Authors: Ginn Hale
Book Six of The Rifter
Book Six of the Rifter
By Ginn Hale
Blind Eye Books
1141 Grant Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.
Edited by Nicole Kimberling
Cover art, maps and all illustrations by Dawn Kimberling
Proofreading by Jemma Everyhope
This book is a work of fiction. All characters and situations depicted are fictional. Any resemblances to actual people or events are coincidental.
First edition August 2011
Copyright © 2011 Ginn Hale
For Billy Joe and Christopher
The Story So Far:
When he was ordained as the Kahlil of the Payshmura Church, Ushiri Ravishan left behind his name and home. In the foreign world of Nayeshi, he watched over the destroyer incarnation of the god Parfir, though the young man—John Toffler—had no idea of his own deadly potential.
Only once in ten years does Kahlil desert his duty. One night he returns to Basawar to rescue his sister, Rousma, from the burning convent of Umbhra’ibaye. After a deadly battle against the witch Ji Shir’korud, he returns with his sister only to discover that John and two of his friends have intercepted a message meant for the Kahlil alone: the golden key that unlocks the Rifter’s death. Unwittingly, John and his friends have used the key and traveled to Kahlil’s home world of Basawar.
Though the Great Gate is damaged, Kahlil attempts to follow John in order to stop him from unleashing apocalyptic ruin on his home. However, the passage back to Basawar leaves Kahlil badly injured and deeply changed. When he arrives he no longer possesses the Prayerscars that marked him as Kahlil, nor does he bear the ugly red scar that once disfigured his face. But most jarringly, his memories of his world’s history and his own past are now all wrong. The Payshmura church had been utterly destroyed and the Fai’daum revolutionaries now rule most of the northlands.
Fortunately, Kahlil is taken in by Alidas, a captain of the Bousim rashan’im in the vibrant city of Nurjima. There, Kahlil spends two years as Alidas’ secret weapon—an assassin who can walk through walls and kill with just a touch of his hand. Though Kahlil is plagued by uneasy memories, he takes comfort in his work and the certainty of his future.
But a final assignment from Alidas changes everything.
Kahlil is deployed to stop an assassination against the leader of the Fai’daum—a powerful sorcerer called Jath’ibaye. While posing as a messenger in the house of the ambitious and seductive Ourath Lisam, Kahlil not only discovers that several of the ruling class of gaun’im are involved in the plot but that they are conspiring with a man Kahlil remembers from his shattered past—his nemesis, Fikiri. At the same time he realizes that Jath’ibaye is John—the Rifter. Unlike Kahlil, who was thrown forward in Basawar’s history, John fell into the past and has altered the world’s history as well as events in Kahlil’s early life.
After accepting that he cannot change the past, Kahlil decides to do what he feels is the right thing and stop the assassination attempt against Jath’ibaye. In doing so, he kills the Bousim heir, Nanvess, and is mortally wounded. Still, he manages to wrest the mystic yasi’halaun from Fikiri’s grasp before collapsing to die alone in the silent, colorless cold of the Gray Space.
Jath’ibaye, however, has plans for him. Ripping Kahlil from the Gray Space, he bears the wound inflicted by the yasi’halaun—feeding the blade, but also saving Kahlil’s life. Now Kahlil finds himself sailing north with Jath’ibaye while the gaun’im react to the scene of bloodshed and bodies the two have left behind them.
Kahlil watched the dark waters of the vast Samsira River twist and break beneath the bow of Jath’ibaye’s sleek clipper. Normally the river flowed from the north to the south and its current should have carried the ship back towards Nurjima, not away. Yet the waters directly beneath them surged in the opposite direction. Confused fish darted between the two currents.
Overhead the single mast stood bare. Kahlil doubted that the wind rushing over the river would have aided any sailing ship. He felt it twisting and spiraling as it brushed through his loose dark hair. If the sail had been up the wind would have spun the boat like a toy top. All along the shore, fishermen glanced up from their nets and then stared as the ship raced past them. Some held up their hands as if receiving blessings.
Three days before, when they had sailed past the city of Shaye’hahlir, the fishermen and sailors had averted their eyes or placed their palms against their mouths to ward off curses. Now, in the north, groups of children and women rushed to the river’s edge and sprinkled themselves with water. Some even knelt in supplication as Jath’ibaye’s clipper swept by.
Both the people of the north and the south seemed to recognize the extraordinary nature of Jath’ibaye’s mere presence. But whether he was a harbinger of destruction or a force of salvation seemed to be a matter of geography.
Either way, they were right to recognize his power, though the form it took surprised even Kahlil.
He studied the swirling eddies foaming up in the wake of the clipper and pondered the subtle control required to reverse a single current of this huge river. He wouldn’t have thought the Rifter capable of something so precise. The holy books had only spoken of him burning seas to vapor, rending open mountains, and destroying kingdoms. The Rifter’s power was always synonymous with divine judgment and destruction. Yet here Jath’ibaye was proving himself capable of so much more.
Kahlil brushed a fine spray of river water from his cheeks. Honestly, he didn’t know what to make of the man John had become during his time in Basawar. He looked so similar that, at a glance, Kahlil could imagine him to be the same young ecology student he’d roomed with. Yet hearing him speak in flawless Basawar and seeing him command his people, Kahlil suspected that much had changed since John had become Jath’ibaye’in’Vundomu.
Though, he could only guess just how much the man had altered over the years because so far he’d seen surprisingly little of Jath’ibaye. And considering the ship’s small size, Kahlil found that a little suspicious. Only a dozen ship hands manned the clipper, and yet Jath’ibaye always managed to disappear among them. Kahlil tried not to feel slighted. Jath’ibaye had reason to be annoyed with him.
He knew all too well what part Kahlil had played in the collapse of relations between the Fai’daum and the gaun’im lords. Though Kahlil himself had only discovered the extent of the trouble last night.
He’d woken from restless dreams to the sounds of odd, tinny voices in the adjacent cabin. After listening for a little while, he had recognized the buzz of witches’ stones as they transmitted their creators’ messages in tones reminiscent of old radio dramas. Words had skipped and fizzed, cutting out for instants, but the stones had steadily relayed reports from Jath’ibaye’s agents.
Looters had assaulted the glass palace, forcing the evacuation of all Fai’daum from Nurjima. Kahlil’s stomach had twisted when he’d caught the names of gaunsho’im and the numbers of armed men they commanded. Armies were mustering. With Nanvess’ death, the Bousim house was in an uproar. Already warships mobilized for the journey to Vundomu.
Kahlil gazed back down at the spinning, swirling fish and felt something of their haplessness.
Just two days after being well enough to rise from his bunk, he’d already grown restless. He had been trained for conflict, for stealth and battle. Even when he had worked as a runner in the Lisam household, there had been a greater purpose for him. Now he had nothing. No orders, no duty, no mission. He was utterly free and it did not suit him.
Kahlil didn’t hear anyone approach. He only noticed the shadow that fell across him. He turned back from his study of the water and distant shore. Jath’ibaye stood only a few feet behind him. His hair had been tied back from his face, but a wild curl already worked free. His rust-colored coat hung open and the shirt beneath appeared unusually crisp and white. He almost seemed dressed up.
Or maybe he just looked healthy. The effect of Fikiri’s poison was clearly fading. Over the last few days Jath’ibaye’s pallid complexion had returned to its natural golden tan. The deep shadows beneath his eyes had lifted. The wounds around Jath’ibaye’s throat had healed to a few faint pink marks. Kahlil doubted that there was much left of the bullet wound in his chest either.
“I’m sorry if I’m interrupting.” Jath’ibaye’s low voice just carried over the noise of rushing water.
Kahlil shrugged. “I wasn’t doing anything important.”
“You looked happy.”
“Did I? I was just thinking about the water.” Kahlil glanced back down at the contrary current. “It’s you, isn’t it?”
“Me?” Jath’ibaye stepped closer and followed Kahlil’s gaze down to the churning surface of the river.
“Creating the northward current,” Kahlil clarified.
“I felt it would be wise to put a good distance between us and Nurjima as quickly as possible,” Jath’ibaye said.
A somewhat evasive answer, but Kahlil let it go. Certain characteristics of John’s obviously remained the same even after all this time. Kahlil wondered if it was possible to find secretiveness charming. Perhaps it was simply nostalgia.
A speckled turtle plunged out from the current beside the ship and snapped up an unsuspecting fish. A moment later the turtle dived back into the wake of the ship.
“So, is the truce at an end?” Kahlil asked.
“Truce?” Jath’ibaye frowned for just a moment. “You mean between the gaunsho’im and me?”
“You had others?” Kahlil asked.
“I thought you might have meant the truce between you and me.” Jath’ibaye’s gaze lingered on him, then shifted to something in the water. Kahlil tried to see what had merited such a concerned expression, but all he made out were the waves.
“There’s no need for a truce between us,” Kahlil said. “I never thought of you as my enemy. Not even in Nayeshi. I just had a duty to do. But that’s all over now. It’s been over for decades, hasn’t it?”
Jath’ibaye nodded. Kahlil gazed north to the sharp ridge of mountains ahead of them. He didn’t remember the mountains surrounding Vundomu looking like that. They were steeper and more jagged. Had they changed during the cataclysm that had destroyed Rathal’pesha? Or had they, like the river current, been altered through careful control?