Read The Silent Army Online

Authors: James A. Moore

Tags: #epic fantasy, #eternal war, #City of Wonders, #Seven Forges, #The Blasted Lands, #Sa'ba Taalor, #Gods of War

The Silent Army

BOOK: The Silent Army
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JAMES A. MOORE
The Silent Army
Seven Forges, Book IV

This novel is gratefully dedicated to Phil Jourdan and Paul Simpson for keeping me in line, and working miracles on the edits. It is also dedicated to Marc Gascoigne and Mike Underwood because I enjoyed the hell out of our conversations at World Fantasy.

Special thanks to every reader who has followed along with me through this tale. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. Special thanks also to Penny Reeve, for all that you do that so very few people get to see.

Table of Contents

The Blasted Lands

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

About the Author

ONE

The kings gathered together, those of them who were near the place where Canhoon had once rested in the ground, and stared at the vast landmass rising above them.

It was an impressive sight. Canhoon, surely the oldest of the cities in the Fellein Empire, a vast city with millions of inhabitants, had risen into the air, soaring higher and higher until it seemed only a little larger than a fast ship.

Tuskandru stared at the retreating stone cloud and felt his jaw clench. He had been patient. He was ready for a proper war.

Next to him, Tarag Paedori crossed his massive arms, which was an impressive sight in full plate armor. Tusk would not have thought it possible, though he’d never worn such heavy armor himself.

“I do not like sorcery,” the King in Iron mused. “When I meet this wizard you’ve spoken of, I plan to kill him first.”

“He is not so easy to kill, I expect.” Tusk looked away from the dwindling city and back at where Canhoon had been. Most of the city had risen, but everything between the Mid Wall and the Outer Wall was still there, broken and scattered by the tremors caused when the city rose. Only Old Canhoon had taken flight. Tusk could see people there, looking out from their homes or simply wandering around, shocked by what had just happened. It was not a common occurrence to see a city rise into the air and fly away. Where once the city had been, a deep wound now lay, so vast that it was hard to contemplate. Waters from the river were already raging into that gash in the earth and in a day or so it would likely be a lake.

“What now?” he asked

“Kill the people left behind. And then…” Tarag Paedori removed his massive iron helmet shaped to look like the face of his god, Truska-Pren. “Then we chase the city.”

“How?”

“It is a very large target, Tusk. And it does not move so quickly that we cannot follow. Sooner or later we will have a chance to find our way to the heart of that city. The Daxar Taalor would not call us to war if it was not time for the Great Tide. This is merely an effort to escape from the gods. It will fail.”

Tusk nodded his head and then gestured for Stastha to call for war.

She raised her horn and gave the signal. Immediately the Sa’ba Taalor who followed Tusk stopped gawping at the dwindling city and prepared themselves, calling out their praise for Durhallem.

“To war!” Tuskandru’s voice rang out in perfect unison with that of Tarag Paedori. “To war and kill your enemies!”

More horns sounded, but Tusk barely noticed. It was time to honor his god with offerings of blood and bone. Tusk lived to serve.

The three figures walked across the silence of the Blasted Lands, moving at a steady pace. They struck an image that was not easily forgotten in the vast desolation. A heavy layer of dust covered them like a mantle, spilling from their hair and drizzling down their clothes. There were two men and one woman. The first of the men was a massive brute, a towering member of the Sa’ba Taalor, with gray skin, long dark hair and eyes that glowed in the growing darkness. Next was a young woman who seemed almost childlike in comparison. Her hair, though currently hidden by dust, was thick and blonde and curly and her heart-shaped face bore a blank expression that made her look younger still. Behind them, the other man moved on, his head lowered toward the ground. If he saw anything at all it was only the blanket of fine dust and ash that covered the world around them so completely.

The first of the trio was called Drask Silver Hand. His name came from the fully functioning metallic hand at the end of his right arm. In the past someone looking at his silver limb would have been able to clearly see where the flesh and the metal had been placed together; there had been a deep seam of scar tissue and open spaces where the fusion of skin and silver had not fully connected. That scar was gone now, replaced by thin tendrils of silver that pulled the flesh close to the metallic hand.

Drask looked at his hand several times as he walked, watching the silver threads pulling and tightening. It was a fascinating process for him. He flexed his metallic hand, watched the tendons, real and artificial alike, pull and turn.

To his side, sometimes lagging behind, came Tega. The girl was still in her teens, and her skin was soft and flawless where Drask was hard and his flesh marked by hundreds of scars, some fine and some substantial. Her eyes were blue and did not glow with the same inner luminescence that marked all of the gray-skinned Sa’ba Taalor.

Trailing behind the both of them and never looking up from his feet, Nolan March plodded steadily along. He had the swarthy complexion of a northerner. His hair fell around his shoulders and draped down in front of his face like a veil. Anyone who could have seen his face would have been surprised by how calm he looked, as that was not usually the case. Nolan was not known for his patience, though he was now disturbingly placid.

They did not speak. Though they walked at a solid pace they appeared to be in no urgent need of reaching a destination.

They did not stop to eat or drink. They simply walked across the desolate wasteland. Two of them looked to where the City of Wonders now rode among the clouds. Nolan March did not look up. He was no longer capable of lifting his head. He had lost that ability when Drask broke his neck. By rights he should have been dead, but that was true of all of them.

They walked on in silence, fully aware of the gods and all that surrounded them. Drask’s face did not carry his usual expression. His brow was knotted with concentration as he considered the implications of what was happening to him, and what had happened when he fell into the liquid fires that fed the Mounds. Those vast structures, long forbidden his people by their gods, were no more. They had shattered when the energies far beneath them bathed three mortals in what should have never been seen by any but the gods themselves.

To the unwary observer, it might have seemed that they were struck dumb by the things they had seen. That was not the case, at least not for Drask. He simply chose not to speak as he considered the information moving through his skull, ricocheting through his mind like a burst of lightning captured inside him. Power coursed through his body, but he was not yet certain what it was meant to do. He supposed what was happening to him happened also to the others, but he did not contemplate that fact much as yet. He was still adjusting. The silver hand was the very least of the changes going on inside his body. It was simply the most noticeable.

The lack of a raging storm on the vast plain should have worried him. For his entire life, for over a thousand years, the Blasted Lands had raged around the Seven Forges. The mountains were still there, visible from even this vast distance, but the storms were gone, the cold had abated, and the dust and grit that had scoured flesh and stone alike for a millennium was now a fine powder that buried his feet to the ankles if he stood still for too long.

He had long since accepted the voices of the Daxar Taalor as they spoke to him. The gods of his people whispered in his mind, spoke through the Great Scars they had gifted him with over the years, and were his constant companions in many ways. They might not always be speaking but they were always present. They were still there, still in his mind, but now they did not speak. Like him, they were contemplating what he had become.

Or maybe they were fearful of what he would decide to do with the power that was now inside him.

He looked to Tega and she in turn looked back. He could sense the changes taking place in her. Could sense the metamorphosis taking place within the chrysalis of Nolan March’s flesh, as well.

The gods had not prepared him for this, for any of this. The power inside him roared and flashed and bloomed throughout every fiber of his being, though to see him from outside, a person would not have guessed.

He did not know what they were becoming.

Still, it would be interesting to find out.

“So, are we walking back to Fellein?” Andover looked out across the Taalor Valley, which was already changing, losing the vitality that had made it stand out so much from the Blasted Lands beyond the edge of the mountain.

They stood once more upon Durhallem, the great obsidian mountain. Above them the volcanic heat still melted the ice, but there was something different now, something lacking that Andover Lashk could not quite place.

Delil stood next to him and stared out at the foliage in the valley below.

“No.” She touched his shoulder with her hand and then pointed out into the valley a good ways off, closer to Wrommish than Durhallem. Where she indicated, there was motion. Whatever was down there was large enough to shake the trees and rattle the ground.

“Mound Crawler?”

Delil shook her head. “It’s not violent enough for a Crawler.”

Andover looked at the sway of the distant trees and nodded. He had still never seen one of the gigantic beasts and he was perfectly fine with that, though there was a part of him that was deeply curious.

Tusk had killed a Crawler by himself. The thought was staggering.

“This feels wrong. All of it.”

“The world is changing, Andover. The Daxar Taalor have willed it and now we must follow through with their desires.” She sighed and pointed to the Blasted Lands. They had been standing together when the world shook and the light filled all of the raging, frozen hell beyond the mountains. The very clouds coming from the Seven Forges had flared silver and white for several seconds and then the winds that had roared against the sides of the mountains since the gods had lifted them from the ground had suddenly ceased. He had not been aware of how much the distant roar of those winds could always be heard until they were suddenly silenced.

“We need to hunt for what is down there before we head for Canhoon?” Andover asked.

“What is Canhoon?”

“Where the Empire is now if Tyrne was ruined.”

“Yes, we do.”

“It’s a long walk.”

“It is as long a walk as the gods decree, Andover.” He flexed his hands and looked at the disturbance far below.

“What is down there, Delil?”

“There are many tests before any of the Sa’ba Taalor. If you would have a mount, you must tame one. What you are seeing below are new mounts. They are angry and they are hungry and they will try very hard to kill us.”

Andover felt his stomach flutter at the very idea. He had grown so used to fighting that he sometimes forgot to be afraid. The mounts, however, were a good reminder. Delil had explained that nothing in the Taalor Valley was accidental and that nothing went to waste. He was not quite afraid. He knew fear very well, had been intimate with the sensation many times, but they no longer spoke as often as they had in the past.

The Broken, the Pra-Moresh, these were creatures made by the gods. They were obstacles for the Sa’ba Taalor to overcome.

Below, in the valley, the leaves of trees that had always been green and vibrant were changing, shifting into shades of brown and gold, and fiery orange and red hues. Delil had already expressed her shock at the notion and had only calmed down when Andover explained that the leaves always changed where he was from.

BOOK: The Silent Army
7.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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