Authors: Megg Jensen
|Cloud Prophet Trilogy |
|DarkSide Publishing (2011)|
Copyright © 2011 by Megg Jensen
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used factitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form by or any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
Edition: June 2011
Cover design by Robin Ludwig Design
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Also by Megg Jensen
Cloud Prophet Trilogy
The Swarm Trilogy
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I was the Prophet who hadn’t used her gift to summon one useful prophecy.
Throughout my life my former master, Kandek, used my visions to help him maintain and secure his political position. I unknowingly helped him, thinking the visions I received from the clouds were only silly stories I made up for him. Instead he hid me from everyone’s prying eyes and kept me from seeing the clouds, the very clouds that lead my gift to send me visions of the future. He also hid the fact he was my biological father and killed my mother to keep his secret.
I squinted, the blinding sun robbing me of the pleasure of being outside. The clouds had long since drifted away, leaving my gift blind. I relished being outdoors, a rare treat for me after fifteen years of captivity. Soon I’d learn to use it, control it, with the help of Nemison.
Even though he’d said my gift would exceed his, he had an advantage over me; because like every other gifted person I’d met, he knew how to use his. My gift of prophecy was uncontrollable, and so far, useless.
I reached out and took Nemison’s hand. Last week I agreed I would train with him as soon as I cleaned up the mess I left behind after escaping Kandek’s castle. And I had. I freed the petty criminals he held as ransom for my return, revealed my lying ex-best friend, Ivy, for the manipulator she really was, and broke up my father’s wedding. I had nothing left for me in the place I grew up, the place I was a slave, the place where I’d been surrounded by lies.
I allowed myself only one last glance towards the woods that swallowed Mark after the wedding was disrupted. Over the last few months I’d developed feelings for him, perhaps even loved him, but at the moment I needed him the most he’d betrayed me. He’d chosen his brothers in the Sons of Silence over me.
I wanted to hate him.
But I couldn’t. Love didn’t die in the moment of betrayal. Like a flower at night, it only closed its petals, waiting for the sun to shine on it again.
I glanced over my shoulder, and turned to see the obese nobleman who’d had a sword to his throat mere minutes ago. Blorn’s life had been spared and even though I’d been revealed as Kandek’s daughter, he still wanted my head. He held a higher position than my father, but he had no grounds to arrest me now. I’d done nothing wrong.
Blorn’s guards advanced towards us, circling around the dais. Their weapons were still being held in the castle, but I had no doubt men had already been dispatched to retrieve them. They’d be back soon and we had no route for escape. My father had left, following his guards to be sure Ivy was properly secured in the dungeon.
Nemison and I were left standing on the dais with Ella and Grey, two slaves I trusted with my life. She’d become my best friend when I had no one and rescued me in my darkest moment.
“I can fight them,” Grey said.
I placed my hand on his arm. My fingers didn’t feel the jolt I’d always dreamt about. For years I’d had my eye on Grey. Strong, upstanding, and handsome, he was everything any slave girl would have wanted, until I met Mark and tasted freedom in his arms. My heart pounded again, as I thought of him standing on the edge of the woods. He had seen Grey’s arm around my shoulders and then he’d left without a word.
“Don’t.” I pushed Mark out of my mind. He was gone and I had to help my friends. I was now free, but they were still considered slaves. “Standing up to them will only get you in more trouble.”
“I want to protect you,” Grey insisted. He moved in front of me and held up his fists towards the guards.
“Reychel, we need to leave.” Nemison whispered in my ear. I hadn’t forgotten my promise to train with him. I didn’t know how he would get us away from here, but I trusted him. He’d proven his loyalty and in exchange I gave him mine.
“Grey, I don’t need protecting anymore. Take care of yourself.” I placed my hand on his right fist and lowered it. I grabbed Ella’s left hand and placed it on Grey’s fist. “Take care of each other. I don’t know when I’ll see either of you again.”
Ella’s eyes widened and a blush crept on her cheeks. I wondered if she had a crush on him. Hiding a smile, I nodded to her. Grey glanced down at Ella and looked back at me. In that moment he had to know I’d moved on, I wouldn’t ever come home again, not to Kandek’s castle and not to him.
“I promise we will change everything. I will learn to use my gift and everyone’s lives will get better. You will be free.” I barely believed it myself, but I couldn’t leave them standing there wondering why I’d abandoned them. Everyone needed hope now.
Nemison held up his hand, using his gift to send bursts of air at the guards. They fell backwards as they were hit by the invisible blasts, and dropped to the ground.
“Let them be,” my father, Kandek, roared from the entrance to the garden. He’d brought guards back with him after depositing Ivy in the dungeon. His men held their swords at the ready, the tips glinting in the bright sunlight.
I eyed him, but he was too far away for me to make out his expression. He’d denied me my parentage until today, allowing me to live as a slave in his castle. Yet now he wanted to protect me. I doubted I’d ever understand him.
“There must be an inquest,” Blorn yelled.
Their voices hovered in the air behind me, surrounded by the gasps and screams of the ladies and lords present. Even though the guards were on their side, they sat on their blankets cowering in fear. They were probably still in shock from being held at sword point by the Sons of Silence. The Sons were not my people, but another sect fighting for the freedom all Serenians craved.
Nemison took my hand and squeezed it. “I’ll open a portal to the Southern Kingdom. You’ll be safe there.
“Me? What about you?” I asked. The guards edged closer and my stomach tumbled with fear. I wasn’t afraid of the guards; I was afraid Nemison would send me somewhere new and wouldn’t come with me. He’d promised to train me, to teach me how to use my gift. I shouldn’t go anywhere without him.
“I just changed the plans.” He winked at me. I wasn’t comforted.
The Southern Kingdom?” I had heard of the lands to the south, beyond the mountains. Stories told of dangerous men, cutthroats at every corner and a land too wild to be tamed by the emperor. “Is it safe?”
Nemison laughed. “Safe? It’s safer than staying here. I’ll create the portal and you run through it first. I’ll be there soon. I just need to tie something up here first.”
I wondered when Blorn’s guards would attack. They stood at the ready and Blorn dripped in sweat, his beady eyes staring me down. I looked away; I couldn’t stand seeing his ugly face anymore. It reminded me too much of the day I first met him; the day I should have had Kandek’s sign branded into the back of my bald head.
Nemison flicked his fingers in the air, creating a portal, and the air in front of us shimmered. I’d never been through one before, but I’d seen people go through them once so I knew, I hoped, they were harmless. I tried not to show my fear.
“Jump through!” Nemison dropped my hand. I jumped, looking over my shoulder as my foot entered the portal. A guard caught up with him and grabbed Nemison’s arms. Twisting them behind his back, the guard forced him to the ground.
I reached out to him, desperate to save him from capture. “No!” I screamed. But it was too late, the portal had already sucked me in.
My body coasted through empty space; my eyes blinded. I saw nothing. I felt nothing. Until seconds later my feet landed on a floor, the rest of my body collapsing in front of them. I bent at the waist, lying in a fetal position. My stomach contracted with spasms and pain coursed through my body.
I lay on the floor a few minutes as the spasms relented. The light wood under my body felt warm, unlike the cool, dark hardwood of my northern home. I traced a knothole with my fingertip feeling the stillness of the moment in spite of my apprehension and pain. I’d been on the move for the last three days; I welcomed the moment of silence.
Traveling through the forest with the boy I loved for two days had been exhilarating, but frightening. If anyone had come upon us and discovered our secret, that I was not his prisoner, then our entire plan would have been ruined. They would have known, had they seen us together. No one who ever witnessed love would have mistaken us for captor and prisoner. But now, I didn’t know if I’d ruined everything we’d found in each other by refusing to follow Mark. I traveled through the portal, but I’d lost my heart on the way.
My heart had broken today, and not just because of Mark’s rejection. If I wouldn’t have intervened, my father would have married my former best friend, dooming him to a life of suppression under her gift.
I felt sorry for Kandek, having seen the damage her gift could cause to a person, but part of me was disappointed I’d helped him. He’d never helped me all those years he kept me as a slave on his estate. He’d guarded the greatest secret, that I was not only gifted, but quite possibly the Prophet my people had been yearning for nearly seven generations. His own fear had led him to murder my mother...and yet some part of me wanted to forgive him. He’d given me life and protected me. I wanted to see the best in people. I wanted to believe he could change. But I wouldn’t find out now, I had to embrace my own path.
When the spasms passed, I stood up. My legs jiggled under me. I glanced back at the wall I’d entered through. The portal had closed, leaving me in a tiny room. Running my fingers over the stucco, I marveled that I passed hundreds of miles through solid materials in only a few seconds. Nemison’s gift amazed me. It was hard to believe that someone so powerful wanted to take me on as a student, especially since he believed my gift would prove to be more powerful than his. So far mine had appeared on its own, never at my direction. So much for being powerful.
I said a prayer to Eloh for his safety.
The room I had fallen into measured six steps from wall to wall. A closed door stood in front of me. Not knowing what lie on the other side, I opted to stand for a few more moments in what I assumed was a closet. It was so small I couldn’t imagine it would be used for anything else.
I pressed my ear against the door, I was not a newcomer to spying, but I couldn’t hear anything other than a faint rustling on the other side. I leaned a bit harder against the door trying to make out the smallest noise that would clue me in to whether or not it was safe to emerge.
The door flew open and I tumbled face first onto the floor again. On the way down sunlight burned on my face courtesy of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the spacious room. A woman stood so close to me that I saw nothing but her orange silk slippers, inches from my nose. The bottom of her dress floated above the toes of her slippers and hit me in the face as she pivoted, sauntering to the other side of the room.
“You are Nemison’s prize, I presume?” She spun around, her dress floating upward. “The supposed Prophet. Shall I bow down before you, Reychel?”