Ghost in the Winds (Ghost Exile #9) - Jonathan Moeller
Chapter 1: The End Of Their Strength
Caina Amalas ran as if the fate of the world depended on her speed.
It probably did.
The view from the hilltop should have been beautiful. The rocky hill was the highest point on Pyramid Isle, rising a thousand feet tall, and Caina saw the rosy dawn to the east and the blue sea stretching away in all directions as far as the eye could see. She should have been able to see the jungles of the island encircling the hill like a broad belt of green. The defeat of Kharnaces and the destruction of the colossal Conjurant Bloodcrystal had unleashed a wave of necromantic power, killing every living thing its path and reducing the island’s jungle to a collection withered brown husks. A smoking crater at the apex of the hill marked the spot where the Conjurant Bloodcrystal had floated. Hundreds of mummified corpses, both of humans and baboons, littered the top of the hill, along with bones and pieces of destroyed armor and weapons.
None of that held Caina’s attention at the moment.
The Seal of Iramis shone with power to her sight thirty yards away.
The ring of silvery metal lay on the ground, its massive blue stone carved into a seven-pointed star, the ancient sigil of the Princes of Iramis. She saw potent arcane strength blazing within it. The Seal could command the spirits of the netherworld, could bind vast numbers of them with little effort. It was one of the three relics that Grand Master Callatas needed to work the Apotheosis and unleash the nagataaru upon the world.
Callatas held the other two relics, and he stood sixty yards away on the other side of the Seal.
When he had come to Pyramid Isle, he had been an old man with stooped shoulders and a lined, weary face. After Caina had stabbed him a few times, he had been forced to drink a vial of Elixir Rejuvenata to heal his mortal wounds. Now he looked like a vigorous man in his twenties, his hair and beard thick and black, his eyes like gray sword blades. In his hand, he carried the Staff of Iramis, and the Star of Iramis rested against his chest. The Staff had been wrought of the same silvery metal as the Seal, and the Star was a faceted azure crystal about the size of Caina’s fist. Both shone with sorcerous power to her sight. Callatas had used the Star to burn Iramis to ashes, and the Staff could summon countless spirits from the netherworld.
The Seal was all that Callatas needed to finish his Apotheosis, and the thing lay unguarded upon the ground.
Caina ran faster.
Callatas started to cast a spell, currents of power swirling around his free hand. Caina had seen him cast spells several times, and they had always been workings of mighty power, spells potent enough to kill dozens with a wave of his hand.
Compared to the inferno of his previous spells, the amount of sorcerous power he summoned now was little more than a candle frame.
He was exhausted.
His long duel with Kharnaces had drained his strength. Of course, Caina was exhausted, too, but she was not a sorceress. She didn’t need sorcery to kill.
All she need to do was stab.
She yanked the ghostsilver dagger from her belt. It would tear through the remnants of Callatas’s defensive wards and his spell-armored robes. The alchemical Elixir might have rejuvenated Callatas, but Caina had far more experience fighting hand to hand than the Grand Master. If she closed with him, if she avoided his spell, she could kill him.
After one hundred and fifty years, the destruction of Iramis would be avenged, as would the tens of thousands of slaves Callatas had murdered to make wraithblood. More importantly, the Apotheosis would be stopped.
If Caina could kill him.
The woman standing next to Callatas might make that difficult.
“Kill her!” snarled Callatas, and Kalgri the Red Huntress moved.
Like Caina and Callatas, Kalgri had come through the fight with Kharnaces the worse for wear. Her red armor was tattered and charred, and half-healed cuts and burns covered her angular face and bare arms. The Ghost shadow-cloak hanging from her shoulders swirled around her like a shroud of smoke. Nevertheless, her scimitar and dagger gleamed in the dawn sunlight.
Kalgri strode forward, raising her weapons, the familiar twisted smile coming over her face as her blue eyes pulsed with the shadow and purple fire of the nagataaru. She had almost killed Caina once before in Rumarah, and only Kylon’s boldness had