Read Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) Online

Authors: Kristian Alva

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

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

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
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Tallin

s eyes narrowed.

Why didn

t you mention this earlier, when we were still on the mainland?

The elf paused, as if surprised by the question.

The information is rather sensitive. Knowledge of the shadowkeys is restricted to elves only. The keys themselves are an abomination. The knowledge of their creation has been lost to mortals for some time, which is as it should be. To create a key like this, you have to slay a dragon and then anoint the key with the sacrificial blood of the creature. Killing a dragon is not something that my people take lightly.

Disgust flashed in Tallin

s eyes.

You have to kill a dragon to create a shadowkey? So the elves slaughtered a dragon to create this key?

F
ë
anor looked uncomfortable.

Yes. One was made by the elves long ago after the Balborites were barred from breeding dragons. Long ago, the Balborites had their own dragons and dragon riders. The elves put a stop to that.

Tallin gave a harsh bark of laughter.

Unbelievable! Your queen gets to determine what we have a right to know, even if it costs us our lives? We

re your allies! We should be helping each other. Wait

let me ask you this

would Xiiltharra actually let you
die
here, rather than risk us having access to a shadowkey?

F
ë
anor raised his chin defiantly.

Perhaps, but despite everything that

s happened, I support my queen, even if I am forced to die here. You mortals act like children! Spoiled children! How could you ever be trusted with something as powerful as a shadowkey? Mortals
cannot
be trusted

not with all their pettiness and constant warmongering. What is happening here is proof of that fact.

Tallin shook his head.

You elves don't have the right to force the other races of Durn to bend to your will.

Mugla interrupted them.

Shush now, stop fightin

. Your bickerin

isn

t helpin

things. Look

they

re bringin

Skera-Kina this way.

Shouts echoed through the plaza as the priest

s slaves dragged Skera-Kina

s cage over to the gallows. The entourage followed the priest up the stairs.

A group of blackbirds started gathering in the trees around the square. There was a single red-crested raven sitting at a distance from the other birds, bouncing back and forth on the branches of a tree. It was larger than the other birds and seemed to be waiting for something. When Skera-Kina passed, it cawed loudly, and she looked up at the raven with visible sorrow in her eyes. It was the first time she had showed any emotion.

When the soldiers reached the gallows, they left Skera-Kina

s cage under the steps, near the other prisoners. Tallin caught Skera-Kina

s eye again. Her voice floated across the short distance between them.

It is almost over, brother,

she said.

I

ll be the first to be killed, so this is farewell.

Tallin looked up into the darkening sky.

There

s hope yet,

he whispered quietly to himself,

but it had better come soon.

Mugla laughed suddenly.

I should warn ye, nephew, if I

m to die today, I

m plannin

to take a few of these buggers with me. I

ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve, and iron shackles won

t stop
me
.

Tallin smiled despite himself. His aunt was as feisty as ever. Even the fear of death didn

t break her spirit.

After the High Priest ascended the steps, he pointed at Skera-Kina

s cage. Four guards went beneath the platform, removed Skera-Kina from the cage, and escorted her roughly up the stairs. Several more guards looked on, ready to strike if Skera-Kina attempted to escape.

The executioner stepped back and grabbed a wire whip that was lying behind him. The whip had dozens of filaments, and each one had a sharp barb at the end of it.


Thirty lashes!

cried the High Priest, and the crowd cheered again.

The executioner swirled his arm in the air in a theatrical way, and then brought the whip down on Skera-Kina

s back. She flinched slightly but did not cry out. Although her warding tattoos offered some protection, any of her skin that was not tattooed was vulnerable to the sharp barbs. It wasn

t long before her back and shoulders were streaming with blood.


She isn

t going to fight back? Not even a little?

asked Tallin.

She

s just going to let them do this to her?


She cannot fight them,

said Mugla.

She

s taken a blood oath. She can

t harm the High Priest, either directly or indirectly. Blood oaths are what hold the assassins to their masters. If she attempted to hurt the High Priest in any way, it would cause her blindin

pain. She can only refuse to obey him. Death is her only escape. I guess she is finally tired of being his chattel. Even her position as a Blood Master wasn

t enough to make such bondage worthwhile.

Despite everything that had passed between them, Tallin felt saddened by Skera-Kina

s impending death.

I actually feel sorry for her.

The flogging was over. They all watched as the executioner bound Skera-Kina

s hands behind her back. Mugla sighed.

Skera-Kina never had a chance at a normal life. Slavery and bondage is all she

s ever known. Life is unfair, Tallin. Sometimes people are victims of circumstances that they don

t deserve.

The crowd cheered as the hangman

s noose was fitted around Skera-Kina

s neck. A black sack was placed over her head. Skera-Kina stood motionless as she waited for the inevitable. There were thousands of people packed into the square now, and every face was upturned with morbid anticipation.

The High Priest was waiting until the last possible moment to give the final order; drawing out the spectacle. He smiled down at the crowd, enjoying their chants.

Tallin felt a mixture of anxiety and disgust. The High Priest raised his right arm to give the final order, and the executioner placed his hand on the lever to release the trap door.

Tallin held his breath.

All of a sudden, there was a bright flash in the sky. A dazzling explosion split the air, causing a sound like thunder. It was so loud that it rattled the ground beneath their feet. A few people in the crowd screamed, but others applauded, thinking that it was all part of the show.


What

s going on?

whispered Amandila.

Tallin smiled.

The dragons are coming to save us. I can feel it. Somehow, Duskeye made it past the wards.

A feeling of intense relief washed over him.
Duskeye was alive!

Through a cloud of dust, a group of dragons materialized in the sky. The High Priest looked up and screamed.

Leading the pack was the elf queen, Xiiltharra. She was riding on the back of a magnificent emerald dragon that Tallin didn

t recognize. Duskeye, Nagendra, and Blacktooth followed behind her in a triangular formation. Blacktooth opened his mouth and sent a river of fire toward the crowd. People scattered, and the crowd started screaming.


Guards! Guards!

the High Priest shrieked.

Arrest them! Catch them!

Dozens of soldiers ran up the stairs to defend the hysterical old man.

Duskeye pulled his wings in tight and landed on the platform with his forelegs outstretched. He roared, swiping at a guard with his enormous clawed foot. Blacktooth joined him, and together the two dragons fought the stream of soldiers bounding up the stage.

Forgotten by the guards in the chaos, Tallin and Mugla muttered simple release spells, causing their ropes to fall away. Mugla smiled, but she was clearly exhausted from lack of food and sleep.

Tallin reached out to help his aunt, but she waved him off.

Don

t help me! Go help Skera-Kina! I

ll free the elves

I

m strong enough to do that.

Tallin ran up the stairs and attacked a guard, stripping him of his sword. The guard fell backwards and knocked the lever back for the trap door, causing Skera-Kina to fall through it. Her body jerked violently as the hangman

s rope went taut around her neck.

Tallin rushed forward to grab her and support her weight. Her body was limp and slippery; her back and shoulders still slick from the whipping. Tallin reached up and severed the rope around her neck. He removed the black bag from her face and laid her limp body on the floor.


Skera-Kina? Can you hear me?

he yelled, slapping her cheeks. She did not respond. Her eyes stared forward blankly, and her face and lips were blue. 

Tallin tried to check for a pulse, but someone pulled his leg sharply and knocked him to the ground. He glanced over his shoulder to see a solider with a sword aimed at his head. Tallin twisted his body and avoided the killing stroke by rolling out of reach. The soldier swung again, and this time, Tallin rolled off the platform, twisting in midair to land on his feet on the street below. The soldier growled at him from above and jumped down with his sword in his hand, ready to fight.

Tallin ran towards to the guard and thrust his stolen sword into the man

s chest. The guard collapsed, shocked at the speed with which he

d been cut down.

Mugla freed both of the elves. They were all fighting side-by-side now, holding back an endless stream of guards trying to get on the platform. Mugla was holding on, but her face looked very pale. The elves still looked dazed from the iron poisoning, but they fought fearlessly all the same.

Mugla then remembered the magical sleeping powder Chua had given her, still hidden in her bosom. She drew the little vial out quickly and poured the powder into her palm. A dozen more guards approached them, and she waited until they were just footsteps away before she flung out her hand, casting the powder into their eyes.

Take that, ye dirty buggers!

The sleeping powder hit the guards in varying degrees. Two merely stumbled, but the rest collapsed to the floor as if they had been hit over the head with a mallet.

Above them, Xiiltharra and her emerald dragon remained in the sky, throwing fireballs and lightning bolts down at the terrified crowd below. More people fell, consumed by dragon fire. Others were trampled by the screaming crowd trying to flee the square. It was complete pandemonium.

Finally, the elf queen circled down and landed on the platform. She raised one ivory hand.

Enough!

The word echoed into the distance. Her voice seemed amplified somehow.

Everyone on the platform froze, and the remaining crowd fled away from the square. Only a few guards, two assassins, and the High Priest remained. All of the High Priest

s entourage had abandoned him.

Tallin kicked another soldier to the ground and barreled up the stairs again. This time, he was able to reach Duskeye and embrace him.

You

re a sight for sore eyes, old friend! That was a close call! How did you find us?

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
4.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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