The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02

The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02 by Ricardo Pinto

Book: The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02 by Ricardo Pinto Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ricardo Pinto
Tags: Fantasy
and the dead jiggling in their chairs.
    Krow's voice exploded. 'Come on. Come on!'
    Through his toes Carnelian could feel Blur's heart racing. He rocked his feet and she leapt forward. The clamp of his knees over the crossbeam kept his legs safe from Blur's thighs as they pistoned higher and higher with her lengthening strides. Krow pushed back into him as if he feared he might be thrown onto the ground. Carnelian blinked away the tears the wind put in his eyes. They were heading straight for the smoking dragon. He could make no sense of its size except that it rose mountainous above the riders running before it. Its four curving horns seemed even larger than his uncle Crail had claimed, so too the pyramid tower upon its back from which smoke was rising in two threads.
    Krow gave a start. Cries broke from the raider youths. Carnelian saw a mass of riders had appeared from nowhere to block their path.
    'A trap!' The word blown past him in the wind.
    Overcome by panic, Carnelian let his feet leave Blur's back. As her running faltered, he quickly pressed them back. Ranegale was wheeling them southwards. Carnelian felt Blur's desire to follow and let her go by putting pressure on his right foot.
    'High Father,' moaned Krow.
    Carnelian shared his dismay as more squadrons of auxiliaries sprang into view. The dragon was looming in the corner of his eye. Blur straightened up and increased speed.
    Krow groaned: 'Where's he taking us?'
    Ranegale was not fleeing back the way they had come but, instead, running them along the front of the dragon line from whose towers more smoke was beginning to rise.
    'How far can they breathe their fire?' Carnelian cried.
    Unable to take his eyes off the advancing monsters, Krow answered him with a vague shaking of his head, over which Carnelian saw the watch-tower Ranegale was heading for. Squinting, Carnelian could make out the road into which it was embedded. The Ringwall, a fortification that enclosed the Guarded Land. Ranegale must be trying to take them through one of its gates. Carnelian prayed the barbarian knew what he was doing.
    Following Krow, Carnelian craned round and saw auxiliaries racing to hit them in the flank. Even though he could already feel the first muscle tremors of Blur's fatigue, he rocked his feet to try and coax more speed. Krow sang encouragements, but still they were slowing and the watch-tower seemed no nearer. They clung to each other, willing the tower closer, despairing that they would make it in time. A glance showed the auxiliaries resolving into single riders. Their swelling battle-cries seemed separate from their gaping mouths. It became an agony anticipating their crashing impact.
    Krow pushed back into Carnelian who, gazing up, saw watch-tower ribs stark against the grey sky. Relief turned to despair. These towers rarely slept. For its lookouts suspended high on the ribs in their deadman's chairs, to sleep was to lose hold; losing hold, the mechanisms would drop them to their deaths. The tower would have had plenty of time to bar the gate it guarded in the wall.
    Then Blur was striding up the ramp onto the road. Carnelian saw the wall and tower caught in a net of scaffolding awrithe with sartlar. A few strides more carried them across the width of the road. Astoundingly the gate beside the tower was open. Through its gape red mud stretched off as far as he could see. Then they were through and, fighting fatigue, Blur sped them away from the Ringwall and their pursuers.
    'Great Father above! Why have you brought us here?' Leaning past Ravan, Fern was glaring at Ranegale.
    'You've the gall to challenge me,' bellowed Ranegale. He pointed at the corpses in the saddle-chairs. 'Did you learn nothing from the last time?'
    The raiders were staring at the corpse riders. Cloud grimaced as he looked from them to Fern.
    'You really oughtn't to have done it again. And as for you ...' Cloud looked straight at Krow and Carnelian felt the youth flinch then attempt a

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