NZ Forest Native Birds
The Sorceresses of Lazaronia

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The Sorceresses of Lazaronia
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Chapter 13
Mirabell and the Piksenlords

 To Esmé they seemed to have been trudging for hoursand they still hadn’t turned away from the line of blood spots. There wasn’t, she knew, that much distance between the palace entrance hall where Korennsyon had been imprisoned and the temple in the palace grounds. What, she wondered, was Siana up to? And how come the Angels of Death hadn’t realised they were being led astray again?

    By now even Korennsyon and Queen Esmeralda, carrying the Piksenlord Oracles* on her shoulder, were exhausted. Mark had valiantly relieved the Queen Regent of the lamp, with Korennsyon taking it from Mark when weariness caused the earthling to stumble and nearly drop it. The Angels of Death hissed their annoyance at what they termed Mark’s clumsiness. But their reactions lacked their usual viciousness. It was as though they too were tiring. Or were their minds on something else? For Mark felt somehow that they were more interested in what was ahead than in making sure they weren’t led astray again. They reminded him of dogs that had scented food but knew it wasn’t for them.

      Ahead they saw the straight tunnel widen out. From it came a faint light that Esmé didn’t remember seeing before. Her heart started to beat faster, for the widening of the tunnel meant they would soon come to the end of the line of blood spots.

      The leading Angel of Death stopped in his tracks. His raucous voice brought them all to a halt. “What is that smell?”

      Mark sniffed, catching as he did so the quick look that passed between Oracles and Siana. And the smell rushed out at him, its nature making him immediately forget the exchange of glances, for it turned his stomach. Only his emptiness stopped him from vomiting. Esmé and her mother, he saw, were having the same trouble. It was as though someone had opened the door of a meat-filled freezer whose motor had long since broken down.

      However, the odour had almost the opposite effect on the Angels of Death, apparently giving them a burst of new energy. Although they knew food would be waiting for them in the Temple to Lazaria when they arrived, they had not tasted food such as they smelled now since entering the service of the wizard Ignarius. With each carrion-creature determined to get the lion’s share of the feast, they charged forward in a blare of squawks and scrabbling of claws. Their prisoners shrank from those raking talons and wide, stabbing beaks. None of them understood later how they managed to avoid being even scratched.

      Esmé, Mark and Esmeralda heard Oracles scream into their minds: “Run!” Automatically they turned to obey. Korennsyon thrust the lamp back into Mark’s hand. Then Siana spoke, using mind-speech, for the shrieking would have drowned the scream of a jet engine.

      “Follow my blood spots until Oracles tells you to turn off. This battle is mine and Korennsyon’s.”

      And she and Korennsyon turned and started to follow the Angels of Death. Mark and Esmé hesitated, Mark desperately wishing he had Fiurzunga with him. But his arrival in Lazaronia hadn’t allowed him either time or opportunity to pick up the Godking’s sword.

      Esmé tried to probe with her mind into the cavern beyond. But if there was anything there she was unable to sense it. Next moment Esmeralda grabbed her hand and made to drag her away.

      “Do as Siana bids,” Oracles urged in mind speech from Esmeralda’s shoulder.

      However, Mark and Esmé’s hesitation, though brief, was enough to disrupt the plot hatched by Oracles and Siana. For there was one Angel of Death whose terror of Mirabell far outweighed any craving for carrion, whose nose still caught the underlying odour of terror-stricken humans. And the odour reminded it of Mirabell’s promised revenge should her creatures lapse their vigilance yet again. The vulcarrion turned back, shrieking a warning to those ahead. And two others heard and obeyed the summons. Siana and Korennsyon were nearly bowled overfor Mark and Esmé were the vulcarrions’ main concern. With their clothing suddenly gripped in vice-like beaks, Esmé, Mark and Esmeralda found themselves robbed of the choice of fleeing.

      But there was worse to come: from inside the huge cave came a screech that set the echoes ringing as though the sound would never end. The other seven Angels of Death erupted into the tunnel in an explosion of almost tangible terror. Esmé felt harsh wing-feathers scrape against her as, finally free, she flattened herself against the wall.

      Fighting to keep his hold on the lamp, Mark did the same. But he was too late. Almost instantly it was knocked from his hand. Above the surrounding din he didn’t even hear it shatter.

      At the same time the carrion stench strengthened. And suddenly they were almost blinded by a clear silver light. Their minds hardly registered that it came from the leaves in Siana’s robe and coronet. For the source of the stench claimed the attention of every pair of eyesin all its vivid, terrifying detail.

Oracles is pronounced Oraclees, in the manner of Hercules.

© L A Barker Enterprises
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Did you enjoy this chapter extract? Incidentally, Egrian does appear in The Sorceresses of Lazaroniabut not in this chapter. If you have any comments or questions, please Email me.

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