- Author: K. Panikian
Book online «Verena's Whistle: Varangian Descendants Book I K. Panikian (top novels of all time .TXT) 📖». Author K. Panikian
Varangian Descendants Book I
Copyright © 2021 K. Panikian
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
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A ball of orange fire streaked across the sky, carrying with it a mighty wind. The wind roared, grew, and pressed down, hammering the dry earth. The ground shuddered and cracked and the trees shattered. The sky turned white and split in two with a thunderous crash. A wave of heat pulsed and then everything was silent.
In the crater, five figures crouched with their shields over their heads and their eyes closed. A few feet away another figure lay flat and unmoving.
The first person stood and lowered her shield. Her chain mail shifted and rustled, breaking the silence. An iron helmet with a screen of mail covered her whole face except her eyes. Both lower arms and thighs were protected by thick cotton guards. Under her helmet, her blue eyes scanned the clearing and landed on the sprawled creature. She raised her sword and barked out a command. The man to her left jumped to his feet, raising his bow and nocking an arrow in one quick movement.
“Bauk,” he spat.
“Is it dead?” the commander asked. “Agatha, check it.”
Agatha pulled her sword and moved her large shield to the side as she strode to the bauk. She kicked its clawed foot and prodded it with the tip of the sword. “Dead. That last strike from Roman finished it off, I think.”
“I felt it connect before the sky exploded,” Roman said as he walked to Agatha. “It’s got one of Alex’s arrows in its gut as well.”
“Pull it, would you?” Alex asked, lowering his bow and sliding the unused arrow back into the quiver on his back. He wiped the bloody arrow on the still-warm earth and returned that one to his quiver as well.
“Agatha, send out a pulse. Are there any more?”
“Clear. I don’t feel any more within a day’s journey.”
“Look at the sky,” whispered the smallest woman in the group. “It’s morning.”
“Look west. Where’s the citadel?”
The small woman crouched again and drew her finger through the dirt. “The earth is quiet. I don’t feel it nearby.”
“What about the tower, Joanna?”
“No, not the tower either, Stratego.”
The commander frowned and looked at the sky again. Slowly she spun in a circle, taking in the blown-down trees and the scorched earth. She looked to the west again and then closed her eyes, searching. The call echoed back to her unanswered. She sheathed her sword and bowed her head.
“Stratego. Irene. What does this mean?” asked Roman.
“You know what this means. You know what happened. We have returned to the land of our ancestors.”
I left the Student Union a little after 10pm, blinked at the darkness, and zipped my coat to my chin. My breath frosted the air and I paused at the bench by the door to pull my cleats on over my sneakers. The trail had been icy this morning and I doubted that anything melted during the short window of sunlight earlier. I headed down the path leading to the parking lot and tugged my hat over my ears. The Anchorage hillside was inky black behind me, blotting out the stars. I fingered the phone in my pocket and unmuted it as I walked.
My ancient Subaru waited under a light. I unlocked it, popped open the hatchback to drop my backpack and laptop, and then slid in the driver’s seat with a shiver. I started the engine and turned the heat on blast, angling the vents away from my body as chilly air streamed into the car.
My phone rang and I jumped. I checked the screen and saw “Mom” alongside a picture of a beautiful woman with dark hair and smiling eyes. I pulled off my mitten to answer and then quickly slid it back on.
“Hi, sweetie! I was hoping to catch you before you got on the road. Is this an okay time to talk?”
“You caught me right on time. What’s up?”
There was a pause and my phone crackled as she cleared her voice. Sudden worry spiked through me, leaving a prickling aftermath, and I asked quickly, “Is it Uncle Alex?”
“What? No. Uncle Alex is fine. I actually just got off the phone with him. Have you checked the news in the past hour or so?”
“No, I was teaching my self-defense class at the Student Union. I haven’t looked at my phone since dinner.”
“There was a near-Earth asteroid event in Russia today. It created a pretty big blast.”
I was confused. “That’s interesting, Mom,” I said slowly. I tried to remember if astronomy was one of the online courses she’d talked to me about last week.
“They’re saying that it’s likely the blast was more than 30 times stronger than the Hiroshima bomb.”
“Oh, wow. I hope no one was hurt.”
I could tell she heard my confusion because her tone changed and became more serious. “I know it’s the middle of the week and you weren’t planning on coming home until the long weekend, but Dad and I and Grandpa Basil need to talk to you.”
I stared across the parking lot and thought hard. I had classes tomorrow and Friday, but I was a pretty good student. If I emailed my professors and told them I had to go