The Flames of Shadam Khoreh (The Lays of Anuskaya) (2 page)

For Rhys, my dear son.

Through you, I relive my own childhood,

and this is a gift I can never repay.

A Summary of
The Winds of Khalakovo
,

Book One of The Lays of Anuskaya

As the story opens, the islands of the Grand Duchy are under siege from a blight to their crops and a deadly wasting disease that strikes royalty and peasants alike. A prince of the islands, Nikandr Khalakovo, is set to be married to Atiana Vostroma, a princess from a neighboring duchy. A pall is cast against the nuptials, however, when a fire spirit attacks and murders the Grand Duke.

The gathered royalty demand justice, and Nikandr is sent to investigate. All signs point to a young autistic savant named Nasim, and it is this boy’s mysterious past that Nikandr becomes entangled with. Nikandr believes Nasim is not to blame for the attack. He believes instead that he was used as a tool by the Maharraht, a ruthless sect of the peace-loving Aramahn that want nothing less than the destruction of the Grand Duchy. As escalations rise over the murder of the Grand Duke, Nikandr and Nasim escape to the island of Ghayavand, a place that holds many secrets from Nasim’s past.

Meanwhile, Atiana is pressed into service as a Matra, a woman who submerges herself in ice-cold water and enters the astral realm of the aether, where she can project herself to tend to the defense of the Grand Duchy and to communicate with other Matri. While doing so, Atiana comes face to face with Rehada, Nikandr’s Aramahn lover. Atiana later learns that Rehada has only been posing as Nikandr’s lover, and that in reality she is a spy for the Maharraht. Not only has she been feeding the Maharraht information about the Grand Duchy for years, she’s been in league with Soroush, a sworn enemy of the Grand Duchy who hopes to open a rift that hangs over Khalakovo. Tearing open the rift would cause untold destruction to Khalakovo and the other islands of the Grand Duchy, but Soroush cannot do this alone. He must use Nasim and his unique abilities to tear the rift open. Rehada’s loyalties, however, are not so resolute as they seem at first. She has come to doubt the path of violence that Soroush and the Maharraht are following, and it is through this doubt that she begins to question her place in the Maharraht.

Nikandr learns more of Nasim’s past and returns with him to Khalakovo, hoping to heal the rift, but before he can do so, Soroush steals Nasim away. Nikandr is forced to return home to Khalakovo without him, and he finds that tensions among the nine dukes of the Grand Duchy have reached the boiling point.

A battle between the duchies ensues, providing the perfect cover for Soroush, who takes Nasim to a small keep on the nearby island of Duzol. There he plans to perform the ritual he’s been planning for years. Using Nasim as a conduit, he will summon five elder spirits, and when all five have been summoned, the rift will be torn wide.

Soroush doesn’t count on Rehada, however, who turns away from the path of violence. She warns Nikandr of what Soroush is planning, and together, Nikandr, Atiana, and Rehada move against Soroush and the Maharraht. Soroush completes his ritual, but Nikandr has come to understand his bond with Nasim intimately. He and Atiana use this knowledge to draw Nasim fully into the material world, an act that heals not only the blight, but Nasim as well. Nasim is now as whole as he has ever been in his life, and he may finally find it possible to learn and grow. The cost, however, is heavy. Nikandr’s father is captured by the Traitor Dukes.

As the story closes, the Khalakovo family cedes control of their duchy to the new Grand Duke, and Nasim is taken away by his people for his own safety. Nikandr, however, knows that the rifts are not permanently closed, and he vows to find Nasim and complete what they have begun.

A Summary of
The Straits of Galahesh
,

Book Two of The Lays of Anuskaya

Five years have passed since Nikandr and Atiana saved Khalakovo from widespread destruction, and Nasim has fully awoken. He has been taught the ways of the world on Mirashadal, the floating village of the Aramahn, and gained new purpose. The sundering, a ritual performed long ago by three powerful Aramahn known as the Al-Aqim, was the very thing that caused the rifts and the wasting disease that are now spreading throughout the islands, and Nasim feels that he must heal the damage. He knows he cannot do it alone, however. He doesn’t know why, but his powers have been stunted since his awakening, so he recruits two other gifted children to help him: a spirited girl named Rabiah and a reserved boy named Sukharam.

Nikandr, on the other hand, has grown in his abilities. A wind spirit, a havahezhan, is bound to him, and he uses it as he goes to free Soroush from his imprisonment in Mirashadal. He successfully frees Soroush and takes him to Rafsuhan. Nikandr needs Soroush, for Rafsuhan is controlled by the Maharraht, the violent sect of the Aramahn people that wishes to destroy the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya. A new rift has formed there, however, and Nikandr hopes to learn more, perhaps even to heal the rift as Nasim did on Khalakovo, but to do this Soroush must vouch for him. Although Soroush is reluctant to help a man he hates, he eventually agrees, as it may help his people.

Atiana, however, has a different opinion of what’s best for the islands. Every day she sees more of the effects from the steady advance of the wasting disease and the rampant hunger caused by the blight. Both, they now know, are caused by the slow spread of the rifts. As noble as Nikandr’s goals are, Anuskaya needs help now, so she arranges for a marriage of convenience between herself and Bahett ül Kirdhash, the Kaymakam of the island of Galahesh. Galahesh sits between the islands of the Grand Duchy and the mainland of Yrstanla, and while it has interests in the Grand Duchy, it also holds considerable influence in the halls of Yrstanla’s capital, Alekeşir. Atiana’s marriage could bring much needed aid to not only her home of Vostroma, but to all of the duchies. Atiana travels to Galahesh, and there she begins to spy on a mysterious woman named Arvaneh, a woman that Bahett fears has grave powers. She discovers, however, that this woman is in fact Sariya, one of the Al-Aqim. She, along with another of the Al-Aqim, a man named Muqallad, are powerful indeed and have survived since the time of the sundering.

As Atiana investigates Sariya’s plans, Nasim arrives on Ghayavand with Rabiah and Sukharam. Together they find one of the pieces of the Atalayina, the fabled stone that the Al-Aqim used during the ritual that caused the sundering. They also discover that Ashan has beaten them to the island, and that Muqallad has captured him. Nasim goes there with Rabiah’s help. Not only do they fail to recover Ashan, they lose Sukharam as well. Muqallad is holding him hostage along with Ashan until he gets another piece of the Atalayina, a piece he knows is trapped in Sariya’s white tower. Nasim preaches patience, but Rabiah, angry with Nasim that they’ve lost Sukharam, goes to the tower on her own. She underestimates the power of Sariya, however, and is killed. Nasim, devastated by this loss, finds Rabiah’s trapped soul in Sariya’s tower and frees her. He then continues on to find the stone. Sariya opposes him, but his anger fuels him, and he finds the second piece of the Atalayina. Atiana is also there—she has come through a gateway that Sariya created on Galahesh—and Nasim gives the stone to her so that Muqallad cannot have it.

Nikandr arrives on Rafsuhan and soon discovers that Muqallad has been making plans there as well. He has an ally in Kaleh, a young girl he soon discovers is Sariya’s own daughter. Muqallad and Kaleh have been using the children of the Maharraht, people who are loyal to them, for their own gain. Muqallad takes the children and turns them into akhoz, strange, twisted creatures that hardly resemble the children they once were, then uses them in a terrible ritual to fuse two of the pieces of the Atalayina together. Only the third piece, which now rests in Atiana’s hands, will keep him from his ultimate goal: to bring about indaraqiram, an event that will destroy the world to begin it anew. With two of the three pieces of the Atalayina now in hand, Muqallad goes to Galahesh to find the third piece, and Nikandr follows.

Atiana, meanwhile, has learned more of Sariya. Years ago Sariya forced the Kamarisi of Yrstanla to begin the construction of a bridge that would cross the Straits of Galahesh. That bridge, known as the Spar, is nearly complete, and Atiana realizes too late that it will allow the windships of the Empire of Yrstanla to cross the straits themselves, a thing once thought impossible. As the bridge is completed, Atiana’s father is taken to the center of the newly completed Spar and sacrificed by the Kamarisi of Yrstanla himself. Soon after, windships soar across the straits to attack the Grand Duchy. War ensues, but Atiana makes it away safely by hiding within the massive city of Baressa. What she doesn’t realize is that her mind is not her own. She’s caught in Sariya’s spell, and has been for some time. Sariya forces Atiana to return and surrender the third piece of the Atalayina. With this in hand, Sariya goes to Muqallad and together, in another grisly ritual, they make the Atalayina whole.

The war, however, has reached the shores of Galahesh. The forces of the Grand Duchy, led by Nikandr’s father, Iaros, have crossed the treacherous seas and are pushing toward the Spar to prevent Muqallad and Sariya from performing their final ritual, the one that will bring about indaraqiram. They manage to hold off the forces of Yrstanla long enough to reach the Spar, and there, in a final confrontation, Atiana puts Sariya’s powers in check while Nasim and Nikandr move against Muqallad. Sariya is killed shortly before Muqallad reaches the center of the Spar. Nasim, however, uses a knife to stab Nikandr in the chest. He does so because of the thread that had been tying them together ever since the two met one another on Khalakovo five years before. This frees Nasim. He is finally able to control his abilities, and he moves to stop Muqallad from completing the ritual. As Nasim and Muqallad battle, a ship piloted by Grigory Bolgravya crashes into the Spar, killing Muqallad and sending Nasim and Nikandr down toward the turbulent waters below. Nasim uses the Atalayina to heal Nikandr, but then he is taken by Kaleh, the daughter of Sariya. They crash deep into the water and are lost.

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