Published in Darklaw
Copyright © Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved.
Epic fantasy | 2017
KAMI MANAGED TO get Avestine alone at dinner one day to ask when they were returning to Avjakar. Silence followed, although Avestine had the answer in her eyes.
“What does Gerard say?” asked Kami, disappointed but not surprised. “Does he know he’s trapped here with you?”
“He’s practical.” Avestine shrugged. “And ambitious.”
“What about Severesh?” asked Kami. “What happens to him and Avjakar with you and Gerard here?”
“Darklaw has no quarrel with Avjakar,” said Avestine. “Only me.”
“Your brother had no quarrel with Featherwood or Ureth Mourning or anyone else, but he sacked them anyway. He won’t wait long to take Avjakar, if for no other reason than to corner us on this peninsula.”
“You can betray only someone you’re avowed to,” said Avestine. “I owe Eldon nothing. Many times you’ve said you want to stop Darklaw.”
“You don’t want to stop Darklaw. You want to own it. Rook made that clear to me.”
“Well, no one can stop my brother but me, and I can’t stop him if I have to answer to someone else.”
“Here you have the Tribal Council. You’re still answering to others. How is it that you expect to be in control anywhere? You have nothing to pay armies, no land that belongs to you.”
“What does any empire want? Tribute. Taxes. I’ll give Koledoon the lands of the Trade Empire, and they’ll give me an army.”
Kami’s mouth dropped open. “How are you going to give them the Trade Empire?” When Avestine’s eyes grew sly, Kami guessed, “That’s what you’re training these archers for? To go against Ureth Mourning and hope your brother stays preoccupied with Avjakar?”
“Ureth Mourning is in my brother’s hands, but he’s left it to his generals because he thinks it’s secure. He’s already looking iceward, thinking to add Avjakar. We can get behind him, attack through the Fulbern Forest. My archers will give us the advantage in the trees.”
Kami’s thoughts drifted to memories of the forest.
“I know you don’t like it here,” said Avestine.
“What choice do I have? I couldn’t let you kill Narayan.”
Avestine nodded slightly.
“Did you have them killed anyway?”
Avestine didn’t answer.
“I hate you.”
Avestine reached to kiss her, but Kami pushed her away.
“If you learned to bend,” said Avestine, “things would go much easier.”
“You mean my friends wouldn’t be murdered?”
“The throne will be mine again, and you will have anything you want.”
Kami stepped away. As she left the room, she asked, “Will I have my mother back? My friends? My life?”
Heavy drapes darkened the servants quarters attached to Avestine’s room, where Kami lay alone, thinking of the forest. The smoke from the burning of a sweet wood swirled with the current of air through her shutters.
She imagined the trees. She had visions in green, brown, and black among a riot of aromas, scents of decay and growth, and the impress of innumerable beasts from the smallest beetle to the largest bear. Tradition called the wilderness the domain of “Sahrot,” but Kami knew the Wild belonged not to that mad fiction of a bestial woman, but to the most ancient of gods, one older even than the Great Mother. Kami’s people knew her as “Chaos,” a divinity who had been bound, but not altogether destroyed. Hers was an impulsive spirit driven by need, want, and whim.
She shook off the intrusive sensation and tried to think of reasons to enjoy Koledoon.
The lands of the Sovereignty held plains and deserts, but few forests. She had heard of at least twenty-three tribes, originally nomadic herdsmen, now settled into their own sections of the peninsula. As friendly as the people had been, Kami felt uncomfortable in Koledoon, felt like a stranger in a way she had not in Avjakar.
A knock startled her. She pulled on her tunic and went to the door. Before she opened it, she returned to her pile of clothes and pulled out her dagger. She opened the door to Rook, who stood quietly, his mood distant. He had grown more somber since the sea crossing, as if he had not wanted to leave Avjakar either.
He walked into the room and closed the door. “I’ve waited as long as I can,” he said. “We can’t waste anymore time.”
“Your Essanti training starts now.”
Kami tossed the dagger onto a shelf. “I don’t want training, unless you’ll help me with my parry. Otherwise, it can wait.”
As she turned away, Rook spun her back.
Kami stumbled and fell to the ground. She slid away from Rook, who pursued her. He lifted her in a rough hug and threw her against a wall. Then he began to beat her, and the day dissolved in heat and blood.