Black Bead: Book One of the Black Bead Chronicles

BOOK: Black Bead: Book One of the Black Bead Chronicles
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Black Bead

Text copyright © 2016 by J.D. Lakey

 

Cover & Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Dylan Drake

 

All rights reserved. Published by Wayword Press

 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval without permission in writing from the author or publisher.

 

ISBN-13: 978-0692609477

ISBN-10: 0692609474

 

Book Website

JDLakey.com
 

 

Contact:

[email protected]
 

 

Illustrator Website:

DylanDrakeDesignInc.com
 

 

Printed in the U.S.A

Second Edition, January 2016

 

 

Other Books in the Black Bead Chronicles:

 

Bhotta’s Tears: Book Two

Spider Wars: Book Three

Trade Fair: Book Four

Dunauken: Book Five

 

 

For

All the children of my Heart

 

 

Contents

 

Chapter One
 

Chapter Two
 

Chapter Three
 

Chapter Four
 

Chapter Five
 

Chapter Six
 

Chapter Seven
 

Chapter Eight
 

Chapter Nine
 

Chapter Ten
 

Chapter Eleven
 

Chapter Twelve
 

Chapter Thirteen
 

Glossary
 

Rank & Dome Affiliation
 

About the Author
 

 

 

 

 

The real danger

When creating a weapon

Meant to destroy your enemies

Is not that you will fail

But that you will succeed

Beyond all expectations.

 

The Book of Mysteries;

The Living Thread, 12.37.15

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Cheobawn looked up from her playthings and waited. Something had been stalking her in the shadows at the back of her mind since dawn and now it drew near. The thing stank of unnamed yearnings, unfulfilled wishes, and a hunger so deep it made her feel hollow inside. She counted its steps under her breath. One. Two. Three. On six, three young boys turned the corner, sauntered casually down the walkway that fronted the playground fence, and stopped at the gates.

“Ten,” whispered Cheobawn, watching them intently. Something about them piqued her interest. Other seekers had come. More than a few. These boys seemed different, somehow.

Was it their outer appearance that caught at her imagination? The boys were dressed like every other child in the village, in basic tunic and shorts, though these three made an attempt at looking presentable, with their damp hair pasted back against their skulls and their clothes freshly laundered, the creases still sharp from the hot irons used by the Mothers in the laundry.

Yet it was their clothes that seemed to set them apart from other boys. Cheobawn calmed her thoughts and let the details of the scene wash through her mind, wishing to solve this puzzle.

The Mothers never threw anything away if it still had use, especially clothing, since the process of turning dyes and yarns into fabric was labor intensive and relegated to the long dark days of midwinter. Clothes outgrown were simply returned to the communal stores, to be recycled and reissued to the next child in line. Time and use faded the natural dyes. The youngest children were invariably dressed in motley shades of pale.

These three boys, on the other hand, had somehow convinced the Mothers in charge of the stores to give them three almost identical outfits whose dyes were still rich and bright. Their multi-pocketed shorts were the same brown, their tunics an identical shade of green, no mean feat when one considered the vagaries of the weaving and dyeing processes.

On the surface, the uniformity of their appearance seemed prideful and vain, but Cheobawn found the effect comforting somehow. In a scuffle or an all out brawl, she imagined, it would be an advantage to tell at a glance who was friend and who was foe. Why males enjoyed solving their problems with their fists was a different puzzle that she would save for another day.

The troop of boys did not immediately enter the school yard. Instead they loitered, milling about in that jittery, wound up way universal to all little boys. It always reminded her of nervous herd animals with the smell of leopard up their noses. She did not need her psi skills to guess their purpose. Their furtive glances were drawn to Megan. The tall, slender girl, busy leading a dozen little girls in a complicated game of Dancing Molly, did not notice the boys right away.

Cheobawn slid further back into her favorite hiding place. The long thin leaves of the densely packed tubegrass curved over her head, casting her bower into deep shade. From here she could watch the world, safely unnoticed. From here she could watch the watchers.

The boys argued. It was a brief, intense storm on the ambient, quickly quashed by the leader, the loser sucking his unhappiness back behind the walls of his mind. Cheobawn sighed in relief, grateful for their self control. Such was the life in a village full of witches. One learned early to guard one’s thoughts.

Perhaps sensing the brief storm, Megan looked up and noticed them for the first time. She paused for a moment, her face betraying nothing, before turning back to her duties. Pretending indifference, she immersing herself in play with Cheobawn’s classmates, but her voice became too bright, too loud, too forced. Cheobawn grimaced, embarrassed for her friend. There would be no advantage to be had in the ensuing negotiations if the boys knew their interest was returned in kind.

Cheobawn had seen this all before, this awkward dance. As often as she watched it play out, it still puzzled her. It seemed to her that more things were going on under the surface than just picking partners. She had asked Da to explain it. He said six-year-olds were not meant to know certain things and she would understand it better when she got older. Cheobawn doubted this.

Bored, Cheobawn turned her attention back to her play. She placed another pebble carefully along the finger wide roads she had etched in the dust. The roads wound through a miniature world made of rocks, wooden toys, flowers and bits of stick and weeds. Cheobawn put her cheek down in the dust to see what the world looked like from the pebble’s point of view.

The gate squeaked open, catching at her attention. The
leader had found his courage at last. He crossed towards Megan while his mates hung back near the gate. Cheobawn smiled and lifted her head to watch the drama. This was not the first
 

demi-Pack that had come hunting Megan. It would probably not be the last. Megan had very particular standards.

The boy, Tam was his name, stopped a few paces from Megan and bowed politely. There was an unconscious grace in the way he moved that made even this formality seem less an act of subservience and more like the first step in a well choreographed weapons form. Cheobawn listened to the ambient, curious about this strange boy in spite of herself. His hunger infected his mind, preceding him in waves. He wanted so much more than what the world was willing to give him. It was a sentiment she could understand.

Hope was not a thing she usually allowed in her heart, having been disappointed far too often but there it was, filling her and making the world brighter with its promise.

She knew of Tam. She had never had any harsh dealings with him, which already put him a notch above most of the boys of the village, whose curiosity could turn cruel. The beads of his omeh, barely visible above the neckline of his tunic, marked him as a son of the Waterwall tribe. His midnight black hair, so different from Home Dome’s sandy haired denizens, proclaimed his eastern tribe origins.

She remembered the caravan that had brought him, along with the handful of seven-year-old boys acquired that year from the Eastern Trade Fair. It had been three years ago. She had marked it in her mind because the men had staggered into the village nearly frozen, the pack animals driven close to death in the mad race to get down out of the passes before an unseasonable winter storm made the high mountain roads impassable. The Mothers, the fiasco of her Choosingday only weeks old and fresh in their minds, had blamed her Bad Luck for the odd weather just as they had blamed her Bad Luck for every mishap and change in their fortunes since.

Cheobawn did the math. That would mean Tam was over ten years old now. Technically, by village counting, that made him the same age as Megan, though Megan would not be ten for another few months.

A squabble broke out between two little girls about the finer points of Dancing Molly, drowning out anything Tam might have been saying. Megan broke it up with a soft word and a group hug and then rose to her full height, giving Tam a wintry stare. Since she was half a head taller than Tam, this made her gaze seem almost regal. Tam did not flinch under that look as Cheobawn had seen other boys do. Instead he returned her gaze and tried again, saying something with an eloquent gesture of his fine boned hands. Cheobawn admired him for his persistence.

“Are you the one? Please be the one,” she whispered softly to herself.

She watched them talk, her imagination filling in the conversion that she could not hear. Tam needed an Ear, that was obvious. All the ten-year-old boys with dreams of leading a Pack needed an Ear. Without a girl gifted with the psi skills needed to keep a Pack safely out of harms way, they could not make an independent foray outside Home Dome. Without an Ear, the demi-Packs went outside only as baggage on some other Pack’s foray, like the babies, the old, and the pregnant women. There was no honor in it and more importantly, any points won while on a mission went to the alpha commander of the lead Pack, not to the tag-along demi-Packs.

BOOK: Black Bead: Book One of the Black Bead Chronicles
2.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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