Read From Across the Clouded Range Online
Authors: H. Nathan Wilcox
Tags: #magic, #dragons, #war, #chaos, #monsters, #survival, #invasion
From Across the
H. Nathan Wilcox
To my Monster for letting
me write about monsters.
From Across the Clouded
By H. Nathan Wilcox
Copyright © 2013 H. Nathan
Published by Smashwords
Cover Art and Maps by H. Nathan
Thank you for downloading this ebook.
You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be
reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes,
provided the book remains in its complete original form. Thank you
for your support.
All characters and events in this book
Any resemblance to persons living or
dead is strictly coincidental.
Tethina! Not so rough.
You’re going to hurt him.”
A small girl in a grey homespun dress
looked up at the sound of her mother’s voice and begrudgingly
released her playmate’s head. “Sorry,” she called back, “I didn’t
mean to hurt him.”
Dasen sat up next to her. His head
looked like a disheveled nest, as much grass as hair. The same
grass generously marked his simple woolen smock, stretching from
his elbow past his shoulder onto his freckled face. A smile erupted
through the streaks of green. “It’s okay, Mrs. Galbridge. We’re
playing bandits and rangers. I’m the bandit.”
Well, I think it’s time
come in for dinner. And try to be nice for once.” Dasen’s mother
spoke this time. Her voice remained firm even as she held back a
Can we get Papa?” Tethina
asked with a longing look toward the log shack standing near the
first trees of the surrounding forest.
Not right now,” her
mother called back. “After you wash up and set the table.” The
clang of a hammer striking metal rose from the shack, nearly stole
the words as defiance crossed Tethina’s face.
Her mother prepared her volume and
tone for reprisal. Dasen saved her the need. “Last one there’s a
sheep’s bottom.” He sprinted toward the house, taking advantage of
Tethina’s indecision to get a few steps of a lead – it wouldn’t be
Tethina pushed past him before he
reached the first step of the two-story plank house that the
Galbridge family called home. “Sheep’s bottom and what comes out of
it,” she called as she pounded up the steps.
The women looked up from the pile of
roughly woven shirts and canvas pants they had been mending.
Tethina’s mother gasped – Dasen’s suppressed another laugh.
“Tethina! Ladies do not talk like that! You apologize to our guests
I was going to make an
apple cake tonight,” her mother began. The children’s faces
brightened. “But I don’t think dirty mouths like yours deserve
treats like that.”
But, Mama!” Tethina
Don’t but me, young lady.
When you start acting like a lady, you can eat like a lady. If you
are going to act like a Sylian savage, then that is how you will
eat. Now, both of you, get in there and clean up.”
Dasen and Tethina moped for a second
then recovered their enthusiasm and raced through the door, leaving
it to crash behind them.
And no roughhousing!”
Tethina’s mother yelled after them. “I don’t know what we are going
to do about that one. You’d think she’s a boy the way she
Oh, Marin, you were the
same way when you were her age, and you turned out
I was not!” Marin gasped
and threw down the leather vest she was sewing. “You were the
And you were right there
Well, as long as we’re
clear about who the instigator was.” They both laughed.
I bet Burke will be upset
that the kids cost him an apple cake,” Kira said as she pulled
another sock from the pile she was darning in preparation for the
He wasn’t going to get a
cake anyway. Not unless you’re hiding some sugar in that shop of
Don’t I wish? Ipid will
hardly let me use it when we do have some. ‘Can’t be eating the
profits, you know.’ The old curmudgeon.”
Well, maybe he’ll have
some luck in the city this time.”
With those silly saw
blades? I’ll be happy if he just remembers to buy stock for the
shop.” Kira tied off a stitch and bit the thread. “You know I don’t
care that they spend their time on that nonsense, but I’m not
holding my breath waiting for anyone to give them real money for
any of it.”
And the more time they’re
out their building their contraptions, the less time they’re in
mucking up the house.”
They both laughed again until a
child’s voice interrupted. “Mama, what’s for dinner? Can Dasen
Marin did not respond. She turned to
Kira. “Sounds like I should check on dinner. You and Dasen are
If you don’t mind. And
maybe I can find enough sugar floating around. . . .”
The women were gathering their sewing
to go inside when a howl of wind slashed through the still evening
air. The blast came out of nowhere and hit so hard that they were
thrown against the house. Their hair and dresses flailed around
them. Pebbles pelted their faces and arms. The piles of clothing
billowed into a vortex then scattered across the grass before
What in the name of the
Order was that?” Kira exclaimed when the wind had passed. She
worked to straighten her skirt and gather her scattered
I don’t . . . .” Marin’s
words were cut short by the sound of the smithy shaking from the
force of the mysterious wind. Shingles flew, boards rattled, and
the faded sign swung violently on its metal rings. Finally, there
was a crack like thunder followed by a hair-raising crash. Metal
reverberated on metal far louder and more clamorous than the steady
beat that normally provided the metronome for their days. Too
stunned to move, Marin and Kira could only watch with racing hearts
as the white streamer rising from the chimney was replaced by black
clouds boiling from the sides. Finally, an anguished cry split the
second of silence and shook the women from their daze.
Screaming in unison, they lifted their
dresses and ran across the grass. Their voices resonated through
the nearby village ensuring that someone would bring aid, but they
did not wait for it. Kira arrived a step before her friend and
threw open the door. She was greeted by acrid smoke and the furnace
heat of a raging fire rising up the walls to the dry wooden
shingles above. The smoke scalded her eyes, filling them with
water, but they soon cleared enough for her to find Burke lying
motionless beneath the girth of a beam that had been knocked loose
by the wind.
Holding the hem of her dress to her
mouth, she ran into the conflagration with Marin on her heels. As
the door rattled shut behind them, the roof of the small structure
shuddered. It collapsed a second later in a rain of fire that was
the last thing either of them would ever see.
And across the grass, on the long
wooden porch, stood a girl in a dress that did not quite reach her
ankles. Her auburn hair was tied in braids that hung to her chest.
She watched her mother rush into the fire, saw the roof collapse,
and screamed. She screamed and screamed, unable to look away as the
fire consumed everything she knew.
Far away from that remote village, a
circle of five old men in heavy brown robes began to stir. The
robes were rough wool and hung off the slight figures, but they
were spotless and showed not a wrinkle. Their only adornments were
wooden pendants that hung from their necks, lost except for the
light they reflected from their polished surfaces. The men had
clean-shaven faces worn by the ravages of time so that the sparse
light that penetrated the room’s high windows etched deep shadows
in their surfaces. Every eye was open, but they saw nothing. No
movement could be detected beneath their robes – the men did not
appear to breathe. The room that held them was equally still: not a
whisper of breeze stirred the air, not even a fly disrupted the
Slowly, the men came out of the trance
that held them. They looked haggard, as if they had aged many years
in the last few minutes. They shook their heads in unison and
brought their hands as one to their temples. They took a single
deep breath, and each accepted a small cup of water from a silent
young man. The attendants took exactly five steps to supply the
water, handed the water to their masters over their left shoulders,
and waited exactly seventeen heartbeats to retrieve the empty cups.
As one, they returned to their places, each facing a separate wall
in the pentagonal room.
The pattern has been
set.” The oldest of the men broke the silence. His voice was soft
and rasped as if he had not spoken in years. The act appeared to
cause him pain. “You know what needs to be done, your Grace? You
are prepared to see it through?”
There is no other way?” a
man across from the first whispered. He was younger than the others
and seemed less comfortable in his surroundings. But his robes were
the finest, and his pendant was a work of high art.
Even if there is, the
pattern has been chosen. Its weaving is already begun, and I see no
other that can save us.”
There was a long pause, but the
conversation lingered in the room. “The signs are clear, your
Grace. Even you have seen them,” a third man took up the argument.
His voice was little more than a whisper. “We have done all we can.
It is up to you to . . . .” The man trailed off as the first held
up a hand in caution.
Your argument disrupts
the Tapestry.” The first man’s voice was stronger but held no
emotion, was used in a perfect monotone. “There are already too
many doubts. Our power is not near what it was when the Church was
strong.” The man stopped and fell back into his trance. The others
did not move, did not breathe. “The Tapestry is already too tangled
to read. No certainty can exist except that the Lawbreakers will
return. Their power is far off, but it is growing. This pattern we
strive to create is the only one I see that will allow the Order to