Read Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) Online

Authors: Kristian Alva

Tags: #YA fantasy, #epic fantasy, #dark fantasy, #fantasy, #dragons

Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) (12 page)

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
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Kathir shrugged.

So? What of it? I

m not going to apologize for being a mercenary. It

s my job.  I can be proud of what I

m doing and get paid to do it at the same time.


That

s an odd perspective, my friend,

replied Skemtun.

Kathir smiled, but he didn

t argue. Instead, he looked out upon the dwarves. The women and children had returned from their hiding spots and were walking on the trail again. They stretched out into a rough column along the path.

It was obvious that the dwarves never expected Mount Velik to fall. They had failed to prepare for the worst. There had been no time to gather proper supplies for a long journey. That was their worst mistake, and now they were paying for it. They moved with the painful slowness of people who were losing hope.

The days passed as the dwarves trudged ahead. Some started collapsing from fatigue, and so the hard decision was made to stop to rest for the night. They set up a makeshift camp, and Skemtun set up a perimeter of guards. Everyone took turns sleeping on the hard ground. Thankfully, the orcs didn

t attack them during the night.

They broke camp and moved on the next morning. As they continued onward, they found themselves without any shelter. There were no caves as they moved further north, so they were left vulnerable to the wind, the cold, and the rain.

They were also low on provisions. The women scavenged what they could, collecting mushrooms and wild berries, but it wasn

t enough for everyone to get a meal. They had found very little to eat in the forest, and now even their water was running low.

Some of the wounded died along the way and had to be buried in shallow graves. There was no time to grieve properly.

Times were hard, but there were some bright spots. As they got closer to the edge of the forest, hunting became easier, and they were able to catch small game on a regular basis. Everyone searched for food; even the youngest boys hunted with slingshots and caught smaller animals like birds, rats, and snakes. They ate everything

nothing was wasted.

One day, Kathir got lucky and shot a bear with his crossbow. With the dwarves

help, he used ropes to hoist and hang the carcass up in a tree. Trembling with excitement, they dressed the bear and then cooked the meat over several campfires. The dwarves were so thankful that they threw a makeshift party right then and there. That night, everybody ate and slept well.

The dwarves eventually crossed over the Orvasse River and travelled into an area of open fields. The days turned into weeks, and eventually the snow-capped Highport Mountains became visible in the distance. A vast plain of snow broken only by occasional trees extended into the distance in front of them.

The temperatures dropped, and the snow on the ground froze into a solid crust. Their supplies were depleted, and everyone was cold and hungry. Everyone knew this last stretch would be the most difficult part of their journey. And yet, people were still hopeful

after everything they had been through, their quarrels with the Vardmiters seemed easily forgotten.

Reaching Highport would be like crossing the finish line at last.


It

s colder than usual for this time of year. Even if the Vardmiters accept us with open arms, it

s going to be a hard winter for everyone,

said Skemtun.


At least the trail is clear,

said Kathir.

That

s a blessing. Do you anticipate the Vardmiters to accept all your survivors?

Skemtun shook his head sadly.

I hope they do, but I

m not sure what to expect

not after everything that

s happened between the clans.

Skemtun didn

t say anything more. He rode up to the front in order to get a better look at the trail.  When he made it up to the front line, he spotted Bolrakei and stopped. They hadn

t spoken much in the last few weeks. Skemtun tried to avoid her. He

d told himself it was because he was busy with his leadership duties, but he knew in his heart that was a lie.

Bolrakei rode a mule while everyone around her walked. Somehow she

d managed to remain quite fat, despite their lack of food. Her neck and wrists glittered with the jewels her people had been able to retrieve from the mountain during the siege.

Bolrakei turned around and eyed Skemtun with disapproval.

What are you doing up here? Aren

t you supposed to be safeguarding the back of the line?


The orcs haven

t attacked us in days,

Skemtun said.

They

re leaving us alone for now, so I decided to ride up front for a while. Your clan members have some nice weapons. Perhaps some of them would like to take a turn fighting in the back for a while.


Not a chance!

she snapped.

I need all my guards up here! Who will guard my gemstones? Someone has to protect the last bit of wealth we have! Without me, the clans would have
nothing!

Bolrakei

s words stirred up intense anger within him.

What good are yer gemstones here, Bolrakei? Look around ye! Can

t ye see that everyone is starving? People are only interested in bread to fill their bellies.  Maybe if ye

d spent less time obsessing about yer money and yer jewelry, this march wouldn

t

ave been so hard on everyone!


You don

t know anything!

Bolrakei snapped.

We

ll certainly need my treasures if the Vardmiters don

t allow us to stay with them! Have you thought about that? How will we buy food or supplies? How will we purchase land? It will fall on
my clan
to purchase those things, since
my clan
is the only one with anything of value!

Skemtun

s frowned.

Yer clan is no more important than mine, Bolrakei. We

re equals.


Ha!

she snorted.

I

m high born and have a long line of royal ancestors. You

re nothing more than a miner

s son, and a lucky one, at that! You

re low by birth, and I

m destined to be the next queen.


Don

t be so sure about that,

princess,


said Skemtun, with sarcasm.

Ye don

t wear a crown yet, thank goodness.

Bolrakei

s expression became even uglier.

You watch your mouth! I
will
be the next queen! You can bet on it!


Ye know, I wouldn

t take that bet myself!

he snorted, turning his pony around. Bolrakei screamed obscenities at his retreating back. He just kept moving until he couldn

t hear her anymore.

Kathir rode up behind him.

I can tell from your expression that your little chat with Bolrakei didn

t go very well.


No

it didn

t.

Skemtun sighed. 

I let my anger get the best of me. She just kept pushin

and pushin

and I finally exploded. But I know how she is, and I really shouldn

t antagonize her like that. It

s distressin

for the others to us bickerin

like children. We

re supposed to set an example.


As you say,

Kathir said,

I agree with you, but I also understand the temptation to fight with Bolrakei. I

ve been tempted to sock her myself a few times.


Now that

s a diplomatic answer,

Skemtun chuckled.


Come on, you know that she

s not fit to be a clan leader, much less a queen. She

s insufferable, greedy, and self-centered. I realize that her clan holds most of the wealth, but that doesn

t excuse her behavior.

Skemtun remained silent for a moment.

Aye, well

let her do what she wants, for now. As long as my people are safe, it doesn

t really matter.

There was no wind, but there was a strange haze in the air, and it was growing dark. In the distance, they could see lightning flash on the horizon, the sign of a coming storm.

Kathir opened his mouth to make a comment about the weather, but an alert from the back of the line told him that orcs had been spotted.

Again? I thought this was over!

They both turned, spurring their mounts to the blast of the horn.


The orcs have followed us onto the plains!

shouted Kathir, and the dwarves scrambled to defend the camp.

By the time Skemtun and Kathir reached the rear, dozens of dwarves were already fighting for their lives. It was another roving band of orcs, and this time, they were mounted on drask, the large, venomous lizards the orcs rode into battle.


They

ve got drask with them!

shouted Skemtun. The horn sounded again, with three short bursts: a warning to the women and children to run and hide.

The drask lined up in a single row

clicking and snapping their jaws. The foul smell of the lizards was so strong that they had to stifle the urge to vomit.

Kathir set a bolt in his crossbow. He hoped that he would be able to keep himself and Skemtun alive, but the odds were certainly stacked against them this time.

As he let loose the first arrow, a huge shadow moved overhead. The dwarves looked up to see two massive shapes in the clouds. The dwarves cheered: the dragon riders had finally arrived to help them

and just in time.

The dragons roared as they swooped down from the sky, sending thick streams of dragonfire towards the orcs. The drask scattered

running in every direction. For an instant, the fire engulfed everything around them, and the dwarves felt fear as the incredible heat scorched their skin.

Ear-piercing screams carried through the air as the drask died within the flames. The orcs jumped from their terrified mounts and ran, screaming as they tried to escape, but there was no cover for them.  The dragon riders continued their attack. Minutes later, it was over.

Once they were sure that all the orcs were either scattered or dead, the dragon riders swooped down and landed near the dwarves. They were all cheering like mad. Elias and Sela slid from their saddles and the dwarves surrounded them instantly.


You two are a wonderful sight!

Kathir shouted gratefully. He really meant it. None of the dwarves had been hurt.


Who

s in charge here?

Sela asked.


I am!

Bolrakei shouted, trotting up on her mule while pushing her way through the crowd.

I

m in charge!

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
13.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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