The Irda

Read Online The Irda by Linda P. Baker - Free Book Online

Book: The Irda by Linda P. Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: Linda P. Baker
Tags: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Dragons
interrupted, riding toward them on his huge stallion. “At this rate, we’ll just clear the city gates by nightfall.” He reined the horse around and headed toward the southern gate.
    With a quick glance at Khallayne, Lyrralt mounted. Lagging as the others went ahead, he guided his horse close to hers.
    After a moment, she sighed. “Lyrralt, the Keeper will die. No one will ever know we stole the History.
    “And even if the truth is discovered, Jyrbian will take the blame.” She turned her unblinking gaze at him, her eyes as black as a starless night, yet as bright as starshine. Slanting, alien eyes. Depthless, ruthless. “I think you’d be glad to have him out of the way. I’m sure he wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to you.”
    The corners of his mouth twitched. “I’ll be watching you,” he said simply, without rancor, before he cantered ahead.
    The castle of Takar was set high on a mountainside overlooking the crescent of city wrapped around its base and the open valley beyond, site of many of the Ruling Council’s estates.
    Before the Battle of Denharben, Takar had been one of four cities in which the king resided. He had traveled between Takar, Thorad, Bloten and Persopholus, giving equal time and attention to each; and for a time, after the Ruling Council had solidified its position and taken power in the king’s name, its members, too, had kept up travel between the cities. But the key to their power had been the relocation of their enemies to the outlying districts, where lesser properties were located, while ownership of the best provinces and estates went to their strongest supporters. Takar had been the main seat of power ever since.
    As the travelers descended through a series of switchbacks, the magnificent view of the valley and the purple mountains in the distance slowly disappeared, and they entered the city proper.
    Passing through a magnificent stone archway inlaid with bronze panels depicting battles of old, they rode into what the commoners covertly called “the hostage district.” It was so called because the council, in another step toward gaining control, insisted that the families of the rich and powerful occupy their city homes year round. The homes, fashioned of stone with high garden walls of mud brick, were nearly as magnificent as the private quarters in the castle, and certainly more roomy.
    Lyrralt rode ahead, joining Jyrbian at the front of the group.
    The populace had long been awake by the time they rode through the city, which was filled with the bustle and noise of everyday trade. Takar’s wealth lay in commerce, the trade of riches from the surrounding areas, ore and gems from the mines, foodstuffs from the rich valley farms, slaves from the faraway plains.
    Near the southern wall of the city was the huge coliseum where games and slave battles drew Ogres from miles around. It loomed, blotting out the sun, a massive bowl dropped down among the dwellings. The group shivered in its enormous shadow as they passed.
    Then they were through the southern gate and into bright, golden sunlight.
    For over two hours, they rode south along a ridge overlooking the Takar Valley, then they veered to the east and up sloping trails. This led them into the forests and higher ridges, where they would make camp for the night.
    Their companionable chatter silenced the twitter of birds and sent small animals scurrying through the thick underbrush.

----

    R’ksis emerged in stages, skittering out into the sunlight, then dipping back into darkness. Each time, she stayed out longer. Finally, clinging to the shady side of the trees, she remained above, but not far from the mouth of the cave. No disr wanted to leave the dark, cool safety of its underground home.
    The world outside was thick forest. Golden leaves overhead filtered the bright light. Scrubby bushes and a thick carpet of decaying leaves lay underfoot. The boulders that hid the entrance to the subterranean home had a coating of

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