Chapter 7 Scene 4

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 26 of 65 in the series Doormaker's Fall

Tor and his recently proven defenders trekked tirelessly across the open desert. The sun had set and the moon had not yet risen. The early evening stars lit their way across the dunescape, as it rolled from horizon to the horizon like a vision of windswept seas frozen in time. They had salvaged several days’ worth of meat from the storm zone, along with bones and sinew for tools and weapons, enough fibrous leaves for several spans of woven rope, and a handful of crystal fragments of useful size.

After taking steps to preserve the meat, they had stashed half of it in a hidden supply drop. Tor’s tribe maintained a network of such caches throughout the desert for their Migrating Prophets to use in emergencies. At Tor’s direction, Stephen and his followers had unloaded all but their most essential supplies at the cache. Tor wanted to pack light so they could move quickly.

They had abandoned the Migration routes to cut straight across the desert to the northwest. They could reach the Prophets’ territory in two days at the rate they were moving. But Tor had another stop to make before he returned to the Gathering of Ten Fallen Stones. He needed to report to the Oracle, and his news could not wait two days.

So they moved with purpose, talking as they went. “Stephen, you have not introduced me to all of your fearless companions!”

A brief smile touched the corners of Stephen’s mouth, quickly suppressed. But he could not disguise the pride in his voice as he named each member of his small band.

“Drez, the youngest in our group, is a master of the shardsling. Few can match his speed and accuracy.” As the young man dipped his head, starlight reflected in his cold eyes.

“Jorgen is our most experienced hunter. He and I were mere boys when the Triad came. We would have fought when our warriors fell, but the elders chose to flee instead. Since then we have hunted the dunes together, keeping the ancient traditions alive even as the rest of the Scattered turned from them. He has saved my life many times over; you can trust him with yours.” The faint light picked out the scar on Jorgen’s face as he nodded to the Prophet.

“Meena is the fleetest of our party. Her grace with the shardspear is as beautiful as it is deadly.” The fierce young woman cast an appraising eye over Tor. She gave him a predatory smile before letting her eyes slide slowly away.

Tor noted her scrutiny in silence as Stephen introduced the last of his warriors.

“Surya is the only one who can rival her younger sister’s skill with the shardspear. But Surya relishes close quarters more than Meena. She carries a full complement of crystal blades at all times. Most are of her own design.” Surya looked directly at Tor briefly. She maintained eye contact as she dipped her head, then resumed scanning the desert ahead of them, ever watchful. Tor glanced at Surya, her sister’s mirror in many ways. If she was the older of the two as Stephen had said, the difference could not be more than a seasonturn or two. Tor suspected that both young women would be competitive, talented, and strong-willed. They would be formidable personal bodyguards if Tor could win their loyalty. Or assassins. Tor set the idea aside for future consideration. They would require close observation for a time.

“And you Stephen?”

“As I said, I was just a boy when the Triad came. Since then I have kept the ways of the Shard Wardens burning in my heart.”

Tor sensed that there was something personal hidden in Stephen’s words. It had to be brought to light before Tor put his plans in motion. “And you were meant to be a Crystal Shaman, weren’t you? Was it your mother or father that you lost in the Crystal Cave, Stephen?”

Silver-eye shook his head. When he answered, his voice was tight and contained. “Neither. There have been Shamans in my family for generations. The crystals called to my father’s mother, who thankfully joined the sands ‘turns before the Scattering. My father’s sister and brother were also called to the crystals in their time. He died in the caves. She wished that she had too near the end.”

Tor was not surprised to learn that the only Shaman to survive the Triad’s invasion had been Stephen’s aunt. It put many things into perspective. But something was still missing. “And what of your father?”

Stephen spat into the sand before answering in a voice darker than the desert night they traveled under. “That one was deaf to the crystals’ song. He was one of the tribal elders. After sending our warriors to their deaths, he helped convince the rest of the tribe to flee. They have not stopped running since.”

And with that, the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Tor was satisfied that Stephen would not flinch from any task the Prophets set. And where Stephen led, the rest would follow. The Hand of the Prophets stood revealed at last.

Tor concentrated again, listening for those elusive whispers on the wind that only the Prophets could hear. Then he made a small correction to their course, diverting them away from the direct route to the Gathering of Ten Fallen Stones.

As small as the change was, Tor could tell that Stephen and his companions had noticed it. Drez’s controlled steps concealed a coiled intensity that had been absent until moments before. Jorgen’s hands settled near his belt, within easy reach of his shardsling. Surya’s constant search for perimeter threats widened. Meena looked sidelong at the Prophet as she shadowed him in the starlight. Stephen gave no outward signs that he had noticed anything amiss, content to follow where Tor lead.

None of them questioned the Prophet’s choice. Tor smiled grimly, before probing one of his new protectors. “Meena, don’t you wonder where I’m leading you?”

Her steps did not falter, as she replied in his own words. “Each shall see in their own time, and can not be shown before. Isn’t that right, Brother Tor?” This last question she delivered with a mischievous grin.

Tor shook his head at her impertinence before replying. “Just so, Meena. Each in their own time.”

And with that he guided them toward the nearest Shadow Chamber in silence. It would mean nothing to them if he had told them where they were bound. The Shadow Chambers housed an ancient power, deadly to the uninitiated. The desert had hidden them for centuries before the Migrating Prophets of Tor’s order had uncovered them. They would remain hidden until the Prophets revealed them to those who proved themselves worthy.

Comments are closed.