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Authors: Daniel Arenson

Shadows of Moth

SHADOWS OF MOTH

THE MOTH SAGA, BOOK FIVE

by

Daniel Arenson

Copyright © 2014 by Daniel Arenson

All rights reserved.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either
the product of the author's imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by an electronic
or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information
storage and retrieval system, without the express written permission of the
author.

Table of Contents

 

FOREWORD

Shadows of Moth
is the fifth volume of
The Moth Saga
, continuing the tale of a world torn in two—one half always in sunlight, the other always dark. If you're new to the series, you'll probably still get the gist of things here, though I do recommend reading the first four books first:
Moth
,
Empires of Moth
,
Secrets of Moth
, and
Daughter of Moth
.

Between chapters, you might like to visit the
Moth
website, where you can find: a large map (more detailed than the one in this ebook), original music, artwork, a
Moth
wiki, and more. Visit the website at:
DanielArenson.com/Moth

And now . . . let us reenter a world of light and darkness . . . 

 

 
 
CHAPTER ONE:
THE BUSKER AT DUSK

Little Maniko hobbled through the
dusky forest, moving toward the searing light of the sunlit demons.
He was seeking a gift for a child.

His every footstep shuffled. His
gnarled fist clutched his cane. Black trees coiled around him, just
as gnarled and knobby. They were small trees—they couldn't grow any
larger here in the dusk, still far from the full daylight—but they
towered over Maniko. He had always been small, under four feet at his
tallest, and he had shrunk with age. His white beard trailed along
the ground, longer than his body, thinner than he remembered. It
seemed that beard grew thinner every turn, his back more stooped, his
cane more wobbly.

"This might be my last trip
into the dusk," he muttered, voice hoarse.

How old was he now? He did not
remember. He had been old already when he first met Koyee—that
scruffy urchin on the streets of Pahmey. And that had been a long
time ago, he thought. A generation ago.

Little Maniko smiled,
remembering. Ah, the lights of Pahmey! Lanterns floating toward the
stars. Towers of glass rising to the moon. Dirty streets and shadowy
corners, and him playing his lute for passersby, collecting his
coins, feasting upon meals of stewed mushrooms and salted bat wings,
and finally meeting Koyee, playing music with her, then fighting at
her side as the sunlit demons swarmed through their streets. His same
old lute still hung across his back. That city had fallen then, and
now Maniko lived in a village by the dusk, a little place they called
Oshy. And now he was old. And now his legs shook as he walked, and
every season his eyes grew dimmer. Yet still he came here, walking
into the dusk, seeking the gift, seeking a little hope in a world of
darkness.

The trees grew taller as he
walked, sprouting pale leaves, and moss soon covered the boulders.
The light grew, casting orange beams between the trees. Pollen
glimmered and the air grew warmer. The sun of Timandra was just over
the horizon now; he was almost in the full daylight, in that land of
his enemies, the land he had fought so many years ago. Duskmoths rose
to fly around him, animals of the borderlands, this glowing strip
between day and night. Their left wings were white, the right wings
black, animals torn in two like this world the old books called
Mythimna and most folk simply called Moth.

"Ah!" His eyes
widened, and a smile curled his lips. He saw the bush ahead. The
sun's rim rose behind it, a crown of gold. The plant almost seemed to
burn in the light. Upon its coiling branches, like beads of blood,
grew the duskberries.

Maniko hobbled forward with more
vigor, his chin raised. His cane rapped against the hard earth, his
lute swung across his back, and his beard whispered as it dragged
along the ground.

"You've always loved
duskberries, Koyee," he said, his smile widening. Or was it
Madori? Sometimes Maniko stumbled, confusing the two, mother and
daughter. Sometimes he thought Madori was the woman he had played
music with in the dregs of Pahmey, his "partner in grime"
as he called her. Other times he realized that Madori hadn't even
been born then.

When
you're old like me,
he
thought,
faces blur
together, and all memories become like an oil painting under rain,
smudges of color and light and beauty.
That was how Maniko knew his time was near, his life drawing to an
end. All his life seemed to be unraveling behind him like the hem of
his silken robe, all just strands of color fading into shadow.

"Best to just give both the
berries," he muttered and barked a laugh. He reached the bush,
squinting in the light of the sun, and began to pick the fruit into
his basket.

The people of Oshy had told him
to stop coming here, to stop collecting these berries. They said it
was dangerous getting so close to Dayside. They said that the sunlit
demons mustered here, preparing for war. Maniko snorted as he plucked
the berries. He had fought hunger on the streets of Pahmey for
decades. He had fought Timandrian soldiers in that city, and later in
the southern empire of Ilar, slaying many, even at his size. He was
very old now, and he was no longer afraid.

"Let them come." He
huffed, placed another berry into his basket, and patted the dagger
that hung from his belt. To him it was as large as a sword. He had
slain Timandrians with this blade before. If any attacked again, they
would find that Little Maniko—though smaller than ever, stooped and
wizened—still had a little fight in him. If he wanted to pick
berries for Madori—or was it for Koyee?—he would travel into the
very courts of sunlight and pluck them right off Lord Serin's plate.

He snorted again. "Lord
Serin." A silly name. A silly man. They said the tyrant was
mustering his forces right beyond these hills, prepared to invade the
night—just like that fool Ferius had done in the last war. Koyee had
slain Ferius, and if this new demon wanted to attack, they would slay
him too.

Maniko drew his dagger and
sliced the air. "That's right, Serin! If you step forth, you
will taste Elorian steel." As he thrust and parried in the air,
he could see it again—the old war, the enemies charging, and his
blade flashing. "This old busker is also an old soldier. I still
have some music in me. And I still have some fight too."

He smiled as he dreamed,
remembering those old turns. He had been afraid then. But he had
fought alongside greatness—with Koyee, with Emperor Jin of Qaelin,
with Empress Hikari of Ilar, and with Tianlong, the last dragon of
the night. He had risen from a humble busker on a street corner to a
warrior. His breastplate had been only a frying pan strapped across
his chest, and his sword had been only this humble knife, but he had
fought with heroes. He had become more than a busker. Tears filled
his eyes.

I
became your friend, Koyee.

He
sighed. Those turns were long gone. He sheathed his dagger, hefted
his basket of berries, and prepared to shuffle back into the
darkness. He had taken only one step away when the voice rose from
the light.

"Look, Father! A little old
nightcrawler who thinks he's a warrior."

Slowly, Maniko turned back
toward the light.

A young Timandrian woman stood
there, beams of light falling upon her golden hair, steel armor, and
drawn sword. Her eyes were so small—half the size of Elorian
eyes—and they glittered with cruelty. A tall Timandrian man stepped
out from the light, joining the girl. His hair too was golden, and
his eyes too were small blue shards. He wore priceless armor, the
steel filigreed. An eclipse sigil adorned his breastplate, formed of
many gemstones.

Maniko snarled. He knew that
sigil—the sigil of the Radian Order, a new movement in the lands of
sunlight. They said the Radians saw Elorians as lower than worms,
pests to step on. Slowly, Maniko placed down his basket of berries.
He drew his dagger. He pointed the blade forward with one hand, his
cane with the other.

"Return to the daylight,
Timandrians!" He knew his voice was high-pitched, wavering,
weak, but he gave it all the gravity he could. "You step too
close to Eloria. Leave now, sunlit demons, and never return."

The Timandrians looked at each
other, then burst out laughing.

"Truly a worm, Lari!"
said the man. "Barely larger than the worms in my garden back
home. Is this the warrior they chose to guard their border? A
decrepit dwarf?"

The Timandrian man raised his
hand, and a blast of air slammed into Maniko. He cried out and fell
down hard. His tailbone slammed against a rock, and he gasped in
pain. Tears leaped into his eyes, and his dagger clattered to the
ground.

The two Timandrians stepped
closer and gazed down at him. The young woman—Lari, her name
was—shook her head with mock sadness.

"Now he crawls through the
dirt like a true worm." Eyes soft, she knelt and placed her hand
against Maniko's cheek as if to stroke him. Then her expression
changed, her lips peeling back in a snarl. Rather than caress him,
her hand shoved his face into the dirt. "Eat the mud, vermin!"
Her knee drove into his belly. "Eat the dirt like the
nightcrawler that you are."

Maniko coughed as mud entered
his mouth. He pawed for his fallen dagger but could not find it.
Instead he swung his cane, rapping Lari's wrist.

The young woman hissed and
straightened. Her knee left Maniko's belly, and he drew a ragged
breath. He coughed out mud and pushed himself to his feet, legs
shaking. His basket lay fallen, the berries spilled across the forest
floor.

"Return now!" Maniko
said. "Or—"

"Do you know who I am,
nightcrawler?" said the tall man. He tapped the eclipse on his
breastplate. "Do you know this sigil? We've met before."

Maniko's eyes had dimmed with
age. He had trouble seeing and remembering faces. He spat. "You're
a lout. Come here and I'll rap you too with my cane."

The tall man laughed. "Yes,
I remember your spirit. You were spirited even back in the war, and
you were ancient even then, if I recall correctly. I was only a young
soldier, fighting my first battle. I assaulted the walls of Asharo,
the capital of Ilar, and I slew many nightcrawlers. And I remember
one among them—a little soldier who barely reached my belt. A frying
pan formed his breastplate, and he bore a little dagger like a sword.
I laughed at him then. And now, twenty years later . . . I see him
again. It's funny. As I prepare to conquer the night, I find not the
barbaric soldiers of Eloria opposing me here, but that same silly
little creature."

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