The Raven Collection Part 306

If you are looking for The Raven Collection Part 306 you are coming to the right place.
The Raven Collection is a Webnovel created by James Barclay.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

The Unknown tensed but didn’t speak.

‘We have fought our way in here to do what has to be done to save our country from the problems you have caused it. And not just our country but probably countless other dimensions in addition to those we know about. Already, we have lost Ry Darrick in the struggle and Auum has lost Duele. We have lost those we sent to try and warn you what was coming. All because of you. But this isn’t the time for revenge and recrimination. If it was, you’d be dead already. But what it also means is your desire to control Erienne is also behind us, for the good of us all. Erienne is Raven. She will be coming with us. All you have to worry about is what The Unknown has just asked you. a.s.suming you were listening. If you can’t put aside what is past and gone then none of us have any future. What is it to be?’

Dystran stared at Hirad as if composing a suitable retort. But something in the barbarian’s expression changed his mind and instead a wry smile crossed his face. He spread his arms.

‘No one underestimates the problem we face or the losses you have suffered. But at heart we remain mages. Erienne, please forgive us but what you are is a unique fascination.’

Erienne shrugged. ‘Whatever makes you happy.’

‘But as to what you ask . . .’ Dystran shook his head. ‘We have no way of sending you or anyone to the current demon dimension. Our link to them was all to do with focused mana trails and nothing to do with their location. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to think of another way to beat them.’

‘There has to be a way to get us there. It’s the only chance to close the tear, stop any more of them coming here and to disperse the mana. Without it, we’re all as good as dead, you know that.’

‘Yes, we know that,’ said Vuldaroq wearily. ‘And believe me we’re sure there is a way but we just don’t know it. We scoured every text we managed to steal from the library for anything useful. And we found something incredibly important. Unfortunately, it speaks of a religious punishment based on an ancient magic that died with a race called the Charanacks. Find one alive and no doubt we’ll be fine.’


‘Because according to a note in the margin of one of our demonology texts, they, whoever they were, had a link to the demons. That was the punishment apparently. Banishment or some such.’ Dystran paused and looked past Hirad. ‘Something funny?’

Hirad turned. Rebraal was smiling despite the prevailing mood and Auum wore that curled-lip expression that denoted utter contempt. The TaiGethen spoke.

‘Humans are so stupid,’ he said in elvish that Rebraal translated. ‘Always you ignore your past enemies because you think them unimportant by the mere fact of their apparent pa.s.sing. And yet you wonder why it is you have no future.’

‘Care to enlighten us?’ said Dystran.

‘Charanack is a play on an ancient elvish term,’ said Rebraal. ‘Chorun-y-ayck. It means man-of-the-west. I trust I don’t need to make further connection.’

Hirad exhaled a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding. Shaking his head he pushed himself to his feet and walked stiffly over to Dystran’s balcony doors where Thraun and Ark stood on guard. He was exhausted. G.o.ds drowning, they all were. Erienne and Denser practically spent. All the warriors carrying cuts, muscle tears and the aches of a long time out of the routine of battle. Like all of them, Hirad couldn’t wait to get his head down for a few hours. Perhaps even feel the benefit of a WarmHeal from someone. For now, they were as safe as they could get on Balaia. He only had to look down to know that to be true.

The doors were open and he strode outside and looked down on the reclaimed college. The courtyard was crawling with Wesmen. They had clearly just repulsed another demon attack. Around two thousand warriors and their Shamen had brought a quite extraordinary optimism to the college. Their songs echoed into the sky, their cook fires burned bright and the smells of the provisions they had brought with them were driving the taste-starved Xeteskians to distraction.

They had occupied the open s.p.a.ces, the stables, the barracks, three of the long rooms, and liberated the library and mana bowl. They had access to the courtyard and stable wells and they were using the surfeit of water to wash demon slime and corpses from the stones towards the edge of the ColdRoom sh.e.l.l. They seemed to have no fear of the enemy gathered scant yards from them though as he watched, Hirad saw Tessaya stride into the centre of the courtyard to begin marshalling something or other.

An extraordinary man and one of the few to live up to Hirad’s expectations. He watched the Wesmen forming into more cohesive defensive units in front of the gaps in the walls through which they could see the karron. The lesser demons hadn’t attacked the ColdRoom so far but clearly Tessaya’s distrust of magic wasn’t appeased.

‘So,’ he said. ‘Before we all fall asleep, who’s coming with me to ask the great man a big favour?’

He felt the pulse of pure panic through them all and the ma.s.sing of the malevolence close at hand. They pushed and tore where the fabric between the living and the dead was stretched. Gone were the feelings of light and warmth, of closeness and joy. Replaced by a marauding dread and a chasm opening to an eternity of absence.

Those others that he sought for communication had gone with the ma.s.s pressed as far from the threat as they could be. Though distance held no real meaning. But he would not run. There was nowhere safe. The threat had to be removed. He sought again the light of those he loved through the thinning fabric. How had the malevolence gained such strength? He had no conception, no answer. Time was a meaningless measure.

He felt a presence near him. Strong. Calming. Reminiscent but not loved. How would he describe it . . . respected. Revered. He felt urging and saw the images of running feet and fast-flowing water. He felt the words too. They signified security.

I have found you.

He communicated, still moving toward his goal, his impetus increased. In his mind the blurred began to focus. He felt clarity and direction such as he had not developed in the presence of any of the others.

I will show you.

The presence by him dominated his mind now. It held disdain for the malevolence nor did it fear the threat. He saw images. Blood flowing and a body hitting cold earth. He saw arms raised in triumph. He saw a building and felt the burgeoning of that power he knew had to be shut off. The feelings of urging intensified.

The living have little time.

Who are you?

A friend.

He journeyed on towards the place of greatest threat. Comforted. Justified. Near him he felt the brief touch of a bright living light. Alien. He tried to connect with it but it shied from him, seeming to glow brighter when it turned towards the ma.s.s. Ilkar felt the spring of a new thought. But all around him, the helpless fear only deepened. There was sudden and enormous pressure. Light dimmed. Feelings chilled.

They were inside. It was not just the living for whom time was short. He thought of the name and shouted for help.

Hirad would have pitched down the stairs but for The Unknown’s broad back breaking his fall. He turned and caught the barbarian, ignoring the sharp pain in his hip.

‘Hirad? Hirad!’

The Raven cl.u.s.tered around him. He was holding his hands clamped to his head. His eyes were wide and searching. His mouth, initially clamped shut, began to move. A frown deepened the lines of his forehead.

‘Let’s get him to the next landing. Thraun, take his legs.’

They moved off. The Unknown backed down the spiral, using the outside wall and rail to guide him.

‘What do you think. Sha-Kaan?’

The Unknown shook his head. Sha-Kaan’s presence caused a relaxation in Hirad’s body. This was more like a seizure. Hirad’s eyes held a deep anxiety he hadn’t seen before. He experienced similar misgivings as they laid the barbarian down on the landing, a cloak under his head.

‘Ilkar?’ suggested Erienne.

The sound of the elf’s name seemed to echo in the enclosed s.p.a.ce. The Unknown felt a shudder pa.s.s through him.

‘Let’s hope so,’ he said. ‘But it’s never been like this before.’

‘No indeed,’ said Rebraal, coming to Hirad’s side. ‘Listen to him, my friend. Listen hard. Try to understand.’

The sounds of renewed battle filtered up to them. The Unknown ignored them. He clasped one of Hirad’s tight-bunched fists.

‘All right, Coldheart,’ he said. ‘We’re all here with you. Breathe easy.’

But he wasn’t. His chest was fluttering and his face pale. The Unknown looked to Erienne who was stroking Hirad’s hair back across his head. Her expression reflected his concerns.

‘Can you do anything?’

‘I daren’t,’ she said. ‘Look at him. It’s deep in his mind. This is all physical symptom. I can’t stop it. I wouldn’t know how.’

‘And you mustn’t try,’ said Rebraal.

‘Just checking.’

Erienne smiled. They all looked back at Hirad. His eyes still jerked and his mouth moved. He was whispering. The Unknown put his head closer.

‘Where are you?’ Hirad’s voice was very quiet, his breath shallow and pained.

‘Right here, old son,’ said The Unknown.

‘I can’t see you. Can feel you, Ilks.’

The Unknown glanced up.

‘It is Ilkar,’ he confirmed.

‘Let me through.’ Dystran’s voice was over-loud. He shouldered his way through his guards and more gently eased Denser and Thraun aside. ‘What’s going on? Why did no one think to tell me? I could have walked out there alone. Hardly fitting.’

‘Hirad’s got a contact. Just be quiet,’ said The Unknown.

Dystran inhaled sharply.

‘Don’t disturb him,’ said Rebraal. ‘It would be dangerous for both of them.’

‘A contact. Who with, that d.a.m.ned dragon?’

The Unknown looked up into Dystran’s face and saw the arrogance still there.

‘No, Dystran,’ he replied, his voice deliberately cold. ‘Ilkar. In another dimension you’ve placed at risk.’

‘But he’s dead, surely?’

‘Yes,’ replied Rebraal.

‘Yes but-‘

‘Just accept it,’ snapped Erienne. ‘Leave us alone.’

The Unknown became aware of a growing noise from outside. Below them, in the complex, men were shouting.

‘You have to run,’ shouted Hirad.

They all jumped.

‘G.o.ds,’ said Denser. ‘You think he means us?’

‘No,’ said Rebraal. ‘He’s not aware of us at all.’ The Al-Arynaar leader looked strained.

‘Please. Make yourself safe. We are coming,’ said Hirad.

‘I take it this is unusual?’ said Denser.

‘Impossible,’ said Rebraal. ‘He should not be understanding Ilkar so clearly.’

A colossal roar split the air. Wesmen voices raised in song and call. Xeteskians in the dome were running. They heard the doors cycle closed, the boom reverberating through the tower.

‘Ark, go and find out what’s happening,’ ordered The Unknown. ‘Come on, Hirad, I think it’s time you were back with us.’

The former Protector moved away and out of sight. Auum and Evunn went after him. The Unknown could see Thraun sniffing the air. He watched the shapechanger’s face. His forehead pinched and his jaw tensed. Their eyes met.

‘The hunt has begun,’ said Thraun.

‘What?’ said The Unknown.

From below, Ark was shouting for them. Dystran was on the move, closely followed by Vuldaroq and their guards. The Raven held station, willing Hirad to regain consciousness.

He obliged, his eyes snapping open. He gripped The Unknown’s arms and pulled him close. The barbarian’s eyes were bloodshot and desperate.

‘We have to go now,’ he said. ‘They are inside.’

Arnoan gasped. He wrenched himself from his prayers and fell flat on his back. His chest heaved and his pulse raced. His head throbbed and pounded. Shards of pain speared his forehead and temples. The clouds of incense further fogged his damaged vision.

He lay where he was until he was sure he wasn’t about to join those he had so recently contacted. Slowly, his heart calmed, the incense suffusing his blood and forcing him to relax. Residual pain like a pulled muscle remained. His breathing eased, his vision began to clear and he unclenched his fists. It seemed there was little he could do about the thrashing in his head or the sweat running from every pore.

The old Shaman hauled himself to a sitting position against the wall facing the door to his shrine. Anxious faces looked in. He waved them away feebly.

‘I’m all right,’ he said. ‘All right. Some time, please. Some privacy.’

The faces withdrew. Arnoan placed shivering hands on quivering legs. He closed his eyes, fighting for control. He tried to recall the Communion. It had in so many ways been like any other. The gateway had opened in his mind. The physical expression of it in the hardening of incense smoke. He had stepped to the open portal through which his body could not pa.s.s and he had knelt. He had travelled with his mind and almost lost it.

First, the touch of something fresh. Bright and new and almost apologetic. He had ignored it though, seeking the Spirits of the ancients. The force of their emotion would have overwhelmed a lesser Shaman. Left them lost in themselves. But it had spoken loud and unequivocally; a coalescence of all the tendrils of anxiety he had been feeling for so long.

Terror. Helplessness. Desperation. Pleading. The expiration of time and opportunity.

Arnoan opened his eyes and pushed himself to his feet. He staggered and clung to the wall, waves of nausea sweeping over him. Outside, the sounds of battle were taken up once more but the noise was intense and alien. The old Shaman, his heart rattling painfully in his chest, waited for the sickness to pa.s.s. He pushed himself away from the wall and bustled towards the barracks door.

‘Where is Tessaya?’

The warrior at the door turned frightened eyes to him. ‘Out there,’ he said. ‘Leading the tribes.’

‘Shadow me,’ ordered Arnoan. ‘I must speak with him’

The warrior drew in a deep breath. ‘Yes, my Shaman.’

Arnoan gestured him aside and strode out into the freezing late afternoon. The demons were attacking on multiple fronts and from above. It was to be expected. Tribal banners flew proud, the songs of the Wesmen reached beyond the ColdRoom sh.e.l.l and the warriors fought bravely.

It was several paces before Arnoan’s confident stride into the courtyard faltered. There were the bodies of demons on the ground but too many Wesmen lay with them. He saw Al-Arynaar elves running from the dome complex, splitting into two large groups and running towards gates and long rooms, the latter where elven casters were protected.

The atmosphere was wrong. The songs weren’t those of victory but those of struggle and grit. The songs that kept scared warriors together and fighting against the odds. Ahead of him, he could see the Paleon banner flying high. Tessaya was underneath it, fighting against reavers and strike-strain. Immediately in front of the Wesmen lord, the walls of Xetesk crumbled and burst in, scattering rubble into the courtyard. The walkway above collapsed along a forty-yard length. And through the gap came the karron. Transformed.

‘Spirits preserve us all,’ said Arnoan.

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