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 (3 page)

BOOK: The Silent Army
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“I am Gorwich.”

Andover carefully ran his hand through the thick black mane, fully aware that his fingers could pull hair without trying very hard. Best not to anger his newest friend.

Delil sat up and winced. Her side was bloodied.

Without another word he moved to her. The fight was done, her challenge completed. Now he could help her without fear of interfering with the ritual of companionship. That was what it was. He knew that now. How else to choose a worthy rider for a mount? How else to see if a mount was a proper fit?

Deep claw marks ran down her side and scored her ribs.

He reached into a sack at his side and pulled out clean cloths. “Do you need bandages?”

She shot him a look that told him it was a stupid question; he nodded and urged her back so he could clean the cuts as best he could.

Behind her the very beast that had torn into her now paced nervously, a worried expression on the broad, feral face.

IT IS TIME, ANDOVER IRON HANDS. The words filled his head. The voice was that of Ydramil. The god spoke and Andover listened. There was no choice in the matter. Gods could not be ignored.

Andover nodded and pulled back his cloth. He was not surprised to see that the wounds had stopped bleeding. The Sa’ba Taalor were a strong race. She would heal.

He could not have said which gods spoke to Delil but he could see the subtle shift in her expression as she listened.

A moment later they were moving. The mounts went with them, and the four of them walked together toward Durhallem’s Pass.

It was a long way to Fellein and they had to be where the gods demanded in time to serve properly.

TWO

Desh Krohan looked at Merros Dulver and shrugged. “I’ve considered what you asked for earlier. Well done. I never would have dreamed up this possibility.” He referred to the general’s request to have communications passed from one sorcerer to another in an effort to save time. Considering that no horse known to man would be able to reach the city for some time, that was a request he was glad he’d approved.

Dulver was currently looking over the outer edge of the only barrier that stopped any of them from falling to their deaths. The great stone Mid Wall had been designed to stop invaders from entering Canhoon. Built by sorcerous means it had held any potential invaders at bay since it was created. Now it held the city of Canhoon together, or at least stopped the foolhardy from spilling over the edges.

Merros looked his way with wide, glassy eyes. He was shocked. A great percentage of the population felt the same way. Those few that saw Desh Krohan walking from the palace very nearly competed to look away and cower. He was the foremost sorcerer in the entire Fellein Empire. They had no doubt that he was responsible for all of this. They were right, of course, but only in an indirect way.

“Are you well, Merros?”

Usually the general was fast with a return quip. Just now, however, he was shaking a bit. “I had no idea.”

“That cites could fly? To be fair, it doesn’t happen that often.” He wanted to be sympathetic. He was trying, but he’d been here before. He’d been one of the sorcerers who made Canhoon rise in the past and sail above clouds. He’d been part of the reason for the Silent Army rising from the ground and stopping the invaders of the past. His was the sorcery that rebuilt Canhoon when an earthquake shattered the greatest city built since Korwa. It unsettled him a good deal that he couldn’t remember the details of those events as clearly as he wanted, but a lot of centuries had passed, and he didn’t know how clearly he recalled the events from his youth.

All of which, aside from foggy memories, would have made him feel absolutely spectacular about his abilities, if he had any control over the Silent Army rising from the ashes and then lifting the City of Wonders into the air to avoid the invading Sa’ba Taalor.

That was all beyond him. The Silent Army had brought themselves back to life – and, from what he was hearing, had either sacrificed or caused others to sacrifice themselves in the process. Over a thousand. One for each of the unmoving stone soldiers that now stood as silent sentinels over the entire city. Canhoon rode the winds – or at least seemed to as it moved far above the ground. How far? He could not say. He would have others looking into the matter soon enough. For now he knew that the city moved toward the east and that it was not responding to any attempts by him or the other sorcerers to tell it where to go. Not that they’d had much time to try anything.

Which was why he was here now, looking for Merros.

Merros Dulver was a good and a strong man, but he really didn’t much like sorcery, and he’d seen enough in the last few days to change his perspective about how the world was supposed to work. Little things: people appearing and disappearing in places where they shouldn’t have easily been able to go, that was annoying. Desh knew that. He’d seen the general’s response to the Sisters’ comings and goings. Only a few days earlier Desh had been asked for assistance by the Empress herself. He had avoided saying yes for as long as he could, but there comes a time when actions are required.

With one stroke Desh Krohan, First Advisor to the Fellein Empire, went from possible charlatan to man to be feared. Even now, had he bothered to look in the opposite direction, he would have been able to see the scorch marks left on the terrain by his actions. Not seeing them would have been the challenge, as the land was burned for miles.

Now this. The city was moving itself and what should have been statues at best were now surrounding the city and had come to defend the citizenry.

Merros Dulver was a little shocked? Only because the implications had not completely settled in yet. He would likely be truly worried later, after he’d given the situation some thought.

“There’s nothing under us, Desh. I can see the river. I can see trees down there, but they are so tiny…”

“They are the same size they always were, Merros. They are simply farther away than you might expect.”

“All the gods, Desh. How do you handle this?” Merros shivered. It wasn’t the surprise or the fear that caused his body to shake. It was the cold. Thinner air and colder weather were only a few of the challenges that came from their new, higher, altitude.

Desh looked out over the landscape far below, where the Jeurgis River glittered in the fading sunlight. He could see the chaos in the towns beneath them. If being on a floating city was disorienting, how must it be for the people who realized that it wasn’t a storm cloud above them, but a landmass? How deeply afraid might they be that the approaching mountain-sized structure meant their death?

“What is the other choice, Merros? Neither you nor I were ever meant to merely watch the world as it changes. We are not the sort. We prepare and we fight.”

The general nodded and shook his head. “Have you discovered where the city is going?”

Desh shook his head. “We’re… investigating. It will take a while.”

“Let’s hope whatever is keeping Canhoon this high in the air does not decide to drop us somewhere along the way.”

Desh did a few quick calculations in his head and then scowled. “Try not to put notions like that in my skull, Merros. It’s enough to wreck my cheerful disposition.”

“This is your territory, not mine, First Advisor. Might I suggest you seek a solution?”

“As I said, we’re investigating. These things take time.”

The general looked away from the view below and stared at him for several seconds. “Yes, well, sooner is better I suspect.”

“What are you so worried about, Merros? I mean beyond the obvious.”

“We are currently heading, near as I can tell, directly east.”

“Yes. I gathered as much myself.”

“I was looking at the maps yesterday. I’ve been looking at them a lot. What is the one distinct landmark that is east of us?”

“Oh. Damn.”

The mountains. Fellein was a vast continent and most of it was easily traversable but there are always exceptions. In this case the Arkannen Mountains rose from the fertile lands like the spine of a god and separated the west from the east.

“Wait. There’s always–”

“Yes. The Lishter Gap.” Merros gestured with his left hand. “It’s a lovely notion. It is also few hundred miles to the north of us.”

The Lishter Gap was the only actual break in the mountains. The granite and marble range was as tall as it was long, and the only spot aside from where the river cut through was the Lishter Gap where the Imperial Highway ran. The choice for travelers was always simple. Take the river, or take the gap.

The problem that they faced was that the cut between the mountains where the river flowed was not nearly as wide as the city. There was a very real chance that Canhoon would smash into one of the peaks, and while Desh was a man who believed in the impossible, there was nothing in his arsenal of spells that would make moving mountains easy. If there were, he’d have long since done something about the volcanoes burning to the west.

Desh had not yet discovered if there was a way to actually
steer
the city. He was working on it, granted, but there was very little time left for trial and error. Relatively speaking at least. Surely there was still time left.

Hopefully.

“Enough of this,” said Desh. “I came to find you because we have several different problems facing us, not the least of which is what to do with all of the extra people in town.”

Merros nodded. For a moment he looked decades older than his age. Then he inhaled, squared his shoulders, and with a few changes in posture and a hardening of his features he went from a worried man to a general.

He did not look at the edge of the wall again as he started walking toward the palace of the Empress. “So let us be on with it. The day is not growing any younger and I’d like sleep at some point.”

Summoning the heads of the military and the City Guard was not challenging. The Fellein Army was nothing if not efficient, at least that was what Merros kept telling himself. The men that stood before him were as stressed as he was, and they were looking to him for answers. He would give them their answers, too. Whether or not they liked them was another matter entirely.

Taurn Durst, his personal aide and one of the largest men in the entire army, bellowed everyone to attention. They quietened quickly. They’d learned what happened to those who did not respond properly.

Durst stood at attention next to Merros and waited, his eyes scanning the crowd as if he might be looking for assassins, or possibly fresh prey.

Merros stood ramrod straight and looked out at his commanders.

“Yes, we all know that the city is in the air.” A few of them chuckled. Most did not. “We are very aware of that fact. The bright point here is that the Sa’ba Taalor did not take our city. The darker news is that we are now completely isolated and facing new troubles.”

Several of the men tried to speak up and Durst shouted them down, demanding silence.

Merros took his time, looking from face to face, making sure they knew that he was talking to them, and not just talking to hear his own voice. “We have food. We have fresh water. Thank the sorcerers for that. I don’t know where they store it, but I’ve been assured by Desh Krohan himself that we have supplies enough to last us for several months. That is a blessing. There are other troubles, however. The weather, as you can feel, is much colder at this height. Any of you who have ever had to cross over the mountains know what I mean. We are going to have troubles keeping everyone warm. We need to find places for everyone to stay. That was an issue before this happened. It’s only going to be worse now.”

One of the men called out, “Not to be inconsiderate, but why is that a problem for the army or the City Guard?”

“Because we are all here together. Because if we do not have warm clothes and shelter for people, they will feel obliged to find it on their own, even if they have to break into someone else’s home, or steal their cloaks. Reprol, is it?” The man nodded. “Do you have family here?” He nodded again. “You have to work. If you are not home, who will make sure it isn’t your home that is broken into, and your family that remains safe?”

Reprol had the decency to blush and look down as he considered those words.

“Hear me out. We are all in this together because there is nowhere for any of us to go. We need to find shelter and warmth for everyone before this entire affair becomes a riot or worse. There are a lot of soldiers here. There are a lot more people who are not soldiers, who have lost everything, and who will, if they must, turn on us and fight for whatever they can reclaim. We will not let that happen. That is the end of this discussion. We will help because we must if we wish to stay alive.

“Now, I’ve put the problem on the slate for you. Let’s hear some suggestions.”

They were slow to speak, but speak they did. They had families to consider, after all.

Tataya and Pella sat in Desh’s chambers and waited for him. He was busy and they knew that, but he would want to see them, and so they waited.

They had already moved under the city and seen what there was to see. The foundation was solid. A few open gutters spilled dribbles of water from within the bowels of the city. No spare debris fell away any longer. There had been some, but it was negligible in comparison to the sheer size of the base of their airborne city.

They did not speak of what they had seen. They did not speak of the questions they had asked.

They did not speak of the answers they were given by their sister, Goriah, as she tore apart her funeral shroud and howled her agonies into the air of the cold, dark chambers where she rested even now.

Fair to say that there was little that scared the Sisters, but after the recent grisly work they’d employed him for, they were suitably afraid of Inquisitor Darsken Murdro. He had a commanding presence. He had a reputation for finding the darkest secrets and unearthing them. He was of the Louron, which in and of itself was enough to make some nervous, but now? Now he had shown them that he could wake the dead and make them tell their discoveries to the living.

BOOK: The Silent Army
13.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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