Reap the East Wind

Reap the East Wind by Glen Cook Page B

Book: Reap the East Wind by Glen Cook Read Free Book Online
Authors: Glen Cook
Ethrian ignored them. He scrambled to the peak of the monster’s head, sat cross-legged, faced west. He let his being slip its moorings and drift toward the grey mountains.
    He halted when he spied something atop a long, dusty dune, facing the stone beast. Another joined it, then another. Their shapes seemed to waver.
    Ethrian drifted closer. It wasn’t just the heat making their edges raggedy. Their cloaks of office rippled in the breeze. There were six of them now. No: seven. The one in the middle was shorter and wider. They wore grotesque masks. Their jeweled eyepieces glistened in the desert sun.
    Tervola, he thought. They’ve stopped playing. They’ve come to see for themselves.
    Soldiers of the Dread Empire joined their captains. A dozen. A score. A hundred. They stared at the stone beast.
    The short one spoke. He made a slight gesture, then descended the back of the dune. One Tervola and a handful of men started forward. The others settled down as if for a long wait.
    Ethrian fled toward his body.

6 Year 1016afe
    The Desert
    SHIH-KA’I CLAMBERED TO the top of the grey dune. His legs ached. He was soaked with perspiration. He felt greasy inside his field gear. He was tired and short on patience. What am I doing out here? he wondered. I belong with the Fourth Demonstration.
    He stopped. The breeze felt good, though it had to work to penetrate his field dress. He surveyed the tower of dust still falling in the distance. Other dusts piled up around his boots, gently driven by the wind.
    “Very spectacular, Lord.”
    “Thank you, Pan ku. I thought it might say something to our friends over there.” He stared at the solitary mountain. Other Tervola joined him. “Am I seeing things?” he asked. “Or is that a creature carved out of stone?”
    “I believe so, Lord,” said a Tervola named Meng Chiao. “It looks old.”
    “Perhaps. But it’s alive. It’s the source of our trouble. Set up a transfer behind the dune. I’m returning to the fortress. I’ll be right back.”
    “As you wish, Lord.”
    Shih-ka’i slid and scrambled down the west face of the dune, began trudging toward the nearest active portal. “I’m too old for this,” he grumbled.
    “Lord?”
    “Talking to myself, Pan ku. Ignore me.”
    He wondered why he needed to be here on the line. He was no field officer. The novelty? He had never served with a combat legion.
    He stopped. “Pan ku, there’s no need for you to dog me. I’m coming back. Why don’t you wait here?”
    “If you command me to, Lord. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel right.”
    “All right. If you don’t mind the exercise and the sun.” The man’s devotion gave Shih-ka’i a small, pleasant feeling of worthiness. Rare were the Tervola who inspired the personal affection of their men.
    “I don’t mind, Lord.”
    Shih-ka’i transferred to the Seventeenth’s headquarters. Had he become too dependent on that one sorcery? It had its limits, and he dared not lose them in the bigger picture. His brethren had learned that the hard way during the last war. A large force could not be supported through transfers alone. They were too slow. They had too small a capacity. Their lifespans were limited. Only a few could operate within a small area. More began interfering with one another. Still, they were superb backing for small tactical operations. To move and supply a legion, old-fashioned boot leather and wagon wheels remained the most practical approach.
    Portals had their dangers, too. Sometimes people disappeared. That had happened too often during the western war. The wizard Varthlokkur had learned to tamper with the transfer stream.
    Shih-ka’i shuddered.
    Easy, he told himself. It’s just weariness working on your nerves.
    Nerves were not the whole problem. He was apprehensive about that stone thing. Caution was indicated. It was a complete unknown.
    Tasi-feng greeted him. “What’s happening out there, Lord?”
    “We found the center of it. Giant artifact shaped like

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