Read Cast In Courtlight Online

Authors: Michelle Sagara

Tags: #Adventure, #Mystery, #Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Young Adult, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Adult, #Dragons, #Epic, #Magic, #Urban Fantasy

Cast In Courtlight (43 page)

BOOK: Cast In Courtlight
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But now, it was vast, taller than she was, one long, obsidian curve that seemed to stretch from one end of this huge, rough cavern to the other. And she saw it clearly not as a word but as a single curve, a single mark.

She knew then that she had been right: She had carried this for him. But it
wasn’t
a word. It wasn’t a
name
. She might have wept had she time or strength; she had neither. To hold the weight of this one, long stroke demanded everything she had.

She whispered something. She couldn’t say later what it was, or rather, what the words were; the meaning was clear. Desperation did that.

Give
me
your name
.

It wasn’t a command. It couldn’t be.

But the darkness heard it, and there was laughter in the distance far more disturbing, in the end, than the sounds of the creature Andellen had called firstborn. She was late. She was
too
late. The baying of the ferals grew loud.

And blending, at last, with that baying, the sounds of horns. The war cry of the Barrani. The Lady stood by her side for just a fraction of a second longer, and then she cried out and turned, running toward the door.

Kaylin was held, transfixed. Had she wanted to run, had she wanted to
join
the fight – and she had no doubt that The Lady had gone to do just that – she wouldn’t have been able to do so.

Because, just as she needed the name of the Lord of the West March in order to return from the odd world she’d entered to heal him, she
needed
the name of the Lord of the Green. She wasn’t caught in the heart of arboreal forest; the room was
real
. But the trap was the same; the cost of failure was higher.

Noble failure. Proud failure.

And she wasn’t going to settle for it until she had no other choice.

She said again,
Give me your name
.

And the darkness told her that the Lord of the Green no longer
had
it.

His face was twisted with hunger and pain and – yes – humiliation. He fought; she could sense the Other in him. It was the source of the voice. But the darkness was lying, and she knew it. Prayed – which, given her stance on gods in general, was stupid, but entirely human – that the Lord of the Green would know it just as clearly.

He struggled.

And she reached out with her right hand and slapped his face. It was harsh, yes, but it was
real
. There was no ghost voice in it, no Barrani damn words, nothing that wasn’t Kaylin. She wanted his attention.

She got it. But in order to slap her back, he had to let go of her hand. And she realized that he couldn’t. They were anchored together by both of his hands and her left one. And beyond them, the time of
leoswuld
had begun. Or ended.

That didn’t bear thinking about.

But she had his attention, and she could almost see glints of blue in those eyes, like tiny fractures in ebony. It could have been the midnight blue of rage or terror. She guessed rage. “You
have
your name! It’s yours. It’s still yours. Yes, you can be controlled by it. Yes, you can be forced to do what you
do not choose
to do – but it’s
your
name. And damn you to your own hell, I need it!”

But he hadn’t the power to speak it; she saw that clearly. Healer’s vision saw the weakness in the body through the tips of her fingers. She started to curse because she couldn’t think of anything else to say – and then she stopped because she saw that he was, in fact, doing something. Not speaking – if names ever came that way. He couldn’t do that. … he was the Lord of the Green, and she knew that he would not allow himself to be bested by a mortal girl who was barely an adult.

Between them, in the air above her hands, and beneath the great weight of the single, huge stroke she had borne this far, delicate curves began to form. She knew what they were. She had seen something similar before, in Castle Nightshade, when Lord Nightshade had given her, in the end, his name, the truth of himself.

To speak it? No.

But to
think
it, to write it in this fashion – if it were real and not an elemental part of their joining – this much he could struggle to do. It came slowly, curve and dot, curve and dot, line and line. It was a complex word, in a way that Nightshade’s hadn’t been.

She couldn’t
read
it as she had read Nightshade’s, and for a moment, she foundered; she let fear take hold. Heard the voice of the darkness as a physical force, demanding that the Lord of the Green release her. Kill her. Devour her.

But he couldn’t.

The marks on her arms were now so bright they almost dwarfed his own rune. Their glow rose in the air in the shape of words, each dense and perfect, each complete in and of itself.

His was
not
.

Understanding robbed her knees of strength, and had the Lord of the Green not had a literal death grip on her hand, she would have fallen.

The Barrani had a mother; they had no midwives. They had no concept of midwives, and why should they? This birthing – ah, this one had been difficult; it had gone wrong. She understood, looking at the name as he finished it and his strength seemed to ebb, that she had come, in the end, not as Hawk, and not as Healer, but as midwife. What the Consort had failed to understand – as mother – Kaylin could now see, as midwife. The Consort had grasped, not the
whole
of the thing but only part; the part she
could
grasp; the part she could carry. She had been young then. Too young. She had chosen what she could carry.

And Kaylin had finally come to help her. To carry the
rest
. She brought the large, last stroke up, although her hand was bound, and with it, came his. She brought it to rest to the left of the symbol that lay between them, incomplete. She was aware that the symbol, incomplete, had
meaning
. How could it not? Had it not, the Lord of the Green would never have awakened.

But it was not the whole of the meaning the source had intended for him. And she brought the hard curve of the last stroke to complete it, to transform it, to make it
more
, and not less, than it had been.

The stroke touched the lines that composed the rest of his name, and when it did, it began to resonate, to shake, to transform both itself and the rest. She could
hear
it, then, keening, and she tried not to listen as it spoke the whole of
his
name.

And he cried out with it, cried out what it said. She could feel this, as well. He swallowed what he had offered at the edge of his ability to defy the darkness, and with it, the last stroke.

Some midwives considered newborn cries to be a sign of health. They didn’t differentiate between cries and screams because in an infant there wasn’t much difference.

She didn’t have that comfort. He was
screaming
in a voice that shook the High Halls themselves. That broke stone. That shattered stonework and drove shards into the underside of Kaylin’s bare feet. She bled again, but he held her up, shaking now with the force of this new name, this
whole
name.

When silence came, she opened her eyes. She hadn’t been aware that they were closed. He stood in the circle, and he held her up by her arm. She dangled, watching in dim fascination as the runes that rimmed the circle began to go out.

And she heard a distant roar of rage, and it, too, shook the Halls and shattered stone. It wasn’t a conversation she wanted to be part of, but she’d made a choice, and she’d live with it. She hoped.

He stepped out of the circle, still holding her. In the gloom of the room, she couldn’t see the color of his eyes, and she desperately wanted to know what they were. Anything but black, she prayed. Anything but that. But he
wasn’t
undying; the taint of the effort to end his existence in that particular fashion was gone from him.

He strode across the fissures in the floor, still holding her. When he reached the door, it flew wide, and this time, it splintered. The halls on the other side of the arch were like a different country, and he stepped across the boundary. Only then did he set her down. She gave a little yelp of pain, and followed it by a one-footed dance as she tried to dislodge stone shards.

He gestured, and they flew, carrying her blood with them.

He was, and was not, the man she had seen in her dream. But his eyes – his eyes were blue. Warrior blue, she thought. Or hoped.

“The
leoswuld
,” he told her. He wore light, or so it seemed, and she remembered that he had worn light the first time she had seen him. Light transformed, shrinking and dwindling until he wore armor, and a cloak that was forest-green. Familiar. He drew his hood up, and also drew his sword. In fact, to her surprise, he drew two.

He handed the second to Kaylin. “It is not your chosen weapon,” he told her, “but you are not yet a master of the weapon that is, and I am not… yet… whole enough to contain you if you falter.”

She didn’t understand what he meant. And then, as he looked at her exposed arms, she
did
. She pulled the sleeves down in a hurry, wondering when it was that she’d yanked them up. If she had.

“It has started,” he told her grimly, “and now, we face opposition. If we do not arrive in the High Court Circle soon, all of your effort will count for nothing. There will be none to accept the gift, and none to take the keys of power from the Lord of the High Court, for I fear you were right – my brother will not take them.”

As he spoke, she saw them: black shadows racing down the halls behind a set of fangs. Ferals. The fangs of the Lord of the Green weren’t really, but his smile was a hunter’s smile, and if he had any fear of ferals
at all
, madness drove it from him.

She wanted to hide behind him, but she knew ferals; it wouldn’t do her any good at all.

Lirienne!
she called.

And the ferals leaped.

She couldn’t see the blade move. She knew it had because bits and pieces of feral flew free. They didn’t have time to roar in pain; they just died. She hadn’t wanted to hide, but she didn’t want to step up. The hall wasn’t wide, and the sweep of his damn sword
was
.

He didn’t seem to need help, though. He was the Lord of the Green. And these were his rats.

He moved forward, cutting them down. If they wounded him at all, she couldn’t see it; the ferals bled red, and that red covered his armor, darkened his cloak, adding color to his face.

And to hers.

She heard horns in the distance and wondered how many ferals had been unleashed. Prayed it was only ferals.

Kaylin
. The Lord of the West March spoke, his voice clear above the horns and snarls of ferals.

The Lord of the Green is coming
, she told him desperately.

Heard his silence.
But it’s going to take a bit of time. How much do we have?

Tell him… to hurry.

She looked at the Lord of the Green.
Uh, no
.

Kaylin

I’m not telling him to do anything. I’m right here. You’re somewhere safe.

She heard his wild laughter inside of her mind, and knew that
safe
was not quite the right word.

She looked down the hall; the ferals were thick there. She should have felt rage; she didn’t. Just… fear. The Lord of the Green was right – she didn’t have control of her power. Couldn’t just turn it on and off. She saw the darkness, and in it, some part of herself.

She could
not
afford to call her power here. If it came, she wasn’t certain what it would be, or do. She had one other choice. And she lifted the medallion of Lord Sanabalis, and blessing Dragons in general, she spoke the word of fire.

The hall erupted in a flame that shot out from the medallion like the breath of a dragon. It devoured the ferals, leaving a wet ash in their wake.

The Lord of the Green looked at her in some surprise, and then, looking at what she held in her hands, he laughed. “Come,” he told her, racing ahead. “You’ve bought time, but they will fill the Halls soon.”

Where he ran, the High Halls seemed to shorten in length, as if the building itself was attempting to aid them in their passage. She stretched her legs, keeping up, but only barely. His sword should have weighed her down, but it was light for its length, lighter than Severn’s daggers had been. She wondered what it was made of.

She lost any sense of geography; she lost the ability to keep track of where she had been. It didn’t matter. If she could remain in the wake of the Lord of the Green, she didn’t need to know. But it was hard to keep up. She saw black mist cross the floor, and she would have skidded to a stop. She was barefoot and bleeding, and she knew better than to offer her blood to what lingered, attempting to take form. he swept her off her feet, knowing – and approving of – her fear, and she let him, although it would slow them down.

It should slow them down.

But he seemed to take strength from the motion, from the necessity, from the passage of time. She allowed herself to cling to him while he ran. The mists parted or squelched unpleasantly beneath his mailed boots. He did not set her down, and she wondered if there would be
any
safe place he could do so. She hated shoes more than she could say; she couldn’t even begin to think of the words with which she could express the loathing. Which, given she wasn’t wearing any, should have been a surprise.

And then, she could swear the wall
parted
, and they looked into a forest of green and brown and gold, with sun-mired shadows and the paths of stone that lay, like works of art, for the wary foot. Rising above the forest, she saw the bowers of the tree –
first tree
– that formed the throne of the Lord of the High Court, that bowered his Consort.

And saw, as well, patches of flame, and black smoke, in the distance.

He set her down then, and ran, and she ran after him. He disturbed nothing, and she stubbed her toes, tearing slender stems from their thin moorings, and crushing open blossoms beneath her feet. His cloak didn’t tangle in anything, and her skirts – well. The less said, the better, because pausing to swear meant losing him.

BOOK: Cast In Courtlight
8.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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