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.
“Aryl and her companions make up a courageous and varied band of heroes, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses.”School Library Journal
Excerpt from Riders of the Storm (Some spoilers.)
An Oud died.
As was normal for its kind, this death took place somewhere dark, moist, and warm, where its naked remains would decay to nourish those above. It was alone, also normal, for Oud avoided those ill or wounded or otherwise infirm, even when dying themselves. There were dwellers in the tunnels to take care of any unable to reach a useful deathbed on their own. Nothing would be wasted. All would be reshaped. It had always been thus among Oud.
An Oud died. What was not normal for its kind was that it had crawled and humped to its final resting place with ventral pouches stuffed with treasures, instead of empty as was proper. Treasures which were not Oud. For this Oud had touched the unknown and Forbidden, sought answers only to find questions. Before the end, it had learned certain truths about its world.
In death, it would keep them.
Aryl Sarc lay awake, disturbed by her cousin’s weeping. Soft, the sound. Weary.
Not that Seru Parth was any different from the rest of Yena’s exiles. Despair. Grief. Dread of this unfamiliar landscape. All were kept private behind the mind’s shield; any needful tears hidden by truenight and a blanket’s cover. None wished to burden the others, though they shared the same past and pain. Exiled by their own Clan, who themselves faced a chancy future. Forced to seek a new place to live, to survive on their own. No wonder some wept.
But all truenight?
Soft. Weary. Without hope.
Aryl abandoned the effort to sleep and sat up. She hugged her share of their blanket, careful not to pull it from her cousin, and gazed helplessly at the bump lying beside her. Seru had lost parents as well as home.
Hadn’t they all?
She shivered. Each firstnight, as the sun left them, darkness moved up the mountain ridges like a swarm of shadow, consuming not only light but warmth. Their tiny fire gave the reassurance of a glow but never enough heat, not for twenty-three exhausted Om’ray. The Chosen and families huddled together, sleeping in their clothes and sharing blankets, always cold. Her nose, Aryl was sure, was permanently numb. Was it almost firstlight?
Unlike the others, Seru’s weeping had only started last truenight. A few moments, a hiccup, then peace. This?
“Seru,” Aryl whispered as quietly as possible. The bump didn’t move. The sound of weeping didn’t stop. She lowered her shields and reached ever-so-gently to let her inner sense seek the other’s mind. Cousin … she began to send, then stopped, realizing what she felt.
No wonder Seru didn’t respond. She was fast asleep.
With a sigh, Aryl laid down, pressing her forearm over her ear. Whatever dream troubled the other’s rest was none of her business. They all needed sleep.
There were troubles enough ahead.