Glenda Larke: Stormlord rising

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Glenda Larke Stormlord rising
  • Название:
    Stormlord rising
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  • Жанр:
    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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"Where is everyone from our level? Why aren't they here?"

"Most of them went down the tunnel. Level Three and Four people had first choice. Maybe they're still hidden there. Where's Kaneth?"

"He was injured. I don't know what happened to him."

"Oh." Beryll started to cry again, in juddering sobs. Helplessly, Ryka patted her on the back. Oh, Beryll, she thought, things could get a lot worse even than this.

Miserably, she looked around. Nealrith had brought as many of the city folk into the protection of the level's walls as he could, but it had been an illusory safety. The city's two top levels, where the waterhall and the Cloudmaster's residence were located, had lasted longer than the stepped levels of the lower city, but in the end it had made little difference. We rainlords failed these people.

The Scarpen's only hope was that Jasper Bloodstone had escaped with Nealrith's wife, that spitless bitch Laisa, and their daughter, Senya. Perhaps Jasper and Senya could start a new line of stormlords.

Perhaps the other cities will prevail. Perhaps they will stop this Reduner sandmaster. Perhaps in the end it will be that bastard Taquar Sardonyx who will stop him…

"Listen, Beryll, you must tell me all you have seen. The Reduners-the leaders. Who are they?"

Slowly, Beryll calmed enough to speak again. "Well, there's Davim. He's the sandmaster. He's horrible." She was trembling still, and stark fear shone in her eyes.

"How will I recognize him?"

"He wears a red robe that's got all this red embroidery down the front and lots of gemstone beads-no one else has as much. He's maybe about Kaneth's age. There're some others who have some embroidery. Like the man who translates for those who don't speak the Quartern tongue. His name is Ravard, I think."

"Ah. I suspect I've met that one."

"I-I don't know about any of the others. Someone said the man in charge of all the killing is older. They call him the Warrior Son, but I don't know which one he is. They all look alike to me, anyway. And it's better if you don't stare at them. They don't like you to stare." She clutched at Ryka's arm. "Be careful, Ry. You can't argue with them. They don't like that, either." Time passed so slowly. Ryka circled the room, looking for a way out, but the doors were locked and the openings for light and air were high above their heads. There was a small water-room tucked away at the far end, its facilities too few for so many people. There was always a queue, and the place stank because there was only a trickle of water. No one seemed to have any food, and most had not eaten anything in over a day. The wailing of grieving women and terrified, hungry youngsters-not one of them under nine or ten-was a constant noise, grating on her nerves because no one had the means to comfort them.

In the end, Ryka fell asleep lying on the floor in Beryll's arms.

It was dark when she woke to the sounds of commotion. Slamming doors in the distance, fear-saturated muttering, renewed weeping. Everyone scrambled to their feet. Beryll clung to Ryka's arm. The central double doors were flung open and a line of Reduner warriors, some bearing torches, entered behind two of their leaders. One was the man who had brought her there: Ravard.

Staring at the other, Beryll hissed in her ear, "That's him. Sandmaster Davim!"

Her first thought was, But he's so young! The next: Watergiver damn his eyes. The man has no soul. There was nothing in his gaze that spoke of pity or compassion, and much that rejoiced in the misery he saw before him.

Silence spread to cover the room, as if the sandmaster's gaze compelled all sound to cease. Even the children were silent. He stood in front of the doors, Ravard at his side, his warriors arrayed behind him. He wasn't a tall man, but there was no doubt he commanded.

He nodded to Ravard and the younger man stepped forward. He said, "I speak for Sandmaster Davim of Dune Watergatherer. The sandmaster rules here now. Kneel before him."

The room stilled. For a moment no one moved. No one even seemed to breathe. Then, when Davim's stare bored into the women closest to him, they fell to their knees. Gradually, others around the room followed.

"I won't!" Beryll whispered. "He's the one who ordered Mother killed! And Lady Ethelva."

Ryka grabbed her by the arm and yanked her down as she herself knelt. "Oh, yes, you will," she murmured. "Your job is to stay alive until I can get you out of here. Pride means nothing. Living is what's important. And don't forget-my name is Garnet." She glanced around, relieved to see no one remained standing.

Davim spoke then, in his own tongue. His voice snapped into the silence, confirming Ryka's every fear. She was probably the only person in the room who understood the language, but the others weren't left wondering for long. Ravard translated all the sandmaster said.

"Sandmaster Davim wishes t'tell you everyone here will serve his men, or die. You are Reduner women now. He is going t'honor one of you with his personal choice."

Beryll shuddered and turned her face into Ryka's shoulder once more. "Oh, Sunlord save me," she whispered. "Ryka, he wants me, I know it. He looked at me in such a way before." Her trembling wouldn't stop.

"Hide your face," Ryka said softly. But even as she spoke she knew it was too late. The sandmaster was threading his way through the kneeling women toward them.

He pointed at Beryll and said, "Stand."

Ryka stood, pulling Beryll up with her. At Davim's shoulder, Ravard's dark eyes were fixed on hers, but there was no expression there. The sandmaster reached out and pulled Beryll away from her. He cupped her chin with a hand and forced her face up. "Her," he said to Ravard in his own tongue.

"The sandmaster has done you great honor," Ravard told Beryll. "You'll share his pallet tonight. If you please him, he'll spare your life."

"Does the sandmaster not want a real woman in his bed," Ryka drawled before Beryll could react, "instead of a mere child?"

Davim's sharp eyes snapped from Beryll to her.

He knows what I said, Ryka thought. He may not speak the Quartern tongue well, but he understands.

As if to confirm that thought, Ravard did not translate.

Davim's arrogant gaze slid up and down her body, assessing. Critical. "Ugly she-pedes don't please the bull when there are prettier pede-heifers to hand," he said in his own tongue, his tone mocking. He grinned at Ravard, who grinned back.

Not wanting to let any of the Reduners know she could understand them, Ryka was careful not to react. Beryll, still held by the sandmaster, darted a despairing, frightened look at her.

Ravard translated Davim's words.

"Bulls are blind in the dark," Ryka replied, looking past Beryll to hold the sandmaster's gaze with her own. "And all she-pedes are black in the depths of night." She gave what she hoped was an enticing smile. "Touch, on the other hand…"

"Whore!" one of the Breccian women spat at her from behind.

Davim, laughing, said to Ravard, "The ugly bitch thinks to seduce me! Who wants stringy pede meat if he can have the tender venison of a young desert deer?" He turned his attention back to Beryll. "Come with me, eager to please," he said. "Or die."

Ravard translated-and Beryll spat in the sandmaster's face.

A split second later, she dropped to the floor. For one frozen moment, Ryka didn't understand. Refused to understand. She saw Davim's merciless rage as he wiped the spittle from his face with the back of a hand. Only when her gaze dropped to Beryll where she lay spasming on the floor did she see the glistening red of the slash across her neck. With unbelieving eyes she stared at the welling blood, matched by scarlet drips along the sandmaster's dagger blade. She hadn't even seen him draw it. Behind her, someone screamed.

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