Authors: Lyn Lowe
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Epic
Blood and Fire Saga #2
By Lyn Lowe
Copyright 2012 Lyn Lowe. All rights reserved.
Blood and Fire books on
Cover Illustration by Bobby
element of the design based upon a photo provided by Marcus
. For more of Bobby’s work visit his
For my sister Emma,
At times my best friend and fiercest enemy.
Our path has never been boring.
I’m so grateful I always had you walking it with me.
In their fear,
Rip from him,
This will be a mistake.”
Excerpt from “The Book of Endings”
Sparrowfall Dynasty 443
Pain tore through him, like a stream
that flowed to every inch of his body. He longed to pass out, to be done with it, but even that release was denied him. Kaie tried to be still this time. The shaking started despite his best efforts. He could feel the spittle rolling down his cheek, was aware of warm urine spreading between his legs, but could do nothing about it. Even if his arms weren’t strapped down to the table, such efforts were well outside his abilities.
He tried to hold on to the good memories at first. The girl with the long white-blond hair who kissed him, the sweet smell of the lilacs blooming near the shack, the night when he was able to get well and truly drunk…but those didn’t hold against the Namer’s attention. They tore up like paper.
Desperate, he turned to the ugly ones: the slap of fists against his flesh, the taste of blood on his tongue, the sting of the lash against his back, the sound of that girl crying when she thought he was asleep, and the hazy memory of going through this before…Those lasted a while. They hurt, every one of them, and for a while he could hide there, mixed in with all the other hurts she was giving him. But she found him eventually. And then she ripped those memories apart just as easily.
He panicked. She was taking everything and leaving him empty. That couldn’t be allowed to happen. He couldn’t remember why.
But would be bad.
But there wasn’t much left for him to hold on to. She was smashing through unimportant things now.
The feel of grass under his feet.
The smell of the wooden walls.
He didn’t know what to do.
Then he found it. It was small. But, for some reason he didn’t understand, it was strong.
Stronger than anything else in him.
So he grabbed on to it and clung. And for a while, not long, but enough, he forgot about the pain.
She pulled away slowly, a frown on her face. He forgot what to call her, at first. It came back slowly.
There was someone else behind him.
She darted forward and began wiping his face with a damp cloth. It was cool. It was amazing. He smiled at the girl gratefully. Her eyes locked with his for a moment,
she paled and darted away again.
The Namer rubbed at her temples, looking drained. “What is your name?”
He smiled again. He knew that. It was his thing.
His small, strong thing.
Both the women sighed.
“Namer, how many times can we do this? How many more can he survive?”
“At least one more.”
The woman – the Namer – was pale and severe. Her dark hair was pulled away from her face in a bun so tight he wondered if she was trying to slowly pull it all out of her head. “I am going to Uraz, to speak with the Council. Put him back where he belongs.”
The girl inclined her head in acquiescence and began tugging on the belts that held him to the table.
“No riots this time. I will not tolerate another incident like this morning. And I when I return, I will not hear ‘Kaie the Unbroken’ uttered even once. Do you understand? Not once.”
A girl looked down at him. Her long blonde hair formed a tent around them, tickling his chin and ears. She wasn’t beautiful in any normal way. Her face was mostly sharp angles and too pale by half. But her eyes, huge and the darkest blue saw right through to the center of him. She smiled and he knew that she approved of what resided there. He reached up to brush her cheek, filled with the need to discover just how soft that fair skin of hers was.
A clang at the door brought him back to himself, banishing the girl like a gust of wind catching dandelion seeds. Kaie sighed and rubbed his eyes clear of the last traces of the dream. He sat up slowly, already missing the dream, and picked up the tray of food.
It was always the same. The metal slot at the bottom of the door would open. A tray would slide through. It was always the same food.
Greasy broth with chunks of tasteless meat.
It would come again later.
He figured the intervals to be about ten hours. But that was estimation at best. There was a lamp on the ceiling. It never flickered.
Useless to keep time with.
He saw no one save his large-eyed phantom. The trays were taken and the bucket he
in was cleaned while he slept. Earlier or later, it made no difference. If he didn’t sleep, they weren’t
. No help there.
So he kept time by counting.
A constant, steady beat.
Always in the back of his mind.
1,382,101. 1,382,102. Even in his dreams he counted.
He was finished eating. Kaie sent aside the tray and began his routine.
First, running in place.
Fast as he could.
For a count of 600.
1,382,721. He was working his way up. The first day, he only managed a count of 97. Now, he was starting to feel like he could run away.
When the opportunity came.
And it would.
After that, he rested. Not because he needed to. Not anymore. But there was so little to occupy his time. It was better to break up his tasks.
Next he did push-ups.
Until his arms shook.
There wasn’t much room for them. But he found that if he angled his body properly in the cell, it worked just fine. 1,383,621. Then another rest.
Sit-ups followed that. Those weren’t as easy. The food didn’t sit well on his stomach. Crunching it over and over made things worse. Kaie did them anyway. 1,384,521. Rest.
They made his legs burn.
More than the running.
Then he hit the wall.
Light punches. The scabs on his knuckles broke open.
Soon the wall was covered with his blood. It hurt. It all hurt. But he kept going.
There wasn’t enough to do. Not to fill the hours. His body got tired.
Less every day.
But there was no healer. He needed to be careful.
Couldn’t push too hard.
So he trained his mind.
Logic puzzles. Escape plans. Lots of escape plans. Anything he could think of. He was going to be strong, when the time came.
Strong enough to run.
Strong enough to fight.
Strong enough to get away.
1,420,514. The door clanged. Another tray slid into the cell. He ate everything. Just like always. It wasn’t enough. He was too thin. Kaie laughed.
Another thing to complain about.
If you’re going to imprison someone for 1,420,995 seconds, couldn’t you at least try to feed them properly?
He would bring it up before the rest of his list. He wanted to make sure it sank in. After, they would be distracted.
Kaie set the tray on top of the other. He stacked the bowl and cup. It was time for the final part of his routine.
He picked at the drying blood on his left hand. A glob of fresh stuff welled up underneath. He walked to the door. Kaie carefully coated the first two fingers on his right hand. It was time to write what he knew.
All memories of his past were gone. He knew general things, like the name of the world and what the moon looked like.
But not about himself.
He didn’t know where he came from or why he was in the cell. He thought he was there before he remembered, before the Namer and the girl Kissa. Not for any particular reason. It was just a feeling he got. He didn’t know if it was day or night. He didn’t know if the girl in his dreams was real, or just a product of his imagination.
But he knew two things with absolute certainty. And so he wrote them on the door.
With his blood.
Before he went back to sleep.
It was gone when he woke. But that was good. Because it meant they read it. That his captors saw the things he knew.
I am Kaie.
I will be free.
him out of here.”
1,900,800. Kaie woke with a start. No phantom to greet him. He sighed.
“But the revolt...”
A girl’s voice.
Different than the voice that woke him.
It was muffled through the door. There was never talking before. He slowed his breathing to hear
“Only occurred after you returned him to this cell.
You do not need to remind me of that. It was my people who did the revolting and mine who put it down.” The first voice again.
It belonged to a woman too
An older one.
“I know, Mistress Autumnsong. But the Namer won’t tolerate any more disturbances like that. And what they call him…”
“Is an excuse.
I have no patience for those.” There was a long silence. Kaie didn’t breathe at all. He didn’t want to miss anything. This was all important. He was sure of it. “The Namer left nearly a month ago. All Hollows are to be reintegrated into the estate within five days of the procedure.”
“He’s not exactly a Hollow.”
The word made him feel sick. Hollow. Like something in his stomach was twisted. They were talking about him and that made it worse.
“That is irrelevant. I will not keep him down here until he gets diseased or dies of malnutrition. I run a respectable estate, Kissa, and I expect the rules of the estate to be followed.
Even by Namers and their apprentices.”
He knew that name.
From the first day.
After the pain, before the cell.
“Then he needs to be put somewhere apart from other people.”
The mother of his child has been on her own for months now. He will be put with her, as is proper.”
Kaie’s blood froze.
“Mistress Autumnsong, I understand that you want things done a certain way. But this is a special circumstance. He’s a danger, out there on your estate. You saw it last time… The Namer has made it my responsibility to see that nothing like that happens again. The rules never took into account his… resistance.”
“I do not care. If you do not remove him from this cell tonight, I will do it myself on the morrow.”
Silence again, then some faint noises. Muttering, he thought.
The door opened with a metallic clang. Not the slot at the bottom, the whole unmovable slab. Kaie’s heart raced. One girl stepped inside. Medium height and thick, with short black hair and a round face, wearing a long robe. He knew her.
Kissa’s face was over him in a minute, in the same position as the dream girl. He liked the latter better. She frowned. “I can tell you’re not asleep. You can stop pretending.”
“I don’t pretend with my eyes open.” His voice sounded funny. Like rocks scraped together. When did he talk last? He didn’t remember. His body thrummed with the need to move. He forced himself to stay still. He didn’t spend all that time preparing to rush his escape now.
She made a gagging noise as she leaned close. “You s
“Sorry,” he muttered. Could he take her? He wanted to believe he could, but surely there was a reason the Namer left Kissa in charge of his imprisonment. She must pose some kind of threat. “I haven’t had much time to bathe lately.”
“I’ll bet,” she said. He could feel her breath on his skin. It brought up a rash of nervous gooseflesh. There was a tiny scar on her right eyelid where no lashes grew. “That you think you’re brave, talking to
me so disrespectfully.”
“I was trying for charming.” The scar taunted him, daring him to jam his thumb there and run. “I can settle for brave.”
She made a noise in the back of her throat. It captured the essence of disapproval and disgust. Kaie was jealous. He couldn’t make that noise. “If you speak like that when the Namer returns, you’ll get yourself killed.
right after, no doubt. Is that what you want?”
He hoped she died. He didn’t care if he was the one responsible. “I usually plan on outliving you,” he murmured.
She made the noise again. “Is that supposed to scare me? Should I be intimidated because some filthy slave fantasizes about killing me?”
“Only when I’m awake.”
Kaie knew she could get into his head. That was bad. But it wouldn’t stop him. She wasn’t the Namer. He needed to figure out what she was supposed to do if he was a problem. “I save my dreams for people who matter.”
Kissa snorted. “You don’t know anyone who matters.”
He needed to keep pushing. “I know you don’t.”
Her eyes narrowed. Kaie tensed, waiting for her to hit him with whatever made her formable enough to leave the door to his cell open.
“You’re so gods damned stupid!” She spat. “If the Namer were here, hearing this disrespect, she’d rip your mind to shreds before she killed you.”
She wasn’t going to snap. He couldn’t wait anymore. Kaie jerked his head forward.
It smashed into hers. Her eyes glossed and he leapt forward. His bare feet hit the cold stone, and then he was running.
Past Kissa, through the door and into a dark stone hallway.
The world blurred. Air slapped at him. His eyes burned. He saw nothing. It was amazing. Free.
“Hollows, Stop him!”
Rocks wrapped themselves around his arms. Kaie jerked to a halt and his head spun.
There were two men, one on either side. They didn’t glare down at him. They didn’t even look at him. Their eyes were locked on something far in the distance. Empty. They didn’t react to his curses, didn’t flinch from the bites or the kicks. They were statues of flesh and blood. They were horrifying.
Kissa approached from behind. He could hear her sandaled feet. Swish click, swish click. She was walking slowly on purpose. His cell was warm, this stone was cold. It leeched into him through the soles of his feet. He was shivering by the time she got there. She did it to punish him; to unman him. But Kaie was not undone. This was not his chance, but there would be another. 1,901,357.
She walked around him. There was a large red welt on her forehead. She rubbed it and winced. Kaie smiled. That, and more, he owed her. For the remembered pain, and for everything lost to him. He would see it all paid for.
She sighed. “Why are you always so damn difficult? Do you enjoy people hurting you?
Because I really don’t like doing it.
Especially not when you smell this rank.
I’m going to be washing my hands for weeks, trying to get the stench out.”
Kissa’s hands darted like striking snakes. In the span of a blink, she locked them on either side of his head. Cold gray eyes bored into his. He stared at the scar on her eyelid, and he hoped he gave that to her.
“This doesn’t matter,” Kaie growled. “You can win a thousand times, and it won’t matter. Because I’ll still be here, waiting. Waiting for you to be slow, to be tired,
be distracted. Then I’ll have myself one damn good day.”
She scowled, and he thought he saw a flicker of fear in those gray depths.
Something started happening in his head. Cold fingers spread out from beneath her hands, twisting around his brain and down his spine. He gasped. Darkness crept in at the edges of his vision. He was going to pass out.
“Maybe you will,” Kissa murmured. “But this is not that day.”