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Authors: David Farland

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BOOK: Brotherhood of the Wolf
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Myrrima stared at the fish, marveling. There were rumors of ancient fish up at the headwaters of the Wye, magical fish that no man could catch. She wondered what they were doing here.

Iome asked, “But even if the Powers do favor them, what good can they do us? We can't speak to them.”

“Perhaps we cannot communicate well,” Binnesman said. “But Gaborn
can
listen to them.” Gaborn glanced up at the wizard, as if surprised that the Earth Warden thought him capable of the feat. “Use the Earth Sight,” Binnesman told him. “That's what it's for.”

Behind them a crowd of children and onlookers gathered. Several large boys had now brought fishing nets from the banks of the river, and others had gathered spears and bows, hoping to make a meal of the sturgeons, if the King would allow it. They seemed a bit forlorn at the prospect of missing a meal.

Now that the sun had risen a bit more, slanting in, Myrrima could see the huge sturgeons easily enough, their dark blue backs. They were circling near the surface, their fins slicing through the water as they swam about in curious
patterns. To a casual observer, it might have appeared that they were finning the surface like salmon, preparing to spawn.

“What has happened to the water here in the moat since this began?” Gaborn wondered aloud.

“The level of the moat is rising,” Binnesman said. “I'd say that it has come up at least a foot this morning.” He climbed down to the edge of the moat and dipped his fingers in. “And the water here has become much clearer. The sediment is settling out of it.”

One fish swam a lazy S, then dipped below the surface and rose again, just so, to put a single dot at the end, then slashed through it. Gaborn traced the pattern with his finger.

“See there,” Binnesman said, pointing at the sturgeon. “That fish is making runes of protection.”

Gaborn said, “I see it. It's a simple water rune that my father taught me as a child. What do you think they want protection from?”

“I don't know,” Binnesman said, staring deeply, as if to read the answer in a sturgeon's eye. “Why don't you ask them?”

“In a moment,” Gaborn promised. “I've never tried to use my Earth Sight on an animal before. Let me gather my thoughts first.”

Some deep-green dragonflies buzzed past, and Myrrima and Iome stood hand in hand for several long moments, studying the runes that the fish drew. Myrrima noticed that each sturgeon had taken an area free of reeds and lily pads.

Gaborn and Binnesman, meanwhile, discussed the meaning of the runes. One sturgeon kept tracing runes of protection next to some cattails. Gaborn said that another drew runes of purity near the center of the pond—a rune to cleanse the water. A third was sketching runes that Binnesman recognized as runes of healing. Over and over again.

Farther away, a fish was moving in the depths of the moat, tracing runes that neither Gaborn nor Binnesman had
ever seen before. Even Gaborn, a king raised in the Courts of Tide where water wizards were common, could not divine the purpose for all the runes. But Binnesman ventured a guess that the rune would make the water colder.

“Do you think the water really is much colder?” Iome whispered to Myrrima.

“I'll see,” Myrrima said. She climbed down and touched the water, too, though no one else on the shore dared. Binnesman was right. It was bitterly cold, as cold and fresh as the deepest of mountain pools. And the shoreline in the moat was indeed higher than it had been this past week.

Myrrima nodded to Iome. “It's freezing!”

Gaborn climbed down to a huge flat rock by Myrrima, leaned out over the glassy surface of the moat and began to trace runes on the water, simple runes of protection. He was mirroring the actions of the sturgeon.

A great sturgeon swam up, just under his hand, its dark blue back close to Gaborn. Its gills expanded and contracted rhythmically as it studied him, watching his fingers as if they were something edible. The fish was tantalizingly close to Myrrima.

“That's right. I'll protect you if I can,” Gaborn whispered to the fish in an easy tone. “Tell me, what do you fear?”

He continued drawing the runes, stared into the fish's eyes, and into its mind, for long minutes. He frowned as if what he saw confused him. “I see darkness in the water,” he murmured. “I see darkness, and I taste metal. I can feel … strangulation. I can taste … metal. Redness coming.”

The young King stopped speaking, almost seemed to stop breathing. His eyes lost their focus and rolled back in his head.

“King Orden,” Binnesman called, but Gaborn did not move.

Myrrima wondered if she should grab Gaborn to keep him from falling in, but Binnesman climbed down to the water's edge and touched his shoulder.

“What?” Gaborn asked, rousing from his stupor. He leaned on the flat rock.

“What is it they fear?” Binnesman asked.

“They fear blood, I think,” Gaborn said. “They fear that the river will fill with blood.”

Binnesman drew his staff up tight against his chest and frowned, shaking his head in dismay.

“I can't believe that. There is no sign of an army approaching, and it would take a great battle to fill the river with blood. Raj Ahten is far away. But something odd
is
happening,” he said. “I've felt it all night. The Earth is in pain. I feel the pain like pinpricks on my flesh—north of here, in North Crowthen, and again far to the south. It trembles in far places, and there are slow movements even here, beneath our very feet.”

Gaborn tried to make light of it. “Still, it comforts me to have these wizards here in our moat.” He turned and addressed the crowd of boys with their spears and bows and nets. “Let no man fish in this moat or foul its waters in any way. Let no one swim in it. These wizards will stay as our guests.”

Gaborn asked Binnesman, “Can we seal the moat off from the river?”

Myrrima knew it should not be hard. A small diversion dam upriver let water spill into the canal that fed the moat.

“Of course,” Binnesman said. He glanced about. “You, Daffyd and Hugh, go close the raceway. And hurry.”

Two stalwart boys ran upstream, elbows and shirttails flying.

Myrrima watched the wizard draw himself to his full height, look up at the early morning sun.

She held her breath, strained to listen as Binnesman spoke. “Milord,” he said so softly that most of those nearby could not have heard. “The earth is speaking to us. It speaks sometimes in the movements of birds and animals, sometimes in the crash of stone. But it is speaking nonetheless. I do not know what it is saying, but I don't like this business of rivers filled with blood.”

Gaborn nodded. “What would you have me do?”

“Raj Ahten had a powerful pyromancer in his retinue,
before you killed her,” Binnesman said thoughtfully. “Yet I'm sure that whole forests are still being sacrificed to the powers that the flameweavers served.”

“Yes,” Gaborn said.

“I would not speak of plans that I want held secret now in open daylight. Nor would I do so before a fire, not even so much as a candle flame. Hold your councils by starlight if you must. Or better yet, in a darkened hall of stone, where the Earth can shield your words.”

Myrrima knew that powerful flameweavers sometimes claimed that if they listened to the whispering tongues of flames, they could clearly hear words spoken by others of their ilk hundreds of miles away. Yet Myrrima had never seen a flameweaver who could really perform such feats.

“All right,” Gaborn agreed. “We will hold our councils in the Great Hall, and I will have no fires lit therein throughout the winter. And I shall pass orders that no man is to discuss military strategies or secrets with another by daylight or firelight.”

“That should do,” Binnesman said.

With that, the King and Iome and their Days and Binnesman went over to see the reaver's head, then walked back up to the castle. Borenson stayed behind for a few moments and posted some lads beside the moat, charging them to care for the fish.

Myrrima stood by and wondered. During the past week, much in her life had changed. But Binnesman's warning to Gaborn hinted of dire portents. Rivers of blood. With the hundreds of thousands of people camped around the city of Sylvarresta, it seemed as if the whole earth were flocking to Heredon, to the courts of the Earth King. Whatever change was coming, she stood near the center of it all.

She climbed up the levee and stood looking out over the vast throng, over the pavilions that had risen up here in the past week. Dust was rising to the south and west, from the numerous travelers moving on the road. Last night, Myrrima had heard that merchant princes had come from as far away as Lysle.

The whole earth shall gather here, Myrrima realized. An Earth King's powers are legendary and are given only in the darkest of times. Every person in every land who wants to live will come here. There are reavers in the Dunnwood and wizards in the moat. Soon there will be enough people to bleed rivers of blood.

That knowledge made her feel small and helpless, worried for the future. And now that Borenson was leaving, she knew she wouldn't be able to rely on him.

I must prepare for whatever is to come, Myrrima thought.

Myrrima walked with Borenson back up to the castle. She stopped on the drawbridge for a few moments and watched the great fish finning in the moat. She felt relieved by their presence. Water wizards were strong in the arts of healing and protection.

That morning, Myrrima finished breakfast in the King's Tower, with only King Gaborn and Queen Iome and their Days in the room. Though Myrrima was becoming friends with Iome, she still felt uncomfortable to be dining in the presence of the King.

Indeed, the meal was filled with uncomfortable silences: Gaborn and Borenson refused to discuss their hunt over the past three days, saying very little at all. Gaborn also had received disturbing news out of Mystarria, and all morning long he looked haunted, somber, withdrawn.

They were nearly finished with breakfast when the elderly Chancellor Rodderman came to the door of the dining hall, looking resplendent with his white beard combed and wearing his black coat of office. “Milord, milady,” he said. “The Duke of Groverman is waiting in the alcove and has requested an audience.”

Iome looked at Rodderman wearily. “Is it important? I haven't seen my husband in three days.”

“I don't know, but he's been skulking out here for half an hour,” Rodderman said.

“Skulking?” Iome laughed. “Well, we mustn't have him skulking.” Though Iome smiled at Rodderman's choice of
words, Myrrima sensed that she did not much care for the Duke.

Presently, the Duke entered the room. He was a short man with gangling limbs, a hatchet face, and dark eyes that were set so close he looked nothing short of ugly. In a family of warriors and nobles, he seemed out of place. Myrrima had heard it rumored that a stable mucker had sired the Duke.

In honor of Hostenfest, Groverman was wearing a gorgeous robe of black embroidered with dark green leaves. His hair was freshly combed, his graying beard expertly trimmed so that it forked from his chin. For an ugly man, he groomed and dressed well.

“Your Highnesses”—the Duke smiled graciously and bowed low—“I hope I did not disturb your meal?”

Myrrima realized that Groverman had asked Rodderman to wait until the King and Queen finished eating before notifying them of his presence.

“Not at all,” Gaborn said. “It was kind of you to wait so patiently.”

“Truly, I have a matter that I think is somewhat urgent,” the Duke said, “though others might not agree.” He looked pointedly at Iome. Myrrima wondered what he might mean by such a warning. Even Iome seemed baffled. “I've brought you a wedding gift, Your Highness—if I may be so bold.”

Over the past few days, every lord in the kingdom had been plying the new King and Queen with wedding gifts; some were expensive gifts that would hopefully curry favor. Most of the lords had brought sons or trusted retainers to help rebuild the lists of the King's Guard. Such sons served quadruple duty: they not only rebuilt the King's army, but they also served as a constant reminder to the King of a lord's loyalty. A trusted son at court could seek favors for his father, or serve as his spy. Last of all, it allowed the boy himself to form new alliances with other nobles who might live in far corners of the kingdom, or even in other nations.

Over the past three days the ranks of new soldiers had filled so quickly that it looked as if Gaborn would not even have to levy his subjects for more troops, despite the fact that Raj Ahten had decimated the King's Guard. Instead, it seemed to Myrrima that Gaborn would have problems finding posts for all of his new soldiers to fill.

“So,” Iome asked. “What gift have you brought that is so urgent?”

Groverman got to the point. “This is a somewhat delicate matter,” he said. “As you know, I've not been blessed with sons or daughters, else I'd offer one of them into your service. But I have brought you a gift that is just as dear to my heart.”

He clapped his hands and looked expectantly toward the dining hall's door.

A boy came through, walking with arms outstretched. In each hand he held a yellow pup by the scruff of the neck. The pups looked about dolefully, with huge brown eyes. Myrrima was not familiar with the breed. They were not mastiffs or any form of war dog. Nor were they hounds or the type of hunters she was familiar with, or the lap dogs popular with ladies in colder climes.

They could have even been mongrels, except that both pups had a uniform color—tawny short hair on the back, and a bit of white at the throat.

The boy, a ten-year-old in heavy leather trousers and a new coat, was as clean and well groomed as Duke Groverman. He handed a pup each to Gaborn and Iome.

One little bundle of fur smelled the grease from the morning's sausages on Gaborn's hand. The pup's wet tongue began to slide over Gaborn's fingers, and the dog nibbled at him playfully. Gaborn ruffled the pup's ears, turned it over to see if it was male or female. It was a male. It wagged its tail fiercely and scrambled upright, as if intent on doing damage to Gaborn's fingers. A real fighter.

BOOK: Brotherhood of the Wolf
12.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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