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Authors: Mardi Maxwell

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BOOK: Soren's Bondmate
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She followed the scent of smoke and eventually smelled food cooking. When the scent grew stronger she took more care. Hearing voices she slipped beneath the drooping branches of a tree and crept closer. A camp came into view along with a woman who stood near a fire stirring a pot.

Skye moved closer then covered her mouth to hide the fog of her breath when she saw the number of raiders in the camp. She prepared to backtrack when she saw the female go to the back of a small wagon, open a bag and take several loaves of bread and a block of cheese from it.

Her mouth watered with hunger as she weighed the odds of being caught and knew she had to take the chance. She was starving and without food she'd collapse.

She moved around the camp until she was hidden in the trees beside the wagon. Before she made her final move she checked on the babies. They still slept so she tightened the sling, waited a moment to make sure she hadn't disturbed them and crept to the back of the wagon.

Skye had just reached out her hand to grab the bag when the female turned and saw her. They made eye contact and the female opened her mouth to scream a warning. Just then Rilyn stuck his arm out between the edges of her cloak. The older female stared at his arm for a moment then turned her back.

Skye snatched the bag and backed away then turned and ran as fast and as quietly as she could. The bag was heavier than she thought it would be but she kept going as long as she could. Finally she found a crevice between two boulders and slid into it.

When she opened the bag and saw its contents she closed her eyes and thanked the gods. There was enough food for several cycles. The loaf of bread and chunk of cheese made her smile but it was the dried fruit in the bottom that brought tears to her eyes. She wanted to stuff her mouth full but forced herself to take a deep breath and ration it.

She ate a chunk of bread and cheese then made herself move on again. Later she'd allow herself a piece of dried fruit to give her the energy to keep going until dark.

# # #

Soren threw the dark krystal, saw it hit the enemy and produced another shard and threw it before he advanced on the enemies' position. Pelyn, Kelyn and Delyn kept up with him while he produced white krystal for them.

They'd begun the raid on the peninsula six cycles after Rilyn and Abrianna had been born. It had taken them three moon phases to fight their way two-thirds of the way from the north border toward the village at the peninsula's center.

The village was surrounded by large groups of raiders who'd been banished by the Kouncil. Most of them didn't have krystal but they were experts at setting up ambushes and traps. And, they were ruthless.

Soren's group had lost five warriors when the raiders had sent an avalanche of rocks down onto them in a narrow pass. Berit had lost two of his warriors when they'd fallen into a pit filled with wooden spikes. Since then they'd had to be careful with every step they took as they never knew when the raiders or one of their traps would appear.

"More krystal," Pelyn yelled and held out his hand.

Soren conjured it and rushed toward the enemies' hiding place. He planted his hands on the pile of tree trunks and catapulted over them. A male screamed followed by another male's scream. A moment later Soren signaled to Pelyn and his brother's to join him.

Pelyn stopped at the entrance and kept watch as Kelyn and Delyn joined Soren. They each picked up a body and heaved them over the tree trunks and into the clearing.

"Damn raiders." Kelyn brushed off his hands. "This is an interesting hiding place. From the outside it looks like a pile of debris washed down by a flash flood but from inside you can see in every direction."

"Whoever the raider's leader is he's clever." Soren searched the area, found a cloth bag and dumped it out on the ground. "Eat and rest while you have the chance."

"Catch." Kelyn tossed Soren a chunk of cheese and piece of bread.

He caught it but set it aside while he sorted through the contents and finally held up a map. "Eureka."

Delyn snorted. "I don't know what that means but he's smiling so it must be good."

"It is good." Soren spread the map out, examined it and smiled. "It shows the location of their outposts and traps in this area."

Kelyn moved forward and traced a finger from their location toward the south. "It gives us a clear path from here to the central village. I wonder how many messengers they have and if they all carry maps?"

"We only need this one." Soren traced the path on the map. "We'll use this route to move our warriors to the village. Once we take control of it we'll cut off their resupply line."

Pelyn grunted. "Once we do that the Crimeryns will return to their homeland and we can finish off the raiders."

"I still think we should've invaded Crimeryn at the same time we began the invasion of the peninsula," Kelyn said.

Soren picked up a small drawstring sack and worked at untying the knot. "No, my father was right. If we'd done that we would've spread our resources too thin and the Crimeryns would've moved back into Edyn behind us." He finally got the knot loosened and upended the belongings onto the map.

"What's that?" Delyn asked.

Soren stirred his finger through the pile then held up a ring and a bracelet. "Stolen belongings."

He picked up a notebook and flipped through it. "The runner was also a messenger so their communication devises don't work here either. It must be something organic that blocks the signal" He stopped on a page, read it and smiled. "A male who needs a map to remember the path needs a notebook to remember a message." He tossed it to Delyn. "See what you can make of it while I eat."

Delyn read it for a few micro-units. "Looks like the messenger travels to the outposts, relates their plans, collects the booty and carries it back to the leaders."

Pelyn moved closer to them when the wind picked up and a cold mist began to fall. "Looks like it's going to be another wet moon rising."

"Kelyn, I want you to go back and tell Berit what we've discovered. He can send messengers to the other units." Soren took a sip of water. "We're going to go on and clear out the outposts. Tell Berit we need half of the warriors join us. The others will continue advancing from the north. Before the Crimeryns know what's happened we'll have them trapped between us."

# # #

Malyn and three other judges approached Arlyn in the reading room of the Kouncil fortress.

"It's come to our attention that you sent the son and daughter of the Zarronian, Soren Valanson, with their mother to the peninsula," Malyn said. "This was not our judgement."

Arlyn shrugged. "You left it up to me to carry out her banishment. What difference does it make?"

"The agreed judgment of the Kouncil has never been broken," one of the other judges said. "The punishment of Arlyn must be severe."

"Death?" asked another judge.

"A taste of Skye's judgement would be more appropriate," Malyn said. "Banishment to the peninsula."

Her companions nodded in agreement but one asked, "She could simply return unless we remove her powers."

Malyn smiled. "She may keep her powers with the exception of the power to heal but only as long as she remains on the peninsula. If she leaves the area then she forfeits all of her powers for ten decades."

"Is that how long the sentence will last?"

They conferred for a micro-unit then Malyn said, "The sentence will last one decade."

Arlyn sent them threatening looks. "How dare you?" She began to wave her hands and attack them but Malyn and the other judges called on the elements and stripped her of her powers.

"A guard will escort you to the peninsula. Once there you will regain your powers except for the ability to sense or recognize other healers, conjurers or enchantresses," Malyn said and caught Arlyn's smirk. "Oh, and that includes enchanters." She waved her hands and removed the memory of Soren from Arlyn. "Now we can leave." They left and a guard entered.

Arlyn recognized him as the same guard who'd taken Skye to the peninsula.

"Take me to the female and her children," Arlyn demanded.

The guard nodded, took her elbow and they disappeared.

They reappeared inside a large cave. A small fire burned in the center of the room.

Skye lay sleeping by the fire with the babies in her arms. Arlyn's laughter woke her. She screamed and the babies woke and began to cry adding to the chaos. She scooped them up and held them protectively while she leaned down and grabbed a flaming tree branch. The end of it blazed brighter as she waved it through the air. "Stay back."

"Give the children to me," Arlyn said.

Skye waved the stick in front of her to keep Arlyn and the guard back. "I'll never let you have them." She stepped forward and brushed the flames against Arlyn's gown, catching it on fire.

Arlyn beat on the flames, burning her hands. She cursed Skye then told the guard, "Get them. Now."

He rushed Skye, knocking her to the ground. She turned her body and landed on her shoulder protecting her babies. The guard straddled her and fought her for control of the bundle the babies were wrapped in. Rilyn screamed when he grasped his arm and jerked on it.

Skye screamed at him to let go and wiggled until she could sit up and scrape her nails down his face. He released Rilyn and she grabbed him and Abrianna and scooted back on her butt as fast as she could.

The guard grabbed her foot and dragged her toward him. She kicked him in the face, breaking his nose. Before he could charge her again she laid the babies behind her in the corner and stood to defend them.

He wiped the blood off his face, spit into the dirt and charged her. She surprised him by stepping toward him and ramming her knee into his groin then doubling her fists and burying them in his belly. When he bent forward she grabbed the back of his head and slammed his face into her raised knee.

He growled a curse as he stood and she screamed when he grabbed her by the neck and lifted her into the air. Behind them Arlyn laughed again and the babies began crying louder. The guard turned so she could see that Arlyn had the children.

Skye kicked her feet in an effort to get away. He threw her and she crashed against the stone wall and fell to the ground.

"Kill her," Arlyn said and walked away.

Skye tried to get up but couldn't. "No, no. Rilyn. Abrianna."

The last thing she heard before the guard attacked her again was Rilyn and Abrianna crying.

 

 

Chapter Twenty

 

From her hiding place Skye watched the group who'd taken refuge in the cave she'd found three cycles before. Outside a blizzard raged and she covered her nose to block out the stench of dirty bodies and wet furs.

After Arlyn had taken the babies she'd woken alone and injured. It had taken her several units to remember what had happened although parts of it were still a blur. Her injuries hadn't healed properly and they slowed her down but so far, even with a limp, she'd been able to keep up with Arlyn.

She'd followed her for ten cycles and had almost gotten close enough to jump her when the evil enchantress had run into Merykh. The two of them had hit it off and formed an alliance. They were formidable foes but Skye was determined to get Rilyn and Abrianna back.

She'd considered continuing to the mainland to find Soren but she was afraid Merykh would slip away and return to Crimeryn along with Arlyn and the babies. The continent was huge and finding them there would be nearly impossible.

So here she was, stuck in a cave, hiding, while Arlyn might be moving farther away from her. Disgusted, she held her cloak around her face and watched the newcomers while she held her weight off her aching breasts. She'd have to express more milk tonight or she wouldn't be able to nurse Rilyn and Abrianna when she got them back.

She adjusted her position and went back to watching the newcomers. She didn’t recognize any of them but she could tell they'd been together for a while. It only took them a few micro-units to organize the chamber. Some started fires while others hung furs to dry. Still others laid out sleeping mats while an older female used one of the fires to begin cooking a stew. A younger female opened a bag and removed several loaves of bread from it. She tore them into chunks that she dropped into a basket.

The smell of the food made Skye's belly rumble and her mouth water. It grew into an aching pain when the older female began ladling stew into wooden bowls. The children were fed first and they eagerly took a bowl and the offered chunk of bread. The adult males came next followed by the females. They ate in silence then began retiring to their mats. Several of the older children gathered the bowls and wiped them clean. When the last one was put away they too retired to their mats.

Her thoughts went around in circles as she watched them settle for the night. The group had many females and children and the males treated them with respect. She'd almost decided to make herself known when a large group of raiders burst into the chamber.

As one the males stood with their weapons in their hands but the raiders were ruthless. They clubbed males, females and even children and shoved them toward the center of the room as they took control.

Merykh entered the chamber. "You've invaded my territory. You belong to me now. You can join me or die."

Skye slid back and searched for the tunnel opening with her feet. She found it and scooted backwards into it. Once inside she reached out and lifted the thin slab of stone into place, hiding the opening from curious eyes.

She'd gotten only a few meters when the sounds of males fighting and females screaming reached her. An urge to go to their assistance filled her but she made herself hold back. There was nothing she could do but die along with them or be taken by the raiders.

She pressed her forehead against the ground and felt the sharp edged stones dig into her skin, distracting her from their pain. After several micro-units she continued through the last forty meters of claustrophobic darkness to the small chamber she'd found.

Her rag wrapped feet bumped into the thick fur hanging over the opening and she slid through it, made sure it was closed around the edges and stood. With her right hand on the rough stone wall she crept forward until her foot bumped the mats she'd scavenged. She slid onto them and pulled a thick fur around herself.

BOOK: Soren's Bondmate
13.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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