Authors: Richard S. Tuttle
Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Young Adult
Young Lord of Khadora
Book 1 of Forgotten Legacy
Richard S. Tuttle
Copyright © 2001 by Richard S. Tuttle.
All rights reserved.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Khador stood in the clearing of the mountain pass and watched the small army approach out of the west. He signaled to his own men to aid and direct the arriving bodyguards, although Omung’s followers did not appear to be weary or in need of assistance. The leader of the arriving army walked over to Khador and hugged him in a familiar embrace.
“Greetings, brother!” exclaimed Omung. “I see you are the first to arrive. I trust Fakar will be along shortly.”
“It is the appointed day,” stated Khador, breaking the embrace.
“Where is father?” Omung queried. “I thought he was to be with your army.”
“I had little need for him or his men,” grinned Khador. “The people in my sector were no match for my men. Father elected to aid Fakar. He should be here shortly. What of your efforts? Your men appear to be free from battle weariness.”
“Battle?” laughed Omung. “There was no battle, only slaughter. The peasants have neither weapons nor any desire to fight. My armies control the entire coastline. They start the sweep towards the center now. The hard part is chasing them through the mountains to make sure we get them all.”
“But get them all we must,” frowned Khador. “I too am having troubles tracking down the savages in my area. My armies also control both coasts of my sector and push towards the center. We cannot let a single soul escape.”
“Yet you fought with father over his plan to kill everyone,” Omung pointed out.
“True enough,” nodded Khador. “I do not relish senseless slaughter, but father is right. What chased us from our homeland, may we never say it’s name, must never be allowed here. If we must kill all to keep it from these shores, then so be it. That does not mean I must enjoy the task.”
The makeshift camp erupted in murmurs and the two brothers turned towards the commotions. A dozen armed but ragged men were making their way into the pass from the east. Khador peered into the new arrivals and barked harsh orders to his men.
“I see Fakar, but not father,” Khador hissed.
Omung merely nodded as the third brother trod over to join his siblings.
Khador received the traditional embrace of Fakar and felt the weakness in his brother’s body. He returned the hug firmly and released Fakar.
“Where is father?” Khador asked.
“Dead,” Fakar replied, his eyes cast down upon the dirt at their feet. “We followed the plan as instructed. We burned our ships and began the attack. It appeared easy at first as the savages were not used to warfare, but as we entered the hills, things went poorly.”
“Poorly?” inquired Omung. “Our scouts reported no armies of any kind. What trouble beset you?”
“Not armies,” Fakar reported as he slumped down with his back to the cliff wall. “Their horses are much faster than ours. The savages would gather in packs and poke our flanks and then outrun us as we tried to catch them. Our formations broke and were scattered. They lured our army into the jungle and that is where it happened.”
“Where what happened?” demanded Khador. “What happened to father?”
“The jungle was full of giant spiders,” twitched Fakar. “Spiders much larger than horses. The spiders were intelligent and attacked us from all sides. Father tried to rally the men out of the jungle. He died killing one of the huge beasts, but by doing so he allowed us to escape.”
“Escape!,” howled Omung. “Your men fled the battlefield?”
“Where is your army now?” questioned Khador.
Fakar clenched his teeth and nodded towards the small knot of weary men that had accompanied him. “That is what I could find of my army and father’s army,” he spat.
“Out of tens of thousands, you bring back twelve?” gasped Omung.
“The rest are probably scattered all over my sector,” sighed Fakar. “I will gather them when I return there. I dared not miss this meeting. Your help may be required in conquering the east.”
Khador paced away from the meeting as Omung continued howling at the youngest brother. The loss of the two huge armies was serious, but not terminal. Still, the savages in all three sectors had to be exterminated, lest the evil follow them to these shores. Khador nodded to himself and strode determinedly back to his brothers.
“The three of us are the only ones left who have yet to receive the magic of forgetfulness,” Khador stated. “We shall receive those rites tonight. Tomorrow we gather all of our armies and march on the eastern sector. I want that land destroyed completely. Salt the fields and kill every living thing we find. Let our mages ensure that it becomes a wasteland forever more.”
“What of the savages we both still chase?” asked Omung. “We cannot afford to have any survivors to stain the bloodline. One intermarriage and we have failed. You know what the mages have stated. One stray thought could bring the horror to our doorstep and nothing will save us then. Nothing!”
“The savages in our two sectors are nothing compared to what father has faced,” declared Khador. “We will return to hunt our savages after we are done in Fakar’s sector.”
“Will breeding really cause the memories to resurface?” puzzled Fakar.
“I do not know,” conceded Khador, “but I will not chance it. We cannot face the likes of what we fled in our ships. We are fortunate to be alive today to talk of it and after the rites tonight, none will ever talk of it again. Even a mention of its name is enough to draw it here.”
“We cannot survive another encounter with it,” agreed Omung. “We shall destroy the land of Fakar and return to our own battles after.”
The lumbermen shuffled uneasily into a small clearing in the Sitari Valley and laid their packs on the ground. Warily, they glanced around at the dense stand of fargi trees and the soldiers moving through them. Some of the closer trunks showed the scars of past attempts at felling them. Most of the lumbermen had heard the tale of the last time Lord Lashendo had sent men to clear this valley and the soldiers surrounding the workers offered little comfort. Only one man had survived the attack of the Chula and he lived only long enough to tell the tale of the slaughter which had occurred here. The soldiers sent to guard the lumbermen didn’t appear to be any less wary as they spread outward in a circle, brandishing their unsheathed swords, searching for any sign of the dreaded cat people.
Togi was one of the replacement workers sent to Lord Lashendo by Lord Ridak, Lord of the Situ Clan, and the tale of the last massacre was told to the new recruits the day they arrived at the remote estate. Togi had never seen a Chula before, but even in Lord Ridak’s service, tales of the strange and ferocious cat people were told in the barracks at night. Belief in the horrid tales was not optional in Khadora, for to tell a lie was to give your life to another in payment for the mistruth. No sane person in Khadora ever lied.
The Squad Leader of the soldiers approached the lumbermen while looking off into the woods for signals from his men.
“All right,” the Squad Leader bellowed. “Let’s get these trees felled and get back to the barracks before nightfall. Move, before I have to call my soldiers back to deal with you instead of the Chula.”
Togi picked up his ax and headed into the forest for an available tree. As hard as it would be to chop through the tough bark of the fargi trees, Togi was thankful that he was not one of the slaves who would have to cart the huge trees away. Those slaves would be worked to the point of exhaustion and, most likely, beyond it. The slaves who didn’t succumb to fatigue were often crushed while handling the logs.
Togi swung his ax in a gentle practice swing. Around him he could hear dozens of axes impacting on wood as the other lumbermen began the arduous task of clearing the valley. Togi’s ax rebounded off the fargi’s hard bark and he braced himself, legs apart, to deliver a powerful stroke to the tree. The ax blade was slicing deep into the bark when a far off scream suddenly rent the air. Togi jerked his ax out of the fargi and gazed around. The other lumbermen looked startled and had also halted their swings. The Squad Leader began pulling his sword from its sheath as if contemplating punishment for the work stoppage when a soldier ran out of the forest, his long braids flying behind him and his scimitar clasped tightly in his fist. The soldier talked briefly in hushed tones with the Squad Leader, who immediately hurried off in the direction of that first scream. Togi watched as the nervous soldier visibly calmed himself, smoothing his tunic, before issuing orders for the workers to move into the center of the clearing.
Screams started coming from every direction and were accompanied by clashes of metal upon metal. Togi dropped his ax and slid covertly into a pile of leaves as his fellow workers returned to the clearing. The tale of the last massacre indicated that the Chula would kill everybody they found, not just the soldiers, and Togi wasn’t ready to die just yet. He quickly decided that he would rather risk the wrath of the Situ soldiers for disobeying an order than die at the hands of the cat people.
Togi lay completely covered with leaves and breathed shallowly. Even under the leaves the screams and growls sounded closer than before. The lumberman tried placing his hands over his ears to shut out the horrible sounds of men dying, but it did no good. A grunt, followed by a scream, preceded the impact Togi felt when a body fell on top of him. His breathing became ragged and he felt small particles of decaying leaves being sucked into his mouth, but the body above him stopped thrashing and lay still.
The body on top of Togi helped to diminish the sounds of battle and death, but the blood dripping down his neck reminded him of the need to remain hidden. Togi’s body started shaking and he fought to control his fear. He forced his mind to think of other things, pleasant things. Soon Togi was lost in the days of his youth, and the sounds of his playmates swinging on tree branches into the creek replaced the howls of death around him.
Togi was not sure how long he had been dreaming of more pleasant times when he felt the weight of the dead body being lifted off of him. His mind snapped back to the present and he actually strained his ears to pick out the sounds around him. There was a lot of rustling of leaves and animal growls, but very little talking. The small snatches of conversation, which he did hear, were not the voices of his fellow Situ workers, they were the voices of Chula.
Togi started shaking again and tried to force his mind back to the creek of his youth, but he could not ignore the animal growls around him. Suddenly, strong hands grabbed his legs and dragged Togi out of the pile of leaves. Togi opened his eyes and stared into the gaping jaws of a tiger, a tiger with a man astride it. The man issued some guttural tones and the two Chula who had dragged him out of the leaves grabbed his arms and dragged him towards the clearing. Togi’s eyes remained fixed on the Chula riding the tiger. The man’s skin was darker than Togi’s and his face and chest were painted with strange symbols. The Chula wore nothing but a breechcloth and he rode the tiger as Togi would ride a horse.
Soon the tiger and its rider were lost to his sight and Togi was thrown to the ground in the clearing. Togi looked to his side and promptly vomited. The clearing was filled with body parts as if the lumbermen were sliced by a thousand sickles. Togi retched until he could retch no more. His head spun with fear and revulsion as men grabbed him and hoisted him up to his feet and tied him to a tree. With his back to the tree, the whole clearing became visible to Togi and he tried to clamp his eyes closed, but his fear and the sounds of Chula and tigers passing close to him kept them wide open.
Togi watched as Chula came into the clearing, dragging corpses of Situ soldiers and piling them onto the largest wagon. Several of the Chula rode tigers and all of them were wearing paint on their bodies. A few Chula were cutting the clothes off of some of the soldiers with their knives and tying the pieces together to form a long rope. Most of the Chula carried spears and a few had swords, but every one of them had a small quiver at his waist and a knife hanging from a thong attached to his breechcloth.