The Dread: The Fallen Kings Cycle: Book Two

The Dread: The Fallen Kings Cycle: Book Two by Gail Z. Martin Read Free Book Online

Book: The Dread: The Fallen Kings Cycle: Book Two by Gail Z. Martin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gail Z. Martin
Tags: FIC009020
heal,” Pevre said, taking in their still-tender injuries with an appraising eye. “Nature of the beast that got you. Could have been worse. At least it wasn’t teeth.”
    “I didn’t know shadows had teeth,” Jair muttered.
    “Those weren’t exactly regular shadows,” Pevre replied, his voice rough from lack of sleep. “If you hadn’t figured that out already. The line between waking and sleeping is just like twilight or daybreak, or the solstices. It’s a place where the threshold between our world and other realms is thinner, easier to cross. Sometimes we cross over; sometimes something else does. Just like a summoner’s magic can cross between the realms of the dead and the living, other magics can invade thoughts or dreams, even memories. We’re lucky such magics are rare. They can be a terrible weapon.”
    “Chief Pevre! Cheira Talwyn!” One of the
warriors came running up to them. He stopped and made a quick bow. “Two elders from one of the nearby villages approached our night guard. They said they have no one else to turn to, and they need our help.”
    Jair and Talwyn exchanged glances. “I thought the villagers along this route pretty much ignored or avoided the Sworn?” Jair murmured.
    “They do,” Talwyn replied. “They keep to themselves, and so do we.” She looked to the guard. “Why did they come to us? Why not go to the king’s patrols?”
    The taller of the two warriors nodded. “I asked the same thing. With the preparations for war, it appears that patrols in the area are almost nonexistent. I think they were desperate. We’ve heard a little of their story, but I think you should be there for the rest. Their problem may have more to do with us than they know.”
    Talwyn, Jair, and Pevre followed the taller guard, while the shorter man stayed behind on Talwyn’s orders to guard Kenver while the boy slept. The guard led the way to the large common lodge. The Sworn’s
were large circular structures held up by an easily collapsible frame of light but sturdy wood. The heavy cloth of the
and the fanlike ceilings could be insulated for warmth in the winter with a layer of cloth batting or sheepskin, or left to be a single layer of cloth in warmer seasons. The lodge was the largest of the moveable structures, and the entire tribe of guardian warriors could fit inside for important rituals when the need arose. Now, the large
held only three guards, a half-grown boy, and a ragged man.
    “What has brought you to our camp?” Talwyn stepped forward. Despite her injuries, she was fully in command as the Sworn’s shaman. She spoke Common instead of the Sworn’s consonant-heavy language, but the ancient language of the nomadic guardians accented her words.
    Both the man and the boy made awkward bows. “Forgive us for disturbing you,” the man said. “But we had nowhere else to go. The king’s soldiers are gone to the war, and there’s no other justice within several days’ ride. Please, m’lady, we need the help of a mage. My village won’t last another night.”
    Jair could see from Talwyn’s expression that she was both intrigued and moved by the man’s entreaty. Talwyngestured for them to sit, and everyone but the three Sworn guards did so. By unspoken agreement, the guards remained standing, just a few steps behind their unexpected visitors.
    “Tell me why your village needs a mage,” Talwyn said.
    “It started when someone began stealing the bodies of our dead,” the man replied. Jair watched closely as the man spoke. At first glance, he’d taken the stranger for being in his middle years, but as Jair looked more carefully, he saw that hard work and deprivation had etched the man’s face more than time, and he revised his estimate of the visitor’s age downward by twenty seasons. The boy, whom Jair guessed to be twelve or thirteen summers old, seemed to shrink into himself as if wishing to disappear, or to be completely overlooked.

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