Read Battle Cry Online

Authors: Lara Lee Hunter

Battle Cry

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014

Published by: Rascal Hearts

 

All Rights Reserved
. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

For questions and comments about this book, please contact us at
[email protected]

Chapter 1

 

Reena had heard and seen a great deal of things since the soldiers had captured her and her father. As Outlaws, they had been sentenced to die in the Arena, and she had gone into that Arena armed only with a werebane-soaked blade, a blade her father had given her. He had chosen to save her life over his own, but in the end all of them had walked out of there instead of being torn to pieces by the tigers and lions that the Governor had declared would be the cause of their death.

She had wounded a tiger and its own pack had fallen upon it; the beasts had killed each other instead of the humans and she had wound up no better than before. She had incurred the wrath of the Governor himself. He had demanded that she battle as a Gladiator to save the lives of the people who had been sentenced as well and who had walked into that arena with her. She had been forced to train under the heavy hands of Hector and Kale—both of whom had sacrificed everything for her to escape, to make it to the Outpost near the mouth of the desert where she had found the sword and to the camp of Outlaws.

She was supposed to be rallying them to fight against the Governor. Her father was still prisoner as were Praxis and Nemia. The soldier and priestess of Isis who had also assisted her would be killed if their part in her escape was ever discovered.

Dax, the man standing there looking down at the heavy old sword, wore an expression of utter awe on his face and he hefted the sword a little higher as he said, “I was wrong—this is not Barkley’s sword.”

Murmurs broke out and Reena’s heart plummeted. Barkley had created Aretula and he had crossed a desert that nobody crossed before to do it. Legend had it that there was nothing outside that desert, that the Great Wars had stripped the outlying lands of life and fertility, but lately Reena had heard many people talk of lands past the Outside, the lands that lay on the edges of the great city, past the desert. They said that there was an even greater city, and there Barkley had been a criminal.

Heidi, the woman who was trying to keep her small tribe from agreeing to go to Aretula to battle against its oppressive rule sneered out a, “Of course it is not Barkley’s, what would she be doing with Barkley’s sword?”

“Shut up!” The man holding the sword roared and everyone stepped back. As quiet as he had been until now it had been easy to overlook how large and powerful he was. He fixed steely eyes on Heidi. “You forget your place woman. We took you in because your own tribe had wearied of your tongue and your laziness. Here you found a husband and a reason to be even more bitter and viperous; we have given you room to grieve but from here on out you will take on the full duties everyone else has. I am sick of you bullying and browbeating others into doing your work, and you will be courteous or you will walk a single path. Do you understand?”

Everyone understood. Heidi’s face went scarlet and her expression said clearly that she was angrier than she had ever been, and she had been very angry. Reena had the sudden and almost uncontrollable urge to just kill her, to run a sword through her body and hope that nobody minded too much. This woman was dangerous; something in her guts told her so very clearly.

Dax turned back to Reena, “I know this sword. It looks like Barkley’s sword but it is not. It is another sword, one that—it was said—was the only one that ever bested Barkley. Of course you would only believe that if you believe that Barkley was not a hero, but a villain.”

Heidi said, still no more quietly, “Barkley was not a villain!”

In that, she had many who agreed. Reena had been to the great library however and she had heard that tale already—that Barkley had been driven across the lands because he was an outcast, not because he was the savior of the people. Even the old man, the diseased and psychotic creature who had had the sword, had told her the same thing.

She said, “Dax isn’t the only one to tell this tale. I have heard it before but not the part about the sword. I heard that Barkley was a criminal, driven out of the city across the desert…”

“There is no city across the desert!” Heidi shrieked the words at Reena. “You lying little fool!”

Silence fell. Heidi, knowing she had gone too far, blanched and began to look around at the faces surrounding her. Nobody said anything but slowly, one by one, they began to turn their backs on her.

Reena’s heart stilled in her chest then kicked back into life with an unsteady gallop that made her feel sick to her stomach. She had heard of Shunnings, but they were so rare she had never thought she’d see one!

Heidi’s face contorted with rage and fear. She was being cast out and while Reena knew this day had probably been coming for a long time, she also knew that Heidi would blame her for it, and not herself. She was one of those women who could never forgive anyone, who was a burden on her tribe. Reena had no doubt she bullied others into doing her work or letting someone’s sympathy for her plight keep them from helping her with her duties while she idled away the hours. She had met people like Heidi before, but usually they were not tolerated long and sent to look for other tribes to be a part of.

But being sent away was one thing, being Shunned another. Being Shunned meant being dead! It meant no Outlaw would raise a hand to help or shelter; her head ached as she realized that while this was not her fault she was the catalyst for what was happening right now.

As leader of the tribe it was Lucas’s duty to mark Heidi and it was also his duty to give her whatever he felt she had earned as a member of the tribe. Those possessions would be all that stood between her and death as she was sent away and into Exile.

Reena was horrified and close to tears. The faces of many in the tribe were stony but Heidi’s children were obviously baffled and terrified. One of them grabbed the hand of the man next to him and asked him why he was doing that, turning his back like that, but he got no answer. The little boy began to wail and Reena’s blood ran cold. Were they shunning her children as well? To do so meant death! They were too young to be alone in the woods and beyond! Heidi would abandon them, she just knew it.

Lucas took up a blade and went to where Heidi stood. She began to run but he caught her. Her children’s wails grew louder and Reena reached out, grabbed the two children and pulled them behind her, trying to shield them from what was about to happen.

“Hold still and it will hurt less,” Lucas said firmly.

Naturally, Heidi did not hold still. She bucked and fought, her nails scratching and clawing at Lucas’s face as he carved the mark of exile into her forehead. Reena stood silent, watching. If she did not have the right to turn her back, she was an outsider to this tribe so she was not allowed to participate in the shunning and she was also not allowed to turn her back and not watch either. It was up to her to bear witness; those were the laws.

When the mark was finished and Lucas released Heidi she scrambled backwards, her feet kicking up dust in her wake. “You just wait and see! That girl is going to bring ruin down on all of the Outlaws in these woods!”

Reena did not doubt that Heidi was absolutely right about that, after all she was an Outlaw on the run for her own life because she had escaped from the Governor’s cruel edict and the arena. Gladiators who ran were not killed mercifully, any more than Outlaws were killed mercifully. To be an outlaw gladiator — she doubted there’d ever been such a thing before and she shuddered to think what type of death awaited her back in the city.

Lucas said, “Will anyone here speak for her children?”

Reena looked around. The children were far too young to be exiled; it was obvious that their mother had no intention of taking them with her if she could get away with it. She was already attempting to scramble through the belongings that were nearest to the fire and Reena seriously doubted if those were hers. It was up to Lucas to decree what belongings she could take with her, but Heidi was obviously not going to let him decide what she got to take or at least she was going to try to get whatever she could before he could make that ruling.

An older woman stepped forward, “I will speak for them. I will keep them with me and attempt to keep them safe. I have enough to keep them in my own household. I don’t think anyone here would deny that I do my share and I will see to it that they do theirs as well.”

Lucas said, “Everyone here knows you do your share Lorna. The children are yours. That is, unless of course their mother wants to take them with her.”

Heidi, scrambling for several marked packets of beef jerky, turned and glared at Lucas. Her forehead was bleeding profusely, crimson blood mingling and matting into her blonde hair. “You can keep them,” she snarled. “I hope you know you’re sending me to die.”

Reena wanted to step in, to apologize for her unwitting part in this whole debacle, but she said and did nothing because there was nothing she could say or do. Lucas said, “You knew this was coming Heidi. We have warned you and warned you and warned you. We kept you here despite all of your faults, but we will no longer keep you with us. Go, you’re now exiled. None in this camp will ever turn their face to you ever again.

“If they meet you in the woods you will be as a ghost. That is the law of the Shunning and you have been Shunned.”

He moved towards her and removed all the items that she was holding to her chest with his hands. Heidi attempted to fight him at first but eventually it became clear to her that he was not going to stop removing the items from her grasp. Lucas said, “You came here with nothing but your children. You did not help in any way, even your husband was found lacking. It was your own fault that your husband was taken from work tribe. If you had been a better helpmate then he would never have been alone in the woods that day. It is time for you to own your own responsibility in his death and quit dragging others along with you and for seeing your grief to be a reason for us all to suffer.

“Since we’re keeping your children and they will eventually grow up and become part of the tribe and hopefully at least twice as helpful as you have ever been, I am going to gift you with a single blade, the very blade that I cut the mark of exile into your head with. Use it well. That is all you will take from this camp, aside from the clothes you stand in.”

Heidi gave all of them a hateful glare. Blood ran down her face and the rings around her eyes, created by shock and rage were as dark as the shadows at midnight. “I curse every last one of you.”

Nobody moved. To be cursed by someone was awful, but to be cursed by someone who was Shunned was to have never been cursed at all. A shunned person did not exist and so their curse could not exist either.

Heidi’s children screamed and cried and tried to follow her as she stormed out of the camp, kicking over people’s belongings as she went. Lauren held them back with her hands and arms; she held them tightly and once Heidi was gone she took them to the other side of the camp, away from the adults, so that they would have time to recover from the horrible little incident that had just occurred.

The children cried on and on, like their hearts would break, but eventually those tears and sobs stopped. The rest of the tribe gathered back around Dax, who still held the sword.

Dax asked, “Would you hear the tale of the Greatest City, and the criminals who once overran it?”

Lucas said, “Yes, tell us about it. If there is no truth to the legend of Barkley then we would know why.”

Before The Great War there were many cities upon the earth. There were twelve names known all across the globe. These were the bastions of power, of money, of civilization. These were the places where people went when they left their homes in smaller cities and towns where farmlands surrounded homes.

The cities were unlike anything anyone could have ever imagined; not even the great city of Aretula could hope to hold a candle to those cities. Lights gleamed from tall poles that stood sentinel on the long streets. Some of the buildings touched the very tops of the heavens, or so it was said. People were moved about by strange machines: machines that would roll along the streets without help from any horse or other animal. There were even machines that would take people from one city to the next, flying along the heavens like a giant bird.

But none of the cities got along. If five cities were friends than they were always angry with the cities who were not their friends. And thus began the Great War.

After the war there was destruction and desolation. All the legends agree on this. The rain rarely fell and when it did it burned flesh, destroyed birds, making them fall dead from the sky at its touch on their wings. The snow was equally deadly, and the sun was a strange color, that is when it bothered to shine it all. The oceans were poisoned and the life that had once rolled about under its waves washed up dead on the shores. There was nothing to eat except the things that the cities had stored up, which quickly ran out despite the fact that so few people had survived the war itself. Years of battles had depleted those stores long before the weapons that they used during the war killed off most of the surrounding lands.

Among the ruins rose a great army. This army was headed up by a cruel man whose only goal was to take what he could get where he could get it. Many followed him simply because there was nobody else to follow, and because with him the odds of starvation were at least slightly lower. It was said that to ride with this man’s army was to murder innocents, but to keep oneself for life.

This man’s name was Barkley.

Other books

Letters for a Spy by Stephen Benatar
Candice Hern by Once a Dreamer
The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters
The Heartbreakers by Pamela Wells
A Proper Charlie by Wise, Louise
Return to Kadenburg by T. E. Ridener