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Tendrils of Darkness — Chapter 13: Servant of the Afflicted One

By / March 26, 2017 / no comments

Wax Stamp 13
Servant of the Afflicted One

 

Daen was drifting back to sleep when a faint thud interrupted the monotonous chirping of crickets. His hand tightened around the pommel of his axe. He detected a light scraping of steel—a weapon leaving its scabbard.

He leapt up, twisting toward the sound, his arm already in a throwing motion. Daen’s axe buried itself in the intruder’s shoulder, driving him against the wall. His dagger followed, held to the assassin’s throat.

“Who sent you?”

The assassin gave a thin-lipped smile. By the time Daen realized he had a partner, it was too late. “Drop your weapon,” said a voice in Daen’s ear.

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“I will kill your friend as surely as you will kill me,” he replied.

“Dela has already determined the length of his thread. Finish him or let him live. What will happen will happen.”

Negotiating with religious fanatics was pointless. He let his dagger fall to the ground and stepped back. “What do you intend?”

“You a friend of Zeph’s?”

“On occasion.” When Zeph wasn’t trying to assassinate him—or dragging him to his homeland to be assassinated.

“That’s what I thought. I’m going to enjoy seeing his face when I tell him I killed you.”

There was a whoosh of air and his assailant fell with a shaft through the heart. Etta held Daen’s crossbow. “You better leave, Henig. And take Gursey with you. I have a patient to attend to.”

Daen was surprised she knew the men—more surprised she had killed one. Henig yanked the axe from his shoulder with a grunt and a grimace. He traded menacing stares with Daen before handing the axe over and dragging his lifeless comrade away.

“Thank you,” Daen said once they were alone.

“It’s nothing I did.” She was pale and trembling. “His thread length was already woven.”

Daen did not believe that for a moment. Etta had been no more compelled in her actions than he had been to flee Nalesc. Daen knew he should feel grateful she saved his life. Instead, he found himself wondering why anyone would use faith as a crutch for free will.

 

Section Break

 

Cahrin demanded the Great Owl God take her from these painful memories. She could not watch it all slip away again, so she screamed, she fought, she refused. Eventually, she succumbed.

It was rare instance that Cahrin had remembered crying. She was both sad and terrified. So many questions rattled around her young head. Who was that man Pa’hu met? Why was Pa’hu acting so strange? Was he lost to her? If she had understood then what she did now, she would have taken a different path. Instead, she lived daily with the decisions she made.

It had all started here, when a much more innocent Cahrin became determined to confront Pa’hu and find the answers she sought. Her younger self believed she was doing this for the clan; only later did she realize how selfish she’d been.

Cahrin entered Pa’hu’s tent without warning. He was sharpening a spear and did not look up, despite her unexpected entrance. It was like him lately to avoid her, and when he spoke, she heard a distance in his voice.

“Pa’hu,” she said.

He paused and looked up, though his eyes would not meet hers. “You were crying.”

“Yes,” she acknowledged.

Pa’hu went back to sharpening as if nothing more were to be said.

She continued defiantly. “I followed you earlier. I saw you with that stranger.”

Pa’hu dropped the spear and stood up. His expression turned from surprise to relief. “I’m a coward for not telling you.”

“Telling me what, Pa’hu?”

While usually reserved, this time he seemed intent to free his spirit with words. “The man I spoke to is with Azren. He has offered our clan the friendship of the Afflicted One.”

“And why would we want that?”

“His lands are richer than ours. Look.” From behind him, Pa’hu pulled out a package wrapped in furs. Inside was a bow made from smooth darkwood. “It shoots farther and straighter than the bows we can make. He has offered to provide a bow like this for all our warriors. Hunting will be easier, food more plentiful.”

“In exchange for what?”

“I have promised nothing in return.”

“What did our father say?”

He dropped his head in shame. “I have not told him. Schie Bura blames Azren for our losses during the war with the ghasiv.”

“And rightly so,” she said with disdain. Her younger self began to understand why Pa’hu held such guilt. He was acting without their father’s consent. “Azren abandoned us when his help was needed most.”

“It was not he who killed our warriors. Azren speaks of a united clan, of making the ghasiv pay.”

“Now I see. This isn’t about a bow.” She grabbed it from his hands and threw it into the corner. “It’s revenge on the ghasiv you seek.”

Annoyed, he stalked toward the spot where she had thrown his new weapon. “Our people wither against the cruelty of Ked’coon. We fight our own to survive. Why not join our clan brothers instead of raising our swords against them? Why not drive the ghasiv south and take some of the gentle land for ourselves?”

“Our father won’t ally the clan with the Afflicted One, and he is Schie Bura. Even if you disagree, you must put your will with his.”

“Schie Bura is old. He doesn’t see the way anymore. I do this for the clan. I bear this burden for the clan.” Pa’hu spoke as if he was trying to convince himself more than her.

“It is you that have lost your way, Pa’hu. I followed you. The mountains do not hear your footsteps; the wind does not feel your breath. They have abandoned you because of your treachery.”

She turned to leave. Pa’hu was not right—of that she was certain.

A strong hand grabbed her shoulder, spinning her around. “Do not tell Schie Bura of this. I promise to speak with him soon. Only then will he understand.”

Pulling free, she rushed from the tent, away from the painful words and the mirage that was her dirksa. She ran past the tents of her people, sprinting up dangerously icy slopes, clawing the mountain with her hands as she climbed up into ever thinner air until she could go no farther. She fell into the snow, her chest heaving in exhaustion and her face wet with tears and snow.

And then, thankfully, the Owl God relented.

He picked her up with his great talons and flew her far from the memories that still haunted her sleep. Ofunu soared higher and higher above the mountains that were once Cahrin’s home. The cold air of the night piqued her senses and brought understanding. She now knew why the Owl God had taken her here and what she must do.

 

==> Continue Reading Chapter 14: The Gems of Tazanjia

 

book-cover-with-spine

Tendrils of Darkness: Book 1 of The Black Trilogy comes courtesy of a partnership between Will Spero and Best Fantasy Books. Enjoy a new chapter every Sunday available right here. 

Learn more about the people, magic and places of Draza along with a detailed map and history at TheBlackTrilogy.com. Questions and comments are welcome, email [email protected].

About the author

Will Spero

Will Spero grew up in a world of Dungeons and Dragons, David Eddings and The Princess Bride. A time when heroes were meant to be, well, heroic, and villains had the blackest of hearts. These early indulgences to his imagination might explain why he made a career out of embellishing the ordinary (a.k.a. “marketing”). Will enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids as well as a lap-sitting terrier. When he is not conquering the world of the mundane, he writes fantastical stories for any who wishes to read along.

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