Read The Hungering Flame Online

Authors: Andrew Hunter

The Hungering Flame (5 page)

BOOK: The Hungering Flame
11.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Garrett opened his mouth to speak, but Max hastened to speak instead.

I’m afraid it’s bad news,


The sisterhood has given us up for lost.


Cenick demanded. Serepheni’s shocked expression said as much.

We’ve all been declared dead,


and our assets seized by the church.

Our assets?


They can’t do... They didn’t even send anyone out to look for us?

That’s not possible!

Serepheni cried,

There must be some misunderstanding!

She looked at Garrett with pleading eyes. He almost wanted to lie to her just to stop her from looking at him like that.

Show them your butt, Gar,

Warren said.


Garrett asked.

Show them where that Templar kicked you in the butt!

He did not kick me in the butt!

Garrett said, his cheeks going red,

It was my hip.

They hurt you?

Cenick demanded. His tattooed face twisted in rage, and Garrett flinched at the sight.

Warren saved me,

Garrett said, his voice shaking a little,

I’m all right now.

Cenick’s eyes flashed upon Serepheni now, and the girl drew closer to Max.

There has to be an...

she began.

Enough of this!

Cenick spat,

Max, this changes things!

Max shook his head.

This changes nothing,

he sighed,

It just makes things a little more... challenging.

I’m not fighting for the worm-cult anymore!

Cenick shouted,

They’ve broken the truce!

Serepheni’s eyes blazed.

How dare you!

she cried,

You will not...


Max shouted. Everyone stared at him in stunned silence. Garrett had never heard him use that tone before.


he said, his voice dangerously calm,

take our guests to the roundhouse and tend to their needs.

Serepheni looked at him, her lips barely parted. He stared back, resolutely.

Her eyes went cold, and she spun on her heel and walked away.

Cenick led Garrett and the others away in stony silence.

Garrett looked back to see Max watching them go, his face haggard and lost in thought.

When they reached the roundhouse, Cenick offered to take Cabre’s horse.

Thank you goodman,

the prince said,

but I will see to his needs personally, if you will but show me the way to your stables.

I’ll take the wolves as well,

Marla said, covering a yawn with the back of her hand. Garrett could not resist yawning widely in response.

Cenick nodded.

I’ll show you where,

he said, then looked to Garrett and Warren.

You two head inside and find a bed. Warren, your father should be waking soon. He’ll want to see you, I’m sure.

Warren looked a bit sick, but said nothing.

Garrett gave Ghausse a friendly pat as he dismounted, and the wolf surprised him by nuzzling him with his big snout.

Good night, boy,

Garrett said.

He and Warren shouldered their gear and stepped through the ovoid doorway into the central
. Though similar in design to Annalien’s house back in Wythr, it was not so brightly lit as the ghost’s home. A few witchfire lamps dimly illuminated what could best be described as a nest.

Various tents stood, half-raised, against the outer walls. Some of them bore the sigils of necromancers that Garrett knew. The golden worm symbol of Mauravant
, the goddess of death,
marked the stained green silk of several more. Little walls of supplies between them formed makeshift buttresses for the tents as no pegs could be driven into the alabaster floor.

This one looks empty,

Warren said, gesturing toward one of the green tents. A stack of bedrolls lay in one corner, and, to Garrett’s eyes, looked most inviting.

Which side do you want?

Warren asked.

Garrett simply threw himself on the pile and fell immediately to sleep.


Garrett awoke to the smell of roasting bacon. He still lay in the tumbled pile of bedrolls, though someone had covered him with a wool blanket
while he slept
. He stretched and yawned, feeling completely refreshed. He had never had a better night’s sleep.

He had no idea what time it might be, for the dim green glow beyond the tent’s flap seemed the same as the night before. He only knew that neither his stomach nor his bladder would permit him to remain in bed a moment longer.

Garrett emerged from the tent to see Jitlowe, the gaunt Zhadeen necromancer with the colorless glass eye. The man looked up from lacing his high, ornate boots and smiled at Garrett’s pained expression.

I’ll show you the way,

he said, rising to his feet and motioning for Garrett to follow him.

How are you today, Master Jitlowe?

Garrett asked, following the older necromancer out of the roundhouse,

It is day, isn’t it?

Jitlowe laughed.


he said,

well into it, I’d imagine. I never saw the advantage in rising early. I would rather meet the day’s difficulties as well-rested as possible.

Garrett smiled.

You sound like Max.

Jitlowe scoffed.

, you mean. He’s turned into the worst of the early-risers these days.


Garrett asked.


Jitlowe said,

fancies himself a death lord now. Added the old Gloarish title to the end of his name.

What does

Garrett asked.

Jitlowe gave him a thin smile.

It means
chosen one
, or perhaps just
man with the biggest stick
... who knows
The Gloarans only clawed their way out of barbarism a few centuries ago.


Garrett said.

Mind you don’t get caught up in all this madness

Jitlowe said,

In any case, the baths are through there.

indicated an archway in the outer wall of the temple dome.

Thank you,

Garrett said, and hurried through, leaving the glass-eyed necromancer behind.

Beyond the
, Garrett found a series of small chambers hollowed out of natural rock. A hot spring bubbled up here, and lambent pools of steaming blue water filled several of the chambers. He wondered at the source of their unnatural glow, but wasted little time in investigation. He found a room containing a cavernous shaft that, judging by the piles of fresh leaves, served as the camp’s privy and put it to use.

Afterward, he washed up as best he could manage at one of the steaming pools, discovering a kind of glowing algae that coated the submerged rocks. He scraped a bit off onto his fingertip and laughed at
novelty of
the sight.

They’re beautiful, aren’t they?

a voice called out from behind.

Garrett turned to see the priestess Serepheni standing in the doorway. She wore a pale lavender silk robe and carried a soft white towel, draped over her shoulders. Her legs and feet were bare and her hair hung in damp curls. A fresh bandage wrapped her left arm, but the sling was gone.


Garrett said, more than a little startled. He
hastily wiped
his finger
, leaving a long glowing streak
on his robe

I’m sorry about what happened to you,

she said,

The Templars can be rather... zealous at times.


Garrett said. He tried to push t
of the Templar
sergeant standing over him with a cudgel out of his mind.

It’s all right. I’m not really hurt or anything.

I’m glad,

she said.

Just... they took my fairy, and my zombie,

Garrett said,

Do you think they will give them back?

You have a fairy?

Serepheni asked.

Garrett felt suddenly


he said,

It was a gift.

She smiled.

I give you my word,

she said,

I will set things straight when we return. You will have your fairy back.


Garrett said.
For the first time since fleeing the city, he felt as though someone might really be able to make things right again.

For now,

she said,

we must make the best of things. Max found
this place for us. I will admit
I was impressed. Only he could find a hot bath in the middle of a swamp.


Garrett laughed.

Would you like to bathe?

Serepheni asked. I have more towels, if you’d like to borrow one.

Garrett’s face suddenly grew very hot.


he said,

I mean, thank you, but... I’d like to have breakfast first, if there is any.

Of course

she said, offering her hand,

ome with me.

hesitated a moment and then took her hand. Her fingers were warm and soft, and he realized he had lost his gloves. He pulled his hand back, covering the scars with his other hand.

Is something wrong?

She asked.

No... I just.

It’s all right,

she said,

We’re not really poisonous, you know.

What? No! I didn’t mean that!

Garrett said.

Serepheni nodded.

People think such strange things about us,

she said,

You know, I even heard one rumor that, if you look a priestess directly in the eye, you’ll be turned to stone!

Garrett laughed.

I didn’t mean there was anything wrong with you, I just usually wear gloves...

To hide your burns?

Serepheni asked.


Serepheni placed her hand on his shoulder.

Max told me what happened,

she said,

You know, I didn’t really believe the stories about the dragon, until I saw him.

She looked away.

We misjudged the Chadiri, and it nearly cost me my life. If it weren’t for Max...

You know, if you say my name too many times, I’ll appear,

Max said. They turned to see him leaning against the archway. He wore a black doublet and leggings and looked much more comfortable and rested than before.

It’s not the summoning that’s the problem,

Serepheni sighed,

it’s finding a way to banish you again once called.


Max said,

I’m afraid you’re stuck with me now... a sort of eternal doom.

raised his dark eyebrows dramatically.

Hi, Max,


Good afternoon, Garrett,


I take it you’ll be joining us for lunch, or supper, or whatever we’re having now. Gods know I’ve tried to get everyone on the same schedule, but it seems too much to ask. At least the dead still listen to me.

How are the new recruits?

Serepheni asked, rising to her feet.


Max said,

I’ve taken a liking to that Chadiri captain. He shows real promise. I believe he has his eyes on a major-general’s rank. I’ve named him Lord
. I think it suits him.


she chided,

did we have enough essence to animate them all?

Of course, dear, with plenty to spare.

She frowned.

You know you can’t lie to me,

she said.

Ah, yes,

he said, rubbing his hands together,

your unearthly powers have outed my deception once again.

No, you’re just a terrible liar,

she said.

I’m afraid we’re a bit short,

he admitted.

How short?

Four canisters left.

My Goddess,

she gasped.

Well, three and a half,

he said,

was rather thirsty.

What will we do?

she asked.

Max shrugged.

We’ve got plenty of troops left,

he said,

We just have to be smarter about how we use them. Believe me, being smarter than the Chadiri is not all that challenging.

Serepheni frowned at him, rolling her eyes.

What’s our plan then?

We wait for an opportunity,

he said,

and, when it comes, we


Garrett found Warren at the dining table set up inside the central dome, near the outer wall. Warren sat with several other ghouls, tearing at joints of raw flesh with their long teeth. Jitlowe sat a polite distance from the ravenous ghouls, finishing his bacon sandwich with a disapproving look on his face as he regarded their feast.

Hey, Warren,

Garrett said, carrying his plate to the table which looked to have been fashioned from a number of old supply crates. He sat down beside the ghoul upon a wooden box that still bore the faded outline of a crudely painted apple.

Hi, Garrett,

Warren mumbled through a mouthful of meat. He lifted a red bone in offer to Garrett.


No thanks,

Garrett said,

I’ll stick with the bacon.

BOOK: The Hungering Flame
11.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Ozark trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin
Kitty Rocks the House by Carrie Vaughn
Ryan's Bride by James, Maggie
The Bracelet by Dorothy Love
Olivia by Lori L. Otto
The Rasner Effect by Mark Rosendorf
Hurricane Watch - DK2 by Good, Melissa
Dragons at the Party by Jon Cleary
The Musician's Daughter by Susanne Dunlap