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  • Writer's pictureL.L. Stephens

Excerpt: The God Spear

SPOILER WARNING: Reading this excerpt will mildly spoil the opening chapters of The God Spear. It will not spoil main plot points. But it does hop over some things.

Great civilizations are not destroyed by great enemies. They are nibbled to death by tiny things. By disease or fear or lies.

Epirades, History of the Malyrdeons

It was afternoon when Dorilian reached the Frendel lowlands. For the first time in a week, he followed a fresh and direct trail. Small things scampered through wet leaves that flecked untidy meadows with gold. He dismounted atop a low ridge and studied the silver thread of the river below. As his horse cropped at nearby tufts of grass, Dorilian searched the flats along the river for signs of the party he followed.

He was much farther north than he had ever planned to go. But his perverse temper, whether it would prove to be his salvation or his undoing, had prodded him to catch up with Handurin before he reached Rhodhur. Unfortunately, the Trongorian party had made good speed, traveling light and long, and now they were almost to their destination. It now appeared clear that Dorilian would not intercept them.

Whatever else would come of it, he did not look forward to having to deal with Handurin among Khelds. It was little better than not being able to deal with him at all. There would be need for secrecy and more secrecy. Good as Dorilian was at it, he knew no secret long stayed that way. Damn Handurin for having left Sordan too soon. We could have settled this whole thing among civilized people!

Nor did Dorilian feel safe among Khelds. He had not brought with him such things of power as would protect—but also identify—him. Only the Rill Stone, carried concealed within a less conspicuous piece of gear. Without access to enhancers, he must depend on his wits and the discretion of others, in addition to his innate ability to emotionally influence situations around him. And looming over all of this, he was hampered by Erydon Malyrdeon’s ancient Promise to the Khelds: that in Amallar they would not be attacked or harmed by any Highborn land or person.

That Dorilian had been able to penetrate this far into Amallar at all was revealing. Erydon’s Promise remained in force, powerfully so. He discerned its weight within the Mind; the Promise resided in his mind also, so that every time he so much as saw a Kheld along the road, his awareness sharpened to an edge keener than any knife pressed unerringly to his nerves. Much as Dorilian wondered what might happen if he attacked one of the barbarians, he was in no hurry to test the prohibition. He knew not what might follow. All the more reason to find Handurin quickly, conclude their business, and leave this Leur-forsaken land.

Leaden clouds darkened the hills by the time Dorilian had rested his horse and remounted. After making his way downhill, he skirted the flats nearer the stream and kept to the woodlands for cover. Crags looked down on him like angry sentinels, lowering and gray with mist. He found the trail heading toward the river, a narrow track leading downhill. He had almost reached the river when he pulled up on the reins. Two Kheld riders—as shaggy as the small, sturdy horses they rode—emerged on the trail ahead of him.

Dorilian focused on their faces. The men exchanged fox-sly glances and hard-lipped snickers, neither the restrained caution of men intent on their own business nor the determined stance of men employed in the honest stopping of strangers. It was easy to guess what they thought of him: a lone traveler, obviously not a Kheld, probably a stranger to these hills. Easy prey. Dorilian relaxed his hands on the reins and pondered his course. He had never been beset by robbers before. Prior to these last two weeks, he had always traveled with scores of armed guards. A novel situation, and one for which he had no precedent.

If he could not attack them, intimidation might work. He carried a discouragingly serious array of weapons and rode the better horse.

The men approached with their clubs crudely concealed. Just as he placed his hand on his sword hilt to dissuade them, Dorilian detected movement on the hillside above. Other riders moved along the bluff. An ambush, then. The oafs had not looked that cunning. Dorilian quickly reconsidered his plan. Breaking between the two approaching riders so he might continue on the road would only lead to his being caught between the two groups and the towering bluff.

The would-be robbers, accustomed to easy prey, did not yet suspect that their intended victim had no intention of submitting. The Khelds had almost reached him when, with a hoarse yell calculated to startle, Dorilian spurred his larger, stronger beast off the trail.

Though it didn’t look like much, the dun gelding had been chosen for utility. Tiflan had made certain Dorilian would have a mount that could outrun his enemies or jump common obstacles with ease. The first two attackers barely had time to gape as horse and rider charged past them, off the road and downhill toward the flats along the river.

The other riders, coming down from the bluffs, emerged onto the flats in pursuit.

Storm clouds loomed, one of those fast storms off the Northsea that drenched Amallar with the wealth of rain that Trongor’s arid hills never saw. It came upon Dorilian quickly, fat drops pelting his face and clothing. He could only wish Handurin was having to ward off as many nuisances.

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