It was there on the wide open plain, along a stretch of road far from
the last post station and far to the next, with the setting sun at his
back and the last light of day fading from the land, that the Hunters of
Derigo ambushed the Captal of Blackwall. They must have arisen out of
the earth itself, for the mounted horde was upon him in an instant. He
whirled his horse around, but saw no chance of escape as they pressed in
to surround him.
Blackwall drew to a halt, his hand on his sword, ready to defend himself
if need be. The small, vicious warriors circled him on their stout
ponies, shouting and waving their weapons. The Lh’ang, their tough,
scarred chieftain, raised his arm and they fell silent.
“O ha lan dhis, desarinsi,” the Lh’ang greeted him in Catadhi.
“Misahn sa-la, Lh’ang,” he replied equitably.
“Rains are coming,” the chieftain commented.
Blackwall gazed to the north. Even in the waning light of day’s end,
the gathering clouds could be seen. “Not quite yet,” he replied.
“You will reach Wehrle before the rains, if you satisfy us.”
Blackwall’s post horse stirred restlessly. “What satisfaction do you
“What gold do you have?”
“My purse is slim, but you are welcome to it.”
The Lh’ang waved his offer aside. “What of your gauntlets?”
Puzzled, Blackwall drew off his worn riding gloves. “Surely you have
better,” he said as he held them out.
The Derigish became very still. The Lh’ang’s keen, dark eyes moved
to Blackwall’s left hand and the ring of gold and tiny jewels that
sparkled there. “Ah,” he said and then spoke rapidly in his own
language, which Blackwall little understood. The horseman moved closer
and a murmur of voices went up among them. “The ring,” the Lh’ang
told Blackwall. “We will see that.”
“You may not have my ring.”
“We will see your ring.”
“I will kill you before I let you take it.”
“You are not ready to die.” The chieftain held out his hand, making
a quick gesture. “The Burankii-la searches for a ring. Perhaps yours
is the one, perhaps it isn’t.”
Blackwall’s blood froze. “The Burankii-la?”
“She sent us a dream and we are here to fulfill it.”
After Blackwall’s own people, the Hunters of Derigo were the most
dangerous inhabitants of the Catadhan. They worshipped the Burankii-la,
as most of the Catadhi did, but to the Hunters she sent potent dreams,
and through their dreams, commanded them. If the Burankii-la wanted a
life, they would take it. If the Burankii-la wanted his ring, they would
have it. But Blackwall’s people were not Catadhi. The Burankii-la was
not their mother and had not granted them life. What could she, or her
emissaries, want with him?
He pulled the ring from his finger and set it in the outstretched palm.
The Lh’ang regarded it closely, his expression changing slowly to
wonder. Two others came up beside him and they spoke in hushed tones,
glancing at Blackwall over and over again, so that he became impatient
and demanded, “Darkness, what is it?”
“The flaming sword,” the Lh’ang said, referring to the crest
incised on the ring’s bezel. “This is what we seek. This is the sign
we saw in our dreams.” He slipped the ring into a pouch hanging around
“You will not take my ring.”
“We have something for you.” He smiled, not a reassuring expression,
“There is nothing in the world worth the value that ring has to me.”
He reached for his sword in earnest. “You are nothing but thieves, for
I am nothing to the Burankii-la and she is nothing to me.”
The Lh’ang leaned forward and took his wrist with a powerful grip,
staying his hand. “She sees you, desarinsi. She sees you, and thus, so
do we. She asks for your ring. Can you refuse her?”
“A thief and a liar.” Blackwall shook with fury, but what could he
do to prevent them from taking his mother’s ring? As much as he wanted
to, he knew he should not kill the Burankii-la’s messengers. That
would be the ruin of him.
“We will keep it safe for you.”
Blackwall shouted at him, a raw, incoherent sound. The Derigish moved
restlessly around him, but were not afraid.
“We give you this in return.” The Lh’ang waved to one of his men,
who came forward with a long, thin, leather-wrapped object. Blackwall
sneered at the offering of what could only be a sword greatly inferior
to his own. “Take it,” the Derigish leader said. “It’s yours.”
The rider edged closer and tried to force the bundle into Blackwall’s
hands, but the Captal pushed it away.
There was a short, intense conversation among the Derigish in their own
language before they reached some agreement. “It is yours,” the
Lh’ang said. “We are not thieves. You must take it in trade. As we
have dreamed it.”
They tied the slim bundle to the back of Blackwall’s saddle.
Satisfied, the Lh’ang bid him farewell. “O ha lan dhis, desarinsi.
We shall always see you, even from afar.”
Blackwall tried one last time. “Of what use is my ring, my mother’s
ring, to you? I am not Catadhi. You know the Burankii-la does not see
me. Why take my ring? What value does it have for anyone but me?”
The Lh’ang drew up, his dark eyes intense, “She sees you, desarinsi.
She sees you. Never doubt that.” He gave a shout, which his war band
echoed out across the Plain of Ode. Then, as though they were of one
mind, their ponies leapt into a gallop and tore away.
He wanted to pursue them, to kill them, but even in his rage he knew he
must not. So the Captal of Blackwall sat on his horse, in the middle of
the caravan road that ran between Errabundis and Wehrle, on the silent,
empty Plain of Ode, in the heart of the Catadhan, and did nothing while
his most cherished possession, the last thing his mother had given him,
disappeared in a cloud of dust.
A misty rain fell over Wehrle, dimming the lights and putting a hush
over the city’s late evening rumble. Blackwall paused a moment at his
window, regarding the deepening night, relieved that the day was over.
It had been a good day. He had found the wife of a wealthy merchant who
had disappeared while shopping. It had required the judicious
application of money and fear, reassurance and threat in equal measure.
The rescued woman had fallen into her husband’s arms, both crying with
joy at the restoration. Blackwall found himself moved to wonder if his
mother had cried when she was rescued. Did she fall into her brothers’
arms and weep? It was so easy to get lost in the world where no one
would find you.
He closed the shutters so that only the light on the bedside table
illuminated the room. He pulled off his boots, blew out the lamp, and
dropped to the bed, hoping sleep would come soon. For a few minutes the
lump under the mattress annoyed him. He had hidden the sword the Hunters
of Derigo had given him there. It was a constant reminder of the loss of
his ring, but tonight it did not keep him awake.
He did not know how long he slept before the inkling of danger stirred
in him. At first he ignored it because he knew he was asleep in a locked
room, but the sense of danger grew stronger until he had to roll over
and open his eyes.
He blinked in the bright light, trying to imagine how he had slept so
late. He saw a man standing over his bed, his face full of fear, an
urgent need clearly upon him. The intruder seemed vaguely familiar, and
Blackwall was about to put a name to him when he caught sight of the
second, darker figure, moving to harm the first. Then he understood why
the man was in his room. Battle-hardened instincts instantly took over.
He leapt up, great sword already in hand, and clove the encroaching
Excerpted from "Errabundis [Kindle Edition]" by Carol Budinger. Copyright © 2012 by Carol Budinger. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.