of beating wings echoing around it. The eagle
vanished, and the Mujar stood there, his eyes scanning the room.
Despite his slender build and lack of stature, Chanter's black-clad
form exuded an aura of wild power.
Talsy croaked, her eyes moist. Never had she been so glad to see
anyone in her life.
skipped over Tyrander, found Kieran lying in the shadows and
returned to Talsy. He smiled, his gaze a caress, and walked towards
her. The torturers backed away, dragging her with them. The Mujar
stopped, and his eyes slid past to rest on Tyrander, turning icy as
who flanked the throne gaped at Chanter, their faces stretched with
wonder and disbelief, a low murmur emanating from their ranks.
rose to his feet, holding the hilt of the Starsword. As the shock
of Chanter's appearance wore off, he regained some of his aplomb.
Years of studying Mujar ways and legends had evidently not prepared
him for the impact of Chanter's reality, however. The sight of a
living Mujar in his great hall had momentarily stunned him. He
cleared his throat and stepped down from his dais.
"Any hint of
power, Mujar, and the girl dies. Not only do these men hold daggers
to her heart, but there are more above with arrows."
up at the galleries, where archers stood with arrows notched in
drawn bows. He turned to face Tyrander as the Prince approached.
Tyrander stood six inches taller, broad and hirsute beside the
Mujar. He studied the unman, circling him with measured steps.
Chanter waited until Tyrander stopped before him again, then raised
his gaze to the Prince's face.
"I'm sure you
know what I want." Tyrander smirked, his confidence growing at the
Mujar's apparent passivity. "You will protect my castle and my
people from the Hashon Jahar, or the girl dies."
soft voice sent shivers through the watching people. The word was
decisive and final.
allow the First Chosen to die," Tyrander growled. "If she does, so
will all the chosen."
"And you don't
narrowed. "Yet the gods have decided to save the Trueman race, so
you'll be going against their wishes."
replied, "you will."
"You can save
her by doing as I wish."
stepped closer, his attitude menacing. "You're lying, Mujar. You're
bluffing. You can't allow the First Chosen to die; the Staff of Law
says so. The gods have charged you to bring her safely to the
gathering place, so you must."
dropped to the dull stone in its golden cage. "If the staff says
so, then it must be."
Prince nodded. "Then you'll do as I say."
snorted. "I suppose you don't think I'll kill her, do you? You
think I'm bluffing!" He spun to face the torturers. "Strangle
gasp came from the onlookers, especially the rebels. Darton scowled
and stepped down from his place beside the throne.
you kill her..."
Tyrander glared at the confused torturers. "I said strangle
The two men put
away their daggers and twisted the rope around Talsy's neck
She stared at
the Mujar in horror. "Chanter?"
his eyes in a slow, serene blink, but she did not know what he was
trying to communicate to her, and an icy tide of fear rose in her.
As the rope tightened, his eyes flicked to her forehead and the
Mujar mark he had placed there. Talsy thrust aside her fear. She
trusted Chanter with her life, and he would not let her die. A
strange, comforting warmth stole through her as the tightening rope
cut off her air. There was no pain, just a sliding, fading