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Authors: Adolfo Garza Jr.

The Bond (Book 2)

BOOK: The Bond (Book 2)
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THE BOND

by

Adolfo Garza Jr.

 

 

Works by Adolfo Garza Jr.

 

 

DRAGONLINKED CHRONICLES

 

Dragonlinked

The Bond

 

 

TALES OF LETHERA

 

Moonflower (includes Brilliant Points of Light)

 

 

THE BOND

Dragonlinked Chronicles, Volume 2

 

by

Adolfo Garza Jr.

 

THE BOND © 2014 Adolfo Garza Jr.

Dragonlinked Chronicles
© 2014 Adolfo Garza Jr.

Cover design
© 2014 Adolfo Garza Jr.

Photographs adapted for use in the cover design
under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
:

‘Point of View’
by Nicholas A. Tonelli

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/Nicholas_T/4003680876/)

‘Apophysis-070215-966b.png’ by Ellen Meiselman

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellenm1/432806561/)

 

The CC BY 2.0 license is viewable at:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real people, places, or events, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

To those who think they are alone and unloved.

You are not.

Prologue
Excerpt from Delcimaar Daily News, Sedecy 11, 1809

Investigation Nearing Close in

Harkenon
Iced
Cream Scandal

 

DELCIMAAR — The inquiry begun ten days ago into the Harkenon Frozen Confection Company’s iced cream, Summer Delight, should be concluded in the next few days, the Office of Investigations reports. As of this writing, 124 people who ate the iced cream have become ill, 18 of whom have died, though both numbers could rise. Of those who died, 14 were children.

The local company’s iced cream, since pulled from sale, was sold on the streets by independent vendor carts and in shops all around the city. According to information released in the preliminary report, one of the iced cream’s flavoring ingredients may be to blame for the illnesses and deaths. The ingredient, Sedimom, appears to have been used as an inexpensive alternative to Vanilla. However, Sedimom can cause an allergic reaction in many people, and in a few the reaction is so severe that breathing airways swell and close, leading to death if not treated immediately. This severe allergic shock is suspected to have been the cause of all the deaths so far.

Investigators also discovered that the Harkenon Frozen Confection Company does not have an Apothecary on its staff. Had they, the adverse effects of Sedimom would have been known. In fact, the company does not employ anyone trained in Chemistry Craft at all, and their ostensible Chef is only a journeyman in Culinary Craft. Families of the deceased are in an uproar, demanding to know how it is possible that a company in this day and age can be producing products for human consumption under these circumstances. The Culinary Craft Guild has begun its own investigation into the company and its findings will be released in a few weeks.

Excerpt from Delcimaar Daily News, Nony 22, 1810

Harkenon
Ordinance
Passes

 

DELCIMAAR — In one of the most contentious city council meetings in recent memory, Ordinance 1102-2713, popularly known as the Harkenon Ordinance, passed last night. Supporters and opponents spoke before the city council over the course of five hours.

The ordinance passed is a less-restrictive version that began with requirements similar to those for starting a new craft guild. Originally it would have required a company to have the support of a craft guild related to it’s primary business, and would have required employment of a master in said craft. A company would also have been required to have the support of a secondary craft guild, preferably related to its primary business, and would have had to employ at least an adept in the secondary craft. With those conditions met, a company would have submitted an application with the Bureau of Business Affairs (BBA), the commercial equivalent of the Bureau of Guilds. During the approval meeting for the application, two votes against would have resulted in it being declined.

In its current form, the ordinance only requires the support of one craft guild related to its primary business, along with a reduced requirement of only needing to employ an adept in that craft. An application submission to the BBA is still required, though three votes against are needed to decline it, and the requirement of an on-site inspection by the supporting craft guild has been reduced from once every two years to once every three. A company will have one month to address any issues found in a craft inspection before losing its business license.

At the end of the long deliberations, the ordinance became law by a margin of two votes, though there had been doubt it would pass at all, even with the less-restrictive rules.

Supporters of the ordinance blame its changes on a newly-formed group, the Concerned Business Alliance (CBA). Adept Educator Ardona, mother of one of the children who died from eating iced cream, spoke after the meeting. “The Harkenon Iced Cream Scandal was only the most recent example of companies disregarding public safety in the interest of almighty profit,” she said. “It is unfortunate that Ordinance
1102-2713
was sacrificed on the altar of greed. This weakened version will be much less effective in protecting us and our children from another terrible incident.”

Members of the CBA, meanwhile, counter that their intent was to prevent an ordinance that would stifle innovation and hinder small business. Master Investigator Tarkol, a representative of CBA, said, “Every company that wishes to do business in Delcimaar will be required to abide by this ordinance, and so it will become a de facto requirement for many. It behooves us to be absolutely sure that along with protecting public safety, it doesn’t hinder the formation of small businesses, a driving force in innovation and our economic progress, nor does it force existing companies out of business.”

 

Chapter 1
Leday, Secundy 11, 1874
Morning

Renata worried that she might be dead.

She was completely surrounded by darkness, and her hands, arms—hells, her whole body was
 . . . gone. What could cause this? Sorcery, perhaps, though nothing like this had been taught in Manisi training. It was beyond disturbing. She couldn’t see anything, there wasn’t anything to touch, and she couldn’t smell or hear anything. All she had were her thoughts.

Did they find me? Kill me?

Brilliant lances of radiance split the gloom.

Like sunlight penetrating a heavy bank of clouds, spears of illumination picked out a place—created it?—and revealed people within. The living diorama was like a stage, a play, and the feeling of being part of an audience was strong. She took in the scene below.

Those weren’t just any people, and that wasn’t just any place. Invisible heart pierced by a tiny hurt, Renata watched the performance begin.

An eight-year-old version of herself stood in the hallway of her old home. The little girl waited just to the side of the doorway to the large, central room. Her mother and father were in there, talking with the Ojon. Murmurs mostly, a quiet conversation. Calm words about giving away their daughter.

Silent tears filled eyes the color of jade. Small hands cupped an even smaller bag. Everything she would be allowed to take was in there. With slumped shoulders, she lowered her head. Straight raven-black hair hung nearly to her hands as she stared down at the woven pouch. Eyes blinked and tears fell, making dark spots on the cloth bag. Little fingers wiped long lashes.

“It is an honor for her to be chosen.” Her mother’s voice rang with pride.

The Ojon spoke quietly. “As often as Ojoni wander the villages searching out prospects for the Corpus Order, we do not always find acceptable children. Which is unfortunate. The Order needs recruits in order to fulfill our goal of killing as many of those beasts as possible.”

“And a righteous goal it is.” Fervent belief made her father’s voice gruff.

“Faith is the gift we were given to help combat the monsters Yrdra created.” The Ojon’s voice and words were syrupy smooth. “Your conviction adds to that faith.”

Renata had never seen one of the monsters herself, but like everyone from the villages, she knew the story of how Yrdra had created them. The Corpus Order made sure everyone knew it, though no one had seen a dragon in many, many years.

“Sweetheart. Come in, please.”

The words made the little girl stand up straight. She took a deep breath and released it. Then, after quickly checking eyes for stray tears, the girl walked in the room.

“This is Ojon Gilthan of the Corpus Order. He is the one who will take you to Bataan-Mok.”

Bataan-Mok. Polished stone. Echoing halls. Immense and oppressive.

As memories of the place flashed through her mind, Renata’s perspective began to shift. She flew toward the little girl, to her younger self. Trying to raise her arms did nothing—she had no body. She plunged into, merged with, became one with the eight-year-old.

After a moment of blurred vision and confusion, she found herself staring at the Ojon. A light-colored robe hung loosely off his shoulders, and his hands were clasped in his lap. Unblinking eyes examined her like you would a prize animal. His gaze was a little frightening as he studied every inch of her, no sign of caring in his eyes, only calculation, scheming.

“Your daughter is quite beautiful,” he said. “She’ll place well in the Order.”

“Pardon?” her father said.

“A Dozon could have the same Pesan assisting them for years. An ugly Pesan is not something they want to see day after day.” The Ojon turned to her mother. “You said she had some magic aptitude, could read and write, and was good with her hands?”

“Yes.” Her mother was smiling. “And very intelligent, too.”

Renata looked at her father.

No, she thought. Don’t do this. Not
 . . . again.

Her vision trembled, blurred. A firm shake of her head helped steady her sight. Why was she reliving this?

Her father stared at her, eyes shadowed.

As a little girl, she’d only stared back. The inevitability of what was to come had gripped her heart and frozen her body and mind. She’d hardly been able to breathe.

I was so meek, she thought. Submissive. What if I hadn’t been?

“Daddy, please. Don’t give me away.”

Everything warped and twisted. All she saw shifted in a screaming of light.

Renata nearly stumbled as she walked barefoot down a wide, well-lit hallway inside the sprawling stone structure that was Bataan-Mok. The momentary change in gait caused her earring to chime. The elaborate gold trinket—hoops and thin, beaded strands—hung from her right ear and was matched by a small gold stud that glinted on the left side of her nose.

The jewelry was part of the uniform she wore. The clothing consisted of a sheer, waist-length shift, and a small loincloth made of soft, flowing material, part of a thin, woven belt that hung low from her waist. There was makeup as well, kohl around the eyes, but that was all there was to the uniform.

She ran fingers down the side of her clean-shaven head, a task she had to complete each morning, then glanced down at the thin shift and frowned. The Pesan uniform was so flimsy. She felt incredibly exposed and had to consciously force herself to carry the leather-bound notebook at her side, instead of in front or behind.

On the way to the rooms of the Nesch, she passed several members of the Order. Inside, out of the fierce sun, they did not wear their airy robes, just skirts and short tops, all of thin, cool material. She frowned again. Thin, but not sheer. As for the girls and boys walking about the place, all were Pesani, and all wore the same uniform as she.

The first day as Pesan had left her fingers sore from all the notes and dictation. She’d never written so much in her life. And her feet, too, had been sore from running around the enormous building. She sent and received messages, managed schedules and meetings, and generally kept the Dozon’s life organized. Her Dozon, Nesch Takatin, was stern, but at least so far, not cruel. And, too, it gave her something to do to take her mind off the fact that her parents had given her over to these people.

It might not have been so bad if not for the loneliness. The girls all seemed to hate her, and the boys did as well. When she learned that a Pesan’s unofficial standing was related to their Dozon, it had lifted her spirits. Only one person in the entire Order was ranked higher than Nesch Takatin, and that was the leader, Capu Cirtis. This meant only one Pesan stood higher than her, so all the other Pesani could go suck a goat’s foot. She didn’t need them, anyway.

From behind came the soft footfalls of Ojon Herana, her instructor and trainer in everything Pesan. The irritable woman would be her shadow for the next few weeks. Renata took a quick glance back. There had been so much to learn, and so fast. She thought she was doing well after only four days here, but the old cow still pursed her lips in disapproval far too often. Nothing Renata did made the heifer happy.

“Stop fidgeting and walk faster.  If we arrive late for your morning duties, Nesch Takatin will not be pleased, nor will I.”

Something deep inside Renata growled and clawed its way to the surface.

Spinning on her heel, she glared at the woman. “Yrdra take you, you old hag. I was eight years old. Eight! You have no idea how hard it was for me, and still, I tried. But I never got a word of approval from you. Never!”

As she screamed, the sound of her earring, the faint chime of gold hoops bouncing against each other, expanded, reverberated, overwhelmed. Wave upon wave of ringing, chiming peals crashed against her. Hands pressed to ears, her vision again warped and tore. The stage, the scenery, everything collapsed, and was gone.

Renata awoke and opened her eyes.

“What in Yrdra’s deepest hells was that?”

The sound of sand or dirt falling from the cave mouth was the only answer to the whispered question.

Shaking off the very strange dream, she sat up and rubbed night grit from dry eyes. As she blinked them, trying for moisture, her stomach rumbled, eliciting a frown. It seemed hunger was always near, lately. Root-bread and the forage she’d found were decent enough, Isandath had provided her with a long list of edibles along with how to find and prepare them, but she wanted something more substantial. She’d sit in an ant pile, covered in honey, for some meat.

And where was that gods-cursed woman? Nearly four weeks had passed with no sign of her. Hopefully Isandath hadn’t gotten the month wrong. The idea of waiting another five weeks made her shudder. There was plenty of fresh water in the lower caves so that dying of thirst wasn’t a concern, but the forage available in The Scars left much to be desired.

Another stomach rumble interrupted her thoughts. Sighing, she went about preparing for a hunt.

A glance out of the cave made it clear that she’d slept later than normal, no doubt because of those very peculiar dreams. Still, it was early enough yet that the day shouldn’t be unbearably hot.

Why did she dream of being taken to Bataan-Mok anyway? That had happened seven or eight years ago. Why dream of it now? And the details. There had been little things in the dream that she would not have been able to remember had she tried. Isandath had mentioned having strange dreams in these caves. Is this what he’d meant?

Dusty, rocky ground dotted with cacti and scrub brush baked under clear blue skies and a bright sun. The warm, not-quite-hot breeze smelled . . . dry. Like dirt. Only the sweet perfume of blooming acacia trees occasionally broke the monotonous scent of drought-cracked earth.

As Renata made her way along the ravine at a trot, heat shimmers made everything in the distance seem ghost-like, unreal. A long leather strap bounced at her right hip, and the ayllu hung at her left, while lightweight clothing helped keep the sweltering temperatures at bay. One of the dry riverbeds that ran past the caves had provided an easy path for most of the way, but now she left it, heading for an area where she’d seen turkeys before.

Luck was not with her. After an hour of quiet, careful searching, she’d still found no sign of the birds. There was one last bit of scrub to check behind. If there were none there, she’d have to hunt for something else.

After noting the direction of the faint breeze, it was blowing directly in her face, Renata drew closer to the line of thick brush. The quiet clucking/purring sound turkeys made while eating came from the other side. In a crouch, she slowed, taking extreme care. Turkeys scared easily, she found, and if one was caught today, it would only be her second, ever.

Reaching the line of brush, she removed the ayllu and held it loosely. Isandath called it a bola, but the people in her village had been using them forever and knew them as ayllu. Slowly, carefully, she stood up enough to spy a tom with four hens a good ten or fifteen feet on the other side of the brush.

She wasn’t after the tom, easily identified by his size and the beard that extended from his chest down to the ground. He was too large—the ayllu would barely wrap around him. No, she was after a hen. She had to wait, however, as most of them were facing her direction. Any sudden movement and they’d flee.

Minutes passed under the glaring sun. Arm muscles ached from being held motionless in a throwing position for so long. Then, mercifully, all the birds turned away, toward a distant cry of a hawk. With a quick spin, she threw the ayllu at the nearest hen. The sound of the thin leather ropes whipping through the air drew the attention of the birds, but the ayllu found its target as the rest of the turkeys exploded into flight.

With a yelp of delight, Renata ran to the struggling hen. After murmuring quiet thanks to it, she quickly snapped its neck. The ayllu went back on her belt as did the strap, now holding the turkey.

A grumble of thunder drew her attention.

The sky toward the caves was dark with clouds. Focusing solely on the turkeys, she hadn’t noticed the weather approaching from the west.

Was it a passing storm, or had the spring rains come?

Either one could be a problem. She knew of no other shelter out here other than the caves, and flooding could cut her off from them. Spending a cold night outside, soaking wet and with no fire, was something she wanted to avoid.

The uneven ground made running difficult. Deep, drawn-out rumbles from the sky accompanied rapid heartbeats and rapid breaths as Renata reached for the turkey bouncing against her thigh. Clutching its bound legs, she jumped down the slope, sliding along with dirt and gravel to the bottom of the deep ravine, to the dry riverbed. Long legs ate up ground in an all-out sprint for safety.

The wind picked up. Gusts of cooler air mixed in with the warm, carrying the scent of damp soil, of rain. Blinding light flashed, followed closely by ground-shaking thunder. She stopped to blink off the after-images, and a heavy drop hit her shoulder, surprisingly cold. The sound of others hitting the dry soil—dusty plops—came from all around. Slow at first, one here, one there, then suddenly, the downpour began.

The thicker gray clouds that had moved in from the west and the heavy rain made the day, not quite noon, look like late evening. Breaths now came in ragged gasps, and a stitch had started in her side. Mud and pooling water made footing less sure. Prudence forced a slowing of her head-long pace, and she made for gravel or sandy areas while continuing as quickly as possible along the ravine.

BOOK: The Bond (Book 2)
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