Read Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) Online

Authors: Kristian Alva

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

Kathir's Redemption (Book 6) (8 page)

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
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Skera-Kina

s eyes fluttered open.

Where am I? What happened?

Her voice was barely a whisper, hoarse from the grip of the noose.


You were hanged,

said Tallin.

Your neck was broken. The elf queen saved your life.

Xiiltharra smiled.

Nonsense! Don

t scare the poor girl. It wasn

t as bad as all that.

Gently, the queen put her hand on Skera-Kina

s back and guided her to an upright position.

There now, my pet, let

s sit you up.

Skera-Kina stared at the queen with disbelief.

Who are you? Why did you save my life?

Xiiltharra smiled in a way that was probably intended to be motherly, but which only looked frightening.

I am Queen Xiiltharra, monarch of Brighthollow and the northern lands, descendant of Llewellenir. I am also your sovereign leader, by the terms of the Brighthollow Pact.

Skera-Kina looked even more confused.

Who am I to you, then?

Xiiltharra smiled again.

You are a means to an end. Each person has a unique purpose. That includes you, Skera-Kina. Your purpose is about to be fulfilled. Observe, and you shall understand the wisdom of my decision.

Xiiltharra turned her attention back to the High Priest.

I am here under the terms of our Pact. This is the
second
time in the last thousand years that I

ve had to return to this forsaken island in order to enforce our agreement. I grow weary of this eternal game.

The High Priest stared at her in horror.

The Brighthollow Pact? I thought that was only a myth!

Xiiltharra

s feral blue eyes narrowed.

Yes, that

s what one of your predecessors said too, before I killed him. I will teach you your place, as I did him. The Balborites are strictly forbidden from owning, breeding, or raising dragons. The pact is explicit and binding, and yet you have attempted
once again
to steal dragon eggs for breeding. That is a direct violation of our pact. As such, your life is forfeit.


But I didn

t know,

the High Priest whispered.

I didn

t know!

Xiiltharra went on as if she hadn

t heard him.

Now, normally, I do not meddle in mortal affairs, but I cannot allow this crime to go unpunished.

Skera-Kina stood up and touched her swollen throat. The rope left a bright purple bruise around her neck. She walked over to the elf queen and addressed her without fear.

Why did you save me? I chose this path, and my oaths cannot be broken. I no longer wish to serve the priests

or anyone else, for that matter.

Xiiltharra smiled at her.

I think I can convince you to change your mind.


I took a blood oath

it cannot be broken. I am forced to serve the Temple until the end of my life. My only escape from this bondage is death.

Xiiltharra held up her other hand to silence her.

You
misunderstand
your oath. It is not set in stone and can be changed if necessary. Today, you will get to choose between slavery and freedom.

  Then she turned to the High Priest.

You have broken the pact with faerie by attempting to steal dragon eggs. Your crime is indefensible, and frankly, I have indulged the stupidity of your people long enough. Thankfully, I believe I

ve found a solution to all my problems.


By the gods! What are you going to do to me?

he cried.

Xiiltharra lifted a finger, and the High Priest

s mouth clamped shut like a vise.

Silence. Do not speak.

The High Priest tried to open his mouth to respond, but all that escaped from his lips was a choking sound.

Xiiltharra removed a silver chain from around her neck. A black key, carved from volcanic glass, hung at the end of the chain. It was so black that it seemed to radiate darkness. Xiiltharra slipped the key from the chain and pressed it into Skera-Kina

s palm.

Skera-Kina examined the key in her palm. She didn

t look fearful, only curious.

What is it?

Xiiltharra smiled.

This is the shadowkey of Balbor. I created it myself, eons ago, when the Brighthollow Pact was signed. I slew the last of Balbor

s tainted dragons to make it. It is rare that I have an occasion to create a shadowkey, and even rarer that I should have to use it. Study it closely, for it is unlikely that you shall ever see another in your lifetime.


But what is it for?

asked Skera-Kina.


You

ll understand in a moment.

Xiiltharra pointed at the High Priest.

Remove your robe and step forward, Fereroaz.

The priest didn

t move.

Xiiltharra

s expression hardened.

I told you to take off your robe and step forward. Now
do it.

The priest remained frozen with fear, and the last remnants of Xiiltharra

s patience dropped away. Her face became a mask of fury.


Obey me, mortal filth!

She curled her finger into a claw and jerked it forward. The old man stumbled forward like a fish on a hook, and his fancy robe dropped to the floor. Now his chest and arms were bare.

The elf queen rubbed her hands together.

That

s much better.

Xiiltharra continued.

Now, here

s your choice, Skera-Kina. You took a blood oath to protect the Temple. Unfortunately, that oath cannot be broken, so you are bound to protect this island and its citizenry until your death.  However, your oath to protect the High Priest is somewhat more

flexible.
Since the High Priest can die or be replaced, your oath to him is not forever-binding. The oath binding you to him is weaker, so it may be shattered, with the right tools.

Xiiltharra pointed at the shadowkey in Skera-Kina

s hand.

Now listen carefully. To break the oath, you must kill the priest with the shadowkey. Take the key and pierce his heart. He will die, and you may take his place.

The High Priest almost collapsed with fear. He was now so pale that he seemed to be drained of all blood. Down on the street below, a small crowd had started to creep back into the square. There were a few soldiers too, but they kept their distance. Everyone was afraid but curious.

Skera-Kina ignored him and touched the key in her hand.

So if I kill the High Priest

then what? I would replace him? For how long? Forever?


You would replace him, but only until the end of your life. So, make your choice, child.

The High Priest

s lips parted, and he struggled to speak. 

Skera-Kina is a former slave. She isn

t fit to hold any royal office!

He babbled on in a choked whisper.

You cannot kill me, Skera-Kina! Breaking your oath will destroy your body

it will turn you into a wraith!

Xiiltharra interrupted him.

Shut up, you fool,

Xiiltharra hissed,

or I'll kill you myself

and believe me, your death shall be decidedly unpleasant!

A long moment of silence followed the queen

s words. Skera-Kina

s studied the shadowkey, contemplating her decision. Then she looked up and nodded.

Moving like lightning, Skera-Kina struck the High Priest with the sharpened end of the key, stabbing him through his heart. The High Priest screamed and clawed at the air, but he was powerless against Skera-Kina

s superior strength. The old man staggered backwards and fell. The priest shook, then gasped and lay still.

Xiiltharra stepped forward and pried the bloody key from Skera-Kina

s grip.

Excellent job, my dear. I

ll take this now.

When Xiiltharra removed the key from her hand, Skera-Kina collapsed, her body writhing in pain.


I can

t breathe!

she cried, gasping for air.

I can

t breathe!

Xiiltharra nodded.

Yes, that

s a normal reaction. Your body is fighting itself. It

s like a war being waged in two directions

the key protects you, while the magic of the blood oath attacks you. Just be patient, it

s only temporary. I can help you.

The elf queen knelt down by Skera-Kina

s side and scraped her neck with the key, drawing blood. Then, Xiiltharra placed the key against Skera-Kina

s chest.

The elf queen

s hand glowed pink against Skera-Kina

s tattooed skin, and she muttered a long incantation. There was a sharp smell of burning flesh, and when Xiiltharra pulled her hand away, the key was fused to Skera-Kina

s chest.

Skera-Kina

s breathing steadied and slowed. She counted fifty breaths, and then sat up slowly. She glanced down at her chest and touched the implanted key. It was hot to the touch. Her face registered neither discomfort nor fear, just surprise.

Xiiltharra swatted Skera-Kina

s hand away.

Do not attempt to remove it. Not ever. The implant must remain for the rest of your life. As long as the shadowkey remains in your physical possession, you shall live without pain. The scars will diminish over time. How do you feel?


Good. Better than I

ve felt in a long time, in fact.

Skera-Kina wiped a streak of blood from her arm and stood up.

What happens now?

Xiiltharra smiled.

Now we leave you. As long as you respect the pact, you won

t see me again. I suggest you check the priest

s secret library and make yourself familiar with the Brighthollow Scroll. All the terms of our treaty are outlined there. I made certain that the scroll survived. I

ve deactivated the wards on the island as a measure of my good faith.

As the elf queen climbed down the steps, she called out to her dragon, who was waiting for her below.

Atejul! Come to me.


Yes, Mistress,

the green dragon growled, slithering forward and lowering his neck so the queen could climb into the saddle. F
ë
anor and Amandila took their cue from the queen and mounted their own dragons.

Tallin walked over to Skera-Kina. He felt awkward.

Are you pleased with this arrangement?

BOOK: Kathir's Redemption (Book 6)
5.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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