Escape
158 pages
English

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158 pages
English

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Description

Sent away from their home by their parents to protect them from trouble, two sets of halfling twins, Ashlea, Brandien, Jaydren and Kylandra search for mentors to teach them how to use their affinities. Each of these young teens has an affinity for one of the elements. Ash for Air, Bran for Water, Jay for Earth and Ky for Fire. During the escape, they face many problems forcing them to use their affinities by trial and error. They also meet Alizand, the son of the ruling prince of Wesren. Zand has an affinity for Fire and this will keep him from gaining the rule. Dom Senet, an advisor to his father, and once a friend of the quartet’s parents suspects Zand’s affinity. He wishes to corrupt the teen and use him to gain control of the four princedoms of the land and of the highlands. The evil dom has all four affinities. The four must reach a secret place and find teachers before the evil man discovers them.

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Publié par
Date de parution 23 mai 2013
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781773629384
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Exrait

Searches Affinities Book 3
By JL Walters
Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-938-4 Kindle 978-1-77145-061-4 WEB 978-1-77362-939-1
Amazon Print 978-1-77362-940-7
Copyright 2013 by Janet Lane Walters Cover Art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this boo k.
Chapter One
Valcon The midday sun of the late summer day beamed on the caravan consisting of three Rover wagons, several extra coursers and eight ride rs. Val tugged off his neck cloth and wiped his sweaty brow. Today he rode as rear gu ard and used his affinity for Water to search for emotions that spoke of strangers. As yet, the group seemed to be the only travelers for miles. He scanned the horizon. The grassy plains stretched to the east and the west of the old rutted road leading toward a distant grove of t rees. The forest could hide attackers, but as yet he sensed no unknown enemies. The heavy loads stored in the wagons caused the slo w progress. Val had to admit Doma Jandia was the best trader he had ever encount ered. Not only did they have extra mounts there was enough food and grain to las t a month or more along with the tools they needed to repair the abandoned keep. He grinned. They still had credit with the Rovers. An outburst of angry emotions impinged on his peace . Val’s hands clenched. Four days of travel beneath a hot sun had brought temper s to the fore, especially from those whose affinity for Fire guided their actions. Ky and her courser tore toward him. With one hand s he held the reins. The other hand held a raised sword that blazed with flames. B ehind her, Zand galloped. His sword showed a plume of fire. “Take that back,” he shoute d. Val rode toward the pair. “Enough,” he cried. “Damp en those flames. Do you want to set the grass aflame and endanger us all?” “She called me a baby,” Zand said. Val sucked in a breath. “What did you say to her?” “That I was better with a sword.” Val nodded. “Since you have been practicing with on e since you could hold a blade, how else could you be? I say you’re both acting lik e children.” In some ways they both were, not only in age but in experience. “Why don’t the pair of you spar after evening meal when Dragen can watch and comment?” The flames on Ky’s sword died. She turned to Zand. “A good idea.” “Just blades. No flames,” Zand said. The pair wheeled and rode off. Val watched them go. Sometimes he wished he could use his affinity for Water to empty a cloud o n his friends’ heads. A longing for shade and coolness arose. Would they reach the tree s in time to make camp for the night? Why were there no farms or villages in this area? W as this part of the highlands? He knew the Rovers’ camp was in the neutral ground between the lowlands and the highlands. How much further must they travel to rea ch the deserted keep Dragen knew? The abandoned dwelling was to be a refuge where the y could learn to use their affinities. This meant another change in his life.
His thoughts slid to the many times his life had un dergone an upheaval. He had no recollection of his mother’s death and few from the years he and his father had lived off the land before joining the Rovers for several seas ons. Those days had been ones of learning and of belonging. Then his father had been drawn to Cedris. Flashes o f memories from the day his father had died at the hands of Dom Senet made Val’ s hands shake. He pushed his grief aside and tried to smooth the raw places. One area remained abraded. He knew the children who had lived with him in Cedris were safe with the Rovers. They had been his family until his affinity had forced a chasm to separate them. A shudder rolled through his body. A member of his adopted family had envied his talent. Had that been the reason for Larkea’s betra yal or had her dislike of Geni spurred the angry reaction? Larkea’s actions had resulted i n his and Geni’s capture by Dom Senet and had placed all their friends in danger. W hen he recalled the coldness of the dom’s green eyes, Val felt ill. “Val.” He had been so deep in thought he hadn’t noticed Br an’s arrival. Val smiled at his friend. With their pale blond hair, green eyes and the deep copper of their skins they could have been siblings except their features were different. Even Bran and his twin had little facial resemblance. Val halted his cours er. “Is there a problem?” “Sort of. Your emotions are so loud I can’t block t hem. Ash and Kirlon said your bitterness scents the air. We’re worried about you.” “Sorry.” Val stroked his steed’s neck. “I was think ing about all the changes in my life and lost control. I also miss the children.” How co uld he explain his losses to anyone? Bran nodded. “About the children. You haven’t deser ted them. Leaving them with the Rovers gives them chances they didn’t have in C edris. It’s also better for them not to be with us.” “I know.” Val smiled. “Larkea thrives and enjoys he r new knowledge about plants and healing. The boys are gaining farming skills. E ven Svana has found a place. Still, I miss them.” A covey of grass hens erupted from the brush. Val u sed a slingshot to bring down several. Bran dismounted and gathered the birds. By the time the last one had been flushed they had eight. “I wonder if any of our companions have been succes sful hunters, too.” Though sacks of dried foods were stored in the wagons, Val was glad to add to the larder. “We’ll soon know.” Bran tied the fowl to his saddle , mounted and rode away. Val followed at a slower pace. He remained alert an d searched for stray emotions. The only ones he sensed belonged to his companions. By the time the sun sank toward the horizon, the wagons had reached the edge of the forest. Val tended to his steed and then joined Ash at the fire to pluck the birds. The clang of swords and Dragen’s calling patterns a ccompanied his work. Val chuckled. “That should lessen their anger.” “Being settled will help more.”
The three with Earth affinities arrived. Jay and Dy na carried greens and mushrooms. Geni appeared with huge ground nuts and a basket of summa berries. “I have cuttings and roots for a kitchen garden,” she said. “Maybe there’s a growing house.” Jay put the greens in a bowl. Val popped one of the berries into his mouth. “I wo nder why the area is so deserted.” Dragen joined them. “In answer to your question, th is area is part of the neutral land. To the west there are several villages where people of the highlands and lowlands have settled.” He nodded to Ash. “You and your sibl ings stayed near one of the villages when you lived at the farm with my sister.” “And this keep?” Val asked. “Is on the edge of the highlands. The place was onc e the home of distant relatives. When the refugees fled some disaster in their homel and and arrived on our shores, the family of Rangers, farmers, doms and domas decided to move higher into the mountains. Occasionally Jandia visits them. Several members of the family have been her students. One is a talented healer. Ilvan is his name.” Val spitted the birds and set them over the fire. I f the doma visited these people, he hoped they remained friends. With Dom Senet and his cronies, there were enough enemies in the land. “How long before we reach the keep?” Val asked. The older man looked up. “Two or three days if we a ll rode. Five days should see us to what was the home farm and then several hours to the keep.” Val wondered if any of the crops had gone wild and could be harvested. Living in the Cedris garden had spoiled him. Having fresh fru it and vegetables had been wonderful. For a moment he thought about Cook and h er family. Were they safe? The moment he finished the meal he grabbed his slee p saque and retreated to a spot beneath the trees. As he drifted to sleep, he wished the days until they reached their new home would fly past. An impatience to be settled and to learn more about his affinity, filled him. Five days later they emerged from the forest into a field of stunted grain. Their travel had been marked by halts to clear fallen tre es and brush from the old road. Val examined the seed heads on several varieties an d grinned. Though not prime grain, they could harvest enough for the coursers a nd themselves. He stared at the distant walls of the keep. Tomorrow, he thought. Peels of laughter startled him. Geni and Dyna gathe red dark blue berries from a tangle surrounding the fields. Ky and Jay pulled crispins and pesches from trees. “Would you stop,” Ash called. “I can’t catch what b oth of you throw and there’s nothing to put them in.” Val grabbed an empty basket and ran to help. “Don’t be so greedy,” he called to the twins. The pair jumped to the ground. “There are olla tree s, too.” Val made a face. “We’ll have to pick and render the m. Outside, I hope.”
Ash’s grimace matched his. “Agreed. I hope we find a growing house. With three who have an affinity for Earth tending the plants, we can have fresh food all year. I can’t wait to reach the keep.” Val lifted the basket of fruit. “We need to approac h the walls with caution. According to Dragen, the place has been empty for generations . Who knows what pests have taken refuge there. Bran and I should go first and see what creatures we can send away.” “Sending them away might not be a good idea. What i f they return?” Bran strolled toward them. “She’s right. Ash and Ki rlon can scent the air. You and I can call them. Zand and Ky can send fire to burn th em. I imagine we’ll encounter ratis.” Val considered both plans and realized Bran’s was m ore sensible. “Sounds like your idea is the best one. We need to discuss this with Dragen and Doma Jandia.” “With everyone.” Ash walked toward the fire. The next morning, the six sent out for the keep. As h and Kirlon led the group. The walls drew closer. Val saw parts of the structure h ad gaps where stones had fallen. They entered where there had once been a wooden gat e and halted. The tall central tower seemed intact as did the single story buildin g that ran from the front and around the sides of the tower. Ash looked at them, “I smell ratis and several scen ts I don’t know. They are foul.” “Spiders, snakes and other vermin,” Kirlon said. “Are they hostile to the ratis?” Bran asked. “I don’t know. Their odor is unpleasant,” Ash said. “Maybe there are scorpons lurking.” A yowl startled Val. He turned to see both pair of forstcats move toward the building. He drew a deep breath. “Are we ready?” “Yes,” the others said. Val sent a call message. He heard Bran’s urging joi n his. A swarm of black, brown and white mottled creatures poured from the buildin g. How had so many survived when there were no people? Then he became too involved i n destroying the pests to find an answer. Lashes of flame shot from the swords Ky and Zand ca rried. Val, Kirlon and Bran used slingshots to pelt the mass. The forstcats cau ght the stunned creatures and snapped their necks. The stench of burning fur made Val’s stomach lurch. Slowly, the stench faded. He realized Ash stirred the air to drive the odors away. Val continued to call ratis until only nestlings ap peared. The forstcats shredded these with their claws and ran into the single stor y annex of the keep. Val and the others followed. The four felines flowed into narro w cracks in the walls. They drove vividly colored lizards and bronze striped snakes i nto the open. Once the lower level was clear of vermin, the six e scorted by the forstcats, moved from level to level of the tower making sure each o f the four floors were vermin-free before moving to the next. The tower stairs were on the right-hand side of the building and had openings on each level into a hall. On the first two floors of the keep tower a large chamber and a
bathing room provided sleeping space for groups. Th e young women chose the first level and the young men the second. On each of the other floors there were four chambers and a bathing room. Doma Jandia and Dragen would be comfortable there. By mid-afternoon, Val stepped through the door and stood on the walled space of the roof. He stared at the vista and saw fields, fo rest and the rising mountains. Ash sent a message to Doma Jandia on the winds. Soo n everyone was engaged in cleaning the keep for occupancy. Val smiled. They w ere here and safe. At least for now. Ashlea Ash helped carry the long granite slab the three with Earth affinities had carved from the cliff behind the keep. Dragen opened the door s o they could enter the large kitchen. The nine placed the slab on the square pillars fash ioned into legs. Though the original table had shattered, the stone benches and chairs h ad remained. She stepped back and scanned the massive room. She and Kirlon had cleaned the large fireplace and used currents of air to clear the chimney. The braziers on either side had been scour ed and repaired by Ky and Zand. Val and Bran had scrubbed the floors, the stone wor ktables along one wall and the shelves of the cupboards. “What else is there to do?” she asked. “Dragen is using wood from one of the wagons to mak e storage places in the pantry,” Jay said. Dyna rubbed the surface of the table with a cloth. The stone gleamed. “We can use the mounds of straw in the entry way to stuff sleep ing mats and pillows. A sevenday of sleeping on the stone floor is enough.” Ash smiled. During the days since they’d arrived at the keep, they had worked hard. She thought of the other things they needed to do. Before long autumn would arrive. Besides having a safe place, there were quests they must complete before they returned to master their affinities. Only then coul d they train to face Dom Senet and his followers. She wondered how much time remained before they cou ld confront the evil man. What was he doing? Could she learn? Was she brave e nough to search the winds for him? A chill rolled over her arms and she gasped. Kirlon turned. “What has frightened you?” Ash drew a deep breath, “Dom Senet.” She walked to the door and stepped into the courtyard. He looked startled. “Has he tried to speak to you?” “No. I was wondering if I should check on him. I ca n do that, you know.” Kirlon clasped her hand. “Though I’ve never had a m eeting with him, he scares me. I wonder if he was responsible for the disappearanc e of my father and my uncle. When they left for the highlands, they promised to retur n. They didn’t. Then illness struck the village and Dyna and I became orphans.”
“He and his friends could have killed them. We were sent to Cedris to meet the teachers our parents had spoken to. They never arri ved. Just before we left the town we learned the dom had them killed.” She sighed. “I be lieve we must discover where he is and what he plans before we leave on our quest.” He nodded. “I know there are talismans we need as w ell as other people with affinities. I think we should seek the talented fir st. The Rovers told me how those with talents for the elements are often feared by people and must flee the way Dyna and I did.” He stepped away. “Could we seek Dom Senet on the winds?” “We can but not alone.” “Then you and I will do this. What about now?” Though his offer pleased her, now wasn’t the time. She refused to seek the dom unless her siblings were present to draw her back. “Not now. After the evening meal, we can meet in the inner room. Bring Dyna. Though you are cousins and not siblings, you have a bond.” He frowned. “Why must she be there?” “I’d like you to read the winds with me and taste D om Senet’s thoughts, but I don’t want you to be trapped.” She told him of the time t he dom had sensed her and how he had tried to gain control of her mind. “My siblings broke me free but an echo remained. Doma Jandia had to teach me how to break free.” “What do you mean by trapped?” She shuddered. “I was sick and fevered. He was in m y head laughing and making threats.” “I don’t want that. I’ll tell Dyna.” Ash returned to the kitchen. She put plates on the table. Kirlon brought the cutting boards for bread and cheese. Jay and Geni arrived w ith greens and scallions. Ash wished for tomatls like they’d had in Cedris. Perha ps after repairing the growing house, their larder would improve. The doma poured heated water into pots for tea and kaf. Dragen produced a smoked ham. Eleven people gathere d at the table and ate. While she and her siblings cleaned the kitchen, she told them of her plan. “I have to do this.” “Why?” Jay asked. “We need to know where he is and what he’s planning . Soon we have to leave the keep to search for others with affinities to comple te the quartets.” Ky nodded. “She’s right.” Bran clasped Ash’s hand. “I hate to agree but we ne ed to know if he has any idea of where we are.” “Kirlon and Dyna will join us. Kirlon needs to lear n how to search the winds for a specific person. Their bond will pull him back if t he dom senses him.” Ash washed the last of the dishes. Bran and Jay carried the pails of dirty water to th e door and emptied them. At the pump they washed and refilled the buckets. “Can’t w ait until the pipes are repaired,” Bran said. Ash chuckled. “In time, the doma said.”
Ky dashed to the door into the entry hall. “I’m off for some pillows. I’ll meet you.” Ash walked with her brothers to the inner room the doma had designated as a training place. Located behind the tower stairs the re were no windows and only a single door. Ky returned with straw-stuffed cushions. She lit the candles set in sconces along the walls. Kirlon and Dyna arrived with more pillows. Ash positioned one beside hers. The others formed a circle around them. Ash clasped Kirlon’s hand. “Follow me.” “How do I do that?” She reached with her mind to touch his, using the w ay Doma Jandia had taught her. “Come.” She felt his thoughts join hers. She search ed the winds for traces of the particular aroma of Dom Senet’s thoughts. He wasn’t in Cedris. Nor was he in the highlands. She continued to scent the winds until s he smelled his essence. Cautiously, she slipped into his head. He spoke to a pair of doms. Malera, Mandir and Loda r are in place and ready to do my bidding. They will seek the heirs of Easren, Nor tren and Soutren. His laughter filled the wind. Ash felt cold. They believe I will help them become the rulers of these princedoms. They will do all I ask until the day they learn there can only b e one ruler. I am that one. You will remain hidden here. Two of my faithful will be sent to each of the other princedoms. I will tell you when and how to act. Though time will pass, you must remain alert. Just as she was about to leave his thoughts, she ca ught a tendril leading to his plans for the four young men Zand and her brothers had met. She wanted to know more about them so she delved deeper. As she had suspect ed, the four were being trained to face her siblings and her. A sliver of fear sliced through her thoughts. Ashlea? Dom Senet’s voice. A surge of fear that wasn’t hers startled Ash. She broke the connection to the dom the way Doma Jandia had taugh t her. Come, she called to Kirlon. She felt him flee on her trail. Yet someone remaine d. Who? Ash asked. Sydli. Where are you? Instead of an answer the other voice vanished. Ash heard her siblings call her name. Dyna called Kirlon. Ash opened her eyes. “I’m all right. This is what I learned…” She told them of the plans for the princedoms and h ow the dom planned to replace the heirs. Bran nodded. “We’ve already seen the start of that.” “How so?” Jay asked. “Larin is the heir of Soutren and he’s with the Rov ers,” Dyna said. Kirlon nodded. “What about the four young men we sa w in the dom’s thoughts?” Ash drew a deep breath. “He plans to use them again st us and he has no idea we have allies.” Kirlon frowned. “Who is this Sydli? Is she friend o r foe?” “I’m not sure. She does have an affinity for Air.”
Jay looked up. “I’d say friend. Dom Senet has no us e for girls. At least that’s what those four boys said.” “She was frightened of him.” Kirlon grimaced. “I don’t blame her. One scent of h is mind and I felt sick. He smelled like rotten meat.” Ash nodded. “You are so right.” She turned to Dyna and her siblings. “Someone needs to find the doma.” “I’ll go,” Dyna said. “Find Zand and Geni, too,” Ash said. “We’re not tra ined to fight the dom yet and we need to plan.” Bran rose and followed Dyna. “I’ll make a calming tea.” Jay and Ky went with him. Ash closed her eyes. The encounter with Dom Senet m ade her want to burrow into a cave. A thought arose. Had he really sensed her o r had Sydli or Kirlon triggered his response? There had been a question in his voice. M aybe he hadn’t been sure who had searched his thoughts. She had to warn others like herself. She sent a cal l on the winds. To those with affinities for the elements, seek the Rovers. If yo u are in danger, they will help. Moments later the doma and the rest of the party ar rived. Ash told them what she had done and what she had learned. Doma Jandia frowned. “I pray the message you sent o nly reaches those you need and not Senet and his ilk.” Ash released a sigh. “We need them. Visiting every village and town in every princedom would take too long.” “There is that,” the doma said. “I know you want to start your search, but the time isn’t yet.” Ash bowed her head. While the others talked about w hat had been learned and made plans, she prayed they would be granted the ti me they needed. Sydli Who? The question rang in Sydli’s thoughts and brought a gush of fear. Sydli. She answered before she decided whether the voice belon ged to a friend or enemy. To muffle her mind, she quickly slammed the barrier he r mother had taught her to erect. She sank on a chair and covered her face with her h ands. Though she had given her name to a stranger, she had kept her location s ecret. Cautiously, she opened the bond to her twin. Emli. Be careful at dinner tonigh t. We don’t want Lodar to know which of us can hear his thoughts. Emli grinned. He is fun to confuse but I don’t like or trust him. He makes me feel itchy. You’re right to feel that way. I have listened to h im when he sits at Father’s side. Mandir constantly speaks of Wesren and how wealthy that princedom has become. He hints the reason is because no female or halfling c an be the ruler. He also argues that
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