Chapter Twenty-Six: The Duel

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Huracan held my hands behind my back and bound them with rope while Kain inspected the red sand on the ground.

"This is my people's magic," said Kain. "Damn me for a fool, I would never have traded with him if I knew he had this sand. Where did the thief find this?"

I tried to blink away the tears in my eyes. It's hard to be defiant when you can't hide the grief on your face.

"I'm not telling you anything."

"You will," said Kain. "We have your mother, boy. We will take you both to my barrow and bury you in the ground until you confess all you know about your gift."

"You're going to be disappointed," I said.

Huracan spoke up unexpectedly. "Lord Kain, my lady said if he found his way here we should take him to her island."

Kain sneered. "Her island is hundreds of miles from here. Take him to my barrow and collect what remains of the thief."

Huracan did not look happy about it, but she grabbed my bound arms and pushed me ahead of her out of the saw mill. I tried to resist, but she was much stronger than me.

"We are at the water's edge, my lord," she said. "We can call on my lady here."

"You will do as I bid you, swordmaiden, or I will—"

He trailed off, and we stopped moving. I lifted my head.

Tiana Cavendish stood in the middle of the road in her nightdress. She looked unhappy.

"Good morning, Lord Kain," said Tiana. "That boy and his family are under my protection. You would do well to leave them alone."

Kain laughed. "Is that so, gentle mother? And who are you?"

Tiana smiled and curtsied. "Of course, I should introduce myself. I am the terrible crone who will send you scurrying back to your dung pile."

Kain stamped his foot and the tarmac cracked. I felt the rumble on the road and I knew what was coming. The rock giant burst through the wall of the saw mill and charged at Tiana with its club held high above its head.

Tiana reached into her sleeve. A green vine shot out like a harpoon and pierced the giant through the chest.

The giant stopped mid-step and let out a loud groan. A hundred shoots broke through its hide and burst into little white flowers. To my amazement, the giant shattered, falling down over the road in a rain of tiny pebbles.

Huracan threw me aside. She grabbed hold of Tiana's vine before she could whip it back and severed it with her sword. A second vine shot from Tiana's other sleeve, but Huracan cut it short and raced forward.

Tiana tugged on the black bead bracelet on her wrist and snapped the thread. The beads bounced on the road and exploded into flickering jagged black shapes like a patchwork flock of crows. They launched themselves at Huracan, hooked her on their claws, and carried her into the air towards the trees. Her shark tooth sword clattered to the road and Tiana picked it up.

Tiana had dispatched two fierce fighters with barely a pause. Perhaps Éven had more power, but Tiana's control was extraordinary.

Kain drew a flint blade from his belt. With a flick of his wrist, it transformed into a scimitar.

"Run inside, Ben," said Tiana. "Save your mother. I'll deal with this one."

The two fey charged at each other.

I couldn't break the rope around my wrists or wriggle out of it, but I managed to struggle to my feet. I ran back to the saw mill. The ground shook again, and the walls of the mill vibrated.

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