Havens

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Four teens, led by the mysterious birds they believe are their parents seek a place of safety where they can learn to control their affinities. They find a place of refuge with Doma Jandia, grandmother of their friend Zand. The doma plans to take them to the highlands but news of the capture of two of their friends by Dom Senet, sends them on a rescue mission. Their powers are not strong enough to defeat the evil dom. They must find a way to succeed or their friends will be corrupted forever.

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Publié par
Date de parution 23 mai 2013
Nombre de visites sur la page 2
EAN13 9781773629353
Langue English

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Affinities – Book 2 Aavens By JL Walters
Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-935-3 Kindle 978-1-77145-062-1 WEB 978-1-77362-936-0 Amazon Print 978-1-77362-937-7
Copyright 2013 by Janet Lane Walters Cover Art 2013 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. Dedication To my father who always told me to aim for the moon but if I hit the fence post, I could be proud of trying. TAE AENGE BETRĀYED
Chapter One lizand Alizand prowled about his bed chamber. He paused be side the window and pushed the heavy draperies aside. Another day of confineme nt. Since the day his step-brothers had invaded the suite, forcing Alizand to reveal hi s affinity for Fire, he’d been a prisoner. At least the guards at the door believed he couldn’ t leave. They didn’t know about the hidden sections and the secret rooms and passag es to be found beyond the walls. Though Alizand could slip away, he should wait unti l night lest his room be checked. Dom Senet often made random visits during the day. Only when Alizand’s personal guard appeared could he escape these chambers. The corridors and places he could go had to be kept secret. He was bored. He even missed the tedious lessons he ’d been given by the clan elders during the short time he’d been acknowledged as his father’s heir. Having his affinity exposed had ended the dream of being deeme d fit to become a prince. No one who could use one or all of the elements could rule the princedom of Wesren. He stared at the tray on the table. A maidservant h ad delivered the food a short time before. Though he had eaten nothing since yesterday ’s midday meal, he had no desire to break his fast. The back of Alizand’s neck prickled. Trouble approa ched. Which of the many enemies he’d collected in his fourteen years of life came to upset his day? The door opened. Before the guard could announce th e visitor, a tall man entered. His ash blond hair hung in a single braid. Black le ather riding clothes gleamed in the light from candles set in glass-shielded sconces on the wall. His dark green eyes sought and held Alizand’s gaze. A smile appeared on Dom Senet’s face. Alizand felt like a tabby surrounded by a pack of ratis. He forced himself to breathe. How co uld one man raise such a high degree of terror? Though Alizand’s legs felt unstea dy, he forced himself to remain on his feet. “Dom Senet.” A sense of pride filled Alizand’s thou ghts. His voice hadn’t cracked or risen to a high pitch to reveal his inner quaking. The dom stroked the multi-colored gem he wore about his neck. The gold chain glinted. “I have questions for you to answer.” Questions, Alizand thought. What kind of trick was this? He couldn’t relax his barriers or forget his suspicions of the dom. Was t his a new way to fool him into becoming the dom’s puppet? Alizand needed to respon d. To remain silent would expose his fear. “What do you want to know?” “About your kin, the children of your father’s step -brother. I have a great need to find them. Poor lost children who need a home and a guardian.” Alizand’s hands clenched. His friends had saved his life when he’d been injured in the aftermath of the destruction of the henge. With them, he’d been Zand, a person and not a creature to be used. “I don’t know where they are. I told my father I didn’t and I say the same to you.”
“I think otherwise.” The dom moved closer. Alizand clung to his determination to resist. He fe lt icy touches trying to push beneath his surface thoughts and invade his memorie s. He pressed his hand against the gem beneath his tunic and strained to hold firm against Dom Senet’s invasion. “How could I know where they’ve been or where they’re go ing? I’ve been a prisoner here for weeks.” Dom Senet ran a finger along Alizand’s cheek. “And I imagine you have no idea how the child escaped the circle room.” “What child?” Though he had released Ky, he didn’t consider her a child. The pressure in his head built until his vision and bal ance wavered. “Is there a circular room in your suite?” The pressure vanished so suddenly A lizand’s knees folded and he fell into the chair. Dom Senet frowned. “Perhaps someone else is to blam e.” Alizand looked up. “Who?” “Don’t worry. I’ll learn. As for you, your barriers are stronger than they were the last time we met. I haven’t time to break then now, but be assured when I return, you will answer to me.” “Even if I don’t know the answers you want?” To Ali zand’s surprise, though inside he battled hysteria, his voice remained calm. “This much I can tell you. Your friends have left t he city and foolishly chose to challenge me. They gave themselves away. Though the y’ve escaped, they have nowhere to go. I’m leading a patrol of guards eager to receive the reward your father has offered for the return of his step-brother’s ch ildren. We will bring them back.” His laughter sent prickles along Alizand’s skin. “W ill you betray my father by taking charge of them?” “Betray him? How? Your father is mine to move as I will. Once he sees these children have affinities, he’ll gladly name me as t heir guardian.” The dom leaned closer. “When I return with them you will come to me. Don’t think to flee. Remember, I touched your gem. No matter where you go, I can find you, u nless you remove the crystal and suffer the seizures of destruction.” He strode to the door. The door snapped shut. Alizand slid to the floor, g rasped his knees and rocked. Why hadn’t he been told to hide the gem he’d receiv ed on his fourteenth birthing day? He’d worn the red gem proudly. Dom Senet had touche d the stone and had made some kind of connection to Alizand. What could he do? Where was Dragen? He needed his k insman and protector. He had to let Dragen know about Dom Senet’s latest att empt. Alizand swallowed. He was more than frightened. Terror swept through him, cau sing his body to shake like the leaves of a tree during a windstorm. Once his weakness passed, Alizand rose. He arranged pillows to look as though he hid beneath the covers and closed the curtains arou nd the bed. He stepped into the closet and opened the door into the hidden room. Th ere he took his sword from the sheath. For a time he danced flames along the shini ng metal blade the way Ky had shown him.
Was she all right? She had been his first friend an d had trusted him before her siblings had. Where had they gone? How could he war n them about Dom Senet? He stared into the flames and thought about his friend s. Bran and Jay had healed him after the rock had smashed him into unconsciousness. Ky h ad helped, too. He closed his eyes and recalled Ash. She was the image of her mother, a woman he’d seen just once. Dom Senet hunts you. Over and over again he mouthed the words and prayed Ash would hear them on the winds. The sword grew heavy. He let the flames die and sheathed the blade. With weary steps, he returned to his chamber. At midday a maidservant brought his meal and took t he untouched morning food away. The door guard lingered. “Kafene?” Alizand pointed to the two cups on the tray. “My thanks.” The guard accepted the cup and closed the door. “Lady Melena leaves the palace today.” “In the middle of winter?” Alizand asked. Though he had no love for his step-mother, to be forced from Cedris during the winter season c ould be a death sentence. There were few inns in the princedom to offer shelter if there was a storm. “How will she travel? Where will she go?” The guard chuckled. “She won’t go far. Her maid obt ained rooms at an inn near the southern gate. Several guards have bought release a nd have taken service with her. Once the midday meal in the great hall ends she wil l depart.” He drained the cup. “Will her sons go with her?” Alizand prayed the bul ly boys would leave with their mother. If they hadn’t invaded his chambers and att acked him, he wouldn’t have revealed his affinity. “Those two? Do you really think they’ll leave their comfort before they must?” The guard opened the door. “In the spring Prince Zedron will send Mandir and Lodar to their fathers.” Alizand dismissed the guard. His shoulders slumped. Though two of his enemies would leave the palace today, his step-brothers wou ld remain. He ate some of the stew, and then devoured the nut rolls. Had Melena left ye t? He wanted to watch. He wiped his fingers and hurried to the secret room. There he fastened the sheathed fire sword to his be lt. Though what he planned wasn’t without risk, he desired to see Melena disgr aced. He lit a candle and made his way along the narrow inner passages to the stairs l eading to the hidden door into the courtyard. Before opening the door, he stuck the ca ndle in a sconce and pinched the flame. After tapping the proper sequence on the tiles of the door, he stepped outside. The air bore a damp chill. Snow flurried around him . With his back pressed against the stones of the wall, Alizand edged toward a plac e sheltered from the wind where he could observe the front entrance. He halted in a sh adowed alcove beneath an overhang and waited. His gaze was focused on the heavy doors of the palace’s main section. The double doors at the top of the steps opened. Me lena appeared on the landing. Alizand’s father and step-brothers followed her fro m the palace. “Be gone, Melena,” Prince Zedron shouted. “You are no longer my spouse and are no longer welcome in this palace. Stay at the inn, but as soon as the thaws begin, I
order you to depart from Cedris and Wesren. Should you remain within the borders of the princedom beyond Summer Day, you will be meat for any man’s blade.” Melena walked down the steps. Her back was stiff an d her head erect. When she reached the courtyard, she turned. “Zedron, I curse you. May you never sire another and thus you will have no one to follow you.” Her words sent a chill through Alizand. His father had two children, a daughter who could never rule the land and a son who was a halfl ing with an affinity. He stared at his former step-mother. Rings glittere d on her fingers. Bracelets flashed on her arms. As she strode toward the gate a gust of wind parted her cloak. Alizand stifled a laugh. Necklaces and broaches cov ered her chest. She was so laden with jewelry he wondered how she could walk. She turned and held out her hands. “Mandir, Lodar, attend your mother as dutiful sons must.” Mandir turned his back to her. Lodar laughed. “Moth er, don’t be foolish. Why would we leave our comfortable place in the palace to liv e in a single room at an inn? In the spring, Prince Zedron will send us to our fathers w ith all honor.” He followed his brother into the palace. “You’ll be sorry, all of you.” Melena’s voice rose in pitch as piercing as the howl of the wind. “A thousand curses on your heads. A hundred plagues to ravage your lands. I will not rest until I have revenge.” A hand clamped on Alizand’s shoulder. Waves of pani c washed through him. How could he run when his feet were leaden weights? “Wh o?” He forced the question out. “Dragen, and you’d best be thankful. Lad, what are you doing here?” Alizand swallowed his fear. He met the gaze of his kinsman. Weathered lines across Dragen’s brow and at the corners of his eyes softened the anger in his voice. White strands dotted his auburn hair. “I had to see her gone.” “And so she is.” “Did you know Dom Senet is also leaving?” The older man nodded. “He’s gone. Left before the m idday meal. Did the guards permit you to leave your chamber?” “I used the inner ways.” “Then let us return the way you came. There is much I have to tell you and I have orders you must obey.” Tension filled Dragen’s voic e. He held his cloak to shield Alizand. When they reached the entrance to the hidden ways, before tapping the bricks, Alizand scanned the area. As soon as the door opene d he stepped inside. Dragen was at his heels. Alizand took the candle from the scon ce and lit it. “What’s going on?” “Wait until we’re upstairs.” Alizand hurried up the steps and along the narrow h all to the secret room. Dragen pointed to a chair at the small table. “Sit and lis ten carefully.” “Am I in danger?” Dragen sat across the table. “Always, until you’re away from the palace and have mastered your affinity. While Dom Senet is gone fro m Cedris, I’ll have a chance to leave
aour death.”nd speak to someone about the best way to arrange y Alizand swallowed. Every time Dragen mentioned deat h as a way to escape the palace and the dom, Alizand felt ill. How could he die yet remain alive? Did Dragen mean the affinity for Fire would be lost? There was n’t time for more than one question. “Are you leaving Cedris?” “For a short time.” “Can’t you take me with you?” Alizand thought of wh at had happened the other times Dragen had been absent from the palace. Both times there had been trouble caused by his step-brothers. The first time, Alizan d had fled the palace, and the second his affinity had been revealed. “Lad, you must stay here. My destination has to rem ain a secret from Dom Senet. You will need a refuge while learning to use your a ffinity. Senet can find you through your gem.” “I could leave it behind.” “That might be the answer, but I don’t know what ef fect that will have on you.” The older man shook his head. “Might be the same as wha t happens to a dom or doma when their gem is destroyed. They die in convulsion s. Another possibility is Senet finding the gem and using it against you.” “We could hide it and I could sneak away.” Dragen frowned. “Doubtful. The doms and domas who r emain in his suite communicate with him. You will be missed and a hunt for you would begin. You must stay here.” Alizand bit his lip. He would be alone and unprotec ted again. What if his step-brothers gained access to the chambers? If they tri ed to hurt him, would the guards step in? Even thinking about the possibility brought the urge to summon fire. “Couldn’t this person come to Cedris?” “She would endanger herself. The doms and domas wou ld recognize her. Senet would enjoy having her in his power. I’ll be away n o more than two sevendays. Promise you will remain confined to your quarters.” Alizand stared at the table. “What about Arrow? He becomes restless if I stay away from the stables for too long.” Dragen tapped his fingers against the surface of th e wooden table. “Night visits only. Take care not to be seen.” “I’ll wear a dark cloak and keep to the shadows.” “Good enough. Expect me back as I‘ve promised.” “What if someone asks about you?” “Tell any and all I’ve taken my war steed to the fa rm to give the stud service he owes the guard.” Alizand rose and embraced Dragen. For a moment he c lung to the older man, then stepped back. “Be safe.” Alizand followed the older man through the secret ways and stood at the head of the stairs until Dragen merged with the shadows. When Alizand heard the door close, he retraced his steps, unbelt ed the sword and returned to his
chamber. He took a book of adventure tales from the shelf. Perhaps in a story he could forget how alone and frightened he was. Brandien Bran placed one foot after the other and led the wa y up yet another snow-covered hill. For at least two sevendays he and his sibling s had traveled north and east. He’d lost track of the time until only morning and eveni ng seemed to matter. Sometimes he wondered if they traveled in circles in an unchangi ng landscape. Still, he knew his fears were false. The direction finder confirmed they tra veled in the direction Dragen had suggested. The constant swirl of snow kept him from seeing mor e than a few feet ahead. The blasting winter wind swept away all traces of their passage before they had traveled more than twenty feet. A gust of wind slapped his b ack and nearly knocked him to his knees. He struggled to remain erect. No trees or bushes broke the vast white expanse. He ’d seen no signs of people. No trails, fences, houses or even the distant spires o f smoke rising toward the pewter sky had appeared. The birds that Ky believed were their parents and who guarded them had vanished days ago. Though he’d seen the soaring pai r, Bran now wondered if they had been a vision wrought by his imagination. While he wasn’t sure Dragen’s advice to seek Doma J andia was the right choice, they’d seen no sign of the woman or her house. A se venday north and east the man had said. Had they missed her because they hadn’t l eft Cedris by the right gate? Had Dragen meant the journey by courser took that long? Maybe they had traveled too slowly. The many storms had made movement hard. He reached the crest of the hill and paused to stud y the way ahead. At the bottom of the slope he saw the dark green of fir trees and the brown leafless branches of the hardwoods. Though a forest would make travel with t he sled difficult they would have protection from the wind. He took his place beside Jay on a runner on the hig h-sided sled. Ash and Ky rode the other. On the count of three they pushed off an d rode the sled to the flat area below. Their laughter cut the silence of the day. Once Bra n caught his breath, he grabbed the tow rope. His siblings joined him and they pulled the sled around a tangle of bushes into a cluster of firs. “We’ll camp here tonight,” he said. “I’ll find wood for a fire and cut fir branches for our beds.” Bran moved toward the barren hardwoods to gather deadfall. Ash and Jay erected the tent while Ky cleared a spa ce for a cooking fire. The brazier and fuel bricks were only used to take the chill from the tent and to keep food warm for the next morning‘s meal. Once they ate the savory stew they returned to the tent. Bran poured tea for them. “Ash, will you read the winds for traces of Doma Ja ndia? We need to find a place to stay until spring.”
Ash’s skin blanched. “Do you want me to betray us?” Her voice vibrated with fear. “I’m sure Dom Senet and his companions keep a const ant watch on the winds. If I try, they’ll find us.” Bran frowned. “You could be right, but we need to k now where to go. The only emotions I sense are ours. I feel we travel in an a rea empty of people.” “You have to listen,” Ky said. “What if Zand sends messages for us on the winds? We won’t know if he’s safe.” “Or Valcon, Genira and the children,” Jay said. “I want to know how they fare.” Ash put her mug down. “How can we help them? We’re far from the city. I won’t search the winds. My fear of discovery could alert our enemies.” “What if Bran uses the cup?” Ky asked. “He did once .” Ash began to tremble. “Dom Senet will find us. You don’t know how evil he is.” “I know,” Ky said. “I was his prisoner.” “And I touched his mind. I had him in my head. He tried to control me.” Bran moved closer to his twin. They could use the c ircle the way they had when they freed her from the dom’s power. Right now, she was too upset to listen to their suggestions. “Before we look for anyone we need to find a place where we have better shelter than a tent. Then we can make plans. We can ’t keep on wandering.” Ky nodded. “You’re right.” “We can’t go anywhere tonight,” Jay said. “Tomorrow we can choose a direction.” Bran went to the sled and pulled out his knapsack. “Let’s draw stones.” Taking care not to choose the remaining gem Ky had found and he had stashed away, he put two light and two dark stones into his hat. “The dark w ill seek and the light break camp.” Once all had chosen, they opened their hands. “Dark,” Jay said. “Me, too.” Ash showed hers. Ky pouted. “But I wanted to go.” She held up her ha nds. “Does anyone want to trade?” Bran shook his head. “If they don’t find anything, tomorrow you and I will look.” “How long should we take?” Ash asked. “Seek until midday, then return so there’ll be time to move the camp." Bran put the stones into his knapsack. In the morning Jay and Ash set off in two direction s. Jay traveled east and Ash walked north. Ky and Bran filled the flasks with te a and poured the broth from their evening meal into another container. While Ky slice d cheese and placed it on pieces of journey bread, Bran rolled the sleep saques and put them in the sled. Ky buried the flasks beneath them. Together they collapsed the te nt and prepared to roll the two halves. Ky handed him a mug of tea. “There’s enough left fo r Jay and Ash. I hope one of them returns with good news.” “Agreed. Maybe they’ll find a place where we can stay until spring.” Ky frowned. “What will we do when the food we broug ht is gone?” Bran sipped the tea. “Set traps, I guess.”
“Do you know how?” He shook his head. “We learned how to fish but not hunt. Help me persuade Ash to search the winds for signs of people.” “I will.” Ky rose and paced about the area. “I don’t understand why she’s so afraid.” Bran dropped the mug. Tea stained the snow. “No! As h!” He bolted to his feet. Help! Help! “I have to find her.” “What’s wrong?” Ky asked. “Is she a prisoner?” “I don’t know, but she’s in trouble.” Bran ran. Wha t had happened to his twin? The panic in her voice frightened him. “Where are you going?” “To help her.” He continued his headlong dash along the way Ash had taken. Her screams filled his thoughts and he couldn’t block t hem. Had she been attacked by a wild beast? Had she fallen into a hunter’s trap? He tried to send a message along the twin bond but her panicked mental cries were too strong. Suddenly, the cries reached his ears as well as his thoughts. He encountered a patch of ice and slid. By grabbing a branch of one of the firs, he stopped his slide. He saw Ash. She had fallen and broken through the ice on a pond. The water reached her waist and the weight of her cloak kept her trapped. With cautious steps, he approached the edge of the pond. Was the remaining ice solid enough to hold him? He slipped and fell to hi s knees. “Ash, I’m here.” “Bran, be careful. You might fall in.” As she spoke , her teeth chattered. “I’m so cold.” He found a branch broken from one of the hardwoods and freed it from the snow. He lay on the ground and shoved it to her. “Grab th e limb (NEEDED TO ADD A SPACE HERE) and I’ll pull you free." “What if I can’t hold on?” “You have to try.” He heard the panic in her voice and closed himself to her wild emotions. “I’m here, too.” Ky grabbed the branch behind Bran. “One, two. Pull.” The loud sound of cracking ice filled the air. With great effort Ash moved closer to the shore. When she reached the edge of the pool, B ran and Ky pulled her ashore. Her body shook. Bran pulled off her soggy cloak, tossed it aside and draped his around her shoulders. He and Ky half-dragged Ash back to the fire. The di stance seemed to be miles. Snow fell from the trees and splattered on Bran’s t unic. Ash’s body shook so hard he nearly lost his hold on her arm. When they reached the fire, Bran held Ash on her feet. “Ky, go drag one of the tent halves over here. Get one of the sleep saques, my knapsack and a blanket. We need to get her out of t hose wet clothes.” He lowered Ash to the canvas and pulled off her boots, stockings a nd divided skirt. Ky brought the things he’d requested. Together, the y dressed Ash and slid her into the sleep saque. Her tremors lessened. Bran searched his knapsack and removed several pack ets of herbs. He added them to a mug of tea and supported his twin as she drank. Slowly her body relaxed.