Read Elf Saga: Bloodlines (Part 1: Curse of the Jaguar) Online

Authors: Joseph Robert Lewis

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Elf Saga: Bloodlines (Part 1: Curse of the Jaguar)

BOOK: Elf Saga: Bloodlines (Part 1: Curse of the Jaguar)
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ELF SAGA: BLOODLINES
Part One: Curse of the Jaguar

by

Joseph Robert Lewis


 

 

ELF SAGA: BLOODLINES

 

33 years after

 

DOOMSDAY

 

 

 

Copper Crow Books

Copyright © 2015 Joseph Robert Lewis

Published by Joseph Robert Lewis on Smashwords

Cover art by Linggar Bramanty

Edition: July 2015

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
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own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this
author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,
or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication can
be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without
permission in writing from Joseph Robert Lewis.

 

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Part One: Curse of the Jaguar
Episode 1

So. Another town, another… whatever this mess is.

I count twenty soldiers, their uniforms
shredded, their swords and pistols mangled, their faces bruised and
bloody. That’s typical. The novel part is that every last one of
them is clinging desperately to the branches of a very tall tree
high above my head. It’s a strange and brutal sight, so it’s a
pretty safe guess as to who did this.

There are a few local men trying to help the
soldiers down out of the tree. It’s tricky work, since the tree is
fifty feet tall and there aren’t any ladders, so they’re using
ropes, out here at the dusty edge of town. The locals are lightly
dressed against the morning heat, loose fringed pants, loose shirts
with checkered bead patterns, and a handful of thick copper rings
in their very long, very sharp ears.

I nudge my big red pronghorn to saunter
closer to the tree and I call out, “Good morning!”

“Does this look like a good morning to you,
stranger?” the fellow up in the tree grunts as he lowers his sixth
soldier down to the ground.

I shrug. Fair enough.

“Did anyone see what happened?” But I already
know what happened. The soldiers are all wearing the green and gold
of the Azteran army, and we’re deep in the Chirika province of the
Union. This is classic Lozen. This is what she loves the most,
patrolling the border for excuses to kick some ass.

“I saw it.” The man pauses to wipe the sweat
from his face before climbing up to the next branch to get the next
battered soldier. He shakes his head. “Never seen anything like it
before though.”

“Yeah, well, I have.” I make sure my hat is
firmly on my head, shading my features. “It was a woman with jaguar
spots on her face, right?”

He squints down at me. “Yeah.”

“And she took out all these men by herself.
With her bare hands.”

“Yeah.”

“And then she threw them all up in that tree
with a flick of her wrist before she rode off into the sunset.” I
glance west where I can see fresh tracks leading off over the
hills.

“Yeah. Well, not the sunset part. The sun was
barely up when she rode out.” The man tugs the next soldier free
and starts tying a rope around the youth’s uniformed chest.

“Twenty soldiers with alchemic pistols?
Pretty nasty stuff.” I nod at the foreigners and the bright green
acid oozing out of their crushed guns. “So... I guess it’s kind of
good that she came along when she did.”

“Hardly.” The man in the tree frowns at me.
“These soldiers came to deliver medical supplies and help build the
new windmills.” He waves toward the north and I see the
half-finished towers of the three mills spread across the
plains.

Damn. I guess times change. And that means
she’s not even fighting the bad guys now, if she even cares about
that anymore. What the hell is wrong with her?

“So you know that woman? Who was she?” the
man asks.

“Some people call her Lozen.” I sigh and
nudge my pronghorn to follow the westward trail as I mutter to
myself, “But I get to call her Mother.”

“What was that?” One of the men on the ground
jogs after me. "What did you say?"

Oh shit. I muttered that, I swear!

“Nothing,” I say, riding on a bit faster. “I
said she’s a… bother.” Damn it, why don’t bother and mother
rhyme?

“You said she’s your mother!” He grabs my arm
and sees the jaguar spots on my hand. “Hey, she’s got the same
marks. She’s like the other one. It’s another one!”

“Hey, hands off, jackass, I’m nothing like
her!” I jerk my arm free. “I don’t go around attacking people. I
make canoes, buddy!”

But it’s too late. The man jumps back and
yanks the knife from his belt. A moment later he has three more
sweaty friends with knives beside him, a whole stupid little gang
of frightened southern elves who think I’m working with Lozen to
ruin their stupid little town.

Thanks, Mother.

“Hya!” I try to get the pronghorn running
because once I’m gone they have no chance of catching me, but one
of the knife-men is too close to the buck’s head, and the poor
beast jerks back instead of dashing away.

Damn it, Mother. This is all your fault… just
like everything else.

I see a flash of light in the corner of my
eye, and I snatch the whirling knife out of the air and toss it
aside into the dust. Jaguar reflexes to the rescue. “What the hell
was that?! It is not nice to throw knives at people. Listen up, you
screwheads, I’m not with her! Not even a little bit. I’m out here
trying to hunt her down.”

“Hunt down your own mother?” The man in front
of me shakes his head. “I don’t believe a word of that.”

I frown. “You don’t? Why not? What sort of
magical relationship do you have with your mom? You’re not still
nursing are you? Because that’s just gross.”

“Why the hell would you want to hunt down
your own mother?” he snarls.

“It’s personal. Medical. Jaguar lady
problems, you understand.” I grimace. “I mean, we all have our
issues, don’t we?”

A second knife comes flying at my shoulder,
and I twist sharply to let it fly past me. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Can
we please just talk about this? Seriously, guys, use your words,
not your knives.”

The man in the tree drops to the ground and
picks up a hatchet. Back home that’s a tomahawk, but I don’t think
they use that word here. Not that the name matters, really, when
one comes flying at your face. A handful of the Azteran soldiers
lying on the ground are watching all this, but none of them are
moving a finger to come after me. So that’s a bit of good luck. I
guess.

“Get her!” The whole gang lunges at me,
grabbing my pronghorn’s antlers and my saddle and my clothes. I see
blades everywhere and… I panic.

I grab the nearest wrist with a knife and I
slam the man’s fist back into his own face, sending him falling to
the ground, stunned and bloody. I kick another in the chest and he
flies back on his ass. A back-fist to a skull makes a muffled
crack. I slam my palm into a nose, and rip the hatchet from its
owner, only to bring the blunt side down on his head a second
later.

And then it’s over. Five men all covered in
blood, half-conscious, sprawled in the dust. I only pause to look
at them for a second, just to be sure they’re really down, and then
I snap the reins and I’m gone, riding hard and fast over the
western rise with the bloody hatchet still gripped tight in my
sweaty hand.

Finders, keepers.

The trail is easy to follow. Mother is riding
something called a horse, which I hear is some sort of hornless
unicorn with no magic powers at all, which seems pretty dull for
her. But whatever a horse is, it’s not faster than my pronghorn, so
I’m catching up. I’m only a few hours behind now.

This place is my first taste of a real
desert, and I think I hate it. Hot, dry, and dusty. All sun and no
shadow. No green, no water. Yeah, I hate it. I can’t wait to get
home, back to Dad, back to the woods and lakes back east. Should
only be another day or two, I think.

Three days later, I’m still following the
trail, and I’m still just a few hours behind. There have been two
more Azteran garrisons smashed to pieces, two more companies of
green-coat soldiers tossed into rivers and piled high on hill tops.
And two more angry mobs chasing me out of town before I can explain
that I am not my mother.

Dad always said she had a temper. Guess he
wasn’t kidding.

I have to wonder if she knows I’m following
her. Along with the jaguar strength, she’s got jaguar eyes and a
nose to match. She can probably smell me coming. So now I have to
wonder if she’s leading me somewhere on purpose, and why. I’m
guessing it’s because she’s a bully with a twisted sense of
humor.

I see my first southern dragon gliding over
the salt flats, shimmering like a mirage in the rising heat of the
afternoon. It’s a huge thing, at least five times bigger than the
forest drakes back home, and as I sit in the saddle watching, it
roars a horrible screaming roar that makes me shiver and wish there
was a tree to hide behind, but there is no tree. There’s nothing
here at all but sandy dirt and rocks and scrub brush. Then the
monster spews an arc of red fire across the sky and sails away into
the distance, north into the deeper desert.

And then the pain hits me, the sudden
nauseating dizziness swirling behind my eyes. I fall out of the
saddle and hit the ground on all fours, trying not to vomit. My
skull is pounding and I squeeze my eyes shut, trying with all my
strength to just breathe.

Just breathe.

Keep breathing.

Bit by bit, the pain subsides. And when I
open my eyes, the ground only wobbles a little bit. I sit and wait,
still breathing, keeping my eyes down on the red dirt, watching a
line of red ants march by. I don’t think, and I try not to feel.
Just wait it out. A few minutes later I try standing up and taking
a sip of water from my canteen. And a minute after that I’m back in
the saddle again, riding west.

Damn. The attacks are getting worse. I’ve
never fallen out of the saddle in my life.

Eight days after the tree full of Azteran
soldiers, I’ve left the desert behind me and I’m riding slowly up a
narrow, winding path into some crumbly red mountains. The pine
trees here are massive, like nothing I’ve ever seen back home, but
the woods are silent and still. No one lives here but the birds and
squirrels. From time to time, a lone faerie flitters along parallel
to me, far out of reach, leaving a trail of fresh moss and
mushrooms and thick grass growing on the ground behind it, and then
it darts away into the trees again.

The trail goes on. One afternoon, as I’m
picking my way along the top of a ridge, I see her. She’s half a
league away or more, riding along the top of the next ridge over,
so there’s a huge valley full of trees and streams between us and
no way to get to her quickly. But it’s her. Mother.

She stops and I can see her turn to look at
me. I’ve got some of that jaguar blood in me too, and my eyes are
better than most. I can’t quite see her face, but I can feel her
looking at me. Judging me. She was always very judgy, especially
about footwear. And then she turns and rides out of sight, down the
far side of her ridge. By the time I cross the valley and get to
the spot where she paused, she’s long gone.

The next day I wake up cold and sore. I want
to be home. I miss Dad and my brothers. I miss sleeping in late and
carving my boats in the shade all afternoon, and going dancing
every night. I miss fending off the cold breezes with my warm wool
socks, watching long games of dehunshiga with all the half-naked
boys hurling their little balls around with their little sticks,
and most of all I miss Dad’s cooking. Slow-cooked brisket. Pelmeni
dumplings. Borscht.

Damn. I must be starving if I actually miss
Dad’s borscht.

I pick up a small sharp stone and sit still
for a few minutes, and sure enough, a plump little scrub jay
perches overhead. One throw and he’s dead, falling straight into my
hand, and a minute later he’s a tiny meal in my frying pan. I guess
it’s good that I inherited a few things from Mother. The eyes, the
strength. Because I’m pretty clumsy with a bow.

BOOK: Elf Saga: Bloodlines (Part 1: Curse of the Jaguar)
11.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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