Read Broken World Book Two - StarSword Online

Authors: T C Southwell

Tags: #destiny, #kidnapping, #fate, #rescue, #blackmail, #weapon, #magic sword, #natural laws, #broken world, #sword of power

Broken World Book Two - StarSword (8 page)

BOOK: Broken World Book Two - StarSword
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Kieran nodded.
"That's where we're going."

The guardsman
looked sour, but waved them through. "Be careful of the paths, it
seems like everyone wanted to go for a walk this morning."

Shern chuckled
as they rattled out of earshot. "Poor fool."

"Why do they
stop us going out? They didn't question us when we came in," Talsy
asked.

"To stop an
exodus. Everyone knows the Black Riders are coming. Many might be
tempted to flee, though it would do them little good."

As the cart
crawled across the black web, wandering people converged on it and
climbed aboard to lie down amongst the provisions. Some were
couples with small children, the rest were young women and a few
boys. As soon as the last was aboard, Derrin whipped up the horses
and headed for the road that ran into the burnt forest. Once they
were out of sight of the city, Derrin looked over his shoulder at
Talsy.

"Where are we
going?"

"As far as the
living trees, then stop."

When they
reached the twisted forest, the farmer stopped the wagon and Talsy
jumped down, which evinced a horrified outcry from the cart's
occupants. Derrin and Shern tried to grab her and drag her back
aboard, but she skipped out of reach, laughing.

"I'm chosen.
Nothing will harm me."

The ripple that
passed under her feet almost belied her words, but then the earth
stilled. Some trees close by stirred a little, then subsided. Talsy
studied the sky, expecting to find a great daltar eagle circling
above, but the blue expanse was empty. The drumming of hooves made
her look around as a burly farmer rode up and reined in beside the
wagon. Derrin grinned at the man.

"This is
Risnar," he explained, as the farmer gaped at Talsy.

Talsy nodded to
the man and glanced around again for Chanter, surprised at his
tardiness. Kieran jumped down beside her, and another ripple passed
through the land. As she wondered what could have delayed the
Mujar, a collective gasp from the cart drew her attention to the
dead forest behind her. Chanter strode through the ash, and Talsy
ran to embrace him with a glad cry. She released him after a brief
hug, aware that a dozen pairs of eyes watched them from the wagon.
The Mujar walked beside her to the waiting people, scanning
them.

The newly
chosen watched him with fear, awe and wonder, as he walked around
the cart. Stopping beside the pair of drooping horses, he undid the
harness.

"So few?" He
glanced at Talsy.

"Only these are
free, some forty more are in bondage."

"I thought so.
Still, with these we can free the rest."

"How?"

He pulled the
bridle off one of the horses and freed it from its harness. "I'll
explain later."

The freed horse
ambled away into the forest, and Chanter released the other one.
The people in the wagon looked stunned and fearful. When the second
horse followed the first, the Mujar walked around to the side of
the wagon.

"Come down," he
said.

The chosen
huddled closer together, some shaking their heads in mute denial.
After years of conditioning, stepping onto the ground was not an
easy thing to do. Derrin made a hesitant movement, and his wife
pulled him back. Shern rose and clambered over the side of the cart
with an air of determination, then froze before his foot touched
the ground, his face twisted with terror. The others stared at him
in horrified wonder. Kieran walked over and tried to help him down,
prying at his fingers that clung to the cart with a death grip.
Talsy moved closer and looked up at the fearful faces.

"Don't you
trust the Mujar? He says come down. There's nothing to fear."

Several people
whimpered, and a child cried. Talsy joined Kieran in trying to pry
Shern's frozen fingers free. Between them, they loosened him from
the cart and pulled him down. He stood cringing, and a ripple
passed under their feet.

Chanter stamped
his foot. "These are mine too, mark them. All who set foot beside
me are chosen."

The tremor
faded, and Shern straightened, his expression becoming incredulous.
He strolled in an experimental circle, like a cripple discovering
that he could walk, watching his feet traverse the deadly land.
Emboldened by his example, one of the young women jumped down. She
gasped in shock and fear, then walked about like Shern. Seeing that
nothing had happened to the first two, another youngster joined
them, then another.

Slowly the
people left the wagon, each experiencing a moment of panic and
terror before they overcame years of training and rediscovered the
joys of walking on soil. Risnar unstrapped himself from his saddle
and slid down, following Chanter's example by unsaddling his horse
and releasing it. The small children had the worst time of it. For
them, the ground had always been deadly, and they screamed when
their parents pulled them from the wagon and set them on it. Most
tried to climb back onto the safety of the cart, but gradually
they, too, accepted it. While this was going on, Chanter drew Talsy
aside.

"The ones who
walked out of the city must return at dusk. I'll give each of them
a stone, and with these they can free their chained brethren. I've
filled the stones with Dolana and a command that will unbind
anything of Dolana they touch, like metal chains. Once they're
free, they must go to the wall nearest the tall spire that can be
seen from the forest. When it's dark, I'll open a portal for them
to come through."

"What about the
moat?"

Chanter shook
his head. "They must wade it. The earth blood is not that deep, and
will not harm them."

"I'll go with
them, of course."

"No, you won't.
Only the ones who walked out of the city may return. If you're
seen, they'll wonder why you've come back."

"But what if
they fail?" she protested.

"How can you
change that? Not all will fail, of that I'm certain."

"They're just
youngsters."

He raised a
brow. "Your age and older, aren't they?"

"Yes but... can
you open the wall from here? What about the earth blood?"

"The wall is
not built on earth blood, that was put down after the city was
built. It will be difficult, but I can do it."

Talsy sighed,
disappointed to be left out of the action, but glad that she would
not be parted from him again. His plan seemed sound, but it was
based on too little information. What if the slaves were locked up
at night? What if they were guarded? The only way to find out was
from Shern, and she left Chanter to approach the seer, who still
marvelled at his newfound ability to walk on bare ground
unmolested. Interrupting his wandering, she quizzed him about the
slaves' night quarters, and he told her that they were merely
chained in a large open shed, unguarded. As Shern pointed out,
there was nowhere to run. Even if they stole a horse, they were
branded, so fleeing to another city would do them no good, and none
could survive in the hostile forests for long.

Talsy explained
Chanter's plan, and Shern agreed that it was a good one, but said
that the people would not want to go back. She sent him to tell
them about it, noticing, as he walked away, that Kieran appeared to
be arguing with Chanter. The Mujar shook his head, and she hurried
over to see what was going on. The tall warrior looked angry and
tight-lipped, his eyes hard, while the Mujar appeared sad but
adamant. Chanter turned to her as she walked up.

"What's wrong?"
she enquired.

"Kieran wishes
to regain his sword. I have said it's impossible."

"You said it's
a good weapon, and I'll need it," Kieran pointed out. His eyes
darted between them, clearly expecting them to gang up on him.

"Yes, but it's
lost." Chanter sighed. "To go back would be folly."

Talsy glared at
Kieran. "If Chanter says no, that's it. He's in charge here. If you
go back and someone spots you, they'll lock you up and no one will
be able to free you before the Black Riders come."

"I won't get
caught if I go back after dark."

"The gates are
closed at dusk."

He gestured in
annoyance at the expected dissent. "Then I'll use the portal."

"The portal
will be open for only a few minutes," Chanter pointed out, shaking
his head.

Kieran scowled
at Talsy, thwarted by the logic of the Mujar's argument. He spun on
his heel and strode away, his hand resting on the empty scabbard as
if a part of him was missing. A warrior without a sword would not
be complete, she supposed, and he missed it just as she missed her
knife, maybe more. Chanter watched him go, his eyes narrowed.

"I think he
will still try to get it back."

"Then he's a
fool," Talsy snapped. "And if he gets caught it will be his own
fault."

"But we need
him."

"What for?"

The Mujar
glanced at the chosen, who now appeared to be embroiled in an
argument with Shern. "They're not warriors, and we have many more
cities to visit, many more chosen to free."

She nodded.
"I'll talk to him."

Talsy headed
for Kieran, who leant against a tree, scowling at the twisted
forest. Before she reached him, Shern caught up with her and tugged
at her sleeve.

"Only two have
agreed to go back," he said. "The rest refuse."

"Refuse?" She
stared at him with incredulous anger.

"I would go,
but I can't. So would Derrin and Torril, the innkeeper, but we all
left on the wagon."

"Don't they
want to save the others?"

"They're young
and frightened."

She snorted.
"I'm young too, but I'd go back."

"Is there no
way those of us who were on the wagon could return?"

"Not without
arousing suspicion." She frowned. "Two won't be able to free
many."

"Unless they
gave stones to those they had freed and bade them free more."

"Yes." She
pondered a moment. "That might work."

Accompanied by
the nervous seer, she took the suggestion to Chanter, who listened
with obvious disappointment. He agreed that it would work, though
not as well as the first plan. His comment that the people lacked
courage made Shern wince, but there was no denying the truth of his
words. Most Truemen cared more for their own well-being than that
of others. Talsy looked around for Kieran, who had vanished.
Several hours still remained until dusk, and it was possible that
he had gone hunting, although they had enough food.

When the sun
filled the clouds on the horizon with ruddy light, Kieran was still
absent. The two brave youngsters, a boy in his late teens and a
girl in her early twenties, were dispatched back to the city before
the gates closed, each with a pouch of Chanter's stones. The rest
of the band settled down to wait in the evening cold, parents
wrapping their children in blankets. Although she had intended to
stay awake, Talsy dozed off leaning against a tree trunk.

Chanter woke
her when the moon had settled behind the trees in a dull golden
glow and stars gleamed in the chill night sky. Taking her hand, he
led her through the eerie dead forest of black trunks and silver
ash. Arriving at the edge of the trees, Chanter stopped and gazed
at the distant moonlit city whose dull roofs were visible over the
great wall. The black spire marked the meeting place, and Talsy
hoped that all the slaves had gathered there by now, ready to
escape. The Mujar stared at the wall for several minutes, perhaps
contemplating what he had to do.

 

Chanter
considered the earth blood that webbed the ground between him and
the wall. Its pull was a powerful, icy drain that sapped his
strength, even from here. To wield Dolana so close to it was
dangerous, a potential trap into which he must not fall. This was
why he had wanted Kieran with him, so the warrior could carry him
away should he grow too weak. Now he had only Talsy, and he doubted
that the girl was strong enough to do it. He considered sending her
to fetch Shern, then discarded the idea. If he was careful, he
should remain free. He did not need to press his palms to the
ground; already too much Dolana filled him, but not dangerously so.
Warning the girl to hold her breath, he braced himself and invoked
the Earthpower.

The giant river
of frigid silver power leapt into his grasp, sending a million icy
tendrils through him. He invoked Crayash to counter it, aware of
Talsy's gasp of surprise as the screaming inferno followed the
frozen stillness. Controlling two Powers was usually easy, but
difficult now due to Dolana's overwhelming strength. Putting the
burning thread of Crayash into the back of his mind, he
concentrated on the mighty, writhing river of Dolana and commanded
it. The earth shivered under the lash of the enormous power he
wielded. To aid his concentration, he raised an arm and pointed at
the distant wall.

Dolana surged,
swelled by the earth blood. The black web on the earth before him
sapped his strength, and he fanned Crayash to counter the frozen
fingers that probed him. The command travelled through the soil in
a ripple of Dolana that carried his will to the distant wall. The
moat swelled the river of Earthpower so much that he struggled to
control it, and the terrible cold threatened to numb his mind and
rob him of his will. Again he fanned Crayash, using its warmth to
burn away the numbness.

In the
distance, the wall parted like curtains drawn aside. It yawned
emptily, then a figure emerged, followed by another, then a third.
The third figure wore only a loincloth, as did the rest who
followed him. The first person, one of the chosen who had been sent
back, set off across the black web, ignoring its lines to take a
direct route. The second chosen did the same, but the newly freed
slaves ran along the paths. A dark figure detached itself from the
shadows at the base of the wall and darted into the portal,
vanishing through it.

BOOK: Broken World Book Two - StarSword
5.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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