Home > Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(9)

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(9)
Jeff Wheeler

Within the portcullis, there were a dozen black-robed Rikes of Seithrall speaking to everyone who entered and exited. They had rings on their fingers with dull black stones, which purportedly allowed them to divine falsehoods uttered in their ears. Annon wondered if the powers of the rings were just legends to frighten the people into being honest. The crowds jostled him. He waited sullenly in line until it was his turn to speak to one of the Rikes, anxious to get past the throng.

“A Druidecht, excellent. Seithrall’s blessing be upon you.” This was said with a wry and discourteous smile. There was no love between the Rikes and the Druidechts. “Have you ever been to Kenatos, Druidecht?”

“No.”

“What is the purpose of your visit then?”

“I am here to see my uncle.”

“What is his profession?”

Annon smiled blandly. “I believe you may know him. He is called Tyrus of Kenatos.”

The Rike started, his eyes widening with shock. He blinked several times, as if he was not sure he had heard Annon correctly. “Indeed,” came a curt reply. “Your uncle may be found in the Paracelsus Towers. Do you see it there, to the west of the temple? There?”

Annon did. The city was built on a hill in the middle of the lake, as so it rose before him in a crisscross of streets and buildings. Despite the plumes of sooty smoke, the air was clear enough to see an enormous keep with four ornate spires rising from each corner, the capstones forked. It stood prominently by itself, rising up from the island like a torch. It certainly lacked the massive bulk of the temple, which was the dominating presence of the skyline at the crest. But it was only barely inferior in intricacy and design. The temple was made of glistening white granite, full of sculpted walls, towers, interconnecting bridges, and iron-capped parapets. How many from Stonehollow had been hired to build it, he wondered. How many centuries had they labored?

Annon nodded and was bid to enter the city.

Kenatos teemed with life, a mix of all the races together. Most were young, his age, born after the last Plague. There were Cruithne and Preachán, easily seen. The Cruithne were big and sturdy, each weighing nearly as much as a horse, so they never rode. They were not overly tall, nor were they short. Their skin glistened grayish-black. While their skin was all the same color, their hair varied from pale blond to coarse brown. Never red and never black. They were an inventive people, creating machines powered by fire or water that milled grain. They were slow and ponderous in their walking, but incredibly strong. Their footfalls rattled the ground.

The Preachán were a contrast, with fair skin and ruddy hair. They were not a tall race, nor were they heavy like the Cruithne. They were lithe and quick, slipping through the crowds like quicksilver, hawking goods and huddled in clusters, casting dice with each other. They were incessantly talking, trading, bargaining, and most often, deceiving, as Reeder put it.

Not far after crossing the gates, one Preachán had tried to sell Annon a new pair of boots since his looked so worn out. Moments after shooing him away, another had come offering to buy his talisman for five hundred pents, then quickly doubled and then tripled the price. He was accosted third by a Preachán who offered to guide him to his destination since he was new. Graves was right about them. Annon was a newcomer, but he was no fool. He ignored them and used the distinctive spires of the towers as his guide.

There were also Vaettir in Kenatos, though they were few in number; most of them were Bhikhu. They wore the traditional gray garb of their order, and they patrolled the streets of Kenatos, looking for wrongdoing and offering assistance to those in need. The Vaettir were a tall race, dark-skinned and black-haired, but they did not have the same ashy complexion as the Cruithne. Those who were not Bhikhu wore their hair long and straight, their eyes slightly pointed, always dark. Some had high cheekbones. Others had flat noses. There were varieties that Annon could not understand because he was not from Silvandom. Only the Vaettir could live there permanently.

With the advent of nightfall, Annon was surprised when light appeared suddenly from atop tall posts with domes of glass. The light was bright, and all of the posts illuminated together at the same moment. There was no smoke. Annon was amazed. All throughout the city, the lights had illuminated at once, turning the hazy dusk into a new dawn. More interestingly, the domes of glass did not give off any smoke or steam. Annon approached one, staring up at the light, trying to determine the source. But it was too tall to see. The light did not shimmer or waver, like a flame would. It was cold and beautiful, like spirit magic.

He observed some Preachán watching him, and he quickly went on his way before they found something else to try and sell him. He was curious about the lights that glowed all around him. The whole of Kenatos was an impossible jumble of lopsided houses, some built of stone and some of rotting timber and pitch. Chimneys jutted into the sky, spewing smoke. Reeking garbage cluttered the cobbled streets. Carts clacked and rumbled, accompanied by shrieks and warnings, jangling harnesses, and the distant peal of bells. The light from the domes cast away the thickening shadows. Kenatos never slept, it seemed.

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