Alone in the desert, Malla cuts off her hair and dresses as a man. She finds life a great deal easier, and believes her troubles are behind her when her beloved ox, Freedom, is eaten by an uldor snake. She befriends the snake and is badly injured while trying to protect her with sun energy from Brotian humans. They take her prisoner and send her under heavy guard to Sun City to be judged by the sun jiva. Rescued by Julor, a jiva, he offers her sanctuary from the war. They first must return to Sun City. Brodon, the most powerful sun jiva and father of Malla's child, discovers her presence and arrests her. Brodon denies his paternity and threatens to bring Malla directly before the God of Light himself for judgment.
Meanwhile, Vyas and Selva enlist a moon jiva and Gevin, a human, to guide them through Naros and instruct them on how to improve their disguises. As they head closer to Night City, they come upon a collapsed mine with hundreds of miners trapped inside. Selva attempts to rescue them by using nature energy to clear away the fallen earth, but unintentionally turns thousands of worms into monsters, which kill all of the miners except for two children. Devastated, Selva blames herself and stops communicating. Vyas, battling the dark calling of moon energy inside his chest, is forces to take care of Selva along with the two children. When they reach the port city of Tazulkyn, Gevin abducts the children and disappears.
As Vyas and Selva slowly approach the Night City, the entire Brotian army attacks it. Both sides are annihilated, forcing Naro and Brote to make one last plan to destroy one another. This is the continuation of the Endless War of the Gods.
Gevin stood with his back perfectly straight and his legs slightly spread apart, his arms in front of him, palms up. His black moon sheep wool cloak slightly billowed behind him in the breeze. He wore a long-sleeved red shirt, black pants and black boots. His ungloved hands revealed light gray skin with twin tattoos of shadow bears on the back of his forearms. The only indication of his rank, lieutenant, was the large silver shadow horse amulet hanging from his neck. He kept his curly dark red hair and beard short. His dark green eyes were rare in Naros, but not rare enough to cause comment.
His father’s body lay naked face-down at the bottom of a hole dug ten feet deep in the frozen soil. Narons were always buried facing Ahn, the center of Creation, in the very center of the earth. As his father’s only known relative in Narsta, it was Gevin’s responsibility to lead the final farewell. Unless he was talking about the city’s defenses or hunting, he always ended up stuttering and sounding like a complete idiot when speaking in front of a large crowd, especially with a moon jiva present. He kept the prayer short to avoid embarrassing himself. “Vinya, Commander and Defender of Narsta, you served Holy Father Naro with courage and cunning. Now, in the name of Holy Mother Crevahn, rest forever within the soil of Seibu.”
When Gevin finished, the moon jiva, Exodos, said, “Commander Vinya, Father preserves you in his heart.”
At seven feet tall, Exodos was the shortest moon jiva Gevin had ever seen. Most moon jiva stood at eight feet, the tallest even reaching nine. Moon jiva skin color varied from light to dark gray the same as human skin did. Exodos’s was so dark it nearly blended into his pitch-black robe. Ice formed over the moon jiva’s gray eyes and he pointed down at Vinya. Ice shot out of his hand and encased the body. Exodos lifted his arm and pointed at the soil at the foot of the grave that the humans had hacked apart with picks and shovels. The earth flew back into the hole until it was completely filled. Exodos covered the grave with another layer of ice.
Moon jiva did not attend most human funerals, so deceased humans almost never received the honor of being encased in ice. Being the highest-ranking human in a city didn’t guarantee the moon jiva would even notice, except for having to choose a replacement. Exodos was unusual for a moon jiva. He wasn’t particularly friendly, but he wasn’t aloof or condescending like almost all of the others. Out of the three moon jiva in Narsta, he was the only one who had ever spoken to Gevin.
To replace Vinya, the moon jiva would either promote one of the three lieutenant commanders in Narsta or bring in a commander from another city. The moon jiva were in no rush to replace Vinya because his killer hadn’t been found yet. Odds were high that one of the lieutenant commanders in line to take his place was the killer. While the moon jiva couldn’t be bothered finding the culprit themselves, they allowed the humans to conduct investigations as long as they didn’t interfere with defending the city. Since Gevin was an officer and it was his father that was murdered, the moon jiva had assigned him the investigation. All three of the main suspects were attending the funeral and stared at Gevin with fake condolences in their dark, shifty eyes.
Gevin couldn’t really blame any of them for wanting his father dead. He would eliminate one of his superiors to gain a promotion in a heartbeat should the opportunity arise. Finding criminals in Naros was not about justice; it was about revenge, protecting oneself from being a future victim, or ensuring personal advancement. In Gevin’s case, it was a combination of all three. He wasn’t particularly fond of his father, but he did owe a debt since he raised Gevin alone rather than sending him to a training school after his mother died.
After covering Vinya’s grave with ice, Exodos abruptly turned around and headed back to the city. He briefly leaned down and whispered into Gevin’s ear, “I expect you to follow in your father’s footsteps. Find proof of which lieutenant commander killed him and I’ll promote you to commander. In the meantime, we’re going to replace him with Dimik, and promote you to lieutenant commander.”
Without another word the moon jiva strode the fifty feet across the cemetery towards the city. Instead of walking through the gate when he reached the twenty-foot high black granite wall, he leapt over it with a single bound and disappeared into the shadows of the city.
With the moon jiva gone, all three lieutenant commanders were free to leave as well. They walked over to Gevin, with Dimik in the lead. He was a full head shorter than Gevin, and his slender frame made him look more suitable for courier work than being a commander. He carried only a short sword on his hip, which was all he needed to keep any Naron from attacking him face to face. He was deadly quick with it and could slash jugulars and other arteries so fast that humans didn’t even know they were wounded until they fell over dead.
Dimik extended his right arm, which Gevin reluctantly accepted, and they embraced. Using Gevin’s nickname, Dimik said, “Shadow Bear, your loss is a loss to us all. Your father shall be missed. He was a great commander and more importantly, a great friend. I have watched you grow since the cycle you were born. If there is anything you need, do not hesitate to ask.”
Dimik had already offered to help Gevin right after Vinya was murdered. Dimik was simply repeating the offer so everyone else would hear and think him generous.
Words that his father raised him by ran through his head. ‘Never trust a friend. A friend you don’t trust you can always watch carefully. When that friend betrays you, you’re ready for it. If you trust a friend, you’ll let your guard down and the knife in your back will be your own fault.’ Gevin smiled, and with exaggerated warmth said, “You were a good friend to my father and knowing I can rely on your support has been a true blessing.”
Dimik returned the smile. “I shall see you at the start of the next waking cycle when we meet with the moon jiva. Until then.” He nodded and headed into the city.
The other two lieutenant commanders, Dumol and Vernon, made their condolences without embracing Gevin, and quickly followed after Dimik. The remaining thousand or so humans who had attended the funeral spread out behind Vinya’s grave across the cemetery and beyond it into the frozen tundra. Gevin shouted loud enough for all to hear, “My father would be touched by such a large gathering. Thank you for coming. I must give my final respects, so please return to your duties.”
The head of Vinya’s personal guards, Daji, glanced at Gevin with a look that could have either meant that she wanted to talk with him or that Gevin had better watch his back. The idea of Daji sneaking up behind anyone was absolutely absurd, considering how tall she was. Several inches over seven feet made her the only human who could actually look down on Exodos.
Daji stood at the foot of the grave, and as everyone started heading back to the city, she faced them and shouted, “Shadow Bear! Shadow Bear! Shadow Bear!”
The crowd picked up Daji’s chant and Gevin’s nickname reverberated against the wall and into the city. Gevin’s first feeling was stunned gratitude. He knew better than to trust first feelings though. When Exodos had leaned over and whispered into Gevin’s ear, the moon jiva sent a message to the three lieutenant commanders that he was trusting Gevin with something that he couldn’t with Gevin’s three human superiors. This made Gevin a marked man, as Dimik, Dumol and Vernon now saw him as a threat to their positions.
By leading the chant, Daji was sending one of two messages: He was either letting the three departing lieutenant commanders know that Gevin had the support of everyone gathered at the funeral and they would protect him, or, with Vinya dead, Daji was offering her guarding services to Gevin.
Daji led everyone through the gate and into the city. Several of the soldiers that served directly under Gevin saluted him as they passed by. Gevin nodded briefly in acknowledgement, and once the last one passed out of sight, he looked back down at his father’s grave. It was marked with a waist-high granite tombstone, which was carved with the simple words, ‘Here lies Commander Vinya. Seibu welcomes him home.’ Rank and importance determined tombstone height, making Vinya’s one of the highest in the cemetery.
Gevin rubbed his hand along the top of the tombstone. “Thanks for everything, Father. You always told me I would make something of myself in Naro’s name. Well, I will, but I’ll do it in his name and yours. I’ll avenge you. If I cannot find the proof Exodos wants, to make sure I do find your killer, I will kill all three of the lieutenant commanders myself.” Gevin spread his arms out wide while bowing down to his father’s grave. “I promise it. Dream of shadows, forever.”
He turned and headed after the others into the city with frozen soil crunching beneath his boots. As he approached the open gate, the soldiers on the tower above and the ones on the ground brought their hands together and bowed their heads in salute. Gevin bowed his head in return, and the soldier on his right said, “Seibu will take care of him now, Shadow Bear.”
The wall was only three feet thick and opened into a small square courtyard, with three streets barely large enough for a single ice mammoth. In the center of the city, the three hundred foot high box-shaped granite fortress loomed over the rest of the squat buildings ranging in size from one to three stories. Narsta was at the southern end of the island of Nardis, and was one of the furthest Naron cities away from Night City. Naro had created Night City directly under the moon, and while Narsta still received plenty of its soothing pale light, all Narons, human and moon jiva, longed to live directly beneath it. Narsta’s distance from Night City, along with having only two to four moon jiva, made it a prime target for Brotian attacks. The entire city had been rebuilt four times. Following the pattern of all Naron cities, Narsta’s streets wound through the black buildings in countless twists and turns, often stopping in dead ends. Any Brotians entering the city on foot became hopelessly lost in the shadowy maze.
Gevin had a small house to himself in the western part of the city. His father had always told him that living alone was an invitation to his enemies to murder him, but Gevin liked the privacy and simplicity of his one-story, two-room house. Besides, if he had a larger place, his companion Gylda would probably ask to move in with him. He loved Gylda as much as he had any woman; he simply had no desire to share his home with her. Of course with his promotion, he was going to have to move into a palace next to the fortress. In which case, he and Gylda could live together and still have separate rooms. She had also mentioned wanting to have a child with Gevin, and a palace was certainly better for raising children than two-room houses. Gevin didn’t think he had fathered any children and had no desire to, so Gylda would have to take care of them by herself.
There was nothing out front to distinguish his house from any other, just the way he wanted. It didn’t have any windows in the front and the plain granite door blended into the granite wall so well in the pale moonlight that Brotians probably wouldn’t be able to see it at all. He walked through the door, shut it behind him and lowered the latch into place. Moonlight streamed into his front room from a window in the ceiling. He had a small granite table with two chairs, a small counter for food, and a shelf for his armor, clothes and weapons.
Gevin pulled his cloak off and took two steps towards the shelf to put his sword away, when he noticed the bedroom door was closed. He always left it open. It was possible that Gylda had shut it, but since she never had before, it didn’t make any sense as to why she would do so now. He dropped his cloak on the floor, unsheathed his sword and stood against the wall next to the bedroom door. He shouted, “I know someone is in there. Tell me who you’re working for and I’ll spare your life. If you don’t come out slowly by the time I count to five, you had better pray to Holy Father Naro to protect you. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.”
Gevin slowly reached for the door. Just before his hand grabbed the handle, the door swung open and crashed into the wall.
Whoever had opened it dashed back into the room. Someone else said in a voice he didn’t recognize, “Gevin, make this easy on yourself. Surrender and we’ll let your companion live. Throw your sword out where we can see it and then lie down on the floor on your chest.”
Gevin briefly peeked around the door. Two men and one woman were dressed all in tight black clothes and had black masks covering their faces. The man in the middle held Gylda in front of him with a long knife pressed against her throat. The man to his right held a loaded crossbow aimed at the doorway. The woman had a short sword in one hand and a dagger in the other.
Gevin could have simply run out the front door and saved himself. Whoever was trying to kill him, though, was most likely the same person who had killed his father. This could be his best chance to find his assassin and get the promotion to commander that Exodos promised.
The intruders mistakenly thought Gevin would do what they said in order to protect Gylda. Staying behind the wall, he said, “I only want to know who put you up to this. Tell me and I’ll let you live. I’d much rather kill Brotians than Narons.”
“You have the count of three to lay down your sword or we kill her,” the voice said.
Knowing it would give him the time he needed, Gevin dropped his sword in front of the door. “There. Now let Gylda go and I’ll lie down on the floor as you command.”
As soon as one of them said, “You are not in a position to…” Gevin somersaulted into the bedroom, and in one fluid motion he threw his dagger at the man holding the crossbow. Passing over his sword, Gevin grabbed it, leapt to his feet and charged the man holding Gylda. He shoved her at Gevin with a surprised grunt. Gevin spun to his right and Gylda fell behind him onto the floor with a thud. Finding himself face to face with the woman, Gevin swung his sword in a low arc at her waist. She jumped back and deflected Gevin’s blow with her sword at the same time as the man who had been holding Gylda charged him. Gevin ducked down low and slid at the man, knocking his legs from under him. As he fell on top of Gevin, Gevin spun to his right and somersaulted again. He came to his feet as the woman swung her sword at his head. He blocked it high with his sword and punched her in the stomach with his free hand. She grunted and fell over sideways, gasping for breath.
Gevin turned to face the first man again, but he had scrambled over to Gylda and stood over her bound body with his long knife against her throat. Gevin knew he couldn't reach the man before he stabbed her so he turned back to the woman. As she was pulling herself to her feet by holding onto the side of his bed, Gevin swung as hard as he could with his sword and sliced through her neck with one thrust. Blood gushed over his bed and her head landed on the floor next to the man with Gevin’s dagger sticking out of his chest.
“Why have you killed your companion?” the man holding Gylda asked. “We were willing to only kill you, but now you’re going to have to live with the knowledge you killed her.”
Gevin slowly walked toward the man. “Kill her. I can find another companion.”
“I’ll give you one last chance to save her,” he barked. “Put down your sword—Now!”
In response, Gevin raised his sword and pointed it at the man’s head. The man retreated a few steps, dragging Gylda with him. She was gagged and blindfolded, so Gevin thankfully wouldn’t have to look into her eyes or hear her cry when she died. He gave the man one last warning. “Look at your friends. Unless you want to suffer their fate, tell me who…” Before finishing his threat, Gevin flung himself into Gylda, sending all three of them sprawling to the floor. Rolling to his left, he heard a crossbow bolt release from behind him and then the sickening sound of it sinking into flesh. Without checking to see whom the bolt had hit, Gevin drove his sword into the back of the man who was trying to climb out from under Gylda. Gevin quickly spun around with his sword raised. The man with the crossbow still had Gevin’s dagger sticking out of his chest and charged Gevin with a short sword.
Gevin easily parried the man’s weak thrust and countered with one of his own, stabbing into his shoulder. The man fell to the ground and dropped his sword with a loud clang. Kicking the fallen sword across the room, Gevin looked back at Gylda and screamed in utter fury. The crossbow bolt was sticking out of her forehead.
Gevin reached down and grabbed the man who had shot her by his long black hair. “Who wants me dead? I want answers!”
“Why didn’t you listen to us?” the man asked.
Gevin ripped off the man’s mask and looked into the gray eyes of a stranger. While Narsta was big enough that Gevin didn’t know everyone, the man most likely came from another city to help hide the identity of whoever wanted Gevin dead. He asked again, “Who are you helping? Don’t make me torture you.”
The man coughed up a mouthful of blood, smiled up at Gevin and said, “Looks like I’m going to be resting in Seibu sooner than I expected. You’re good. He told us you would do anything we commanded once we threatened your companion. He was wrong. You have made Holy Father Naro himself proud this cycle.”
“Give me a name!”
“I… I don’t know his name.” The man’s voice faded into a whisper. “I hope you can find him and kill him for me.”
“Where are you from? What did he look like?” Gevin asked.
“He used a messenger and the messenger was masked. The messenger… said… your father and the man… friends.” The man gasped one more time and his eyes rolled up into his head as he exhaled his last breath.
Gevin ran over to Gylda and felt her neck for a pulse – nothing. He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I’m sorry. He said the man who wanted me killed was a friend of my father’s. It has to be Dimik. I will torture him so painfully in your and my father’s names that he’ll beg the evil Brote for mercy.”
After attending Gylda's funeral Gevin walked through the north gate with his new bodyguard, Daji, right behind him. He took three steps towards the street heading to his old house before realizing his mistake. With a grunt, he went straight instead. Crisscrossing through the center of the city, the street would take him to the fortress and his father’s old palace, where Gevin was now living. He also had accepted Daji’s offer to have Vinya’s guards stay on and protect him. They kept a constant watch on the palace and one of them accompanied Gevin wherever he went.
None of Gylda’s friends or family blamed Gevin for what happened; everyone accepted it as a part of Naron life. The primary way that Naron humans could improve their status was through hard work; the second way was to eliminate the competition. Narons took a great deal of pride in being judged by their ability rather than by the evil standards Brote created for his children. Brotian human males couldn’t rise above their father’s status no matter how hard they worked. And, even though Brote created Brotian women, both sun jiva and humans, in Crevahn’s image, they were slaves to men with no possibility of contributing to greater society.
Gevin was incredibly relieved that he didn’t have to say anything at Gylda’s funeral and that it was over so quickly. He had no time to mourn. Burying two people he cared about in two cycles only strengthened his resolve to prove that Dimik was behind the attacks. He would need help finding proof; the problem was knowing who to trust. His father had trusted Daji, so Gevin should have been able to as well. Yet, it had been Daji’s job to protect Vinya, and Vinya was dead now.
“Shadow Bear,” Daji said from behind, “if I may say so, sir, your father was a great man and it was an honor to serve him.”
“You said that the previous cycle when I moved into my father’s palace. Are you simply repeating yourself or is there something else you want to say?” Gevin asked irritably.
“Just like your father, straight to the point.” She lowered her voice even though there was no one on the street to hear her. “I wish to help you find your father’s killer. I may even have a few leads.”
“What makes you think I’m looking for my father’s killer?” Gevin asked, suddenly feeling vulnerable with Daji behind him.
“The moon jiva have entrusted it to someone, and since you’re Vinya’s son, you’re the logical choice. Besides, Vinya wouldn’t have rested until he found the killer, and I’m assuming his son will do the same. Am I wrong?”
Daji was being way too aggressive – first at his father’s funeral, second by offering her guarding services to Gevin, and now in offering to help find Vinya’s killer. Gevin trusted absolutely no one any more than he had too, and Daji was giving him reason to not trust her at all. Still, Gevin’s new position gave him little time to investigate, and whoever had killed Vinya would be expecting Gevin to try and avenge him. Gevin would be unable to approach the killer himself.
“Daji, my father spoke highly of you,” Gevin said. “However, you must understand my reluctance to talk to anyone about my plans for finding the killer after having buried my father and my companion within two cycles of each other. I can afford to trust no one.”
“Of course I understand your caution,” Daji said. “But Shadow Bear, you cannot search for the killer alone. You will have to at least trust one person a little.”
“You are right, of course. You said you have some leads. Tell me more.”
“Dimik, Dumol and Vernon are the obvious suspects, but aren’t they too obvious?” Daji asked. “There are others Vinya brought down on his way up. I know two in particular that would definitely want revenge. I’ll start with them.”
“Start where you’d like. Do not rule out Dimik and the other two because you think they are too obvious. They know that as well and will use it to their advantage,” Gevin said. “Let’s wait to continue this conversation until we are inside.”
They walked the rest of the way down the dark winding streets in silence. Gevin’s three-story granite palace was outside the wall protecting the fortress where the moon jiva lived. Human officers had the option of living inside the fortress or in a house of their own. None of them would ever admit it out loud, but all of them chose to live outside the fortress because they wanted to be as far away from the moon jiva as possible. Out of the ten palaces that surrounded the fortress, only four of them were occupied. All Naron cities had more buildings than were necessary for the current number of people living in them. Naro had created them for the future when Narons would cover the entire globe and their numbers would swell.
The front door of Gevin’s palace was carved to resemble Da’Shen, the mighty shadow dragon that lived on Shadow Mountain above Night City. There were no windows on the first two floors. The third floor had two balconies overlooking the street and a pointed roof, which made scaling it nearly impossible.
When Gevin and Daji approached, the two guards stationed out front saluted. Daji asked, “Any disturbances?”
“No,” the man on the right said.
Gevin walked past them without a word and into the front room, which had a three-foot high mural of Vinya directly across from the entrance over the hallway leading into the main dining room. With no windows on the first two floors, nightrocks embedded in the ceiling and walls lit every room with a soft pale blue light. The front room had two granite tables and several sofas with red satin cushions for visitors. The door on the right led to the rooms where the bodyguards slept and the one on the left to the rooms for servants.
Gevin headed for the stairway, which led up to the second and third floors and down to the basement. “Let’s go up to the study.”
Daji put a hand on Gevin’s shoulder and said, “I’ll lead the way. It is my job.”
Glaring at Daji’s hand, Gevin said, “After you. And Daji, don’t ever put your hand on my shoulder again.”
“Yes, Shadow Bear,” Daji said without a single hint of displeasure at being reprimanded.
“One more thing, Daji,” Gevin said to her gigantic back, “if someone shoots you with a crossbow bolt, don’t fall backwards. You’re very large and I don’t want to break something from you falling on me.”
“I’ll try my best to fall forward.”
Daji opened the door to Gevin’s study on the third floor, which used to be Vinya’s sleeping chamber. Finding no one in it, she stepped out of the way so Gevin could enter. Gevin went to the balcony. To his left, the dark waters of the ocean disappeared beyond the horizon. Straight ahead, the land was flat with nothing but sparse magvo trees and mushroom farms before reaching a small bay. To the right, there were small mountains with two paths winding through them; one headed north towards Noyuko and then on to Nuru, the other headed northeast to Samshian.
Gevin sat in one of the small granite chairs and motioned for Daji to sit in the other one. “I’m going to start our search under the assumption that the man behind my father’s assassination was Dimik. If I am unable to find any proof as to who did it, I’m going to kill him.”
“What if it isn’t him?” Daji asked.
“Well, we will follow our search in any direction, but regardless whether it’s him or not, I’ll still have him out of the way,” Gevin said.
Daji narrowed her eyes and took a while to consider things through. “Do you really want to risk execution by assassinating a commander? Besides, your father was able to out-maneuver his competitors without ever assassinating anyone. He believed in fighting the Brotians, not other Narons.”
Gevin held in his laughter. Gevin knew that Daji had killed for Vinya at least twice.She either really was part of the assassination or didn’t trust Gevin enough to tell him the truth. Either way, it was too late to exclude Daji now. “Well, do you think Dimik hasn’t killed anyone?”
Before Daji answered, shouting erupted from the streets below. Thinking they were under attack, Gevin jumped to his feet and looked out at the harbor for Brotian ships and into the sky for firebirds.
“Not Brotians,” Daji said, standing up behind Gevin. “Those shouts do not sound like an alarm. Besides, the watch would have spotted any invaders.”
“You’re right. It sounds like they’re celebrating,” Gevin said. “Let’s go find out what it’s about.”
“I’ll lead the way,” Daji said.
By the time they descended the two flights of stairs, all of Gevin’s servants and guards were already gathered in the front room. They had the door open and were peering out into the street.
Gevin shouted, “What is it? What’s happening?”
One of the guards on duty at the front door pushed past everyone blocking the door. A messenger dressed in the dark brown robes of a servant to the moon jiva stepped into the center of the room. She saluted Gevin and said, “Lieutenant Commander Gevin, I’ve been sent by the moon jiva to report an official mandate from Holy Father Naro.”
The room went silent. Gevin said, “Continue.”
“Holy Father Naro has proclaimed that no Naron shall harm or plot to harm another Naron in any manner until the end of the war. Any Naron who does intentionally harm another Naron shall be considered a traitor to Holy Father Naro and the punishment will be to be taken before Holy Father Naro himself to be judged.” Several people gasped. The moon jiva always decided punishments for serious crimes and human commanders for lesser ones. Death was more appealing than being taken directly before Naro. There was already a law against killing other Narons, but since Naro encouraged competition so that the strongest and wisest would rise to power, Narons were constantly plotting against one another, sometimes resorting to murder.
Everyone held their gaze on Gevin, who was still on the stairs, waiting for him to respond. He stared blankly at the handrail beneath his hand and used every last bit of his strength not to slam his fist into the granite. His revenge had been taken away from him.
“Shadow Bear?” Daji whispered so only Gevin could hear.
Gevin shook his head and looked up at the messenger. He said as calmly as he could, “Thank you. This cannot be what all the screaming is about. You have another message?”
“I do,” the messenger said, her face beaming with pride, “two more, actually. The first, I had to deliver out of duty; the second and third, I deliver out of joy and pure delight.”
The silence intensified, making the noise outside seem like thunder tearing stone apart. Gevin snapped impatiently, “Well, out with it.”
“Arella, a human lieutenant, has single-handedly killed a sun jiva. As a reward, Holy Father Naro has proclaimed her to be one of his favored daughters.” Gevin was stunned. Not only had a human never killed a sun jiva before, but Naro had also considered his moon jiva favored children. “More incredibly, Holy Father Naro has discovered that by bearing the child of a male moon jiva, human women and their resulting offspring can gain the ability to control moon energy. He has ordered all male moon jiva to begin mating with human females. The three moon jiva here in Narsta are already making a schedule for us women to mate with Exodos and Quinton. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must carry this message to others.”
“Yes, yes, you’re dismissed,” Gevin said.
As the messenger dashed back into the street, Gevin’s servants and guards broke into cheers. Even Daji smiled. While Gevin should have been delighted with the news, all he could think about was his lost revenge.
His servants ran into the street to join the celebration without even asking for permission. The guards at least had the discipline to wait for him to dismiss them. When Gevin didn’t bother to look at them, they took it as a sign that they too could go.
Daji was the only one who remained behind. “We’ll find the proof, Shadow Bear. When we do, the moon jiva will executive the killer.”
“Daji, go and join the celebration,” Gevin said. “We humans, well the women anyway, have suddenly become a lot more powerful. We should be able to finish this war once and for all.”
“I will not abandon my duty,” Daji said.
“Didn’t you hear the proclamation?” Gevin asked. “No Naron, not even Dimik, would dream of breaking a direct edict from Holy Father Naro. I’m quite safe.”
“Perhaps someone has not heard it yet,” Daji said.
“Do you really think that will matter much to Holy Father Naro? No, I’m safe. Go. And that’s an order.”
Daji nodded reluctantly and asked, “Will you not join the celebration?”
“No, I feel no joy now, nor can I as long as Dimik is alive,” Gevin said. “Besides, with you human women and all of your children becoming a great deal more powerful, where does that leave us men? Have we suddenly become disposable?”
Daji shrugged. “I don’t think any of the other men have thought it through that far yet. We human women will always have a special bond with male humans. Besides, Shadow Bear, all future men will gain the ability to control moon energy as well. And, after all this time since Creation, Holy Father Naro has only now discovered that human women can control moon energy. Maybe he will discover a way for you too as well.”
“Perhaps,” Gevin said. He paused a moment. “Daji, I wish to be alone.”
“Yes, Shadow Bear. But tell me one thing before I leave.”
“What is it?” Gevin asked impatiently.
“I’ve wanted to ask you this for a very long time now,” Daji said. “Is it true that you got your nickname from killing three shadow bears with your bare hands?”
The story was true, except that it was extremely exaggerated. Gevin was hunting wisps in the foothills with Vinya when he was only four thousand cycles old. He stumbled across a cave, and being a curious boy he went inside without thinking about what dangers lurked inside. The cave turned out to be the home of a massive shadow bear, over thirteen feet tall. The creature was sleeping when Gevin entered, and with its pitch black fur he didn’t even see the beast until he stepped on it. The bear was so surprised that she leapt straight up into the air and hit her head on the low ceiling. She howled in pain and before she could regain her balance, Gevin drew his short sword and drove it into her stomach with all his might. She fell over backwards and landed on top of her two cubs, crushing the life out of them. Gevin desperately pulled the blade free and slashed at her over and over until she completely stopped moving. Of course, a thirteen-year old boy killing a mother shadow bear with only a short sword was nothing short of miraculous. Vinya had told the story over and over, conveniently removing the sword and neglecting to mention that two of the bears were cubs. Gevin had been known as Shadow Bear ever since.
“I used a short sword,” Gevin said. “I don’t know how the story got changed into me only using my hands. There really were three bears though.”
Holy Father Naro looks after you himself.” Daji raised her hand to pat Gevin’s shoulder. Remembering Gevin’s warning, she thought better of it and left without another word.
Daji’s smile was genuine. She hadn’t felt happy in such a long time that the muscles in her face ached from lack of use. She made her way through the crowd of cheering people, occasionally acknowledging their greetings and hugs. It was amazing how quickly the mood of the city had changed in a single sleep cycle. On top of Vinya and Gylda’s murders, the water in the ocean had suddenly become filled with salt, making it undrinkable. Everyone was on the verge of panic, wondering if Brote had somehow poisoned the ocean.
Daji’s destination wasn’t far. In fact, she was headed for a slightly smaller palace than Gevin’s on the other side of the fortress. With all the people running in celebration, one moment she was surrounded by revelers and then in the next moment she had the street to herself. When she reached the small palace, there was nobody else on the street and no guards on duty at the front door. She quickly looked in every direction to make sure no one was watching, and slipped inside.
She quickly went up the spiral stairs. On the third floor, she walked down the hall until she came to a large wooden door. She knocked on it hard. After several moments of waiting, the door creaked open and Dimik yelled, “I told you to join…” When he saw that it was Daji, he changed what he was about to say to, “What are you doing here? I told you never to come my home.”
“No one saw me, and with Naro’s proclamation does it really matter anymore?” Daji asked.
“Of course it matters, you idiot,” Dimik snapped back.
Daji tolerated the condescending attitude of officers, but she would not put up with blatant disrespect. Dimik had no idea how lucky he was that Naro made the proclamation for Narons not to harm one another; he would be dead otherwise. Dimik stepped into the hallway only wearing a dark blue sleeping robe and angrily motioned to the next room. Daji followed silently.
It was a small servant’s room with a single bed and no chair. The room was lit by a tiny nightrock making it virtually pitch black.
Daji shut the door behind him. Even before it was completely closed, Dimik continued his tirade. “You’d better have come with news that Gevin or one of the others is dead.”
“Your arrogance rises as your power rises, Dimik. We’re in this together. Be careful, or I can bring you down,” Daji said.
“You dare threaten me!” Dimik shouted. “I’ll have you flayed and beheaded you overgrown Brotian…”
Daji held up her hand and said over Dimik’s shouting, “Would you like to know what I have to say or not?”
Dimik took a breath and said, “Very well. What is it?”
“When Gevin heard the news of Arella and human women being able to control moon energy, he didn’t even crack a smile,” Daji said. “He’s so obsessed with killing you that he can think of nothing else.”
Dimik shook his head sadly. “I really thought he would amount to something. He’s acting like a Brotian being so dedicated to his father. Does he still plan to try and kill me in spite of Holy Father Naro’s proclamation?”
“I don’t think so,” Daji said. “He’s a fool, but he’s not a traitor. He does still plan to find evidence that you killed Vinya.”
“Well, since I didn’t do it, he won’t find any,” Dimik said. “Do you have any leads on who did kill him?”
“No. However, I will be joining Gevin in his search so you will be the first to know when I find something,” Daji said.
“No matter how long it takes, Daji, keep looking.” Daji nodded and turned to go. As he opened the door, Dimik said, “And Daji, I meant what I said about coming here. Do not do it again.”
Daji glared down at Dimik in the dim light and said, “I follow orders without question, and do my job better than anyone else possibly could. The one thing I do not do is take insults or warnings from any human lightly. The last human in your position who threatened me is dead. Do not make the same mistake as your predecessor and assume your rank is protection from me.”
Daji closed the door behind her and headed down the stairs. Walking out to the now crowded street, Daji didn’t bother concealing herself. Neither Dimik nor Gevin were arrogant or foolish enough to go against a direct order from Naro, so he didn’t have to worry about them killing her. They both would still inevitably plot and scheme, but that’s where it would stop.
Daji was only four thousand cycles old when Vinya killed her mother. She had been gaining power much more quickly than Vinya had liked. He was five thousand cycles when she saw Dimik kill Daji’s father with her own hands. Daji had vowed vengeance on Dimik and Vinya and their entire families, and would not rest until they were all dead, no matter what proclamations Naro ordered.
Gevin walked through the fortress halls with sweat forming on his back. Narons never sweated. Humans didn’t approach moon jiva without being summoned first either. Exodos had told him to find proof of Dimik’s involvement in Vinya’s death. He did not tell him to bring that proof directly to him, so Gevin was taking a huge risk of incurring the moon jiva’s wrath by going to see him. Daji found the proof Gevin needed the previous cycle, and since Gevin was now forbidden to harm Dimik himself, he was bringing it to Exodos in hopes that the moon jiva would execute Vinya’s killer as soon as possible.
Daji followed leads from the three who had tried to kill Gevin. One of them was carrying a letter, which was in the handwriting of a servant in Dimik’s palace. Daji sneaked into the servant’s room and found another letter, this one in Dimik’s handwriting, saying that the fallen one’s son was to be removed next. Daji also found a silver moon amulet, the symbol of a commander. Vinya’s hadn’t been found after his death and they were rare enough that a servant having one in his room was not a coincidence.
Gevin held the moon amulet in his hand so tightly that it tore into his skin and blood dripped down the silver moon. The human escorting Gevin shuffled his feet and nearly stumbled three times. He clearly didn’t want to announce Gevin to Exodos out of fear that the moon jiva would be irate, and take it out on the servant.
The servant finally came to a stop before a massive granite door with a carving of a female moon jiva with outstretched hands. Gevin had never seen the door before on his visits to the fortress and realized he had no idea where in the fortress they were. He had been so consumed with thinking about revealing the evidence to Exodos that he hadn’t paid attention to the route they used.
The servant looked back and said, “Wait here.”
The man opened the door and disappeared inside. Gevin heard another door open, and a moment later the servant returned with a smile of relief on his face. “Exodos will see you. Come in.”
As Gevin walked in, Exodos also came in from a door on the opposite side of the room. Exodos said, “Lieutenant Commander.”
Gevin went to one knee, bowed his head and said, “Exodos-da, I beg you to forgive my insolence for coming unbidden, but I have that which you were seeking.”
“Of course you do. I expected nothing less.” Exodos looked at the servant and said, “Leave us.”
The man departed after a silent nod of his head.
Exodos sat down on a granite sofa covered with purple cushions, the only furniture in the room. “Rise, Gevin. Come a little closer.”Gevin stood and approached the moon jiva with his head bowed. “You keep your place well. Recently, Lieutenant Commander Dumol forgot his. I think this news about humans being able to control moon energy has given many of you a reason to be arrogant. Well, Dumol now remembers his place. Have you heard? He’s cleaning out chamber pots for my servants… oh wait, he killed himself during the sleeping cycle so he isn’t cleaning anything now.” Gevin had heard of Dumol’s demotion. He couldn’t care less about the reason, he was only happy about the result. “Anyway, I’ve been waiting for this evidence. It took you a bit longer than I anticipated, but I’m a patient moon jiva, unlike Nadana or Quinton. I suppose you’re anxious to tell me what you have found. Well, be about it man, I haven’t got all cycle.”
Gevin extended his hand. “Exodos-da, this was my father’s amulet and I have a letter here in Dimik’s handwriting.” Gevin explained where and how Daji found them.
“This Daji of yours is quite resourceful. I’d like to meet her.” Exodos looked down at the letter. “Handwriting can be forged.” He held up the amulet. “While we couldn’t find Vinya’s amulet, there’s no way to really tell if this was his or not.”
If the proof wasn’t enough to convince Exodos, he would punish Gevin for wasting his time and Dimik would escape justice. On top of all the chances he had already taken, Gevin risked taking one more by making a suggestion. “We could always question the servant who had them in his room”
“It convinces me, Gevin,” Exodos said without any signs of anger. “The problem is that it needs to convince Nadana and Quinton as well.” Gevin knew that for the lie it was. They would agree with whatever Exodos decided because arguing over a human was beneath them. “I tire of Dimik’s fawning. He pushes his position to one of abject humiliation. You however, remain in your place without coming across as spineless. You are much preferable to that Brotian of a man. This evidence will suffice. You’ve done well…”
Before he could finish the compliment, the door swung open with a bang. A human ran in and went down on all fours and said as fast as he could, “Beg my intrusion Exodos-da, but the gargoil Dranduir has just arrived in the city. He’s carrying…” the man looked at Gevin and then back at the floor and continued, “he’s carrying something that he claims you and the other moon jiva must see at once.”
“Dranduir?” Exodos’s voice was filled with curiosity and a touch of, if Gevin had heard right, fear. The moon jiva said to Gevin, “Go now, Lieutenant Commander, and speak of your evidence to no one until you hear from me. Dismissed.”
Going down to his knee again, Gevin said, “As you command, I obey.” He then stood, turned and walked straight out of the room.
Trying to puzzle out why Dranduir was in Narsta, Gevin paid less attention to the route the servant led him down than he did when he was escorted to Exodos. Naro had created only four gargoils and none of them ever came to Narsta. The messenger claimed that Dranduir carried something the moon jiva had to see, but whatever it was, it could mean only one thing – the Brotians were going to attack Narsta and Dranduir was there to help in its defense.
After the servant led Gevin through the gate in the fortress's courtyard, Gevin dashed off for home. People were gathered in the street, some of them even shouting questions at him about Dranduir. He ignored them all and ran through his unguarded front door and found three guards waiting for him inside.
After saluting, one of them said, “We’ve been hearing a lot of commotion, Shadow Bear. What’s happening?”
“Dranduir is here,” Gevin said. “I don’t know the details, but spread the word quickly and prepare yourselves for battle.”
“Yes, sir.” The three men saluted and disappeared into the guards’ quarters.
Gevin went straight into his dining room. It was an odd place to keep battle armor, but being the closest room to his front door, he had didn’t have to tromp up and down any stairs or through too many rooms. The suit hung on a mannequin, making it look like a real soldier in the dim light. The whole suit was made of plate mail and painted black with a silver gargoil on the chest to match his silver gargoil amulet, indicating his rank of lieutenant commander. With Dranduir in Narsta, Gevin was going to be able to see how accurate the amulet was.
Gevin clasped the plate mail onto his legs, snapped the torso into place, and stretched awkwardly behind his back to clasp on the arms. He slid the helmet onto his head, clamped the shield onto his back and secured his sword in its scabbard to his waist.
Completely armored, he walked through the front entrance and found four of his guards waiting for him. They all moved towards him while at the same time offering their assistance. He waved them away. “Can’t you see I’ve already finished? Escort me to the palace.”
As they turned toward it, the same messenger that had brought him the news about Naro’s proclamation ran up to him and declared in a loud voice, “I carry a summons for Lieutenant Commander Gevin.” Seeing Gevin standing in the front of her dressed in his armor, she blinked in surprise before lowering her voice. “Shadow Bear, you are commanded to attend the war room in the fortress immediately.”
“I hear the summons and I obey,” Gevin said. “Will you lead the way?”
“I cannot. I have to deliver the message to others. If you’ll excuse me?” Without waiting for a reply, she darted down the street.
Gevin followed the messenger with his four guards right behind him. They marched down the street and into the fortress courtyard. Soldiers and servants were everywhere, running to and from the fortress in chaos. A different servant in a brown robe fought through the crowd. Reaching Gevin, she said, “Lieutenant Commander, have your guards wait here and follow me.”
Gevin let the servant lead him into the fortress once again. The front door was only five feet high and a mere three feet wide. Gevin had to duck down and twist to fit through. The first room inside had ten closed doors of various shapes and sizes. Other than that, nothing else, not even a nightrock. Its purpose was to completely confuse any Brotians who miraculously made it this far. Gevin closed the door behind him, plunging the room into complete darkness. Both of them walked twelve paces forward and seven to the left to the war room door. The servant pushed it open and stepped aside for Gevin to pass through. Considering how fast he had changed and returned, Gevin expected to be the first officer present, but Lieutenant Commander Vernon and three lieutenants were already waiting. Gevin took his place at the front of the room alongside Vernon.
Vernon was the same height as Gevin. His long light gray hair and eyes matched the color of his skin perfectly. Eying Gevin’s armor, he said, “You clearly know what’s happening. All of us here are still in the dark. What's going on?”
Gevin took off his helmet and said, “Dranduir has arrived in Narsta.”
“I didn’t believe the servants when they told me he was here. Hearing it from you must mean it’s true.” Vernon clapped his hands together excitedly. “I can only assume the Brotians are attacking. It's been too long since we enjoyed the pleasures of battle. Time to send some Brotian filth to the bottom of the ocean.”
“Perhaps,” Gevin said. “Where is Dimik?”
“He’s talking with the moon jiva. Have you heard that Serin has replaced Dumol?” Vernon asked.
“Exodos told me about Dumol killing himself,” Gevin said casually, knowing it would make Vernon seethe with jealousy that a moon jiva had confided in Gevin. He didn’t mention that Exodos had said nothing about Serin.
As if talking about her had been her summons, she entered, along with the six remaining lieutenants. Her dark red hair was cut extremely short, shorter than Gevin’s, and she too was already dressed in armor.
Standing a couple of inches taller than Gevin and Vernon, she walked over and said, “Lieutenant Commanders, what’s this all about? Are we being attacked?”
Before either of them could answer, the back door to the war room banged open. Dimik strutted in and said, “Be seated. This won’t take long, but it’s urgent.”
Dimik nodded to the three lieutenant commanders; his eyes rested on Gevin the longest. Dimik took the head chair at the round table. Gevin sat on his left and Vernon and Serin on his right.
“By now you are all wondering what’s going on. Well, it doesn’t appear that we are going to be attacked. As many of you have no doubt heard by now, Dranduir has arrived in Narsta. Holy Father Naro ordered Dranduir to kidnap a jiva and bring him to Night City. Dranduir barely escaped from Seiva’Re with an injured and unconscious jiva, and believes that other jiva are chasing after him from the east. He is sleeping at the moment and will continue on to Night City when he awakens. The moon jiva have not decided how they want us to deal with the jiva, but they want us to prepare for them like we would an attack by the Brotians. Any questions.”
“Prepare for the jiva cowards like they are Brotians?” Gevin said. “Did the moon jiva give you any indication what to expect should they actually attack us?”
“Of course they didn’t,” Dimik said.
“Well, in that case, we must attack them before they have a chance to attack us first,” Vernon declared.
“The moon jiva must have also considered the possibility that the jiva are coming to join us,” Serin said. “Attacking them without provocation could destroy any chance we have at bringing them into the war on our side. We must use this opportunity to convince them that Brote is evil.”
“I asked for questions, not comments,” Dimik said. “There is no point in discussing the possibilities since the moon jiva themselves haven’t decided our course of action yet. Now, as none of you have any more questions, prepare the city for an attack. As soon as I receive more news or orders, I’ll pass them along to you as quickly as possible. Dismissed.”
Everyone stood at once and left without another word. They all knew what to do. In preparation for real attacks, Dimik and the three lieutenant commanders met with the moon jiva to finalize the details of the city's defense. Since this was apparently not an attack, instead of meeting with the moon jiva, the three lieutenant commanders headed for their positions along the wall to make sure their defenses were set and the watch prepared.
During battle, Dimik had command of the south wall facing the ocean. Gevin had command over the east wall, Vernon the west and Serin the north. Since Brotian attacks would most likely come from the ocean, the south wall was the most heavily fortified. As for the jiva, while Gevin couldn’t imagine them actually attacking, Dranduir said they would come from the east. While everyone always assumed the jiva were cowards, perhaps if they did attack, with Gevin’s prime position on the east wall tower, he would be able to kill one of them. As the second human to kill a jiva, he too could become a favored child of Naro and be stationed in Night City itself.
Gevin walked back out to the courtyard, signaled for all of the east wall soldiers to fall in behind him as he set off for his tower. The four guards and five hundred soldiers under his command marched in unison, keeping count as they went. The other five hundred soldiers assigned to him should have been in position by now.
Reaching the wall, the soldiers ran to their stations. Gevin climbed up the sixty feet to the top of the tower. The land around Narsta was flat, giving him a great view in every direction. Sparse magvo trees spread out for miles across the frozen tundra, making it impossible for anyone to approach unnoticed.
After the initial excitement of Dranduir’s arrival faded, time passed slowly through the remaining waking cycle. Dimik didn't send any follow-up reports, and there was no sign of the jiva. When the sleeping cycle arrived, the soldiers remained at the wall, sleeping in shifts. Dimik, Vernon and Serin returned to their homes, but Gevin refused to leave his soldiers alone and had a cot brought up to him.
He slept extremely well, his dreams filled with images of jiva of various colors and sizes attacking Narsta and Gevin killing them all. At the start of the waking cycle, he sat straight up, instantly awake. A soldier stood at the edge of the tower watching the eastern horizon. Gevin asked, “Anything?”
“Not yet, Shadow Bear” she said. “Wait a moment." She peered more closely. "Yes...someone is approaching.”
Gevin jumped to his feet and looked in the direction where the woman pointed. “Naron human sailors?”
“Where did they come from and why are they out there?” she asked.
“They’re incredibly tall for humans,” Gevin said. “They must be the jiva in disguise. Send word to the moon jiva at once.”
Before the jiva had come another hundred yards closer to the city, Exodos and Nadana were already at the top of the east command tower. The third moon jiva, Quinton, was nowhere to be seen. Highly unusual, but perhaps he was with the gargoil. Exodos and Nadana would use hand signals to send Gevin his orders.
At the moment, the two of them stared intently at the jiva. Everyone knew they were cowards, and now they were proving themselves to be foolish too. Not a single Naron, not even a child, would believe for a second that two eight-foot tall human sailors were walking across the plains.
Dimik suddenly climbed up the spiral staircase and strutted to the edge of the tower. “The moon jiva commanded me to take control here, Gevin.”
Gevin's training kicked in. Even his hatred for Dimik vanished during a battle; they were both Narons after all. “Yes, Dimik, of course. This will make it easier to relay the moon jiva’s orders.”
Staring out at the jiva, Dimik asked, “Can they really be this stupid? This must be some kind of trick.”
When the jiva came into crossbow range, Nadana lifted her right fist and swung it down. Gevin said, “Prepare to attack, Dimik.” He nodded without looking back. Gevin relayed the message to the lieutenants stationed along the wall, who in turn passed it along to the soldiers. Everyone except Dimik kept their eyes focused on Gevin, who waited for Nadana’s signal. When she swung her hand upwards, Gevin immediately repeated the signal. The humans along the top of the wall stood, aimed at the jiva and fired their crossbows. Using the power of moon energy, the moon jiva added a shower of razor sharp ice to the attack. The jiva erected a barrier of howling wind in front of them and the bolts and ice flew backwards towards the city. After two more unsuccessful volleys by the Narons, Nadana lifted her arm out to the side and swung it across her body.
Gevin passed along the signal for the ground troops to attack.
“About time,” Dimik said.
The east gate swung open. Soldiers poured through it screaming, “Naro!”
They were immediately thrown up against the wall or back through the gate as the wind pummeled them with a force greater than any natural gust. The gale blew across the entire city, slamming Gevin against the back of the tower and throwing Dimik clear over the edge and into the city beyond.
Gevin dropped to the floor and crawled his way to the spiral stairs leading down to the ground. The wind howled down the stairs, threatening to send him flying head over heels. He pressed his body against the stairs as tightly as he could and inched his way down. Green lightning tore into the buildings in huge explosions; electrical currents streamed in and out of the very rock. Every red hair on Gevin’s body stood on end. Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he crawled out into the street at the same moment a blinding flash of lightning smashed into his tower. The force of the wind saved his life as the shattered pieces of granite were swept deeper into the city rather than on top of Gevin.
A female jiva’s voice echoed above the lightning and explosions of stone, “Cease your attacks and we will not harm anyone else.”
Nadana shouted a reply just as loudly, “You are two; we are thousands! Retreat now or we will kill you.”
Crouching as low as he could, Gevin ran for the command tower with the intention of protecting the moon jiva. They were Narsta’s only chance for survival. Razor-sharp ice joined the storm of wind and green lightning. The jagged shards cut through his uniform and into his back and arms where his armor wasn’t protecting his skin.
He darted through shattered buildings and dead bodies until he finally reached where the moon jiva’s tower should have been. Instead, there was nothing but a large pile of rubble. He crawled onto the smashed rock, exposing the back of his hands to the ice. As he desperately dug through the rubble searching for the two moon jiva, a bolt of lightning struck the ground on the opposite side of the tower. Following the flash to the ground with his eyes, he saw Nadana’s body lying motionless alongside another body charred beyond recognition. He scrambled down to Nadana,a and without pausing to make sure she was alive, he hoisted her up in his arms and ran into the nearest small building still standing.
Nadana awoke to a deep stabbing pain inside in her head. A large bandage covered her forehead from ear to ear, and she was lying down on a small hard cot wearing her tattered black robe. A great deal of her skin was exposed, which had been sliced open in countless gashes, matted down with dried blood. Her natural healing process had already started closing the wounds, but was clearly not working on her head yet.
She was in a servant’s sleeping chamber that was so small it could fit absolutely nothing else except the cot and a shelf built into the wall. The tiny amount of light coming through the crack under the wooden door was more than enough for her to see every pathetic detail of her robe.
Whoever had put her in this room would pay dearly. She stood with the intention of blasting the door open with moon energy, but her head spun in circles and she fell back onto the cot. She waited a moment for her head to clear and then opened her mouth to shout for someone to attend her. No words came out as even the act of moving her jaw made her feel woozy. She lay back down took several deep breaths to calm her splitting head.
Jumbled voices in hushed tones made their way through the crack in the door. A deep male voice rose above the others. “They must be gone by now.”
“You’re welcome to do the rest of us a favor and go up and check,” a female voice said. “I say we stay here another cycle to be on the safe side.”
A third voice said, “Nadana may wake up at any time. Do you want to be in here when she does?”
“We saved her life, that has to count for something. She wouldn’t…”
“Saved her life? Ha, the way she’ll see it is that we interfered. Moon jiva don’t listen to reason.”
“Besides, this one has a temper like Brote. I still say we slit her throat.”
“Are you mad? Just muttering those words is treason. You’re lucky none of us kill you where you’re standing for saying it.”
“It used to be treason. I’m pregnant and will start to control moon energy any cycle now. She’s the one who has betrayed us by forcing us to attack the jiva!”
“Relax, both of you. Listen, after this disaster, Holy Father Naro is going to be looking for someone to blame. The moon jiva were in charge, so they’re the ones who will have to answer to him. If they’re all dead, do you think he’ll be satisfied? I don’t. He’ll still be looking for someone to blame and that someone very well could be us. We have to make sure she survives so she’ll be the one held responsible.”
Rage as burning hot as the evil sun itself filled every pore of Nadana’s body. She would punish every single one of the humans until they begged to be brought before Naro instead. She lifted her head in one last attempt to stand, but decided the humans’ punishment could wait as she drifted back into sleep.
When Nadana woke the second time, someone had placed a small stool next to her cot with a pitcher of water and some mushrooms. Her head felt a little less woozy, but everything was still spinning and her headache was still pounding. She sat up slowly, grabbed the pitcher with both hands and greedily gulped the ice water down. She ate all of the mushrooms quickly while trying to remember what she had heard the humans discussing the first time she had woken up. Nada vaguely recalled that they had said something to infuriate her. It must have been for leaving her in a servant’s room. They would have to be punished.
She took a long slow breath to steady her head much as possible, stood, walked to the small door and threw it open. The few soldiers that were sleeping on the floor jumped up pulling their weapons out in a panic. “Who put me in this room?” Nadana screamed. “Where are Exodos and Quinton? What happened to the jiva? I want answers, and I want them now!”
A soldier with red hair re-sheathed his sword, went down on one knee, bowed his head and said, “The jiva have completely destroyed Narsta, Nadana-da. We’re not sure how many survivors there are. Thirty-six of us have taken refuge here. We placed you in the only private room we could find. Every other room has been demolished or could have easily been discovered by the jiva. We apologize for the room’s inadequacy, but we really did think you would prefer having privacy to being placed out here with us.”
Surprisingly content with his answer, she snapped at him anyway. “How long have I been asleep?”
“Not that long Nadana-da, a sleeping cycle and almost an entire waking cycle.”
“What of Exodos and Quinton?”
“Exodos-da did not survive,” the human said. “His body was charred beyond healing. As for Quinton-da, we do not know. We haven’t seen or heard anything.”
Nadana had no feelings either way about Exodos’s death. He wasn’t strong enough to be a threat to her and he wasn’t handsome enough to interest her as a mate. His death did pose one serious threat, though. Naro was going to blame the three moon jiva for what happened in Narsta, and with Exodos dead, that left only her and Quinton. Quinton was more devious than any other low ranking moon jiva, and considering they were all devious, that was no small feat. If he was still alive, Quinton was undoubtedly already on his way to Night City to place all of the blame squarely on her shoulders. She was going to have to move quickly to make sure she reached Naro first. “Well, it seems like you have everything under control. I will require a fresh set of robes and a bath.”
“As you command, Nadana-da,” he said. “I’m not sure we’ll be able to find you a suitable bath, but we will look immediately.”
“You will find one,” she commanded. “Who pulled me to safety?”
The man looked down at the floor and said slowly, “That was… uh, me.”
“What’s your name and rank?”
“I am Lieutenant Commander Gevin.”
Nadana’s head definitely wasn’t clear. Although most humans looked the same to her, she should have recognized a lieutenant commander, especially this one. She looked down at him fondly and said graciously, “Well Lieutenant Commander, I’m not pleased with being left alone in a servant’s room, but under the circumstances you have done well. It appears attaining rank runs in your family. Exodos has also spoken well of you. Did Dimik survive?”
“No, he did not,” Gevin said.
“Once Narsta is rebuilt, you shall be its next Commander, Gevin. Now, see to finding my bathtub.”
“Nadana-da, if I may be so bold?” Gevin asked after dropping down to his knee and lowering his head onto the floor. “I was created to fight and die for Holy Father Naro. I will serve my purpose until my last breath. And if I may, I will fight and die for you as well.”
She gaped at him in shock. Humans were expected to obey moon jiva absolutely, but like Gevin had just said, they died for Naro. He was waiting motionless on the floor for her response. She didn’t know what else to say, so she gave him what he wanted. “I accept your pledge to die for me, Gevin. Now, find me a bathtub.”
When Gevin had remarkably found her a tub, she found herself actually beginning to like the human. They had always been too far beneath her to see them for anything except for what they were – sacrificial bodies for the war. She had Gevin put the tub in the only room that remained on the second floor. The room no longer had a roof or a western wall, which she rather enjoyed as she could bathe under the moonlight.
Once she had settled into the tub, she had to decide what Naro would want her to do next. Making a wrong decision now would end in her death. The humans still hadn’t found any sign of Quinton. If he was dead, Nadana was the only one Naro would look to for answers. Her possible way out of this was Dranduir. She would have to go to Night City as quickly as possible and explain to Naro that it had been Dranduir’s fault. The gargoil would defend himself and tell Naro he had warned the moon jiva not to attack the jiva. Surely, Naro would side with one of his favored moon jiva over a brainless gargoil.
Nadana splashed her hands hard in the water in frustration. She wished the jiva had never come to Narsta. The whole thing was their fault. Thinking of the power they possessed filled her with jealousy and rage. She couldn’t understand how cowards could have been created so much more powerful than she. No, not cowards, they had proven that.
She sat up half way out of the bath and said out loud, “The jiva. If I hand them to Naro, I won’t have to blame Dranduir.”
Nadana climbed out of the bath, hurriedly dried herself and pulled on the clean robes Gevin had brought her. She ran down the stairs to the first floor in search of the human who had pledged himself to her. He was going to have to fulfill his promise sooner than expected. She had two jiva to catch.
This title does not have Book Reviews.
Please check back for updates.
Company Information Order Options Booksellers Careers Charity Programs
Copyright © 2003 - 2016 Silver Leaf Books, LLC. All rights reserved.