Instead of our regularly scheduled adventure, we’re bringing you the part one of chapter 2 from Curse Breaker: Sundered. (Last week we debuted chapter 1. Read it here.) We hope you enjoy it while we gear up for the book launch, which is tentatively planned for November 12.
We’re hoping for sooner than that, but our scribe is working all week and half of next weekend, and she may not be able to finish the final round of edits and um, format the book, so it’s readable. That’s kind of important.
If she can get everything done sooner, we’ll release it sooner. Promise. Just don’t tell our scribe we’re planning that!
Worry not, we’ll keep you posted if anything changes.
CURSE BREAKER: SUNDERED
~ ~ ~
Chapter 2: Call in the Guards (Part 1)
“I think that worked a little too well,” Iraine said wryly as she flattened herself against the wall beside Nulthir to keep from getting trampled.
She would have melted into the shadows thanks to her dark complexion, if a collection of religious symbols weren’t glowing on her skin. Those marks of faith had prevented her from turning into a mindless drone, so they were a boon even though they made her conspicuous in the dark.
All the guards with Nulthir glowed with symbols, some due to their own faith and some because he’d marked them with runes against mental coercion like the one he bore. But his rune was under his clothes because his mother had inscribed it on his base chakra at birth with indelible ink. Nulthir fiddled with the curvy pendant hanging over his heart. It was the old rune for dawn, and its light was fast-fading because he had no magic to fuel it with.
“You think?” Under the sweat and stinking grime, Nulthir caught a familiar scent and sneezed. “Are you carrying pepper?”
“So what if I am?” Iraine winked, and Nulthir shook his head.
Only Iraine would carry spices around with her. Though in the past, those spices had come in handy, especially the salt and capsaicin.
“At least we freed them,” she said.
“Are you sure it was us?” Huwain shouted over the screaming denizens running all out for their lives. “Holy water is some powerful stuff, but only in the hands of a true religious, and I’m just a guard.”
He ducked his head though whether that was out of discomfort over discussing his religious beliefs in the middle of a supernatural crisis or to better protect his bare head, Nulthir couldn’t tell in the uncertain light. All he had was a dim glow of the symbols that shone on the breasts or foreheads of his people and others caught up in the hysterical flow of the mob. But his subordinate had brought up an important point.
“You think someone else freed them.” Not a question, just a statement touching on a rather frightening fact. “Who has that power?”
Do I even want to know? Yes, he needed to know but just what was he supposed to do with the answer? Congratulate the man? Why does everything in this place swing toward the magical side of the spectrum? Why can’t only mundane problems fall into my lap? Nulthir rubbed his shoulder. It still smarted from when that bearish man had slammed into him.
“Begging your pardon sir, but there’s only one man who could do that—our Lord and Savior.”
“What are you saying?” Lurston asked. He sounded less groggy though he kept rubbing at the rune Nulthir had traced on him as if trying to rub it out. “Are you saying He’s here?”
Nulthir caught Lurston by his wrist. “Stop it. That rune cut you loose from whatever was controlling you. Until we know more about what’s going on, leave it in place. That’s an order corporal.”
“Yes, sir,” Lurston said in resignation.
“Look, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em, and what we saw is only possible for one man.” Huwain shrugged and slunk deeper into cover, such as it was.
“What if he’s right?” Iraine asked right before she darted into the stampede.
“Iraine? What the hell are you doing?”
“Iraine!” Agalthar echoed his shout, but the lithe woman didn’t acknowledge either of them as she vanished into the crowd.
“Did that voice get her?”
“I don’t hear it. Do you?” Nulthir scanned the crowd for Iraine’s dark head, but she was gone.
He hurtled over the boulder he’d been sheltering behind and nearly crashed into his best friend as Iraine appeared with three men in tow. Nulthir smiled as a fourth guard linked up with them then a fifth. His squad was now twelve members strong, but the five Guards trailing Iraine weren’t sporting any glowing sigils, religious or otherwise.
What had happened to that dark voice and the compulsion it had cast? Perhaps we silenced it.
Draya saluted smartly as she hopped onto the boulder. “Sir.”
“I thought you were on leave, corporal.”
“I was, but now seemed like a good time to return to active duty, so when Sven’s squad passed my door, I joined up. I can always go back on leave after the current crisis is over.”
“What my sister-in-arms means is that she was bored to tears at home with the kids and couldn’t wait to escape them.” Iraine slung an arm around the other woman’s shoulders.
Draya just smiled.
Some people joined the Guards because the Guards were always hiring, and some joined because they craved adventure. Regular paychecks and the opportunity to save people were additional bonuses. Then there were the last group, women, and men like him who’d joined to uphold law and order.
“Sven’s down here too?” Nulthir asked. Other than Draya and Yazi, the rest were all part of his squad, which was still two Guards short of its original compliment. With luck, they were making their way to the nearest Guard post to report in.
Gare nodded and pointed to his mate, a lumbering giant named Yazi who loved to shoot things. The former Ranger had transferred to the Guards after an incident in the Enchanted Forest. An incident he’d refused to discuss despite the rampant curiosity of his fellow Guards.
“Yazi is in his squad. We found each other in the crush,” Gare explained.
“Yes, but we lost others. They just tranced out and walked away from their posts. I have never seen such a thing before. It was beyond eerie.” Yazi shuddered, and Gare patted his arm.
“How did you end up here? Where was Sven when you last saw him?” Agalthar asked as he climbed over a collapsed column to join them.
“I don’t know,” Draya said. “One minute I’m following Yazi and listening to a particularly bad joke, the next, a wall of screaming people are coming toward me, and I have no choice but to run.”
“So, you ran into my back?” Yazi shot her an aggrieved look.
“How do you know that was me? It’s dark down here. It could have been anyone.”
“So, neither of you know where the rest of Sven’s squad is?”
“Where were you right before you were here?”
“We were descending a staircase into the Lower Quarters, right?” Yazi glanced at Draya, who nodded.
“That’s how I remember it though I’d love to know what happened in between then and now.”
“No, you don’t. Trust me on that,” Lurston said and Iraine mimed throwing a rock at him.
Before Nulthir could digest everything he’d just heard and formulate a plan, he felt a familiar presence touch his mind.
~ ~ ~
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