The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rein)

The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rein) by Martha Wells Read Free Book Online

Book: The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile-Rein) by Martha Wells Read Free Book Online
Authors: Martha Wells
him he was on a ship.
    He looked for Giliead and Halian and after a moment heard their voices out in the hall. He found them just outside the door, leaning against the dark wood walls of the little vestibule. The wizards lights out here, like those inside, were set back into the ceiling behind mist-colored glass ovals so they weren’t harsh and bright. There was a carpet on this floor too, a gold-and-brown one with a pattern that dazzled the eye as it stretched the length of the corridor as far as Ilias could see, which was a pretty damn long way. By ducking his head a little he could tell it curved upward as it grew smaller with distance, until it vanished into shadow. He could hear voices speaking Rienish somewhere down there and saw a few men come out of a door, look around in confusion, then retreat.
    Giliead saw he was looking at the curve in the floor and said ruefully, “It’s hard to believe.”
    Ilias nodded, knowing what he meant. A building this large, especially constructed of metal, would have been enough of an amazement; that this was a living ship was almost incomprehensible.
    Leaning against the opposite wall, Halian said in a low voice, “So? Can we trust these people? And I don’t mean our friends, I mean the ones who give them their orders.”
    So Ilias was right, and it was time for this conversation. He glanced at Giliead, who just looked thoughtful. Ilias leaned in the doorframe next to him and said slowly, “Everything’s as they said. I saw their city. There were places that had been torn apart and burned to the ground by the Gardier. The man who took Ixion away with Gerard is another wizard.” Ilias held out his arm, showing them the faded bruises. “When the Swift sank I broke this, and he healed it.”
    Giliead took his arm, looking it over carefully. Ilias continued, “But they have traitors, people who have sworn themselves to the Gardier like the one who betrayed us on the island. Some captured Ander and Florian and nearly killed them before we came back here.”
    Halian nodded, impatient. “That’s to be expected in a wizard’s war like this.” He stepped closer, his face serious. “I know you weren’t there long, but did they seem the kind of people we could ally with?”
    Ilias stared at the floor. He didn’t like this all being on his head; he didn’t want to mix what he wanted with what Cineth, let alone the whole Syrnai, should do. In his gut he thought the Rienish would make good allies; better than the Hisians, who made treaties only for the pleasure of breaking them and thought everybody who looked odd was a wizard. He told himself it wasn’t just because the Rienish, like the woman who had come to the door, never saw his curse mark for what it was and that he liked being looked at like a man again. “All I can tell you is that they treated me well.” Glancing up at Giliead, he added, “And it wasn’t like the places here that fall under wizard’s rule.” They had both seen what could happen to a village or town taken over by a wizard: the people cursed into obedience and treated like slaves. There were towns past the Bone Mountains in the dry plains where wizards had held sway for generations, and the inhabitants were little better than cattle.
    Giliead eyed Halian. “You’re thinking of what to advise Nicanor and Visolela.” Nicanor was Halian’s son by his last marriage and now lawgiver of Cineth with his wife Visolela. It would be their decision whether to recommend the alliance to Cineth’s council or not, and whichever way it decided, the rest of the city-states in the Syrnai were likely to follow.
    “We need an alliance.” Halian pressed his lips together. “What they’re doing now is just helping shipwrecked travelers, no more than any other civilized people would do. But when the Gardier return for vengeance we’ll truly need their help.”
    Ilias shook his head regretfully. “They haven’t been able to help themselves. When we left, their

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