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Memory of Fire
Ballahara, Nuue, Oria
Molly McColl woke to darkness -- and to men dragging her from her bed toward her bedroom door. The door glowed with a terrifying green light.
She didn't waste her breath screaming; she attacked. She kicked upward, and felt like she'd kicked a rock -- but she heard the satisfying crack of bone under foot, and the resulting shriek of pain. She snapped her right elbow back into ribs and gut, and her hand broke free from the thin, hot, strong fingers that clutched at it. She twisted and bit down on the fingers holding her left wrist, and was rewarded with a scream. She clawed at eyes, she kneed groins, she bit and kicked and fought with every trick at her disposal, with every ounce of her strength and every bit of her fear and rage.
But they had her outnumbered, and even though she could make out the outlines of the ones she'd hurt curled on the floor, the rest of her assailants still dragged her into that wall of fire. She screamed, but as the cluster of tall men around her forced her into the flames, her scream -- and all other sounds -- died.
No pain. No heat. The flames that brushed against her didn't hurt at all -- instead, the cold fire felt wonderful, energizing, life-giving; as her kidnappers dragged her clawing and kicking onto the curving, pulsing tunnel, something in her mind whispered "yes." For the instant -- or the eternity -- in which she hung suspended in that place, no one held her, no one was trying to hurt her, and for the first time in a long time, all the pain in her body fell away.
She had no idea what was going on; on the one hand she felt like shewas fighting for her life, and on the other hand like she was moving into something wonderful.
And then, out of the tunnel of green fire, she erupted into a world of ice and snow and darkness, and all doubts vanished. The men still held her captive, and one of them shouted, "Get ropes and a wagon -- she hurt Paith and Kevrad and Tajaro. We're going to have to tie her." She was in trouble -- nothing good would come of this.
"It's only two leagues to Copper House."
"She'll kill one of us in that distance. Tie her."
"But the Imallin said she's not to be hurt."
Other hands were grabbing her now -- catching at her feet, locking on to her elbows and wrists, knees and calves.
"Don't hurt her," said the one closest to her head. "Just tie her so she can't hurt us, damnall. And where's that useless Gateman the Imallin found to make the gate? We still have people back there! Send someone to get them out before he closes it!"
Molly fought as hard as she could, but the men'thin and tall, but strong'forced her forward, adding hands to hands on her arms and legs until she simply couldn't move.
When she couldn't fight, Molly relaxed her body completely. First, she wasn't going to waste energy uselessly. Second, if she stopped fighting, she might catch them off guard and be able to escape.
"Gateman -- can you hold it?" someone was shouting behind her. "We're going back for the others!"
"He's worthless," one of her captors muttered. "This was as close to the city as he could get us -- a good Gateman could have put the thing almost in the courtyard."
"I don't like the feel of the forest tonight, either," the one closest to her said. "Keep the guards in tight."
Molly's bare feet stood on packed snow, and she wore nothing but flannel pajamas -- when she stopped fighting, that fact plunged into her consciousness with shocking speed.
"If you don't get me some boots, and a coat, and maybe a hat and some gloves, you aren't going to have to worry about getting me where you're going'because I'm going to freeze to death right here."
Someone dragged a big, snorting animal through the dark toward her, and rattling behind the animal was a big wooden farm-type wagon. But what the hell was the thing pulling it? It wasn't a horse and it wasn't any variety of cow -- it had a bit of a moose shape to it, and a hint of caribou, and some angles that suggested bones where bones didn't belong in any beast of burden Molly had ever seen. And its eyes glowed hell-red in the darkness.
"You can do without the shoes and the coat," the one who had done most of the talking said to her. "You'll ride in the back of the hay-wagon, covered with a few blankets'if you decide you want to try to escape, you can do it in your bare feet in the snow."
"You can't talk to the Vodi like that," one of the other men said.
"No one knows if she's the Vodi yet. Right now, she's the creature who crushed Byarriall's chest and snapped Loein's leg in two. What sort of Vodi would do things like that?"
Molly didn't know what a Vodi was. She didn't care. "How about one that got kidnapped from her bed in the middle of the night?" she said, but they no longer seemed to be listening to her. The mob picked her up and shoved her into the back of the wagon, and most of them clambered up there with her -- bending down to twist soft rope around her ankles, and then around her wrists. When they had her bound, they wrapped blankets around her, and tucked her deep into bales of straw. Instantly, she was warmer. Hell, she was warm. But as the wagon lurched and creaked and began to...Memory of Fire. Copyright © by Holly Lisle. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.