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Authors: Callie Kanno

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BOOK: The Threshold Child
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Fear flickered in her ice blue eyes, but she tried to cover it up
with scorn. “I am not afraid of your witchcraft.”

The young L’avan quirked an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Of course not!” Basha spat. “The skills of a Shimat far outweigh
any tricks you have up your sleeve.”

Adesina’s eyebrow arched in mockery. “I
am
a Shimat, Basha,
and much more skilled than you.”

A knowing expression crossed her hardened face. “You have not
received the same training that I have over the past year and a half. You have
been cooped up in the High City, wasting away to nothing more than a common
citizen.”

This time her opponent snorted openly. “If you are so certain of
my inferiority, then finish me off. Stop talking about it.”

Basha threw a fistful of red powder at Adesina, but her
vyala
was at the ready. It sprang up as
a shield, returning the concoction back in the direction from whence it came,
but Basha was already springing out of the way.

The L’avan ran after her enemy, away from the ball of energy’s
light and into the shadows.

She saw the form of the Shimat turn down one hallway, and she
increased her speed to head her off. She ignored the passage that Basha was now
running down and instead went down the one that ran parallel to it.

They were now completely cut off from the light, and it took
Adesina’s eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness. Again, she hesitated using
her
vyala
, not wanting to exhaust
herself before this ordeal was over. Instead, she relied on her Shimat training,
praying that she was not so out of practice that she could not overcome Basha.

Adesina stopped running as she came to the end of the corridor.
She sheathed her sword and moved up against the wall to listen for her enemy’s
footsteps. She closed her eyes against the black of her surroundings and
focused on what she heard.

The steady drip of the water. The distant sound of L’iam and Ravi
fighting the other Shimat. A cold draft of wind passing down the stairwell. The
soft shift of leather boots.

A grim smile passed her face, and she prepared herself for an
attack.

If it had not been for that barely perceptible noise, Adesina
would not have heard Basha coming down the perpendicular hallway. She
grudgingly admitted that, if nothing else, her opponent had improved in stealth
while she was away.

A quick survey of her surroundings revealed a rusty sconce on the
corner of the adjoining corridors where torches were once held. She gave
herself a small running start, jumped into the air, and grabbed the sconce. Using
the rusted handhold, she swung herself around the corner and landed a powerful
kick squarely in Basha’s chest.

The Shimat fell back forcibly, having the wind knocked out of her
with an audible grunt. Adesina landed harder than she anticipated, and it took
her a moment to compensate.

It was just long enough time for Basha to catch her breath and
roll backwards over one shoulder. She remained in a crouch, straining to see
through the darkness.

Basha attempted to spring forward to tackle the L’avan, but the
young woman neatly sidestepped it. Instead of attacking again, Basha scrambled
deeper into the shadows.

Adesina had no doubt that she would try to set up some kind of
trap, and therefore proceeded after her with caution.

Her eyes darted from doorway to doorway, searching for any sign of
movement. She eased her father’s dagger from the sheath on her belt, holding it
at the ready.

A soft swish of cloth around the far corner caught her attention,
and she hurried forward on silent feet. Adesina stood with her back against the
wall, reaching out with her
vyala
to
sense what was around the bend.

Basha’s figure was poised to strike as soon as she came into
sight.

She shifted her dagger into her left hand and then pulled out one
of her throwing knives. Using her green tinted vision, and keeping her back
against the wall, she reached around and threw the knife.

Basha’s exclamation was a combination of pain and surprise as the
blade struck her just above the knee.

The young L’avan dashed around the corner and used the butt of her
dagger to hit her enemy across the face with as much strength as she could
muster. Basha dropped to the ground heavily, unconscious.

Adesina stood over her with an expression of contempt contorting
her features. Her grip on her dagger tightened and she went down on one knee,
ready to finish the job.

As she was pressing the blade against her throat, the dull shimmer
of the hilt caught her eye.

It was amazing that the emerald enamel was visible at all, but it
seemed to be able to glimmer in the darkest black. The handle felt warm in her
hand, as if it had a life of its own, and Adesina’s thoughts turned to how it
had come into her possession.

It was no accident that Horas had given it to her, and she
remembered the loving words that E’nes had spoken as he had returned it to her
as they were leaving Pevothem. It was a family heirloom—proof that she belonged
to someone. It was a tangible tie to those she had grown to love.

Not a love in the sense that the Shimat equated with unquestioning
obedience, but the kind of love that knit hearts together and withstood all
odds. The kind of love that showed a young lost girl that she was not alone in
the world. The love that forgave her of her mistakes and brightened the hope of
her future.

In another time, the former Shimat would not have hesitated to
take the life of the young woman before her. There was no doubt that the world
would be a better place without Basha in it. Even so, Adesina couldn’t bring
herself to do it.

She was not that cold, ruthless girl anymore. She had a brother
and a father, a guardian and good friends. They all loved her and had shown her
how to be a better version of herself. She no longer belonged to the Shimat.
She was a L’avan, and the L’avan believed in mercy.

She got to her feet and looked down once more at her ancient
enemy.

“Your life is no longer your own,” she said to the unmoving form,
“because I could have taken it, but chose not to do so. This knowledge will
follow you as long as you live; and although it may be a thorn to you, it will
be the key to my freedom.”

The silence that followed those words was profound. Adesina could
feel their truth ringing deep within her soul.

She turned her back on Basha and ran towards where she had left
L’iam and Ravi. The scene that lay before her as she approached them seemed
exaggerated by the shadows cast by the ball of light hovering in the air.

One Shimat was sitting on the ground with his back up against the
wall. His hands clutched his leg, which was mangled and bleeding. The second
Shimat held a spetum and was keeping Ravi at bay. The third was bearing down on
L’iam with his sword, following blow after blow.

Hoping to provide some sort of diversion, she shouted in the
Shimat language, “Stop!”

Both Shimat looked up in surprise, pausing in their assaults. Ravi
used the disturbance to his advantage, ducking around the weapon pointed at him
and sinking his teeth into the Shimat’s thigh.

There was an audible crack as the bone snapped between the
Rashad’s powerful jaws. The man cried out in pain and fell to the ground. Ravi
took another step towards him, bearing his teeth as a warning to remain still.

L’iam, on the other hand, was just as distracted as his opponent
by Adesina’s sudden reappearance. The Shimat disarmed the L’avan prince and
swept his feet out from underneath him.

Adesina snatched one of her throwing knives from her belt and
hurled it at L’iam’s attacker. The knife struck him in the heart, killing him
instantly.

L’iam slowly got to his feet and looked at his young companion.
“Thank you.”

She brushed the thanks aside, keeping to business. “Ravi, stay
here and watch those two,” she said, pointing to the wounded Shimat. “We are
going to find the right cell.”

Her guardian didn’t look very happy with the arrangement, but
nodded anyway. She gestured to the ball of light floating above their heads,
and it settled into her palm once more.

Ravi’s night vision far exceeded that of a human’s, so she knew
that he would be fine if she took her makeshift torch with her.

As the two L’avan walked down the dank corridors, L’iam reached
over and took Adesina’s hand. It seemed a natural gesture between the two of
them now.

“Are you injured? That woman appears to be set on murdering you.”

A humorless smile crossed her face. “She has been ever since we
were children.”

He frowned. “Why?”

She shrugged. “Jealousy, perhaps.”

Adesina went up on her toes to gaze through a window in one of the
closed prison doors, but it was empty. When she glanced back at L’iam, he had
an amused expression on his face.

She returned the look. “Well, I suppose I did nothing to endear
myself to her.”

He chuckled hoarsely, “I thought not.”

In the corner farthest away from the stairway, there was a heavy
wooden door with a padlock on the bolt.

L’iam placed a hand on the door and nodded to Adesina. “One person.”

After the earlier events, she was suspicious. “Shimat?”

A pause was followed by a slow shake of the head. “There is so
much pain in the soul…I am certain it is a prisoner.”

She took a deep breath before flicking the ball of light upward
and leaning forward to pick the lock. It was slightly more difficult to open
than the previous one, but not enough to stop the determined young woman.

Drawing her Blood Sword as a precaution, Adesina drew back the
bolt and swung the door open.

A ragged figure lay shivering on the icy stone floor, and the
prisoner flinched away from the light, shielding it’s eyes and cowering in
anticipation of pain. His face was swollen and discolored from numerous
beatings, but Adesina could still recognize the face of the man she had seen in
the High City.

She was surprised to find she couldn’t move. Her feet felt like
they were glued to the floor, and her heart was racing in circles. She
struggled to fight back the tears that were forming in her eyes as she looked
at the man she had been searching for her whole life.

He squinted and stared at the two silhouettes, trying to discern
their faces. “Kendan?”

Adesina’s heart skipped a beat. Why would her father think that
L’iam was Kendan? Was it possible that her former Shar had been telling the
truth?

L’iam took a few steps forward and knelt beside the prisoner. “No,
Me’shan. It is I, L’iam.”

Me’shan couldn’t believe his eyes. “L’iam? What are you doing
here? How is this possible?”

The young man smiled, unashamed of the tears that coursed down his
cheeks. “We are here to rescue you! E’nes, Sa’jan and myself…”

It was clear that he was waiting for Adesina to reveal herself,
but she was still frozen in a sea of emotion.

“E’nes is here? Where is he?” the prisoner asked.

He nodded. “He is one level up, rescuing the other L’avan who have
been captured by the Shimat.”

Me’shan still didn’t seem to understand. “How…?”

The L’avan prince’s smile grew softer. “Well, we had quite a bit
of help.”

Not knowing what else to do, Adesina gestured to the ball of
energy, calling it to rest in her hand. The light illuminated her face, and
Me’shan gasped at the sight of his daughter.

“Ma’eve!”

“Her name is Adesina,” L’iam corrected gently.

He shook his head in disbelief. “I never thought you would come.
You should not have come.”

Me’shan got to his feet shakily, taking the few steps between him
and his daughter. He placed a worn hand on her cheek, as if he couldn’t believe
she was real.

“So beautiful. Just like your mother.”

She could barely find her voice. “Father,” she whispered.

His eyes drank her in, as if he too had been waiting for this
moment for many, many years.

As much as she wanted to savor the moment, the Shimat in her urged
for haste. The others would be waiting for them in the stables.

Chapter
Forty-eight: The Laboratories
 

E’nes watched as Ravi sprinted away from them, frozen in the
horror that they had been discovered. It was Sa’jan that spurred him into
action.

“Hurry, E’nes!”

Together they ran down the steep, spiral stairs to the level just
below. They burst through the door and stumbled straight into a surprised
guard.

Sa’jan reacted the fastest, summoning his
vyala
. He slowed the movements of the guard, then grabbed the
dagger at his side and drove it into the Shimat’s chest. The young guard fell
to his knees and then flat on the ground. The L’avan didn’t even pause to look
at the fallen form before moving on.

BOOK: The Threshold Child
12.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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