Power’s Shadow: Chapter 14, Part 3

Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Some loose ends are harder to tie than others.

 

 

Chapter 14, Part 3

“Oh, I never said I didn’t know who collapsed the overhang. I just said it didn’t matter. And it doesn’t…yet. I did, however, destroy the exit, yes.”

They found Prince Dolan and the other men resting from their efforts at the pit. He gave Marta an odd look.

“We heard what sounded like a rock slide. I’m glad to see you’re both all right.”

“We are. We found where the bandits were getting in, but the crevice has collapsed. A skilled mountaineer could still reach it from that direction, but no one else.”

Prince Dolan looked thoughtful. “Perhaps that is for the best.”

“I thought so too,” Marta said. “Are we ready to leave?”

“Almost.”

The three men kneeled by the pit and Dolan began to sing. Marta recognized the song as a hymn to Amatok. When he was finished the three of them went down to the stream to wash some of the dirt off. Marta and Sela waited by mouth of the cave until they returned. Their clothing was a bit worse for wear, but they appeared refreshed, if weary. After they had all climbed back down and rejoined the rest of their party there was still an hour or so of daylight left. Marta suggested they move on and no one objected, there being little interest in sleeping on the blood of the murdered pilgrims. They were not quite out of sight of the cliff cave when there was another rumbling, and a cloud of dust billowed out of the opening before it sank in on itself, leaving just the barest crevice to suggest where it had been.

First Law, Marta thought.

“Also likely for the best,” Marta said, as Prince Dolan looked back.

Dolan looked as if he was going to say something, thought better of it, and said something else. “No doubt you are right. Still, it’s a pity. It was a lovely spot.”

“Yes. Now it can remain that way. And perhaps those unfortunate pilgrims will find peace.” Continue reading

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 14, Part 2

Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Since the schedule is being disrupted slightly I’ll go ahead and post the installment for Monday now. For the installment on the 25th I should be back on track.

Chapter 14, Part 2

 

Sela’s scowl could have curdled milk. “Now, if only we could say the same about you.”

Marta just shook her head. “Longfeather, I am going to do you one last favor—I am going to change you back into a goshawk until tomorrow morning. Use the time to travel to Goandel, and meet us there in about three days’ time. If you are not there I will assume that you have disobeyed me again and I will turn you into something that can’t cause trouble for anyone. Ever. Do I make myself clear?”

“Very clear,” Longfeather said. “But I thought you were already done with me.”

“I have thought of a use for you. It won’t change my decision, mind, but you are going to do something to repay at least a small amount of the harm you’ve caused, and what you would have caused by throwing your lot in with the people who put you in that cage.” Marta leaned close to the cage amd told Lonfeather what else was expected of him. He clearly was not happy about it, but Marta took no heed of that. “Now go.”

In a moment it was done. Longfeather hopped through the bars of the cage but instead of flying away immediately, he fluttered up to land on the top of the cage and turned to face Marta again.

“Before I go, I was entrusted with a message for you.”

“From whom?” Marta asked.

The goshawk that was Longfeather shrugged his wings. “I think ‘from what’ might be more accurate. She called herself Amaet, but I don’t think she was human. It was the way she appeared, glowing like a star, and then vanished that made me suspect.”

Marta held very still. “Oh? And what did Amaet say?”

“She said to tell you ‘I’m waiting.’ Those words exactly.”

“That was all?” Marta asked.

“Yes, mistress,” he said.

“Then away with you. And remember what I said.” Continue reading

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 13, Part 5 — Conclusion

 

Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Reunited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 13, Part 5 – Conclusion

“Be Careful,” Marta said.

“Always.”

Bonetapper launched himself off the rock and flew up toward the entrance to the cave. Once he was there he did a quick swoop past the opening, then again. On the third pass the landed on the lip of the entrance and looked into the darkness. After a few moments he called down to them. “No one in sight, but it does go back some distance. There’s a rope ladder anchored here.”

“Throw it down, if you can,” Marta said.

There was some rustling and squawks of complaint which drifted down, but not the ladder.

“Bonetapper?”

“Give me a minute. I’m only a raven and this thing is heavy.”

“Stand clear of the edge,” Marta said. “Man.”

“Got it,” said a less harsh and croaky voice from above. “Coming down now.”

The rope ladder rolled off the edge of the cave. It didn’t quite reach the top of the rockfall, but close enough to grasp. “I’d really like to be a raven again,” said the voice. “This feels very strange and uncomfortable.”

“Done,” Marta said. In another moment Bonetapper flew out of the cave.

“I know he’s really a man,” Sela said. “And yet….”

Marta shrugged. “A raven was the form my mother chose for him, and in that form he’s been the most useful to me. He’s had the chance to rid himself of it before, and yet here he is. Sometimes I think he’s simply a better raven than he ever was a man. Sometimes I think he knows it, too.”

Kian spoke to Loken who then shed his helmet and hauberk. He belted his sword back in place before he took hold of the rope ladder and started to climb up.

“Bonetapper, watch the cave. Warn us if anyone shows themselves,” Marta said.

The raven flew back to the lip of the cave and perched there. “Still clear,” he said.

Kian sighed. “I can see the advantages of having such a one for a scout.”

“I can see the advantages of having a bodyguard who is not easily flummoxed by such things as witches and talking ravens,” Prince Dolan said. Marta thought he was trying not to smile.

“I’m from Lythos, originally,” Kian said. “Such—forgive me—unusual things were not so unusual there, at least by reputation. Though I have to admit that I don’t think I believed even half of what I heard until now.”

“Once you accept the notion of a talking raven, the walls do tend to come down,” Prince Dolan said. Continue reading

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 13, Part 4

Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Fall down go boom.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 13, Part 4

The two archers placed their shields at either side of the entrance to the shelter, using their feet to prop them in place. One shield was hit immediately and another arrow buried itself in the dirt, but the two men both drew and loosed almost at the same time and there was no answer from the overhang right away. Sela darted out and returned with the second arrow.

“Lady Sela, what are you—“ Dolan began, but she cut him off.

“Highness, whoever they are, it’s safe to assume they have more arrows than we do, so we might need every one we can get. Besides, I’m not a fool–by the time any of them can mark me, I’ll be out of sight.”

“Yes, but—“

“Highness, she’s right,” Dolan’s bodyguard said. “They’re not bad archers, and we’re certainly in danger. But I haven’t seen anything to convince me that we have any masters among them. Kev and Loken are in more peril, and poor Akan is stuck under the wagon.”

“We can’t stay here,” Marta said. “And if we try to leave we’ll get picked off. As your bodyguard pointed out, Highness—they’re not bad archers.”

Dolan frowned. “True, but we’re safe from arrows in here and they don’t dare a direct assault, even if they can get down here. Only four? Feh. Kian could handle that many by himself, and he won’t be alone.”

Marta was a little embarrassed to think that she only now knew the names of their companions other than Kian, but there were more pressing concerns, as Kian was quick to point out.

“Your Highness flatters me, but all our supplies are in the wagons which we can’t reach. The bandits—for so I presume they are–can wait longer than we can. But at least we know now who was responsible for the murder.”

“Sir Kian? I understand your scout discovered a killing?”

“In here, in fact. Look at the dirt by the entrance, Lady Marta.”

Marta did so. What she saw was that it had been disturbed. Further into the shelter, the floor became rock, but the first few feet were bare earth, and it looked as if someone had turned it with a spade. Bonetapper hopped down to the ground, gave a sniff, and fluttered back up to Marta’s shoulder.

“Blood,” he said. “No bodies buried, but there was definitely blood. Human.” Continue reading

Power’s Shadow: Chapter 13, Part 3

Powers-Shadow-Rough-3Trapped.

 

 

 

Chapter 13, Part 3

“I’m thinking that we may not have a choice.”

When Prince Dolan returned, he confirmed both Bonetapper’s report and Marta’s own suspicions—the pass was simply too narrow where they were to turn the wagons around until they reached the way station. “It’s against my better judgment, but I think we have to go on, and assess the situation at that point,” Marta said. “Unless you think we can back the wagons all the way to the border?”

Dolan nodded. “Not really, so I’m inclined to agree. All my men know to stay alert regardless, but especially so now.”

When he had rested for a bit Marta sent Bonetapper back up the pass, with instructions to scout but otherwise keep below the level of the cliff, as he had also reported that there were many nesting birds of all sorts established there who did not take kindly to ravens in their territories and were more than willing to demonstrate that opinion en masse.

“They’d do the same thing to any raptor in the area, I’d wager,” Marta said. “Such things do sometimes curtail Bonetapper’s freedom of movement.”

“So a goshawk wouldn’t have been any more useful,” Sela said.

“Rather less, considering the goshawk,” Marta said dryly. “At least Bonetapper generally does as he’s told.” Continue reading