Read Cloud Warrior 05 - Forged in Fire Online

Authors: D. K. Holmberg

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Coming of Age, #Epic, #Sword & Sorcery, #Teen & Young Adult

Cloud Warrior 05 - Forged in Fire

BOOK: Cloud Warrior 05 - Forged in Fire
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Forged in Fire
D.K. Holmberg
Contents

C
opyright © 2015 by D.K
. Holmberg

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1
Draasin Sight

T
annen Minden sat
atop his bonded draasin, Asboel, as they swooped over the southern part of the kingdoms. Warm air buffeted around him, swirling through the long, heated spikes protruding from the draasin’s black-scaled back, slapped by massive wings stretched far out from him. Mist sprayed as the air hit the heat of the draasin’s body, and Tan wiped a hand across his face to clear his vision.

In the distance stretched Incendin.

The land looked barren from this high up, staring down from above with nothing but thousands of feet between him and the ground, but he knew Incendin to be anything but barren. The desert contained dangerous and poisonous plants, all raging with the same hatred that Tan had felt every time he’d been in Incendin. Each time, he’d nearly died.

“Does he see anything?” Amia asked, gripping his waist.

Tan had to tip his head to hear over the whistling of the wind. He could have asked Honl, the ashi wind elemental, to limit their exposure, but there was something freeing about soaring above the air, riding atop the draasin, that was even better than traveling on a warrior’s shaping. This way, he hunted
with
Asboel. It was important for the draasin, and for their bond.

He reached through the connection he shared with Asboel. The more he learned of the connection, the easier it became to simply see through Asboel’s eyes. Communication had never been challenging between them, but adding the ability to use what his bond pair saw gave him a great advantage, especially given how crisp Asboel’s eyesight was.

Using the draasin sight, he saw the ground as patches of reds and oranges, each shades of heat much like what Tan had seen when he’d been nearly transformed into one of the lisincend. Plants took on a different shade of red, more like a bright blur against the more muted background. The more he used the draasin sight, the better he understood what he was seeing. Other than the plants and the cracked and broken ground beneath them, nothing moved.

“Nothing.”

Amia sighed behind him and he felt her relax. “Par-shon hasn’t attacked yet.”

“I don’t think so,” Tan agreed.

The draasin banked and turned back toward the kingdoms, avoiding flying over Incendin itself. Asboel still had harsh memories of Incendin and regardless of what might be necessary in the coming months, Tan didn’t think Asboel would ever get over what the lisincend had done to him.

Had it been the same with the draasin when shapers hunted them? Tan had found little referencing that time in the archives, but what he
had
found implied that the draasin were to be hunted when discovered. The most recent text he’d found described various ways to use shapings to trap the draasin, usually with some combination of earth and water to counter the fire and wind that helped keep the fire elemental aloft. In that one book, there were detailed descriptions of what the shapers had done to the draasin, ways in which they had captured and killed them. He had yet to fully decipher others, but the illustrations on the page worried him.

How much of the current problems were the fault of those earliest shapers? The draasin now didn’t want to hunt people. From what Tan had seen, they would rather stay as far from people as possible; only, sometimes it wasn’t possible. Worse, Tan had drawn the draasin into his battles, but without them, Tan wouldn’t have survived nearly as long as he had. Asboel was more than one of the great fire elementals. He was a friend.

“What is it?” Amia asked. “You seem troubled.”

He gripped one of the long spikes coming from Asboel’s back and twisted to look at her. Her golden hair caught some of the wind, playing around her face. The wide band of gold around her neck, the replacement for the silver one she had abandoned that marked her people, caught the light from the sun overhead. Piercing blue eyes stared into his. He had thought her beautiful from the moment he first saw her rolling toward his village, wearied and trying to hide the fear her people felt as they ran from the Incendin hounds, but the time they spent together had created a bond between them deeper than the one shaped between Tan and Asboel.

“Worried would be more like it,” he said. “We’ve been back for nearly a month. In that time, we’ve heard nothing from Par-shon, though we know their bonded shapers are aware of ours. And they know the draasin exist. I know they will return.”

And each day they didn’t, the remaining kingdoms’ shapers began to think that Par-shon
wouldn’t
return. They were thankful for what Tan had done in fending off the attack, but there was a growing sentiment that another attack wasn’t going to come now that they had seen how strong the kingdoms’ shapers were. Tan knew better.

“Why do you think they haven’t?” she asked.

Tan could only think of one reason their shapers had not returned. He doubted that fear kept them away. There might be some caution from the Utu Tonah, the heavily bonded leader of Par-shon, but that likely wasn’t the entire reason.

“Bonds, I think. They need more.”

They had to replace those they’d lost. That meant finding and forcing more bonds.
Stealing
more bonds. So far, he had managed to keep the draasin safe beneath the city, hiding them from the Par-shon shapers. He still didn’t know how Asboel got in and out of the city—his bond hadn’t revealed that and Asboel wasn’t keen to share it—but at least the hatchlings were safe and given the time they needed to grow larger and stronger. The bonds were the reason for the concern he felt.

Amia squeezed him around the waist. “The udilm will keep her safe.”

Amia knew how Tan worried about Elle, now returned to Doma, hopefully bonded to the udilm, but what if Par-shon stole that bond from her? What would happen to her?

“Will they? They couldn’t keep Vel safe, and he had bonded to one of them. What happens if Elle is taken, the connection stripped? When I last saw her, she still hadn’t learned to shape. Without that, she’s at the mercy of the elementals.”

Asboel twisted so that one eye could see him.

You know the udilm can be fickle
, Tan said to Asboel.

They are ancient, but they have always been strong.

Tan hoped that was enough. He’d barely had time to know Elle. Now that he knew she was family, he wished for more time to get to know her. He had so little family remaining. His mother, but that relationship had been strained ever since he’d left Nor to go with Roine. It had continued to decline as Tan continued his relationship with Amia against his mother’s advice. She thought that Amia had shaped him, worried that she forced him, like the archivists had forced the shapers to do things they would not otherwise do. Even now, as things improved, she still treated Amia with more caution than she deserved.

“Zephra has gone to Doma. She will find Elle,” Amia said.

At least his mother wasn’t alone this time. She had taken to traveling with Vel. The water shaper gave Tan a little more confidence that Zephra would find her. Tan might not have managed to heal Vel—he wasn’t certain whether that was yet possible—but he had regained his shaping ability quickly. Tan only hoped he learned some restraint, especially when dealing with Par-shon.

Maelen
, Asboel said, using the name he’d long ago given Tan. It meant something along the lines of ferocious warrior, though Tan still wasn’t quite sure whether it was compliment or not.
Look below.

Tan focused on looking through Asboel’s eyes. What would the draasin have seen? He’d been with Asboel when he’d hunted before, felt the thrill through the bond as the draasin swept down from the sky and grabbed a mouthful of wild animal, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to subject Amia to one of Asboel’s hunts, though he doubted she would be offended. Amia had known Asboel as long as Tan had. She was part of the reason the draasin had been freed. Without her forging the shaping that kept them from hunting man, Roine might not have been willing to free them.

What he saw surprised him.

Far below, a long caravan of wagons rumbled across the flatlands. Tan thought they were over Ter, though Asboel flew quickly, so it was difficult to tell. It could even be the outer edges of Galen, though he didn’t see the mountains that marked that part of the kingdoms.

The shape of the wagons was familiar. With Asboel’s enhanced sight, he could even make out the patchwork paint along the tops and sides of the wagons, the tiny bells that announced the passing of the caravan, and the wagon driver sitting atop and steering the caravan forward. They were Aeta, much like Amia had once been.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Amia said, drawing his attention away from what he saw through Asboel’s eyes. “I sensed them.”

“How long have you known?” Tan asked.

She didn’t answer at first. After everything she had been through because of her people, he didn’t blame her. He only wanted to be there for her, to be able to help her as they tried to find a way to provide safety for the Aeta. They were normally wandering people, but with the likelihood of war—a war the kingdoms had thought would come from Incendin rather than elsewhere—missives had been sent by Roine, inviting the Aeta to the kingdoms. The First Mother still wanted Amia to lead them, but after what had happened, that was a lost cause.

“They are gathering,” she finally said. Her voice carried over the wind, aided by a quiet request Tan made to the wind elemental.

“Not the Gathering,” he said.

“No. That is only called by the First Mother. It has been held in Doma for so long that I don’t think anyone knows where else to meet.”

Tan strained through the connection with Asboel to see if he could tell where the caravan headed, but saw nothing that would explain it to him. “Do you,” he started, craning his neck to watch her expression. All he sensed from her was the hesitation she felt. “Do you want to go down there?”

Amia shook her head. He hadn’t really expected her to want to see the Aeta. She had a hard enough time dealing with the First Mother; seeing other Aeta might still be more than she could handle.

“Then we should return. Roine is expecting us back. He thinks we simply travel by shaping.” Roine might understand the need to ride with Asboel, but there was a level of distrust in the old warrior nonetheless. Asboel had helped Tan often enough that Roine should feel nothing but gratitude for the draasin’s continued assistance, but it would take time to build that relationship. Even within the kingdoms, fire was feared.

Tan leaned forward and patted Asboel’s flank. The draasin’s tail twitched and he twisted so that he could look back at Tan.
Hunt well, Asboel.

Asboel snorted and flames burst from his nostrils.
Always, Maelen
.

Tan formed a shaping of wind and fire, adding earth for strength, and used water to stabilize it. To this, he added a shaping of spirit, the connection that he’d finally managed to master, and pulled the entire shaping toward himself.

They traveled on a bolt of lightning that lifted him from Asboel’s back. It happened in a flash, quicker than thought. Now that Tan had traveled this way enough times, he had become comfortable with it, no longer fearing that it wouldn’t work for him. There was a sense of calm around them as they traveled, nothing like the roar of wind while flying with Asboel and Honl, or the steady spray of mist that accompanied sitting atop the draasin. This was quiet, a sense of power, a feeling that he was a part of the world and meant to control the elemental powers that he now used.

They came out of the lightning bolt in a smooth streak of shaped light, landing in the center of what had once been the university. Walls had grown taller over the last few weeks, stone steadily replaced by the shapers, though not in the way that it had once been. This was different: wider and stouter, but with a certain elegance to the way the wings of the university would flare around the open clearing around the shaper’s circle.

As they landed, chaos quickly overwhelmed him.

Fire erupted nearby.

Tan wrapped himself around Amia, letting the flames roll over him. Connected as he was to the element and the elemental, fire burned inside him, much like the draasin. Nothing short of the lisincend could harm him, and even that he wasn’t sure would actually harm him anymore. Elemental power might be able to, but Tan could work with both the draasin and saa. In time, he would seek out inferin and saldam. The more elementals he could connect to, the better the likelihood that he could protect those he cared about.

Could this be Par-shon?

Tan strained, searching for an elemental attack, but there was none. Not Par-shon, then.

What if this was the lisincend? Tan hadn’t seen sign of them while with Asboel, but Incendin had been silent since the Par-shon attack as well. From what he’d seen, silence from Incendin was rare. And dangerous.

Fire parted around him. The heat and the way the flames spurted told him that it was shaped but not twisted.

He pushed out with a shaping of his own, at the same time calling on saa to draw away the fire and sending it toward the ground, where it would collide harmlessly against the might of golud in the earth.

“Tan?” Amia asked.

Her voice was muffled under his arm and he released her, ready to grab her again if needed. He didn’t see the fire shaper that had attacked. “Careful,” he said. “I don’t know what this—”

He was cut off as the ground heaved, lifting him off his feet.

Tan called quickly to Honl and jumped to the air on a wind shaping, pulling Amia with him. He searched about him, looking for whoever might be attacking, searching for some
reason
that they had been attacked.

Had the archivists returned? They might be able to sneak into Ethea and gain control of any shapers present, but most of the shapers in the city had been taught how to protect themselves. Still, it was possible. Tan hadn’t had time to search for the surviving archivists, but he knew they were out there, probably still working on behalf of Althem.

The courtyard was otherwise empty. Whoever attacked must be within the rebuilt section. “Can you sense anyone?” he asked.

BOOK: Cloud Warrior 05 - Forged in Fire
7.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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