- Author: John Conroe
Book online «A Flight of Ravens John Conroe (great books for teens txt) 📖». Author John Conroe
A Flight of Ravens
A Flight of Ravens
This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2021 John Conroe
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
The Demon Accords series:
The Demon Accords Compendium, Volume 1
The Demon Accords Compendium, Volume 2
The Demon Accords Compendium, Volume 3
The Zone War series:
Borough of Bones
Web of Extinction
The Shadows of Montshire series:
A Murder of Shadows
A Flight of Ravens
A Mischief of Rats (Fall 2021)
Cover art by Gareth Otton.
To all the front line heroes of 2020
It was the pain that woke him. Pain from wounds inflicted by the bear he should never have tangled with, pain in his jaws, bones, and joints, pain deep in his mind and even deeper in his heart. He put the pain aside as he’d been taught long ago and considered other things.
It was still predawn and very cold, although he did not feel cold as much as he used to. What made it through his fur to his skin was merely uncomfortable and nowhere near as distracting as his pain. He set the cold aside and opened his senses.
The forest was beginning to wake in the gloom preceding daylight, birds starting to call, wild turkeys roosted in the trees above gobbling to each other, not doubt warning of the danger he represented. Nearby, a squirrel, comfortable in its closeness to an oak tree, rustled in the snow-dusted leaves, rooting around for acorns. His stomach rumbled at the smell of the furry rodent.
Other scents reached him, the pine under whose boughs he rested, the mold of leaves that cushioned him from the frozen ground, the crisp, clean water that flowed through a small brook not thirty spans away. The wind shifted and swirled, and a new scent reached his sensitive nose. The coppery taint of fresh-spilled blood. Deer. Female and young. With that delicious bouquet came the harsh sour of canine: coyote, the little wolves.
With a soft snarl that sent the squirrel up its tree and silenced the turkeys high above, he came to his feet and followed the blood spoor. Crossing the brook, he paused to slake his thirst before continuing on his hunt—a hunt for the dead but still a hunt, nonetheless.
The fickle wind brought him enough hints and samples to set his mouth watering, thick saliva flowing between his gnarled, misshapen fangs, past lips that failed to close anymore, to drip down in long strands to the forest floor.
He crested a small hill, his motion catching the attention of a trio of canines in the act of feasting upon a still-steaming doe. All three looked up at him and snarled, but each backed away as he descended the far slope. He gave them a deep growl, a warning of lives ended suddenly and swiftly. The three went silent and dropped back even farther, ducking into shadows to hide.
Knowing them cowed, he opened his newly massive jaws, ignoring the pain of bone rent and twisted far too late in life. With an audible snap, he bit down into still-warm flesh and blood and feasted for the first time in days, perhaps weeks. Hard to tell. His perception of time was not what it used to be, as much changed as he was.
He ate his fill, almost half the small doe’s body, while the little wolves watched him with glittering eyes from the shadows of the gloomy forest. The sky lightened considerably while he gorged himself, the sky turning purple, then blue as the sun staged itself for its daily ascent.
Full to the point of pain, he snarled a final warning to the coyotes then turned and moved onward, taking up his journey, the one that drove him all day every day and most of each night, over hill and valley, through thick forests and across rushing bone-cold rivers, up stone cliffs, and between the peaks of ancient mountains.
It was long past sundown, beyond even the midnight hour, when he finally crawled cautiously over the summit of a hillock that wanted to be a mountain. On the far side of the crest, he stopped and gazed through the darkness at the valley below. Lights, the flames and fires of mankind, illuminated a city tucked into the folds of the land, watered by a river snaking through it and fed by the farms that surrounded it. Haven. Ash Newberry was home, and nobody and nothing would stop him from finding those who were his own.
I woke suddenly, my hand automatically finding the axe next to my bed. I listened and felt, but there was no sound save the gentle hiss of the banked fire and the soft moan of a cold, early winter wind twisting about the eaves of the Knife and Needle.
I don’t know what had awoken me, but I learned a long time ago to damn well listen to my instincts. Jella had drilled that into me for so long that it was now part of me, impossible to ignore.
With no immediate and obvious answer to my feeling of misgiving, I instead found myself remembering the day I enrolled in the king’s army. Why that memory?
Jella had accompanied me from Drodacia. In fact, she had simply nodded when I had told her I was leaving to travel to Haven for the annual enlistment trials. “Of course, we are leaving,” she had said with a nod.