The Jewel of Kamara (The Delthenon Chronicles)

BOOK: The Jewel of Kamara (The Delthenon Chronicles)
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The Jewel of Kamara

 
 

 

Bridie
Blake

Text
copyright © 2013
Bridie Blake

All rights
reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9923517-1-7

 
 
DEDICATION

 

To mum and dad.

For everything.

 

~1~

 

IN A TIME BEFORE THE PALACE

 

 

The
moon sat high above the convent of Kamara. Silence had fallen over the region
and surrounding villages. The only sounds to be heard were the soft hooting of
the creatures of the night and the gentle rustling of the leaves as a light
wind settled in.

A
sleek black dog stood motionless in the courtyard. His eyes darted back and
forth from one side of the courtyard to another, as if searching for something.
His tail thumped into the dirt as he saw a cloaked figure slipping out of the
dorms, sweeping their fingers over the stone wall as they crept along, sticking
to the shadows. The figure came to a stop at the wall and pushed one of the
stones forward to reveal a hole. The dog ran forward and leapt through the
wall. The figure followed him through and together they set off into the
surrounding trees.

Their
feet moved quickly yet made no sound on the dirt below. The ground inclined the
deeper into the trees they went, until they were completely immersed in the
dense forest. The dog,
Tilaw
, hated this part of the
journey. His feet began to drag and his breathing became more labored. But he
wouldn’t give up.

He
soon felt the breeze on his tongue and quickened his pace. Just ahead of them
was the clearing they were headed for and the stream he longed for.

“You’re
late,” a gruff voice hissed as they broke free of the trees.
Tilaw
ignored the newcomer and bounded over to the cool
water.

“Be
grateful I’m here at all. I’m being watched closely at the moment. I wouldn’t
be surprised if I woke up tomorrow shackled to my bed.”

Tilaw
sensed the anger in the soft voice and trotted
over to show his support. His owner sighed and removed the cloak. Long black
hair fell over slight shoulders and down to a slender waist. Tempani of Amarill
shook it off her face and out of her big brown eyes.

“Let’s
get started. I don’t have long.”

“Did
anyone follow?”

Tempani
rolled her eyes. “I haven’t been followed in five years. Why would they start
now?”

“You’re
being watched. Why?”

“I
don’t know,” she hissed. “There are whispers that a palace official is on their
way to the convent. They’re probably just worried that I’ll bring shame to my
fellow novices.”

The
man couldn’t help but smile. It was true that this young lady was no model
novice. She wore the white shift and headpiece, but beyond that she followed
none of the rules set out before her.

“Are
we working with our swords again?”

The
man shook his head and thrust a bow into her hands. “You must learn to shoot.”
He stepped out of the shadows, allowing his eagle, Kwahi to swoop in and perch
on his outstretched arm.

Nika
was an imposing man. He was tall, his copper skinned body was lean and his
muscles strong. He wore his long black hair pulled back from his face and held
in place by a band, and he wore nothing except for a tattered pair of breeches.
But it was the markings on his back that she admired the most. The name of his
Kalaowin tribe, the Ikra tribe, and below that, a symbol. A circle with a
jagged line through the middle. She asked him once what the symbol stood for.
Did it have a meaning?

“The
future.”

And
that had been the end of the conversation. She had tried to push him further,
but he wouldn’t have it. When Nika was done, that was it.

“When
am I ever going to need to shoot? I’ll never have to hunt for my own food,” she
whined, sounding more like the privileged young noblewoman she could have been
instead of the serene daughter of the convent she was.

“Life
is full of surprises,” he muttered. He fitted an arrow for her and pointed
towards the red circle he had marked on an oak tree. “Widen your stance, drop
your elbow,” he instructed.

She
huffed but did as she was told. Like she always did.

“Pull
your hand back so that it’s touching your mouth. Good,” he said. “Now breathe
and release.” He knew she wouldn’t miss. She’d excelled in every skill he had
taught her since she had stumbled across him five years ago.

It
had been a cold winter’s night, snow was but a day away, yet this young girl
had decided to go for a wander that evening. Trailing behind her was a black
dog, panting as they wound their way through the trees. She reached the
clearing where they stood now and sat down on the muddy ground. She sat for
some time. She didn’t move, didn’t fidget. She just sat and hummed a song to
herself. A boy, a few years older than she, stood silent in the trees and
watched. He knew who she was; they all did. But he was told to stay away. The
dog had whined and pawed at his mistress.

“Shh
Tilaw
. He will come,” she whispered.

Her
humming grew louder until she started to sing. The boy gasped. The song was
sacred to the tribes, and they had been told that she knew none of their ways.
That she lived the Kamari life and had renounced her Kalaowin roots.

She
heard his gasp and smiled. “See
Tilaw
, he’s here.”
She stood and walked to where the boy stood. “I am Tempani.”

“Nika,”
he said nervously.

“Did
you like my song Nika?”

He
nodded.

“You’re
to be my friend then. I had a dream last night that I sang that song and a
friend came along. You must be that friend.”

And
from that night they had become friends. Each night he waited in the clearing
for her, and most nights she turned up. First they just talked. He only spoke Kalaowin,
and she loved talking her mother’s tongue with him. She told him stories of her
childhood and her new life in the convent, and he in turn told her stories of
his tribe. She loved his stories, and it was after one such story that she
demanded he teach her how to fight like the people of his tribe. With a sword,
her hands and her body. In return she would teach him to speak Kamari. And thus
they began their lessons.


Tempani
woke to the sound of bells chiming at the first sign of daybreak. She groaned
and rolled over, stretching her arms above her head. Her muscles ached as they
did whenever Nika taught her something new. She listened as the other novices
rose from their beds and filed into the bathhouse silently. It was reflection
time in the convent. Not a word would be spoken until after the morning’s
prayers and lunch was served. It was the longest part of Tempani’s day.

With
a sigh she pulled herself out of bed and followed the other girls. Soundlessly,
they removed their robes and sunk into the hot springs. And like every other
morning Tempani tried to ignore the stares from any newcomers in the group and
some of the old timers.

Even
in the convent, the most understanding and forgiving place in the kingdom, it
was not accepted by all that a half-blood should share a bathhouse with
pure-blooded Kamaris. Over time the novices would find peace with it. Well,
Mother Chennai believed they would. But the stares still unsettled Tempani.

After
the bathhouse they shuffled off to the Chapel of the Gods. This was the only
chapel in the kingdom that worshipped all the Gods combined and therefore
attracted pilgrims from across the lands. She shivered as she entered the cold
Chapel before dropping to her knees in front of the shrine to the Goddess
Allarah and beginning her morning prayers. During her afternoon prayers she
would kneel before the shrine to the God Windel. It was part of her daily
routine to pay homage to the Goddess of her mother’s people and to the God of
her father’s people.

Tempani
wondered if she was cursed or blessed by the fact she was a half-blood. Most of
the time she was proud to come from two strong heritages, but every now and
then she wished she was a pure-blood, either of her mother’s blood or her
father’s. When she was younger she would place her arm between both of her
parents’ and ask them why they all looked different. Her father would laugh and
say “I came from a God, and your mother from a Goddess, but you, you came from
somewhere even more special than that. You came from the two of us.”

That
was back when they were happy. Before the incident. She used to think her
father was the greatest man in the kingdom. The famous Sir Otto of Amarill,
whose good deeds stretched from one end of the kingdom to the other. But then
all of that changed in the blink of an eye, and the love that had surrounded
her from the moment she was born was gone. And she was sent here to the
convent. Ripped away from her home, her brother, the villagers she had grown up
with and everything that she knew. She was handed her white shift and headpiece
and went from being Tempani of Amarill to Daughter of the Convent.

The
bells chimed to signal breakfast, and she followed the other novices to the
hall. She held back a groan as her bowl was filled with the same bland porridge
she had eaten every morning for the past five years.

She
forced down each bite and wondered why the nuns didn’t keep some of the fruit
and vegetables they grew here for themselves. Instead they sent them off to the
estates that struggled to feed their people. She knew it was a kind thing to
do, and the right thing to do, but surely they could keep some for themselves.

Around
her the novices sat with their heads bowed as they ate, thanking the God Windel
for each mouthful. Tempani thought it was a bit extreme and never joined in,
but she would never mock it aloud for fear of slighting the Great God. She was
just thankful that it took their attention away from her.

She
wiped her mouth clean and handed her bowl over to the nuns who cared for the
kitchen. She snuck a glance past their shoulders and frowned. Stew for lunch.
Again. She missed the feasts she used to take for granted at Amarill and when
they visited the city. She would groan and grumble about certain foods she
didn’t like, but right now she would eat them in a moment.

They
were to attend to their chores before returning for lunch, which for her meant
cleaning the stables and mending her clothes. Mother Chennai had assigned her
there not long after she had arrived. She had a fondness for animals, and they
took to her without much of a fuss. It was in the stables that she had met
Tilaw
, and the two had been joined at the hip from then on.

After
lunch she would work in the vegetable garden, and in the evening she helped
tend to the sick. The convent was the only place in the kingdom of Kamara that
allowed women to heal. It was a sacred place, and it was here that Mother
Chennai taught those who showed glimpses of magic how to use it to heal.

It
was when Tempani was helping people that she felt a sense of purpose. When she
was younger she hated her lessons in being a lady, and at the convent she
despised her reflection times. But as soon as she took her first step into the
infirmary with Mother Chennai, she knew she had found her calling. She wanted
to be a healer. The only problem with that was the law that said any woman who
practiced magic outside the walls of the convent was to be arrested and hanged
in the city. And if King Wimarc had his way, the sacred protection of the
convent wouldn’t exist.

Tempani
was in the infirmary late that night when Mother Chennai approached her. She
reached out and took the young lady’s hands. “My daughter, shall we take a
stroll together?”

They
walked around the grounds, taking their time and enjoying the unusually mild
night. It wasn’t long before
Tilaw
fell into step
beside Tempani. She absently patted his head.

“Your
time with us is coming to an end, my daughter. You have heard whispers no doubt
that someone from the palace will be paying a visit to us shortly. They will be
here on an order from your father to deliver you to his manor in Fenella.”

Tempani
came to a stop and stared at Mother Chennai in disbelief. Surely this was not
happening. Sure, she didn’t belong at the convent, but Fenella would be even
worse. All she wanted was to go home to Amarill.

The
older woman smiled sadly. “I know your relationship with your father is not
what you want it to be, but this will be your chance to rebuild it. He wants
you with him in the city. That’s a step in the right direction.”

“He
only wants me there so he can marry me off, and we should not pretend it is for
any other reason. I knew that as soon as I was of age he would come calling. At
seventeen what other option is there for me?” She had been expecting this from
the moment she had turned fifteen. It had been two years of not knowing if she
was staying here or leaving.

“What
is there to fear from that? You can marry a nice man, settle on his land and raise
your children. Is that not what you want from life?”

Tempani
met her eyes. “Look at me. Look at my skin,” she said. “What is the point of
pretending that anyone will see past these things?”

“Have
you heard the tale of the First Council of the Great Gods?”

She
nodded. “My mother used to tell it when we were little.”

“Do
you care to tell it to me?”

BOOK: The Jewel of Kamara (The Delthenon Chronicles)
10.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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