The Tenth Power

The Tenth Power by Kate Constable Read Free Book Online

Book: The Tenth Power by Kate Constable Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Constable
Tags: JUV000000
Calwyn, she could protect her with chantment.
    ‘I don’t need you,’ said Calwyn, more brutally than she’d intended. ‘I know the Dwellings, I know places to hide. You’d only be in the way.’
    This was true, but Calwyn had another reason for wanting to see Lia alone: as one of the senior priestesses, she might know something about Marna’s mysteriousWheel.
    A hurt look crossed Mica’s face, but all she said was, ‘Be careful, Cal. And take Trout’s cloak. It’s bitter cold out there.’
    CALWYN CREPT THROUGH the Dwellings, clutching Trout’s cloak around her. The moons were hidden behind cloud, and Antaris was shrouded in shadow. All was quiet; the Daughters of Taris slept.
    As Calwyn crossed the yard outside the bath-house, she caught sight of another cloaked figure: it was too short to be Tamen. ‘Good night, sister,’ murmured the priestess. It was Janyr, who tended the goats. Calwyn bowed her head and hurried past in silence, her heart thumping. Janyr might think it strange that she hadn’t returned the greeting, but she couldn’t risk having her voice recognised. Like most chanters, the Daughters of Taris had sharp ears. Calwyn glanced over her shoulder. Janyr had vanished into the Middle House.
    Calwyn had decided to look for Lia in the House of Elders. It was near the centre of the Dwellings, close to the kitchens, the bath-house and the old infirmary, so that the old women could be carried easily from one place to another. It made sense that Lia, too, would have a room there.
    She skirted cautiously around to the rear of the House. No lights showed in the windows. Someone coughed fretfully. Calwyn pushed at the heavy back door and it swung open onto a deserted corridor. Again that restless cough sounded, and a rustle of bedclothes as someone turned over.
    Calwyn crept forward. There was a faint edge of light under the last door in the corridor. Calwyn quickened her pace, tiptoeing on the stone flags. The door was ajar. Calwyn could just see a shadowy figure sitting up in bed with a shawl around her shoulders. ‘Lia?’ whispered Calwyn, as loudly as she dared.
    ‘Come in quickly, and close the door.’
    Calwyn obeyed. The room was very cold, and their breath made clouds in the icy air. Calwyn’s cloak was draped over the end of Lia’s bed; she seized it gratefully. She could just make out the pale oval of Lia’s face and her blazing dark eyes. ‘Were you burned last night?’
    Lia’s face twisted. ‘A little. But I can’t feel it. Ursca has put honey on the burns. I’m more concerned about you. Did you touch Athala’s body?’
    Calwyn looked down. ‘Don’t worry,’ she said awkwardly. ‘I haven’t caught the snow-sickness.’
    Lia let out a deep, fierce breath. ‘Thanks be to the Goddess!’ She reached out and clutched Calwyn’s hand. ‘The one who can set us free from this terrible evil must be someone with special gifts. Gifts like yours, Calwyn.We have prayed toTaris to send you back. Ursca and I, Gilly and Janyr, and Rina, too…’ Her voice caught, and she gave a bitter laugh. ‘Old women, and young girls, and a cripple. None of us is strong enough to defy Tamen. All too tired, and too hungry, to fight.’
    ‘But you are strong, you have defied her!’ whispered Calwyn fiercely. ‘In the kitchens, you argued with her. And Ursca and Gilly are defying her every day that Marna lives.’
    ‘Marna, yes. She has kept herself alive. Waiting for you!’ Lia’s face was lit with a sudden, savage hope. ‘Marna believes you were born for a wonderful destiny. She has great faith in you.’
    Stricken, Calwyn stared at Lia. How could she tell her that she had no gifts any more, that she was as broken and helpless as Lia herself ?
    ‘Marna told me something – some hidden lore?’
    Lia held up a hand to silence her. ‘I know nothing of those matters. That is dangerous knowledge, revealed to only one priestess in each generation. You mustn’t speak of it to me.’
    ‘So it is

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