Read Dreams of Fire and Gods 2: Fire Online

Authors: James Erich

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Love & Romance

Dreams of Fire and Gods 2: Fire (8 page)

BOOK: Dreams of Fire and Gods 2: Fire
5.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
“Into what?”

“The boundary. I was planning on tossing you across the line to see if you would fall unconscious, as my men have.”

“And what would that have accomplished?”
“Not much, I admit,” Eivan replied with a cold smile, “but if you remained conscious, it would have given us some additional information regarding the nature of the magic at work. And if you’d fallen unconscious, then I would have had the pleasure of leaving your vile carcass there to rot, or perhaps be devoured by wolves.”

Donegh stood—a bit shakily—and glared at the commander, his knife clutched tightly in his hand. The temptation to rush Eivan and drive the blade deep into the man’s throat was strong, but Eivan had a strength advantage in a direct confrontation, and Donegh still felt unsteady. “I simply wanted you to show me a way around it.”

“There is no way around it. I’ve sent scouts to the north and south. One man would have a rope tied around his middle so he could attempt to cross and his companion could pull him back, if he dropped. They traveled to the mountains in the north and several days’ travel to the south. They found no end to it.”

“All right,” Donegh said. “Fine. But at least show me where the boundary is.”

Eivan smiled and pointed to a spot between the two of them, where the patch of partridgeberry began. “There,” he said.

Donegh stared at the spot, uncomprehending. He looked up at Eivan and the man shook his head, laughing.

“You rolled right across it.”

 

T
HE
throne room was in chaos.

Sael sat on the throne recently occupied by his older brother and looked out upon the gathered
vönan
, who all seemed determined to shout over one another. He knew his late brother—and certainly their father— would never tolerate this degree of insolence from his subjects. Which meant he couldn’t either.

“Silence!” he commanded, doing his best to imitate his father’s stern voice of command.

It worked, at least for a moment. The mages fell silent and looked at him in surprise.

Geilin, who was standing on the dais beside the throne, remained silent as well, though Sael could see a twinkle of humor in his eyes. The old wizard was looking much better now, to Sael’s immense relief.

Sael stood and took a step forward. He looked at the mage in the fore of the group, the one called Vosik, who appeared to have taken on the role of spokesman. “You there! Tell me what this is all about. There’s nothing to be gained by all of you bursting in and talking at once.”

Vosik bowed, looking a bit flustered. “Yes, Your Lordship. It’s just that… well, there are rumors…. After what happened last night….”

“Spit it out,” Sael commanded impatiently.

 

“Yes, Your Lordship. You see, Master Geilin—”


Vönan Makek
Geilin,” Sael corrected him.
But Vosik looked perturbed, casting an almost hostile glance at Geilin. “No, Your Lordship. I must beg to differ on that point. It has come to our attention that, after the ‘Taaweh’”—he said the word in a tone dripping with contempt —“visited Master Geilin in his chambers last night, they did something to him. They
changed
him. We don’t know what happened in there, but… look at his forehead!”
Sael had been afraid of this reaction. The magical tattoo had disappeared from Geilin’s forehead, the tattoo that was placed there upon initiation into the
vönan
through magical means of which Sael had little knowledge. Had he continued his apprenticeship for another year, he would have gone through the initiation himself, but that would never happen now. However, he knew one thing—the tattoo was more than just a mere decoration upon the skin. It was a dedication to the gods, and it was inextricably linked to the
vönan
. Nothing could remove it except death. Only when a
vönan
died did the tattoo fade away.
Sael turned to Geilin and the old wizard took his cue, stepping forward to address Vosik directly. “With the valley dark, we have all been cut off from the source of our power, from the Eyes of the Stronni. This puts Harleh in grave danger in the event of another attack by the emperor’s forces. And we’ve all felt the physical effects of being cut off. I understand that Gaün and two other older
vönan
have been forced to take to their beds. So the Taaweh have offered us a solution—learn their magic and how to channel the energy that is freely available to us at this time.”

Vosik said contemptuously, “That’s very magnanimous of them, considering that they caused this… crisis… to begin with!”

“The Taaweh and the Stronni are ancient enemies, and they are about to go to war,” Geilin explained. “It is unfortunate that Harleh happens to be situated near the Taaweh’s capital city —a coincidence that puts us in grave danger—but it does not appear to have been intentional. The Taaweh are attempting to protect us and aid us—”

“They have forced us all to become heretics!” There was a murmur of assent from the gathered
vönan
. Vosik went on, “And now they ask us to compound this by intentionally committing sacrilege? You know as well as any of us that a
vönan
must not attempt to learn the spells of the
ömem
or the
caedan
. Nor should we dabble in the so-called ‘folk magic’ the peasantry stubbornly clings to. That is the law, passed down to us from the gods themselves!”

“Yes, Master Vosik,” Geilin replied with a weary nod. “I know the law.”

“Surely you’re not going to claim that the law doesn’t apply to magic taught to us by the oldest enemies of the gods?”

“No, I am not going to claim that.”

There was a malicious gleam in Vosik’s eye that Sael did not like, as if the man had been hoping all along to ensnare Geilin with this admission. “Are we to understand that you have knowingly committed sacrilege, by allowing these… ‘Taaweh’… to teach you forbidden magic?”

There was only the slightest hesitation before Geilin replied, “I have been studying their magic, and I intend to continue doing so.”

“Then for the good of all the
vönan
in Harleh,” Vosik said, “I must ask—no, demand!—that you step down as
vönan makek
of Harleh.”

So that was his game, Sael thought. No doubt Vosik hoped to advance in the court by removing Geilin from his position. Perhaps he even had his eye on becoming
vönan makek
himself, though that would never happen as long as Sael had a say in the matter. Seven years ago, Geilin had given up the position of
vönan makek
of the city of Worlen in order to become Sael’s guardian. Now, at last, his years of loyalty had been rewarded, and Sael would be damned if he would let Geilin fall victim to petty political maneuvering.

He took a step forward and did his best to imitate his father’s imperious manner. “It is up to His Grace and myself to determine who is qualified for
any
position within the walls of Harleh. You would do well to remember your place, Master Vosik.”

Vosik blanched and bowed quickly. “Of course, Your Lordship! I merely—” “Your Lordship,” Geilin interrupted, addressing Sael. “If I may?” “As you wish, Vönan Makek Geilin.”

Geilin looked Vosik in the eye and stated coldly, “Anything I have done has been done with the best interests of Harleh in mind. The first war between the Taaweh and the Stronni lasted centuries, if we are to believe the chronicles. So it seems likely that Harleh Valley may remain dark for a very long time and any
vönan
who remain here will be powerless.

“That having been said, I knew when I accepted the Taaweh’s offer to teach me some of their magic that there would be consequences. The bond I once had with the Stronni has been broken, and you are correct, Master Vosik—I can no longer call myself a
vönan
. I therefore… regretfully… step down as
vönan makek
of Harleh.”

K
OREH
hated sneaking into Master Geilin’s quarters, but it was urgent that he speak with the mage in private, out of anyone else’s hearing. Especially Sael’s. So Koreh sat quietly in the shadows of the darkened room, hoping the Taaweh wouldn’t come to fetch him before Geilin arrived.

When the old man did at last return, Koreh watched him open the door and hesitate for a long moment on the threshold, peering into the darkness. Then Geilin entered and softly closed the door behind him. He hadn’t brought a lantern with him, so once the heavy wooden door blocked the light from the wall sconces in the hallway, the room was again almost completely dark, though Koreh could see perfectly well.

“I thought you were an assassin for a moment,” Geilin said with a slight chuckle. He walked across the room, navigating easily around a wooden chair to reach the small table near Koreh.

“You can see in the dark now,” Koreh observed.

“I can.” Geilin picked up the flint and iron from the table and lit the large beeswax candle with it. The warm yellow-gold glow of the candle flame illuminated Geilin’s kindly face, and for the first time in twenty-four hours, Koreh felt some of the tension in his gut ease a bit. Geilin would help. He would find a way out.

“Now,” Geilin said, “suppose you tell me why you’ve been sitting here in the dark.”
“I’ve been waiting to talk to you.”

Geilin moved to the fireplace, where a cast-iron kettle hung over cold coals. He touched the sides of the kettle gingerly and then frowned. “Ah, for the days when I could heat water for tea with a simple incantation…. What did you want to talk about? It must be serious, if you’re here chatting with me rather than visiting with Sael.”

“Sael’s in danger.”
“Oh dear. Again?”

“I’m serious,” Koreh said, irritated by the old man’s flippant attitude.

“I’m sure you are. I merely observe that Sael has never stopped being in danger since we escaped from güKhemed.” Geilin gave up on the kettle and came back to the table, drawing up the other chair so he could sit across from Koreh. “Now tell me what this is about.”

Koreh relayed the Taaweh’s plan for the rescue of the Iinu Shavi, or what little he’d been able to pry from his companion the night before. “He wouldn’t tell me which one of us will die—only that one of us will,” Koreh finished.

Geilin nodded thoughtfully, and seemed to be weighing his words carefully when he finally asked, “And somehow you want me to stop Sael from taking part in this mission?”
“Of course!”

“And how do you propose I do that? Once he finds out, he’ll assume that
you
are the one in danger and he’ll insist that we prevent you from going. Or he’ll insist on accompanying you.”

“You have to persuade him not to go!” Koreh insisted.

Geilin sighed wearily. “Koreh… I’ve relinquished any political power I may have wielded—”

“Sael doesn’t care about politics,” Koreh interrupted. He wasn’t actually sure what Geilin was referring to, and he wasn’t entirely certain it was true that Sael didn’t care about politics. But he knew Sael loved and respected Geilin more than he did his own father. “He’ll listen to you. He’ll do what you say.”

“Would
you
?” Geilin countered. “If I told you that Sael was going on a dangerous mission, but you should stay behind, would
you
listen to me?”

Koreh knew he would not. But then, as much as he respected Geilin, the old man was still a relative stranger to him. “I’m not Sael,” he said.

Geilin harrumphed and shook his head. “You don’t give him enough credit, you know. You still think of him as a spoiled, self-absorbed aristocrat. But if he thought you were in danger, I don’t think Vek Worlen himself could prevent Sael from running after you.” “Then we can’t let him find out.”

“What’s to stop the Taaweh from appearing in his chambers, just as you’ve done, and telling him directly?”

Koreh knew neither he nor Geilin would be able to prevent that.

“I’ve noticed,” Geilin said, standing up and walking to the fireplace again, “that you haven’t suggested the possibility of
neither
of you going. What do you think the Taaweh would do if you refused?”

Koreh was startled by the question. For all his anxiety over the possibility of Sael being killed or injured, it had never occurred to him to say no. “I don’t know,” he replied. “They never talk about possibilities. Everything to them is predetermined. I don’t think I
could
turn them down.”

“Why not?”

“Because it has to be done. Somehow the Iinu Shavi must be released, or the war will go on forever. She—and possibly the Iinu Shaa— they’re the only hope of defeating the Stronni.”

Geilin chuckled and shook his head sadly. “So they started a war, knowing that they would be unable to win that war without first sending two—no offense—inexperienced young men to accomplish what they themselves have failed to accomplish over a thousand years. Madness!” He gazed into the cold, black ashes of the fireplace and added, “I have to wonder now if the ‘help’ they’ve given me wasn’t… perhaps… dual-purposed. By teaching me their magic, the Taaweh have possibly saved my life, but they’ve also rendered me useless as a
vönan
. I was the only alternative to Sael, and now….”

His voice trailed off as both he and Koreh noticed something happening in the fireplace—steam had begun to rise from the kettle. There was no fire, but the water in it now appeared to be boiling.

A soft female voice said, “Everything is as it should be,
iinyana
.”

Koreh was unsurprised to see one of the Taaweh step from the shadows across the room. As Geilin turned to face her, she continued, “Your powers have changed,
iinyeh
Geilin, but you will discover that you still have power.
Iinyeh
Koreh and
iinyeh
Sael have been chosen because they can succeed where the Taaweh have failed.”

“It is generally considered to be rude,” Geilin replied coolly, “for a person to slip into a man’s quarters unannounced.”

Koreh felt his cheeks burning, feeling the reprimand was aimed at him as well as the Taaweh standing in the room. The Taaweh herself appeared to take no notice.

“It is time for further instruction,
iinyeh
,” she told Geilin. “And
iinyeh
Koreh must return to Gyishya.”

BOOK: Dreams of Fire and Gods 2: Fire
5.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Heaven Trilogy by Ted Dekker
Richer Ground by M, Jessie
Never Me by Kate Stewart
The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa
Death Clutch by Brock Lesnar
Hitchers by Will McIntosh
Keeper by Greg Rucka
Eternal Service by Regina Morris