Chasers of the Wind (The Cycle of Wind and Sparks)

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9780765334893: Chasers of the Wind (The Cycle of Wind and Sparks)

Centuries after the disastrous War of the Necromancers, the Nabatorians, aligned with the evil necromancers of Sdis, mount an invasion of the Empire. Luk, a soldier, and Ga-Nor, a Northern barbarian, are thrown together as they attempt to escape the Nabatorian hordes and find their way back to their comrades.

Gray and Layan are a married couple, master thieves who are hiding out and trying to escape their former gang. They hope to evade the bounty hunters that hound them and retire to a faraway land in peace.

Tia is a powerful dark sorceress and one of The Damned―a group trying to take over the world and using the Nabatorian invasion as a diversion.

Unfortunately, for Gray and Layan, they unwittingly hold the key to a powerful magical weapon that could bring The Damned back to power.

Hounded by the killers on their trail and by the fearsome creatures sent by The Damned, Gray and Layan are aided by Luk and Ga-Nor―and Harold, the hero of The Chronicles of Siala. Realizing what's at stake they decide that, against all odds, they must stop The Damned.

Chasers of the Wind is the first book in a new series from internationally bestselling author Alexey Pehov.

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About the Author:

ALEXEY PEHOV is the award-winning author of The Chronicles of Siala, and a bestseller in his native Russia. His novel Under the Sign of the Mantikor was named Book of Year and Best Fantasy Novel in 2004 by Russia's largest fantasy magazine, World of Fantasy.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

 

The day had started out warm, and now the cows, lazily chewing their cud, were sheltering from the midday heat in the shadow of a large oak. A yearling calf, tormented by gadflies, dragged himself to the river and slipped in, thereby ridding himself of the feisty insects. His dappled mother was trying to warn her son away from the water with a plaintive moo, but he was far too occupied with the water and ignored her summons.

Pork sighed disappointedly and set aside his homemade reed pipe. What kind of music could he make when there was such a racket? The damned cow just wouldn’t quiet down. He should drag the calf out of the river, but he was feeling lazy. There was no point. He’d just wander back in again.

The day seemed infinitely long. His jug of milk was half empty, but his bread remained untouched. He had no desire to eat. Or work, for that matter. While the village boys fished for trout and played at being knights, why did he have to keep an eye on the cattle? But the children had no desire to include the overgrown village idiot in their games. Pork didn’t know why, and as a result he was horribly offended, not understanding the reason everyone always laughed at him and twirled their fingers around their foreheads.

Yawning, he was about to nap for another hour, since the shade of the bushes he was stretched out under wouldn’t go away for a while yet, when he noticed four riders appear on the road in the distance. They crossed the river unhurriedly, making their way along the sturdy wooden bridge constructed by the villagers, and, passing by the standing stone (standing stones are set at all crossroads. According to legend, they keep evil from finding its way into people’s homes), headed off toward the village.

Pushing out his lower lip so that saliva dripped down onto his shirt, Pork watched the strangers avidly.

People wishing to visit Dog Green were always few and far between. The village was located in the foothills of the Boxwood Mountains in the middle of the densely thicketed Forest Region. People rarely came here.

The riders did not resemble the Viceroy’s tax collectors in the slightest. The tax collectors wore gorgeous black-and-white uniforms, which Pork really wished he could try on, but these men were wearing simple leather jackets and linen shirts.

“And there’s no herald with a trumpet,” muttered the half-wit under his breath. “Nope, nope, nope—the Viceroy’s soldiers dress far better.” True, these men had swords as well. Sharp ones. Much sharper than his father’s knife, which Pork had cut himself on. Oh, that had hurt so much! And one of them even had a crossbow. Probably a real one, too. That would leave quite a hole. If Pork had such a crossbow, no one would laugh at him. Nope. The girls would love him. Yes, they would. And the horses these fellows had were much better than the villagers’. Horses like that could trample you right down, and not even a smudge would be left behind. They were knights’ horses. When Pork left the village, he too would become a knight. He’d rescue virgins. But these fellows weren’t knights. Where were the multicolored coats of arms, the plumes and the chain mail? Every knight should have them, but they didn’t. If they were knights, they were doing it wrong. Yes, they were. But maybe they were bandits? No, they didn’t look like that either. Even the dimmest five-year-old whose parents wouldn’t let him go off into the forest hunting for mushrooms knew that bandits didn’t travel the road so boldly—otherwise the soldiers of the Viceroy would hang them from the nearest aspen tree. And of course, bandits wouldn’t have such splendid horses. Plus, all bandits were wicked, cowardly, filthy men with rusty knives in their teeth. These fellows were not like that. Anyway, what would bandits have to do with the village? The locals around here grew nothing valuable. Except perhaps old Roza’s turnips, which the daring little people, as his father called them, try to steal.

Pork imagined how a horde of unwashed little men with overgrown beards, hatchets gripped in their teeth, grunting, would scale the wicker fence and, looking around fearfully, dig up the turnips from the vegetable patch of that wicked old grandmother. And she would stand on the porch, shaking her walking stick and giving them the tongue-lashing of their lives, calling down curses on their ugly heads. And then she would throw her stick at them, the old viper. She threw it at Pork once, when he broke her fence. What a bump on the head that was. His father simply told him that it was time for him to wise up. But that didn’t happen. Just as before, everyone laughed at him, called him a half-wit, and didn’t let him play with them. Well, what of it—he didn’t really want to, truthfully.

One of the riders noticed the cowherd and said something to his companions. They left the road and made their way toward him over the field.

At first Pork was terrified. He wanted to take to his heels, but running away—that meant leaving the cows unattended. And of course, they’d scatter. He’d have to search for them again. And Choir would wander into the ravine again, and he’d get stuck there unable to get her out. He’d catch hell from his father. There was nothing for it; he’d get either the nettles or the whip. He wouldn’t be able to sit on his fanny for a week. So there was no sense in running. And anyway, it’s a long way to the forest. And those armed bulls were on horseback. They could catch him and give him a good drubbing. And besides, he still didn’t know why they were coming. But his father wouldn’t pat him on the head if he lost the cows. And so, making the choice between the clear threat and shadowy danger, Pork decided to stay put and see what would happen.

The riders came up to him, drawing in their reins.

“Are you from the village, friend?” asked the oldest of the four. Lean and tall with a pointed face and deep-set, clever eyes, the man regarded Pork without malice. Cordially and just a bit mockingly.

No one had ever called Pork “friend” before. The cowherd liked the way it sounded.

“Uh-huh.”

“You’re from Dog Green?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it far?”

“No. Not very, sir. It’s just beyond that hill. As soon as you get to the top, you’ll see it.”

“We’ve finally made it,” said another of the men, sighing with obvious relief. His face was pitted by smallpox. “It’s well hidden, eh, Whip?”

“Did you doubt the words of Mols, Bamut?” chuckled the one who had called Pork a friend.

A third rider, the youngest one, answered that question with a grunt. Pork disliked him right away. He was sullen and wicked. A man like that would have no problem boxing you on the ears. And then he’d laugh.

“Is there an inn in the village?”

“In the middle of nowhere? What kind of inn would they have not ten leagues from the mountains?” snapped the youth, who had blue eyes.

“We have an inn,” replied the cowherd, offended. “It’s right by the road after you go through the village. It’s quite large. With a red chimney. They have tasty meat pies. And shaf. My father gave me some to try once. But why have you come here? And are your swords real? Will you let me hold one? And your horses, they are Rudessian stock, right? Are they yours? They are like knights’ horses. I’ll soon be a knight, too. They’re fast, aren’t they? You aren’t knights, by any chance, are you?”

“Hold on, hold on!” laughed the lean rider cheerfully. “Not all at once. You’re in quite a hurry there, friend. Let’s start at the beginning, I beg you. Are those cows yours?”

“No. I look after them. Yeah.”

“Do you enjoy it?”

The cowherd pouted and looked at the man, offended.

He was mocking him. But he had called him his friend. He thought they were friends.

The man laughed once more. The other three riders remained silent and didn’t even smile. They seemed completely uninterested in the conversation.

“And how many households are there in the village?”

“A lot.” Pork showed all the fingers on his hands. “Six times as many.”

“And you’re literate. You can count,” the man said respectfully.

“No,” sniveled the half-wit. “My father showed me. I can’t count on my own.”

“Tell me, friend, do you have any new people in the village?”

“Are you talking about the Viceroy’s people?”

“Well, maybe. Tell me about them.”

“They came here at the beginning of spring. They were handsome. Important. And they had horses. Now we’re just waiting until the end of fall. There haven’t been any others. It’s just us. Only the loggers come.”

“The loggers?” asked the man with the pockmarked face.

“Yeah,” sad Pork, nodding hastily, pleased that he could carry on such an important conversation. “They chop down our trees and then float them down the river to Al’sgara. They say they make really great boats from our trees. Oh, yeah! The best of all boats. They float. Yes.”

“And what about these loggers?”

“I don’t really know, sir. They come here in the summer. They live in mud huts beyond Strawberry Stream. They’re mean. Once they beat me up and ruined my new shirt. Then I caught it again from my father, because of the shirt. Yeah. But they leave in the fall. They don’t want to stay here for the winter. They say that the roads get blocked with snow. You can’t get out until the end of spring.”

“I told you, it’s a swamp,” spat the young one.

“No. The mountains aren’t far from here. And they say that there are the Gates of Six Towers, though I’ve never seen them. And to get to the swamp, you have to go through the forest for several days. There’s a bog there, you know. You go there, you’ll fall right in.”

“It’s unlikely our friend would be found in the company of loggers,” said the short man who looked like a ferret and had kept silent so far.

“I’d have to agree with you. But tell me, friend, do you know everyone in the village?”

Pork screwed up his eyes in suspicion. These men were strange. They’d asked him about the mean loggers, and then again about the village. And about the Viceroy’s soldiers.

“Don’t be afraid.” The lean man tried to appease him with a smile. “We’re just looking for our friend. He’s about this old.” He pointed to the man afflicted with pox. “He has light hair, gray eyes; he rarely smiles and can shoot better than anyone from the saddle. Do you know such a man?”

“Gnut shoots better than anyone from the saddle, but he has black hair and one of his eyes isn’t even there at all.”

“He has a woman with him, too. She’s tall and beautiful. She has long blond hair and dark blue eyes. So, what do you think? Are there any people like that in your village?”

“There might be,” said the cowherd reluctantly. “I don’t really have the time to remember. I’ve got to herd the cows. Or Father will cuss me.”

“I hope this will jog your memory.” The rider threw Pork a coin.

Pork caught it and his jaw dropped. The silly bear had thrown him a whole sol! Now he could buy himself sweets and eat them where no one could see. Pork wouldn’t share them with anyone. That’d show them, calling him an idiot! The cowherd bit into the coin and, quickly, so they wouldn’t be able to take it away, hid it in his bag.

“You described them really well. That’s Pars and his wife, Ann. I recognized them right away.”

The men exchanged looks.

“Where can we find them?”

“Oh, that’s really easy. He lives just outside the village, not far from the blacksmith’s shop. You’ll see his house right away. It has little ponies with wings etched on the gates. They’re pretty. I want some. If you go through the whole village, you’ll see it.”

“Has he been living here for a long time?”

“I can’t remember.” The half-wit scrunched up his brow, strenuously trying to recall. “A long time.”

“Take it easy, friend,” said the lean rider.

The strangers turned their horses. When they got to the road Pork’s shout carried to them.

“Hey, misters! It’s just that Pars can’t shoot from the saddle. He’s a carpenter!”

*   *   *

“Did you need to coddle him so, Whip?” petulantly asked the rider that Pork had dubbed young. “Why did you need to have that conversation with a half-wit? We could have asked anyone we met in the village.”

“It’s so kind of you to try to teach me. Anyone else we met wouldn’t be an idiot. You couldn’t have bribed them for a sol. You don’t know villagers. They won’t budge if they’ve decided they don’t like your face, and then there’s nothing you can do.”

“We could tickle them with our knives.”

“Well, then you would be the idiot, Shen,” sneered Whip. “Four against how many? This is not the outlying towns of Al’sgara with our timid peasants. The locals here wouldn’t jump at the sight of your blade and fawn over you. These places are savage. Every man can stand for himself. There’s enough axes and clubs around here that you won’t know what hit you. No little knife would save you.”

“Well, then we could just check every home ourselves. We’d find him somewhere.”

“Oh yes, very simple. Sixty households. How much time do you think we’d need to get that done?”

“An hour? Maybe two?”

“Exactly. And if we encounter some kind soul who runs off and warns him about our arrival? And he decides he has nothing to say to us? What then? Do you want to go to Mols and offer excuses?”

This last argument completely drained the young man of his desire to quarrel. He petulantly pursed his lips and fell silent.

In the meantime the riders had crested the hill and caught sight of Dog Green. The village was situated along both banks of a narrow river. The idiot had led them astray—there were far more than sixty houses. To the right of the road was a small graveyard, and just a bit farther on, a clear-cut area. On the farther shore there was a field, upon which encroached the gloomy wall of impenetrable forest. The village, lost on the edge of the province, had been carved out in a circle from the forests, low hills, and numerous ravines.

Whip’s team had taken a long time to get here from Al’sgara. These last few days they had been forced to sleep beneath the open sky. For leagues around there was not a single inn. They had completely left behind tolerable food, wine, and women. All they had for company were mosquitoes and gadflies. Thank Melot that they hadn’t encountered any forest spirits or goves (a species of lower demon) in the wilderness. They had kept to the road. True, even though no evil creatures had crawled out of the depths of the forest, wild animals had.

“Damn, but that blessed idiot didn’t say which shore we should search for our carpenter,” said Bamut, the one who was ravaged by smallpox.

“We’ll find him. The task’s almost done. We’ve reached the end.” Whip urged his horse forward.

His companions followed him without hesitation. They rode past the graveyard, which didn’t even have a fence around it. They passed by a well, where two peasant women were cursing at each other, arguing over who would draw water first. And then they were in the western part of the village.

They were being eyed warily. Rarely were outsiders seen here, especially ones on horseback. But no one questioned them.

The riders found the inn quickly. The building stood out from the rest. It was large with a red chimney and ornamental doors. The innkeeper, having caught sight of potential lodgers, practically choked on his shaf. His eyes went so wide that Whip began to fear that he had suffered a stroke.

Whip had no doubt there would be spare rooms.

“We rarely have visitors here,” hurriedly muttered the innkeeper...

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Descripción Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom, 2014. HARDCOVER. Estado de conservación: New. Estado de la sobrecubierta: New. Centuries after the disastrous War of the Necromancers, the Nabatorians, aligned with the evil necromancers of Sdis, mount an invasion of the Empire. Luk, a soldier, and Ga-Nor, a Northern barbarian, are thrown together as they attempt to escape the Nabatorian hordes and find their way back to their comrades.;;Gray and Layan are a married couple, master thieves who are hiding out and trying to escape their former gang. They hope to evade the bounty hunters that hound them and retire to a faraway land in peace.;;Tia is a powerful dark sorceress and one of The Damned?a group trying to take over the world and using the Nabatorian invasion as a diversion.;;Unfortunately, for Gray and Layan, they unwittingly hold the key to a powerful magical weapon that could bring The Damned back to power.;;Hounded by the killers on their trail and by the fearsome creatures sent by The Damned, Gray and Layan are aided by Luk and Ga-Nor and Harold, the hero of The Chronicles of Siala. Realizing what's at stake they decide that, against all odds, they must stop The Damned. Book. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780765334893

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