Raven Speak (9781442402492)

Raven Speak (9781442402492) by Diane Lee Wilson

Book: Raven Speak (9781442402492) by Diane Lee Wilson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Diane Lee Wilson
around. Their chatter united in harsh cries as the birds suddenly spiraled out of the air to attack the horses. He felt his mouth fall open. The horses squealed, spun, and galloped out of sight. He heard them thundering up the hillside, the birds shrieking in their wake. And then everything was silent.
    The wind charged his back, punching its cold through to his bones. His stomach growled. Images of roasting meat had readied him for a feast, and now he was as empty-handed as ever. To Nifelhel with those odious birds! Here he’d thought they were signs of good fortune and he’d been rudely deceived; they were nothing more than meddlesome creatures deserving of a miserable fate. Glaring at the darkening skyline, he roughly adjusted the cloak across his shoulders and heaved a sigh of frustration. Well, he could allow himself a few more of the hazelnuts he’d held aside. He hungered greatly, though, for a chewy piece of meat—one dripping with fat.
    Just as he was turning toward the byre, that wavering moment of twilight vanished and night began to descend rapidly. He thought about leaving the door open in case those stupid horses returned on their own, but then he’d risk losing the cow. In sudden anger he slammed his shoulder against the wood planks and shoved the door closed. Let the fool horses shiver. They’d be more appreciative come morning.
    He stalked down the path toward the longhouse—oh, why had he used his bad shoulder, the one he’d wrenched last night?—and as he did, he became aware of the two black birds again,congealing from the dusk. He shook his fist as they neared. If only …
    From the edge of his eye he caught something falling. It was followed closely by an identical object and the instant he realized it, a damp clod thumped his head and crumbled down the back of his neck. Another splatted in front of him. Even in the gloom he recognized it as the fragmented turd of a horse. The birds’ raucous chatter sounded distinctly like laughter as they melted into the night. He clenched his fists, shook himself off, and walked on.

TÓLF
    Rune pranced, his long black tail swishing around his ankles with the agitation of storm-tossed waves. He struck at the cave floor and shook his head. Even when he ceased his fretting to momentarily look in Asa’s direction, the skin covering his bony withers twitched with a spasmodic life of its own.
    The woman’s echoing wail had had the opposite effect on Asa. Though her heart pounded, she held herself motionless. Something was happening. Part of her seemed to fly away with the two ravens, yet the heavy blue cloak pinned her in place, crushing her neck and overloading her shoulders with its suffocating weight. Her head throbbed.
    Rune snorted an emphatic blast that ricocheted off the stone walls. She was aware that he’d swung his head around and that his eyes sought the cave’s arching mouth, the path to escape. If not for his loyalty, she knew, he’d go galloping through it.
    She should join him.
    That sudden and clear resolve stirred her to life. As carefully as she could, cautious not to make a sound, she began worming her way out from under the cloak.
    â€œNo!” The woman spun and pointed a finger. “What are you doing?”
    That stiffened her and, caught as she was, burdened her one shoulder with the entire weight of the cloak.
Why
hadn’t she brought Astrid’s knife?
    The pointed finger had no sway over Rune, however, and the clatter of his restless hooves grew louder. Their staccato cadence suggested imminent flight, and Asa’s heart leaped into rhythm. “I really should go back to my clan,” she explained in a falsely calm voice. The lone eyeball didn’t blink. “If they’re in danger—”
    â€œThey are,” the woman interrupted authoritatively, “but your time’s not yet ripe.” Lifting the cloak from Asa with surprising ease, she seemed

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