The Executioner's Cane
  Image: "Moonscape" by Rob Waterhouse

The Executioner's Cane - Extract

Chapter One: Faith

Simon Hartstongue

Simon landed with a bump and a muffled gasp on something not as soft as he’d hoped it would be. It felt as if all the breath he possessed had been expelled from his body and was not anticipating returning soon. It was evident that he had not yet perfected the art of travelling by means of the Tregannon emeralds but at least it was better than travelling by sea. He hadn’t enjoyed that experience at all.

He staggered to his hands and knees just as something warm brushed over his cheek. He sneezed, and a raucous whistle rewarded his daring. When he blinked, he could see the large outline of the snow raven hovering only a few fingers’ breadths from his eyes. At once, he backed away. Although the great bird appeared, for the moment, to be on his side, and had been so through all the recent battles, he could never be entirely sure of its intentions. He couldn’t help but notice that the bird looked utterly unscathed by the recent travelling ordeal, but then that, he imagined, was the gift of flight. He himself was dusty, shaking and bruised.

When he tried to kneel upright, jagged stone pierced his skin and he cursed and rolled away. One glance only told him that he’d landed at the end of the Lammas village, near the old well. By the gods and stars, a few paces to the right would have put him in the centre of the well itself and he shuddered at the thought; swimming was not one of his talents. Which was, of course, true of many other things besides.

Still shaking his head at his lucky escape, he gathered together the emeralds that had enabled him to journey here and placed them in the bag at his belt. This took a while but he quickly found there was nothing he could do about the way his fingers trembled. Then, skin still glowing green along his hands, he crouched in the shadow of the well stonework and gazed round at his surroundings. It seemed a long time since he’d been here at all, at least as a free man. That in itself was a rare experience and he hoped it would continue for a while to come. However, what he saw made his jaw tighten. The Lammas Lands were not as they had been, even from only a little while ago when he had last been here, though briefly. The mud around the well was churned up and the stones that the people had used as a makeshift path scattered in all directions. The trees he could see at the edge of the wood were blasted as if a great fire had swept through them. He even thought he could smell a hint of smoke and darkness in the air, but wondered if that was merely his own suggestion. The small houses of the poorer villagers themselves were no better – instead of the partially-destroyed structures of his memory, all he saw were piles of shattered stone and rubble. Had so much further chaos ensued as a result of the Gathandrian mind-battle, even adding to the damage he had seen here before? Simon groaned and brushed one shaking hand through his hair. If so, the task he had set before him would be so much the worse. Well then, come what may; he had made his decision. He would hold to it.

It was then that a faint humming at his side caught his attention. It was then that he remembered the cane.

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