The White Road: The Nightrunner Series, Book 5 by Lynn Flewelling

  Sebrahn left the window seat and joined Alec on the bed, leaning against his side. Alec touched the rhekaro’s soft, cool little hand, noting the thin scars that ringed the base of several fingers where they’d grown back after Yhakobin cut them off for some experiment.

  Why didn’t you sing to save yourself?

  Alec gathered him close again, his heart beating a little faster. “No one is going to hurt you again, or take you away. If they try, we’ll leave.”

  Sebrahn looked around the room, then pointed out the window and said in his raspy little voice, “Leeeve.”

  “That’s right. On a ship. Can you say ‘ship’?”

  Sebrahn was not interested.

  “Chamber pot.”

  The rhekaro slipped off the bed and pulled the required vessel from under the bed. Alec made use of it and had Sebrahn put it back for the skutter to deal with. Now what? There didn’t appear to be anything he could do but watch the rain. It was a relief when he heard someone coming up the stairs to his door.

  Micum looked in and grinned. “That’s a long face!”

  “Where is everybody?”

  Micum came in and pulled a chair up beside the bed. “At breakfast. I came up to see if you’re awake. Hungry?”

  “Not really.”

  Micum held out his hands, and Sebrahn abandoned Alec for the big man’s lap.

  “Traitor,” Alec grumbled. Sebrahn had warmed to their tall, red-haired friend during the voyage. Sebrahn reached up to touch Micum’s thick, grey-streaked moustache, apparently puzzled that the big man had something on his face that his two beardless protectors didn’t.

  “Uncle Micum,” Alec said with a smile.

  Micum laughed and kissed Sebrahn’s hand, just as if he were one of his own brood. “I like the sound of that. What do you say, little sprout?”

  Sebrahn didn’t say anything, just leaned against Micum’s broad chest and fixed his gaze on Alec. It was too easy to imagine anything he wanted in those eyes. What Sebrahn was really feeling—or if he could—remained a mystery.

  Alec and Micum were in the midst of a game of cards when Seregil came in with the wizards. Magyana looked most of her two centuries today; under a fringe of grey bangs, her lined face was pale and tired, but her eyes were kind as always. Thero, still in the youth of his first century, was tall and dark, with a thin beard and dark curling hair pulled back from a long, somewhat austere face. But his pale green eyes were warm, too, as he took in the sight of Alec and Sebrahn.

  “We need to talk,” Seregil said, sitting down on the bed beside Alec.

  “I’ll leave you to it,” Micum said, putting Sebrahn on the bed and rising to go.

  “Please, stay,” said Thero. “We have no secrets from you in this matter.”

  This sounded serious, and all the more so when Magyana threw the latch and cast a warding on the room to keep out prying ears.

  “Now then, this creature—” she began, her lined face somber.

  “Please don’t call him that,” said Alec. “He’s a person and he has a name.”

  “He is not a person, my dear,” Magyana told him gently. “You may be right about the rest of it, but he’s not human, or ’faie, either.”

  “There’s something we need to tell you,” said Thero.

  “What is it?”

  “Thero sensed it, but not clearly, when he first saw Sebrahn in Plenimar,” Magyana explained. “It’s true that the rhekaro has been given the semblance of a child, but another form radiates beyond the physical. I don’t understand it, but what I see around him is the form of a young dragon.”

  Alec stared hard at Sebrahn, squinting his eyes, but saw nothing unusual. “A dragon? That’s impossible! Sebrahn was made from bits of—me!”

  Seregil was frowning at the younger wizard. “Why didn’t you tell us, Thero?”

  “I wasn’t sure what I was sensing. It’s Magyana who sees it clearly.”

  Magyana took Alec’s hand in hers. “Seregil has told me something of how Sebrahn was made. I believe you can tell me more. Do you know what materials he used?”

  Alec shifted uneasily; it was a time he didn’t really want to remember. “Sulfur and salt, tinctures—”

  “Nothing of dragons?”

  “I saw dried fingerling dragons hanging in his workshop, but I didn’t see him put any in.”

  “Very well. What else do you remember?”

  “There was something he called the ‘water of life’—some kind of silver, I think.”

  “Quicksilver?” asked Magyana.

  “Yes, that was it. He put that all in with my tears, blood, shit and piss, hair, and my …” He faltered, blushing under the weight of their collective gaze.

  “His semen,” Seregil finished for him. “How in Bilairy’s name do you get a dragon out of all that?”

  Thero shrugged, his pale green eyes serious. “We don’t know yet. But they did.”

  “It was my Hâzadriëlfaie blood that Ilban—” Alec faltered, horrified to have the slave word for “master” slip out so easily. “That’s what Yhakobin claimed he needed the most. He said that it was the only thing that would work to make a rhekaro. But since I’m ya’shel, he did a long purification process first, trying to get rid of my human blood, he said.”

  “Ah, that would explain it,” Magyana murmured. “I thought you looked different, more ’faie.”

  That was a sore topic. “I had to drink tinctures of metals and wear amulets; seven of them, I think: tin, copper, silver, gold—I don’t remember the others. And he kept taking drops of my blood and making them burn to see what color they were. When it got to the right shade, he used more of my blood to make the mixture do whatever it did.”

  “Right out of his chest,” Seregil growled. “They tapped him like a keg and hung him up to bleed on their mess.” He paused, then leaned over and pushed the hair back from Alec’s left ear, showing them the small blue dragon bite tattoo on his earlobe. “Could this have something to do with it?”

  Magyana raised an eyebrow. “It’s possible, I suppose. But it’s such a tiny bite. There wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much venom from it as there was from yours, Seregil.”

  The dragon that had bitten Seregil had been the size of a large dog, and the lissik-stained teeth marks spanned the back of his hand and the palm. His arm had swelled up like a sausage and he’d been damn sick for a few days, but lucky to survive all that with no more long-term damage than the mark.

  “If that’s what Yhakobin really wanted, then he’d have used Seregil instead,” Alec mused. “Besides, he didn’t know I had the mark until after he’d bought me, and didn’t know what it was once he did. I told him it was just decoration.” He looked to Thero. “What about the Orëska? Nysander knew about the Helm. Maybe there’s some wizard guarding this rhekaro secret, too.”

  “It’s doubtful,” said Magyana. “Skala barely existed when the Hâzad went north. And even if there is someone, it’s quite possible that he or she is sworn to utter secrecy, as Nysander was. Or dead. We lost so many during the assault on the Orëska House.”

  “Maybe so, but don’t you think that somewhere, down in all those vaults, there might be something about this?” Seregil gave her a winning look. “If anyone would know where to look, it’s you. You know those cellars better than anyone.”

  “I’ll look around as soon as I go back, but it’s likely to take a long time, since I don’t know what I’m looking for. There are a few people I could speak with, but you shouldn’t get your hopes up.”

  “It would be an easier task for two people,” said Thero. “I had a message spell from Prince Korathan’s wizard, Norubia, last night. The prince is losing patience waiting for us to come back and account for ourselves. If I don’t bring you back, then I’d better have a good story. Otherwise it’s likely to raise questions you don’t want asked.”

  “I hate to put you in that position,” said Seregil. “But there’s no way we can take Sebrahn to Rhíminee. It would be d
amn near impossible to hide anyone with a ‘dragon aura’ or whatever it is in a city full of wizards, and if Queen Phoria ever got wind of what Sebrahn is capable of, she’d have him and Alec caged like a pair of chukarees to use against the Overlord’s armies in her endless war.”

  “Do you think that was the real reason Sebrahn was made?” asked Magyana.

  Alec shook his head. “If Yhakobin had known about the killing power, he and his slave takers wouldn’t have made a head-on charge against us. We have that secret in our favor, at least.”

  “Do you know anything more about the Hâzadriëlfaie, Seregil?” asked Magyana.

  “Only that they took their reasons north with them when they left. Everyone in Aurënen knows the tale.”

  “Isn’t it obvious?” Thero said, pointing at Sebrahn. “If I knew someone was going to use me for that sort of thing, I’d run, too.” He paused, then gave Alec an apologetic look. “I meant no offense.”

  “None taken.” Alec was too busy wondering how many people had been hung in cages and bled to make the white creatures before the prophet Hâzadriël had her mysterious vision.

  “Thero’s right,” said Seregil. “I’ve been up around Ravensfell Pass. It’s the ass end of nowhere, and about as far from Plenimar as you can get. This must be why they’ve been so insular.”

  “They killed my mother for bearing a ya’shel child, and tried to kill my father and me, too,” Alec told Magyana. “He spent the rest of his life on the move. I didn’t know why at the time, but it must have been to keep them from finding us again.”

  “He never spoke of any of that to you?”

  “No. He wasn’t much of a talker, my dad. And if I asked about my mother, he’d just say it was better for me not to know. As I got older, I wondered if she’d broken his heart, maybe by running off with another man.” He shook his head. “After the vision the Dragon Oracle showed me at Sarikali, I’m ashamed to have thought of her that way.”

  “You had no way to know, dear boy.” Magyana patted his hand. “Your father was a wise man. He must have loved your mother a great deal to risk so much for her. And for you, as well. As for the Hâzad, consider the consequences of a person of their blood finding his way south again.”

  “A dragon oracle, and a dragon child …,” murmured Seregil, wandering over to the window.

  Alec suddenly gave a great yawn. Magyana laughed and held out a hand to Micum and Thero. “There’s nothing to be gained by dwelling on such things now. Come along, you two, and let Alec rest. Thero, you must compose your response to the prince and send word to the captain of the Lark that we mean to sail tomorrow.”

  Seregil turned and headed for the door with them. “I’ll be back in a little while.”

  “Where are you going?” asked Alec.

  “To talk to my sister.”

  Before Alec could get more of an answer than that, Seregil was gone again.

  It was still raining, so Seregil brought Adzriel up to one of the rooftop colos. Its domed roof kept them dry, but the tall window openings hadn’t been shuttered and the wind off the sea was raw. Sitting down on one of the stone benches, Adzriel pulled her cloak about her and looked up expectantly.

  “I have a favor to ask of you,” he told her.

  “Are you speaking to me as your sister or a khirnari?”

  Seregil smiled slightly. “Both?”

  She patted the seat beside her and took his hand. The familiarity of it make him feel like a child again, just for a moment. “Go on, then.”

  “I believe that Sebrahn is the child the Dragon Oracle at Sarikali told Alec about.”

  “That would make sense.”

  “Did Magyana tell you what she sees when she looks at Sebrahn?”

  “No,” said Adzriel, “but I assume you mean the strange aura about him. I thought you must know, but since you didn’t speak of it …”

  “Ah. So you see the dragon, too?”

  “A dragon? No, it shifts and glimmers. Can Alec see it?”

  “No, and neither can I. Magyana and Thero just told us.” He paused, looking down at their joined hands. “I’d like to take Sebrahn to Sarikali, since it was the oracle there who foretold it. Perhaps the rhui’auros will know what he is.” The temple mystics—the only permanent residents of sacred Sarikali—were renowned for their knowledge and visions, and the Dragon Oracle was theirs—or they were its. No one knew for sure.

  “You know I don’t have the authority to give permission for you to take something as strange as Sebrahn onto sacred ground, little brother, even if I went with you. That would require a vote by the entire Iia’sidra Council, and that could take a year or more.”

  “We can’t wait that long.” He thought a moment, trying to come up with some other option. “Is Tyrus still around?”

  “As far as I know, he’s still up in the hills.”

  “Then, speaking to my khirnari, may I bring Sebrahn to Bôkthersa?”

  Adzriel considered this for a long moment. “I don’t suppose Riagil will let you stay here much longer. It’s clear that Sebrahn scares him.”

  “He’s a smart man.”

  “Then Sebrahn does have some darker power?”

  Seregil looked up into grey eyes identical to his own. “Sebrahn can kill. With a song. He heals with his blood, and he can kill with his voice.”

  She didn’t appear surprised. “Who has he killed?”

  “The men who caught us in Plenimar—Yhakobin’s slave takers.”

  “He killed them because they attacked you and Alec?”

  “Yes. And that’s the only time. Then again, we’ve only had him for a few weeks. I have no idea what else he’s capable of.”

  She raised a disapproving eyebrow at him. “I can still tell when you’re lying to me, Haba.”

  “Yes, I suppose you can. All right then, here’s all of it.” Seregil lowered his voice, though it would have been difficult for anyone to hear them over the wind. “He can raise the dead.”

  “Raise the dead?” This time she was clearly surprised.

  “Yes. Alec wasn’t just hurt in Plenimar. He was killed.” The words came out in a rush now. “We were totally outnumbered by Yhakobin’s men. Alec was struck by two arrows and that’s when Sebrahn sang; it killed every man left standing. I killed Yhakobin myself.” He rubbed at his eyes. “But Alec was dying when I got back to him. That’s why he’s in such bad shape now, and I’m not.” Tears stung his eyes; the memory was too raw. “Sebrahn brought him back from Bilairy’s gate.”

  “But—are you certain he was actually dead?”

  “Yes!” Seregil’s voice was suddenly a little unsteady. “I held him in my arms and watched the blood stop flowing from his wounds. I saw his eyes fix. I know what death looks like, Adzriel. He was dead.”

  “I see.” She was quiet for some time. At last, she laid a hand on his arm. “Then, yes, you must come to Bôkthersa and speak with Tyrus. If Sebrahn is somehow a dragon, then Tyrus will know. Even if he doesn’t, then at least you’ll be safe for a time with us. You can rest and decide what to do next.”

  “Sebrahn may be a danger to the clan, you know.”

  “That is my responsibility. And what about Alec? Don’t you want him safe?”

  “Of course.” He squeezed her hand. “Thank you, eldest sister.”

  “Then that’s settled. But you haven’t said who kidnapped you. Micum and Thero spoke of finding the slavers who took you, but they seemed to think there was more to it.”

  “Indeed. The slavers told them that Ulan í Sathil ransoms slaves from Virésse and Goliníl.”

  Her grey eyes widened in dismay. “You don’t think that Ulan í Sathil had something to do with this?” If true, it was an unforgivable breach of atui—Aurënfaie clan honor—and could spark a bloody feud with Akhendi, in whose fai’thast they’d been ambushed, as well as with Bôkthersa and Gedre, whose people had been killed along with the Skalan escort. “Do you have any proof of this?”

  “No. But the slave
rs who took us were not the ordinary lot. They struck too far inland, and they had a necromancer with them.” He paused, weighing his words. “I wouldn’t have thought of Ulan, except that Yhakobin mentioned to Alec that he traded with him.”

  “It’s no secret that Virésse trades with Plenimar. Who can blame the khirnari for saving his own people any way he can? I’d do the same, in his place.”

  “Yes, but it’s also no secret here that Alec is half Hâzadriëlfaie. Ulan could have told his friend Yhakobin about Alec to buy favor.”

  “That is conjecture, Seregil, not proof.”

  “It just seems like too many coincidences.”

  “I’d like to see Sebrahn again,” Adzriel said, rising and going to the door of the colos.

  Seregil smiled as he followed; she’d spoken more like a khirnari just now than a sister.

  Together they went down to Alec’s room. Sebrahn was on the bed at Alec’s side. Magyana and Thero were with them, too, and there were bakshi stones and coins strewn across the quilt.

  Sebrahn retreated closer to Alec as Adzriel sat on the bed next to him.

  “Give me your hand, Sebrahn,” she said softly. Sebrahn let her clasp it. She continued to look at him intently, and Seregil knew she was seeing whatever it was that the wizards did.

  “I feel no evil in him. Riagil mistakes power for that,” she murmured. “Alec, can you control his singing?”

  “You told her?” Alec asked, surprised and none too pleased, either.

  “I had no choice,” Seregil explained. “We need to go to Bôkthersa, and she deserves to know the whole truth. There’s a man named Tyrus there who might be able to help us; he knows more about dragons and their lore than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s called Dragon Friend.”


  “Because he lives with the young ones, and talks to the old ones.”

  “There are dragons in Bôkthersa?” Alec’s eyes were as wide as Micum’s little daughter’s when Seregil brought her a present.

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