The Unfinished Song: Taboo

BOOK: The Unfinished Song: Taboo
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Taboo

The Unfinished Song
,
Book Two

Tara Maya

copyright
Misque Press, 2011

Table of Contents
 

Prologue

 

Chapter One: Choice

 

Chapter Two: Pledge

 

Chapter Three: Secret

 

Chapter Four: River

 

Chapter Five: Shunned

 

Chapter Six: Vast

 

Chapter Seven: Stakes

 

Contact Me

 

Dedication

 

Acknowledgements

 
Prologue
 
Gremo
 

Initiation? Let me tell you how I failed it.

I don’t know when I first knew I was different. When I was a child, I heard whispers at the edge of my hearing, snickers when my back was turned. I caught old people staring at me with disgust. Children who played with me when I was little, one by one, stopped. I told myself I didn’t need them. I had my love, the river. I loved to fish, and spent long afternoons listening to the mermaids in the river humming their songs while I fished with a hook and line, or set nets, depending on the season. My favorite time of year was the spawning of the salmon, when hundreds of fish would leap into my nets, as if they loved me so much they’d braved rapids all the way from the sea just to be mine.

At the dying of every day, my mother dragged me back to the clanhold, to the whispers and the stares. As I grew older, I wanted, needed, to know the painful secret that would explain why everyone hated me. I strained my ears to hear the ugly words pitched too low to glean more than scraps. Rape. Monster. Better off dead. I became a fisher of words, baiting hooks, dragging secrets from the depths beneath the rapid bubbling gossip. Old wounds flopped like dead-eyed puffer fish in my net. Nothing I wanted to eat: poison. I was spear-spawn. I should never have been born.

One night, a Vision appeared before me, the ghostly figure of a strong, powerful man. Tattoos covered his cheeks and chest. Numerous braids dangled from a topknot at the back of his head. I knew at once this man was my father.

“They are coming!” whispered the Vision urgently. Hate twisted his face. “You must come to me, son! You must--”

I reached to touch him, but my hand passed right through the Vision, as if through smoke. I could no more catch hold of him than I could pick up the moon from its reflection in still water. All my touch did was make the Vision shimmer and stutter until I backed away and let it reform.

“…
kill
them all!” finished my father. “Kill them all!”

Then the Vision curled away and vanished, but where he had stood, there was now a huge stone where none had been before.

That night, men came for me. They tried to bind me with ropes, blindfold me, force me to my belly.
So you’re here to finish it at last,
I thought.
You’ve finally come to kill the monster.

Part of me welcomed death. Another part of me rebelled.
You want to kill me? You can choke on my guts and die trying!

I never knew how much power I had in me until that night. The river rose at my command, the lightning descended and rocks flew in the winds I whipped around me. I wanted to kill the men who tried to bind me. I would have killed them and the whole clanhold. But I heard my mother scream. Too late, I realized they had not come to kill me, but to take me on the journey to the tribehold, for Initiation, and the Test for magic.

Kill them all
, my father had told me. It was a command and a curse. I almost obeyed him.

Instead, I turned my power against myself. I could feel my father’s call, pulling me like a rope, toward him, and at the same time, I felt my mother’s fear, pulling me back. I stopped myself from murdering everyone in the clanhold the only way I could think of, by lashing myself to the boulder my father had left me.

I had magic all right.
Too much, too soon, too terrible.
All I had done was prove the ugly whispers right. In my own twisted rite of passage, I had grown from a child, not into a man, but into a monster.

Most people fail the Test at Initiation because they possess too little magic. A few fail because they possess too much. They are the truly cursed ones.

Chapter One
 
Choice
 
Rthan
 

Rthan awakened from a pain-laced doze at the bottom of a hole. From the scratches on the
stone walls
—and from the height of thos
e scratches—he surmised the pit
had been built to hold bears. Cricking his neck to check for ravenous, prisoner-eating beasts, he saw not a bear, but the man he had
recently fought
.

Though every muscle in his body felt tauter than scraped hide, Rthan didn’t hesitate. He lunged at his enemy before the younger, uninjured man could
attack
first.

Kavio darted out
of
the way without retaliating. “What do you hope to gain by fighting here, now? Save your strength, you stupid bull.”

Good point, actually. He should have killed Kavio before, but it wouldn’t
help
now. Rthan huffed to the far side of the pit. Above their heads, warriors patrolled the rim of the pit, and beyond that he could see beehive shaped houses. He rubbed behind his throbbing ear. Flakes of dried blood came away on his fingers.

Kavio cocked his head to one side and murmured something, not to Rthan, so it must have been
fae
. Not Blue. A smile spread over the young man’s face. “It seems the Initiates survived your attack, Blue Waters.”

Rthan
shouldn’t have felt
glad
to hear future enemies had survived. To hide his relief, he said, “You could have made a final, clean blow instead of having one of your confederates bash me from behind like a coward.”

“Apparently your victim felt she deserved to get her blow in too.”

“Ah.”  A vivid image of the woman he had tried to claim and protect flashed through his mind. Naturally, she would not have had any reason to thank him for his actions. He held onto the memory of her lush, half-naked body and flashing eyes, tempered in equal parts by guilt and admiration.
She’d not have to mourn her children
.
He
was
glad.

Kavio paced the confines of the pit. He tested the rock with one finger, which came up chalky. “Limestone.”

“Rock is rock,” shrugged Rthan.

“Limestone
is as different from granite as horsemeat
is from hakurl.”

“Why are you a prisoner? You fought for the other side.”

“You noticed that right off, did you? And they say big men are stupid.”

“Don’t try my patience, nephew,” growled Rthan.

“I’m an exile. Hertio isn’t sure what to make of me.”

“You were exiled? Is that what you were going to tell Nargono?”

“Perhaps.”

“You told me before you were a
mariah
in Yellow Bear. Was that true, or just a lie to stop my knife?”

“It was true.” Kavio caressed the rock face. “For a week, I lived in this very pit. Look

my scratches. Limestone is soft enough for even a boy to make his mark, if he doesn’t mind losing his fingernails.”

“I know what my fate will be.” Rthan crossed his arms, leaned against the rock. “They will cut me and gut me like a trout.
But what about you?
To torture someone you owe a lifedebt is to piss on honor. The Yellow Bear are scum, but surely not even they would shred their own nets.”

Shadows crisscrossed the patch of sky overhead—the arrival of more warriors, gesticulating at Kavio. A rope scraped against the ledge. When the end dangled into the pit far enough, Kavio grabbed it and began to climb. “I suppose I’ll soon find out.”

Only after Kavio the Rain Dancer had gone did
she
appear. Rthan felt the familiar tug of pain and longing when he saw his un-daughter, but this time he couldn’t help but think of his enemy’s daughters as well, the unknown children who had almost died because of his raid.

“I wasn’t sure you could visit me, here,” he said.

She ran to him, gave him a big little-girl hug and pecked a kiss on his cheek. He took it as her farewell. He didn’t beg her to free him, and she didn’t offer. They both knew, despite her boasts, her powers were limited here. She melted away to sparkles and dew.

Alone, he walked to the place Kavio had stood and traced the tiny scratches in
the
wall, at the level of a child.

Kavio
 

The Yellow Bear warriors brought Kavio to a kraal with high, impenetrable walls made from hundreds of twisted, gnarled branches and tree trunks, staked so tightly together that he could not see what lay within the barricade. He had to squeeze through the narrow entrance. The warriors who had escorted him did not follow. Instead, from outside the kraal, they hoisted wooden posts into the entrance to block it.

He could see why extra guards weren’t needed.

Kavio stood surrounded by elite warriors, a band of fifty he recognized as the Bear Shields, the finest warriors in all of Yellow Bear. Each held a stone mace, wood club, adz or spear. They wore their war paint and bear skin headdresses, something they would only do if they were prepared to spill blood. The war leader of the Bear Spears wore a Ladder-to-the-Sun emblem upon his shield. He stood next to War Chief Hertio, who wore dozens of gold bracelets and necklaces.

BOOK: The Unfinished Song: Taboo
8.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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