Across the Face of the World
Fire of Heaven - Book 1
Extact taken from Chapter 3
Faltha and Bhrudwo
The hooded figure walked beside Leith, putting an arm around his shoulder. “How have you been, son?”
“All right.” The answer meant nothing, he hadn’t been all right, but what else could he say? How could he tell his father about feelings he didn’t understand himself?
They made their way slowly down the side of the hillock and found the path to the main road. Mahnum ignored the path, taking them on a shortcut through the fields.
“We can’t use the roads. I cannot afford to be seen by anyone else on their way home,” he whispered. “We must hurry.”
“Why can’t you be seen? Why did we have to leave the tent?” Leith asked, puzzled.
“I don’t want anyone knowing I’ve come back. I’ll explain when we get home.” Laced with strain, his voice sounded wearier than Leith ever remembered hearing.
The snow filtered down a little more heavily now. The smell of it was in the air, a crisp smell, not the dampness associated with a heavy fall. The gelid moon sat low on the horizon ahead of them, its fullness occulted by passing cloud streamers. The dull reflected gleam on the snow proved enough light for the small group to find their way across the fields and over the low stone walls to the village.
Mahnum grunted as he climbed over the last fence.
“You’re hurt!” Indrett cried.
“Mmmm. A few days ago. It’ll be all right with a bit of rest. Not that there’s much of that in the offing.” He rubbed his right leg behind the knee. “This cold’s no good for it. You don’t realise how cold it gets here until you’ve been away.”
“Remind me to go away sometime, then,” Indrett retorted.
“Almost there,” Hal said gently.
They sat around the low fire and looked at each other for a while. Leith studied the lined, careworn face of his father in the flickering firelight, the face missing from his birch bark carving.
Eventually Hal broke the silence. “Will you let me look at that leg?”
“Later,” came the reply.
“What happened to it?” Leith asked.
“I was being chased.” Mahnum let out an exhausted sigh. “For the best part of a year I’ve been chased from place to place in Faltha and Bhrudwo. Sometimes I thought I’d shaken them off, but they always ended up back on my trail. A week ago they closed in on me as I crossed the borders of Firanes. I set my horse free on the bank of the Fonndelva, then swam it and threw my tunic in from the other side. I ran for the cover of trees but tripped in a rabbit burrow and ricked my knee.” He laughed shortly. “It probably saved my life. They rode out of the forest just after I fell. I watched them argue for a minute or two, then they heeled their horses and headed off after my mount.”
“Who were these people chasing you?” Indrett asked her husband.
Mahnum sighed. “I should tell you the whole story. The problem is, we don’t really have the time. Look,” the tired man said earnestly, “we’re going to have to leave this place. It’s not safe here any more. It’ll probably never be safe around me from now on.”