‘Where is it?’ the demon demanded of Bihkat. ‘Where is the Xarnac?’ It loomed above the fading heat of the Xantian stone.
A circle of priests crooned their fear while Bihkat, high priest of all the Vascanar existent in the world, lifted his scar-wracked arms in supplication. ‘It—’
‘You promised us, priest. You promised that it would be recovered at the battle.’ The words ripped into Bihkat’s soul like the tips of a scourge, scalding and sharp. ‘You promised us the recovery of the Xarnac, the amulet, the lodestone of our realisation.’
‘It will be found.’ Bihkat threw himself upon the ground in misery. ‘The terror it inspires will unman any that bear it. No one can resist its effect.’
‘The amulet was at the battle, priest. And now it is gone. Its power brought terror to the the enemey and broke their lines. We tasted its perfume upon the souls of the sacrifices. It was there and now it is not. Where is it?’
‘The enemy fled. They took it with them.’
‘We gave you the ukinak of Pyran, the best of our regiments, to take this island. We made our deals with the sea-ruling Korga to bring your ships here. We allowed you to employ mercenaries not of the faith to winnow the enemy. All this we did to secure our fulfilment. This land is the gateway to our godhood.’ The demon struggled to hold itself present in this realm; its agony sang through Bihkat’s soul. ‘Where is the lodestone of our completion?’
‘It will be found.’
‘You allowed it to be taken. You allowed it to be stolen. And you did not tell us of its loss. We had to discover its absence in the scent of the dead souls passing to our realm, the dead who saw the treasure ship burn. And now you fail to recover it as promised?’
‘We didn’t know!’ Bihkat cried out from the ground. ‘It must have been taken during the raid. We don’t know by whom or how. We thought it safe. We thought it hidden.’
‘Fool. Without it all is for naught. The Xarnac guides us through the Tangled Realms to the gate between the worlds, through the gateway into this place, this island of power. The Xarnac burns the souls of men with fear. One has fallen: find his body, rend it clean, bring us the bones that we may taste them. Find the one who holds it now. Already the Xarnac feeds upon his manhood, swallows his courage, burns away all that he is and sanctifies him for our needs. Find him. Find the Xarnac. Unleash the hounds and find it.’
The darkness retreated into the Tangled Realms between worlds, seeping away from Bihkat’s soul, freeing him to act once more. He lifted the sharp little dagger on a thong about his neck and cut new lines of supplication through the torn scars of his face.
As the blood flowed, his spirit calmed. He walked away from the place of audience, where the demonic lords spoke and only the priesthood might approach.
Uka Pyran, general and war-leader, knelt upon the freshly stripped skin of a sacrifice. ‘What do the lords say, Bihkat, Ukalac, priest of the Way?’
Bihkat replied, ‘Fetch me Torquesten. Fetch me the Master of the Hounds.’
(Author’s note: The publication date of Kinless Book One of Two has been delayed due to minor production set-backs. We would rather it is done right than done on time. When I have a new release date it will be posted here. It should not be a long delay, a couple of weeks at most, but when I know I will let you know.)