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from The Curse of Steel by John Alleyn

Copyright © 2019–2021 John Alleyn

Chapter 6

Kráva yelped in startlement, and drew Tarankláva out of sheer reflex. Strangely, neither Drúthan nor Lóka stirred at the sudden noise.

“No need for that,” said the stranger, in a deep, pleasant voice. “Come, sit with me. We have things to discuss.”

She stood moveless, the sword still in her hand, and stared at him. She saw a tall man, tawny-skinned like any of the Tremára, strongly built, wearing simple hunter’s clothes covered by a rough wolf-skin cloak. His hair and his neatly trimmed beard were both black, but shot with silver. He seemed to bear no weapon, but Kráva sensed that he was full of power, concealed and leashed.

“Come,” the stranger said again, holding out a hand. “Let us put that weapon safely away, and then talk. There isn’t much time.”

“Who are you?” she demanded, wondering again why her friends continued to sleep like stones.

“Don’t you know?” He smiled. “You called. I came.”

Kráva frowned, trying to decide if she should be annoyed or terrified.

“Perhaps it would be better if I told you what else I am,” he suggested. “Kráva, I am your grandsire.”


The stranger sighed. “Please, Kráva. By sunrise, I must be very far away from here. Will you not come?”

The sword gave her no insight and no warning. At the very least, she believed he meant her no harm. Slowly, she stepped back over to the campfire, and sat down on a stone across from him.

“Here, Kráva. Extend the point of that blade over to me,” he commanded.

She obeyed, holding the sword across the fire toward him. The stranger made a crooked smile, then reached up to run one fingertip lightly along the edge of the blade. A few drops of blood fell into the fire, to crackle and be consumed.

“There,” he said. “Now you may put that weapon away. Remember this night, for it is likely you will never draw blood of such might again.”

Kráva shook her head in consternation. “None of this makes any sense.”

“I know. I am here to help you make sense of it.” The stranger shifted, and for an instant the firelight reflected in his eyes, making them flash. “I am your grandsire, your mother’s father. You also know me as Kádir Tívar.”

Kráva’s lips moved silently, as she felt a chill run down her spine. Sky Father.

She felt no impulse to disbelieve him. The Tremára had a thousand tales of gods who walked the earth and had dealings with mortals. Every tribe and clan claimed descent from them. The notion that she might have more immediate divine ancestry came as a surprise, but it challenged nothing of what she knew about the world.

“I barely remember my mother,” she murmured. “She was killed when I was small, standing with my father against an Aldbári cattle-raid.”

“Yes.” The stranger looked sad. “The lives of the gods’ children are often short.”

Kráva watched him, considering all she had heard of the gods. “We’re told that you are unlike some of the others. You don’t often visit mortal women.”

“That is true. My queen, the Lady of the Earth, is all that even a god could wish in a wife. When I wander from her bed, it is at her direction, because fate demands it.”

“What fate demanded you sire my mother?”

The god smiled. “I wondered that myself, for a long time. My queen rarely explains, and while your mother became a woman to make any father proud, her deeds were not such as to shake the wo...

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