Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses)

Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses) by Sharon Shinn Read Free Book Online

Book: Mystic and Rider (Twelve Houses) by Sharon Shinn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sharon Shinn
Cammon exclaimed. “Yes! I’ve never handled a sword, though. Or a knife.”
    “All the more reason to start.”
    They all stared at Kirra, but no one made her the offer, and she seemed to not even notice that there was a great, gaping hole in the conversation. “I guess I’ll be cooking, then, while the rest of you are warring,” she said. “I’m glad I could bring some skills to this little party.”
    “Besides the ability to change shapes, of course,” Tayse said politely.
    She grinned. “You will see sometime how handy a skill that is.”
    He leaned forward to poke a stick back into the fire. “I look forward to that day,” he replied.

    T HEY encountered nothing of any interest until midmorning of the next day. Once again, Tayse rode ahead and Justin behind; the small group in the middle featured Kirra side by side with Donnal, Cammon beside Senneth, asking his endless questions. Senneth was doing her best to answer them completely and patiently, when all of a sudden he fell silent.
    “What?” she said.
    He pulled his horse to a stop and then turned it in a complete circle, staring with a frown at the countryside around them. They were riding through a lightly wooded area, though this particular stretch of countryside was mostly poor farmland and the occasional small community. They had passed dozens of cottages set back some distance from the road, and a hundred crop fields waiting to be tilled again in the spring.
    “What?” Senneth said again.
    Cammon shook his head. “Something’s wrong,” he said, and circled around again, as if straining to hear something or smell something on the cool, slow breeze.
    Senneth barely raised her voice. “Tayse!”
    Donnal and Kirra had stopped their horses and padded back. “What is it?” Donnal asked.
    Senneth shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t think he knows. Says there’s something wrong.”
    Donnal slipped from the saddle and bent low to examine the fringe of dead grass that bordered the road on each side before the trees crept in. Even in human form, he was an excellent tracker, a skill developed in childhood when poaching on Danalustrous lands provided a good income.
    “I don’t see anything,” he said. “I’ll try smell.”
    And that quickly he was in wolf shape, sniffing along the ruts and prints of the road. It always unnerved Senneth, just a little, that he could make the transition so quickly. It unnerved her more that she could see nothing of Donnal’s personality in the wolf ’s eyes. They were merely amber jewels set in a white face framed by a hood of black. If he came at her by night in such a guise, she would raise her dagger to kill him.
    Tayse was upon them before Donnal had done more than nuzzle his way a yard into the woods. “What is it? What’s happened?” he demanded, arriving at a gallop and reining up sharply.
    “I don’t know,” Senneth said. “Cammon says there’s something wrong.”
    She expected Tayse’s face to relax to scorn at those words, but she had forgotten the heart-deep superstition of the trained warrior. As much as anything, a soldier survived on instinct, and Tayse respected that almost as much as he respected skill. “What’s the shiftling see?” he asked, watching Donnal.
    “Well—” Senneth began, but just then, Donnal gave a little yelp and bounded forward, following some scent or some sound.
    “Kirra, Cammon—stay here,” Tayse ordered. “When Justin arrives, send him after us, then draw off the road and find cover till we return.”
    He kneed his horse forward and went into the woods after Donnal. Senneth followed. There was no trail that she could discern, but Donnal seemed to know where he was going well enough. He loped ahead, then waited, furred mouth open in a silent pant, till they caught up. Then he trotted forward again. Easier going for him through these overhung trees, and Senneth considered dismounting, but Tayse didn’t, so she didn’t

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