9: A Murderer’s Hands
Kihrin stopped. “Do you think there’s a kettle around here? I’d love some tea.”
Thurvishar stared at him.
Kihrin grinned. It’s a bad habit I picked up from Janel. Anyway, it’s not like you don’t know what happened. You were there too.”
Thurvishar rolled his eyes and then pointed to the end of the cluttered room. “I believe I saw a kettle on that other workbench–honestly, I have no idea how anything was ever accomplished in this mess. You’d think a wizard of his caliber would at least be organized. I suppose he must have just known where everything was.” Thurvishar started to continue, but then set his papers aside. “We should skip the rest of Serena, Talea, and Xivan’s story for now. “
Kihrin frowned. “You’re not going to finish?”
“Oh, I’ll pick up again later, but in between this and when we become involved, it’s more of the same, really.” Thurvishar grimaced at his notes although the paper itself was somehow culpable. “They traveled through at least ten more city-states. Always the same story–arriving in town one step behind Suless. I believe it’s a tale that would probably grow stale with repetition.”
“Oh, sure. Plus, there’s only so many times you can hear, ‘Please, scary lady, stop hurting me,’ before you kind of get the point.” Kihrin then laughed outright, to Thurvishar’s indignation.
Thurvishar vindictively grabbed another folder. “All right. Then let’s try this one. I think you’ll find it interesting.”
“Why do I feel like that’s a threat?”
Two months earlier. . .
The sound of buzzing bees and chirping birds paused as a hole opened in the world. The shimmering iris of chaotic energies flared out in spinning harmonies, disgorged two shapes, and then snapped shut before vanishing as though it had never been.
The birds resumed their songs. The bees traveled to new flowers.
The two shapes resolved into two figures: a woman, standing; a man, prone and floating in the air. The woman was tall and beautiful, vane through and through, with long blue hair and sliver-dusted skin. The man was darker, his height more difficult to guess, but he matched in a fashion: dressed in blue the same color as his eyes, her hair. The woman raised an arm, gesturing toward vines and old rocks resting against the trunk of an enormous Manol sky tree.
They were near the jungle outskirts, where warm gold-green shafts of sunlight still reached the floor. Farther in there would be no light at all as the canopy crowded out the sky, but here the world existed in happy birdsong and monkey noises, the smell of loamy earth, sweet orchids, and decay. Farther in, protections against opening exactly the sort of gate Khaeriel had just created existed, but this little pocket fell outside the barrier roses’ normal wards.
“The shelter is still here,” Khaeriel told her companion. “How fortunate for us.”
Thein D’Mon couldn’t move and certainly couldn’t answer. His bright blue eyes looked glassy and drugged, open but unfocused.
Khaeriel gestured again, and the jungle vines parted to reveal a door, neatly hidden behind a leafy curtain. She walked over, placed her hand against the surface, and waited.
A small click signaled success; the door opened fractionally.
Therin floated in after Khaeriel when she stepped inside. The door closed behind them.
Several irregularly shaped rooms compromised the safe house hidden under the huge sky tree’s roots. A tall human or normal vane could stand upright in the chambers without difficulty. Khaeriel gestured toward a low, flat bed in a side room; Therin’s body moved there before floating downward and resting. He made no movement at all besides breathing.
Khaeriel sat down in a chair and, for the first time, let herself look as tired and harried as she felt. She spent a long time staring rather hands, while the air lingered still and cool and silent. After twenty-five years, they still didn’t feel like her hands.
Probably because, in the most literal sense, they weren’t. They were the hands of a murderer, the hands of an assassin.
Well. She’d kept that tradition alive, had she not? A shudder rippled through her as she remembered Quuros royals, dead at her hands. She shunted the thoughts from her mind like rogue demons of guilt, but these demons weren’t so easy to exorcise. The enemy, she reminded herself. The D’Mons had been her enemies. Slavers and supporters of a corrupt and evil empire. Not one had deserved mercy.
Khaeriel could only hope she one day believed that.
She had been there when Galen D’Mon was born. When so many of them had been born. Lives cut short, first by Gadrith, then by her own hand. Who would have ever suspected she would be the one to finish the job the necromancer had started? But when the gaesh had vanished–when she had finally been freed from the soul chains binding her–she had wreaked vengeance.
She remembered Kihrin’s corpse, tossed on a sacrificial altar, and steeled her will.
Therin still did not move; indeed, couldn’t move. Even the most primitive thought was beyond him, a necessary precaution against casting spells.
Khaeriel sat down on the bed next to him and waved a hand over his face.
His blue eyes focused on hers, sharpened, turned venomous. Therin started to say something.
Khaeriel waved her hand again and placed him back under paralysis.
She returned to the main room, searching until she found a small box on a shelf. Opening the box, she removed a blue robin’s egg from fine nest of twigs and fibers.
She crushed the egg in her hand.
When nothing immediately changed, she exhaled slowly. She waited.
She laughed to herself after a dozen minutes crawled by. Relos Var was busy. It was to be expected.
Khaeriel returned to the bedroom where Therin waited.
Therin was a problem.
After Khaeriel had slaughtered Therin’s family before his eyes and bound him in magic, she had told the high lord he would never hate her half as much as he hated himself. But Khaeriel wasn’t so sure. Hadn’t she given Therin a visible symbol to blame? Who would fault him for choosing to hate her? Therin would be in his rights to never forgive her.
And if he did blame himself? Well, she couldn’t count on the idea he wouldn’t one day choose to act on that self-loathing. That he might indeed take it to a point where moving on to the next life would seem like the natural solution to all his woes. Which brought her to the real problem: Khaeriel needed him.
She hoped she wouldn’t. She hoped her plans to retake the throne wouldn’t require the last true heir of Kirpis vane royalty. Gaining a Quuros high lord’s cooperation–proud, arrogant, willful–would have been almost impossible even under the best circumstances. But when she had spent twenty-five years as his slave? Twenty-five years unable to disobey a single order? Twenty-five years of meek, quiet, ever-so-obedient service?
He’d never follow her orders. Not unless she took steps.
So Khaeriel steeled herself to commit the evening’s second atrocity.
She sat down next to Therin, held his head in her hands, and began weaving an enchantment.
(C) Jenn Lyons, Tor Books, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Chorus of Dragons #3
The Memory of Souls is the third epic fantasy in Jenn Lyons’ Chorus of Dragons series.
THE LONGER HE LIVES
THE MORE DANGEROUS HE BECOMES
Now that Relos Var’s plans have been revealed and demons are free to rampage across the empire, the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies–and the end of the world–is closer than ever.
To buy time for humanity, Kihrin needs to convince the king of the Manol vane to perform an ancient ritual which will strip the entire race of their immortality, but it’s a ritual which certain vane will do anything to prevent. Including assassinating the messengers.
Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with the horrifying possibility that his connection to the king of demons, Vol Karoth, is growing steadily in strength.
How can he hope to save anyone when he might turn out to be the greatest threat of them all?
A Chorus of Dragons
1: The Ruin of Kings
2: The Name of All Things
3: The Memory of Souls
Fantasy [Tor Books, On Sale: August 25, 2020, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250175571 / eISBN: 9781250175571]
About Jenn Lyons
Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, three cats and a nearly infinite number of opinions on anything from Sumerian mythology to the correct way to make a martini. She is a video game producer by day (although currently taking a break from that to concentrate on writing epic fantasy). A long-time devotee of storytelling, she traces her geek roots back to playing first edition Dungeons & Dragons in grade school and reading her way from A to Z in the school’s library.