The Swans' War 3 - The Shadow Roads

The Swans' War 3 - The Shadow Roads by Sean Russell

Book: The Swans' War 3 - The Shadow Roads by Sean Russell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sean Russell
think he will last the distance I had planned." Alaan began gathering up his belongings and packing them for the day's ride.
    "You think the Dubrell will grant us passage then?" Fynnol asked.
    Alaan tightened saddlebag buckles. "I don't know, but we must cross their lands all the same."Fynnol stopped his packing and stared at Alaan, not liking what he heard.
    "Have you learned anything of the riders?" Tam wondered.
    "Not a thing. I dropped the broach you found back on the cob-bles. I hope they'll find it. None of the Dubrell were about, nor were the riders. There are more mysteries here than answers.""It is a place with many stories," Cynddl said. He leaned against one of the giant chairs, his arms crossed as though he were cold. His manner was subdued and his gaze lost in the flickering of the flames. "As can be seen by the size of the keep, many Dubrell dwelt here, though long ago now. This is a crossroads of sorts, but not of the usual kind. It is a crossroads between the land between the mountains and the hidden lands. Armies have passed through here,and fugitives, brigands, and sorcerers. War has come upon the Dubrell without warning from men with whom they had no quar-rel. Many a farmstead has been burned, many a village.
    "But this is the giants' home, and they will not leave it. They have a love for this land that is told in their stories and songs. Borenfall—Heaven's Doorstep—they call it." Cynddl closed his eyes. "They built this keep to watch over the north pass, by which we arrived yesterday. Beyond the gates you will find mounds where the dead have been burned and buried; both Dubrell and men. Last night, as I lay awake, I saw the battles fought here, the giants almost always outnumbered. They are not warlike by nature, but when they are angered…"There was once a race of men who lived several days' ride to the north. They were warlike and merciless. They preyed upon the Dubrell, raiding their villages and putting everyone to the sword— or so the giants believed. One winter night a young man, hardly more than a boy, stumbled into a village of the Dubrell. He claimed his name was Raindel and that he had escaped from the land to the north, where the men held many Dubrell captive, keeping them as slaves. The giants were forced to do the most menial work, even pulling the plow, for the men said that horses were too valuable for such work. The boy had crossed the north pass in winter, and was frostbitten and fevered and near to death. The Dubrell who looked upon him went into a silent rage. More of their kind were gathered from all across the valley, and in the dead of winter they forced their way through the deep snows of the north pass. The first vil-lage of men they found at night and fell upon the unsuspecting in-habitants, putting everyone to the sword, burning all the buildings.
    There they found a few of their kind living in squalor, little better than animals." Cynddl paused a moment, rubbing his brow so that Tam could not see his eyes. "And so it went, village after village. Even the keeps of the men were not proof against the rage of the giants, who felled great trees and, using them for battering rams, shattered the strongest gates.
    "The last men met the Dubrell on a winter field, their land in flames all around. They brought forward all the Dubrell who re-mained in the land and gave them into the keeping of the invaders. Chests of gold and other valuables were given as well. 'Leave the few of us who remain in peace, and we will never raid your lands again, and never again will we keep your people for our slaves.' But the Dubrell were not satisfied. Many wanted the blood of this last army as well. A great argument ensued and finally they reached an agreement. 'Leave these lands this day, and we will spare you. Ride beyond the Shattered Mountain, and settle there. Any of your kind still dwelling here on the morrow will pay the price for what you have done to our people.' "The men knew that many would

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