The Steppes of Levi - A Novel
The second proposed novel in the Ephesus Offense Trilogy
Rough Draft excerpt
The Steppes of Levi - this is the second in a Trilogy I am working on. Its a ROUGH draft.
A ragged wind swirled around Rel, tearing at the edges of her layered skirts and blowing stinging sleet into her eyes. Sheilding her face with her arm, she turned back to Eskin.
“Do you see anything?” Rel’s voice whisper was lost on the howling storm. She reached out and touched Donovan lightly on the shoulder. Do you see anything?
Eyes closed and mouth slightly open, Donavan’s breath formed a ring of crystals on his dark beard, giving it a grizzled cast in the failing light. “There are several small heat signatures near the river. They appear….non human. Hard to tell with this wind disrupting my interface.”
“And the Harriers?”
Donavon’s head slowly swiveled on his neck in an arc tracing the line of the valley. “if they’re out there, they’re absorbing the signal. I sense nothing.”
“We need shelter. The temperature is dropping, Eskin.”
“Yes, I forgot, your reptilian sequencing precludes generation of body heat.”
“And thus I choose to bask on a rock named Donavan. It’s not for me – its for them.” Rel pointed at a low line of scrub oak behind her. An odd smoke hovered above the tree line. “Chukka, Twii – bring the beasts forward.”
An ache formed in Donavon’s gut as Chukka and Twii materialized before him astride a dun colored steed. Two more horses limped beside them, steam huffing from their flared nostrils as they struggled against the biting wind. He winced as he saw the mangled right foreleg of the roan horse. The white horse appeared worse, as blood welled from several deep wounds on its flanks and chest forming clotted puddles beneath the creature. Rel put a hand on the nose of the dun, gently stopping it.
“Rel. They’re seriously injured.”
“Hush.” Rel’s citrine eyes narrowed to slits and she glared at Donavan.
“But we must fix this.” Donavan fingered the handle of his short blade.
“Hoofies cold. Chukka frozen fish.” Chukka shifted in her position on the dun, scooting closer to her sister. “Twii frozen too.”
“I know. Be still. Donavan. Save your steel for harrier hide.” Rel gently grasped the roan’s foreleg and closed her eyes. As she whispered an ancient language the horse’s skin glowed. New skin formed over the exposed tendons and the horse’s labored breathing slowed. Rel spoke gently, stroking the horse’s muzzle before moving to the next creature, and repeating the process. “There, they still need a night’s rest with no riders but I believe they will be ready to travel tomorrow morning.
“Oh yes. You munch down on me with your incisors when I’m dying but the critters. They get music and a heat massage.” Donavon blinked rapidly to quell the rising tears forming in his eyes.
“Eskin. Next time your arm is severed at the elbow, I’ll be happy to sing for you. Let’s move out. Chukka, Twii, off the hoofies.”
“Hoofies happy now. They say blood shed for heros is blood not wasted. Harriers can eat them again and they die happy.”
“Its ok Chukka. We don’t have to worry about the harriers.”
“Chukka not worried. Harriers don’t like waterfood. Only hoofed ones and heroes. Hero’s like sweet sticks. Tasty.” Chukka and Twii made a series of popping sounds and chirps at each other.
“I think we’re being laughed at by the fish twins.”
“As usual you are correct. Eskin. Do you have the chip?”
Donavan felt in his pocket. His hand brushed against a small square object. “Yes, Rel. As soon as we’re settled, I’ll download it to Turza. As aggressive as those harriers were, whatever is on this chip is primary to the Protectorate.”
“Perhaps you should wait, Eskin. We should distance ourselves another day from this place before we communicate with the protectorate. I am aware of what you have.”
“You don’t trust Turza?”
“Give us a day, Donavan. You’ll understand when its time.” Rel paused for a moment, cocking her head to one side. “Do you hear it?”
Donavon listened as a sound formed above the howling wind and pounding of blood in his ears. A low hum, almost inaudible pulsed intermittently. “Harriers.”
“Our elevation protects us. Its too cold for them, Donavan. But tomorrow we lose the storm. We need the horses if we are to survive.”
"So in the daylight when it warms up.”
"Yes. The harriers have our scent. There is no time for downloads. Only rest until daybreak and then flight.”