Authors: E. J. Godwin
Tags: #General Fiction
Book Three of
THE SILENT TEMPEST
E. J. Godwin
Table of Contents
No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission by the publisher or author.
is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, dead or alive, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by E. J. Godwin.
Maps copyright © 2015 by E. J. Godwin.
All rights reserved.
Edited by Erica Orloff,
Editing for Authors
Cover art by Anita B. Carroll,
Wars are not won by the sword.
For the heart is the greatest battlefield,
a silent tempest from which there is no escape.
- Allera, 2nd Underseer of Spierel
A Wraith’s Promise
Immortality is no blessing.
- from a letter believed written by Grondolos.
like hours as Telai helped Soren carry Caleb Stenger back to the village. The bitter cold sawed in and out of her lungs. Her arms and legs trembled on the verge of collapse. Yet each glance at Caleb’s ashen face inflicted a grief far stronger than physical pain. His son Warren was gone, ripped from their lives by the same evil spirit that had enslaved her ancestors.
The sun was cresting the horizon by the time they stood on the porch of the mercantile store. A cold wind blew in though the shattered window. The roof lay open to the sky, and only countless splinters of charred wood and a few torn rafters were all that remained of the destructive fury of Heradnora’s power.
Caleb was growing paler by the minute, and there was no time to look for better shelter. Once inside, they lowered him onto a tattered blanket, and Soren fired up the stove while Telai tended to Caleb’s wound. A narrow gash angled across his forearm, soaking the torn shirt sleeve she had used as a bandage. He had lost a lot of blood. But the wound was not so deep as she feared: his flesh had only grazed the point of Soren’s sword. She applied pressure for a while, then dressed his arm, using proper bandages found in the wreckage.
Soren was next, wincing as Telai applied some salve and wrapped his scorched hands. Afterward they set up a crude mattress of straw near the stove, cut away what was left of Caleb’s shirt, and covered him in blankets. She helped Soren tie ropes between the walls and hang several sheets of canvas to keep in some of the heat.
From that point on Caleb’s pallor improved, his chest rising and falling in an easy sleep. She sat by his bed, her hands trembling, fighting to hold back a storm of anger. She knew Caleb bore injuries deeper than any light could reveal—cruel, unforgiving wounds of the heart and soul that could take a lifetime to heal, if ever.
Meanwhile Soren searched the debris for the rest of their belongings. Telai knew he needed to leave soon: Ada must be warned, and quickly. But she wished he would sit down and talk to her first, to provide the comfort and strength Caleb would need from her when he awoke.
She lifted her head, then clenched her eyes shut. Warren’s ivory carving rested on Soren’s bandaged palm, its broken leather thong dangling to either side.
Such a small, quaint thing—yet all the more hideous because of it, a symbol of betrayal now instead of hope. Soren waited for her to take it, but her hand refused to obey. She was terrified of what it would cost her to touch it again, to feel the physical, undeniable evidence of Warren’s abduction. Then Soren crouched down, draped the necklace around her neck, and retied the thong.
Telai found room in her heart to smile. It was so like him to use deeds instead of words.
“A good meal would help restore your strength,” he said. “But I need your help. I don’t think my hands can take a hot stove right now.”
Telai rose with him, knowing what he really meant:
Better to be up and doing than moping around.
Though she would never stop longing for that warm blanket of devotion every daughter required, these small gestures of respect and discipline-cloaked words were all he was capable of giving. What mattered now was Caleb, and the unspeakable tragedy that had befallen his son—another child who might never speak the name
Noon passed by the time they were finished. Telai cleaned up while Soren continued searching the wreckage for anything else they might need.
She was scrubbing the last utensil when he barked out her name. She jumped, spilling the wash pan, then with a curse spun around to scold him.
Soren stood facing the front of the store, his hand drifting to the empty scabbard at his side. Telai followed his gaze.
The ladle she held slipped to the floor with a clang. Barely visible against the sunlit canvas, a luminous, oval-shaped cloud floated near the corner of their makeshift little room.
“Who are you?” Soren demanded.
Telai’s initial shock faded. Faint thoughts drifted through her mind like mist shadows on a moonlit night, full of sorrow and regret, insistent yet reluctant at the same time. Whatever purpose this wraith-like presence intended, she knew they had nothing to fear from it.
Soren stepped forward. “Answer us, wraith!”
She set her hand on his arm. “I think he has.”
“How? I didn’t hear anything.”
“It’s hard to describe. It’s like—well, like my thoughts have sad echoes to them.”
“Then it is a man, or the shade of one, at least. What did he say?”
Telai concentrated, hoping to glean an answer from the vague impressions. “It’s hard to be sure,” she said at last. “But I’m fairly certain he’s here because of Warren.”
Soren growled. “Blast these Prophets and wraiths with their mysteries. Can’t they speak to us in plain words?”
“Please, Soren—I’m trying to listen.” She resumed her silent vigil while Soren fidgeted. “I get the feeling there’s been some kind of mistake on his part,” she said. “I think he wants to help.” The cloud of light brightened a little.
“How can a ghost turn back the evil we’ve seen today?” Soren muttered.
Telai ignored him. Minutes passed as the answers wandered through her thoughts like a fog, until she relaxed. “Help is on the way—though I think he’s referring to Caleb, and not help for Ada. He seems to be offering this as proof of his good intentions.”
“Is that so?” said Soren, facing the ghostly visitor again. “If you have the power to help, then why can’t you speak to us directly? Give us
proof, then we’ll consider your offer.”
The echoes in her mind went silent. The apparition hovered, motionless, as if considering Soren’s challenge. Then it slowly took form: shadows darkened between diffuse limbs, and the blurry outline of a head emerged. Yet it went no further. Other than its vaguely human shape, there was no more substance to it than before.
Now the impressions Telai felt returned with much greater force, darkening her thoughts with a profound sorrow. A quick glance told her Soren felt it, too. There was no doubt left she was speaking to a living entity, not some ghost or illusion.
A faint voice echoed as if from the bottom of a pit.
I return to make amends for the terrible crime Rennor has committed against your people.
“Who are you?” she asked.
Who I am is less important than who Heradnora is, and the man responsible for her. But you may call me Ksoreda.
“What? You’ve known about Heradnora all this time, and you come to us
? She enslaved my ancestors nearly two thousand years ago!”
Power does not bequeath knowledge. I’ve only recently learned of this tragedy, from what little your friend Géihtser was willing to reveal. Yet the Prophets can only foretell evil, and nothing of what lies beyond. There is a future!
“Enough riddles,” the Master Raén snapped. “How can you help us? And how can we trust anyone of Rennor’s people?”
The ghost wavered slightly, as though buffeted by Soren’s anger.
I understand your doubts. But you must put them aside and listen to me. Alone, you are helpless against the power of the Lor’yentré.
A shiver ran down Telai’s back. “You said help is on its way. How long?”
Soon. Before the sun sets.
“Very well,” Soren answered. “But only after I see this help with my own eyes will I hear your words.”
The ghostly light slowly dimmed.
Summon me when you are ready. But I cannot linger to debate you, no matter how justified your distrust. If she detects my presence, she will return and destroy your last hope.
Between one blink and the next, he was gone.
Shadows lengthened in the street, and the western end of the store fell into gloom. Soren planted himself in his chair, arms folded, expecting the promised rescue to come charging through the door. Telai soon lost patience with him, and insisted that he go outside to keep watch before whatever help was coming passed them by. He grabbed his coat and stomped to the door, muttering.
The day had turned calm, with a sharp bite in the air that promised another bitter night. Soren checked on the horses, then crossed the street and climbed to the upper story of the barn he had hidden behind the day before. A large hayloft door commanded a wide view to the east, where any Raéni were likely to appear, and he sat on a bail of straw by the opening to wait.
The lake had begun to freeze along the shore, and the snow-covered town beside it mellowed with the gathering sunset. Before long a patrol of three or four dozen horsemen crested a distant rise, riding toward him in unmistakable Raéni formation: two dark columns small but clear against the snow. The sight heartened him. But he had not forgotten Udan and wondered what his reception would be.
They stopped suddenly, a furlong or so away. He feared they might change their plans and ride off. A few Raéni dismounted and searched the snow in the immediate area; then they were on the move again, riding directly toward him.
Soren hurried down from the loft and ran out into the street in plain view, waving his arms. They came to a halt in front of him, their horses panting mist in the reddening sunshine. He knew their leader at once: Tenlar, Master Raén of Spierel, one of the growing number of dark-haired Adaiani who traced their lineage to Trethan immigrants. In military matters he answered only to the Supreme Raén and the Overseer. Soren managed a smile, despite Tenlar’s brief but stormy romance with his daughter so many years before. That impetuous young man had come a long way since he had taken the Oath, and was as loyal a soldier today as any he had ever met.
“It sure is good to see you, Tenlar.”
The riders shifted uneasily as their commander dropped from the saddle. He was a tall, well-muscled man, with sharp, green eyes in an otherwise pleasant face.
“Soren! You show up where you’re least expected. You missed a lot of the fun.”
“It’s only the beginning, Tenlar. I have much to tell you.”
Tenlar seemed to remember something and extended a hand to the rider at his left. The Raén placed a sword in Tenlar’s grasp, its hilt so charred and blade so discolored that it took Soren a moment to recognize it.
“Does your story include this?” Tenlar asked, giving it to Soren. “Only a smith’s fire could disfigure a Raéni sword like that.”
Soren nodded, examining the ruined Fetra in his bandaged hands. “It’s mine. As I said, there’s much to tell.” He scanned Tenlar’s company. “But my friend needs help first—if you have a medic handy.”
“The Falling Man?—the Bringer of Evil foretold by Orand?”
“He is not the Bringer, Tenlar.”
“Yet he found the Yrsten Medallion, or so I’ve been told.”
“Some might say so. This is not a matter to be discussed openly. When we’ve attended to more immediate concerns, I’ll tell you the full tale—in private.”
A hint of dread darkened Tenlar’s expression. “Of course. There aren’t any healers among us, but it would be better if the Falling … I mean, if your friend remained here in Gebi. The nearest help is forty miles north in Onayonlé. But the folk of Gebi are on their way back as we speak—including Jentis, an excellent doctor by all accounts. They should be here by sunset tomorrow.”