Strange Attractors

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Book: Strange Attractors Read Online Free PDF
Author: Kim Falconer
Festival of the Five Rivers. Parents who would be proud of his chance to train. They believed him, and they took him on. Though she missed him terribly, it was the best bit of luck in their short lives. Now he was dead, buried in the dirt of the Corsanon Fields, shot by one of their own arrows. What were the odds?
    She pushed matted hair from her face and struggled to her feet. Following the path of the witch, she headed south towards the water hole, towards the portal that would lead to the many-worlds.
    Kreshkali loosened the reins as the mare lowered her head to drink. The sound of slurping broke the monotonous drone of crows, the horses taking their fill. They’d crested the lip of the water hole with increased enthusiasm and would not be stopped, even for their riders to dismount. Kali vaulted to the ground, her boots splashing in the mud. She patted theglossy black shoulder as the mare’s muzzle glided over the surface of the spring, ripples expanding out from the contact.
    ‘Apparently this water hole is not guarded,’ Jarrod said, keeping his voice low.
    ‘Except for him.’ Kreshkali pointed at a kingfisher poised on a branch overhanging the water. The bird took flight as the Three Sisters arrived, retreating to a higher branch. Kreshkali’s eyes went to the horizon but she was too low to see over the crest. A chill ran up her spine. ‘Did you hear that?’
    The mare lifted her head. Her ears were pricked forward, the last mouthful of water splashing down to the surface as she rolled her tongue over the bit.
    ‘Someone’s coming.’ Jarrod’s eyes were closed.
    ‘We can’t gallop off with their bellies full of fluid,’ Kreshkali said. ‘Demons!’ They’d cut it too close, she knew, but the animals had had to be watered. What choice did they have? ‘Suggestions, Jarrod?’
    ‘We need to do something unexpected,’ Jarrod said, his eyes opening.
    ‘Like what?’ Kreshkali could feel the rumble in the ground beneath her. They had to get away, and quickly. The agitation of her familiars added to her own.
    They come , the ravens cawed in unison. Bright spears and fast running. Fly, Mistress. Fly with us.
    I know, my darlings. Thank you. We’re making a choice now.
    ‘We could cut An’ Lawrence off,’ Jarrod said, leading the sated gelding up the slope.
    Kreshkali followed beside him, scanning for approaching riders. ‘How do you mean?’
    ‘We could take the portal to the foothills of Prieta and ride back this way. An’ Lawrence has to be somewhere in between.’
    ‘Interesting. We’d be riding straight into the blades of a hundred warriors,’ Kreshkali said. She tightened the mare’s girth, feeling the horse’s muscles bunch as she mounted. She shortened her reins. ‘And that’s only if we’re lucky enough to come out at the right time.’
    ‘Still, it seems preferable to trying to outrun this lot.’
    ‘Can you see them?’ she asked.
    ‘They’re coming up the ridge.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘Demon’s death,’ he said under his breath. ‘They’re closer than I thought.’ He mounted up, holding the gelding back as the horse pranced in place, hooves mincing the grass. ‘They’re charging! We won’t outrun them, even with a head start.’
    ‘What’s it to be?’ Kreshkali followed his line of sight. She could just make them out, coming at full gallop. They’d be spotted any second. ‘The portal?’
    ‘Looks like our best choice now.’
    Kreshkali summoned the Three Sisters who swooped alongside her, wings cutting through the air, voices shrieking. ‘To the portal, my ladies,’ she said to them. ‘Hurry now. Lead the way.’
    The horses were uneasy; their sides were raw from the thorns and they were clearly not accustomed to the large birds’ proximity, but they made it to the portal before the riders had them within bowshot. The sheer rock face surrounding the opening shot skyward like a great wall. On the other side was a quarry, the city of Corsanon’s southern
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