Read The Threshold Child Online

Authors: Callie Kanno

The Threshold Child (7 page)

BOOK: The Threshold Child
ads

Kendan took a deep breath. “I must go prepare for my journey.”

A tilt of the Sharifal’s head indicated dismissal. “May fortune
favor you, my nephew.”

“Thank you, Aunt Signe.”

Chapter Five: The Shadow
 

About two hours after sunset, Kendan knocked on Adesina’s door and
informed her it was time to leave. He was also wearing simple traveling
clothes, similar to the ones that had been given to her. Adesina thought it
strange to see him out of his Shar robes, but decided that it suited him. The
black robes made Kendan seem intimidating and unapproachable, whereas the dark
green and brown of his travel clothing gave him a more relaxed and friendly
look.

She did her best to keep her voice casual. “You are coming with
me, then?”

Kendan smiled. “Of course. Do you think to find the High City by
yourself?”

Adesina lowered her eyes self-consciously. “No, Shar Kendan.”

Together they gathered her bags and took them down through the
maze of underground corridors to a large room that appeared to serve as a
stable. There were two brown horses standing in the main area, saddled and
waiting for them, and a couple of smaller pack horses. Kendan’s bags were
already strapped to the saddle of one of the riding horses.

They secured Adesina’s bags to the other riding horse and then
mounted. Kendan led the way through a series of tunnels that angled downward
and eventually led to an opening in the cliff face on the coast about three
miles southwest of the fortress.

Two guards stood just inside the entrance of the cave that led to
the tunnel, ensuring that no unauthorized persons entered in this hidden way.
They acknowledged Kendan with a nod as he and Adesina rode past, but said
nothing.

The travelers rode out onto the rocky beach and were met by the
brisk ocean breeze, which tossed Adesina’s lustrous hair and momentarily caught
her breath. She found the scent invigorating and impulsive, and it brought a
brief smile to her lips.

From there they turned north and followed the coast for another
ten miles before the cliffs ended and they proceeded inland.

Adesina looked at the grasslands before them in awe. She had never
seen so much open space before. The night sky was clear with a bright moon to
illuminate the path. They continued north but began angling east.

Hours later, Kendan stopped and set up a makeshift camp. Adesina
started to dismount, but stopped suddenly when she saw the figure of an
enormous cat appear twenty feet away. It was about four feet tall, with smooth
black fur and large golden eyes that shone with remarkable intelligence. The
same eyes that Adesina had seen in the forest during her final test the
previous year.

Adesina spoke in a strained voice. “Shar Kendan?”

Kendan smiled up at her. “We are no longer in the fortress,
Adesina, you do not need to call me ‘Shar.’ I am no longer your teacher. We are
equals, at last.”

She was a bit flustered by his last statement, but chose to
disregard it for the moment. She pointed to the beast that watched them with a
detached sort of curiosity. Kendan looked where she pointed and frowned in
confusion. “What is it?”

“Do you not see that animal?”

“What animal?”

The cat sat down and cocked its head to one side. Adesina lowered
her hand and spoke in a subdued voice. “The large cat...”

Kendan was starting to look worried. “Adesina, there is nothing
there.”

“But...” she trailed off, perplexed.

Adesina was certain that she was not seeing things, but she was
afraid to bring it up again.

Kendan was already regarding her dubiously. “Perhaps you are
overly tired,” he suggested. “I am sure you will feel better in the morning.”

She didn’t say anything as she dismounted, but averted her eyes
and set to work. The camp was set up, and Adesina immediately unrolled her
bedding and draped it over her. As she pushed all disturbing thoughts of large
cats and Kendan’s unusual behavior from her head, she thought she could hear
the distant sound of music. A low, rich string of notes unlike anything she had
ever heard. She listened until the sound drifted away on the light breeze, and
felt herself drifting away with it.

The travelers were up again at dawn, eating cold rations as they
packed their things and mounted their horses. Much to Adesina’s silent dismay, the
large cat was laying where it had been the previous night. As they prepared to
leave, it got to its feet, ready to follow but keeping a safe distance. Adesina
said nothing, but kept a close eye on it.

They kept a steady pace throughout the day, heading northeast. The
cat kept with them easily, sometimes walking right beside Adesina and sometimes
as far as twenty feet away. It paid no attention to the two travelers, almost
as if it couldn’t see them.

Kendan rode so close to Adesina that their knees were often almost
touching. He chatted amiably over a variety of subjects. Adesina mostly
listened, confused at the sudden change in her former Shar and distracted by
the large animal on her other side.

“My parents died when I was young,” Kendan said, “so I was a Shar
Child as well.”

“Oh?”

He didn’t seem to notice her lack of attention. “It is difficult
growing up in such an environment. The expectations are high.”

She nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. His expression became
wry. “I promised myself that if I ever became a Shar, I would never treat my
Shi the same way I was treated as a student.”

Adesina’s brow furrowed. “Do you?”

“Do I what?” he asked.

“Do you treat your students the same way as your former Shar?”

Kendan’s voice was tinged with regret. “Yes, I do. I find myself
doing many of the things that I swore I never would.”

Adesina stared at him, bemused. “Why? Why not stop, if you dislike
it so much?”

He rearranged his horse’s reins, not looking her in the eye. “The
world changes one’s perspective. After a few years as a Shimat warrior, I
realized why things are done the way they are at the fortress, and have
accepted that they are for the best.” He gave a short, humorless laugh. “I
suppose what I mean to say is that I am sorry for the way I have been treating
you this last year. I hope someday you will understand why I did it.”

Adesina turned his words over in her mind, thinking about what he
had said. She wasn’t entirely sure if she understood, and that bothered her. It
was clear that he assumed she knew what he was talking about, but she had never
felt what he described. Although she didn’t always like the way she was
treated, she had never questioned the reasoning behind it. Her assumption had
always been that there was a greater purpose that she could not yet comprehend.
It had never occurred to her that things should be done differently.

She considered all of these things silently, not listening when
Kendan began to speak again. He wandered from one subject to another: life as a
Shimat, before becoming a Shar; personal triumphs; his expectations of the
future; the jealousies of his peers. Very few responses were required of
Adesina, leaving her the opportunity to examine her thoughts and feelings.

When they stopped to camp that night, so did the enormous cat. It
watched them from a distance, as before, and Adesina fell asleep to the
strangely soothing music.

On their fifth day of travel, Adesina asked Kendan again. “Are you
certain nothing is following us?”

His expression showed that he was clearly concerned by her query,
and Adesina didn’t wait to hear the answer she knew would come. She quickly
walked away from the small camp, feeling vexed and confused. Looking at the
far-reaching horizon, she folded her arms and took a deep breath.

The large cat came up and sat down beside her. “He cannot see me.”

For several moments Adesina could not believe that that deep, rich
voice came out of the animal next to her. She stared at it in shock, at a
complete loss for what to say.

The cat turned his golden eyes up to study Adesina’s face, his
lips moving carefully to form his words. “Nor am I an animal. I am a member of
the Rashad.”

Adesina struggled to find her voice. “What are the Rashad? Why can
he not see you?”

“The Rashad are simply another race of people. Not so different
from yourself, other than the fact that I am not human, of course. As for why
he cannot see me, it is because I choose for it to be so.”

Adesina frowned, her well-trained calm slowly returning. As this
happened, a realization came over her. The Rashad had been speaking to her in
the language of the Shimat.

There was a common tongue spoken by all people, and various
dialects of the common tongue found in regions throughout the north and south.
There were only a handful of cultures that had a language completely unique
from the common tongue, and the Shimat were one of these cultures. It was a
language that only other Shimat knew. In fact, it was a crime against the
entire Order to teach the language of the Shimat to an outsider.

“How do you know that language?” Adesina demanded, switching to
the common tongue.

The Rashad cocked his head slightly and studied her thoughtfully.
“Does it matter?”

Adesina’s eyes narrowed. “I would not have asked if it were
unimportant.”

He considered his words for a moment before answering. “I speak
the language of every being. I merely vocalize what you are accustomed to
hearing.”

Adesina was about to question him further but changed her mind.
There were more important issues at hand. “What do you want?”

The Rashad had a hint of a smile about his eyes. “I lack nothing.”

“That is not what I meant,” said Adesina in a slightly frustrated
tone.

“It was a poorly worded question.”

Adesina felt a flash of anger at this criticism, but pushed it
down. Her curiosity had precedence over her wounded pride. “Why are you
following us?”

“The Dreams brought me to you, Ma’eve.”

Adesina furrowed her brow in confusion. “What?”

This time a real smile appeared on the Rashad’s face. “Now is not
the time for such a tale. Now you must return to your camp and sleep.”

Adesina wasn’t willing to give up so easily. “Will you at least
tell me your name? My name is-”

“Ma’eve,” he interrupted. “Yes, I know.”

She shook her head slowly. “Perhaps you have me confused with
someone else. My name is Adesina.”

The Rashad looked at her with his soul-searching eyes. “Perhaps
that is the name given to you, but it is not your own.” He got to his feet and
started to walk away. “My name is Ravi. Now go to sleep. We shall talk again
tomorrow.”

Adesina slowly walked back to the camp, deep in thought. Kendan
was waiting for her with a bowl of hot stew. “Are you all right?”

Adesina nodded, her expression carefully neutral. “I am fine. The
shadows have been playing tricks on my eyes.”

Kendan still cast suspicious looks in her direction, but she
ignored him as she ate her meal. She quickly went to bed, once again lulled by
the mysterious music, which she now recognized as Ravi’s voice.

During the next day of travel, Kendan chattered on as usual, but
Adesina wasn’t listening. Instead, her attention was on what Ravi had to say.

“As I told you last night, I was sent here by the Dreams. Dreams
are a form of divine guidance given to those with destinies to fulfill.”

“Visions?” Adesina asked quietly.

“Yes. And, as I said before, you are the only one who can see or
hear me.”

Adesina frowned. “Then how do I know you are not simply a figment
of my imagination?”

Kendan paused mid-sentence. “Did you say something?”

Adesina shook her head and turned back to Ravi, who was giving her
an arch look. “You do not know. Perhaps I am.”

Ravi said nothing for the rest of the day, nor for the next
several days. He calmly walked along beside Adesina and did not react when she
asked Kendan about the Rashad.

“The Rashad?” Kendan asked in a startled voice. He had been
talking about something else, and was confused by her sudden interruption.

“Yes.”

A few thoughtful moments passed as he searched his memory. “No, I
have never heard of them. Why do you ask?”

Adesina shook her head in a distracted manner. “It is just
something I heard in passing. I was trying to remember its significance.”

He nodded slowly. “Am I to take that as a hint to stop talking
about myself?”

She looked up in surprise. “What?”

There was a rueful smile playing at the corner of his lips.
“Clearly, you are not listening.”

A faint blush colored her cheeks. “No, you can keep talking. I
just...”

“No, you are right,” he insisted. “We should be talking more about
you.”

Adesina was mortified. The last thing in the world she wanted to
be talking about was herself. Kendan fixed his dark eyes on her. “Tell me about
yourself.”

ADS
15.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
READ BOOK DOWNLOAD BOOK

Other books

The Heart Remembers by Irene Hannon
Salt River by James Sallis
Family Ties by Nina Perez
The Ambassador by Edwina Currie
Lost Identity by Leona Karr
Challenge by Ridley Pearson
Beginner's Luck by Len Levinson
Fate Succumbs by Tammy Blackwell
Make Me Beg for It by Kempe, C. Margery