Judged By the Alien Skywarden by Leslie Chase (PDF)

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Book Name:Judged By the Alien Skywarden
File Size:412KB

Story Line:

Crashland’s sun rose over the horizon, its harsh light reflecting off the mountain’s pale rockface looming over us. I winced and shielded my eyes. Seeing the dawn was never fun, and it was even worse when I hadn’t slept a wink.

It will work. The math is right, our measurements precise. It will work,” Chara said, resting her hand on my shoulder. If I hadn’t worked beside her for months, if we hadn’t sworn at the same frustrating problems and celebrated our successes, I’d have trusted her confidence more.

I wished I could, but I knew better. Chara was as nervous as I was, if not as tired. The Prytheen warrior-woman had the stamina of an ox on combat drugs, and I never saw her flag.

Soryss hissed something in her native language as she joined us. She’d been smart enough to look away before the dawn’s light hit the sheer, reflective cliffs above us. That made her the only one without watering eyes from the sudden glare, but she was a Zrin, one of the local aliens who’d lived on Crashland before the Prytheen pirates brought down the Wandering Star and stranded us here, human and alien alike.

Together, the three of us watched the sunlight crawl across the mountainside through narrowed eyes, waiting to see if our calculations were correct. Soryss kept muttering under her breath, some kind of prayer I thought, and she didn’t even try to hide her nerves. Her fingers tightened around her spear, knuckles white, and her tail lashed from side to side. That would have been enough to tell me her mood, but her ssav, the color-changing scales on her torso, showed ripples of white. I’d learned to read that sign in the months we’d worked together.

It was hard to say which of us had the greater stake in this test. For Chara and me, this was a matter of life and death. It was a religious exercise for Soryss and the rest of the Zrin: their lives might not be in danger, but their souls were. Their gods had just reappeared, exactly as the prophecies predicted, and set this test.

Failure wasn’t an option for any of us.

The light reached the crevice we’d carefully selected, a deep and narrow crack in the cliff face. Today was Crashland’s northern summer solstice. Today, and today only, the light would shine straight down the crack onto the puzzle cube we’d positioned down there. If we had our calculations precisely correct, the light would hit the cube at the right moment to—

A pillar of light burst free of the crevice and stabbed skyward, blinding-bright even in the daylight. All three of us whooped for joy, covering our eyes and blinking away the afterimage of our success. Our reactions to stress set us apart, but when we celebrated, it was easy to forget that we came from completely different worlds. Thank the Sky Gods.” Soryss glanced up at the brightening heavens while she spoke. “That was a tricky one.”

No margin for error,” Chara agreed. “I was confident of our calculations, but one mistake and we’d have to wait an entire year to try again.” And we don’t have a year,” I said. “The Taveshi deadline only gives us another six months to solve these puzzles.

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