The Gathering of the Lost

The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe

Book: The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Helen Lowe
Tags: Fantasy
their eyes and crossbows fixed on the rooftops, but the attention of the watchers, like the warrior’s below them, was focused on the lurker.
    Tarathan stiffened, leaning forward as if to see more clearly. After a moment he turned to Jehane Mor, his mindvoice terse: “Look at their faces.”
    The small band was directly beneath them now, caught in the light thrown by the lantern above the warehouse door. Most of the faces it illuminated were blackened, or concealed by hoods or wrapped cloth, but one of the hoods had slipped back, framing a face that Jehane Mor recognized. Only that morning, she thought, with a queer sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, the Ishnapuri heralds had sat at breakfast with them and Ileyra had exclaimed over the gift of the owl and falcon masks. Now she stood in company with the Darkswarm warrior and the renegade assassins. Jehane Mor saw Tarathan’s hand clench white, and Tirorn looked from one to the other of them, clearly sensing their tension. But he asked no questions, only fingered the string of his bow.
    Three storeys below, the Ishnapuri herald turned, looking all around as though their recognition had caught at her attention. Lanternlight and shadow rippled across her face, and both the Darkswarm warrior and the lurker turned as one to watch her. The three in the warehouse stood very still, scarcely daring to breath, and Jehane Mor felt an icy power reach out, sweeping the night. She slipped away from it, letting her mind blend into the musty dark surrounding them, at one with the shadowy mass of piled bales and the outline of hoists overhead—and let that sense of oneness shield them all.
    Down on the street, Ileyra’s upturned face rippled again before she shrugged and the whole party moved on, the lurker floating ahead of them. The three in the warehouse relaxed, until Tarathan held up an imperative hand. “Wait!” he whispered.
    Peering out from a different angle, Jehane Mor saw figures creeping close behind roof eaves and parapet walls. These newcomers, too, were hooded and cloaked, but the bows they carried were long, like Tirorn’s. The leader signaled, and the others rose as one and loosed a volley of arrows into the band on the ground. The lurker was hit first and imploded with the same keening whistle that Jehane Mor recalled from earlier in the night. One of the assassins fell to his knees, grasping at the arrow that had pierced his chest, and the Darkswarm warrior shouted. An arrow sprouted in the mail of his upper arm as he spun around, pushing Ileyra back along the street. The Derai continued to shoot as the ambushed party broke and fled. Another two assassins fell, arrows in their backs, but the rest were getting away, Ileyra amongst them.
    The Darkswarm warrior was not so fortunate. A second arrow took him in the back of the knee as he ran, and he reeled, lurching across the street. The Derai followed up with a swift, concentrated volley as the warrior stumbled along the wall. Several arrows bounced off his armor, but one buried itself in the back of his neck, punching its way through the fine metal coif.
    The warrior fell, sprawling face forward in the street as the ambushers came down from their rooftop. Slowly and deliberately, one of the Derai walked toward the fallen warrior. His build was as massive as the bow he carried, and Jehane Mor and Tarathan exchanged a glance, recognizing Orth from the Farelle bridge. The Derai circled the fallen Darkswarm, slinging his bow over his shoulder and drawing a long, wickedly curved knife. He waited a moment longer then moved forward in one swift movement, wrenching the helmet off the fallen warrior’s head, jerking his head up by the hair and cutting his throat.
    “Just to be sure,” said Tirorn. “Now, being Orth, he’ll mutilate the rest of the face and take the ears as a trophy.”
    The huge Derai did just as Tirorn had predicted before letting the head fall forward again onto the pavement. He looked down at his

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