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Authors: Robert B. Wintermute

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum

BOOK: Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum
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Walk the Blind Eternities …

Discover the planeswalkers in their travels across the endless planes of the Multiverse …

AGENTS
OF
ARTIFICE
BY ARI MARMELL

Jace Beleren, a powerful sorcerer and planeswalker whose rare telepathic ability opens doors that many would prefer remain closed, is at a crossroads: the decisions he makes now will forever affect his path.

THE PURIFYING FIRE
BY LAURA RESNICK

The young and impulsive Chandra Nalaar—planeswalker, pyromancer—begins her crash course in the art of boom. When her volatile nature draws the attention of megalomaniacal forces, she will have to learn to control her power before her powers control her.

ALARA UNBROKEN
BY DOUG BEYER

The fierce leonine planeswalker Ajani Goldmane unwittingly uncovers the nefarious agency behind the splintered planes of Alara and their realignment. Meanwhile, fellow planeswalker Elspeth Tirel struggles to preserve the nobility of the first plane she has ever wanted to call home. And the dragon-shaman Sarkhan Vol finds the embodiment of power he has always sought.

And revisit these five classic planeswalker tales, repackaged in two volumes

ARTIFACTS CYCLE I
THE THRAN BY J. ROBERT KING
THE BROTHERS’ WAR BY JEFF GRUBB

ARTIFACTS CYCLE II
PLANESWALKER BY LYNN ABBEY
BLOODLINES BY LOREN L. COLEMAN
TIME STREAMS BY J. ROBERT KING

To my mate and minions
.

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

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

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Epilogue

Copyright

N
issa Revine heard a rustle and a snap, and she knew Hiba was running toward her through the undergrowth. She moved carefully as an accipiter beetle perched on her hand, keeping a wary eye on its venom-tipped spike. As she watched, the insect unfolded its hairy, purple wings.

“Come quick,” Hiba said, bursting out of the foliage.

Nissa looked up and saw him freeze, his eyes on the fist-sized beetle. He took a step back, but it was too late. Sensing him, the beetle suddenly shot at his face. Hiba ducked and stumbled backward as the bug whizzed past his ear and away through the trees. Nissa watched it go.

“Stealthy as always,” she said, her eyes on the gap in the branches the beetle had flown through. A breeze rustled the leaves, and Nissa sighed.

“One day,” Hiba said. “You’ll stop saying that.”

She watched as he brushed himself off. In the heat of the forest floor, the smells of moss, sweaty leather, and jurworrel-tree sap wafted off him.

“We Tajuru don’t spend our days sneaking around down here,” he said, also glancing in the direction the beetle had flown. “Doing whatever it is you do down here.”

Nissa smiled inwardly as she took his measure. Like most Tajuru, Hiba was lightly armed and well tethered. Only a short sword dangled from his belt, clanking against his climbing hooks and rope. His torso and thighs were crisscrossed with complex waist-harness loops and shoulder slings of warthog leather and turntimber bark, the latter nearly indestructible. His arms were saddled with long muscles capable of sudden feats of quick strength. He could, in half the blink of an eye, find a grip on a sheer cliff face, and support three other elves with one finger. She’d seen him do it more than once. He had saved her life in Teetering Stone Canyon when she’d missed a toe hold. Unlike the Tajuru, her own Joraga elves weren’t much good at climbing—a failing more than made up for by their stealth, summoning ability, and combat prowess.

She shrugged the strap of the long staff slung over her shoulder back into place and followed Hiba.

The way back to the home tree took them shimming up a towering, corkscrew turntimber trunk and along moss-carpeted branchways wide enough for ten elves to walk shoulder to shoulder. They soon found the rope bridge hidden among the hanging lichens that always reminded Nissa of snakes moving in the breeze.
Snakes
, she thought, swallowing hard. Snakes teemed everywhere on Ondu—in fact, there was one wrapped around the rope handrail as she approached.
Snakes
. Nissa tried not to shiver as she passed by the handrail.
Only vampires are more disgusting than snakes
. Hiba noticed her grimace. The young elf smiled as they walked.

“Still afraid of snakes,” he said, more of a statement than a question.

“I think you meant, ‘still afraid of snakes,’
Captain
Leaf Talker?”
she corrected, using her official Tajuru ranger designation. “Is that what you meant?”

“That is exactly what I meant, Captain Leaf Talker,” Hiba said. He was teasing her she knew, but she did not mind too much. Hiba was as near to a friend as she had in this place among the weaker elves.

They were very near the tree—she could tell by the smell of fires. But the tree was so well camouflaged that the forest seemed to extend in unbroken stillness until they were virtually at its trunk. Only the continuous creaking of the turntimber trees filled the close silence.

Silence was yet another odd aspect of the tribe that had adopted her. She did not understand their need for quiet. Her old home in Bala Ged had been a noisy place. But she certainly could not go back to the Joraga elves there. Not until she’d completed her appointment with the Tajuru. It was something all great leaders of the Joraga did; to live abroad with another tribe for a time. But Nissa had done so much more. She’d traveled out past the blind eternities to flat lands of endless of grass, to lands of alloy and fire, even to endless cities where people stood on each other’s heads. But none of those planes were her place, and no plane had more mana or beauty than Zendikar, so she soon felt drawn back.

Nissa snapped out of her thoughts. Hiba had stopped walking and was standing stock still in the middle of the bridge, a long ear cocked upward. Far below she could hear air passing over the wings of a bird of prey circling the floor’s duff. Above, the green tangle of corkscrew branches held strangely still. Then she heard it: a rhythmic scraping somewhere ahead and up. She knew better than to make any noise as she very carefully freed her staff from the strap slung over her shoulder.

It could be many things. The Turntimber was full of dangerous predators; simm cats that kicked with their sharp back claws; forest trolls with their swords made of chipped stone. Perhaps it was even the undead Tajuru from the kor tales that wandered the forest floor at night, waiting to suck the brains of the living out through their eye sockets.

Or it could be something else. Lately there had been whispers of a new threat in the forest.
Something
had been seen.

The scraping sound continued; the sound of long claws sharpened across the hard wood of a turntimber branch.
Onduan baloth
, her mind suddenly screamed. She’d seen one, many times the size of an elf, hop casually from one trunk to another—a jump of nearly fifty body lengths—and swipe a Tajuru in half with its thick claws. They fought casually, and could eat whole families.

Nissa and Hiba stayed still and listened to the scraping and the creak of the trees until Hiba smiled and took a hook from his belt. He very carefully drew it across the nearest branch as a pass sign. Soon a whistle echoed through the boughs, and Hiba clipped the hook back on his belt and walked forward.

Two sentinels were perched above a ladder in a nest of moss. They were so well camouflaged that Nissa had to look at the nest for some seconds before the outlines of the elves revealed themselves. One nodded as they passed. The branch behind the two was wrought by clever enchantment into a long horn that could be blown to alert the home tree.

She had to give credit to the Tajuru architects as the full view of the home tree settlement opened before her. She’d lived here only a month, and the sight still made the hairs on her arms stand up. Thousands of
brightly colored wood-and-moss, hedron-shaped huts clung to huge belts of woven bark girded around the branches and trunk of a vast turntimber. Complex strut works of wood, rope suspension bridges, and planked walkways festooned the tree in arcing loops. The fact that the turntimber tree healed over any attempts to penetrate its bark only heightened her amazement—the clever tribe had been able to make the marvel without even one nail.

The rope bridge joined into one of the plankways, and with creaking steps, Hiba led the way to the longhouse atop a massive branch. Other Tajuru were walking together in the same direction. Many were talking in whispers among themselves, and were fully outfitted in ornate harness systems and slender bladed weapons. None of the tall, fine Tajuru looked like the Joraga, who, ever-hard in Nissa’s memory, hissed vows as they smeared the blood of fallen enemies along scars they’d received in battle.

The longhouse was full to capacity when they arrived. Aggressively casual, some Tajuru were even sitting on the white jaddi wood windowsills and passing small bags of dried wolf berries back and forth. In the center of the room, standing on a slightly raised platform, Nissa saw two elves she’s never seen before. She could tell by the hushed tones in the hall that the visitors were important.

Hiba leaned close to her ear.

“Speaker Sutina,” he said.

She had seen a couple of messengers and important visitors stop by the home tree in her time with the tribe. But even the tribe’s large size didn’t seem to constitute such visitors as the two that stood on the platform. Nissa looked carefully at the female that stood in the center of the room. Speaker Sutina
was wearing a jerkin of simple green leather, and her advisor was similarly dressed: no ropes, no harnesses. Neither Sutina nor her assistant seemed to be armed in the least. Their lack of gear alone should have alerted Nissa to their stature. But the Tajuru didn’t think in terms of importance and stature, and she had already started adopting their ways of seeing the world.

BOOK: Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum
2.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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