The Clan Chronicles # 2 - Stratification
Alone in a new, harsh landscape.
They trust Aryl Sarc to find them a future.
Little do they realize ...
When she does, she’ll unleash their past.
First Published in 2008 by DAW Books Inc.
Cover art by Luis Royo
Main Selection of the SFBC
Distracted, Aryl almost stepped into a trap.
Almost. At the last instant, she glimpsed half-buried metal and flung herself away. She slid precipitously, grasping for handholds she’d marked as she jumped, missing the first ... the second ... There.
Hanging by one hand, Aryl froze in place, her feet suspended in midair. Pebbles continued to fall without her, pinging as they bounced off one another and the rock face. Before the last ping, she’d found a good hold for her other hand, a brace for one knee. A quick squirm and she was on her feet again.
She considered the piece of metal from a cautious distance, absently wiping blood and pebbles from her scraped palm on her coat. They needed to know the hazards here. Gingerly, ready to spring back, she crouched to brush snow, then dirt and small stones from around it, for the piece was set into a pile of such loose material. Some kind of snare, like those Yena hunters braided from wing threads. No. Something else.
Though the metal piece, a strap, did connect with others further down, the whole was too fine and delicate to hold any prey worth catching.
Her fingers contacted something long and smooth to one side of the metal. She pulled it free, impatient for an answer.
She laid it along her forearm, confirming her suspicion.
An Om’ray had died here.
“ Some poor unChosen on Passage,” she decided aloud, but didn’t rise at once. The hem of her long coat collected snow as she reached for the piece of metal.
It resisted. Determined, she used the arm bone as a tool, first to loosen the dirt, then to pry at the metal. With a sudden pop and spray of stone, up it came, complete with skull.
Aryl rocked back on her heels. “Not unChosen.” This a whisper.
The skull was damaged, the jaw and back missing. The two deep cavities where eyes should be looked at her below a forehead-spanning strap of green metal. The ends of that met fine chain; more straps rose above it and fell behind, trailing down where a neck should be.
Only one type of Om’ray wore such an elaborate headdress. Only one type needed such restraint -- designed to tame willful hair.
“You were Chosen.”
Saying it made it no easier to comprehend. Mother, grandmother, aunt ... a mature Chosen shouldn’t be wandering alone, shouldn’t be in this wasteland of rock. She’d heard flatlanders disposed of the empty husk by burial, but this lay on a path, as if where the Chosen had died.
What had happened here?
Excerpt from Riders of the Storm © 2008 Julie E. Czerneda and DAW Books Inc.
Used with permission.