Read What Was Forgotten Online

Authors: Tim Mathias

What Was Forgotten (9 page)

BOOK: What Was Forgotten
2.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“She is one of the Revered,” he had implored. “She will lead us. We will fight again if we go, but the war ends here if we stay.”

They escaped through the underground. The tunnels had been there for centuries for exactly this reason, though up until the last few months, no one that ever lived in Yasri ever thought there would be a need for them.

It was almost a half day before they emerged several miles east of the city, so narrow and difficult was the tunnel. When they emerged into the dim daylight, Sera looked back on her city and thought for a moment that, from the distance, she could entertain the illusion of peace within the walls even though she knew what would likely happen to her captured kinsmen, if it had not happened already.

The few hundred of them stood there, each looking to the next for guidance, uncertain in this land they used to know as their own. Now it was enemy territory. Many looked to Cohvass, as he was the most renowned warrior among them. But the imposing man looked to Sera, and when they had decided where they would go, every last survivor followed her. They went into the Yasur forest, and that night, Sera wept during Aulvennic’s holy hour. She thought only of those left behind. Cohvass sat beside her that night. It was enough of a comfort to have him there, silent as he was. Words had lost their sense along with everything else they knew.

They had moved slowly and carefully through the Yasur over the following weeks. Directionless as they were, they made invisibility the heart of their existence. While her people slept, Sera spent hours in the evernight, looking for guidance. Looking for anything. She heard Cohvass say each day that they would learn the purpose of their survival. She only hoped it was soon.

Shouts of anger had reached them through the trees. Someone had to shake her back to awareness. They told her, excitedly: the scouts had come across a Ryferian column in the forest.

“There was arguing among them. One of the
gattra
killed a
nasci
soldier,” one of the scouts recounted.

“The
nasci
treat the shadows like criminals,” another remarked.

“They are criminals to them, just as we are,” Sera said. “Guilty of having different gods.”

“Something else… They’ve taken the Raan Dura.”

Sera nodded, unsurprised. Many of the others looked at each other, caught between disbelief and panic. She knew what they were thinking; they were a people without a home, and now their most sacred of artifacts was being taken from them. They would soon suffer the same fate as many other enemies of the Empire. Sera thought it, too: this could be the last moment in their history, if they did nothing.

“I need to see,” she said.

 

 

 

They counted over two hundred soldiers. Sera, Cohvass, and three other scouts lay prone and watched the column as it began its march, the sun just beginning to rise above the trees.

“There,” Cohvass whispered as he pointed to a carriage bearing a number of crates and barrels and wooden boxes overflowing with shiny trinkets and treasures undoubtedly stolen from Yasri. Among them was a familiar iron chest with bands of gold inlaid in ornate patterns. A disk of pure silver, a beautiful yet meager representation of the Guiding Star, had been affixed to the lid of the chest which held the Raan Dura.

“Where are they taking it?” asked Nyall Augoss, one of the scouts.

Cohvass grimaced. “Do you not know? They are taking it to their capital. Every last piece of us that they have will be sacrificed to their man-god. Burned. Melted. And once the last piece of us is gone, their clerics will cast a spell over their entire people, and they will forget we ever were.”

Nyall’s mouth was agape. He looked to Sera. “Is this true?”

Sera nodded. “My grandfather once told me of a great kingdom across the Ortulian Ocean that dared to wage war against Ryferia. The war lasted eleven generations, and when it was over, every last aggressor had been put to the sword, every city burned to ash, and then their priests came and banished every one of their ancestors from the evernight.”

“What was this kingdom called?”

“No one knows,” Sera whispered. “No one knows what was there, who they were… there is only a great ashen desert where castles once stood. Do you understand now? It’s not enough that they defeat their enemies. They make it so that they
never were
. Not even the spirits in the evernight are spared.”

No one said anything as they watched the rest of the column march off. Sera noticed another carriage, heavily laden and covered by sheets of canvas, and noticed the giant that walked beside it, his greatsword unsheathed and gleaming in the morning sun. Was the giant there by chance, or was there something underneath those coverings that he was guarding?

Cohvass had seen it as well. “What do you think was in the other carriage?” he asked as the Ryferian rearguard finally moved out of earshot.

“Something valuable,” Nyall muttered.

“Nothing of concern to us,” Sera said. “They have the Raan Dura.” She paused as she thought again of that nameless kingdom turned to ash and dust. “We need to get it back.”

Cohvass nodded. “They’re twice our number. There are perhaps one hundred of us able to fight. Even then, we’re ill equipped, we’re hungry –”

“Stop,” Sera said quietly. “Do you want to see Aulvennic’s gift to our people destroyed?”

The tall warrior shook his head.

“Would you fight to get it back?”

“Of course I would,” he grumbled.

She put her hand on his forearm. “Good… because there is a way we can get it back.”

The group separated that night. Many among them were aged and tired, or young and frightened; unable to fight. Lian Sepro, a well-known seer from the city, agreed to act as their leader while the rest of them – just over a hundred – tracked the column. Some objected, not wanting to leave any of their countrymen defenseless, but their need to see the Raan Dura freed would not be denied.

Sera spoke privately with Lian before they left. “It may be several days before we return. It may be longer than that. We’ll need to wait for just the right time.”

Lian smiled. “I believe that Aulvennic is guiding you, Sera. You saved us once. Perhaps by his grace, you’ll save us again.”

Lian looked sad as Sera walked away; he was not too old that he couldn’t fight, and she knew that he would have preferred to follow her. But the rest of their kinsmen needed a holy man to assure them that their god had not forgotten them. She felt hopeful for the first time in weeks, hopeful that they would have a victory of their own as they set off into the forest after the enemy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

 

 

He was back at the tree.
Their
tree. The sound of the waterfall drifted in and out of his awareness, its noise as natural as the beating of his heart. It felt as though it became part of him, a sound as much his own as his breathing. Sometimes the wind would carry cool droplets of water to where Zayd and Symm sat against the tree. They smiled unknowingly each time it occurred. His mind would drift back to before, when he had come there alone. But that was someone else. He was no longer that Zayd. He had come here to this place for years by himself, but it had always been theirs. It made sense now. He understood.

They raced each other every time they went there, and every time she won. He pushed himself, faster and faster each time, only to find Symm already lying on the branch that reached closest to the precipice of the falls. She was never even out of breath. He tried different routes, but the conclusion was always the same.

The summer heat bore down on them even in the shade, and they sat unmoving, silently awaiting the next breath of wind to usher mist off the cascades to where they rested.

“Why haven’t you followed me?” Symm asked. Zayd was unsure if they had spoken since they had arrived.

“I think for the same reason you haven’t asked me to.”

She traced her finger along lines in the tree bark. “Maybe I don’t know why I haven’t.”

“Because it’s yours.”

She lifted her head off of his shoulders, the most she had moved in minutes… or hours.

“The land isn’t mine,” she said.

“The run is yours. Running whatever way you go, whatever path you’ve found. That belongs to you.”

“And that’s why you haven’t followed me? Or asked me to show you?”

Zayd nodded.

“Aren’t you tired of getting here last?” she asked. Zayd’s eyes were closed, but he heard the smile in her words.

“No,” he said. “That’s my favourite part.”

Her finger followed a line in the bark that led to Zayd’s leg, and she ran her finger slowly on his thigh where the line in the bark would be. She laughed as she felt him tense. “Why is that?” She stopped her hand after he did not answer for several moments.

“I leave the village,” he said slowly, “and I see you there when I go. And I see you here when I arrive. And I begin to think I may see you wherever I go.”

“In your home?”

“Yes.”

“And… in your bed?” she whispered deliberately.

The question took him off guard. He opened his eyes and saw her smiling, laughing silently. He felt his face go red. Symm laughed harder, and pushed Zayd suddenly, sending him off the branch. He landed unsteadily on his feet before he lost his balance and ended up on his back, and as he propped himself up on his elbows, he saw her running away, looking over her shoulder at him as she went. Zayd followed her, but she was not running fast. She wanted him to catch up. They did not go far.

 

 

The attack came on the morning of the seventh day since they left Yasri. Zayd and the other scouts had finished their sentry duties at first light and returned to their carriages for rest. Gavras, still chained at the hands and feet, seemed to be perpetually awake. The rain never quit fully since it had started two days prior; there were reprieves, but the clouds remained, promising more.

The road hugged the eastern bank of a lake, and the far side of the water’s edge was against a high, sheer cliff, from the top of which ran a narrow waterfall. Other mountains had started to dominate the horizon. On their right the ground sloped upward to a ridge, the hard-packed earth of the Yasur forest now replaced by waist-high shrubs and moss-covered stone, and instead of tall pines, the land was dominated by proud oak trees.

Some soldiers could hear Commander Areagus angrily trying to discern the maps they had taken from Yasri. He had even grudgingly asked the opinion of Willar Praene, commander of the Ninth Regiment, in the hope to determine where exactly they were according to the indistinct maps. Or, he had meant to; instead Areagus had mistakenly asked Evret Lansdon, Praene’s cousin who looked almost like a twin. But, only being a corporal, Evret had no insight to offer Areagus. “Well then get from my sight!” Areagus had yelled. “And go find your damned cousin this instant!” Evret, along with every soldier in Areagus’ presence, hastened to obey.

As the column halted at the lake while Areagus and Praene conferred, Barrett and some of the knights of the Eighth rode ahead to scout the terrain. Zayd watched the knights ride off, the canter of the horses shaking the ground as they went, and the clamour transported him back to Tauth. He had known fear at those tremors, a fear he thought he had conquered.

And the noise had hidden the sounds that Zayd and his men may have otherwise detected. It was as if the forest came to life. There were suddenly slain soldiers amongst them, and the second volley of arrows coming from the trees hit them before those wounded in the first volley had even cried out. Some soldiers were getting into what battle lines they could manage in the confined space of the road, while others linked shields together and stood over the wounded.

In the carriage, Zayd’s eyes shot open seemingly in unison with his men. Without uttering a word they all rapidly disembarked and armed themselves as quickly as they could. Other soldiers were rushing to the front. From the corner of his eye, Zayd saw Areagus and Praene coming out of the command tent. A soldier with two arrows in his shield ran up to Areagus to brief him.

Zayd was about to issue orders when a familiar sound rang out: a Dramandi war cry. It echoed across the lake and off of the cliff face and back, making it impossible to tell the location of their attackers. The cry went up a second and third time, followed by more arrows. Zayd looked ahead in time to see the Dramandi emerging from the forest, running at them, weapons held high.

“Circle around,” Zayd said, pointing to their right flank, towards the ridge. “Only engage once you’re sure you’re behind them.”

“Are you not leading us?” Daruthin asked.

Zayd looked into the empty carriage. Gavras had disappeared.

“I’ll join up with you soon.”

 

 

The Dramandi had come into sight but did not charge. Instead they remained a short distance from the road, screaming their war cries from amongst the trees, taunting the Ryferians. Zayd saw dozens of Trueborn soldiers break formation and run into the woods after the Dramandi while their commanders screamed at them uselessly to hold the line.

BOOK: What Was Forgotten
2.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Murder Road by Simone St. James
The Odd Job by Charlotte MacLeod
Relatos y cuentos by Antón Chéjov
A New Life by Bernard Malamud
Rainbow Bridge by Gwyneth Jones
Rumors by Katy Grant
By the Tail by Marie Harte