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Authors: E.M. Sinclair

Tags: #epic, #fantasy, #adventure, #dragons, #magical

Perilous Shadows: Book 6 Circles of Light

BOOK: Perilous Shadows: Book 6 Circles of Light
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Perilous
Shadows

(Circles Of Light -
Book Six)

 

E.M.
Sinclair

 

Copyright 2006 by E.M.
Sinclair

 

Smashwords
Edition

 

 

In Memory Of

F.K.
1880-1970

M.H.I.
1920-2006

 

For John and Ben, with
love always

 

 

Cover Painting -
‘Seela’ by Bethan Town-Jones

Cover Design by David
Dempsey

 

 

Chapter
One

 

Rhaki woke. Again. He
was still badly confused. His last memories were of his flight from
the Menedula building in Drogoya and the purely evil presence of
Cho Petak. Bewildered and afraid, he fled across the sea until he
reached the mountains north of Gaharn and Sapphrea. Unbodied as he
was, his essence had squeezed down, through crevices in the ice
skinned rock. Finally he’d rested, his thoughts whirling in a
kaleidoscope of panicked horror until everything vanished into a
cloud of black unknowingness.

Rhaki had woken slowly,
lazily, and snuggled closer under thick furs. It had taken some
time for him to realise that, having no body, he should not be
aware of either the sensation of snuggling or of fur covers. He
opened eyes he shouldn’t have and saw faint shadows flickering on a
rough stone wall a handspan from his face.

‘Thought you’d never
wake, and after all my efforts.’

An old voice spoke from
somewhere behind him. Cautiously, Rhaki moved onto his back and
turned his head, seeking the owner of the voice. He saw a small
hearth containing a smouldering fire – the sort of fire that was
intended to stay alight for a considerable time. He blinked, and a
formless shape drifted between him and that fire.

‘If you are awake,
you’d better stir the fire up. There’s still snow outside, the fire
mustn’t go out and I can’t do it anymore.’

Rhaki tried to sit up
but his limbs felt strange; the wrong size, and definitely not as
strong as they should be.

‘Who are you? Where am
I?’ His voice was wrong too, lower toned than he
remembered.

A chuckle came, Rhaki
realised, from the grey shape now hunched beside the fire. Rhaki
caught sight of his hands in the dim light and was momentarily
distracted by their unfamiliarity. They were broad, with stubby
fingers, and white hairs sprouted from several swollen knuckles.
Another chuckle pulled his attention back to the shape by the
fire.

‘Well, you can’t have
everything you know. I found you when I was dream walking. I’ve
learned quite a bit about you, more that I wanted to know, truth be
told.’

Rhaki shivered. He
pushed the furs off his knees and tried to stand. He managed it on
the fourth attempt, tottered unsteadily to the fire, and knelt
involuntarily. A blackened stick lay in the hearth and he used it
to poke the fire.

‘I’ve lived up here for
years,’ the voice continued. ‘But when I found you, the idea came
to me.’

The fire suddenly
flared into a cheerful blaze and Rhaki added a log to it from a
stack against the wall.

‘After all this time, I
want to see more of this world, before it’s too late. So. You have
my body, a selection of my memories relevant to this area, and I –
I choose to be free.’

Rhaki raised a
trembling hand and rubbed his face, discovering he had a soft beard
in the process.

‘But where am
I?’

‘Oh this is Drogoya. I
found you far across the sea and I’d like to go back
there.’

Although the ghostly
outline was murky, undefined, Rhaki had the definite impression it
was staring at him, intently.

‘Listen carefully. I’m
not staying here much longer – I want to be off. There are several
caves leading from this one and there is food and fuel to last
until the thaw. I’ve left you some maps and books, nothing that
will identify me though.’ The chortle of laughter was gleeful. ‘I
turned from the Menedula with its Sacrifice, and its Offerings and
all their nonsense ages ago. They’ll have listed me as dead if they
remember me at all.’

‘Cho Petak is not what
he might have seemed.’ Rhaki’s voice was a croak.

‘Huh. Knew that as soon
as he arrived. That’s why I came up here. Out of everyone’s way.
Well. I think that’s it then. I’ll be off.’

‘But wait.’ Rhaki was
seized with panic. ‘Can’t I use your name, if you’ve given me your
body? And what about any family?’

‘Oh don’t babble so,
can’t abide babblers. Never could. Your name is Rhaki, and you
know, all too well, who you are and what you’ve done in your long
life. I’ve had no family since my ninth summer. You should perhaps
think of yours, and what you’ve done with them.’

Rhaki knelt, stunned,
as the ghost moved towards a narrow gap in the wall to his
left.

‘Oh, a bear or a wolf
might turn up. Friends of mine. Shouldn’t hurt you but perhaps you
should be a bit wary. And very polite.’

‘But - ’ But the sudden
emptiness in the air told Rhaki he was now entirely
alone.

He stared into the
leaping flames then became aware of a stabbing pain in his feet and
ankles under him. He groaned and tried to stand, whimpering as the
circulation burned back through his legs. He flexed his feet and
shuffled towards the gap through which the ghostly stranger had
vanished. As his hand gripped the side of the space, he saw the
wall was made of split timbers patchily covered with clay or mud. A
length of heavy leather hung across the gap which he pulled aside.
He found himself in the entrance to the cave. Logs were piled
neatly against the man made wall and a few paces outward he looked
out upon snow.

A pale grey sky hung
over low peaks and those peaks and the narrow valley ahead of Rhaki
were heaped and filled with an endless carpet of snow. To his
right, a fir tree stood motionless, its needles hidden, its
branches dipping to the ground under its burden of snow and ice.
Belatedly he realised his feet were bare and that he wore only a
long thin gown. He turned back into the inner cave, hoping he’d
find a good supply of sturdy clothes.

His body tingled as he
entered the cosy room again and his stomach rumbled when he smelled
food. Rhaki discovered a large, lidded clay pot pushed close to the
side of the fire. Removing the lid, he sighed with unaccustomed
pleasure as the steam rose, bringing the promise of a hot meat
stew.

It took Rhaki a few
days to settle, into both his new body and his new surroundings. He
had never, in his hundreds of years of life, had to do anything so
mundane as to prepare food for himself for instance. Once his
predecessor’s stew had been eaten, he’d had to concoct meals by
trial and error. He found a supply of light stones in a box under
the bed and had ventured back into the smaller caves which led from
the main room. As he’d been told, he found dried meat, vegetable,
grains and nuts stored along with bunches of herbs and more neat
stacks of logs.

He wondered about the
large amount of supplies until he looked outside on the second day
to find nothing but a wall of snow and ice pellets hissing through
the air. As far as he could judge time, the storm lasted four days
before it abated to a few flakes drifting continuously in front of
the cave. He found the cave to be clean and tidy. He guessed the
“ghost” had sorted through every item before making that final move
to vacate his body and install Rhaki in his own place.

He found maps as
promised and notebooks. He’d hoped the notebooks would give him
some insight into the writer, but discovered they held meticulous
observations of the immediate vicinity. Here were notes and
sketches of plants, birds, and insects, of the different positions
of the stars, of the weather. All clearly dated by a system unknown
to Rhaki. The records went back year upon year, written in an
archaic script but a recognisable form of the common tongue of
Rhaki’s own lands. He also found, as he’d hoped, a chest full of
workmanlike, and warm, clothes.

Rhaki spent those first
days becoming adjusted to this body, learning to cook, and skimming
the notebooks for any hint of personal references. He made no
attempt at all to test his mental powers, fearing that they may
have been lost, or were still intact. He couldn’t decide which
would be preferable in this strange new life he found himself
in.

By the time the storm
had eased down, he was moving around more naturally. He was far
shorter now than he’d been in his Asatarian form; about average for
human he guessed. This body was much older, but lean, still fit and
muscled, although he noticed aches in his hands and feet at odd
moments. Rhaki abandoned the notebooks for now and spent most of
his time studying the maps he’d been left. They were incredibly
detailed and he believed they were probably more accurate than most
maps he’d ever seen before.

One map showed his
present location, with the cave marked in the very centre. Rhaki
saw there was a group of seven tiny buildings beyond the end of the
valley which stretched from the front of the cave. It looked as if
the buildings occupied a small clearing, perhaps a tiny community
existing on a few crops supplemented by hunting, but certainly not
large enough to merit the name of a village.

Gradually Rhaki became
used to this life, so very different from anything he’d experienced
before. He grew accustomed to the sounds the wind made, whistling
and roaring, and to the days and nights of silence when the wind
died and then the only sound outside was the creak and groan of the
fir beside the cave. He heard no birdsong, and saw nothing living,
just the frozen snow which glittered and glared under the
occasional sun, and winked and sparkled beneath a waxing
moon.

But he woke one morning
to something different. He lay among the furs and listened. Then he
realised he could hear dripping. He’d lived so long in the Northern
Stronghold, a place where spring rarely ventured, that it took him
a moment to understand the noise. He dressed, stirred the fire up
to a blaze and hurried to peer outside. There was little difference
to see yet, just a hint of green needles showing through the snow
on the tree, but the air smelled different. There was a bitter tang
to it, a hint of cold earth.

So the days passed and
Rhaki became aware one evening, when the wind howled once more
outside his cave, that he was content, more content than he’d ever
been. He’d found a growing comfort in studying the notebooks,
reading of where the earliest flowers might bloom, the first birds
might fly overhead to their breeding grounds even further north,
and when the small rodents first emerged from their winter
sleep.

Now, for the first
time, he wondered if his powers remained with him. It was so many
centuries since those first lessons, but he decided he should make
this new attempt in touching his power by using the simple basic
steps he’d been instructed in. Staring into the fire, he
concentrated, pulling the net of his mind close around him. He
would attempt a far seeing, try to view those clustered buildings
beyond the valley’s end. He released a tendril of focused power
out, towards the cave entrance.

Rhaki felt a brief
spasm of pain, like using an arm for the first time after it had
been broken. Then he was over the snowy landscape, entranced by the
brilliant stars above and the glitter on the snow below. He
realised he would need to practise these long disused skills as he
felt his body shudder, back beside the hearth in the cave. Rhaki
released his hold on the power and his awareness crashed
back.

He felt as though an
explosion had ripped through his skull even as he toppled off the
stool and lay gasping on the floor. But he grinned. He could still
reach out to the power and feel it respond to his call. Rhaki
heaved himself upright and swung the pot over the fire to boil
water for some tea. But this time, he must decide which path he
would choose in the using of his power.

 

Only a few leagues
south of Rhaki’s cave, but many more leagues west, the Oblaka
complex was slowly being rebuilt. Most buildings had been destroyed
totally by Cho Petak. During the harsh winter of the north western
coast, the survivors of those attacks and the refugees who’d
trickled in, sheltered in the labyrinths below ground. Since Tika
and her company arrived eight days earlier, the spring weather had
been beaten back by a furious renewed onslaught of
winter.

BOOK: Perilous Shadows: Book 6 Circles of Light
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