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Authors: Callie Kanno

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BOOK: The Threshold Child
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Adesina knew it would do no good to argue. E’nes was an
inexperienced warrior and not capable of being rational at the moment. There
was still a small chance that they could return his body to his family without
too much trouble. If a problem arose on the way home, they would deal with it
then.

She began to wonder how many other lives had been lost. She
wondered how many L’avan had been left behind. The group of prisoners seemed
awfully small when she considered the likely number of those they had not been
able to rescue.

Chapter Fifty: Escape
 

The L’avan traveled silently through the narrow tunnel, listening
for any sign of being followed. They moved as quickly as they could with the
wounded and the weak. Adesina tried to measure the distance, but eventually
lost track. It was clearly longer than the tunnel that led to the seashore, and
she was fairly certain that they were heading in a different direction. She
chided herself for not questioning Kendan about where this passage would lead.

After what seemed to be many hours, the group came to a stop.
Adesina moved to the front to see what was going on.

L’iam had come to the stone wall that was apparently the end of
the passageway. He ran his hand over the surface, trying to find some way through.

“Did Kendan mention how to open this wall?”

She shook her head, not taking her eyes off the stones. Her
vyala
tinted her vision dark green, and
she searched for the mechanisms that would lead their way to freedom.

Nothing.

It seemed to be a solid wall, with no means of escape.

Adesina broadened her search, feeling a desperate, sinking feeling
in her stomach. There had to be some way out. Kendan would not have led them to
a dead end.

Her eyes turned to the floor, which was more pitted than any of
the ground they had covered so far.

A soft sigh rushed over her lips. “A tunnel.”

L’iam looked at her anxiously. “Another one?”

She nodded and got down on her knees. She tugged at a thick piece
of slate that covered a hole in the ground. It was just large enough to fit one
person through at a time.

Further inspection revealed a rickety ladder descending into the
darkness. Adesina moved without hesitation to be the first to climb down.

L’iam glanced at her in concern. “Be careful.”

She gave her old confident smile. “I always am.”

The incredulous expression on his face turned her smile into a
grin. Then, with a jaunty flick of her hand, she sent the ball of energy down
the hole and grabbed hold of the ladder. The wood was damp and slightly slick.
She tightened her grip and moved slowly, so as not to fall.

The tunnel remained very narrow for the first several feet, then
it unexpectedly opened to what appeared to be some sort of cave.

A thin stream fed into the cavern, filling the floor with two or
three inches of water. Adesina surveyed the area carefully before encouraging
the others to follow.

Getting the wounded down was the hardest. Eventually, Adesina just
told them to jump, and she used her
vyala
to bring them down gently. She was wondering how to get Ravi down when he
suddenly appeared at her side with Me’shan still on his back.

She looked at him in surprise. “How did you climb down the
ladder?”

He smiled mysteriously. “There was no need for me to do so.”

A frown creased her brow. “What do you mean?”

“Do not trouble yourself,” he reassured her. “The Rashad are quite
adept at overcoming physical barriers.”

Adesina was going to question him further, but her attention was
called away by her brother, who was among the last to descend.

Her sight tinged orange and she called up, “I am ready.”

E’nes carefully dropped Sa’jan’s body, and Adesina buffered it’s
fall. She kept him hovering above the water until her brother was able to reach
them. He took the body of their friend in his arms as one might carry a child.

Tears fell freely down his face and his expression was weary from
carrying the body for so long. Regardless of that, he trudged forward and
refused any offers of help.

L’iam was the last to climb down the ladder. He carefully covered
the hole with the pieces of slate, making sure there was no sign of their
passing. When he reached the ground, he looked to Adesina with a questioning
expression.

She pointed north. “There is a small stream that leads the way
out.”

He nodded and addressed the group. “We will follow the stream out.
It must lead above ground.”

They all began walking, once again in silence. They were still far
from safety, and the fear of discovery kept them all subdued.

The stream slowly became wider as they went along, and the ceiling
of the tunnel got lower. Eventually they were all walking hunched over, and the
water was up to their calves. Not long after that, they had no choice but to
crawl on their hands and knees.

The water proved to be a blessing in disguise. It was much easier
for E’nes to drag Sa’jan’s body along with the stream to buoy it up.

At length, a light could be seen ahead of them through a small opening
that led above ground. Adesina crawled through it first, studying the
surrounding area cautiously before beckoning the others forward.

They were in the shelter of the trees, but it was difficult to
immediately decide their exact location. Not far from the stream there was a
small shack and a pen with horses. Adesina silently indicated for the others to
stay where they were and to keep quiet.

She crept up to the shanty and peered through the window.

There was a man bend over the fireplace, cooking something in a
pot. Although he was dressed in the garb of a farmer, she was certain that he
was a Shimat. Why else would he be positioned at the entrance to the Sharifal’s
secret escape with horses at his disposal?

She glanced around, looking for some way to draw him out of the
house. She quietly moved back to the group to speak to L’iam.

“I will need your help,” she whispered.

He nodded without question. “What do you want me to do?”

She pointed away from the shack. “I need you to circle around that
way and come towards the entrance of the building from the woods. Make as much
noise as you can, and claim that you are lost.”

L’iam nodded and moved off to do as she instructed. Adesina turned
to her brother, who was crouching with the others.

“Take the L’avan back a ways and hide in the trees. We cannot
afford being discovered now.”

He looked at her in concern. “What are you planning to do?”

She gave a quick smile. “Nothing too dangerous. Now, hurry!”

Before he had a chance to protest, she was making her way back to
the shanty. She sat with her back to the wall and waited to hear for L’iam’s
approach.

It wasn’t long before she heard him blundering through the
underbrush and occasionally crying out in pain. He truly sounded like some sort
of inept traveler who had never encountered such an environment. Adesina
couldn’t help but smile at his performance.

The Shimat heard him as well, and was standing in the doorway when
L’iam came into view. The L’avan prince spotted the man and stumbled forward
with an expression of relief on his face.

“Oh! Thank goodness I found you! I have been completely lost for
days! Please, can you tell me where to find the nearest village?”

The Shimat walked slowly towards L’iam, appearing to be friendly
and speaking in the accent of a poor southerner. “No village for miles,
stranger. How you cummot to these parts?”

Adesina didn’t give the man the chance to get within attacking
range of L’iam. She bolted from around the corner of the house, drawing her
dagger as she went.

The man turned on her readily, but was momentarily surprised to
see her Shimat uniform. He rapidly recovered, and his response was very quick.
So much so, that Adesina underestimated the speed she would need to overcome
him.

He grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the dagger and struck the
upper arm as hard as he could. Adesina cried out in pain as she felt the bone
break.

The dagger fell from her hands, and the Shimat rushed to pick it
up. As he bent, Adesina spun and brought her heel down on the back of his neck.
He lurched forward, and the momentum crashed his head into a large stone on the
ground. He crumpled where he was, and moved no more.

L’iam hurried to her side, touching her arm gently. “Are you
hurt?” he asked anxiously.

She cringed and nodded. “I think it is broken.”

Their heads were brought around as they heard the snap of a twig
several feet away. The L’avan were all moving to join them now that the danger
was averted. Most of them were staring at Adesina with expressions of awe on
their faces. Some of the eyes also held traces of fear and suspicion.

She knew how she must appear to them: she was a L’avan, but she
wore the clothing of a Shimat and she clearly had Shimat training. They must
have wondered whether or not she was really on their side.

Adesina turned away, not wanting to look at their wasted faces.
They all bore the signs of starvation and exhaustion, despair, beatings, and
numerous unspeakable atrocities. They all had suffered greatly at the hands of
those who wore the same uniform as herself.

L’iam, who seemed to know what she was thinking, put his arm
around her in a gesture of trust and loyalty. He addressed E’nes as he led her
away from the crowd.

“We can rest here for a few minutes, but no more. Saddle the
horses and see if there are any supplies in the building.”

E’nes nodded and began directing the others. Adesina heard
snatches of conversation as they walked into the trees.

“Who is she?”

“Surely no L’avan would become a Shimat.”

“Perhaps it is just a disguise.”

“Did you see how she attacked that man?”

“Well, if Prince L’iam trusts her…”

“What if this is all some sort of trick?”

It was a relief to escape into the quiet of the trees. L’iam sat
her down and began feeling her broken bone. His expression was grim, and she
reached over to touch his furrowed brow with her finger. She smiled when he
looked up.

“It is not that bad.”

He gave a small laugh. “Only you would think that a broken arm in
the midst of being pursued by a group of deadly assassins is ‘not that bad.’
Not to mention those who are wounded and our lack of transportation.”

She glanced back in the direction of the shanty. “Well, we have
five more horses now than we had before. It may not be as much as we hoped, but
it is a lot better than I feared.”

When she looked back at him, he was studying her thoughtfully.

“What?” she asked.

For a moment it looked as if he was going to change his mind, but
then he spoke. “You could probably heal yourself.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

The idea appeared to take hold of him. “You could use your
vyala
to heal yourself.”

Adesina slowly shook her head. “Ravi said that healing was a
dangerous art for those who do not know how to do it. He said it can be fatal.”

L’iam inclined his head. “Yes, but healing oneself is quite
different from healing someone else. It is easier for one’s
vyala
to heal the body in which it
resides, rather than doing so to a body unconnected to it.”

She still felt uncertain. “I do not even know where to begin.”

He gave her hand an encouraging squeeze. “Healing is about
harmony. It is finding those places within yourself that are in discord and
returning them to a state of peace.”

Adesina raised an eyebrow. “How do you know about this? You are
not a healer.”

He laughed again. “Any L’avan can learn about the gifts of the
Serraf, even if they do not possess them. However, it merely remains a theory
without the correct abilities.”

After a minute of thought, she shrugged. “I suppose it is worth a
try.”

Her heart began to race as she connected to her
vyala
. She couldn’t decide if it was
fear or excitement.

It was almost like when she would use her
vyala
to study the environment, but her sight was turned inward and
glowed a bright yellow. She was hyperaware of the beat of her heart, the flow
of her blood, the shift and movement of each muscle. She could see her own
body, as if she had stepped outside of it and was looking in.

Bruises had formed underneath her skin, and more would most likely
make their appearance within the next few minutes. Her immune system was
fighting an illness brought on by fatigue. She probably wouldn’t have been
aware of it for several more days, until the symptoms began.

Her
vyala
led her along
gently, touching here and reviving there. She finally came to her broken arm,
which was a stain of gray in her yellow tinted vision. She wasn’t sure what to
do next, but her
vyala
seemed to know
without her guidance.

BOOK: The Threshold Child
4.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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