The Winds of Khalakovo

The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bradley P. Beaulieu
but she could picture the muscles along his jaw working, as they had always done when she’d tested his patience.
    “We have lost the boy,” Soroush said.
    Then Rehada did look at him. His face was set in stone as he walked, refusing to return her gaze. “How?”
    “I misjudged Ashan. He stole him away a month ago.”
    “Then we are lost.”
    “I do not believe so, not as long as Ashan is headed here to Khalakovo.”
    “Can you be so sure that he is?”
    “The rift over Rhavanki has nearly closed, while the one here over Khalakovo is widening.”
    “That means nothing. If he suspects what you’re about, he’ll keep Nasim away.”
    “I don’t think so. He believes that Nasim is the key to healing the rifts. He will bring Nasim here, and he will continue to study him. It is his only hope of unraveling his mysteries.”
    They came to a larger street. Though there was some traffic—some peasants with baskets, others with carts—Soroush continued on as if he hadn’t noticed them. Rehada did so as well, so as not to draw attention.
    “We cannot succeed without Nasim.”
    Soroush nodded. “We shall see, but there is much to do in any case. Two days ago we gathered the first of the stones, and there are still four more to find.”
    “You have learned so much?”
    “We know how to find four, and the fifth may well indeed hinge upon Nasim.”
    They were heading across an old walking bridge now. No one was in sight, but Rehada still felt terribly exposed.
    Soroush stopped at the foot of the bridge, just before the street resumed its upward trek. His face was resolute, his body like stone. It made Rehada cold inside to see him like this. “Three days from now, take the road to Iramanshah at midday. Release your spirit the day before you come.”
    Rehada was suddenly very aware of the beating of her heart. “What am I to do?”
    “Can you not guess?” The expression upon Soroush’s face was not one of fervor, as she might have guessed, but of lamentation. “You will find for us our second stone.”

    Nikandr and Borund guided their ponies around the gallows where three young men hung from the ends of ropes. No doubt they had been taken for simple robbery, most likely for food. It was too common a scene in Volgorod of late. Ranos had taken a serious stance on such crimes—allow such things to go on, he’d said, and the city would devolve into chaos. And if Khalakovo’s largest city fell prey to such things, the rest would soon follow.
    One of the boys was Aramahn, something he took note of not for its rarity but for the boy’s age. The Aramahn were, nearly to a fault, honest, and it seemed improbable that the boy had been caught stealing.
    As they continued their way around the circle, Nikandr noticed a woman wearing black robes of mourning. She was a good distance away, and the wind was throwing the snow about, but he was sure it was Rehada. She seemed to notice him as well, for she immediately turned and strode down the nearest street and was lost from view moments later.
    Had Borund’s presence made her act that way? They had agreed not to advertise their relationship, but in the instant their eyes had met she hadn’t seemed worried. She had seemed ashamed.
    “How much longer?” Borund said irritably.
    Nikandr glanced over, wondering if he’d seen. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you could no longer stand the cold, Bora.”
    “I can”—Borund sniffed—“when necessary.”
    “You were the one who insisted on joining me.”Nikandr guided his pony onto a wide street that hugged the River Mordova on its final stretch toward the bay. As they passed a small graveyard, where chips of chalcedony marked the myriad of gravestones, the smell of the sea grew stronger.
    Borund’s frown deepened the creases on his brow, but beneath his bushy eyebrows his eyes twinkled. “That was when I thought we were visiting the shipyard. Had I known he was buried among the wharfs, I might not have been

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