Nine Gates

Nine Gates by Jane Lindskold Read Free Book Online

Book: Nine Gates by Jane Lindskold Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Lindskold
Tags: Fantasy
be? If Righteous Drum had not succeeded in stripping us of the Branches, then Twentyseven-Ten and his associates would have taken over the job—and somehow I have the impression they would not have cared what happened to us when they went about the extraction.”
    “Still,” Albert said. “Even if Twentyseven-Ten was less than helpful about this one point, he has been useful. I believe he may continue living. Do any of you have other questions?”
    Brenda had several, but they would have given away too much of their own weaknesses, their own ignorance. She shook her head.
    Nissa asked Twentyseven-Ten, “Are you injured? Are any of the other captives injured?”
    Twentyseven-Ten blinked in astonishment. He seemed to have a bit of trouble focusing on Nissa. Well, no great surprise there. If all the people he knew were dark-haired and dark-eyed, a strawberry blonde with really bright turquoise eyes would be startling. He might never have seen freckles before.
    “A few bruises,” he replied with a manly shrug. “I do not know about the others.”
    “The one Pearl clubbed at the back of the neck,” Riprap said, “seems a bit stiff. Any way short of an X-ray you can tell if she broke something?”
    “I can try,” Nissa said doubtfully, “but neck injuries are tricky at the best of times.”
    She looked reproachfully at Pearl.
    Pearl said, “He was going to cut Brenda in half. I did manage not to kill him.”
    “Ah.” Nissa considered. “I’ll check him out. Are we done here?”
    Albert looked at the others, offering courtesy approaching deference to the four from the Lands. “Any questions?”
    “Later,” Righteous Drum said. “Perhaps. This has given us much to consider.”
    The other three nodded agreement, and Flying Claw led Twentyseven-Ten away.
    “In answer to your question, Nissa,” Albert said, “we seem to be done with the interview, but not with planning. We have much to decide.”
    “And I have a backhoe to order,” Riprap said, “and a big hole to dig. Those bodies are going to get nasty in July heat.”
    Des rose. “I can help with that. I’ll set a north wind to keep them cool. It’s not refrigeration, but it’s also not the sort of spell that will draw much attention.”
    “‘Attention,’” Brenda repeated. “You and Pearl keep hinting that this morning’s fight is going to have brought some sort of attention on us—and I don’t think you mean the nosy supernatural creatures you taught us to ward against before you taught us our first spells. We’d set those sort of protections before we started the practice. What’s going on?”
    Des smiled, a thin smile without a great deal of humor in it.
    “Brenda, we’ve told you that there are other magical traditions in this world. Do you think the indigenous magical traditions were particularly happy to have thirteen—well, twelve, actually, since the Cat was but a child—twelve highly trained, highly skilled adepts suddenly emerge into their world?”
    “I hadn’t thought about it,” Brenda frowned, “but I guess not. Did those indigenous types notice then?”
    “Indeed they did,” Des said, “especially when, not long thereafter, our ancestors’ enemies came after them and some rather violent magic came into use.”
    “You didn’t mention this in your earlier account,” Nissa said, her tone mildly accusing. “You made it sound like theonly opposition the Twelve had to deal with came from the people who had exiled them.”
    “You had enough to take in,” Des said, “without that.”
    Thinking back to the cascade of events that had begun shortly after her own arrival in California, Brenda had to admit that this had been only too true. Nissa nodded.
    “As I indicated a moment ago,” Des said, “the Thirteen Orphans met with hostility from the start. Beginning with the indigenous magical traditions of China, where the bridge that took them into exile had deposited them, they were treated as if they were invaders

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