THE EARTHQUAKE SOUNDED throughout the night. Deep and rumbling with a tell-tale shake of the ground. It started as a tremor and rose to make the room vibrate. With each tremor he wondered if the building would collapse. The walls creaked, but the stone didnt crack. Dust fell from the rafters, but each tremor ended and he breathed easier. Until the next tremor.
He was tired and his head felt heavy. Hed survived the enchantment of one of the Seven Sisters. His mind was free, but it would never be the same. Ruth had caressed his soul and left a mark, strengthening him. He knew that the Seven Sisters magic could no longer touch him.
We are not leaving until you are ready, said Ruth.
Please leave me to think. Its the only thing Ive got left.
She was standing on a box, looking out of a square window into the dusty shards of morning sunlight. The room they stayed in was at the base of a vizier tower. It was bare, dirty and hot, but it was secret. Theyd not been found and Randall had been able to rest after his encounter with Saara the Mistress of Pain, with the Gorlan mother watching over him.
Patience, she replied. We will find the Shadow just when he needs us to find him. Rushing your recovery will not change that.
Another tremor made the walls shake.
You never said Karesia had so many earthquakes, he said, tensing as the rumbling got louder.
This is exceptional, she replied. The viziers will soon begin to panic.
He coughed, feeling a dry scratch at the back of his throat.
Their magic towers arent immune to earthquakes?
Dust now fell from the ceiling and the far wall cracked ever so slightly. It was just a slight break, but it made him scramble upwards. Is this building going to collapse? he asked.
Possibly... but the towers will collapse first. We should gather our belongings and relocate.
Err... if this isnt normal, do you want to tell me whats happening?
Their magic is failing, she replied. Something is draining the power from Thrakka.
Something? Like what?
She narrowed her eyes. Uncertain. They always believed the Jekkan magic was limitless. It appears they were wrong. She paused, gazing off into space. I think Voon has taken Utha into a dangerous world.
He snorted, gathering up their sparse belongings and packing them into his rucksack. How are Utha and Voon causing earthquakes?
Uncertain, she repeated.
She knew something. A lot more than he did, certainly, but as long as they were leaving, he didnt really care. Utha would tell him about his new earthquake ability when they caught up. If they caught up.
Chunks of masonry now fell to the floor and the room shook. He hoped the towers would remain standing while they made their exit from the city. He didnt fancy dodging death at every intersection. The dust was bad enough; the viziers and warriors looking for them were worse. Rocks hitting them on the head just seemed unfair.
They left quickly. Randall was sore, as if his body weighed more than before he had been enchanted. Little things hurt. Whenever he raised a leg to walk or breathed in. Small movements were effort. His old, canvas rucksack bit into his bare shoulders, and his skin itched.
Perhaps you shouldnt look up, said Ruth, making Randall look up.
The vizier towers of Thrakka, wondrous structures of equal parts magic and vanity, were crumbling. The walkways connecting them were empty, and citizens rushed from any structure above ten storeys. Chunks of rock and marble crashed into the dusty streets as awesome spires and garish minuets were felled.
Do they know whats happening? he asked, unable to look away from the towers. I mean, how many people are going to die?
I should think a great many, she replied. And, no, they havent got a clue what is happening to their city.
At every street corner, at every intersection, hundreds of Karesians flooded from the buildings. Family units, clutching their belongings; men and women clustered together in carts and on horseback, trying to pick their way through the crowds and leave the city.