Hand of the Hunter: Chosen of Nendawen, Book II

Hand of the Hunter: Chosen of Nendawen, Book II by Mark Sehestedt Read Free Book Online

Book: Hand of the Hunter: Chosen of Nendawen, Book II by Mark Sehestedt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mark Sehestedt
    “Then you, too, would be dead.”
    Had the knife been within reach, had she been able to muster the strength to move, she would have tried to kill him again. The damned, cursed fool. Didn’t he know she’d rather
dead than have to live without Kadrigul?
    “But,” Argalath continued, and she heard a strange note in his voice, “here you do speak—speak truly—of my mistake, and I beg your forgiveness, Jatara.”
    Nothing he could have said could have shocked her more. She’d heard him ask forgiveness from others before—those whom he served or who stood in higher station than him. But never to one who served him. And never with such sincerity.
    “I thought we were going after one scared girl. I thought I was sending
than enough to do the job—swatting a fly with a smith’s hammer. But it seems that our little fly found unexpected aid. I swear to you that had I known the baazuled was not up to the task, I would never have sent your brother with so few.”
    “Baazuled?” said Jatara. She’d never heard the word, though the flavor of it reminded her of the incantations Argalath used in his most secret rites.
    Argalath motioned to Guric, who still sat in the floor. “Our new friends. You see the flaw?”
    Jatara shook her head.
    Argalath stood, so quickly that the chair toppled behind him. Jatara flinched, and she realized that her heart was beating so hard she could hear the blood pulsing in her head. The sudden movement sent a breath of air through the room that made the fire flare, painting him in a hellish light.
    “Masks,” said Argalath, in a tone like a street prophet about to explain sin to the unworthy.
    The two surviving Nar exchanged nervous glances. The one from whom Jatara had snatched the knife looked at it longingly where it still lay on the floor.
    “We all wear them,” Argalath continued. He spread both his arms. “These mortal bodies are nothing but masks—the image we present to the world, hiding the true life within. And when we die, that life … departs. Such a waste. Leaving the body an empty shell. But”—and Argalath pointed down at Guric—“that shell can be filled by those who know the ancient ways, the secret arts of our ancestors. Is it not so, Jatara?”
    She tried to swallow, but her mouth held no moisture.
Our ancestors?
Argalath claimed that his mother had been of the Nar, but his father of her people, the Frost Folk. Which ancestors did he mean? The shamans of her people had many secret arts, but she had never heard of anything like these baazuled until Argalath.
    Argalath turned, extended one hand, and his chair leaped up, its back slapping into his open palm. The two Nar each made the sign to ward off evil spirits, and she could hear one of them muttering a prayer. She could see his breath. The temperature in the room had dropped suddenly. The air had taken on a still, almost brittle state, making every sound sharp and clear, and it was then she realized what had just happened.
    She’d long known of Argalath’s ability granted by his spellscar. He could move things with his mind—small things only, but his cunning had learned to put it to great effect.Moving anything larger than a flagon of wine pained and weakened him. But he’d discovered that there were veins and organs inside the human body far smaller than a flagon. A slight squeeze applied to the right area could kill. The wounded pounding of her own heart reminded her of that.
    But the entire chair—a heavy thing of solid oak and iron—had jumped off the floor into his waiting hand. And Argalath’s spellscar had not so much as flickered.
    Argalath sat down again and motioned to Guric. “He hoped that his beloved wife would return to fill her shell. It was not to be. Not even the gods themselves can force the unwilling dead to return. Instead, something came from … elsewhere.”
    “Demons,” Jatara rasped. She had heard stories of demons and devils called forth to serve

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