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Wings of Shadow

Wings of Shadow

also available: Audiobook
tagged : epic, siblings
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The Call of the Rift: Crest


In the distance, a speck floated on the water, growing larger. It shifted on the left, right, left. Someone was paddling a canoe upriver toward us, but the motion was weirdly off pace.

“Let’s go back,” Onarem said. “I didn’t sign up for getting caught.”

“Nei, wait,” I said. “Are they in trouble?”

Kaid,” Rokiud swore. “They will be if they lose to the current. There’s rapids further down.”

Something yanked in my gut. This felt like a test from our ancestral spirits. A brave person would help, but a responsible person would obey the rules and turn back. Maybe I hadn’t attuned yet because I didn’t know which I was. I thought of the gouge in Rokiud’s canoe, imagining the stranger’s craft hitting a boulder.

“Fuck the rules,” I said. “We’re going to rescue them.”

Onarem dropped his protests when Nili told him to shut up. We paddled hard and soon neared the stray boat. Its prow was uncarved and tall enough to handle ocean swells. A man was slumped inside, clutching a paddle that dragged uselessly through foaming water. I grabbed at his canoe and missed. The current yanked it out of reach.

We’d nearly caught up again when the canoe disappeared around a bend. We rounded it, too, and hit rapids coursing through a ravine. Echoes roared off the rock walls. The stray canoe spun this way and that. Whitecapped waves struck its hull, rocking the man’s limp form.

“I’m going for it,” Rokiud yelled over the thunder of water. “Gonna need your help, Kateiko.” He yanked off his boots, dove into the river, and swam toward the stray canoe.

I kept paddling as I dropped my mind into the current, struggling to restrain it. Nili tossed Rokiud a rope. He looped it around the stray canoe’s prow. She hauled it in while Onarem kept them afloat, but rapids kept pulling the crafts in opposite directions. I called on as much water as I could, sweat running into my eyes, and guided all three canoes forward until the ravine widened to reedy banks.

Nili and Onarem tumbled ashore and pulled in the stray canoe. With a last surge of strength, I ran Rokiud’s canoe aground. The boys lifted the stranger and eased him onto the mud. He sagged, breathing shallowly, gripping his paddle like it was fused to his hands. One leg of his breeches was rolled up, exposing a sticky poultice over a crusted wound. I choked at the stench of infection.

Rokiud drew his fish knife and sliced open the man’s sleeve. Underneath was a kinaru tattoo. The man was Rin like us, yet I’d never seen his face. Neither had my friends, judging by their confused looks. I reached for his sleeve to tear it further and check his family crest.

“Stand back,” a voice commanded.

I whirled. Fendul stood on the riverbank. Birds landed around him and shifted to their human forms — an owl and falcon to Rin warriors, a black-billed swan to my dark-haired, tattooed mother. Rokiud and I backed up, hands raised.

My mother drew forward as if she was in a dream. She dropped to her knees and stroked the man’s hair. My eyes widened. No one in our confederacy would do that to a stranger. Touching someone’s hair, one of the sacred parts of the body along with the heart and blood, was an intimate act saved for relatives and loved ones.

“Yotolein?” she breathed.

Before I could find words, Nili bent over the man’s canoe, pulled back a tarp, and yelped. Huddled in a pool of river water were two shaking children.


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