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Authors: Callie Kanno

The Threshold Child (69 page)

BOOK: The Threshold Child
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The Shimat saw the light surrounding her and hesitated to attack.
The gleam in her eyes burned coldly, sending fear into each of her enemies.

“Adesina!”

She stopped in her tracks and turned to see who was calling her
name.

Breyen stood down the hallway where the corridor widened to a
large, open area. One arm held a slight figure tightly to himself, and the
other hand held a dagger to his prisoner’s throat.

Adesina stared in astonishment at the face of Lanil, her childhood
friend. Lanil’s expression was full of fear and shock, as if she couldn’t
believe what was happening.

Behind Breyen stood several other Shimat, all holding prisoners of
their own. The face that stood out most was her brother’s. E’nes gazed back
with tears in his eyes, his face heavy with remorse that he had failed her.

Her mind was immediately racing to find a way to free them from
their captors, but Breyen’s thoughts seemed to be along the same line. He smiled
cruelly and shook his head.

“You cannot save all of them.”

Adesina considered the situation a moment more before narrowing
her eyes. “What now,
Shar
?” She spat the last word.

“Now,” he said slowly, “you will surrender to us and submit to the
Sharifal’s judgment.”

“Her judgment?” she asked harshly.

“For treason,” he replied.

Adesina clenched her jaw angrily. “And if I refuse?”

Breyen smiled without humor. “Then we will kill you and all of
your companions.”

She hesitated as she evaluated their chances of survival, but only
briefly. “You intend to kill us all anyway.”

His head tipped slightly towards Lanil. “Not all.”

This truly gave Adesina pause. After all, Lanil had nothing to do
with any of this. She hadn’t even finished her training yet.

Doubt tugged at the edges of Adesina’s mind. “I do not believe
you,” she said quietly. “She has seen too much for you to allow her to walk
away.”

He quirked an eyebrow. “Are you certain of that?”

She wasn’t.

She wasn’t really certain of anything right now. Her mind was
still working to find a way out of this hopeless situation, and was coming up
blank. If she refused, every prisoner would be executed immediately. She
wouldn’t even have a chance to save any of them. If she surrendered, they would
all be imprisoned for a while and then executed as soon as the Sharifal
returned. Even so, that gave them some time to try to escape, and it ensured
Lanil’s safety.

It seemed the better option, even if it rankled her pride.

As Adesina opened her lips to accept Breyen’s terms, a number of
things happened in quick succession.

An explosion erupted in the midst of the Shimat, shrouding them in
a thick blanket of smoke. Ravi’s deafening roar echoed down the stone
corridors, leaving fear and confusion in its wake. The Shimat scattered
initially, then hastily attempted to regroup. L’iam’s voice sounded through the
haze, shouting instructions in the L’avan language. A hand reached through the
smoke to grab Adesina’s wrist and pull her around the corner.

She was prepared to fight, but Kendan’s familiar voice murmured in
her ear, “Follow me!”

She was too surprised to resist as he ran down the halls, leading
her by the hand. By the time she had composed herself, another realization had
come to her.

“My father!”

Kendan shook his head. “We cannot go back. He will be cared for by
the others.”

Adesina’s expression hardened. She stopped in her tracks and
twisted her wrist out of his grasp. “I will not leave him,” she said flatly.

Seeing that there was no way he could persuade her, he turned and
led her back the way they had come.

She could vaguely see Me’shan’s unmoving form on the stone floor.
Her heart jumped when she saw a hazy black figure bending over him, but she
soon recognized Ravi’s figure.

“Ravi!”

He looked up in surprise and relief. “You should not have come
back.”

In spite of his words, Adesina could tell that he was happy to be
near her. “At least you will not be worrying about me now that we are
together.”

A weary smile crossed his lips. “Your unpredictable behavior
allows no peace of mind, even when we are together.”

Kendan knelt by Me’shan’s body and felt for a pulse. “He is still
alive, but he is slipping fast. You need to get him to a healer.”

Adesina set her lips in a grim line, not wanting to admit how ill
prepared they were. “First we need to get out of here alive.”

Kendan held out his hand. “Give me your scarf.”

She unwound her scarf and gave it to him. Then, knowing disguise
did no good anymore, she pulled off her hood and cast it aside. Kendan busied
himself with tying the scarf around Me’shan’s wound, trying not to gaze at Adesina’s
face, which he had come to know and love so well.

As soon as the L’avan was bandaged, Ravi got to his feet. “Put him
on my back. I will carry him to safety.”

They did as he asked, and then Kendan once more took a hold of
Adesina’s wrist to lead her down the hazy halls. Ravi followed as silently as a
shadow.

Every time the gray form of a Shimat could be discerned through
the fog, Kendan would pull her into a doorway or alcove and wait for them to
pass.

The second time this happened, Adesina whispered, “Why are you
doing this?”

He continued to hurry her along, finding his way through the smoky
maze of corridors without any hesitation. “L’iam is helping all those who are
able to escape, and will meet up with us down this way. I cannot lead you out
of the fortress myself, but I can show you the way.”

She jerked her wrist out of his hand and planted her feet solidly.
“Why?” she asked stubbornly.

Kendan couldn’t quite look her in the eye. “You know why.”

When his gaze finally met hers, she saw something there that she
thought she would never see again—something that she had half thought she had
imagined.

His dark eyes often seemed unfathomable, but right now they were
vulnerable and full of longing. There was a deep emotion there mingled with
unbearable pain.

They only looked at each other for a moment, but Adesina
experienced a flash of intuition. There had been moments of truth in the lie of
their relationship. How much had been true she was not entirely sure, but he
had felt as strongly as she had. Perhaps even more.

There was something else that she saw in that brief glance: he was
just as hurt by the truth of the Shimat order as she was. He had been asked to
sacrifice just as much. Unlike her, he did not have the L’avan to turn to for
comfort and refuge. That was why he had stayed under Signe’s power for so long.

“We must hurry if you are to get away,” he muttered and he turned
to continue down the hallway.

Adesina followed, but still had many questions. “How can we
possibly get away? Surely by now the Shimat have cut off every exit.”

His jaw clenched as he explained quietly. “My aunt intended for me
to succeed her as Sharifal. Ever since my parents’
untimely
demise, she
has been training me for the day when she will help me to take power.”

The young woman didn’t understand what this had to do with trying
to escape the fortress. She frowned as he led the way into a small room at the
end of an unobtrusive corridor.

Her confusion was momentarily put out of her mind when she saw the
group of people waiting for them in the room.

“L’iam!”

She impulsively rushed forward and threw her arms around him. He
held her tightly and asked in her ear, “Are you hurt?”

Adesina shook her head. “No, I am fine.”

He sighed in relief and then shook his head in sorrow. “I am
sorry, Adesina! I could not find your father!”

She smiled and stepped back. “It is all right. We have him.”

Kendan cleared his throat, fighting to keep the saddened
expression from his face. “We are running out of time.”

L’iam nodded and gave him a suspicious look. “Where is this escape
you promised us?”

The Shimat walked over to the far wall. “One of the advantages to
being the intended successor of the Sharifal is that she passes on information
only known by herself.”

He pushed on a small stone near the bottom of the wall with his
foot and an audible click sounded. He then moved to the wall to the left of the
door and pushed another small stone that was at eye level. Another click
sounded. Next he went to the wall on the right of the doorway and pushed near
the corner.

A small section of the wall opened to reveal a secret passageway.

Adesina nodded to L’iam and he led the way in. She counted fifteen
L’avan prisoners, including her father. Most of them were staggering as they
hurried along, holding each other up. E’nes was carrying Sa’jan over his
shoulder, and Ravi still had Me’shan on his back.

Finally it was just the former Shimat and her Shar standing in the
small room. She furrowed her brow as she looked at him.

“What if they discover that you helped us?”

He smiled briefly. “They will not.”

She shifted uncomfortably. “Perhaps you would be safer if you came
with us.”

His expression softened. “That is very kind of you. I wish I
could, but it is not possible.”

“Why?”

His dark eyes drank in her unusual features. “I do not belong with
your people. I belong here.”

Adesina stared at him in disbelief. “You are not one of them!”

Kendan’s smile widened at the adamant tone in her voice. “I am. I
was born a Shimat, and I will die a Shimat. That is the path given to me.”

The sound of footsteps could be heard approaching. Kendan grabbed
her by the arm and pushed her into the passageway. “I can give you a few hours
before they come after you, but that is all. Run!”

The wall was shut in her face before she had a chance to say
anything in return. She stood in the darkness for a moment before turning to
catch up with her companions. Ravi’s golden eyes glowed in the black only a few
steps away.

He walked beside her as they made their way down the dark tunnel.
Adesina absently lifted one hand and summoned the small ball of energy to rest
in it.

The tunnel was clearly little used. The stones were cracked and
crumbling, and the floor was pitted. She marveled that she hadn’t fallen in the
darkness. Her eyes drifted over to the form of her father, who was still laid
across Ravi’s back. His face was deathly pale, especially in the flickering
light.

“Will he live?”

Ravi was slow in answering. “I do not know. We need to get him
away from here and then see if there is a healer among the rescued L’avan.”

Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Is it a
vyala
skill?”

He inclined his head. “Yes.”

“Would I be able to heal him, then?”

His feline face became wary. “Do you know how?”

Adesina slowly shook her head. “No, but I could learn.”

Ravi was disagreeing before she even finished her sentence. “No,
Ma’eve. Healing is a particularly dangerous art among the L’avan. It can be
fatal if you do not know what you are doing.”

She reluctantly nodded. There was enough danger in the situation
without her adding to it.

Farther along the tunnel, a glimmer of light could be seen.
Adesina and Ravi quickened their pace in order to catch up with the other
L’avan.

E’nes was bringing up the rear, and looked back fearfully at her
approach. As soon as he saw her face, he heaved a sigh of relief.

“Adesina!”

“Are you hurt?” she asked.

“No,” he assured her.

His overly offhand manner immediately made her suspicious. She
gave him a look of stern reprimand. “E’nes.”

“It is nothing,” he promised. “I will be fine, as long as I am
careful.”

She was sorely tempted to question him further, but refrained. Her
eyes, instead, turned to the form of Sa’jan.

“Is he injured badly?”

The relief on E’nes’s face fell away, replaced by heart wrenching
pain. He shook his head. “I could not bear to leave him behind…”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she realized what her brother
meant, and her eyes turned to Sa’jan’s craggy face. It seemed strangely
peaceful, an expression she had never seen on his features while he was living.
She tried not to look at the wound on his chest that had stolen the life of
this extraordinary man.

“We may not be able to get him back to Pevothem,” she said softly,
pained by the words she knew to be true.

“Why not?” her brother asked.

She turned her gaze to his. “Because we will be pursued every step
of the way.”

For a moment he seemed at a loss for words. “I cannot leave him.
He has been like a second father to me.”

BOOK: The Threshold Child
3.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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