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Authors: Traci Loudin

The Last of the Ageless

BOOK: The Last of the Ageless
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Contents

Title

Description

PART ONE

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

PART TWO

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Epilogue

Author's Note

Also by Traci Loudin

About the Author

Acknowledgments

Copyright

The Last of the Ageless

A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure Novel

By Traci Loudin

 

 

First Published 2015 by Worldbinding

Copyright © 2015 Traci Loudin

All rights reserved

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Now through October 2015, subscribers to my new releases newsletter can read short stories set in the Ageless universe before anyone else for
FREE
. No spam—you decide what I email to you when you
sign up
.

 

Cover design by
Rebecca Weaver

 

 

 

 

For my grandparents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Three centuries ago, humans and aliens fought for control of the Earth, ending in an apocalyptic event known as the Catastrophe...

Dalan is a shapeshifter
. To become fully recognized as an adult, he must pass a trial in the wastelands far from home.

Nyr is a killer
. Once a hunter, now a pawn, she must learn to rely on others to survive what’s coming.

Korreth is a slave
. He must return home to warn his family before the mutants who enslaved him threaten his people.

...but in the shadows, a new threat rises—one that could end what little remains of civilization:
The Last of the Ageless
.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART ONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Dalan caught an updraft and crested the tallest branches of the forest. Holding his wings wide, he peered upward to catch a glimpse of the All-Seeing Eye. Its dark, ominous shape traveled across the bright sky, watching over him and his people on this important day.

He dove back under the cover of the canopy and soared through the forest, flapping away from the central settlement of the Omdecu Tribe. Flaring his wings, he avoided hitting the lower branches of the next tree over before darting under its limbs. Unsure of what to expect, he landed on the leaf-covered forest floor beside his brother Mishnir.

“Return to birth form,” his brother said.

Dalan began to transmeld. His bones thickened as his weight increased. He let out an inhuman mewl of pain as his beak disappeared and his teeth regrew in his jaw. He hated showing weakness in front of Mishnir, but he still wasn’t used to the inevitable discomfort of transmelding. After his feathers reabsorbed into his body, his clothing and pack pushed out of his flesh. A few minutes later, he climbed to his feet.

“Sorry.” Mishnir pushed his long hair back from his eyes. “Know you should conserve your strength for your trials, but wanted to give you something.”

With reverent hands, he handed Dalan a dark gray gun.

Dalan examined the symbols on the side of the weapon. They seemed familiar, but he couldn’t remember where he’d seen them. Hundreds of gray squares gleamed anywhere that the dappled sunlight fell on the gun’s surface.

“Won’t I get in trouble?” Dalan asked.

Mishnir shook his head, his lips twisting up into his usual mischievous grin. “Don’t be ridiculous. The elders don’t care how you complete the trials, as long as you don’t do anything stupid. Dad gave it to Shemir, and she gave it to me.”

Dalan couldn’t imagine their sister Shemir using it. She hated “unnatural” weapons, preferring to rely on their Changeling abilities when the situation demanded it. Though he supposed she knew better than to reveal herself to outsiders.

Mishnir straightened, puffing out his chest. “Says LEC6 on the side—that’s how you know the Ancients made it. Let me tell you its power—well, a demonstration would be best.” He glanced around the woods. “Point at that moss-covered tree over there and squeeze the trigger.”

Dalan raised the short-barreled weapon and aimed along its flattened top. When he pulled the trigger, a sizzling blue bolt shot from the tip. Crackling blue lightning raced along the tree trunk, burning through the moss. He jumped over a fallen branch to examine his handiwork. He traced the gouge down the trunk, and then yanked his hand back from the heat.

“Amazing, right?” Mishnir’s grin stretched from freckle to freckle. “But needs six seconds to recharge and won’t work at night.”

The gun vibrated in Dalan’s palm. “Six seconds is a long time. Thought Ancient technology was supposed to be limitless.”

Mishnir nodded. “It was, in their day. Saved up daylight somehow and used it after dark. Nobody knows how to do that anymore.”

“Not even the elders?”

Mishnir shrugged, which Dalan took to mean neither of his siblings had asked. “Do what I did—sleep transmelded up in a tree where you’ll be safer. Wake up, make sure no one’s around to see you transmeld back into your birth form, then lay out the offerings, and catch a dragonfly.”

“Then why do I need a gun?”

“In case anyone gets in your way.”

Dalan’s expression must have revealed his inner turmoil, because Mishnir chuckled and said, “Don’t kill them! Just scare them. I mean, unless you fear for your life. Always follow the Ancient Teachings, no matter how far from home.”

“Of course.” Dalan scowled at the lecture.

Mishnir’s dragonfly buzzed toward them from deeper in the forest. Its wingspan spread as wide as the length of a man’s arm from shoulder to fingertip. Six legs twitched beneath its thorax as it came to a stop and hovered behind Mishnir.

He grinned. “Had it keeping watch. Looks like it’s time to head back.”

“Mishnir, what’s it really like? Seeing what it sees?”

“Will find out soon enough, little brother.” With those words, Mishnir began shrinking.

Dalan envied Mishnir’s ability to transmeld so effortlessly into the omdecu, the cat-like secondary form everyone in their tribe possessed. Before he knew it, Mishnir was the size of a bobcat, his short fur a swirl of black and brown. With the aid of his claws and opposable thumbs, he swiftly climbed a nearby cottonwood. Set wide on his flat, black-furred face, Mishnir’s beady black eyes blinked at Dalan.

Dalan decided to return to his red hawk meld, hoping to get back to the main settlement in time to show off Mishnir’s gift to his friends. As his bones hollowed, Dalan couldn’t hold back another cry of pain. He felt his bones snap in different directions as he collapsed to the forest floor in a puff of feathers.

Not very graceful,
Mishnir teased. The omdecu had gifted their people with the ability to speak mind to mind while in any transmeld. Though they could sometimes catch wisps of thoughts while in birth form, they couldn’t respond in kind.

Dalan concentrated on extending his beak from his skull despite the pain. Everything on him, including his clothes and the Ancient gun, absorbed into his body as he finished his transmeld. A few minutes later, he flapped up into the canopy as the red hawk.

Thanks for the gun. Will see you in a few.
Dalan refused to say goodbye.

As he ducked and swooped through the dense canopy he felt other minds reaching out to his. Everyone knew the big day had arrived, and several of his older tribemates sent him reassuring feelings and fleeting images of Dalan returning home with a dragonfly at his side. He thanked each one, not pausing in his flight.

He flapped higher and higher until he reached Cahlae and Joktinn’s family home. Inside, Dalan felt the presence of their mother in omdecu form. Her thoughts smiled on him, and she withdrew to give them some semblance of privacy.

Dalan landed on the wooden floor. His talons clicked on its weathered surface as he approached Joktinn, currently in his porcupine meld.
Switch to birth form with me.

Joktinn’s quills twitched.
Why? Didn’t we already say goodbye?

Already in her birth form, Cahlae dipped her fingers into a bowl of porridge and licked them. She glanced back and forth between Dalan and Joktinn, deaf to their conversation.

Dalan transmelded back into birth form, stifling as many moans of pain as he could. A year younger than him, the twins Joktinn and Cahlae had learned to tolerate the pain of transmelding better than he’d been able to do.

“Have something to show you,” Dalan said a few minutes later, once his vocal cords reshaped.

Joktinn had recently gained the porcupine transmeld and reveled in his new form whenever he got the chance. Just as Dalan had preserved the tail-horse for the tribe, Joktinn was the keeper of the porcupine, a species in danger of being outbred by other mutated mammals.

“Is an exciting day for you, Dalan.” Dalan didn’t need mental communication to glean the jealousy from Cahlae’s voice.

Dalan flushed. “Will be your turn soon enough.”

The porcupine shuddered and grew, its quills sucking back inside with squelching noises.

Dalan looked away until his friend pushed his clothing out from his skin. “Do those quills hurt you as badly as you hurt Tarran’s grandson?” The older boy had sneaked up on Joktinn when he’d first tried the porcupine meld. Tarran’s grandson had been the only one surprised by what happened next.

Cahlae chuckled, which reassured Dalan she wasn’t upset with him. “Doubtful.”

Joktinn brushed his shaggy brown hair from his eyes as Dalan held up the LEC6. “Nice! Who gave you that? Do you know how rare Ancient weapons are?”

Dalan found himself grinning back as he handed the gun over. “Just don’t point it at me.”

Cahlae rose to stand beside them, and Dalan inhaled the scent of the flowers from her hair.

Joktinn raised the gun and sighted along the barrel. “What kind of projectile? Bullets? Good luck finding the right ones.” He peeked into the hole at the bottom of the grip.

“No, it’s like lightning. Recharges from the sun.”

“Lightning?” Joktinn’s eyebrows shot up beneath his hair. “Hate you a little right now.”

Cahlae grabbed his wrist. “Let me see!” She took the gun and ran her fingers over the LEC6 engraved on the side. “Four transmelds
and
an Ancient weapon,” she muttered.

Dalan couldn’t deny the envy in her voice now, but he pretended not to hear. Like most of their tribemates, Cahlae and Joktinn could each turn into one animal besides the secondary omdecu form they all shared. Having three transmelds was unlikely, but the luck of having four struck only once in a generation.

Dalan had hoped his friends wouldn’t be as jealous as the other teens. He shuffled his feet. “Should probably get going.”

Cahlae’s face fell. “Be safe. Didn’t lose anyone last year, so you know what that means.”

Joktinn punched her in the shoulder. “Don’t say that!”

“I asked Mom about that,” Dalan said. “It’s just something the older kids say to scare us.”

BOOK: The Last of the Ageless
13.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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