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Authors: Dan O'Sullivan

The Fallen (Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
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Chapter
7

Nightmare

 

Immosey woke suddenly. Her nightmare had been
but a shadow of the abominable reality in which they were trapped. She longed to lift the dirty cloth from her face but she didn’t dare. The same rough hands that tied the blindfolds around their heads, had struck her when she attempted to see where they were being taken. She reached out gingerly with her hand and felt the fabric of Louisa’s dress. Gently she eased herself away and reached out with her other hand. She touched a thin arm and knew Elena was also still with them. They had not been separated. She lay still again. From the jolting of the cart she was sure they were not travelling on the road. She could smell tyallas and the strong unpleasant scent of burra bushes, and though the smells and sounds of the bush land were familiar they didn’t help Immosey to determine their location. ‘We could be anywhere,’ she thought sadly. She wrapped her arms around herself. ‘I’m getting colder.’ She forced herself to think logically. ‘Perhaps we’re going south? Possibly they’re taking us down to the Ice Coast and across to their land.’ She thought about this possibility for some time and her heart sank. If this was the case they would be travelling across some of the coldest and harshest terrain in the land. She had heard that the Ice Coast wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be, but that people had become soft and weak from living in an environment that was normally hot and dry, but tales were told of dangerous ice and unexpected snow storms. She had never seen snow and even the thought made her shiver.

A
sound broke her thoughts. Panic and terror intensified as she listened to a woman crying. The woman’s cries turned to terrified screams. As time passed Immosey could hear her sobbing miserably once again. Then her sobs returned to shrieks of fear and the filthy blindfold wrapped around Immosey’s face became uncomfortably wet. She tried to control her breathing and she opened her mouth, fighting to keep her own cries silent. There was one final petrified scream from the woman, then Immosey heard a muffled thud, and there was silence. She rolled onto her side, feeling the heavy weight of despair as she wondered if their fate would be similar to what she had heard.

There was a tiny movement beside her and she reached out with her hand, once again desperately wishing she could see.
Several hours later the cart finally stopped. Immosey could hear low voices and the sound of horses being led away. Soon she could smell mutton cooking and she wondered if they would be fed. There was no noise close by and she decided to risk lifting the dirty blindfold.

There was no-one near the
cart. About sixty paces away, there was a small fire and Immosey could see several people cooking and preparing food. There were small groups sitting and talking together but they were too far away for her to hear them properly. She glanced around in other directions. There were no guards nearby. She wondered about this for a moment but she knew that even should they escape from the cart, they had no idea where they were or which direction to go, and she had no doubt the fallen could track them and recapture them easily.


Immy?’ Elena had wriggled herself closer and Immosey saw she had also raised her blindfold.


Ellie, are you hurt?’ Immosey’s voice was barely a whisper.


I’m alright, but I think Louisa was injured when she tried to fight them. Did you see what she did?’


You mean when she pushed one of them away from me?’


Yes. Though ‘pushed’ is an understatement. I would not have believed she had the strength to send him flying as she did.’


Ellie, he was going to rape me. Sometimes when people are frightened or stressed their bodies can find strength they would not normally dream of using.’


It was more than that. For a moment she looked like she would kill him.’ The girls were silent for a moment.


Are you cold?’ asked Immosey.


I’m trembling with cold and I’m really hungry, as no doubt you are also.’


Can you think of any reason why the fallen would kidnap us?’

Elena pondered the question. She could think of several reasons
why they might be abducted but none really made sense. ‘Maybe someone wants to use us as hostages to demand something from our father, or from Kelian, or even the King; ransom?’


That doesn’t explain why Louisa wasn’t killed outright when she fought back, they would still have two of us. But the fallen have no interest in wealth.’


What about the Daoine Maithe? The fallen and the guardians have ever been enemies.’


Do you think the fallen want to have the guardians come after us? No doubt the guardians would feel it was their duty.’


No. I don’t think so. The fallen fear the guardians. They would be more likely to take a path which would make it difficult for someone to track us.’


Maybe they just decided to keep us as slaves. I’ve heard they do that with captives.’


But why were they at Three Ways in the first place. It’s strange, Immy. It’s like they were waiting for us.’

There was a movement behind them and both girls fell back into sleeping positions pulling the blindfolds down over their faces. Nothing happened for several minutes, and then there was a small creak as though someone had leaned on the side of the
cart. Elena was trembling more from terror now than from cold. A dark shadow moved over the side of the cart and someone crouched beside the three girls. Elena gasped in shock as a man’s voice whispered in her ear.


Share this.’ A piece of mutton was thrust into her hand then her other hand was lifted and placed on top of what felt like a leather water bag. She raised her hand to move her blindfold but a strong hand stopped her. ‘No,’ the voice said firmly. ‘That would not be wise.’


We need to relieve ourselves,’ she pleaded. There was a short silence.


It’s easier to keep you weak, hungry and vulnerable lest you attempt to escape. Tracking you would be ridiculously simple but a waste of time. So no-one cares if you must lie in your own filth.’

Tears of frustration soaked through
Elena’s blindfold. ‘Please, we’re already so very cold. It would be horrible to…’ Her voice trailed away.

He sighed.
‘Two minutes. You all go together and you must be back in the cart in two minutes. Don’t be deceived. Should you attempt to escape, I assure you that you will be captured and punished. We don’t need to place guards as we can sense you, particularly as you are frightened. Should your presence begin to fade, we would know immediately.’


Louisa is still unconscious, or dead.’ Elena’s voice broke.


She’s not dead. I gave her a cordial which prevented her from moving. Your sister is quite surprising.’ Elena could hear the admiration in his voice. ‘I can release her.’ A second later Elena could smell a strange sickly scent and then Louisa groaned and sat up.


Don’t raise your blindfold,’ the voice said. ‘And don’t test me, g-’ he hesitated, ‘girl. Don’t test me as you tested Orpel. You don’t quite seem aware of your own strength.’


Elena?’


I’m here Lou.  Are you alright?


My body feels alright, but I have a headache.’


We need to run to the bushes and relieve ourselves but we must all go together and be back in two minutes.’


Elena, he did something to me and I went to sleep but when I woke up I was paralyzed. Sometimes I could hear you and I could smell things around me but I couldn’t move a muscle! And sometimes everything was just dark and silent!’ Louisa was babbling from shock.


Shh!’ Elena’s whisper was a command.


You may lift your blindfolds and go into the bushes,’ the voice instructed. ‘You have no more than two minutes.’ The cart creaked slightly and then there was silence.

The three girls quickly raised their blindfolds and climbed over the side of the
cart dropping awkwardly to the ground as they misjudged how high the side of the cart stood. Fortunately they landed without injury. They were back in two minutes and stopped in dismay before the cart. The sideboards were higher above their heads than they could easily climb. Even if they stood on the tongue, climbing into the cart was going to prove very difficult in their long dresses. Louisa leaned forward bracing herself with hands on knees.


Climb onto my shoulders and then you can drag me in,’ she said. As carefully as possible, Elena and Immosey climbed onto the tongue and then used Louisa as a step to push themselves over the side of the cart. Before they could lean down to haul Louisa up, a man darted from the shadows. In the moment he easily lifted Louisa over the side of the cart, she twisted round and stared into his dark eyes, then he turned and melted back into the shadows.


Look!’ Elena was fumbling around in the darkness of the cart bed. ‘Blankets!’

There were four warm, thick blankets pushed into the corner of the
cart. Elena and Immosey quickly wrapped themselves. The girls hastily finished the mutton and shared the water, drinking only enough to quench their thirst. Elena placed the water bag in the corner of the cart and draped a rag over it.  They folded one of the remaining blankets into a long pillow and lay down, feeling hope return with the food and warmth.


I wonder who he was,’ said Louisa, her voice sounding a little strange.


When he lifted you into the cart did you see what he looked like?’ asked Immosey.


He was very tall and far stronger than any human. His skin was brown from being in the sun. Very dark hair and his eyes were almost black.’ The three girls looked at each other in puzzlement. He was definitely one of the fallen.

 

Chapter 8

The Dwellings

 

Lord Tiernan and Lady Karrijeuiga were not at all what Danil had expected. They were both attired similarly to Valeska in dark crossed tunics, dark trousers and
well-made sturdy boots. The Lady had her hair tied roughly in a knot atop her head, with dark ringlets escaping and falling around her face. A gold pendant shaped like a lily hung from a chain around her neck but she wore no other jewelry. Lord Tiernan wore a similar pendant and chain, though his pendant was fashioned as a star. On the surrounding walls there were maps of Alkira, Sagria and Tatharlia, and an incredibly well marked map of Nyinaku was carved into the surface of a round stone table. The roof of the room was raised on columns, with a gap between walls and ceiling to allow light. There were tall stools surrounding the table and several lamps were suspended on chains. In the corners of the room there were stone benches and a large pedestal supporting an urn of water.

Lord Tiernan and Lady Karrijeuiga were leaning over
the high table studying the map when Valeska and Yarrabyth led King Dannicus and Captain Danil into the room. They broke off their conversation and turned towards the visitors as they entered. Valeska stepped forward.


My Lord Tiernan and Lady Karrijeuiga, may I introduce King Dannicus of Alkira.’


Welcome to our home,’ said Lord Tiernan. ‘We are honored by your visit.’


Thank you Lord Tiernan, Lady Karrijeuiga,’ replied King Dannicus.


Please call us Tiernan and Karri,’ said Lady Karrijeuiga.


And this is King’s Marshall Danil of Castle,’ Lady Valeska continued.

Danil felt an explosion of adoration burst
from his heart and he longed to lean forward and touch Valeska’s face. He flushed with embarrassment as he had become quite aware how easily the guardians could sense his thoughts. His eyes moved from Valeska to the Lord and Lady who were staring at him in surprise.


Valeska?’ Karrijeuiga kept her blue eyes fixed on Danil. Danil felt his heart pounding and in a flash of panic he wondered if it was forbidden for a human to fall in love with a guardian. He managed to slightly suppress his unruly emotions.

Tiernan
shook his head slightly. ‘It isn’t forbidden.’

The King
looked in bewilderment from Tiernan to Danil.


Your Majesty,’ said Tiernan, turning to the King, ‘if you and King’s Marshall Danil would accompany us to the patio we would be pleased to serve you refreshments. Valeska, I would like you to join us if you will, and Yarrabyth, will you also join us?’

Tiernan
opened a door leading onto a bright sunny patio. The patio was a beautiful semi-circular area of granite which had been laid in a pattern of splashing water and polished until it mirrored the sky above. Several large sandstone pillars next to the building were covered in honeysuckle and jasmine and the lawn around the patio was sprinkled with tiny purple flowers. Sweet smelling bornya bushes dropped pink flowers onto the smooth floor. The lawn led to a white sand beach which stretched along the peaceful bay, its glittering water dotted with little white-sailed fishing boats.

A white wrought iron table with matching
chairs stood in the middle of the patio. The table was laden with bowls of fruit and nuts, tiny sweet cakes, and platters of meat with small rolls of bread.


Valeska, have our guests had the opportunity as yet to explore our city?’ asked Tiernan.


Yes,’ Valeska replied. ‘We took a very winding path through the city when we arrived and the soldiers are now resting in the high tower. Nemalie is going to provide refreshments and see they’re comfortable.’


The view from the tower is good,’ Tiernan commented. ‘Let’s eat!’ he added and the group seated themselves around the laden table. Whilst they ate, Valeska relayed to the Lord and Lady their encounter with the fallen. Tiernan listened with growing alarm.


I doubt it was by chance the fallen made an attempt on your life, Majesty.’


No. I’m sure it was a planned attack. We planted a rumor that I would be travelling with two guards only. I’m certain someone within the Castle garrison is a traitor. That was the whole point of the rumor, to find out if someone took the bait.’ He sat gazing ahead for a moment, his mind flashing over each aspect of the disturbing events.


That was dangerous,’ Tiernan commented, eyeing Dannicus with deep concern.


The fallen are always dangerous. I doubt they are irrational yet I can never make sense of what they do.’

Tiernan
looked warily at King Dannicus. ‘I see there is much more you would have answered.’ He paused as if considering how much he would tell the King.


You could start at the beginning,’ said Dannicus, with a wryly perceptive smile.

Tiernan laughed.
‘I could,’ he agreed, ‘back before the fall. You see, once the guardians and the fallen were one people. We were created as companions and helpers. We were also trained as warriors, a very long time ago.’


Warriors? Why?’ King Dannicus asked curiously.


I will only say that there are beings that exist who would destroy the guardians and gain control of this whole world, were they given the chance. In ages past we defeated them and drove them away. But we remain here, and should the need arise we will defend this world. This is our duty. When your race was created, you were considered the children, and this land was given as your home. You were given freedom of choice in all things. Then there was a falling out. One servant rose up in jealousy of the freedom of the children and gathered many followers to his cause. They wanted to end their service and take full control of their destiny. And their freedom was given, conditionally. They were allowed to dwell in the land of the children.’


Does that mean that even Nyinaku is traditionally ours?’


Yes.’


I don’t want it.’

Tiernan smiled.
‘Why not?’


We have enough problems of our own in Alkira. But continue please. You were explaining what happened to the fallen when they gained their freedom.’


It was allowed that their souls be confined in their bodies, though they were prevented from claiming mortality. Some of their power was taken from them and they can’t return to their previous life unless their body is destroyed, in which case they would return for judgment. This is feared by the fallen, though it wasn’t once the case.’


So what changed?’


At first they were satisfied. They dwelt in relative peace with the children and lived quietly in their own land and they made a great city called Mirri in the middle of the land. This is where the one they chose to be Prince of their people dwelt.


I’ve heard of Mirri.’


It’s not unlike the Dwellings. It’s just not as peaceful. But it once was. Unfortunately the peace didn’t last. The nomads of Sagria travelled south on what they believed was traditionally their own land to see this great city of Mirri. They were not welcomed. They left in offence and returned in numbers to attack the city.’ Tiernan sighed. ‘Against the wishes of the Prince of Mirri, the fallen destroyed every single Sagrian warrior. Not one returned to his homeland and no news came to those who waited. Even after the battle, the fallen couldn’t let this rest. They gathered together and set upon the land of Sagria. The Sagrians were smart enough at this point to hide rather than fight, and a surprising number survived, as you know from the last time they attempted to reclaim the area around Sheldon’s Mark from your own people. When the fallen returned to Mirri the Prince disappeared.


Where did he go?’ asked Dannicus.

Tiernan didn
’t answer the question. ‘The fallen must have known he was furious about what they’d done. I have no doubt that the Prince would have returned those who disobeyed him if he had the chance. They probably decided to try to get him first. I think he had no choice but to go.’


Where would he go?’


I truly don’t know, but if you want a guess, perhaps Tatharlia. After the battle, the fallen were a disgrace. They had been trusted to live in a peaceful manner with much of their previous strength intact and they abused their power. The Sagrians were a fairly primitive race with poor weapons and they were quite unskilled. The fallen could have repelled them easily with little bloodshed or come to an agreement with them, but they chose to destroy them. It became utterly clear that something needed to change - before the fallen decided to act upon the knowledge that obliterating the human race is just too easy.’


So what changed?’ asked Dannicus, surprised by the amount of information Tiernan was revealing to him.


It was decided that the fallen must be forced to make peace with humans. In order to make them have necessary contact, the ability for their bodies to produce children after their own kind was removed. If they wish to have children they must take a husband or wife of another race. Their offspring receive some of the abilities of both the humans and the fallen. Hope was that this would bring the fallen and the humans together.’


But it didn’t work, did it?’ Dannicus murmured knowingly.


No. Unfortunately it didn’t work. The fallen have changed far too much. They take human males and females in order to have children, but they neither love nor marry them, rather they despise them and the humans are slaves or are killed once a child is born. The fallen have taken many of their natural gifts and twisted them to dark and evil use.’


So we remain here as guardians of the humans - the children. The children were given freedom of choice. This means we, as your guardians, may assist when you choose for us to do so. We rarely interfere without request, which is why you don’t see us so often, excepting in a case where a friendship exists. If you ask for our assistance you will receive it to the greatest extent of our abilities. And should our ancient enemies try to invade this land once again, we will defend you.’


It angers me that the fallen have taken so many of our people and made them slaves,’ Dannicus said darkly.

Tiernan closed his eyes, but not before Dannicus saw a reflection of his own pain.
‘Many times we have unsuccessfully tried to search Nyinaku and free human slaves, but the moment the fallen get even the slightest knowledge of what we’re up to, the slaves are killed. So we’ve never been able to put an end to this abomination, despite our abilities.’


Your abilities are remarkable,’ said King Dannicus.

Tiernan
shrugged. ‘We retain most of our natural gifts, but there are certainly things we are prevented from doing – some things that humans do very well.’


Like?’ asked Dannicus skeptically.


We’re not good at military strategy for one,’ Tiernan admitted, to the King’s surprise.


Really?’ Danil looked at Tiernan in disbelief.


It’s true. We can fight, we can return any one of fallen if we judge it necessary, and we can even kill to save an innocent life. As you know, we have our own guardian force and we can defend ourselves, but we are prevented from planning and executing complex strategies when it comes to battle.’ He hesitated before continuing. ‘I think this is a safeguard for the fallen.’


How so?’

Karrijeuiga
looked at Danil seriously. ‘It stops us from forming a massive guardian army and wiping out every one of them indiscriminately.’

‘What about the fallen? Can they strategize?’ asked King Dannicus.


No better than we can. This is why they often misjudge the number of warriors they will need for an attack, and battles between the guardians and the fallen are…disorganized to say the least. No, that’s an understatement. Battles between us are chaotic, more vicious and bloodthirsty than human battles, but usually a complete fiasco.’


It doesn’t seem possible. I find it difficult to believe you struggle with something so simple.’ Danil shook his head.


It’s just something for which we have no talent, Danil,’ said Tiernan, sounding a little grumpy. ‘To be honest we’re not very good at making decisions either.’


That’s very true,’ Karrijeuiga agreed frankly. ‘After all, we were created as servants, and whilst our physical abilities are enhanced, we were never meant to be in charge.’


Yet there are some areas in which our judgment is more than sound,’ said Tiernan.


Such as?’ Danil prompted curiously.


In judgment of the heart of any man, human or fallen and in protection of the children. In love; when a guardian falls in love it will be practically instantaneous, and you can be sure they know with certainty.’ Tiernan smiled as Danil’s face reddened.

BOOK: The Fallen (Book 1)
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