Home > First Rider's Call (Green Rider #2)

First Rider's Call (Green Rider #2)
Author: Kristen Britain

Journal of Hadriax el Fex

We sail into the night. The winds finally favor us with a strength to move us more swiftly than oars. In this way we may conserve precious etherea, and allow the artisans time to effect repairs on the mechanicals.

At first it was disturbing not to hear the throb and thrum of the mechanicals, which have been so constant since our departure, but now I feel utterly at peace here in my cabin, with only the creak of timbers and the gentle sway of the ocean as backdrop. The darkness has settled in, and it is just me, my journal, and a prism to illuminate my writing.

The continent we seek is still far off, so says Captain Verano. Alessandros is extremely anxious, climbing to the crow’s nest daily as though to espy the New Lands by sheer will. This is his expedition, after all, his Quest to find the resources that will heal Arcosia, and to establish the Empire’s authority in the New Lands.

A son, Alessandros is, to the Emperor, and the chosen one of God to succeed him. And so it is known to me that Alessandros organized this expedition for a reason beyond those already stated: with his success, he wishes to prove himself worthy to God and the people of Arcosia, and especially to the man he loves as a father.

This voyage has been good for him. His cheeks are ruddy and the sunshine sparkles in his eyes. He has become a youth again and I can feel his excitement. For both of us, this is a grand adventure. His excitement is so infectious, in fact, that tonight, my young squire, Renald, overhearing our talk, nearly spilled wine on us as he served us. Alessandros laughed in good nature. Renald is a fine boy mostly, like a little brother sometimes, and I am very fond of him. This journey will be the making of him.

As the countless days pass, I occupy myself by poring over the captain’s sketchy charts of the continent. Accounts tell of a barbaric race who inhabit these lands, and of a wealth of resources. Such accounts cannot always be trusted, as they so often are exaggerated. Still, we are eager to see what these lands of mystery may reveal, and none more so than Alessandros Mornhavon.

THE RIDER CALL

The apparition’s soft, otherworldly glow fell across the sleeping form on the canopy bed. Sultry night air tinged with sea brine flowed through the wide-open window, stirring the sheet that covered the girl. Her long brown hair was splayed across her pillow, and her chest rose and fell in slow, even breaths. She slept unaware of her ghostly visitor, an expression of utter tranquility on her face.

And that was the problem.

Displeasure flickered across the apparition’s smoky features. You can hear me, but you won’t listen, hey?

The apparition nudged at the girl’s shoulder as if to awaken her, but her hand simply slid through it.

Cannot feel me. Cannot see me. WILL NOT listen.

The girl had become very disciplined at ignoring the call, and if there was one thing that annoyed Lil Ambriodhe most, it was being ignored.

Lil had, in her own opinion, exercised a great deal of patience, actually biding her time during the year the girl took to finish her schooling, thinking it couldn’t hurt, and that afterward she would finally heed the call and return to Sacor City to take her oath before the king as a Green Rider.

She did not. She defied the call and went home to Corsa instead, and for what? To count bolts of wool on one of her father’s wretched wagon trains? To balance ledgers? What was alluring about that? Why did she resist?

Lil paced until she realized her feet no longer touched the floor, but hovered above it. By all the hells! She tried to focus on the floor so she might at least achieve the illusion of standing on it, but the effort bled too much energy from her. She cursed in frustration at the limitations of her current form, and glowered at the sleeping girl who made all this necessary. If she could manage it, she would’ve hauled her right out of bed. Thankfully most Riders weren’t this difficult.

And even while she thought this, she observed that the floor beneath her feet was covered by a rare Durnesian carpet, and that the carved beams overhead brought to mind the mastery of shipwrights. The furnishings were deeply burnished and inlaid with ivory wrought with intricate ornamentation. They had a foreign look, as though brought from across the sea. Even the mattress the girl slept on was stuffed with eiderdown, and the sheets were of a delicate weave.

As the daughter of a wealthy merchant, the girl lived at a level of luxury incomprehensible to most Sacoridians, and Lil could understand how trading this privileged and comfortable life for that of the rugged, dangerous duty of a Green Rider might prove difficult.

In another sense, she could not. The Riders did important work. There were enough merchants in the world and far too few Green Riders.

She was needed, this girl. This girl who over a year ago defeated a rogue Eletian and played an essential role in saving the king’s throne. And there was more ahead for her.

A positive sign that all was not lost was the gold winged horse brooch resting on the table next to the bed. It was the most substantial thing about this realm in Lil’s vision, more solid and brilliant than anything else. It seemed the girl could not part with it; the bond still held. Had it abandoned her, there would be no possibility of her becoming a Rider.

And our link would have been lost.

Lil touched her own brooch, which was clasped to the green-and-blue plaid she wore draped across her shoulder, and drew comfort and strength from it. It had helped her come this far between the layers of the world. Its resonance sang through her and the girl’s brooch seemed to sparkle in response.

A Rider’s true heart the brooch shall seek . . . Lil cocked a smile as she remembered the old tune. Great heart, stout heart, strong and bold, the iron hearts of Riders glitter as gold . . . How could she forget? Every self-proclaimed bard and halfwit of the lands had taken up the tune wherever she rode, whether she sat in a great clan lord’s banquet hall or in a dilapidated tavern with goats chewing on the rushes strewn across the floor. She couldn’t escape it! It was better, she supposed, than having stones thrown at her, though some of the singers had been painfully bad.

   
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