I stare across the void to where her sea-salt soul has disappeared among the jungle trees.
“Keep running,” I whisper.
I’m coming for you.
BACK HOME AT THE PALACE, every window in my quarters only allowed me to look in. Father had the new wing constructed right after I was born, insistent that every window could only face the courtyard. The most I could see of the outside world was the leopard orchids of the royal garden in full bloom. The palace is all you need to be concerned with, Father would say when I begged him for a different view. Orïsha’s future is decided within these walls. As princess, yours will be, too.
I tried to hold on to his words, allow palace life to satiate me the way it did Mother. I made an effort to socialize with the other oloyes and their daughters. I attempted to find entertainment in palace gossip. But at night, I used to sneak into Inan’s quarters and climb out to the balcony overlooking our capital. I would imagine what lay beyond the wooden walls of Lagos, the beautiful world I longed to see.
One day, I would whisper to Binta.
One day, indeed. She would smile back.
As I dreamed, I never imagined the hell of the jungle, all the mosquitoes and sweat and jagged stones. But after four days in the desert, I’m convinced there’s no limit to the hells Orïsha can hold. The desert provides no foxer meat to eat, no water or coconut milk to drink. All it gifts us with is sand.
Endless mountains of sand.
Despite the scarf wrapped so tightly around my face I can barely breathe, grains settle in my mouth, my nose, my ears. Their persistence is matched only by the scorching sun, a final touch to this bleak wasteland. The longer we travel through it, the more my fingers itch to grab Nailah’s reins and yank her the other way. But even if we turned around now, where in skies’ name would I go?
My own brother hunts me. Father probably desires my head. I can hardly fathom all the lies Mother’s spinning in my absence. Perhaps if Binta was still at the palace, I would risk crawling back with my tail between my legs. But even she’s gone.
This sand is all I have left.
Sadness swells inside me as I close my eyes and picture her face. Just a brief thought of her is almost enough to take me away from the hell of this desert. If she were here, she’d be smiling, laughing at the grains of sand that got stuck between her teeth. She’d find beauty in all of this. Binta found the beauty in everything.
Before I can stop myself, my thoughts of Binta take me further, bringing me back to our days in the palace. One morning, when we were young, I snuck her into Mother’s quarters, eager to show her my favorite jewels. As I climbed onto the vanity, I rambled on and on about the villages Inan was going to see on his military visits.
“It’s not fair,” I whined. “He’ll go all the way to Ikoyi. He’s going to see the actual sea.”
“You’ll get your chance.” Binta stayed back, hands clamped to her side. No matter how many times I motioned for her to join me, she insisted she couldn’t.
“One day.” I draped Mother’s prized emerald necklace over my head, captivated by the way it glimmered in the mirror’s light. “What about you?” I asked. “When we leave, what village do you want to see?”
“Anything.” Binta’s eyes lost focus. “Everything.” She bit her bottom lip as a smile came to her face. “I think I’d love it all. No one in my family has ever traveled past Lagos’s walls.”
“Why not?” I wrinkled my nose and rose to my feet, reaching for the case that held Mother’s antique headdress. It sat just above my reach. I leaned forward.
Before Binta’s words could stop me, I lost my balance. With a jolt, I knocked the case over. It took all of two seconds before everything else came tumbling to the floor.
I’ll never know how Mother arrived so quickly. Her voice echoed under the arched entrance of her room as she took in the mess I had made.
When I couldn’t speak, it was Binta who stepped forward. “My deepest apologies, Your Highness. I was told to polish your jewelry. Princess Amari was only coming to my aid. If you must punish someone, it should be me.”
“You lazy brat.” Mother snatched up Binta’s wrist. “Amari is a princess. She is not here to do your chores!”
“Mother, that’s not—”
“Quiet,” Mother snapped, snarling as she dragged Binta away. “It’s clear we’ve been too lenient with you. You’ll benefit from the teachings of a whip.”
“No, Mother! Wait—”
Nailah stumbles, pulling me from the depths of my guilt. Binta’s young face fades out of my mind as Tzain struggles to keep us from collapsing down a mountain of sand. I grip the leather stirrups as Zélie leans down and rubs Nailah’s fur.
“I’m sorry, girl,” Zélie soothes. “I promise, we’ll be there soon.”
“Are you sure?” My voice comes out dry, as brittle as the sand surrounding us. But I can’t tell if the lump in my throat is from the lack of water or the memory of Binta.
“We’re close.” Tzain turns back, squinting to keep out the sun. Even with his eyes nearly shut, his deep brown gaze holds me, making my cheeks flush. “If we don’t get there today, we’ll hit Ibeji tomorrow.”
“But what if the sunstone isn’t in Ibeji?” Zélie asks. “What if Lekan’s lead was wrong? We only have thirteen days until the solstice. If it’s not here, we’re damned.”
He can’t be wrong.…
The thought makes my empty stomach lurch. All the determination I felt in Chândomblé crumbles. Skies. All of this would be so much easier if Lekan were still alive. With his guidance and magic, Inan pursuing us wouldn’t be a threat. We’d have a chance to find the sunstone. We might already be on our way to the sacred island to perform the ritual.
But with Lekan gone, we’re no closer to saving the maji. If anything, we’re just running out of time. Marching toward our deaths.
“Lekan wouldn’t lead us astray. It’s here.” Tzain pauses, craning his neck. “And unless that’s a mirage, so are we.”
Zélie and I peer past Tzain’s broad shoulders. Heat bounces off the sand in waves, blurring the horizon, but in time a cracked clay wall crystallizes into view. To my surprise, we’re only three of many travelers making their way into the desert city from all directions. Unlike us, several of the migrating parties travel in caravans crafted from reinforced timber and embellished with gold, vehicles so adorned they have to belong to nobles.
A pulse of excitement travels through me as I narrow my eyes to get a closer look. When I was a child, I once overheard Father warn his generals about the dangers of the desert, a land overpowered with Grounders. He claimed their magic could transform every single grain of sand into a lethal weapon. Later that night I told Binta what I learned as she combed through the tangles of my hair.
That’s not true, she corrected me. The Grounders in the desert are peaceful. They use their magic to create settlements from the sand.
In that moment I pictured what a sand city could look like, unrestrained by the laws and materials governing our architecture. If Grounders really did rule the desert, their magnificent cities have crumbled, disappearing alongside them.
But after four days in the ghastly desert, the meager settlement of Ibeji shimmers. The first sign of hope in this wretched wasteland. Thank the skies.
Perhaps we shall survive after all.
Shanty tents and clay ahérés greet us when we make our way past the wall. Like the slum dwellings of Lagos, the sand huts are stout and square, soaking in the rays of the sun. The largest of the ahérés looms in the distance, bearing a seal I know all too well. The carved snow leopanaire flickers in the sun, its sharp fangs bared to bite.
“A guard post,” I croak, tensing in Nailah’s saddle. Though the royal seal is etched into the clay wall, it waves in my mind like the velvet banners in Father’s throne room. After the Raid, he abolished t
he old seal, a gallant bull-horned lionaire that always used to make me feel safe. Instead, he proclaimed that our power would be represented by the snow leopanaires: ryders who were ruthless. Pure.
“Amari,” Zélie hisses, snapping me out of my thoughts. She dismounts Nailah and wraps her scarf tighter around her face, urging me to do the same.
“Let’s split up.” Tzain slides off Nailah’s back and hands us his canteen. “We shouldn’t be spotted together. You guys get water. I’ll find a place to stay.”
Zélie nods and walks off, but once again Tzain holds my gaze.
I force a nod, though I cannot bring myself to speak. One glimpse of the royal seal and it’s like my throat has been filled with sand.
“Just stay close to Zélie.”
Because you are weak, I imagine him spitting, though his dark eyes are kind. Because despite the sword you carry, you cannot protect yourself.
He gives my arm a gentle squeeze before taking Nailah by the reins and walking her in the opposite direction. I stare after his broad figure, fighting my desire to follow until Zélie hisses my name.
This will be fine. I put a smile in my eyes, though Zélie doesn’t even look my way. I thought things were starting to ease between us after Sokoto, but whatever goodwill I earned was crushed the minute my brother showed up at the temple. For the past four days Zélie has barely spoken to me, as if I’m the one who killed Lekan. The only times she does seem to look at me, I catch her staring at my back.
I stay close as we continue down the empty streets, searching for food in vain. My throat screams for a cold cup of water, a fresh loaf of bread, a nice cut of meat. But unlike the merchant quarter of Lagos, there are no colorful storefronts, no displays of succulent delights. The town appears almost as starved as its surrounding desert.
“Gods,” Zélie curses under her breath, pausing as her shivers worsen. Although the sun beats down with a fury, her teeth chatter as if she’s in an ice bath. Since her awakening, she shakes more and more, recoiling whenever she senses that the spirits of the dead are near.
“Are there that many?” I whisper.
She pants when one shiver stops. “It’s like walking through a burial ground.”
“With heat like this, we probably are.”
“I don’t know.” Zélie looks around, yanking her scarf close. “Every time one hits, I taste blood.”
A chill rocks through me, though sweat leaks from every pore. If Zélie can taste blood, I don’t want to know why.
“Perhaps—” I pause, stalling in the sand as a pack of men flood into the street. Though they’re obscured by capes and masks, their dust-covered clothes bear Orïsha’s royal seal.
I grab on to Zélie as she reaches for her staff. Each soldier reeks of liquor; some stumble with every step. My legs quake as if made of water.
Then, quick as they came, they disperse, disappearing among the clay ahérés.
“Get yourself together.” Zélie shoves me off her. I fight not to tumble into the sand. There is no sympathy in her gaze; unlike Tzain, her silver eyes rage.
“I just—” The words are weak, though I will them to be strong. “I apologize. I was caught off guard.”
“If you’re going to act like a little princess, turn yourself in to the guards. I’m not here to protect you. I’m here to fight.”
“That’s not fair.” I wrap my arms around myself. “I’m fighting, too.”
“Well, seeing as your father created this mess, if I were you, I’d fight a little harder.”
With that Zélie turns, kicking up sand as she storms off. My face burns as I follow, careful to keep my distance this time.
We continue toward Ibeji’s central square, a collection of tangled streets and square huts crafted from red clay. As we near, we see more nobles gathering, conspicuous with their bright silk kaftans and their trailing attendants. Although I don’t recognize anyone, I adjust my scarf, worried that even the smallest slip will give my identity away. But what are they doing here, so far from the capital? There’re so many nobles, they’re only outnumbered by the laborers in the stocks.
I pause for a moment, aghast at the number of them filling the narrow path. Before today, I caught only glimpses of the laborers brought in to staff the palace—always pleasant, clean, groomed to Mother’s satisfaction. Like Binta, I thought they lived simple lives, safe within the palace walls. I never considered where they came from, where else they might have ended up.
“Skies…” It’s almost too hard to bear the sight. Mostly divîners, the laborers outnumber the villagers by hordes, dressed in nothing but tattered rags. Their dark skin blisters under the scorching sun, marred by the dirt and sand seemingly burned into their beings. Each is hardly more than a walking skeleton.
“What’s going on?” I whisper, tallying the number of children in chains. Almost all of them are young—even the oldest still appears younger than me. I search for the resources they must be mining, the freshly laid roads, the new fortress erected in this desert village. But no sign of their efforts appear. “What are they doing here?”
Zélie locks eyes with a dark girl who has long white hair like hers. The laborer wears a tattered white dress; her eyes are sunken, devoid of almost all life.
“They’re in the stocks,” Zélie mutters. “They go where they’re told.”
“Surely it isn’t always this bad?”
“In Lagos, I saw people who looked even worse.”
She moves toward the guard post at the central square while my insides twist. Though no food fills my stomach, it churns with the truth. All those years sitting silent at the table.
Sipping tea while people died.
I reach forward to fill my canteen at the well, avoiding the guard’s leering eyes. Zélie reaches to do the same—
The guard’s sword slashes down with a fury.
We jump back, hearts pounding. His sword cuts into the wooden rim where Zélie’s hand rested just seconds before. She grips the staff in her waistband, hand trembling with rage.
My eyes follow the sword up to the glaring soldier who wields it. The sun has darkened his mahogany skin, but his gaze shines bright.
“I know you maggots can’t read,” he spits at Zélie, “but for skies’ sake, learn how to count.”
He smacks his blade against a weathered sign. As sand falls from the grooves in the wood, its faded message clears: ONE CUP = ONE GOLD PIECE.
“Are you serious?” Zélie seethes.
“We can afford it,” I whisper, reaching into her pack.
“But they can’t!” She points to the laborers. The handful carrying buckets drink water so polluted it might as well be sand. But this isn’t time for rebellion. How can Zélie not see that?
“Our deepest apologies.” I step forward, calling forth my most deferential tone. I almost sound believable. Mother would be proud.
I place three gold coins in the guard’s hand and take Zélie’s canteen, forcing her to step back as I fill it.
I press the canteen into her hand, but Zélie clicks her tongue in disgust. She grabs the canteen and walks back to the laborers, approaching the dark girl in white.
“Drink,” Zélie urges. “Quick. Before your stocker sees.”
The young laborer doesn’t spare a second. She drinks the water hungrily, no doubt savoring her first drink in days. When she finishes a hearty swig, she passes the canteen down to the divîner shackled in front of her. With reluctance, I hand the two remaining canteens over to the other laborers.
“You’re too kind,” the girl whispers to Zélie, licking the last droplets off her lips.
“I’m sorry I can’t do more.”
“You’ve done more than enough.”
“Why are there so many of you?” I ask, trying to ignore my dry throat.
“The stockers send us here for the arena. The girl nods toward a spot just barely visible beyond the clay wall
. At first nothing sticks out against the red dunes and waves of sand, but soon the amphitheater fights its way through.
I’ve never seen a structure so vast. A collection of weathered arches and pillars, the arena spreads wide across the desert, covering much of its arid land.
“You’re building it?” I scrunch my nose. Father would never approve of the stockers building an edifice like this out here. The desert is too arid; there are only so many people this land can hold.
The girl shakes her head. “We compete in it. The stockers say if we win, they’ll pay off all our debts.”
“Compete?” Zélie wrinkles her brow. “For what? Your freedom?”
“And riches,” the laborer in front of the girl pipes up, water dripping down his chin. “Enough gold to fill a sea.”
“That’s not why they have us compete,” the girl cuts in. “The nobles are already rich. They don’t need gold. They’re after Babalúayé’s relic.”
“Babalúayé?” I ask.
“The God of Health and Disease,” Zélie reminds me. “Every god has a legendary relic. Babalúayé’s is the ohun èṣ3 aiyé, the jewel of life.”
“Is it actually real?” I ask.
“Just a myth,” Zélie answers. “A story maji tell divîners before they go to sleep.”
“It’s not a myth,” the girl says. “I’ve seen it myself. It’s more of a stone than a jewel, but it’s real. It grants eternal life.”
Zélie tilts her head and leans forward.
“This stone.” She lowers her voice. “What does it look like?”
THE ARENA BUZZES with the drunken chatter of nobles as the sun dips below the horizon. Though night falls, the amphitheater glows with light; lanterns hang against the pillared walls. We push past the hordes of guards and nobles filling the stone-carved stands. I grip Tzain for support, stumbling as we make our way through the weathered sand steps.
“Where’d all these people come from?” Tzain mutters. He forces his way through two kosidán wrapped in dirt-covered kaftans. Though Ibeji can’t boast more than a few hundred residents, thousands of spectators fill the stands, a surprising number of them merchants and nobles. Everyone stares at the deep basin of the arena floor, united in their excitement for the games.
- Children Of Blood And Bone Pdf Free Download Free
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- Author : Nora Roberts
- Release Date : 04 December 2018
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press
- Genre : Fiction
- Pages : 400
- ISBN 13 : 9781250123022
Original Title:Of Blood and Bone (Chronicles of The One #2). Feature of Of Blood and Bone pdf: English is the primary language of this book. The official release date is December 4, 2018. Nora Roberts is the author of this book. The genre of this book is fantasy. The total page count in the hardcover edition is 453 pages. Martin’s Press is the official publisher of this book. I am sure that you have heard about this amazing book, Children Of Blood And Bone! It has been everywhere and all of the hype is 100% deserved. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a little bit.
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Download or read book entitled Of Blood and Bone written by Nora Roberts and published by St. Martin's Press online. This book was released on 04 December 2018 with total pages 400. Available in PDF, EPUB and Kindle. Book excerpt: Nora Roberts, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the epic Year One returns with Of Blood and Bone, a new tale of terror and magick in a brand new world. They look like an everyday family living an ordinary life. But beyond the edges of this peaceful farm, unimaginable forces of light and dark have been unleashed. Fallon Swift, approaching her thirteenth birthday, barely knows the world that existed before—the city where her parents lived, now in ruins and reclaimed by nature since the Doom sickened and killed billions. Traveling anywhere is a danger, as vicious gangs of Raiders and fanatics called Purity Warriors search for their next victim. Those like Fallon, in possession of gifts, are hunted—and the time is coming when her true nature, her identity as The One, can no longer be hidden. In a mysterious shelter in the forest, her training is about to begin under the guidance of Mallick, whose skills have been honed over centuries. She will learn the old ways of healing; study and spar; encounter faeries and elves and shifters; and find powers within herself she never imagined. And when the time is right, she will take up the sword, and fight. For until she grows into the woman she was born to be, the world outside will never be whole again.