(Where were we? Almost through Chapter 2! Well, Keinigan had just been shaken down by a trio of city guards and lost all his money. Now, what is he going to do? Let’s see…)
The sky stooping over the young faerlin turned a marvelous shade of indigo rose, the sun loitering on the eastern horizon. Keinigan had walked all afternoon and was nearing the coastal foothills of northern Myretrae. The mountains of the Great Caulderon emerged on the edge of his view to the east beneath the glowing sky, splitting the view with sharp distinction. The winds were blowing from the sea. On them, he could smell more rain in the clouds rolling across the west. The roads were still muddy from the intermittent squalls that had plagued the coast for the last few days.
It would be a soggy night, he mused grimly. Although he was a full blood faerlin,
raised amid the glories of nature in the Fae Wood, Keinigan had lost his love
of surviving out of doors in his time among humans. Jorthus was draping herself
in the most amazing hues, mingling brilliantly with the clouds, while all he
could think about was the miserable fact that he would have to camp in the
He was sure that Wendal the pincher would be on the lookout for
Lyla’s inquisitive guest from yesterday, not to forget, the Journeymen Council
sending out men. So, he determined to keep clear of any organized cities for as
long as he could.
His body was exhausted by the time he reached the edge of the
Wichen forest on the northeastern road out of Eddermont. He struck into the
trees and found a clearing that was big enough for him to curl up under the low
hanging branches of a trusty old oak. He refrained from a campfire as all the
sticks he found were too damp to light. Not that he had his flint stone with
him anymore, he huffed.
Darkness slithered over the hills, enveloping him as he slumped
onto the ground with an audible grunt and rubbed his weary eyes. Sleep would be
a welcome escape from this terrible day. He stretched down upon his hasty bed
of leaves, feeling empty, no ideas left and the fears were fading. Perhaps this
misfortune was a sign from the gods that he should relocate to the east. He
mused on this as he drifted off in a shallow sleep.
The crack of a twig woke him.
Jerking up, Keinigan saw figures, large humanoid figures, looming
all around him. He had no time for his body to catch up to the panic that
slapped his brain. A dark cloth bag trapped his head and many hands were
grabbing him, forcing him to the earth again. He struggled, shouting
obscenities in every language he knew, though his gut was beginning to feel as
if worms were wriggling inside him. His attackers made no sound. They
efficiently subdued him with a vicious kidney punch and the swift prick of a
needle dripping with sedation poison. He blacked out almost immediately.
“I swear I didn’t know that it was Journeyman’s silver! I’ll pay
it back,” Keinigan insisted. He tugged against the grip of a large human, as
shadows slithered down the walls to invade his skin with icy whispers. A figure
paced the room with its head nodding, seeming to consider the fae’s words.
Robed from head to foot in green with a golden mask shielding the upper half of
the face, a menacing voice told the faerlin its thoughts on the subject.
“Normally someone who has stolen from us would be taken care of
before he could spend the money,” the disguised form told him.
Though his knees threatened to give out, Keinigan forced himself
to stand. The worms crawling in his belly grew into gnawing serpents. He knew
he was a dead man.
“Please,” he whispered, barely louder than a breath.
“Yet, you managed to not only lose it all to a loanbroker, three
corrupt city guards, and a dwarf that overcharges for his wares,” the journeyman sounded gravely amused. “But, you actually left the city. You
must be a talented escape artist to slip through our fingers. These talents
could be useful.”
A ray of hope began to shine in Keinigan’s mind and he blurted
out, “Anything, sirra!”
The journeyman stopped with his back to Keinigan. He finished his thought,
disregarding the interruption. “We have news of a gem. On the island nation of
Daie. The Dawnstone it is called. We want it. You get it, bring it to us. We
will overlook the money you owe us.”
“Uh, all right. I could try and do that.” Keinigan considered
The man spun around to glower at him in the dim light of the
torches. “You will do it. This
is not a proposal. It is a command.”
“Yes, sirra,” he corrected himself humbly. “But, how will I get
there? The borders of Daie are closed.”
The eyes of the journeyman glanced over, skeptical. “The announcement was posted weeks ago.”
“I can’t read, your Honor,” Keinigan admitted sheepishly. The
human accepted this with a nod.
“Well, the ports have reopened for trade and as the island is
passing near this time of year, it should be simple enough to find a vessel to
take you there. The rest we will leave up to your wits,” the journeyman instructed before taking a
deep breath and turning to face him full on.
The voice behind the golden mask grew casual again, as it drawled,
“Now, we still have the little matter of tribute to settle.”
Keinigan jerked his head up to gape at the man; he was not out of
the woods yet. The wriggling serpents returned in force as the thug holding him
by the arms tightened his grip. Flop sweat beading on his brow, he wanted to
scream, vomit, and cry all at the same time, but held the distress inside with
a suffocating breath.
“There is still a price to pay for stealing from us. We can’t have
that. If we let you off unscathed, then who knows what someone will try to get
away with next.”
“I’ll do what you ask, I’ll get the stone. I’ll even pay you back what money I can –” the
faerlin was begging. The human held up his hand to stop this rambling.
“Yes, yes, we know you will. This is not about the money. It’s the
principle. The fact that you are even still alive is a blemish and
embarrassment to us. No, no we must have our retribution paid in flesh.”
“But –” Keinigan’s pleading was interrupted by the sound of
the journeyman’s sword being drawn from its sheath. The noise echoed eerily in the
damp, hollow room. It bounced off the forlorn walls around him as the light of
two sconces hanging to either side of the stairway shone on the silver blade
like dazzling stars. The robed man held the tip of the weapon in front of
Keinigan a moment, considering his next move aloud.
“Now, let us see.” The blade dropped low. The man pressed the
sharp point against the yielding flesh above the fae’s kneecap and said, “A
thief with only one leg cannot run away…” The blade retreated and shifted to
his shoulder with a pressure that made the faerlin wince. “Likewise, a thief
with only one arm isn’t as good at holding treasure. That would be
counterproductive, now wouldn’t it? Hmm.”
The blade dropped to his groin, a malicious twist on the old
human’s lips. Keinigan snapped his eyes shut, dreading what might happen next;
then he heard, “No, not visible enough.”
The journeyman chuckled. Keinigan felt something touch the quivering lashes of
his left eye. He flinched, sensing the closeness of the blade, and his head
bumped against the chest of the large man holding him. A scream of frustrated
terror was welling up inside the faerlin; his body demanded action — from
either him or his tormentor. He heard a soft whimpering and realized it was
drifting out of his own throat. His heart was galloping in his chest as his
breath turned shallow. A rough hand grabbed his chin and pulled his face to the
side, the tunic of the thug digging into his right cheek.
“A thief needs both eyes, one for the prize and one for watching
out for trouble,” the cracked voice of the journeyman purred. He was obviously enjoying this torment immensely.
Finally, he stated, “But, they can make do with only one ear. Especially ones
as large as the Fae’s.”
The instant that the cold metal touched the flesh of his left ear,
Keinigan had had enough. A flash of wild courage raced through his body. With a
guttural scream, he tore his head free; the blade opening a long cut in the
soft of his cheek. He dropped down and shoved backwards with all his might,
toppling the startled thug behind him. They both hit the ground, jarring the
man’s grip on Keinigan. He was free.
Rolling to his feet, he prepared for attack. Warm blood from the stinging
gash on his face trickled freely down his neck. He threw a glance at the journeyman expecting to see rage in the human’s eyes, but instead he saw mild
appreciation for the young faerlin’s abilities. The half mask revealed a smile
on the thin, wrinkled lips; a smile that turned the thief’s gizzard sour.
“A fighter and a thief? Good.” Then he spoke to the thug on the
floor. “Olok, he’s made you out to be a fool. As well as the rest of you. Get
him out of our sight.” The flat, cold eyes turned back to Keinigan. “We wash
our hands of him.”
The journeyman stalked up the staircase, and Keinigan felt the
crowd of mercenaries close in.
He dodged and battled the best he could for a few minutes, but the blood loss caused dizziness. His face was slick, blood burning his eyes. The arms covered him and soon he was drowning amid a barrage of kicks and blows until blackness mercifully took him.
Translations from Jorthus series available from Amazon.com. Visit the author page for more information on the books, or join the conversation on The Worlds of Jorthus page on Facebook. http://rldavishays.webs.com/apps/blog/