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Authors: Dan O'Sullivan

The Fallen (Book 1) (37 page)

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
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Enri crawled to Alexander and unw
ound the blanket from the soldier’s burnt body. He rummaged through Valeska’s pack and found a large cloth similar to the one Danil had used to bind Alexander’s feet. He pushed the cloth through the vine which hung over the only gap of any size between the fig tree’s roots and within seconds the rain had soaked the cloth. He took the dripping fabric to where Alexander lay and began to fastidiously clean his burned body. He went relentlessly back and forth to wet the cloth and an hour later he was finally satisfied with his work.


I don’t suppose anyone has any clean cotton clothing,’ he asked Valeska hopefully. ‘Though regardless of how we wrap him, once these burns start weeping everything will stick to the wounds.’

She shook her head.
‘I brought as little as possible, to save carrying a lot of gear. If I did have any spare clothing I would have given it to Louisa,’ she said. ‘The poor girl-’ she stopped speaking and raised her hand. They sat in silence, with Valeska staring ahead as if she was listening.

Ten minutes later, t
here was a rustling as the vine was lifted from the gap in the tree roots and seconds later Danil and Callian were inside. They remained where they knelt for several minutes letting the water drip from their drenched hair and clothing. Danil passed his pack to Valeska who opened it and drew out a loaf of bread, some dried meat and a large piece of raw mutton which was wrapped in several layers of cloth. Then Danil and Callian removed their drenched shirts and trousers and hung them from overhanging roots to dry. Callian drew an oilskin wrapped bundle from the bottom of Danil’s pack and he passed this to Enri. Enri opened the bundle and exclaimed in approval as he drew out several large clean sheets of soft cotton fabric. He also found two sets of plain trousers and shirts, but he decided to keep these clean for when Alexander’s wounds began to heal. He spread a clean blanket on the ground and then with utmost care, he stretched one of the sheets over the blanket. He lifted Alexander’s body and placed him gently on the sheet. Then he wound the sheet around the soldier and tucked the bottom of the cloth around his feet. He touched Alexander’s forehead and cheeks and, deciding the soldier was a little too cool, he lifted him once again and placed him on his own dry blanket, wrapping it over the sheet. With a wicked grin he snatched the pack from beneath Dale’s head and placed it under Alexander’s head. Dale grunted as his head hit the ground and he opened his eyes and glared at Enri for a second before closing his eyes again. Enri laughed as Dale began snoring seconds later.


Obviously a long and dangerous hunt as you tracked this piece of mutton!’ said Valeska mischievously. ‘Do you need me to help you clean your weapons?’


It was butchering the animal that took so long,’ Danil explained with a grin.


And baking the bread,’ added Callian.


And drying the beef?’ Valeska smirked.


There’s a small settlement not so far east of here,’ said Danil as he skewered pieces of mutton and handed them to Callian to roast. ‘They’re missing a few items,’ he admitted.


Did anyone see you?’ asked Enri.


Of course not,’ said Danil. ‘And this rain is so heavy our tracks already will have been washed away.’


When do we move on?’ asked Valeska, glancing anxiously at Alexander.


We’ll wait until tonight,’ said Callian. ‘Did you sleep?’


Yes. Lias kept watch first and Enri and I will keep watch as you and Danil get some sleep.’


Obviously Dale is in no condition to keep watch,’ said Danil, in a mockingly loud whisper.


I can keep watch if you want me to,’ Dale muttered, opening one eye.

Callian
frowned at Dale. ‘Do many people make the mistake of talking about you when you are supposed to be sleeping?’ he asked, holding out a piece of bread torn from the loaf.


All the time,’ Dale admitted, sitting up and taking the bread from Callian.


I must remember that,’ said Callian. ‘Dale, I know what you were dreaming of only moments ago.’

Dale blushed and stared at the ground. Since leaving Weema, on several occasions he
’d felt the sensation of someone searching for his heart, and each time it became stronger.


Is it...she...is she dangerous?’ Dale didn’t raise his head.


Not while I’m standing beside you…not until she manages to draw you away from us. If she does…well, that mustn’t happen.’


Is she following us?’


No. She’s following
you
.’

Dale sighed heavily.
‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think under the circumstances it might be better if she couldn’t follow us. I think we’d better stop her.’


Understood.’

Enri
’s jaw dropped. ‘You can’t return her just for following us!’


I wasn’t planning on returning her Enri.’ Callian rolled his eyes.


If I get the chance, I’ll try to get close enough to her to make her want to go somewhere else. That’s all.’


I didn’t know you could do that.’


It’s very difficult with the fallen. If I can catch her, I can do this.’ Callian lay down and closed his eyes. The next part of the journey was worrying him deeply as he knew by now Nandul would have every available warrior out looking for them. And he knew every obvious path out of Nyinaku would be barred. He wondered if their chosen course would lead them right into the arms of the fallen.

 

Chapter 36             

Weapons

 


What were you thinking?’ Milgorry shouted, towering over Immosey. The girl stood defiantly before him, arms folded and mouth set in a pout.


I was thinking that surely there would be boats along this river. So I went to have a look. I don’t need to be led around like a child every minute!’


You go nowhere by yourself! Nowhere!’ Milgorry was still shouting and glaring at Immosey. She drew back, a little frightened by his anger. ‘You have to stop thinking you’re indestructible! What would have happened if you were seen? You would be dead! If anyone sees you wandering around Nyinaku they will kill you before you even see them!’ He glared at her as Borgulnay rushed over to push his way in between them.


Why are you shouting at Immosey?’ said Borgulnay. His voice was cold and his hands curled into fists as his massive chest swelled with anger.

Milgorry transferred his glare from Immosey to Borgulnay.
‘Immosey seems to think it’s alright to take a little stroll down to the river to look for boats,’ he growled, ‘by herself!’

Borgulnay swung around and stared at Immose
y, his eyes narrowing in shock. ‘You did what? Please tell me he’s joking.’


Not joking,’ said Milgorry through gritted teeth.


Immy, you can’t just wander about! Mil is right. What were you thinking?’

Immosey
looked between Milgorry’s and Borgulnay’s angry and shocked faces. She flushed deep red and sudden tears rushed down her cheeks.

Borgulnay reached out and gently drew her into his arms.
‘I’m sorry Immy. It was a good idea to look for boats. If you want to go anywhere else I’ll come with you. The thought of losing you…’ Immosey felt a little guilty as she heard the pain in his voice and she buried her face against his chest.


I frightened you,’ said Milgorry regretfully. ‘I’m sorry little sister, but you frightened me first. You are inclined to taking risks!’

Immosey drew back and
looked up at Borgulnay and then across at Milgorry. ‘I’m sorry too,’ she said.


Speaking of sisters, where is Elena?’ asked Borgulnay, glancing around, ‘and Kelian?’

Milgorry swung around to
face the place where Gilgarry lay sleeping and let out an exasperated huff. Kelian and Elena had been beside him not ten minutes before, but now the soldier lay alone. ‘Keep them safe!’ Milgorry commanded Borgulnay as he dashed into the forest.

Five minutes later he returned with Kelian and Elena close behind, both wearing slightly sheepish expressions.

‘You’d think we were going on a little picnic in the Cabla Hills,’ Milgorry grumbled.


What were you doing, Kelian?’ Borgulnay asked the Prince resignedly.


We went to see if there were any boats,’ Kelian explained.


And to look for houses,’ said Elena. ‘We need to find some warmer clothing before we go south. It’s cold in the mountains and Milgorry doesn’t even have a shirt.’

Milgorry had his teeth gritted together again.
‘And this justifies the Prince of Alkira and his fiancée wandering around Nyinaku unprotected?’


I’m sick of feeling useless,’ said Kelian heatedly.


I’m sick of failing to protect you,’ Milgorry replied.


I don’t need protecting!’


Yes you do! And it’s my job to get you safely home. Your people will need you. Your
armies
will need you.’


Armies?’ Kelian suddenly drew himself upright and looked hard at Milgorry. ‘You expect war?’


Not immediately,’ Milgorry admitted. ‘Most likely Nandul will take the most cunning and malicious revenge he can accomplish first. I imagine you have family and friends scattered all over Alkira,’ he said pointedly. ‘Nandul isn’t one to accept defeat. He’ll see what has happened here as a slight setback in his plans, but an insult worthy of serious revenge.’

Kelian stared at Milgorry in horror.
‘What about Louisa? Will he come after her again?’

Milgorry
’s face turned anxious. ‘He’ll come after our baby; the child of a guardian and of the free.’

Kelian was silent;
his eyes narrowed in determination, and in that instant Milgorry saw a different man, one descended from a long line of tough Kings. Kings who had led their people through centuries of toil to forge them into the nation they had become.


No,’ said Kelian. ‘This mustn’t be allowed to happen. We will command every force at our disposal to prevent this atrocity. If the fallen regain the power of the Daoine Maithe they would destroy us as easily as swatting flies. We must prevent this.’


You’ll need every soldier you have if Nandul decides to bring an army against you, and even then…’ Milgorry left the thought unfinished.


We’ll need help. I must speak to my Father and the King’s Marshall. We’ll need more soldiers, more scouts. The border patrols must be increased along the edge of the Wasteland and north of the Ice Coast,’ Kelian stared unseeingly ahead, his mind racing through the huge task ahead of him.


You may have little time.’


I need to convince a lot of people very quickly of the situation. There are some who will refuse to believe the magnitude of the problem, and some who will believe it, but will be reluctant to take action. Then we’ll have to deal with those who think themselves to be above the command of any but myself or even the King, and will use this as an excuse to delay providing their full strength when needed.  Even should the King issue a direct order to each and every noble and military officer in Alkira, there will be horrendous political squabbling about who’s technically in charge. Can you imagine when one of our Generals comes head to head with some noble or other who thinks they’re in charge but has no idea how to run a war?’


So who would be in charge?’ asked Milgorry curiously.


Whoever I say is in charge will be in charge. There are a lot of spoilt nobles out there who are going to get the biggest shock of their lives.’


How are you going to make them believe you? Can you make them understand the threat?’

Kelian
’s eyes narrowed once again. ‘I don’t care if they believe me or not. As long as they do exactly what I say.’ He grinned wickedly at Milgorry. ‘I doubt I will have much difficulty making them understand the threat if you play your part well enough.’

Milgorry
’s eyes widened. ‘You want me to stay with you? Do you have any idea how many people are going to try to return me on sight?’

Kelian raised an eyebrow.
‘Do you want to tell me how much success they would have?’


None,’ Timbul’s voice came from behind Kelian as he walked back into the camp. ‘I’d hate to be given the job of returning him.’


So how do you propose to keep me with you, Highness?’ Milgorry said with a smirk.


I’m going to tell the Daoine Maithe that Louisa carries your child. I doubt they will let her leave the Dwellings in her condition. Oh no, you won’t be going anywhere,’ Kelian said smugly.


You sneaky, conniving, devious….’ Milgorry’s voice trailed away as he stared at the Prince.


I will do whatever it takes to protect my people.’

And so,
’ Milgorry folded his arms firmly, ‘that makes it crucial that I return you safely to Castle.’

Kelian sighed.
‘Yes, you’re right. We need to go home. And you need to take Louisa to the Dwellings.’


At which point Tiernan will return me,’ said Milgorry grumpily.


Only after I’ve finished with you,’ added Kelian as Milgorry watched him appraisingly.


Shouldn’t the others be back yet?’ asked Elena, gazing out into the darkening forest.


They’re only minutes away,’ said Milgorry confidently. Two minutes later Araas and Louisa appeared.


I’ve never been so glad to see someone,’ Milgorry admitted as Araas dropped to his knees and woke Gilgarry.


Why?’ Timbul asked curiously.


These humans are impossible to keep under control,’ said Milgorry, spreading his hands and feigning despair. ‘If I turn my back even for a second I find them all wandering around the local villages shopping for new dresses and looking for fishing boats.’

Timbul laughed as Elena and Immosey blushed, but Araas
’ jaw dropped in shock as he read Milgorry’s thoughts.


You can’t be serious! Alone? Along the river? Supreme Majesty! No wonder you look worried!’


No, he’s worried about what Tiernan is going to do when he finds out about the child Louisa is carrying,’ said Immosey trying to keep a straight face, and then frowning uncertainly at Timbul’s and Araas’ guarded expressions.

Milgorry turned to Immosey.
‘You won’t go anywhere alone? You will tell us what you are doing?’ he asked seriously.


I will tell you next time I’m going somewhere alone,’ Immosey agreed, grinning mischievously as Borgulnay and Milgorry glared at her once again.


You’re doing too good a job of shielding thoughts, even from a distance,’ Milgorry said to Louisa. ‘I went up the hill to get some firewood before that storm hits,’ he glanced towards the darkening sky, ‘and I wasn’t aware that they all decided to run off down to the river.’


What did you find? Immosey asked.


Nothing worth taking,’ said Louisa. ‘Did you find boats?’


Yes several,’ Immosey answered.


Good,’ said Timbul. ‘The river is wide and deep at this point and there’s a lake not far to the east.


Lake Meselwe,’ said Milgorry. ‘Did they look like fishing boats?’


Do I look like I would know?’ Immosey’s temper was beginning to assert itself once again. ‘They were just boats. No sails, only oars and they smelt bad, if that helps.’ She sighed. ‘I’m sorry Mil. I’m hungry and cold and tired…no excuse to be rude.’


We’ll wait for an hour,’ said Araas. ‘It will be dark by then.’


Then what?’ asked Elena looking worried.


Then we steal a boat,’ said Kelian. ‘Mil, does anyone live around here? Surely someone must own the boats.’


There are settlements around here, but we can avoid them easily enough. There are a few homes scattered around the forest, but hopefully no one will notice a boat is missing…for a while anyway. We still need to be wary. Distance isn’t such an obstacle for my people,’ Milgorry explained. ‘We can move a little faster than most humans if we need to.’ Kelian shook his head at this understatement.

They had no difficulty in taking the largest of the boats and
soon they drifted silently down the River Weema towards Lake Meselwe.


Everyone must lie down as we enter the lake,’ Milgorry commanded in a whisper, taking the oars from Araas. ‘It would be better if we were not seen at all, but if someone does see us they might think I’m alone and not bother us.’


Let’s hope there’s no-one actually out on the Lake. They would be bound to see the pile of bodies in the boat,’ said Timbul.


And they may just notice how low we’re riding in the water,’ said Gilgarry drily from where he lay. To everyone’s relief he was steadily improving and growing stronger. ‘If anyone sees us we’ll all play dead, and Milgorry can boast about his skills as a warrior.’

Milgorry snorted.
‘How about we tie you to a rope, toss you overboard and tell everyone we’re trolling for cod,’ he suggested grinning.


Well that’s not very nice!’ Gilgarry replied indignantly. ‘I deserve to be bait for a much grander fish than some old cod!’

Milgorry
laughed. ‘I’m glad you’re feeling better, Gil.’


Tim, is that a house over there?’ said Louisa, pointing south.


Aren’t you supposed to be lying in the bottom of the boat?’ said Timbul, raising himself on one elbow and peering out into the darkness. ‘Yes. There are three houses and a larger shelter with no walls.’


Warm clothing?’ said Elena also sitting up and looking towards the settlement.


Lie down!’ said Milgorry in exasperation. ‘Now keep quiet.’ He guided the boat across the river and as they bumped against the southern bank he caught hold of a low overhanging branch and tied up the boat. Everyone crawled up the steep grassy bank. At the top of the incline there was little to hide them other than the long thick grass, so they lay down and peered through the grass towards the settlement. It was in darkness and completely quiet. The three wooden huts were very old and the thatching on each roof was badly in need of repair.

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
12.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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