Authors: Carole Cummings
Copyright ©2012 by Carole Cummings
First published in 2012, 2012
Not enough (because there will never be enough) thanks to Jenni, who loves me enough to beat me over the head with a tree until I see the forest. To Linda, who lets me borrow the brain, even though I always return it folded, spindled, and mutilated. To my LJ Enablers—Caroline, Connie, Donna, Julia, Marinella, and Marlene—who alternately wave pom poms and shake sticks at me, depending on what I need at the time.
To my husband, Eric, who continues to love my weirdness and continues to be proud of me. To the rest of my family—Jenna, Rachel, Eric Jr., Olivia, Aidan, Ellie, and Ethan—for existing and acquiescing to coexist with all the people in my head. And to my mom, my dad, my stepdad, and all my sisters and brothers, who apparently always knew I could, even when I didn't.
Finally, to The Readers. Because “putting it out there” is not an easy thing, but you make it worth the angst.
Once Jejin, the land ruled by the Jin, until they were conquered by the Adan.
The people of Ada. They shared a close relationship with the Jin until the Binding War, when the Jin used their magic against the Adan and so severed the kinship. Decades later, the Adan overrode the Jin and began stamping out those of the Jin who had magic.
and mortals. They were once the guiding Voices of the Untouchables, who spoke for the Ancestors and advised the Jin, until the violence of the Binding War sent the Ancestors mad, and thus the Untouchables.
Magical beings who were once maijin but who have angered their god in some way and been banished. They maintain their magic but can no longer draw strength from their god and so must draw it from the emotions of the mortals around them.
A term of respect for one's teacher or master.
An alternate title for Untouchable. Their purpose is to serve as a channel and Voice for the Ancestors, and to influence individuals and events per the Ancestors’ wishes.
A term used by the Jin to describe the point at which a child with magic begins to manifest his/her powers.
Ada's guard unit, like a police force.
A guard of the Doujou.
A derogatory term used to describe an Untouchable.
Bear, Dragon, Owl, Raven, Snake, Wolf. Each god is represented by his/her namesake moon and reaches his/her apogee of strength when his/her moon is in its primary Cycle.
A country to the north of Ada.
The paradigm upon which the Untouchables were molded. Nonmagical beings and servants of Fate whose job it was to influence world events to Fate's desires. They were deemed too dangerous generations ago and stamped out by the gods.
The land once ruled by the Jin until they were conquered by the Adan. The Adan annexed Jejin and made it a part of Ada.
A magical people of the land once known as Jejin before the Adan overran it and took the Jin prisoner. Jejin is now known as Ada. The Jin are descendants of the Ancestors, who were themselves descendants of Temshiel.
A particularly vicious dog, known for its “happy puppy” appearance and used for guard dog purposes.
A country to the south of Ada.
Tsunami; tidal wave
"Children” of the gods, but more involved with mortal concerns. Maijin are magical beings whose purpose is to interpret the laws of their gods in the mortal world and carry out the gods’ orders. Meant to balance out the Temshiel and represent mortals, where Temshiel represent the gods. Each maijin is sworn to only one of the six gods but must obey the laws of all of them.
An honorific used to address a woman, as in “ma'am” or “madam."
An honorific added to the end of a woman's name.
A word that means “ghost” in the Jin's language.
An honorific added to the end of a man's name, used as an address, like “Sir."
"Children” of the gods. Some
were once mortal and some were created whole by the gods.
are magical beings whose purpose is to interpret the laws of their gods in the mortal world and carry out the gods’ orders. Meant to balance out the maijin and represent the gods, where maijin represent mortals. Each
is sworn to only one of the six gods but must obey the laws of all of them.
A country to the south of Ada.
An individual of Jin descent who hears the Voices of the Ancestors. Known also as Catalysts, their purpose is to serve as a channel and Voice for the Ancestors, and influence individuals and events per the Ancestors’ wishes.
Storm-month, Year 1322, Cycle of the Wolf
He hadn't been expecting to see Jacin again so soon. He certainly hadn't been expecting to see him before the small hours, and yet here he stood, rain-soaked and hollow-eyed, in the doorway of the little hut, blinking about himself like he'd forgotten why he'd come. Joori's mouth quirked up in an uncertain half smile—right up until he saw the two men who came up to stand behind Jacin in the doorway.
His first instinct—
hunters? bandits? was Jacin some kind of hostage?
—was to yank Jacin through the door and slam it shut. Too bad his body's first reaction was to freeze like a rodent beneath the shadow of a hawk's wings.
Joori was still gaping like an idiot and didn't catch Caidi before she made a run at Jacin, so she was rather open prey for the man who stepped forward to intercept her. Jacin didn't move—Joori couldn't. Just watched the man swing his little sister up onto his hip with a grin Joori didn't quite believe—more wolfish than friendly—then cut a narrow glance at Morin and a mocking one at Joori.
"Kamen Malick,” the man said, “you can call me Malick,” then he tipped a nod at Morin and spared a quick smile for Caidi as he tweaked her nose before turning his cool glance back on Joori. “Friends of your brother's. We're here to take you somewhere safe."
The other man, the big one, pursed his mouth in clear disapproval. “You plan on telling everyone you meet your real name?"
You-can-call-me-Malick just grinned. “It's Fen's family,” he said, like it was a perfectly reasonable retort.
Handsome. Friendly-seeming enough. The other man was big and blocky, a little bit scary, maybe, but not threatening, though a broadsword hung at his hip. The one who called himself Kamen Malick was armed, as well, but no weapons were drawn, which had to be a good sign—right? With Jacin just standing there, somewhat glassy-eyed, You-can-call-me-Malick smiling, all amiable amusement, and the other waiting in the doorway like an attentive steward, it all seemed absurdly unthreatening for a sudden appearance in the dark of night with a storm rolling steadily. And the statement—
; could it be possible?—really should have set elation through Joori, not raise his hackles the way it did.
It was the hand on Jacin's shoulder that made Joori's eyes narrow. The casual way You-can-call-me-Malick tipped in and spoke something quietly into Jacin's ear as he set Caidi down and gave her a pat between the shoulder blades, then gently pushed her away from Jacin. The impossible to mistake marks just below Jacin's ear. And then the way Jacin merely peered at Joori, then at Morin and Caidi, said, “Take what you can carry; the cart's only big enough for Caidi and a few provisions,” then angled stiffly away from the door and out from under the grip on his shoulder to direct Caidi and Morin with the packing.
Joori had had his suspicions for years about what Asai had wanted with his brother—hell, he'd been pretty sure he knew exactly what Asai was about the night he stepped arrogantly into their dooryard—and Jacin's reticence and unwillingness to talk in detail about the man at all in the weeks they'd spent in this little hut had drawn conclusions of every sort of abuse and exploitation Joori could fathom. And he'd be damned if he'd see it done again—not in
name, never again.
He pushed past the cocky stranger with the too easy grin, growling a little at the way the man tried to angle himself between Joori and Jacin, like he was trying to keep Joori away—keep
away from his brother; how
the man—and took hold of Jacin's elbow.
"Jacin, what's going on? Who are these people?” And then he peered a little closer. “Are you
? Or...?” His eyes narrowed, and he wheeled on the grinning stranger. “What've you got him on?"
You-can-call-me-Malick's eyebrows drew down. “What've I
"I can barely see the color of his eyes for the pupils, and he looks like he's about to fall over."
"Joori, not now.” It was snappish and short. Jacin pulled his arm away from Joori's grip. “They're who they say they are. This is Malick. And that's Samin."
He waved at the man still standing like a block of stone just outside the door. Good thing too, because the hut was only so big, and Caidi was taking up half the floor with the pile of clothes through which she was sorting with Morin's help. Caidi was chattering excitedly, while Morin kept half a cagey eye on everyone in the room.
"Yori and Shig are keeping watch outside,” Jacin went on. “We're taking you to a safe place in the city. Get your things."
"A safe...?” Had he really said “a safe place"? In the
? Was there such a thing? Joori looked around. At Caidi and Morin obediently throwing together all the clothes Jacin had brought. At the man Jacin had called Samin standing out in the rain on the other side of the door, watching everything going on inside while simultaneously scanning the yard. At the other man—this Malick—smiling that self-satisfied smile, eyes far too focused on Jacin, even as he crouched down beside Morin to help shove balled-up clothes into a sack. At Jacin, making his stiff way over to the rickety board and staring down at the piles of food, like he couldn't decide what to do about them....
"Leave it,” Malick said quietly. “You won't need to worry about it anymore."
...at the way Jacin just nodded vaguely, compliant.
Joori gave Malick a bit of a glare as he stepped up behind Jacin, annoyed when Malick simply widened his smirk and shook his head, like Joori's distrust amused him. “Jacin,” Joori said, leaning in so he could speak softly, for Jacin's ears only, “are you sure this is real?"
Jacin turned to Joori slowly, gaze a touch murky, but by no means muddled. He was pale, going sallow, with twin spots of color on each cheekbone. “As real as I can manage,” he muttered, dropping his glance guiltily to the floor. Half moons like bruises blotted the thin skin beneath his eyes, and his jaw was clenched so tight Joori would swear he could hear teeth squeak.
"What's wrong with you?” Joori demanded. “You looked fine last night.” A little shredded around the center, but otherwise all right. No, that wasn't true, really—he'd looked exhausted, too, and there'd been...
thing. Something in his eyes.
"Nothing that won't keep.” Jacin tried to smile a little, but the ghastly thing that crooked at his mouth only knocked up the worry blooming in Joori's gut. “We don't have much time,” Jacin said. “I didn't know... I had no idea....” He paused, dipped his head again, and rubbed at his temple. “Asai...
, Joori, I'm so sorry, I never—"
"I think that's got it all,” Malick cut in, shouldering past Joori to pull up beside Jacin. That too-possessive grip went once again to Jacin's arm. Tawny eyes settled far too keenly on Joori as long fingers curled around Jacin's braid. Smirking. Silent laughter bubbling just beneath it. Like he knew exactly what Joori was thinking, and thought it terribly funny. “We should go, Fen."
"Yes,” was all Jacin said. He reached out and gave Joori's shoulder a quick brush as he squeezed around him.