Children of ambros, p.1
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       Children of Ambros, p.1

           Katy Winter
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Children of Ambros


  The Ambrosian Chronicles.

  With a range of characters rivalling "War and Peace", "The Ambrosian Chronicles" is a unique fantasy saga of epic proportions. Set in the world of Ambros, the story follows the fortunes of one family of gifted individuals, caught up in the struggle to save their world from a force of evil, bent on revenge for events in the far past. Will Ambros survive the conflict? The answer may be found in the seven volumes of the "Ambrosian Chronicles", all written by Katy Winter and published by The Furhaven Press. Available as e-books from your favourite e-book on-line booksellers.

  The books making up the saga are:

  Book One: Warlord

  Book Two: Children of Ambros

  Book Three: Circling Birds of Prey

  Book Four: The Dawn of Balance

  Book Five: Light Dancing on Shadows

  Book Six: Quenching the Flames

  Book Seven: Metamorphosis

  THE AMBROSIAN CHRONICLES

  BOOK TWO

  CHILDREN OF AMBROS

  by

  KATY WINTER

  Published by The Furhaven Press.

  Copyright: Katy Winter 2013

  All Rights Reserved

  ISBN 978-0-473-25592-3

  Some explanatory lists to aid the reader.

  The Churchik warrior hierarchy:

  Warlord - has overlordship of all ranks. Below him, in order of seniority are:

  Elite Haskars (some were on the Warlord's Council)

  Haskars

  Tempkars

  Acedars

  Beduars

  Warriors who are the lowest ranked.

  The Unseen Ones and their chosen species:

  Abus - Shadowlanders

  Benth - Mages of Yarilo

  Crue - Wildwind Desert tribesmen

  Huma - Rox

  Lais - Gnosti

  Marl - Dragons on Ice Isle

  Minac - Conclave of Reader/Seekers

  Misa - Sinhalien of the southern steppes

  Obli - Dryads and nymphs from the north of Ambros

  Sympho - Rox

  The Conclave of Reader/Seekers:

  Headed by the Mishtok (Aceke)

  Adepts - Setoni, Leon and Morsh (aka Morjar).

  The Family of Melas and Alfar of Ortok:

  Bethel (aka Beth)

  Brue - son of Melas and Bruno

  Myme Chlo (aka Chlorien) - daughter of Melas and Elbe

  Sarehl the eldest son

  Twins Daxel (aka Dase) and Luton (aka Lute)

  The Dahkilan Family:

  Ensore - Chamah (ruler) of the state of Dahkilah, Marshal of the United Forces of the North.

  Eli - younger brother of Ensore (sets up the Intelligence network of the northern forces.)

  Kasan - sister of Eli and Ensore.

  Characters known by more than one name or title:

  Autoc - aka Scholar/Schol - 'Father' to Chlorien, and Master Mage of Yarilo

  Bene - aka Benhloriel/Burelkin - Archmage of Yarilo

  Bethel - aka Beth

  Blach - aka Sorcerer of the Keep

  Choja - aka Sophysun

  Chojoh - aka the Sophy

  Daxel - answers to Dase

  Ensore - aka the Marshal, also the Chamah, ruler of Dahkilah

  Foresters - aka as Sache, Dalmin, Arth, Kalor, Ensore.

  Indariol - aka Aelkin of the Shadowlands

  Kalor - a Cyrenic aka as the Domon

  Luton - answers to Lute

  Malekim - aka Elbe - Master Mage of Yarilo

  Myme Chlo - answers to Chlorien

  Sarehl - aka Strategos

  Also see the Glossary at the end of the book.

  THIRD AGE: THE BEGINNING

  A quotation from Ochleos Rox, Guardian on Lilium, to the Mages of Yarilo, and to the Conclave of Reader-Seekers on Ambros. Third Age 0207.

 

  Through the struggles that have come and will come again, shall a balance be restored to Ambros. It must be understood. The Watchers and Guardians must be ever vigilant. Those to whom the balance is entrusted must fulfil their duty by ensuring it.

 

  They must look for the child who's made a shadow and thus becomes a child of the dark. There'll be a child born of light and dark who'll of all kinds be made into one. The child will have power. Teach the child to use it wisely so that it doesn't become an instrument of chaos.

 

  The paths of these children, and those touching them, will be very hard. They'll be torn between powers they can't comprehend. Watch for all the children who hold the balance of Ambros in their hands. In the binding, those of the dark and the light will unite to become one.

 

  Only then will the balance be immutable and Ambros finally at peace. This wisdom is given to me to pass on to you. Take heed. Ignore it at your peril.

  CHAPTER ONE

  The children of Melas are scattered across Ambros, each child with an unknown gift they have to recognise to ensure their survival and that of the future of their world. They are apart and unable to help each other. While a sister entered a desert, one brother was in southern Ambros as a slave prisoner in a Keep. Another lived as a slave with a Warlord. Yet another travelled the north, to try to marshal help, from as yet untouched northern states, to confront this Warlord, and a fourth brother was now part of a formidable armed force that formed in the north of Ambros. The fifth brother, still only a small child, lived with the eldest brother and those who travelled with him.

  ~~~

  Chlorien didn't like the onset of the desert. She constantly found sand in her food, the heat during the day was oppressive and the cold at night seeped into marrow bones. Already it was late autumn and no one needed to tell her a desert was an unfriendly environment in winter.

  The storms that swept across the dunes made their lives hard and their trek extremely slow. Chlorien thought she spent a lot of time crouched in a small tent, mercilessly buffeted by winds, often for day after day. Sometimes the weather was so bad they wouldn't venture out unless it was essential. The two men had no desire to be lost and both privately wondered if their sense of direction, constantly needing to be reassessed as dunes changed daily, if not hourly, was to be trusted anymore.

  On those days Chlorien knew she was expected to learn and was resigned to sitting, trapped by the wind and the sand, a tome open in her lap. When the weather cleared they moved again, but painfully slowly and not making the headway she'd become used to. Autoc wouldn't let her translate either, so she had to content herself with learning to use knives. Jaim taught her how to do this. Chlorien reflected that Jaim might be old, but he was wickedly accurate with throwing and catching knives. If he could do it, Chlorien told herself, then so could she.

  Autoc knew they were pursued but there was little he could do about it, and he knew, too, that Chlorien was still faintly aware, because every so often she glanced behind her and a shiver caught her. Autoc knew the pursuers would experience the same difficulties so, as long as he and Chlorien kept reasonably in front, he wasn't especially worried. He also knew they'd meet members of the Wildwind desert tribesmen, sooner or later, because the real desert approached inexorably. He'd deal with that when it happened. So the days slowly passed.

  ~~~

  Autoc wasn't sensing any presence this evening, but then, he wasn't either looking for or expecting any visitors. So it came as a mild surprise for him to find, as they sat eating, they were surrounded. Autoc sent a warning to Chlorien and sat very still. When she first glanced up, she gave a yelp of fright, but was now pale and quiet. Jaim showed no overt reaction; he merely lounged back more comfortably. Autoc noticed these men weren't their pursuers, wondered idly why he hadn't immediately registered their presence and thought, r
uefully, his mind was preoccupied with other things.

  Curiously, he looked up at the men who surrounded them and studied them, one by one. As far as he could see, in the fading light, they were quite tall and slim though well-muscled and sinewy, with long plaited queues that hung over their shoulders. Their hair looked light blonde, but their eyes were the harshest and deepest green Autoc had ever seen.

  The men had tattoos at the hairline, ear-rings hung from pierced ears and they had gold studs in their nostrils; ornate necklaces and bracelets on throats and wrists matched the rings that were on every finger, even the thumbs. All were barefoot, every toe wore a ring and several anklets were on each foot. They wore talma, but instead of robes over them such as the travellers wore, these men wore loose tunics that hung almost to the knee. None of them looked either curious or friendly and each had a curved sword drawn and ready. Execution or retribution, Jaim thought intrigued, would be swift.

  Autoc bent his head back to his food and ignored both the men and Chlorien, who'd completely lost her appetite, while Jaim ate in a thoughtful way, ponderously chewing his way through what was left on his plate. After several mouthfuls, Autoc raised his head, his very blue eyes staring intently into the eyes of each of the men who looked forbiddingly at him. As he did, there was an almost imperceptible shift of position and an inward hissing of breath from each man who caught his glance. One spoke, his voice harsh and the language he spoke nearly impossible to understand. It was southern guttural and not unlike Churchik, something that didn't escape either Autoc or Jaim. Autoc, however, seemed to have no difficulty with it.

  "Who are you?" came the question. Autoc raised his hands to show he was unarmed.

  "I'm Schol, with my son, Chlorien. The other is Jaim, the lad's uncle."

  "Who are you?" was repeated.

  "We're travellers."

  "From where do you come, and where do you go?"

  "We're from the Samar States, some distance east of here. We're going to Ice Isle."

  "Why?"

  Autoc didn't answer. He was intrigued the man even knew of Ice Isle at all. That was highly unusual, because few Ambrosians knew of it. Autoc stored that knowledge for future recall. The voice became a menacing growl.

  "Answer me, if you value your lives." Still the mage didn't speak. He found a sword pushed under his chin and rested against his throat, the man's move carried out in fluid silence and with lethal rapidity. Jaim tensed. "You think to cross our lands? Nobody passes through the tribe lands of the Wildwind without an explanation."

  "I can give you no further information. I don't wish to seem deliberately rude or disobliging." Autoc stayed still, his eyes meeting those of the man who held the sword at his throat.

  "Maybe the boy can speak and enlighten us."

  The man straightened, his head jerking in Chlorien's direction. Even as the sword was withdrawn from Autoc, Chlorien found herself hauled ungently to her feet, only to be held immobile by one of the other men. Autoc caught her terrified look and glanced at the man holding her captive; she was so restrained all she could do was move her eyes.

  "Let go my son," Autoc said very quietly. "You're frightening him." The first man ignored the mage and merely turned to Chlorien, his eyes coldly assessing her.

  "Why are you going to Ice Isle, boy?" Chlorien couldn't understand what the man said.

  "Father?" she whispered, eyes big in a white face.

  "He asks, child, why you're going to Ice Isle."

  "What's that?" she asked, whimpering when the knife blade touched her throat.

  Autoc rose. When he took a step forward, the circle of swords came very close to him. Chlorien's breath came in short gasps; the sword felt her every swallow. Autoc ignored all but Chlorien.

  "He doesn't know, nor does the old man," he said very softly. "You'll have to find out from me and I'm not speaking."

  The mage took four steps to reach Chlorien, and, once beside her, he calmly pushed the sword from her throat. His eyes met her captor's, so much menace in the mage's blue ones the tribesman faltered back a step. The arms encircling Chlorien dropped.

  Autoc pulled Chlorien to him. He sat and held her protectively, his thoughts directed to her ones of reassurance. Chlorien shrank back into him, eyes wide with fright. The first speaker stood over Autoc and the boy.

  "We're threatened on all sides. We let no one through our lands."

  "We're all threatened," responded Autoc quietly. "There are those behind who pursue us and would harm us if they could."

  "We could give you to them, could we?"

  "Aye, you could," admitted Autoc, his hand stroking the dark curls. "They want my boy."

  "Why?"

  "They saw he's very pretty."

  "For a boy harem, no doubt?" The tribesman made a gesture of disgust.

  "No doubt."

  "And you naturally wouldn't let that happen."

  "Of course I won't."

  "And you wish to cross our lands?"

  "Yes."

  "Could you go no other way?" The spokesman looked intently at the mage, watching as Autoc glanced briefly down at the boy before he looked up and shook his head. "You'll come with us while we decide whether to grant you permission or no."

  "If that's your wish, we'll come. A desert such as you live in is no place to wander."

  "It's our wish." Autoc caressed Chlorien's cheek.

  "You won't harm my son?"

  The speaker looked first at the mage, and then at the boy, Chlorien's scared look up at him bringing the faintest of smiles to the green eyes.

  "We'll not harm the boy - or the old man."

  Autoc caught Jaim's eye before he rose, pulling Chlorien to her feet and then assisting Jaim to his. They watched as the speaker, obviously the leader, turned and spoke to the other men. Six disappeared as if they'd never existed. The speaker stared hard at Autoc.

  "They'll find out who your pursuers are and deter them for a short while."

  "Thank you," said Autoc, with a crooked smile. Chlorien shrank back against him again when she saw herself being studied.

  "That's a nervous boy," was the flat comment.

  "Swords at his throat have that effect on him," agreed the mage drily. "We'll dismantle our -."

  "No." A hand stopped Autoc from taking another step and the speaker pointed to the horses. "My men will bring all you own. Mount and follow!"

  CHAPTER TWO

  It was early autumn in Blenharm Forest. Mellow colours swept as far as the eye could see, leaves turning on trees, others fluttering randomly about tents that spread through the trees. Voices could be heard. Some were muted, others clearer, but all were busy because camp was soon to break and a steady march begin to take the northerners to the tip of the forest and beyond. There were sounds of children too. As Chlorien and the Scholar entered the desert, so Ensore, now known as the Marshal, was very close to the north-western reaches of the forest and a march that would take them into Cartokian land.

  Ensore tiredly twirled his hand in his beard and Ongwin, just entering the tent, heard a sigh.

  "What makes you sigh?" he asked. He stood quietly surveying the younger man.

  "Sarehl. I miss him. So does Dase."

  "I know you do. We all do, my lord. But look how he's been able to engineer the structure of the army and without him I believe future resistance to the warlord would account for little. His ability to persuade others to join our cause more than justifies his going north, my lord. And the way he has gone about the organisation and functioning of the army, almost single-handedly, is quite remarkable too."

  "Aye."

  "Have you heard from him again?"

  "No. I've just got a long letter from Kaleb. He says all's well and we'd be delighted with how Sarehl is these days. It would be nice to see for ourselves, wouldn't it?" Ensore rubbed his chin. Ongwin heard the wistful note in the voice.

  "Not long before we begin the haul that brings us ever closer." He was reflective. "We're nearer than ever, my
lord." Ensore nodded, then smiled.

  "Do you need me?"

  "I was looking for young Dase."

  "He's with Eli."

  "I'll find him," promised Ongwin with a chuckle as he left the tent.

  Ensore absently filled a tankard, then wandered outside to settle under a tree where he could more thoroughly peruse Kaleb's long letter, but instead left it lying in his lap while he thought how far the northern army had come. The Chamah-Elect was so preoccupied with the army, he'd had scant time to spend with Daxel, their moments in the evenings restful, the bond deep. It was Ongwin who cared for Daxel.

  Ensore enjoyed Kaleb's letter. It gave him a clear picture of what happened up north and he decided that evening he'd write again to both Sarehl and Kaleb. He thought back to an incident with Daxel no one had discussed with his elder brother, nor had anyone any desire to either. Ensore was just profoundly thankful there'd been no recurrence, for Daxel's sake.

  Ensore thought back, the occasion as vivid now as the day it happened. At the time, Daxel leaned on one elbow on a pallet in the campaign tent, tussling with a mathematical problem Ongwin set him, a tankard beside him that he sipped from every so often. He was broad shouldered even at this age, but still thin and well over six feet, his growth in three cycles astonishing. He was no longer a boy. He was strongly built like his father and as Sarehl was before injuries left him with a frailty similar to Luton's.

  Eli and Ongwin were with Ensore, in the company of senior Dahkilan officers and other ethnic representatives, all militarily-minded men, seated round a makeshift table discussing spread out plans from Sarehl. There was a lot of animated talk. Daxel looked across at them lazily, the tankard to his mouth. Then he dropped it with a gasp. He screamed. Ensore and Eli turned as one, Ensore quickly down on his knees beside Daxel as the boy screamed again, hands to his head as he curled up, then pressed palms to his temples. His eyes were filled with sheer terror and pain.

  "Get a healer!" yelled Ensore to Eli, who was gone on the words.

  Ongwin knelt beside Ensore. They watched how Daxel tried to bury his head in his arms, howling now as he muttered incoherent words torn from him without his being aware of them. He convulsed. His eyes rolled back. He screamed again. He writhed. His limbs contorted. He was in concert with his twin who lay on a bed, in the Keep, as his new master dissected his mind slowly and deliberately. Daxel tried to push back Luton's anguish as his twin's mind was probed, analysed, and torn to shreds. He fought, with Luton, as together they endured Luton's experiences since Ortok, his agonies on the slave caravan and his desperate attempt to keep sane. Daxel could scarcely breathe. He felt the amused indifference and contempt from the mind that so callously and minutely delved into his twin's. Like Luton, he convulsed again. He howled till he was hoarse.

 

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