The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02

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

Book: The Standing Dead - Stone Dance of the Chameleon 02 by Ricardo Pinto Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ricardo Pinto
Tags: Fantasy
    Ravan sat up, his face fierce. 'We couldn't just leave them there.'
    Ranegale turned on him. 'Why are you and your kin so determined to bring a curse down on us? Wasn't the death of your father warning enough?'
    'Don't you dare say that,' bellowed Fern, and his aquar lurched forward carrying the brothers towards Ranegale, whose beast raised its plumes in alarm. Ranegale brought it under control with his feet and fixed Fern with his single eye.
    'I can understand the boy might be too stupid to know better, but you?' he said. 'And why did you bring the Standing Dead?' He shook his shrouded head. 'If the auxiliaries didn't see them, the tower lookouts certainly did. What do you imagine will happen now?'
    Cloud forced his aquar between Fern and Ranegale. 'We're alive and free, that's a lot more than any of us had a right to expect.'
    They'll hunt us down,' cried Ranegale.
    'You know as well as I do that when the Ringwall gates are open, the laws of the Standing Dead forbid the legions to pass through.'
    'Perhaps that would be so,' growled Ranegale, 'if we didn't have two of them here captive.'
    Fern glanced at Carnelian. 'We had to bring them. They know we are Ochre.'
    Loskai and Cloud gaped at him in horror.
    'Which one of you told them?' Ranegale said in a dangerous voice.
    Fern splayed his four-fingered hand and touched the palm. That one,' he indicated Carnelian with a nod of his head, 'saw it in my father's recruitment tattoo.'
    Carnelian watched as the men looked at their hands as if for the first time. Ranegale squeezed his into a fist.
    'Even if that's true, it's all the more reason why we should kill them now.'
    Carnelian withstood the menace of Loskai's stare. Even Cloud was nodding as he looked at him. Carnelian considered whether he would be able to eject Krow without hurting him. He felt bitter that his decision had so quickly brought him and Osidian death. He had abandoned his father for nothing.
    Fern moved his aquar to shield Carnelian. 'I'll not let you harm them.'
    'You'll not let us?' cried Ranegale, widening his shoulders.
    Carnelian saw Loskai's hand straying to the spear hitched to his saddle-chair.
    'Look, we can argue this out later,' cried Cloud. 'For now what's done is done and arguing here in sight of the Ringwall is just asking for trouble. What we must decide now is where we go from here.'
    Ranegale allowed his head to fall. He pointed eastwards. 'Out of sight of the Ringwall, we'll ride all the way to Makar.'
    'How will we get into the city?' demanded Ravan.
    Ranegale gave the youth a withering look but, when Ravan withstood it, he answered him: 'Since we're postponing decisions, we might as well leave that for later too.'
    Ranegale raked them with a baleful eye and then, turning his aquar, he walked her off across the red mud.
    They rode away from the Ringwall down muddy gullies. When they had lost sight of the wall, they turned east only to find their route slashed across by more gullies. Over and over again the aquar were forced to clamber down, then scrabble out the other side. Carrying two riders, Blur often needed more than one attempt. Sometimes they would climb onto a bony escarpment scored into slabs as if by some god's knife. There, the aquar had to pick their way carefully for fear of breaking their legs. To add to the misery, the sky opened and released a deluge. Soon the gullies were filling with water the colour of blood. One pool came up almost to the saddle-chairs. Fearing some might be even deeper, Ranegale began to go around them.
    Every diversion took them further south. The gullies deepened, the ridges between them slicing up as sharp as shoulder blades. Soon they were being forced to follow the streams for long periods before they would find a gap through which to climb over into the next gully. When Blur was perched on one of these, Carnelian glimpsed the land stretching away to the north as far as he could see, all bony runnels thinly skinned with soil.
    They sank into

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