Age of Myth

Free Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Book: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael J. Sullivan
initiative, and with such stoicism, was surprising. The young woman, who until recently had been the slave of Iver the Carver, was normally timid as a field mouse. She rarely spoke and was seldom seen outside the carver’s home, which she had inherited upon his death. But there she was, acting with precision and clarity, undaunted by Holliman’s screams, and either unconcerned or unaware that her dress was soaking up blood.
    Each woman took an end of the rawhide strap and then pulled it tight. The fountain of blood slowed to a stream.
    “Get a stick!” Padera growled.
    Straining with both hands on the leather, Roan focused on Sarah’s daughter. “Brin! Get the hammer from my bag.”
    Brin squeezed through the crowd, rushed to Roan’s side, and pulled open the satchel. Out of it the girl drew a small hammer.
    “Here, child. Lay the handle where the straps cross,” Padera ordered.
    Brin hesitated, looking at the blood and cringing with Holliman’s screams.
    “Do it!” Padera shouted.
    Persephone pushed forward and took the hammer. She placed it where indicated. Padera and Roan crossed the straps, wrapping it.
    “Twist,” Padera ordered.
    With weak, shaking hands, Persephone managed to find the strength to tighten the belt. The stream of blood subsided to a trickle, then a drip.
    “Hold it there,” Padera commanded, then pointed in the direction of Mari’s statue. “Fetch down a brazier.”
    The closest man removed his shirt and wrapped his hands. He placed the pan on the ground near the women. Padera snuffed out the fire, leaving the smoldering wood.
    Holliman’s struggles were subsiding even before the hot poker used to stir coals was pressed to his leg. He let out a violent scream, then went limp. The smell was horrific, and Persephone held one hand under her nose while the other remained clamped tightly to Roan’s hammer.
    Around them, faces clustered, peering over shoulders. Those who spoke did so in worried whispers.
    Holliman was one of the dahl’s best hunters. The deer he killed in winter were often the difference between life and death. He had no children, and his wife had been lost to a fever three winters back. He hadn’t taken another. Too heartbroken it was said. Although not someone Persephone would pick as chieftain, he was a good man.
    Konniger leaned against the well, waiting and still holding his bloody ax. Persephone wouldn’t have chosen him, either. He didn’t impress her as being wise or the sort to inspire others. He was a warrior, a shield, an ax.
    Padera, who was wrapping the blackened flesh of Holliman’s knee, paused. She stared at his face as if the unconscious man had asked a question. Putting aside the wounded leg, she reached over and laid a hand to the side of the man’s neck. As she did, the furrows on her craggy face deepened. The urgency the old woman had radiated died along with Holliman. She untied the leg and returned Roan’s hammer. Then the old woman walked to the well to clean up.
    “Congratulations,” Padera told Konniger. “You’re the new chieftain.”

CHAPTER FIVE
Before the Door
Delicate, radiant, beautiful, in our eyes she was every inch a god, and she scared us to death.
    — T HE B OOK OF B RIN
    While every other Fhrey in Erivan celebrated, Arion stood alone in a darkened tomb. She put a hand on the marble urn that held Fane Fenelyus’s ashes. The vessel was eight feet tall, wider at the top, tapered near the bottom, and polished to a smooth luster.
    Just outside, crowds filled Florella Plaza, all the avenues, and even the palace. A thousand bonfires blazed, commemorating the start of Fane Lothian’s reign.
    Less than a month and they’ve already forgotten you.
    Arion rested her head against the urn. The stone was cold, so very cold. “I worry about what’s to come and could use your counsel.” She paused, straining to hear any faint sound.
    Fenelyus had been the first to wield the Art and founded the Miralyith tribe. In her time, she’d

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