In the Shadow of the Gods (35 page)

“Your collection grows, brother.”

Keiro's head was reeling, the words hardly sticking in his brain. He wanted to kneel again, to cower, to prostrate himself and blubber devotions. He wanted to flee, scramble his way back up the twisting tunnel to the cool night air, to sit beneath the bright moon and not have to think for a time. He wanted to pinch his arm, to wake from this strange dream next to Poret, sleeping among the plainswalkers, and yet if this was a dream, he wanted never to wake. He wanted to glory in the sight of his gods, bound and unseen for centuries,
found
finally, but he could hardly bear to look at them, the smoldering fury and the raw
painful love and the horror of all that had been done to them.

“We are in need of help,” Sororra said bluntly. “My brother must be made whole again.”

“I . . . I will help in any way I can,” Keiro stammered. It was his life's goal, his purpose. It was a strange thing, though, to actually be faced with that purpose. Such distant goals, held for so long, made real and solid in the blink of one eye.

Fratarro smiled at him, the smile that was so gentle and full of understanding that it was like to break Keiro's heart, but even as the god opened his mouth to speak, his eyelids fell, closing shut the bright glow of his eyes. Sororra's head returned to her arms, and the starlight glow was once more all that filled the carvern.

“What's happened?” Keiro asked, and he could hear the panic in his own voice.

“They sleep, Godson,”
said the Starborn at his side.
“Be easy. They have little power left to them. It is all they can do, sometimes, to wake.”
The creature folded its legs, setting its belly to the floor.
“Sit. Rest. They shall return.”

Hesitant, still feeling the touches of panic, Keiro sat beside the
mravigi.
The small one, the Starborn with wings whom Fratarro had called Cazi, scurried into his lap. He had small claws, but sharp, and he hooked them into Keiro's arm. A cry of surprise more than pain burst from Keiro as the Starborn scrambled up his arm to finally perch on his shoulder, snuffling curiously at Keiro's hair. That pulled another surprised noise from Keiro, though this one was a laugh.

“How often do they wake?” Keiro asked.

His Starborn guide lifted its head to regard him, and the small
mravigi
nestled on his shoulder.
“They wake when they
are able. It is no easy thing, to fight the bonds placed on them. They
shall—”

The sudden brightness cut off the Starborn's words, the red glow bursting like the sun over mountains. Fratarro, eyes wide to the ceiling, his mouth open not in a smile but in the last breath drawn before a scream. The lines of pain that suffused his face were not smoothed away, but carved doubly deep. Sororra's eyes flew open, too, and for a moment, the space it took for a star to die, their faces were as a mirror. Fury and pain eternal, released from the place they'd been held tightly down. Fratarro's back arched, straining against the shard pierced through his chest, and the drawn breath burst from him in a scream, a sound that shook the earth, sent clods of dirt falling through the air. The
mravigi
began to scream, too, high voices raised in an echo of pain. Tiny claws dug into Keiro's shoulder. The stars began to flicker out, the
mravigi
going dark. Keiro saw Sororra move to her brother, hold his one arm that ended in raw flesh, the ichor flowing now down his arm in an unrestrained stream. “My hand!” he heard Fratarro shout, but no other words followed. Just a mindless screaming, an animal's dying wail. Before the last of the starlight died, Keiro saw Sororra hold her brother, straining against the chains that bound her, and he saw the white Starborn rise from its place at their feet, its enormous wings spread wide. Then all the star-specks were gone in a rush of scurrying claws, and all the red eyes, and it was only the darkness and the screaming, the small creature clinging to Keiro's neck, and the faint sound of flapping wings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

L
iving in the cold reaches of the upper Midwest with her beast of a dog,
RACHEL DUNNE
has developed a great fondness for indoor activities. This, her first novel, was a semifinalist for the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award before being picked up for publishing. For as long as snow continues falling in Wisconsin, she promises to keep writing.

Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at
hc.com
.

CREDITS

Cover design and photo illustration © Tony Mauro

COPYRIGHT

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS.
Copyright © 2016 by Rachel Dunne. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

FIRST EDITION

Harper Voyager and design is a trademark of HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C.

ISBN 978-0-06-242813-4

EPub Edition JUNE 2016 ISBN 9780062428158

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