Sun warrior, p.53
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       Sun Warrior, p.53
 

         Part #2 of Tales of a New World series by P. C. Cast
She didn’t turn and look, but she could feel Thaddeus following. She could also feel the Sun setting.

  “Nik, the Sun’s going. I don’t know how much longer I can keep the shield around us.”

  “That’s okay. We don’t need it much longer. Move faster, Mari. Keep some of the sunfire for yourself, like you’d keep Moon Magick to heal yourself. Once we’re through the ruins of the City, we’ll be within sight of the Channel and we’re going to have to run for it.”

  Mari gritted her teeth and nodded. She tapped into a shaft of sunfire, and like a true weaver she imagined threading that warm power into her veins. Hot strength blasted through her and Mari sprinted forward, with Nik close behind, Rigel and Laru on either side of them. They leaped over blackened logs and the debris of the once beautiful City until Nik’s hand closed around her shoulder again.

  “That’s it. We’re here.”

  Mari staggered to a stop. They were on the edge of the ridge. Before them it sloped down to the Channel, which looked like a shining ribbon of green in the last of the daylight. To their right, the ridge grew to become a wide ravine that separated Tribal territory from the edge of Port City. Mari reached out with a questioning mind and was instantly rewarded by images of the Pack silently entering many small boats that rushed to fill her mind from Cammy and Captain, Fala, and even the precocious flash of an image of Sora, slipping and almost falling headfirst into the water, which she was certain came from little Chloe.

  “The Pack made it!” Mari told Nik. “They’re down there right now!”

  “Then let’s join them and get the hell out of here!”

  Mari heard a sound behind them and she turned—and was shocked to see that instead of Thaddeus and his goons, just outside the shield of flame stood a Shepherd pup. She was panting with panic, so close to the fire that Mari could see her fur beginning to singe.

  “It’s Fortina!” Mari cried. “What is she doing?”

  Nik shook his head. “I’ve never seen any canine do this, but I think she’s left her Companion.”

  “There they are! Shoot them! The fire’s banking! The Sun’s setting!”

  From farther behind them, Thaddeus’s voice drifted through the crackling of the hungry flames. Mari had one choice. She didn’t like it, but she also didn’t see any other way to be free. Mari imagined a half-grown-Shepherd-sized hole in the dome of flames, and the shield parted.

  “Come on, Fortina!” she called to the pup. The young canine didn’t hesitate. She sprinted through the opening in the flames, running straight to Rigel.

  “Shoot! Now! They’re stealing my Fortina!” It was Maeve’s shrill voice, filled with anger and hate that acted like a goad on Mari.

  Mari gathered the sunfire to her so that it sizzled in a flame-shaped pillar in front of her, and then she allowed herself to really think about Thaddeus—about all he’d taken from her and from Nik, about all he still wished to take from them.

  “IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!” Mari shrieked as she tossed her anger, and the column of flame, into the heart of the ruined City, cutting off Thaddeus and his group and forcing them to retreat.

  “Hurry!” Nik said, grabbing her hand. “There’s not much left for it to burn. It’ll be out soon.”

  They half ran, half slid down the ridge. The broken road was in sight when the first of the arrows began to rain around them.

  “Run, Mari! Run!” Nik shouted.

  They sprinted forward, but the arrows were too fast. They were getting closer and closer—and then from the darkened lookout tower that stood as silent sentinel beside the Channel the tolling of a bell split the night, crying danger to the Tribe.

  Mari struggled not to collapse in defeat. They were so close that they could see their Pack in small boats, spreading out across the Channel. Mari looked up at the tower. She saw a man, with a small canine beside him, rushing down the wooden stairs. Mari steeled herself, expecting the man to sight with his crossbow and rain deadly arrows down on them, pinning them between the Tribe and the safety of the water.

  Instead, the man paused long enough to drape over the railing of the stairs a large, familiar tapestry of the Great Goddess, circled by her Clan. Then he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “Nik, Mari! What are you waiting for? Get to the boats!”

  “Davis!” Nik laughed, shouting his relief. “It’s Davis!”

  “But why was he alerting the Tribe about us?” Mari could hardly believe that Davis would do such a thing, but there he was, climbing down from the tower after ringing the clarion bell.

  “Oh, sunfire! He wasn’t alerting them about us. Look!”

  Mari’s gaze followed Nik’s pointing finger, and there, swarming down the far side of the ravine, came an army of bare-chested painted men, wielding triple-tipped spears as they closed on the Tribe of the Trees.

  There was a shout from behind Nik and Mari, and suddenly the arrows changed direction and began falling on the invading army.

  “Go! Now!” Davis shouted as he sprinted past them.

  Mari and Nik didn’t hesitate. They ran with Davis to the two boats that had been left for them. Mari blinked in surprise as she recognized the single person who had remained and was still smashing holes in the last of the other boats.

  “Jaxom! That’s enough! Get in the boat with me!” Davis told him.

  Jaxom sprinted to Davis as Nik almost tossed Mari into another boat. Rigel leaped onto one of the ballasts made for holding canines, and in a single bound Laru landed on the other one.

  “Come on, girl!” Mari shouted to the pup, who paused, shivering at the edge of the water.

  Nik gave their boat a huge push and jumped in. Grabbing the oars, he began fighting against the current while Sora and the rest of the Pack called encouragement.

  “Wait, Nik! The pup’s still on the bank,” Mari said.

  “Too late. She might have changed her mind anyway. I’ve never known a canine to leave a living Companion.”

  “But she did leave Maeve!” Mari cried.

  “It’s okay; I’ll get her!” Jaxom said. He jumped out of the boat, sloughing through the shallow water to the bank as Davis shouted at him to get his ass back there.

  Jaxom stopped a yard or so before the young Shepherd. His voice carried easily over the water: “If you want to be free, come with me. I’ll make sure you’re safe. I promise.”

  The pup started at him, unmoving.

  “Jaxom! I can’t wait for you if you don’t move and move now!” Davis shouted.

  And then Jaxom’s body language changed. He suddenly stood straighter, and in a voice amplified by joy he called, “Fortina! Your name is Fortina! Come to me, little girl!”

  The pup barked happily before launching herself into the young Earth Walker’s arms, and Jaxom used all the power in his muscular legs to fight the current. He reached the boat and tossed the pup in; then he grasped Davis’s outstretched hand and toppled face-first into the boat, causing Cammy to yip in concern.

  The instant Jaxom was safely in the boat, he crawled to the pup, picking her up and cuddling her close to him as he felt all over her for wounds.

  Mari watched him, incredulous, feeling everything the young sister to Rigel was feeling. Great Goddess! That pup just Chose Jaxom!

  “Go! Go! Go!” Sora’s voice shouted from far up the Channel. “Hurry! The Skin Stealers are attacking!”

  Each of them grabbed oars and paddles and fought the current that threatened to push them back to the bank. Then Mari felt a catch in the little boat, and it suddenly shot forward.

  “That’s it!” Nik said between heaving breaths. “The center current has us. We’re free!”

  Mari’s hands began shaking so badly that she dropped her paddle. She wrapped her arms around her chest as if she was trying to hold herself together.

  Through the fog of exhaustion that followed calling down sunfire, Mari heard her Pack cheering in celebration, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the ridge. There, silhouetted by the wall of fire that was alr
eady beginning to smoke and dissipate, Mari’s eyes were drawn to an enormous figure. She thought she might have been hallucinating, but she was quite sure the figure had huge horns growing from his head.

  And then slowly, purposefully, the figure turned to face her. He lifted a hand that was fisted around an impossibly large triple-pointed spear in what was obviously a bizarre salute to Mari, before he roared a terrible battle cry and turned to join his army against the Tribe.

  A shiver of dread skittered down Mari’s spine, and she leaned over the side of the boat, vomiting fear into the dark water.

  “What is it, Mari?” Nik asked, still pulling on the oars to catch them up to the Pack. “Are you okay?”

  Mari wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and said the words that lifted, unbidden, from the recesses of her mind.

  “I’m okay for now, but whatever that was—whatever is back there—he is not okay. And he saw me, Nik. He looked right at me. I felt it—like someone had just walked over my grave.”

  “Whoever he is, we’re leaving him behind,” Nik assured her.

  “No.” The words flowed unbidden: “He’s going to follow us.”

  “Then we’ll face him. Together. You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone again. Show her, Laru and Rigel!”

  First, from their two Companions, Mari was flooded with warmth and strength—and then she felt Cammy’s touch, and Fortina’s; then Fala, Captain, Mariah, Odin, Bast, and even little Chloe reached out to her in solidarity until she was bathed in such intense love and strength and hope that it drowned her fear.

  She met Nik’s gaze as her lover and mate smiled and said softly, “Hey, don’t ever forget—we’ve got your back.”

  Mari knew Nik was right. Whatever was before them, they would face it—and defeat it. Together.

  THE END … for now.

  ALSO BY P. C. CAST

  Tales of a New World

  Moon Chosen

  House of Night

  Marked

  Betrayed

  Chosen

  Untamed

  Tempted

  Burned

  Awakened

  Dragon’s Oath

  Destined

  Lenobia’s Vow

  Hidden

  Neferet’s Curse

  Revealed

  Kalona’s Fall

  Redeemed

  The Fledgling Handbook 101

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  P. C. CAST is the author of the House of Night novels, including Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, and Untamed. She was born in the Midwest and grew up being shuttled back and forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with quarter horses and mythology. After high school she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for fifteen years before retiring to write full time. Ms. Cast is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. With more than 20 million copies in print in more than forty countries, her novels have been awarded the prestigious Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and Laurel Wreath Awards. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon surrounded by beloved cats, dogs, horses, and family. You can sign up for email updates here.

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  CONTENTS

  Title Page

  Copyright Notice

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Also by P. C. Cast

  About the Author

  Copyright

  This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  SUN WARRIOR. Copyright © 2017 by P. C. Cast. Illustrations copyright © 2017 Sabine Stangenberg. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

  www.stmartins.com

  Cover design by Ervin Serrano

  Cover illustration by Cliff Nielson / Shannon Associates

  The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

  ISBN 978-1-250-10075-7 (trade paperback)

  ISBN 978-1-250-16489-6 (international, sold outside the U.S., subject to rights availability)

  ISBN 978-1-250-10077-1 (ebook)

  eISBN 9781250100771

  Our ebooks may be purchased in bulk for promotional, educational, or business use. Please contact the Macmillan Corporate and Premium Sales Department at 1-800-221-7945, extension 5442, or by email at MacmillanSpecialMarkets@macmillan.com.

  First U.S. Edition: October 2017

  First International Edition: October 2017

 


 

  P. C. Cast, Sun Warrior

  (Series: Tales of a New World # 2)

 

 


 

 
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