Authors: Jennifer Fallon
THE TIDE LORDS:
Books by Jennifer Fallon
Demon Child Trilogy
Second Sons Trilogy
The Lion of Senet
Eye of the Labyrinth
Lord of the Shadows
The Hythrun Chronicles
The Tide Lords
The Immortal Prince
The Gods of Amyrantha
Three thousand years ago. Prior to the Fourth Cataclysm ...
The hardest thing about torturing someone, Balen decided, was trying not to empathise with your victim's pain. You had to distance yourself from it. Detach that part of you which was human and make sure it stayed detached.
Most of all, you had to remind yourself the creature you were torturing wasn't really human.
The latter wasn't easy. Lyna looked human. With her long dark hair and her soulful dark eyes, she looked more like Balen's married daughter than a monster.
Balen closed his eyes for a moment, trying to shut out her screaming.
I'm doing this because I have to,
he reminded himself, tossing the severed hand on the forge's glowing coals.
There must be a way to kill these creatures.
The disembodied hand browned and burned, the leaking blood hissing and spitting. It smelt horribly reminiscent of last night's roast.
It's not logical to think something cannot die.
Logical or not, they'd had no luck killing their captive immortal so far.
Perhaps they'd used up all their luck just finding her. But with the Tide on the rise, and the immortals with it, they were much less careful, these days, about hiding their identities. Balen and his compatriots
would never have had a chance of capturing a true Tide Lord. Lyna, fortunately, was one of the lesser immortals. She didn't have the power to do the sort of damage someone like Cayal or Pellys or Tryan could do. She could touch the Tide, sure enough — all the immortals could — but she didn't seem to be able to do much with it.
That was fortunate. If she'd been a Tide Lord ... if the Tide had peaked ... well, given what they'd done to her these past few weeks, if she'd been able to wreak any sort of vengeance on them, they'd all be dead.
And probably everyone within a hundred-mile radius, as well.
Bracing himself, Balen turned to look at her. Naked and filthy, Lyna lay on the floor of her cell, curled into a foetal position, weeping with the pain of her amputation. Despite the burns, the stab wounds, even the hand he'd just amputated to see if she would bleed to death, the rest of her body was whole and unmarked. Everything he'd done to her had healed, and the more traumatic the injury, the faster she seemed to recover from it.
Tides, what's it going to take?
Perhaps these unnatural creatures truly
immortal. Perhaps there
no end for them. Ever. Perhaps, some unimaginable time in the future when the universe grew cold, they would still be here, alone and alive, with nothing but their endless existence to sustain them ...
It's not possible,
Balen assured himself.
Besides, until we reach the end of time, how will we
if they can survive that long?
'Has she recovered again?'
Balen looked up to find his son standing at the entrance to the smithy. The boy was morbidly fascinated by what his father was doing. A little
fascinated, perhaps. He feared the young man didn't
see the monster lying in the cage regrowing a hand his father had just hacked off, he only saw the tormented young woman. At seventeen, Minark was too young to appreciate the danger immortality presented to the mortals of this world.
'It would appear so.'
'Can I see her?'
Balen frowned. 'Why?'
'I... I just can't believe she's not hurt.'
Balen glanced over his shoulder at the pathetic, weeping young woman. He didn't know how old she was exactly — five thousand ... ten thousand years old? She looked little more than twenty-five; more than young enough for an impressionable youth to find her appealing. Already the bleeding had stopped and there was new bone and flesh taking shape. 'She's hurting, sure enough, Minark. But she just keeps healing up.'
'Can I see ...?'
'No,' he said, concerned Minark was taking far too much interest in the tortured immortal's plight. The last thing he needed was the lad sneaking back here in the dead of night to offer her sympathy. Or worse. Lyna had been a whore, after all, before she was made immortal. She'd not hesitate to use her wiles on someone as wide-eyed and credulous as his son. 'What are you doing here, anyway, boy? I thought I told you to stay away from this place.'
Minark ventured a few steps further into the smithy, straining to see past his father. 'Vorak sent me.'
Balen took a step sideways to block his son's view of the naked young woman with her regrowing hand. 'What does he want, Minark?'
'He's just got back from the markets in L'bekken. He said there was someone asking around in the village. About her,' he added, pointing to the immortal.
'Did he say who it was?'
Minark shook his head. 'Just that he was asking. And he was heading this way when he left.'
Balen cursed silently.
Surely they hadn't come for her yet?
And if they had, was it one of the other lesser immortals, which would be bad enough? Or was it one of the Tide Lords themselves? He shuddered at the thought. If someone like Cayal, or Tryan or Kentravyon discovered Lyna caged and tortured like this, everyone in this village and the neighbouring village of L'bekken would, in all probability, soon be dead.
'This man was a stranger, yes?'
'That's what I said, wasn't it?' Minark leaned a little to the left so he could catch sight of the immortal. 'Did you try cutting her into smaller pieces? Vorak thought that if you fed the meat to the dogs ...'
'She heals too quickly,' he said, wishing Vorak would stop discussing his wild theories with Minark. 'And the faster you cut, the faster she heals. Did Vorak think this stranger was an immortal?'
Minark shrugged. 'He didn't say. Just to tell you someone was asking about Lyna.'
Balen glanced over his shoulder at his prisoner, wondering if he should just let her go. She'd been blindfolded when she was overpowered in the streets of L'bekken and brought here in chains. If they took her far away from their village before they dumped her, it was unlikely she would know how to find this place again.
But how often did one get a chance like this? How often did one capture an immortal? How often had they been able to put their theories on how to put an end to them to the test?
The opportunity against the risk ... that was Balen's problem.
'I warned you,' the young woman said, pushing herself up on her elbows.
He looked over his shoulder. Lyna's face was tear-streaked and filthy. On hearing the news someone was asking after her, she rallied her strength. A fresh stump had already formed on the end of her arm, even
though it had only been minutes since he'd cut off her hand. 'You'll die for what you've done to me, you pathetic mortal
'It was probably just one of your regular customers,' Balen said, hoping he sounded unafraid. 'Good whores have repeat customers, I'm told, and I hear you were a
She smiled, which Balen found disturbing. Three days ago, he'd beaten her so badly, most of her teeth had broken. Yet her smile now was white and even, mocking him with its unnatural perfection.
'My brothers will level this place,' she warned, pushing herself to her feet. 'They will take apart your pitiful village, kill you, your son, your wife, your grandchildren and everyone else in this valley.'
'They have to find you first, you immortal whore!' Minark retorted gamely.
Lyna smiled through the pain of her regenerating hand.
me? Tides, boy, that's the easy part.'
'What do you mean?'
'I mean we can sense each other on the Tide, you fool. If there's another immortal around, he'll feel my presence and there's nothing you Can do to stop him finding me, short of killing me. But you've tried that, haven't you? I'll bet you're sorry now, that none of your brilliant little plans worked.'
Balen had no reason to doubt her. If anything, he began to get nervous. Her growing defiance was at such odds with the lack of resistance she'd shown thus far, he had to wonder at the cause of it.
Was her confidence brought on by the news that one of her immortal brethren was nearby?
We can sense each other on the Tide,
she'd said, which meant if another immortal could feel her presence, then she would be able to ...
'Get to the house, now!' he ordered Minark. 'Tell your mother and your sister to take only what they can carry. We must flee.
'Flee?' Minark asked in confusion. 'Why must we flee? Vorak said the stranger asked about her and then moved on. Nobody told him anything.'
'Nobody had to, Minark,' Balen said, shoving him toward the entrance to the smithy. 'Didn't you hear what she said? They can sense each other on the Tide. He'll know she's here. Which means he's probably on his way. And if he finds us with her ...'
'But it might only be one of the lesser immortals, like Taryx or Ranee ...'
'Are you willing to risk your mother's life on that, son?'
The boy hesitated for a moment longer, staring at the immortal woman, and then he turned and fled. Balen grabbed one of the hammers from his forge, shoved it into his belt in case he needed a weapon, and then turned to face Lyna. She was standing at the bars of the cage they'd fashioned to contain her. Already, short stubby fingers were protruding from the stump. Although still in pain, he guessed she was improving by the minute, her recovery accelerated, no doubt, by the sense that there was another of her kind nearby.
'It wasn't anything personal,' he said, as if an explanation or an apology was going to make the slightest difference at this point.
She glared at him and held up her mangled wrist. 'Trust me, Balen. You
He shook his head, wondering what he hoped to achieve by lingering here, trying to explain himself. He had tortured this creature relentlessly for weeks. It was too late now to ask for forgiveness. 'You must tell them ... I am the one at fault here. Not my family.'
'I'm sure that will be a great comfort to them as they're dying.'
Balen stared at her, only now, perhaps, realising the enormity of what he'd done. 'Is there no chance of mercy?'
Lyna studied him for a moment and then nodded. 'Despite what you think, we're not monsters, Balen. You want mercy for you and your family?' The immortal smiled coldly, showing her perfect teeth. 'Then I shall see you get it.'