7: Enemies and Shadows

BOOK: 7: Enemies and Shadows
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ENEMIES & SHADOWS

Book Seven of The Rifter

Ginn Hale

Enemies & Shadows

Book Seven of the Rifter

By Ginn Hale

Published by:

Blind Eye Books

1141 Grant Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

blindeyebooks.com

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.

Edited by Nicole Kimberling

Cover art, maps and all illustrations by Dawn Kimberling

Proofreading by Jemma Everyhope

This book is a work of fiction. All characters and situations depicted are fictional. Any resemblances to actual people or events are coincidental.

First edition September 2011

Copyright © 2011 Ginn Hale

ISBN 978-1-935560-07-4

For my always clever and lovely wife, Happy Birthday!

—Ginn

The Story So Far:

Kyle left behind his name and home when he was ordained as the Kahlil of the Payshmura Church. In the foreign world of Nayeshi, he watched over the destroyer incarnation of the god Parfir, though the young man—John Toffler—had no idea of his deadly potential.

Only once in ten years did Kyle desert his duty, leaving Nayeshi to rescue his sister, Rousma, from the burning convent of Umbhra’ibaye. After a deadly battle against the witch Ji Shir’korud, he returns with his sister only to discover that John and two of his friends have intercepted a message meant for the Kahlil alone: they’ve taken the golden key that unlocks the Rifter’s death.  Unwittingly, John and his friends have used the key and traveled to Kyle’s home world of Basawar.

Though the Great Gate is damaged, Kyle follows John in order to stop him from unleashing untold ruin on his home. However, the passage back to Basawar not only throws Kyle forward in time but leaves him badly injured and deeply changed. He neither bears the ugly red scar that once disfigured his face, nor does he possess the Prayerscars that marked him as Kahlil—instead he carries a small, red Fai’daum tattoo. But most jarringly, his memories are a jumble of contradictions.

Fortunately, Alidas, a captain of the Bousim rashan’im in the vibrant city of Nurjima, takes Kyle in. Kyle spends two years as Alidas’ secret weapon—an assassin who can walk through walls and kill with just a touch of his hand.

When Kyle is deployed to stop an assassination against the leader of the Fai’daum—a powerful sorcerer called Jath’ibaye—he uncovers a much larger plot among a small group of nobles to seize control of Basawar and breach the world of Nayeshi. While the ambitious and seductive Ourath Lisam seems to be in control, Kyle soon learns that he and his Bousim conspirators are in league with a man from Kyle’s shattered past—his nemesis, Fikiri. At the same time he discovers that Jath’ibaye is John—the Rifter. Unlike Kyle, who was thrown forward in Basawar’s history, John fell into the past and has altered the world’s history as well as events in Kyle’s early life.

Despite orders to the contrary, Kyle intervenes in the assassination attempt against Jath’ibaye. Both the Bousim heir, Nanvess, and another noble gaunan, Esh’illan, are killed in the ensuing battle. Though injured, Kyle takes possession of the mystic blade, the yasi’halaun, which Fikiri planned to feed on the Rifter’s blood and use to open a gateway to Nayeshi.

In the aftermath of the killings, Jath’ibaye evacuates his people, including Kyle, to the Fai’daum lands in the north. Misled by Ourath, the gaun’im rally their armies to avenge Nanvess and Esh’illan and march on the Fai’daum stronghold of Vundomu.

 In Vundomu, Kyle is welcomed by the Fai’daum, but soon he realizes that he is not the man who some of them believe him to be—Jath’ibaye’s dead lover, Ravishan. Kyle ventures to the far northern edge of the kingdom where Ravishan died. There, he encounters monstrous, undead creatures, the so-called hungry bones, that Fikiri and his Lady have unleashed against the people in the north. With Jath’ibaye’s aid he destroys several of the hungry bones and escapes back to the city-fortress of Vundomu. There, he takes on a student and dedicates himself to destroying Jath’ibaye’s enemies. With the gaun’im’s armies gathered at the foot of Vundomu, Kyle infiltrates the Lisam’s camp and discovers Fikiri’s and Ourath’s plan to crush the Fai’daum between the gaun’im’s troops and an army of hungry bones. They need only wait a week for Jath’ibaye to break the frost and then the hungry bones will become active.

Hearing this, Jath’ibaye decides that he will use his power to destroy the gaun’im and hazard the destruction of countless innocent lives, but not before the Fai’daum have exploited every opportunity that one week can offer them to make peace and expose Ourath Lisam’s treachery. In desperation, the Fai’daum leaders choose to invite the gaun’im into their fortress in the hope of breaking the gaun’im’s unity. 

Now, as Ourath Lisam enters Jath’ibaye’s holdings, Kyle must withdraw and leave Jath’ibaye exposed…

Chapter Sixty-Six

Kahlil scowled at the entourage of attendants and guards as they filed, all dressed in the tawny gold Lisam colors, through the gates of Jath’ibaye’s household. He wanted to be up there watching for treachery. Most of all, he wanted to be there so he could have the pleasure of driving his fist into Ourath Lisam’s far too handsome face.

Instead, he attempted to content himself with glaring out from an observation tower in the kahlirash’im’s barracks. It didn’t offer him the vast, expansive views that Jath’ibaye’s watchtowers had. He could only see the comings and goings on the grounds below and those of the nearest buildings. Not even using the telescopes could he observe what transpired within the walls of Jath’ibaye’s household.

“Those are meant for watching the stars, aren’t they?” Pesha asked shyly. She had taken her assignment as Kahlil’s personal attendant rather seriously. Kahlil hadn’t been alone since early this morning.

“I think so.” Kahlil placed the telescope back in its delicate cradle of tiny gears and clasps. He wasn’t used to being so closely observed. He leaned back against the stone wall. Pesha gazed at him expectantly. Kahlil realized that the day was going to be something of a disappointment for her. She probably expected that the life of the Kahlil would be much more exciting.

She had no idea how much of his life had been spent in silent observation. He’d tried to make the first part of the day interesting, demonstrating the battle forms for the Unseen Edge and the Silence Knife. He’d even acquiesced to attending midafternoon prayers in the Temple of the Rifter with the rest of the kahlilrash’im. But once the gaun’im began to arrive, he could not fight the irresistible urge toward surveillance.

He still hadn’t spotted Ourath, though Kahlil was now very familiar with the faces of the Lisam porters, having spent the better part of an hour observing them toting luggage up and down Vundomu’s many staircases.

Kahlil went back to the window to view the grounds below. The elite kahlirash’im were gathered for battle practice. Unlike the rashan’im of the gaun families, most of the kahlirash’im rode small, fast does instead of massive bucks. Their maneuvers exploited the speed and lightness of both female animals and riders. Targets splintered as the kahlirash’im fired their rifles from the backs of their bounding mounts.

Kahlil had never been much of a rider. He’d never needed to be. It was strange and fascinating to watch the precision of both the riders’ movements and their tahldi’s responses. Pesha moved a little closer to Kahlil, following his gaze out to the kahlirash riders. They both watched as a slender rider swung down to grasp a new rifle from a kahlirash kneeling on the ground. The rider came back up in an instant and fired. Another target cracked apart.

“Incredible,” Pesha whispered. That was probably the kind of activity that Pesha had been hoping to engage in today.

“Very impressive,” Kahlil agreed.

“Wah’roa said that Jath’ibaye had work that he needed you to complete.” Pesha’s dark eyes flicked quickly from the riders to Kahlil.

Kahlil nodded. Translating an archaic botanical tome was probably the last thing that Pesha would want to do all afternoon. And he didn’t find it all that appealing either.

“Could I ask what it is?” Pesha clearly expected something secret and dangerous.

“You don’t want to know,” Kahlil said.

Pesha frowned and returned to watching the kahlirash riders. For a moment Kahlil felt the urge to offer Pesha some exciting lie. Perhaps he could claim that they were supposed to spy on Ourath from the silence of the Gray Space. He smirked at his own absurd desire to impress a teenage girl. Of course, there was also the fact that he wanted any excuse to return to Jath’ibaye’s household and watch Ourath. But if he did that, then Jath’ibaye would feel his presence and know that Kahlil was, once again, disobeying his orders and being where he should not be.

Once again Kahlil found himself staring at the walls surrounding Jath’ibaye’s holdings. The stone faces and black iron gates gave him no consolation. Ourath was probably already inside, posing in Jath’ibaye’s doorway and offering lurid apologies in his low, velvety voice.

Jath’ibaye would turn Ourath away, Kahlil told himself.

Still, the thought of the niru’mohim nagged at him. Ji had assured him that the niru’mohim wouldn’t harm Jath’ibaye but she hadn’t said it wouldn’t affect him. Both Fikiri and Ourath had been willing to stake their futures on the potion’s power. What if they were right? What if Jath’ibaye couldn’t resist it? What if, at this very moment, Ourath was lying back in the bed that Kahlil had left this morning? The idea seared through Kahlil. He would kill Ourath if he found him in Jath’ibaye’s bedroom.

He brought his hand up to split open the Gray Space, then stopped himself. He couldn’t just go storming into Jath’ibaye’s rooms and he definitely couldn’t murder Ourath. It would start a war. Kahlil shoved his hands back into his coat pockets. He just had to trust Jath’ibaye. He had to believe that Jath’ibaye could and would resist Ourath’s advances.

For distraction, he tried to rekindle his interest in the riders and tahldi below. Steadily, his gaze began to rise again to Jath’ibaye’s holdings. If only he could know what was happening up there.

He turned and strode to the windows on the opposite wall of the room. Here, the only view was of the kitchen gardens and the storehouses. The barracks of the kahlirash’im surrounded the small, open square with heavy black walls. The furrows of dark soil and rows of hardy green herbs drew Kahlil’s thoughts back to Jath’ibaye. And to Ourath. The first time he had seen them together it had been in a garden. That night Kahlil himself had unknowingly brought Ourath’s poison—a gift of niru’mohim—to Jath’ibaye.

He should have killed Ourath at the Bell Dance.

Kahlil hated this train of thought. He needed to find something else to occupy his mind or otherwise he was just going to spend the entire day planning executions for Ourath Lisam.

“Is something wrong?” Pesha followed him to the window and stared down expectantly at the clumps of winter herbs in the garden.

“No, I’m just restless,” Kahlil said. He cocked his head slightly as a slender figure strode out of the kahlirash’im’s barrack and crossed the open courtyard coming towards the observation tower. The woman’s red coat and dress were unusually bright for the fabrics of Vundomu. Her black hair was pulled back in three thick braids. Two attendants hurried after her.

“Hirran?” Kahlil wondered aloud. It certainly looked like her.

“Representative Hirran?” Pesha stared down at her with an appreciative expression. Her eyes moved over Hirran’s voluptuous figure in curious fascination.

“I think she’s coming up here,” Kahlil commented. A moment later she disappeared through the doors below them.

“To us?” Pesha flushed a little.

Really, Kahlil thought, Pesha was very lucky to have been born in Vundomu. Otherwise, her blatant attraction to her own sex would have gotten her into real trouble.

Aloud he said, “It could be her.”

Kahlil eyed the door hopefully. Perhaps she had something for him to do. At this point, Kahlil thought he might welcome almost any task that would take his mind off Ourath.

Kahlil listened to the sound of footsteps mounting the stone stairs. Seconds later there was a soft rap at the door. Kahlil opened the door and beckoned Hirran in. She looked much more composed than she had the previous night, but there were still signs of exhaustion in her face. Kahlil guessed that she had slept as little or less than he had.

“Kyle’insira,” Hirran inclined her head to him, “I’ve been looking for you.”

“What do you need?” Kahlil asked. But Hirran didn’t answer right away.

Hirran’s two attendants reached the top of the stairs and hurried to their places behind her. They were both young women who resembled Hirran. Kahlil imagined that they might have been her younger sisters. They, like Hirran, wore low-cut flaring coats that emphasized the curves of their bodies. Pesha regarded them with a kind of awe. Few of the kahlirash women ever dressed so flatteringly. The younger of Hirran’s attendants offered Pesha a flirtatious smile, which caused Pesha to flush to the roots of her hair. Then the attendant pulled the door closed.

“The matter might require a little discretion.” Hirran glanced to Pesha, then returned her attention to Kahlil meaningfully.

“Pesha has sworn loyalty to me as my ushiri and attendant. She can be trusted,” Kahlil replied. Out of the corner of his eye Kahlil caught the look of pride that his words gave Pesha. Kahlil guessed it was the least he could do to make up for the tedious day. Hirran accepted his statement with a nod.

“Last night,” Hirran said, “I had the impression that you were not utterly hostile towards all of the gaun’im.”

“I wouldn’t support them against Jath’ibaye,” Kahlil replied, “but I certainly don’t despise them all.”

“You’ve had an association with the Bousim house,” Hirran said.

“True.” Kahlil wasn’t ready to commit to anything more at this point. But it seemed to be enough because Hirran went on.

“I also have an association with the Bousims—not as a servant of theirs. Nothing like that. But because of the shared border, there have been times when my forces have encountered those of the Bousim commander. My people and his are somewhat familiar with each other. So, over the last few years, he and I have exchanged a few letters…” Hirran trailed off.

“You’re in correspondence with Commander Joulen Bousim?” That might benefit them, though common knowledge of it wouldn’t make Hirran terribly popular among her fellow representatives.

“Yes, I had hoped that it would help pave the way towards future trade relations,” Hirran admitted. “But now I just want—well, you know what I want. I believe we share that goal.”

“So, what would you like me to do?” Kahlil asked.

“I want to meet with him,” Hirran said. “I think I might convince him to aid us against Ourath Lisam.”

“He and his uncle are guests in Gin’yu’s house. You could call on him there, couldn’t you?” Kahlil asked.

“I would rather not be seen doing so by Gin’yu.” Hirran lowered her voice slightly. “You may have noticed how little warmth the old woman has for me. And this is not the time that I would choose to reveal my relations with a gaunan. I’m sure that Commander Bousim is in much the same situation.”

“So, you need to arrange a private meeting with him?” Kahlil asked.

“Not private,” Hirran corrected. “Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t know him so well that I want to be alone with him. My idea is to propose a meeting with him later this evening in the Silverlake Gardens. You could be present and at the same time remain unseen, couldn’t you?” Hirran gave him a speculative glance.

“I certainly could.” Now it was all quite clear to him why Hirran had searched him out.

“And you could pass through Gin’yu’s household to deliver a letter to Commander Bousim without anyone noticing?” Hirran asked.

“It would be simple.” Kahlil was well ahead of her. He would need to have Pesha pretend to be practicing with the Gray Space in case Jath’ibaye noticed the disturbance. Hirran’s letter would have to be wrapped in heavy leather, or better yet, a metal case to keep it from being torn to shreds by the Gray Space.

“Will you help me?” Hirran asked.

“How could I say no?” Kahlil smiled at her.

Hirran looked almost startled and then smiled back at him as if he’d just saved her life. Beside him, he saw Pesha stand a little straighter, perhaps realizing that someday she might also be asked for such a favor by a beautiful woman.

“Thank you,” Hirran said.

•••

By the time Kahlil slipped through the walls surrounding the Silverlake Garden, it was nearly dusk. From within the Gray Space the lush braids of trellised vines and clusters of tiny snow blossoms looked like they had been cut from newspaper. None of the humid scents that filled the huge greenhouse reached him. The massive iron supports of the building and its countless panes of glass resembled Jath’ibaye’s glass palace in Nurjima. But Jath’ibaye’s garden had been much more diverse. It had seemed natural in its random bursts of foliage and flowers.

The plants in the Silverlake Garden reminded Kahlil of the industrial agriculture he had seen in Nayeshi. It was not nearly so advanced, but the same aspiration for control and production seemed to underlie the Silverlake Garden’s design. Huge beds of single crops stretched out in long rows. Between them, cobblestone avenues stretched like city streets. There was a mechanical precision to the distances between the beds, the rows in the beds, and even to the spacing of the plants themselves.

Most of the young starts poking up from the ground seemed to be tender vegetables. Older, hardy herbs loomed up in the beds beyond those. And far to the west were the enclosed orchards, his destination.

Kahlil hurried back towards the trees. He passed a few young couples lingering at the edges of the herb gardens. A few solitary individuals seemed to be sketching or taking botanical notes. Now and then Kahlil noticed a Silverlake insignia decorating the sleeve of a guard or a gardener. But most of the people seemed to have been drawn to the gardens just to take in the sight and scent of the first blossoms.

Later in the year, the orchards would be more popular. But now, at the end of winter, they were too cool and shadowed to appeal to many people. At least that was what Hirran had told him. From within the Gray Space, the orchards didn’t seem much different from the rest of the garden. Kahlil was aware of faint beams of light filtering down between the slender branches of fruit trees. Many seemed to be blossoming, but the flowers and leaves were all the same dull gray to him. If it was colder under the expanses of branches, he didn’t feel it. Everything was cold in the Gray Space.

As Kahlil strode through the orchards, he saw that Hirran had been right about their overall attractiveness. The only people who seemed drawn to the avenues that lined the orchards were Bousim militia. Kahlil discovered two captains waiting in the deep shadows near a wall. Three more rashan’im strolled along an avenue and then turned back, patrolling a stretch of trees near the west wall of the garden. None of the men were in uniform but Kahlil recognized the captains from his night in the Bousim camp. The rashan’im gave themselves away in the precision of their movements. No laborer in Vundomu squared his shoulders so stiffly or held his head so perfectly upright.

BOOK: 7: Enemies and Shadows
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