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Tuyo: Book 3


Rachel Neumeier

Rachel Neumeier

© 2021

Cover art and design © Trif Book Design 2021








































Other Work


The first arrow missed only because the gods were kind.

Aras had only just then swung up to the back of his horse, but the headwoman of Tavas Sen came after him, wanting to say something else. Aras turned and then slid down from the saddle to speak to her. His movement was sudden, and that was why the arrow cut sharply through the air a fingerwidth above his head rather than striking his chest.

Half a breath later, a second arrow followed the first, but by that time Terau had knocked Aras down and covered him with his own body. The second arrow struck Terau in the back—it was a good shot by a determined bowman; if Terau had not knocked him down, that arrow would certainly have struck Aras. Then twenty soldiers threw themselves in the way of other arrows and the danger was past.

I had not been watching for attack, so the first arrow took me as much by surprise as anyone. But the second showed me where to look for the bowman. It had come at a slant from the south, and from above, so that was very clear. This new house had been built to one side of the town, in a place where the land sloped up toward low cliffs that ran for a long way to the south and east. That was where the bowman had stood to shoot his arrows; if not at the top of those cliffs, then on a ledge partway up, or perhaps the roof of some building there.

I was already mounted. My horse was dancing, excited and upset because everyone was running and shouting. When I pulled his head around and urged him forward, he was glad to shoulder through the gathered people and leap into a gallop. All the people had gone to the square to see Aras, so no one was in our way. I kept my head up and my eyes on the cliffs, and I saw the man go up and over the edge of the cliff, silhouetted against the sky. He was tall and dark, a Lau, but I had known that. I could not see anything else of him. But I could see the rope he had used to climb. I saw it swing and twist, a narrow line against the pale stone, as he pulled it up after him.

I was not the first to come to the foot of the cliffs. A handful of soldiers reached the place before me, but though they were furious, they were baffled: the cliff face was too sheer for them to climb.

Esau, coming up beside me, said curtly, “There’s a path up to the top, but it’s nearly a mile east—and too steep for horses.” Of course Esau would know these things; he had been a soldier a long time and he always knew how the land lay. Even as he spoke, some of the soldiers rode away, east, to find that path. Anyone could see that was hopeless. The assassin would be far away before they found his trail.

I pressed my horse to go past the others and tried to make him stand alongside the cliff. He was a good horse, but the soldiers here were talking in loud, angry voices, and that upset him too much for him to stand still. Esau dismounted and came to hold him for me. He did not ask me anything. He said, “Throw the rope down, hear? And wait at the top, Ryo! Don’t go after him on your own—he’s got that gods-hated bow, he’ll shoot you and that won’t do anyone any good, understand?”

I did not answer. I had jumped to my feet in the saddle, and I urgently needed to find handholds on the cliff-face before I made a fool of myself by falling off my horse. Besides, although I certainly meant to throw the rope down if the assassin had been so unwise as to leave it there, I had no intention of waiting at the top for anyone. Esau knew that.

By this time all the soldiers had realized what I was doing. They came to stand beneath me, which I knew even though I did not look down. They might try to catch me if I fell. That would not help me and it might hurt them, so I hoped Esau would make them move out of the way. I was now perhaps three or four times my height from the ground, not very high. I could probably fall that far without breaking any important bones, but if I fell on top of a Lau, his bones might well break.

At the top, the cliff was perhaps four times as high as I had already climbed. If I fell from that height, that would be too far even for an Ugaro. But I did not intend to fall.

I did not have the length of limb that would have helped a Lau climb, but my grip was stronger, and my arms much stronger. An Ugaro warrior five years older than I might have weighed too much to make this climb, but I was young enough that I could cling to small handholds and pull myself up. Also, I was very angry. I was too angry to be afraid until a small ledge broke under my foot, and then I did not have time to be afraid. I might have fallen then. I swung by the fingers of one hand, probably for less time than it seemed. Finally, scrabbling

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