Bonds of Vengeance (Winds of the Forelands Series #3)by David B. Coe
"For nine hundred years the Forelands knew peace, but unrest among the magical Qirsi people has blossomed into a conspiracy against the Eandi rulers. What started with an occasional "accidental" death of a lord has exploded into violence, rending the fabric of Forelands society. Led by a mysterious Qirsi "Weaver" with powers that can reach into the minds of others… See more details below
"For nine hundred years the Forelands knew peace, but unrest among the magical Qirsi people has blossomed into a conspiracy against the Eandi rulers. What started with an occasional "accidental" death of a lord has exploded into violence, rending the fabric of Forelands society. Led by a mysterious Qirsi "Weaver" with powers that can reach into the minds of others even in their sleep, the rebellion is now turning Qirsi against Qirsi, as it weakens alliances among the Eandi." "Some Qirsi ministers are torn between plotting to overthrow the Eandi and staying loyal to their lords; others have been ready for a rebellion for a long time and are active in the burgeoning and increasingly violent rebellion. Even some Qirsi who oppose the rebellion are forced to take sides against their lords, while an Eandi lord in league with the conspiracy prepares for war against rival houses." Yet as the world tilts toward terrible upheaval, some stand firm against the chaos. Grinsa, a Qirsi gleaner, is trying to head off the war he knows would spell disaster for his own people as well as the Eandi. Traveling with Lord Tavis of Curgh as the young noble seeks revenge on the assassin who killed his betrothed and thus set the chaos in motion, Grinsa may be the only person who can stop the Weaver from shattering the long peace. But even Grinsa can't do it alone. His sister, Keziah, archminister to King Kearney, himself a staunch advocate of peace, works to prevent war, too. They may be too late, though, as realms plunge toward war, goaded by traitors within their gates.
Sara Douglass, author of The Wayfarer Redemption, on Bonds of Vengeance
“The notion of a charismatic leader who directs his followers by "turning" them to his will via dream telepathy gives this series an evocative edge . . .”
Publishers Weekly on Bonds of Vengeance
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Bonds of Vengeance
Book Three of Winds of the Forelands
By David B. Coe, James Frenkel
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 David B. Coe
All rights reserved.
Glyndwr Highlands, Eibithar, year 880, Eilidh's Moon waning
An icy wind whipped across the road, screaming in the spokes of the cart like a demon from Bian's realm and tearing at Cresenne's wrap and clothes like a taloned hand. A heavy snow rode the gale, shards of ice stinging her cheeks and forcing her to shield her eyes.
The two great geldings pulling the cart plodded through the storm, their heads held low, the slow rhythm of their steps muffled by the thick snow blanketing the highlands. Occasionally the cart swayed, jostling Cresenne and ripping a gasp from her chest, but for the most part the snow had smoothed the lane, a small grace on a day more miserable than any she could remember.
Pain had settled at the base of her back, unlike any she had known before. It was both sharp and dull; she felt as if she had been impaled on the blunt end of a battle pike. Every movement seemed to make it worse, and more than once as the cart rocked, she had to fight to keep from being ill. She lay curled on her side — the one position in which she could bear each new wave of agony — cushioned by the merchant's cloth. She propped her head on the satchel in which she carried what few belongings she had taken with her from Kett: a change of clothes, a bound travel journal that had once belonged to her mother, a Sanbiri dagger, and the leather pouch that held the gold she had earned as a festival gleaner and chancellor in the Weaver's movement.
It was too cold to sleep, and even had it not been, the pain would have kept her awake. That, and her fear for the baby inside her.
"Are ye sure ye don' want t' stop, child?" the merchant called to her from his perch atop the cart, turning slightly so that she could see his red cheeks and squinting dark eyes. "There's plenty o' villages a'tween here an' Glyndwr. One's bound t' have a midwife for ye. Maybe even a healer, one o'yer kind."
I'm a healer myself, she wanted to say. If this pain could be healed, don't you think I'd have done so by now? "No," she said, wincing with the effort. "It has to be Glyndwr."
"If it's a matter o' gold, I can help ye."
She would have smiled had she been able. The man had been kinder than she deserved, sharing his food willingly, though the twenty qinde she paid him for passage up the steppe and into Eibithar hardly covered the expense of half her meals. The gloves she wore were his; an extra pair, to be sure, but still, no Eandi had ever treated her so well.
"Thank you," she said, trying to sound grateful. "But it's not the gold. I just need to get to Glyndwr; I need to have my baby there."
Even through the snow, she could see him frowning.
"I don' know how much farther the beasts can go," he said at last "I'll do my best for ye, but I won' kill them jes' so ye can get t' Glyndwr."
She nodded and the man faced forward again. Then she closed her eyes, her hands resting on her belly, and tried to feel the child, even as she weathered another surge of pain. She remembered hearing once that a baby's movements decreased as the time of birth approached. It made sense. The larger it grew, the less room it had. Where once it had turned somersaults like a festival tumbler, it could now only wriggle and kick.
But with the onset of her labor, the baby's movements had ceased altogether, and panic had seized her heart.
"Just a bit longer, little one," she whispered in the wind. "We're in the highlands. It won't be long now."
Cresenne had known for some time now that she would have a daughter. At first she had assumed that such knowledge came to all gleaners who were with child. But speaking with the other Qirsi of Aneira's Eastern Festival, she learned this wasn't so. Yet this did nothing to diminish her certainty. There had been no dream, no vision to confirm the affinity she already felt for her child; she had wondered briefly if she might have been mistaken. She quickly dismissed the idea. It was a girl. The more she thought about it, the more confident she grew. Perhaps, she thought, her powers as a gleaner ran even deeper than she had known.
No sooner had she thought this, however, than she dismissed this notion as well. If her powers were so great, wouldn't she have realized sooner that Grinsa, the child's father, was a Weaver rather than a mere Revel gleaner? Wouldn't she have realized that this man she was supposed to seduce so that she might turn him to the purposes of the Qirsi conspiracy could not be used so easily? No, hers was an ordinary magic. Her powers had served her well over the years, and because she wielded three magic's — fire, in addition to healing and gleaning — she had drawn the attention of the other Weaver, the one who led the Qirsi movement. But the power to know that her child would be a girl? That lay beyond her.
Instead, she was forced to consider a most remarkable possibility. What if she knew she would have a daughter because this child, begotten by her reluctant love for Grinsa jal Arriet, had communicated as much to her? What if the baby she carried already possessed enough magic to tell her so? She had never heard of such a thing. Most Qirsi did not begin to show evidence of their powers until they approached Determining age. Then again, most Qirsi women never carried the child of a Weaver.
Cresenne hadn't told anyone that her baby would be a girl — she hadn't even revealed it to the Weaver when he entered her dreams to give her orders or hurt her, though by defying him in this way, even over such a trifle, she invited death. It was her secret, hers and the baby's. Perhaps when she found Grinsa, she would tell him. Perhaps.
She would name the girl Bryntelle, after her mother. Even the child's father would not have any say in that. Bryntelle ja Grinsa. A strong name for a strong girl, who would grow to become a powerful woman, maybe even a Weaver. For if she could already tell her mother so much about herself, wasn't she destined for greatness?
"You won't have to fear anyone," Cresenne said, whispering the words breathlessly in the chill air. "Not even another Weaver." Provided you survive this day.
The cart lurched to the side forcing Cresenne to grip the nearest pile of cloth. The effort brought another wave of nausea. An instant later, they stopped, and the merchant climbed down from his seat to examine the geldings.
"What happened?" Cresenne called through clenched teeth.
"One o' the beasts stepped in a hole," the man said, squatting to rub the back leg of the horse on the left. "He's lucky he didn' break a bone." The man stood again and walked back to the cart. "It's no good, child. We have t' stop, a' least until the worst o' this storm is past."
She shook her head. "We can't."
"We've no choice. The beasts can't keep on this way."
"How far are we from Glyndwr?"
He stared past the horses as if he could see the road before them winding through the highlands. "Another league. Maybe two."
"We can be there before prior's bells."
"We won' ge' there at all if the beasts come up lame!"
"My baby —"
"Yer baby can be born in a village jes as easily as in Glyndwr."
"No, listen to me. There's something wrong." She swallowed the bile rising in her throat. "There's so much pain."
He smiled sympathetically. "I saw six o' my own born, child. It's never easy."
"This is different. I feel it in my back. And the baby hasn't moved for a long time."
His smile vanished, chilling her as if from a new gust of wind. "Yer back, ye say?"
Cresenne nodded, wiping tears from her cheeks with a snow-crusted glove.
The merchant muttered something under his breath and glanced at the geldings. Then he forced another smile and laid a hand gently on her shoulder.
"All right, child. Glyndwr i' 'tis."
He started to walk back to the front of the cart, then stopped and bent close to her again. "Yer too young t' be doin' this alone. Where's the father?"
"Glyndwr" she managed. "He's in Glyndwr."
The man nodded and returned to his seat atop the cart. In a moment they were on their way again, the jolt of the horses' first steps knifing through her like a poorly honed blade. Her stomach heaved and she scrambled to the edge of the cart and vomited into the snow until her throat ached. She sensed the merchant eyeing her, but he had the good sense not to say anything.
When her retching ceased, she crawled back to her frigid bed of cloth and lay down once more, hoping that what she had told the old man would prove true.
After the murder of Lady Brienne in Kentigern, and Tavis of Curgh's escape from the dungeon of the great castle, Kearney, then duke of Glyndwr, granted the young lord asylum. Kearney had since become king, and Tavis had traveled through Aneira with Grinsa, no doubt searching for the assassin responsible for Brienne's death. But if Grinsa and the Curgh boy had returned to Eibithar — and Cresenne had good reason to believe that they had — they would have to stop first in Glyndwr and ask the king's leave to venture farther into the realm. Getting word to the City of Kings and waiting for Kearney's reply would take time, especially during the snows. Even with all the time it had taken her to find a merchant who was headed north from Kett, Cresenne thought there might be a chance they were still in Glyndwr Castle. And if they weren't, at least she'd be able to find healers.
Gods, let her live.
The ocean of pain within her began to crest again, like a storm tide in the Aylsan Strait. There had been no jarring of the cart, no movement on her part. Her time was approaching. This baby was coming, whether or not they reached the castle. She let out a low cry, squeezing her eyes shut and gripping the cloth beneath her.
"Steady, child. We've still a ways t' go."
"Faster," she gasped. "Can't you go any fester?"
"I can, but it'll be a rougher ride."
"I don't care!" She cried out again, feeling her stomach rise, though there was nothing left in it.
The merchant called to his beasts and snapped the reins. The cart leaped forward, jouncing her mercilessly. Cresenne clung to the cart, trying to keep herself still and whimpering with each breath. The tide had her now. Agony was all around her; she was drowning in it.
She heard the merchant speaking to her again, but she had no idea what he was saying. Snow and wind still stung her face and she fixed her mind on that, for cold and miserable as it was, it was better by far than the appalling pain in her back.
"It's the promise of that baby that keeps you going," someone had once told her, speaking of childbirth. Had it been her mother? "All the pain in the world can't match the joy of that moment when your child is born."
All the pain in the world. Yes.
Except that she still didn't feel her daughter. Not at all. Bryntelle. Somewhere in this ocean she had to find Bryntelle. Before her babe was lost to the tide as well.
* * *
Grinsa stood at the open window, the biting wind off Lake Glyndwr making his white hair dance around his face like a frenzied child. Snow drifted into the chamber and a candle on the table near the window sputtered and was extinguished. It was a fine chamber, larger and more comfortable than one they might have expected had Kearney the Elder and his wife still lived in Glyndwr. But with the old duke now king, and so many of his advisors with him in Audun's Castle, Glyndwr Castle had a preponderance of empty chambers. This one, they were told, had once belonged to Gershon Trasker and his wife. No doubt they would not have been pleased to see snow covering the woven mat on the stone floor.
"Close the shutters," Tavis said, standing before the hearth. "The fire's barely warming the room as it is."
The gleaner watched the snow for another moment, then pulled the shutters in and locked them.
"I suppose we can wait another day," he said, facing the young lord. "Though if you're willing to brave the storm, I'm happy to go."
A messenger from the City of Kings had arrived at last just after the ringing of the midday bells. They had leave from the king to journey north to Curgh, though Kearney had warned that they would be safer if they remained in Glyndwr. He even went so far as to recommend that, if they chose to leave the highlands despite his misgivings, they take a small contingent of guards. "I have sent separate word to my son, Kearney the Younger," the king wrote, in a message addressed to Tavis, "instructing him to make available to you as many of his soldiers as you deem appropriate. I urge you to accept their protection."
Kearney wrote nothing of recent events in his realm; he didn't have to. His offer of an armed escort told Grinsa and Tavis all they needed to know about the state of the king's relations with Aindreas of Kentigern.
Tavis rubbed his hands together. "Let's wait another day. It's late now to be setting out. We'll make our preparations today and be ready to go with first light, regardless of the weather."
"All right. And the king's offer of guards?"
The young lord appeared to weigh this briefly. Then he shook his head. "We'll draw more attention with an escort than we will alone. And I don't want reach the gates of my father's castle with Glyndwr's men in tow." He smiled sadly. To those who hadn't grown used to the lattice of scars that covered his face, he might have looked bitter. "He'll think I don't trust him to protect me."
Grinsa smiled as well and shook his head. "I doubt that. But I understand."
The smile lingered on Tavis's face, but he kept his dark eyes fixed on the flames crackling in the stone hearth. "Do you think we're safe here for another night?"
There would have been no sense in lying to the boy. Ever since the day Kearney first granted Tavis asylum, when the armies of Kentigern, Glyndwr, and Curgh marched from the battle plain at the Heneagh River to Kentigern, where the duke of Mertesse had laid siege to Aindreas's castle, it had been clear to all of them that Glyndwr's men thought Tavis a butcher. Most of Eibithar believed that he had murdered Lady Brienne, and though it would have been an act of brazen defiance, many of Kearney's men would have thought themselves justified in killing him. Grinsa had little doubt that if Tavis had chosen to remain here in exile, rather than journeying south into Aneira, the young lord would be dead by now.
"We're safe here, yes," he said.
"But only because you're powerful enough to protect me."
Grinsa shrugged. "I don't think Glyndwr's men would act against you in the castle. To be honest, the real danger lies in our departure, after we leave the castle and city, but before we're out of the highlands."
Taking a long breath, Tavis nodded.
"We'll be all right," the gleaner told him. "It shouldn't be any worse than Aneira."
"That's a fine thing to say about my own kingdom."
"Do you want me to tell the duke that we won't need an escort?"
For a moment Tavis didn't respond. Then he shook his head, like a dog rousing itself from slumber. "No," he said, glancing at the gleaner. "I should speak with him, courtesy of the courts and all. There may come a day when we're both dukes under his father, or when I have to pay tithe to his throne. My father would tell me that this is a friendship to be cultivated."
"Your father is probably right." Grinsa stepped to the door. "I'll see if I can convince the kitchenmaster to give us a bit of food for the journey north."
The gleaner left the chamber and made his way to the kitchens. Before he reached them however, he nearly collided with an older man turning a corner in the dim corridor below the chambers. It took Grinsa a moment to recognize the castle's herbmaster.
"Forgive me, herbmaster," he said, stepping out of the man's path.
The man frowned at him and continued on his way. After just a few strides, however, he stopped.
"Say there," he called, narrowing his pale eyes. "Are you a healer?"
Grinsa hesitated, but only for an instant. Eibithar was his home, but he could ill afford to reveal too much about his powers, even here. "No, I'm not. Doesn't the castle have a Qirsi healer?"
"It does, but I haven't been able to find him."
"Is the need urgent?" Preserving his secret was one thing, letting an innocent die to preserve it was quite another.
"Not terribly," the herbmaster said, turning to walk away. "A woman at the gate in a difficult labor. I'll see to it."
"If I see the healer, I'll send him to you."
The older man raised a hand, but did not look back again. Grinsa watched him briefly, then resumed his search for the kitchenmaster.
Excerpted from Bonds of Vengeance by David B. Coe, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2005 David B. Coe. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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