Fall of the Forgotten (The Lost Mythologies of Tamoreh) by Amanda K. O’Dell

Posted on Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fire and Flight

“Aod, is that you, girl?” Nanae Iona’s voice greeted her as she walked through the door of her grandparents’ cottage.

              It was a small, poorly lit space that was more hovel than house. Thin, scrap-wood walls split the area into four parts: a hearth-room that served as common area and kitchen, two cramped rooms at the far end, and the tiny anteroom in which Aod now stood, where they stored kindling and cordwood. Throughout the place, the emphatic clack! of Nanae’s loom reverberated, telling Aod her grandmother was at work in the far room that doubled as Aod’s bedroom.

              “Yes, Nanae,” she answered, scraping dirt from the bottom of her shoes with a stick from the kindling pile.

              “Where have you been?”—clack!—“You were supposed to help me finish this rug after your lessons.”—clack!—“I told you I wanted to have it ready for the market by tomorrow.”

              “I’m sorry, Nanae. Something … happened on the way home.” She did not want to tell Iona about the fiend if she could help it; it would only send her into a panic. Better to wait and let the watch break the news when they made their rounds.

              “Oh?”—clack!—“Dare I hope it was a suitor that kept you?”

              Aod frowned as she shuffled into the hearth-room, stung by the question. It was nothing but a variation on the same inquiry her grandmother made every day, her tone never genuine but full of doubt and derision. She could not imagine what Nanae would do if she ever said yes. Probably die of disbelief.

              “As a matter of fact, Nanae,” she said, feeling spiteful, “that’s exactly what happened. A suitor stopped me on the way home to make a bid for my hand, and I accepted.”

              Immediately, the clacking came to a stop. Iona, a small woman with a sharp, wizened face, bustled into the hearth-room, her eyes bright. “Oh, Aod, truly? Can it really be at long last?”

              “Yes, at long last,” she deadpanned, retrieving a leftover heel of bread from the larder so Nanae would not see her roll her eyes.

              “So, who is it? The tanner’s son? One of the blacksmith’s boys?”

              These were matches Nanae had been pushing for despite an utter lack of interest on either side of the parties involved. Aod thought the blacksmith’s boys were louts and was fairly certain the tanner’s son had eyes for other boys only, while neither family of the prospective suitors relished the idea of letting their sons marry the impoverished daughter of a treacherous bokora.

              But this did not deter Nanae Iona from her scheming. She wanted desperately for Aod to marry into a family with an “honorable” trade, thereby lifting them out of poverty and expunging the taint in their legacy all in one simple transaction. Or at least that was how Nanae envisioned it would work. “The miller’s son?”

              “No. He’s not from White Creek.”

              “He’s Aeslish?” she hazarded with a note of concern.

              The Aeslish who visited White Creek were typically wealthy merchants, so Nanae could not disapprove of the match on principle. But if Aod were to marry an Aeslish merchant, she would be expected to live wherever the merchant made his home, taking her well beyond Iona’s reach.

              “No, he’s Tergish.”

The color drained from her grandmother’s face, and Aod had to take a deep bite of her bread to keep from laughing.

What?” Iona wheezed.

              “He’s indentured to an Aeslish merchant, though, so I imagine I’ll be expected to help pay off his debts whatever way I can. Probably whoring.”

              At this, Iona realized that she was being misled. “Aodra, don’t be disgusting! What’s gotten into you? Why would you tell me such a lie? Have you gone mad?”

              “Mad from hearing the same question every day,” she muttered.

              Iona struggled to look wounded and not angry. “Can’t you see I’m only looking after your welfare?”

              “Only when you profit from it,” Aod retorted and instantly regretted it, knowing she had prodded her grandmother too far.

              Iona’s face darkened with outrage. “You ungrateful, deceiving, useless child,” she hissed, slapping the bread out of Aod’s hands. “Get to your room and don’t you dare come out until that rug is finished. And if you don’t finish in time for the market tomorrow, I swear you won’t eat in this house again for a week!”

*              *              *              *              *

              Aod lay sprawled across her narrow cot, her notebook propped on her chest. Next to the cot, waiting to be cut from the loom, was the rug, a simple pattern of red and yellow bands. It had been finished for hours, but she had remained in her room anyway, unwilling to give her grandmother the satisfaction of seeing her chastened and hungry. Or the chance to criticize her work. Instead, she devoted her attention to memorizing the list of plants Svo had given them and their properties.

Hensbane, to slow the pulse

              Coltsfoot, to cure a cough


              “Aod, dear, won’t you come out for supper?” Gransae Omid called through the door.

              Omid was a frail, soft-spoken man who liked to dote upon his wife and granddaughter whenever he was not working. And when Aod and Iona were arguing, his first priority was to make them reconcile. Aod had heard him return home from the market square over an hour ago, and he had done little since besides harangue Iona to relent in her punishment. 

“I’m sorry, Gransae,” she called back, and she was. She did not like to make him fret. But if there was one thing she had in common with her Nanae, it was her pride. She pumped the loom’s pedal to make the shuttle slap against the frame. “I am not finished yet.”

              “I’ll just leave your plate by the door, then.”

              Aod pursed her lips and turned resolutely back to her studies, determined not to open the door. It was probably rat stew anyway.

Nightshade, to cleanse the gut

              Willowbark, to break a fever


              The events of that afternoon had been almost completely shoved into the back of her mind when she heard the rapid thump of horse hooves echoing down the lane that ran beyond their house. Rising from her cot, Aod moved to the window shutters to peer out between the slats. It was well after dark and no one had stopped by yet to inform them of the fiend, so perhaps this was it at last. Perhaps they were coming to announce the fiend had been slain.

Perhaps—Her breath caught in her throat as all four High Guards turned the corner, cantering into the courtyard where they lived. Her panic heightened when they dismounted and she noticed a fifth figure among them. It was Odijya Svo.

But her fears were not confirmed until they marched over to their front door and pounded upon it. The sound shook Aod in a way that even the fiend had not. Using all her speed and strength, she raced over to the loom and shoved the heavy device until it sat in front of her door, barricading it.

“In the name of Bright Mother Tergel and her most holy Order, I charge you to admit us at once!” Aod heard Sir Joniver shout; he punctuated it with another loud rap on the door.

“What is this? What’s going on?” Nanae demanded shrilly. The front door creaked on its hinges as she opened it.

Wasting no time, Aod slid her cot beneath her bedroom window. After spying through the slats once more to make sure no one remained outside, she threw the shutters open and heaved herself out, taking with her only her notebook and what she wore.              

              “Iona, where is Aod?” she heard Svo ask as she crept past the hearth-room window. She paused to listen. “We must speak with her right away.”

              “Why?” Nanae shot back. “I demand to know what’s going on!”

              “It’s about the fiend.”

              “A fiend? What are you talking about? What does Aod have to do with a fiend?”

              “A fiend ran amuck in the settlement just this afternoon,” Joniver said. “Your granddaughter was there when it attacked. She made no mention of this to you?”

There was a pause, and when Nanae spoke again, she was more subdued. “No, but she was acting strangely. Told me some wild story about a Terg … What? What is it? Mother spare me, that’s not true, is it?”

“I cannot say if what she told you is true, but the man who slew the beast was Tergish. Perhaps he is an accomplice.”

“We’ll get him next,” another High Guard put in. “Reformed or not, that dirtskin’s guilty of something. I can see it on him.”

Uh-oh. Aod bit her lip and silently cursed her loose tongue. She had not intended to cause any trouble for her rescuer.

“But you still have not told us why,” Gransae Omid said. “Before you take another step into this house, I want to know why you’ve come for Aod at this hour.”

“Hear me, old man, we don’t answer to you. Now stand aside before—”

“Aod was the one who summoned the fiend,” Svo said quickly. Her proclamation was followed by a heavy silence.

Aod leaned against the wall, her head spinning. Until that moment, she had clung to the belief that somehow she would escape indictment; that Svo and the High Guards were really only there to ask questions and that her innocence in the matter would be enough to protect her from sharing her mother’s fate. Instead, it had sealed it with a surety of a coffin nail and condemned her savior for good measure. 

              “Impossible!” Iona railed and Aod felt a surge of affection for her stubborn, acerbic Nanae. “Aod is no bokora! She doesn’t know the first thing about spirits! You were the one who was trained by Dalei. How do we know it was not you who summoned the fiend?”

              “Because my innocence has already been proven,” Svo replied smoothly. “Before the Guard and all the council, an Aeslish augur was brought forth to read aloud from his stones. He claimed that a great deception was being woven around Aod and the fiend, and when the stones were cast again, they revealed that I played no part in it.”

              “That proves nothing,” her grandmother spat. “Nothing!”

“Iona, I checked the wards. Not one of them had been marred or moved in any way. The only way a fiend could have gotten into White Creek is if it was summoned from within. More tellingly, witnesses say the fiend appeared reluctant to attack Aod even when it showed no restraint otherwise. We know she is involved somehow, we just don’t know to what extent. Perhaps it wasn’t intentional. Perhaps she was coerced. But that is why we must question her.”              “If it is determined that your granddaughter summoned the fiend unintentionally as Odijya Svo suggests,” Joniver interjected, “then her punishment will not be so severe. No more than five turns spent in a reformatory, if she submits herself to our questions willingly and truthfully.”  

“Well, she’s not here,” Omid declared. “Now get out of—no, no, stop!”

A tremendous, shuddering thud announced that her bedroom door was in the process of being broken down. Aod could only hope the loom would hold long enough to make good her escape. Stuffing her notebook into her satchel, Aod fled the courtyard and into the night, running as fast as her legs would carry her.

*              *              *              *              *             

Caravan, she thought as she hustled down the main thoroughfare, trying to appear as though she was only impatient to be somewhere rather than running from something. I need to find a caravan that will take me with them.

She dug her nails into her palms every time a watchman passed by, praying they would not stop her. Thankfully, none did. She could only assume the news of her indictment was not widespread yet, perhaps because the Guard was still unsure of her guilt.

There was one place in White Creek where Aod knew she could find a caravan master. Firstly, because it was the only establishment that gladly welcomed foreigners, and secondly, because it was one of the few establishments that remained open after dark. That was Jek’s Shed.

Jek’s Shed was a shabby tavern-turned-brothel where merchants and settlers alike went to drink and mingle with the red-skirts that trolled the barroom for customers. Pandering was a violation of the Order’s doctrine, but since the owner, Jek, made a point of never charging High Guards or councilors for anything, the Shed was conveniently overlooked.

Aod had never set foot inside the tavern before, but she had heard plenty of it, mostly from Jaleb and Hari, the blacksmith’s sons. They claimed to be regular patrons. Standing at the entrance, she hoped fervently they had been lying to impress her.

Squaring her shoulders, Aod grabbed the wrought-iron ring bolted to the middle of the Shed’s heavy oak door and pulled. She was immediately assailed by a roaring, jovial din, punctuated every so often by the tinkling crash of shattering crockery. Before she was two steps through the door, a barmaid appeared, holding an enormous tray of tiny golden cups. She handed one to Aod with a smile.

“First drink is on the house tonight,” she said, tipping her curly head toward the back of the tavern. “On account of the hero.”

Hero? Aod thought, peering at the contents of her cup. It was a bright green concoction as thick as milk that smelled of junipers and sweetgrass. Cautiously, she sipped it and coughed in surprise. It tasted like meadow flowers soaked in honey wine.

Absently gulping the rest down, Aod lifted herself onto her toes and craned her neck in the direction the barmaid had indicated. She saw only the tops of heads overhung by a hazy blue-gray layer of smoke. Making a blind guess, she began picking her way through the crowd and wound up at the bar. Jek, a burly man with a pronounced gut and a long gray ponytail, stood behind the counter, filling orders brought to him by the barmaids.

“Excuse me,” Aod called to him over the noise, waving to catch his attention.

Jek crooked one furry eyebrow at her and grunted, “Yea?”

She lifted the little gold cup in her hand. “Where’s the ‘hero’?”

The man broke into a broad, gap-toothed grin. “He’s got the, eh, catbird seat as we call it. S’all the way in back, under the stairs.” He pointed to where a narrow wooden staircase rose up behind the crowd, connecting to a long second-floor balcony of doors. “But if you’re lookin’ for company, sweetie, I suggest you look elsewhere. The competition is tough, to say the least.”

She frowned, puzzled by his remark. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, depositing the cup on the bar before making her way back into the crowd.

The noise level dropped marginally as she neared the staircase; most of the tables ranged in close proximity to the bar and those who did occupy the area around the staircase were either passed out on the floor or so staggeringly drunk that conversation had become pointless. A tight ring of people clustered around the ornately carved alcove beneath the stairs, men mostly, with a few girls in red skirts watching idly over the railing of the staircase.

“C’mon, Tam! I’ve got four silver dinars that says you can put down another!” one man hollered, holding up a fistful of the heavy, oblong coins.

“Oh, give it up!” one of the red-skirts shouted down. “New girl’s already put more down than he has!”

“A real courtesan, she is!” another laughed.    

With quiet determination, Aod squirmed her way through the crowd to get a better look. Luckily, most of the onlookers were so inebriated they did not particularly mind or even notice being jostled.

Peering between the shoulders of two men, she saw a young man seated on a stool situated just before the “catbird seat,” looking very green in the cheeks. From her angle, she could not see very far into the alcove, but she saw enough to know it was a horseshoe-shaped booth upholstered in plush burgundy velvet, encircling a large round table. An empty wine bottle stood in the middle of the table, capped by a fat candle stub that cast flickering light across the vast array of empty vessels that littered the rest of its surface. Dozens of elegant glass decanters, pyramids of tiny golden cups, and clusters of pewter goblets all stood around huge platters of half-eaten food.

“The ones she had before they started don’t count!” the man waving the silver dinars shot back. “She wagered she could outdrink anyone here, and I say I’ve got just the man to prove her wrong! Now come on, Tam! Man up!” He gave the young man on the stool a hearty slap on the back.

Tam belched loudly and slumped forward, planting his face in a platter of sweetbreads. The red-skirts on the staircase crowed in triumph, and the man with the silver dinars groaned before depositing them onto the table. With her vision no longer obscured by the young man, Aod could see the far corner of the booth. Seated there with a long-stemmed pipe gripped between his teeth and his hands folded behind his head was none other than her rescuer, Rakas of Hieros.

He had changed much since she’d last seen him. Gone was the shabby outfit from that afternoon. He now wore a loose shirt made of gray silk along with black leather breeches, belt, and boots, all new. The only thing that remained of his old attire was his overcoat.

Laughing, Rakas leaned forward to scoop up the silver dinars. “You should not complain so loudly, my friend. These are going toward a good cause. See? One for me, one for my lady, and two for our faithful advocates.”

The girls on the staircase squealed in delight and stretched their arms down between the steps to snatch the coins he held up for them. Aod blinked at the extravagance of it all. Clearly, the Terg had garnered more than enough from the watch to pay off his debts. From the corner of the booth that she could not see, a delicate white hand darted out, shoving the defeated contestant onto the floor.

Bending forward, Rakas relit the end of his pipe with the candle’s flame and sat back with a grin. “A’right gentlemen, who’s next? Isn’t there someone with a stomach strong enough to outdrink this woman?”

Before any could reply, Aod rushed forward to take the stool, much to the amusement of the gathered men. She ignored them.

Coughing smoke through his nose, Rakas sat up, his dark eyes widening with shock. “You again? What’re you—”

“Please, you’ve got to listen to me,” Aod said as loudly as she dared, shielding her mouth with her hand to obscure her words from the onlookers. “We don’t have much time.”

              The Terg’s eyes narrowed into slits. “Talk.”

              “The High Guard is coming for you. They think I summoned the fiend and that you are an accomplice. I’m so sorry I—” Her words caught in her throat as she glanced over at the woman in the other corner. “You.” 

There, dressed in a brilliant blue gown that matched the color of her hypnotic eyes, sat a porcelain-skinned woman with hair the color of blood. It was the fiend.

Like the delayed sting of a slap, heat flooded Aod’s face as she realized the truth of the matter. She had not been attacked; she had been used, victimized by a clever hustler and his fiendish accomplice. All of this was their fault.

She sucked in a sharp breath as Rakas clapped a hand over her wrist before she could jump up from the table. “Now listen to me, girlie. You’re not going to breathe a word about this to anyone, you understand?”

As if cued by his touch, the hot core of energy she had first experienced that afternoon flared to life within her breast. Aod’s sight unfocused; her muscles began to twitch. The pulsing heat inside her grew until its fierce, heart-pounding rhythm filled her mind and fire danced around her head. Suddenly, her vision narrowed to a shining point on the candle in the middle of the table.

The candle began to gutter and wave. Streams of tallow began to pour down the sides of the bottle as the flame grew taller, leaping wildly from its wick.

Stop it,” Rakas hissed, squeezing her arm. “What do you think you’re playing at, stupid girl?”

              Aod closed her eyes and the candle exploded in a ball of flame, shattering its wine bottle base into pieces. The Terg and the fiend-woman leaped out of the alcove as the entire tabletop went up in smoke; Rakas pulled Aod along by her wrist. All around them, drunken onlookers stumbled and hooted in panic. The girls on the staircase shrieked and ran up to their rooms. A barmaid ran over with a bucket of water and dumped it onto the table, but the unnatural fire only flared brighter and began climbing down the table’s legs.

Seeing the fire spread, the patrons of the Shed stampeded for the door all at once, fighting to be the first one out. Jek vaulted over the bar and began to shove his way through the hysterical crowd toward the alcove.

You brought the fiend! The High Guards came for me because of you,” Aod screamed at Rakas, fighting to break his grasp. The flames burning up the table leaped high enough to blacken the staircase. “I can never go back because of you! You destroyed my life!”

One by one, the glass decanters on the table began to break, spraying shards of glass in every direction. A stray shard grazed Aod just beneath her eye, causing her to gasp and flinch. Instantly, the pulsating energy left and took the fire with it, leaving only the smoking remnants of a table covered in charred rubble. The strength bled out of Aod all at once, and she stumbled sideways like one of the drunks. Rakas caught her under the arms before she fell to the floor.

The fiend-woman muttered something in a rough-sounding language.

“Aye, I know, I know,” the Terg snarled back. 

Gradually realizing the fire was no longer, the patrons of the Shed ceased their mad scramble for the exit. Shifting like a riptide, they surged toward the back of the Shed with Jek in the lead, shouting bokora! all the while. Outside, a bell was being rung to alert the nearest watchtower.

              “They’re going to catch us,” Aod muttered, only half-conscious. “And when they do, they’re going to hang us all.”

The fiend-woman prodded Rakas and uttered something unintelligible.

              “Have you lost your wits?” he replied, incredulous. “Forget it. They’ll hound us for ages if we do!”

              “Rakas, skyong rgyus!”

              “Fine,” he snapped and placed one hand on his companion’s shoulder.

              Aod tried feebly to protest, but then she saw the ground bow upward in such a way that, for a moment, she was sure Rakas had dropped her.

But nothing had changed. She was still on her feet and she could still feel the pressure of his arm hooked underneath hers. Then a sickening realization struck the girl; all three of them were falling—no, not falling—sinking into the hardwood floor of Jek’s Shed. Aod screamed as the floor came rushing up to meet her. A heartbeat later, there was nothing but darkness.

Fall of the Forgotten

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Fantasy

Rating – PG13

More details about the author and the book

Connect with Amanda K. O’Dell on Facebook


Leave a response