Authors: Rhiannon Paille
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Paranormal
The Ferryman + The Flame Book Four
Sometimes it hurts instead …
For fans of John Green, Assassin’s Creed and Sailor Moon.
Krishani thought Kaliel was lost forever. Slave to the hunger, and the cold, and the enemies who took everything, he longs for death. Taking shelter in a human body, Krishani finds the one thing he gave up on centuries ago—Kaliel.
Maeva doesn’t know who she is—what she is, but she knows she doesn’t belong. Hunted by her past, stalked by a boy intent on killing her, she longs to remember. Confused and alone, Maeva learns why memories are the most painful things of all.
Sorrow, Hunger, Passion, and Danger collide in the fourth installment of
The Ferryman & The Flame
Smashwords Edition – 2015
Copyright © 2015 Rhiannon Paille
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except where permitted by law. This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.
This book 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 purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover design by Mae I Design
Art Director Kevin J. Anderson
Book Design by RuneWright, LLC
Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, Publishers
WordFire Press, an imprint of
PO Box 1840
Monument, CO 80132
The Great Library
Falling was easy, falling was fun, until she hit the sidewalk, shivering and stunned.
Another explosion rang in Kemplan’s ears as he skidded across the floorboards. Something was on fire, everything was on fire, but nothing in the Great Library was on fire. Not yet. He reached the golden doors with their carved Celtic knots and checked if they were locked.
They were hot.
His heart galloped as he stepped back, his mind alive with possibilities. Another explosion rumbled underfoot. The Great Library encompassed most of the West Wing of the Great Hall, it was as big as the entire city of Orlondir, bigger than the palace, the orchards and the villages stretched across the lush landscape of Avristar. Kemplan felt sick as the golden doors blazed a bright white, threatening to burst.
The books would be ruined, pages turned to ash. Kemplan gulped and wiped the sweat off his brow. He hunched up his tiny shoulders and waddled towards the fireplace. As he passed the center aisle, something caught his eye.
The Book of Ages.
He didn’t want the Valtanyana to get a hold of that book, much less teach them how to use it. He approached the podium. A single pole shot out of a circular platform. It stretched into wings and on top was the thickest book in the Great Library. His feet melted into the platform and the podium shifted so the
Book of Ages was at eye level. He went to touch it and the pages fluttered, moving like they were caught in a sandstorm. Kemplan’s hands flew up to shield his face, his heart ticking away like an old clock. As he peered down at the blank pages, a message scrawled itself across the thin water spotted parchment.
Protect the Flames.
He gaped at the page until a howling sounded from the hallway. He slammed the book shut and left it perched on the podium. Scampering across the floor, he wrenched the golden doors open with his feeble, stubby hands. The fire was gone, owls crowding the hallway. He glanced at one cowering in the crook of the wall, a stain of blood dribbling down its wing. It ruffled its feathers and squawked, a sharp, fierce noise in the din. Kemplan glanced down the long hallway, tall billowy forms clad in fine garments gliding towards him.
He recognized Rahedra: glass-like face, midnight skin, blood red dress, long chestnut hair, green lightning eyes. The others Kemplan knew from lore. Darkesh with his dragon-like features: black scales, brimstone billowing from the large nostrils of his oversized head. Spikes jutted from his long jaw line, red lightning eyes crackled with intensity.
Grimassi didn’t look dangerous at all, but looks were deceiving. Even Morgana with her swamp water skin was deadly. Grimassi approached, unbuttoning his gray suit jacket, revealing a crisp white shirt underneath. His upper lip was peppered with white, his gray-streaked hair shorn, bronzed skin and crackling brown eyes fixed on Kemplan. He seemed no older than thirty, his polished leather shoes floating across the floor. If Kemplan hadn’t known better he would have thought Grimassi looked like a real estate agent, with a skill set that would make the secret service look like five-year-old humans.
Kemplan couldn’t believe they broke through the lower levels. If they took the Flames
Kemplan sucked in a breath and pushed himself further. Injured owls littered the corridors. He recognized one of the Scryes, but didn’t stop to help. He had to make it to the vault before they did.
This was bad.
Ever since the Ferryman and the Flame failed, the Lands Across the Stars had turned to chaos. Tor left the Great Hall and Morgana ambushed him, trapping him in a human body. Time wise it hadn’t been long, but nine thousand years to anyone else was forever. Kemplan always believed Tor would deal with the Valtanyana the way he had in the First Era, but in nine thousand years the Valtanyana gained more power, more lands, and more followers than ever before.
Kemplan came skidding to a stop.
It lay behind a thick sheet of unbreakable metal, sheathed in protection spells. Kemplan didn’t think he had the strength or the authorization to open the door. When he thrust himself forward regardless of the danger, he was surprised to see the protection spells drop. Kemplan fell into the room, the door sliding shut, casting him in darkness. He didn’t realize how weak he felt until he melted into the cool floor, his cheek pressed against the linoleum surface. He let his eyelids droop and then shot up, fluorescent lights flickering on. He remembered the message from the Book of Ages and dragged himself to his feet.
There wasn’t much in the room. After a short hallway the room opened into a circinate. Showcases lined the walls showing off various artifacts, armor, clothing, contraptions, and keepsakes. Books Kemplan hadn’t seen before were lined up in a showcase on his left. He frowned. Everything was laid out museum style. He rounded the room, staring at the items, reading tiny labels behind glass. It was awkward. His hands gripped a railing and that’s when he noticed a thick four-foot wall with black railing surrounding a caucus. Stairs led to four rows of theatre style chairs. Kemplan had no idea what to think of the cushioned seats, the drink holders, the folding mechanisms. He forgot about the Valtanyana for a moment and sat, glancing at the roof.
There was a bang at the door, and the sound of another explosion shook the ground. He gripped the black railing with his tiny fist and his knuckles turned white. When he let go his hand felt oily and slick. He wiped it on his trousers and glanced at the ceiling, uncertainty flooding him. He began muttering things under his breath as he stalked around the vault in exasperation. As he rounded the caucus a second time he caught sight of a small golden box, covered in glittering jewels. An inscription lay beside it, reading: The Flames, circa, Second Era.
Kemplan gaped. He didn’t think Tor would be stupid enough to put his most precious items out in the open on display, but glancing around the room, he realized
was the fool. Everything Tor held dear was hidden in plain sight. He sighed and searched for the catch to release the glass. Kemplan reached in and grabbed the box. He lifted the lid and there they were, five twinkling orbs lined up in the box.
He quickened towards the door and stopped. The Valtanyana were on the other side. He needed to find another hiding spot for the Flames, but the Vault was the safest place for them. There was no way the Valtanyana would ever break in. He thought for a moment and a smile crept across his face. Hide them in plain sight. That’s what Tor wanted him to do.
He reached the opposite end of the Vault, a tiny circular window etched into the wall. Outside he could see the dead expanse of space. The Great Hall was located in the center of the four corners, Avristar, Avrigard, Avristyr, and Avrigost making up the spokes of the wheel. The Great Hall was a fortress, carved out of a planet, and so the only thing he could expect from a window was the dead space surrounding them.
He contemplated his decision knowing that opening the small window would force the air out of the room, but the Flames were more important. He unhooked the twelve latches covering the thick transparent crystal. He pulled it away and buckled under the weight as it flattened him to the floor. The force of the vacuum hit him, making him gape as he scrambled to reach the Flames. Before his fingers gripped the box the vacuum pulled the orbs out of their velvet lined home and into the stars. Kemplan struggled, but his arms weren’t strong enough to lift the crystal. Air quickened out of the room and Kemplan felt his head expanding like a balloon.
He was immortal but not impervious.
Kemplan jumped at the sound of a door sliding open. He grabbed the box, slowly crawling towards the sound. He rounded the caucus as the three of them swept across the linoleum, the glimmer of shields appearing around their forms. He scoffed, they had magic and he didn’t. Rahedra drew him up, her fingers digging into his throat. He couldn’t breathe but the added constriction of her sharp nails didn’t help. They didn’t have to speak to tell him what they wanted. His fingers went slack as the box fell to the floor. Grimassi crouched and picked it up, empty. They hissed something incomprehensible between them.
Kemplan grinned. “I have nothing to give you but death.”
Rahedra growled, baring her razor sharp incisors. “You have your secrets.”
Pux kept his promise.
He stepped onto the porch at the House of Kin in Evennses on the Isle of Avristar, his flat brown eyes on the azure sky. The meadow was crowded with kinfolk from the villages in Nandaro and Orlondir, feorns, fae, and elvens playing a game of hide and seek. They weren’t Children of Avristar. The island herself hadn’t given birth to kinfolk in hundreds of years. Nowadays kinfolk came from Orlondir, but they weren’t half as skilled as the originals.
Pux squinted at the brilliant rays of sunlight hitting the meadow, lighting up stalks of tall grass with halos of gold. He watched furry heads of feorns bob up and down. Fae children flitted through stalks, glitter finding the sky, glinting off sunbeams. Scuffles and shouts pierced the breeze until one of the boys called out triumphantly, his hand raised high in the air.
So he found it.
Nak, an elven boy with whitewash blonde hair and crystalline blue eyes waltzed forward arrogantly, his leather boots thumping the ground. When he neared the porch he shot Pux a toothy grin and tossed the birthstone to the feorn. “Do we get to eat now, Elder?” he asked, the others trailing behind him. There was nothing different about the girls in their white, blue, and yellow maidens’ gowns, or the boys in their beige tunics and breeches. The only difference was the leather belts around the boys’ waists, daggers pressed neatly to their thighs.
“Aye, Kremkin is in the kitchen,” Pux said absently, tossing the orb in the air and catching it. He hated the term Elder, but he was over nine hundred years old, what else were they supposed to call him? They passed him, only a couple dozen this summer, less than last year and half than the year before. Numbers were dwindling so much lately. The Valtanyana claimed anything they thought they could exploit. Girls taken to factories in the Lands of Beasts, boys forced into warrior training in the Lands of Immortals. He shuddered at the thought of Gnosh, a Land of Dragons and Draconians.
Because of what the Lands had become, Pux was content to stay in Evennses forever. He waved away the last of the children and grabbed his staff off the porch. Wading in the knee-high grass, he moved towards a familiar break in the trees. The children had Kremkin to guide them, and an entire afternoon to waste in the lasting paradise of Avristar.
Of everything the Valtanyana desecrated, Avristar remained untouched. Maybe it was because they loved the apple orchards, or maybe they loved making Istar their pawn. Fire Festivals were so dismal these days. The sparring matches awarded kinfolk entrance to The Valtanyana’s elite force, and they were whisked away to the Lands of Immortals in a flurry of parades and finely embroidered cloaks. Pux found it blasphemous, but what could he do? Avristar and Avred cowered from the great force of the seven remaining members of the Valtanyana.
All because of one silly girl in love.
He tried not to think about Kaliel, but everything was different because of her and it stung. Nobody but Pux knew who she was anymore. Generations of kinfolk came and went, Elders died, others took their place. There were a handful of people in all the Lands that remembered her, all lore burned and buried. Nobody told the story of The Amethyst Flame and The Tavesin Ferryman.
They had good reason not to.
Pux placed his hand on the bark of a wide and tall red cedar, the only ones who still remembered the peculiar girl. He didn’t dare speak to them, their disposition changed. Instead of existing with an air of guidance, they stood frozen, constantly on guard.
Pux quickened his pace through the trees, twisting down the familiar path to the shores. He stepped over roots and dug his staff into the mud. He pushed frayed leaves out of the way, grimacing at the introduction of parasites to their paradise. They weren’t the worst a forest could endure, but small worms ate through leaves and weakened the once strong canopy above, letting sunlight crack the rich soil. He slowed as he smelled salt coming off the lake. He wasn’t fond of boats or water, but this tiny streak of rebellion in an otherwise orderly revolution was all he had. Istar didn’t understand Pux’s reasons for staying away from the Valtanyana. The Lord of Avristar didn’t know why Pux preferred Evennses over Nazole or Zanandir. Pux could have anything, be anything. Darkesh of The Valtanyana was willing to grant the young feorn a lot because of his closeness to Kaliel.
Pux refused all of it.
He promised her he would stay in Evennses and make her proud. It was unnerving, but Pux was the most skilled Elder in Evennses. He was smart, quick-witted, and wise. All things Pux never thought he’d be. On the outside he was as youthful as ever: reddish brown fur, skinny limbs, wolf-like feet. He wore the traditional brown breeches and beige tunics, a brown cloak usually pulled over his shoulders and his staff in hand. He intimidated some of the kinfolk, and always found it odd. Nobody he grew up with ever feared him, but then, most of the people he grew up with were dead. Immortality was a fragile and fickle thing.
It rarely meant forever in the literal sense.
Pux reached the dead end, two trees tightly bunched together. He didn’t need words, only a hand pressed against the bark and they parted. He blinked a few times and cleared his eyes. A long time ago, after he returned to Avristar, he took this path to the shore. Heaviness weighed on him and he fell on his knees at the foot of the same trees, finding the prickly petals of a weed. He sobbed for hours, and for days and even years, but he lost track of time and centuries passed and he tried to move on.
Only problem was, nothing in Evennses ever changed. New kinfolk arrived, old kinfolk left. The Beltane and Samhain celebrations raged on. The Valtanyana showed up in Orlondir and left with more bounty.
Pux never told them what became of her.
But he could guess.
His claws dug into the sand, the feeling of grains between his toes making him uncomfortable. He glanced at the line of the horizon, slate gray against a shimmering steel gray lake. He padded down the sloping shore and pulled at a string around his neck. On the end was a small plain whistle. He blew on the end, which emitted no sound, the frequency too low for his ears to pick up. He waited, shifting foot-to-foot in the sand. It comforted him to leave the place with all the constant reminders of the girl that left him behind.
Kaliel didn’t come when the storm reached its worse. The guards said she was gone, in the field with the Ferryman. Pux huddled in the small house with Jack and his mother Bethula until Shimma pounded on the door and in a flash of chaos and abruptness he was ripped from Jack’s home and dragged down the walkway to the backside of the castle.
“I don’t know if this will work,” Shimma had said, hair plastered to her face, lip bleeding from a cut. Pux shot her a bewildered look through the sheets of ice and snow. She snapped the seashells together and raised her hand to the sky. The lake behind the castle was relatively small and it was blocked by a stone wall at the far end of the compound. The water rippled and out of the nearly frozen water, the boat appeared. Shimma tugged him down the banks, his feet punctured by jagged rocks on the shore. Pux had cursed and let out a cry, the wind so cold frost appeared on the tips of his ears. Shimma splashed in the icy water and held a hand out to him as he looked back at the uneven bank, patches of mud, grass, and the tall stone walls of the Tavesin Hall.
“Come on,” Shimma commanded, the squall kicking water over the boat. Pux turned, unable to fathom dying in a sea of ice and took Shimma’s hand. He didn’t have time to find Kaliel and Krishani, and he couldn’t take a human like Jack to Avristar. Shimma took the staff out of the boat and pushed with all her might. Wind, rain, ice, and mist covered them as she recited the incantation under her breath. Pux peered through the sheets of snow and thought they might crash into the wall but they glided through it, the storm dissipating around them. Pux fell on his knees the moment he saw the Isle of Avristar in the distance, never happier and sadder to see his home in all his life. He had glanced at Shimma, her stern expression never wavering.
“Why?” he asked, astonished, and heartbroken.
Shimma ruffled the blue cloak around her shoulders and let out a hrmph. “I didn’t do it for you.”
In the present, Pux let the whistle fall against his chest as he waited. The boat faithfully appeared and he climbed inside, sitting on the cracked, mossy seat. He picked up the staff and pushed off the banks, reciting an incantation that would take him to Terra.
He wasn’t angry with Kaliel anymore, not for the storm that killed Jack, and not for the way she left him. He pressed his lips together thinking about the only kiss he’d ever had. He didn’t regret the kiss, no matter what kind of trouble he might have gotten into. Jack was a shy, intimate boy that was too afraid to talk to girls. What he did regret, was not saying goodbye.
He threw his hood over his head as the boat began rocking, the familiar shifts in the waves making Pux nervous. The Lands of Men really were no place for a feorn and while nine hundred years had passed on Avristar, nine thousand years had passed on Terra. Finding places uninhabited by humans was nearly impossible. He used the cloak as a means to an end, too many close calls, too many unsuspecting maidens on the banks of shores shrieking about faeries and shining people.
Things had changed considerably on Terra in the past ten years, so fast Pux was caught off guard by the growing population, the ever-evolving nature of humans. It may have happened slowly to them but in the past hundred years on Terra, the people were forgetting. They forgot the names of Atara and Istar, heroes became villains and villains became martyrs. Great civilizations fell, leaving behind the rubble and ignorance of newer generations. Pux couldn’t keep all the details in his head, too many differences to point out, but people went from building pyramids to driving cars.
The boat emerged under a sunset laden sky, orange and pink-tinged clouds streaking across the horizon. The boat slid through serene reflective waters, cutting through shapes of trees and clouds as it reached the mossy shore. Pux didn’t jump out, the water below tar black. He inched to the edge, getting a better look at the shore. Evergreens and birch speckled the land, their leaves a brilliant green. The chill in the air made him assume it was closer to autumn wherever he was. He squeezed his fist and thought hard about the shore. The depth of concentration it took to transport on Terra was amazing.
He felt the clicking in the back of his mind as the transporting took place, there was a
and when he opened his eyes he was standing on the banks, staring at the water. He didn’t wait for the boat to retreat, for the unnatural mists to camouflage it on its journey back. He heard someone shriek nearby. He froze, but the noise carried, very close. Pux crouched. He didn’t encounter humans often but when he did he played games with them. A mischievous smile crossed his lips and was wiped away by the sound of a man. Pux pulled the cloak tighter around his shoulders and moved to the nearest cluster of trees off the path. He waited, and the voices came closer. A young girl with long blonde locks skipped past, wearing pink shorts and a white tank top. Behind her was a guy in jeans and a black t-shirt, words and stick figures on it. The girl stopped at the ledge and pointed at the water.
“Not so close, Steph,” the guy said.
“Alligators!” she exclaimed.
The guy laughed. “Do you think the alligators will get you?” He picked her up and she squealed.
“Don’t throw me in!”
Pux pressed his lips together, waiting for them to leave. It used to be different. Young girls came to the forest alone and sometimes he’d show them his true form and other times he’d transform. These days girls didn’t go anywhere without their fathers and while this one was only a child, one day she’d be older, and she wouldn’t go into the forest at all.
A song began playing, some obnoxious noise Pux couldn’t place. It sounded vaguely like drums and guitar, but the sound made his ears bleed and he pressed his hands to his head ducking further into the brush. The sound cut out abruptly and Pux took a peek only to find a weird box in the guy’s hand. The guy moved his fingers along it effortlessly, stealing glances at his daughter.
“Come on Steph, time to go,” he said. The guy looked directly at Pux. Though Pux was sure he was covered by the leaves and the hood it sent chills through him. Before he could tell himself not to, he transformed into an owl with reddish brown feathers and a speckled coat. He flew out of the brush and perched on a high branch, his cloak and clothing below him. The man’s eyes followed and it was his turn to point.
“Look there, Steph! An owl!” The girl didn’t respond and the guy took a few steps towards her. “Earth to Steph …” He grabbed her by the waist and lifted her up.
“No daddy!” Her eyes were closed until he nudged her to look and when she opened them she gasped. “Owl.” The guy laughed as Pux remained frozen, his eyes locked to the girl’s. She gaped at Pux and the guy let her down, taking her hand and leading her from the water. She turned back once, trying to find Pux. Soon she crested the hill and turned the corner, out of sight. Pux fell from the branch, transforming and dressing in the brush. He pulled the whistle out of the grass and called the boat. Humans didn’t call it Terra anymore, they called it Earth. He almost forgot, having known it as Terra for so many centuries. He stood on the banks, nervousness flitting through him. He didn’t like all the new things Earth had, like those tiny weird boxes.
Mists covered the shore as the boat appeared and Pux transported, fear of human encounters forcing him to flee. Part of him hoped he’d see someone he knew. Desaunius, Atara, Luenelle … he hadn’t seen them in ages and he wondered if any of them were still alive.
After the wars the Valtanyana brought, they were probably dead.