Category Archives: Four Sons of the King

Near Miss

I knocked on the rich cherry wood door. Shuffling and heavy footsteps neared the door and it swung open. An older Caligas man filled the doorway. Thick and sturdy he leaned forward.

“What can I do ya for?”

I was taken aback a moment. I can only remember seeing Caligas here but I’m sure none were this size. They all seemed to be slender like myself not bulky.

“You’re the wild goose I’ve been chasing. I need a chest unlocked and you come recommended,” I put the small chest under his nose.

His eyes darted down for a moment, then they were glued on it. He grabbed the chest and me with it pulling us into his shop. I let go of it preparing myself but he just turned away inspecting it. Looking around I noticed among other things a nasty looking axe sitting just inside the door jam, windows could be seen between the piles of trinkets, junk and various other utilities.

He cleaned off a wooden table with a swipe of his beefy, “So are you a thief or a pillager?”

“Neither as far as I can tell. Why do you ask?”

“This chest and few others like it belonged to high ranking officials or royalty. So which are you boy?” His eyes lifted from the chest scrutinizing me.

“Neither as far as I know.”

“Now quit playing with me!” Suddenly he was standing with his meaty hands planted on each side. “You can take your chest and leave, or tell me the truth.”

I stepped forward let out in a low growl, “I can’t remember anything short of three days ago. Now can you help me or not?”

He mumbled to himself a moment returning his gaze to the chest.

“How am I to know that you’re not a sympathizer? Do you know what punishment is for aiding such a criminal? Public execution if you’re lucky, prison for those Lord Preavus deems still of value,” he let on to mumbling again. “It’s a signature ether lock, so the only people who can open it are the original owner or those he allows.”

“What is an ether signature?”

He looked up with a little surprise and a little disgust, “Whenever ether is used, it let’s off a signature of the person who used it. It’s too slight for any person to sense it but mechanism’s can be build like this that do just that. The craftsman would incorporate the signature of the owner and any others within it. Chances are too, that a box like this was built with a fail safe in case someone tried to force it open. So, get your hands on some ether and try. That’s all I got for you,” He slid the box towards me.

I grabbed the chest, gave him a nod and turned to the door. Suddenly a crash came at the door startling me back a few steps. We both stood in silence unsure of what to do. Then it came again. Someone was knocking impatiently on the door.

“City Guard, open up!”

The words caught in my chest, had Lord Preavus already decided I wasn’t going to take the job? The handy-man stood from his wooden table and headed for the door.

“Hold on a second! I’ll be right there,” He muttered almost to himself.

I stopped him just before the door, “I’m not here.”

“We’ve sighted a known spy within the city walls and we need to search you shop. Open up!” Another barrage followed his words.

The man’s eyes shot over to me with faint surprise, then his eyes caught the glint of my blade in the dull light. I made sure he saw it in hand. I wasn’t going to go down to something so petty as a house search.

“Put that away,” He hissed.

His words were unexpected. He pulled a long cloth from a counter next to the door. Covering his mouth he opened the door and began to caught viciously in the guard’s faces. I stood on the other side of the door, prepared to gut the man if he sold me out.

“My apologies,” He sputtered before another coughing fit. “I haven’t seen any man, just have this damned fever.” He coughed again for good measure. “You’re welcome to come in I just hope I don’t pass this on. Feeling boils spring up too.”

I could see the guard covering his own mouth as he leaned to pear between the man and the door jam.

“Don’t bother, he wasn’t seen too close by. We’re just searching the outer perimeter. Back to your business,” he hurried through a gloved hand.

I slipped the knife away just as the door closed and crossed my arms.

“Not a spy eh?” The man jabbed turning back into his shop.

“If I was I wouldn’t be any use now, now would I? No use for a spy who’s lost his head. Either way, I have need of one more favor, a cloak perhaps you have spare somewhere?” I gestured to the messy room.

He let out a grunt, “Yeah I’ve got one somewhere. But that’s it, you gotta go.”

He handed me a worn rich brown cloak.

After covering myself I slapped two gold coins on the table, “You’ve done me a favor today.”

His eyes widened a bit and he nodded. I slipped out of the shop casually, the crowds were still present and bustling thankfully. Blending in to the flow of traffic I headed back towards the palace. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got there, but something wouldn’t let me leave my cloak and sigil.

Watchful guards prompted a few detours, but I was finally on track. There were two main bridges leading from each sector to the High Terrace. Both crossed the Falling Delta that the Terrace and the palace sat on. I could see the bridge now, I had chosen the busier of the two bridges to cross unnoticed.

A voice bellowed behind me setting me on edge, “There he is!”

Time slowed. Guards lined each side of the bridge, they were along the path behind me as well. I could fight and hopefully disappear down a side street. I could leap off the bridge into the torrid below and hope to survive the waterfall. Before I made a decision the din returned with a rush at the point of a knife in my back and a steady word in my ear.

“Do not move.”

My mind raced. There weren’t any guards this close to me, nor could they have reached me in a split second. No, it was someone else. My decision was made for me.

I spun around in a flash, reaching for his armed hand and drawing my own blade. He recoiled as I slashed out across his chest. Blades whistled through the air, inches away from nicking and artery or slashing valuable tendons. One false move and one of us would be dead. He ducked, I lunged. We met at every split second just short of dealing a lethal blow. But, I was faster. I feinted back drawing him out and leapt forward, my hood drawing back from the swift movement.
The man hesitated for a moment, only able to utter a single word before we both realized my blade was in his side.

“Elias?”

The crowds fled and the guards swarmed in. I pulled my knife out and prepared to kill as many men as I could. To my surprise they passed right by me and disarmed my dazed foe. Beating him into submission they drug away a limp unconscious body.

An arm slapped onto my shoulder, instinctively my blade found its way towards his armpit.

“Slow down, I wanted to thank you,” The man said with a stunned look on his face, certainly considering how fast he could’ve died.

“What do you mean?” I asked lowering my blade, but keeping it in hand.

“That man you just bested is the spy we’ve been searching for. A Render working within a network here in Prakash. Trying to undermine the Lord’s good works,” He started to walk away. “I’ll make sure you don’t go unnoticed.”

Frustration twisted up inside me. I wiped the blade off on my tunic. Unnoticed is what I wanted to go, there’s no way to infiltrate the system I just openly undermined. Taking out a key player catches people’s attention and there were a lot of people watching.

There was a silver lining I decided as I made my way to my room in the palace; Lord Preavus wasn’t searching to kill me. Just yet that is. I figure I might as well wait around til morning to see if there’s anything left to salvage. A well paying job is hard to come by, working under a lord in process is near unbelievable.

I sat on my bed turning over the dull silver sigil in my hand. It was light, yet resisted any whittling I tried with my knife. The four arms interlocked, surrounding the name I had adopted. The name I was called today by a stranger. Elias. How did he know my name? More importantly who was he?

It was decided. First thing I had to do was get to the prison and speak with him. He knew more than I did, which wasn’t saying much. But, if he knows something about my past we needed to talk.

I pulled my leather armor off, setting it on the chair across from the bed. My tunic stunk from a days worth of running around. It landed on the ground in the corner along with my trousers. Boots next to the bed, and knife under the down pillow. My fingers traced over the raised scar on my shoulder. It had been too long since I’ve been in combat. Second thing to do tomorrow: find someone worth sparring with.

 


Arrangements

Lead to safety, food, furnishings, wounds tended to, and now I’m alone with the Lord of the land. I haven’t done too bad for myself in the few days I’ve been conscious. Granted it’s either a foolishly grave mistake, or he is far too confident. Time will tell.

“You have a useful set of skills, Elias,” His words were cool and smooth.

Conversations have been started in stranger ways.

“Serge has informed me about the circumstance surrounding your encounter,” my stiff body was a reminder of that night, “We tended to your wound when you arrived.”

Lord Preavus gestured to a seat and took one himself on a velvet tufted couch. I wandered around the room examining the simple furnishings, not yet interested in settling in.

“Don’t be concerned with any recompense. I find myself inclined to lending aid when I can.”

“And I am fed and tended to, but what is it you’ve brought me here for?”

“A man of action, I can appreciate that. You want all the pieces on the table, much like myself. You’re here because I may have use of you.”

It can’t seem to do me any harm to make friends with a Lord, at this point.

“What is this need you have?”

His smug posture gave way, he leaned forward with a raised eyebrow and grimace.

“Rest assured, you’re needs would be met generously,” I turned around with a fabricated gleam in my eye. “I require a fresh face.”

“Ah, a spy.”

“You are intuitive, indeed. Now, Serge tells me that you are suffering from some kind of amnesia?”

“For better or worse,” I planted myself in the opposite couch

“Well that is fortunate, it would make you more valuable. You see, if you decide to take my offer you will be required to lie, and given liberty to do whatever is necessary to accomplish my goal.”

“What is your goal m’Lord?”

He reclined once more, “I need you to infiltrate a sect within our city walls. They’re sympathizers of the late Caligas kingdom and wish to see my efforts  of restoration uprooted. It will be dangerous, but something tells me you are no stranger to violence. You will be required to listen to their lies, adopt their qualities, and draw out any and all valuable information.”

“Tell me more about how I will be rewarded.”

“We will secure a safe house within the city rather than house you here, to keep up appearances. You will be paid generously, and if you perform well there is potential for security of employment in the future.”

I took in a deep breath and blew it out with a whistle, “Well, let me sleep on it.” Let’s see what my options are.

“Very well. You may retire here for the night. There will be a parcel left outside your room in the morning,” Lord Preavus stood as I followed suit. “But,” he turned as he opened the door, “If you decline I would recommend you not be here in the morning.”

That’s what I wanted to hear. If he intended to kill me, he would never make a sound about it. This way I have options at least. I stepped between the two sentinels outside the room to where Lord Preavus stood waiting.

The smugness returned, “You are free to roam the city, take in what our beautiful capitol has to offer.”

“Lord Preavus,” a messenger approached with a bow, “I wish to remind you of your meeting with the council.”

“Yes thank you, tell them I will not make them wait any longer.”

The messenger anxiously matched Lord Preavus’ slower pace as they walked away with the two guards.

A strange sensation crept over me, that of not having anywhere to be. I wandered through the halls of the palace making use of the time by memorizing different routes and stretching. My chest was still tight and tender, even the hands of a healer can’t put the limber back in muscles and tendons.

Satisfied with my wandering I set out to unlock the chest. I got the chest from my room and crossed the Terrace entering the vivid marketplace. The bright buildings and brightly dressed people surrounded me. It was more color than I cared for, uncomfortable knowing I was trying to blend in with a rainbow. I noticed eyes watched between the white draping of Prakashi uniforms, guards were posted past just about every corner I rounded. I made no effort to avoid their gaze, there was no doubt they had been informed about me and I stuck out like a sore thumb.

After questioning several vendors, one guard and a man selling some exotic birds I found a furniture salesman who led me to a handy-man.


Elias Crouching

This is the lineart I have been working on for Elias, the main character in the Four Sons of the King series I’m writing.

Sinister Smirk


Red Snow

What starts as a routine rumble turns for the worse.

The morning was colder than most mornings. I stepped from the small cabin and into the deep snow, my staff leading me.

“I would’ve like it to be a bit warmer,” I say.

With my cloak and staff I have no reason to stay and I strike out. Right in front of left, then left and right. A few moments pass while I try desperately to not think of the biting cold when something catches my attention. Something dark speckles the snow just ahead. I look around searching for any sings of company. My eyes hang on the clear skies over the city in the distance, the Miasma pressing in all around like a ring of fog. There’s no going back. The wind changed direction and the smell of blood revealed the speckles ahead and likely much more.

I ready myself as I venture further along the red trail. Another smell came on the wind, something familiar. Uneasy I climb through the trees and over a hill. They see me as soon as I do them. Only three wolves, a deep breath releases the knot in my gut. Wolves are not Veran, wolves I can handle.

My staff is in both hands now across my chest. The alpha lets out a low growl with blood dripping from its maw, the kill between them and myself. I let out a growl myself. The alpha advanced while the other two spread out on each side of me. I know better than to wait for them to make the first move, so I charge screaming into the alpha. It’s ears flicker for just a moment before it realizes it has a fight on it’s paws. It crouches to pounce a moment too late when the knot in my staff connects with its snout. Not a solid blow, but enough to nearly send it spinning. I hear the other two right behind me and spin. One wolf dodges the blow retreating, the other gets it in the side of its head.

That one is out for the time being. I turn and strike the alpha in the side, the attack elicits a loud whimper as it scrambles to get out of reach. Then a crushing pain envelops my arm as the unharmed wolf latches onto me. My teeth clench as it pulls me off balance trying to remove my arm from my shoulder. I pull back hard and manage to maneuver my arm back so my fist is in it’s mouth. I throw all my weight into the wolf’s mouth sending my arm into its throat. The animal jerks violently as its jaw stretches trying to eject the obstacle. I pull hard tearing as much as I can before my arm is retrieved with only a torn sleeve and imminent bruising. My fingers start to tingle as the cold hits the saliva soaking my whole arm.

The wolf stumbles backwards heaving blood into the snow. I raise my staff and smash it onto the wolf’s head and it collapses at my feet. Fatigue starting to settle I turn to face the remaining wolf.


World Building

Hey readers, sorry for the hiatus. I have been doing some world building and doing a lot of thinking on the themes and overall feel of the series.

What does this mean for what is already out there?

As far as plot everything will pretty much stay intact. Just some minor tweaking further down the road when I’m editing. I’m going to put a sort of timeline up a little later when I have ironed out the kinks. I would love to have questions and input on that. I want to fill any gaping holes I have so when I’m writing the stories they have a natural and purposeful progression.

 

Thanks for hanging in there!


Proving Ground

The thrill of a kill seemed to diminish under the weight of a notched arrow. But, considering the mission a compromise had to be made for Lieutenant Mune directions.

“There are a group of seven bandits that have roamed dangerously close to Prakashi population. As you know our goal is to purge the land of those who seek a lesser existence than we offer. Our priorities have changed considering our preparations.”

“War time preparations sir?” The question was rhetorical.

“Of course Elias. Lord Praevus requested this mission be yours specifically. We are only sending you.”

He nodded.

“It will be a test of sorts. Because of the unique situation, we need to know what of your skills remain.”

Perhaps this would rid their insecurities. An opportunity to prove oneself.

Five hours of tracking brought three of the seven raiders at the end of an arrow. Moonlight peeked through the lush vegetation, speckling their faces with light. Elias led their steps with the short bow through the trees. There were two Caligas, one here and the other ahead with the other four thirty paces off. The others were mixed or Cleland; except one that seemed peculiar. A Northerner, the Vayr were the mighty men of Fray. Those born heroic leaders. It was in their blood to rule and war. This one was a foot taller than all the others and wielded a long sword single handed and a buckler. The others would need to be dispatched first if possible; facing the two Caligas and the Vayr was not ideal.

The arrow loosed silently through the brush and under the arm of the Caligas who took up the rear. Before his body crumpled mid step Elias nocked another arrow and let it fly into the chest of the next raider in line. With two down the third spun around to see his comrades lifeless in the dirt. The other four blazed the trail putting space behind them and the stunned man left behind.

The raider’s wide eyes peered into the brush. He bolted, but another arrow was in the air. Elias cursed as it missed its mark, landing in his target’s shoulder slamming him into a nearby tree. He let out a cry just before Elias drew and thrust his two curved long daggers into his chest.

The quiet rustling from the other raiders was silenced. Without a sound a dark figure slipped onto the path with a glimmering short sword in his hands. He inspected the three corpses from a distance then slipped back into the cover of brush.

Elias knew if either of them had Ether it would be near impossible to hide if they knew how to use it. Along with several other restrictions, the use of Ether had been among them. Whether this was a test of pure skill, or another check and balance was irrelevant. After this there would be no feasible reason to be baby sat.

Elias waited above in a tree. The Vayr stood facing ahead still, but readied. The other had panned out in each direction and the Caligas was still missing. A slight whir sounded before a thud behind Elias’ head just as he ducked out of the way. His hand found a throwing dagger and pulled it out of the tree. His eyes traced the line where the dagger was thrown. A form darted away and two other daggers whirred past. He dropped down a branch and spun around the tree.

A clicking sound betrayed the Caligas’ presence. Before Elias could close in on him the other raiders regrouped towards their position. The massive Vayr worked as a spearhead for the group as they pierced the forest.

Elias leapt through the trees forcing the other Caligas back. His one short sword couldn’t work fast enough to fend off both of his long daggers. The Caligas’ hand went down for another throwing dagger to and Elias locked his sword with both blades. He cast the sword out from his body and plunged one long dagger into his chest. It hit light armor and the sword came frantically to fend off Elias’ attacks but it was repelled again. He pushed the Caligas back against the tree and buried the dagger through the armor. Elias cocked back and pushed his other blade in to secure the Caligas’ fate.

His body slumped forward and Elias loosed his long daggers sending him down through the branches to the ground. The others were on top of him now. He thew the throwing dagger and the first man who climbed up towards him. It punched into his shoulder causing him to lose his grip and fall back down. The Vayr pulled him on his feet with one hand and started laying into the tree with his sword.

The tree shook violently as they tried to uproot Elias from his perch. The other two stood on the other side swinging at the base of the tree as well. The Vayre cocked back and swung hard. His blade stuck in the tree sending sending it shaking all the way up. Elias took his opportunity. He stepped off the branch and fell directly over the Vayre raider.

Elias landed on his shoulder putting both long daggers halfway into his flesh then launching off into the brush. The Vayr howled ripping his sword free and spinning half circle trying to slash at Elias. He was already hidden amongst the vegetation. The other raiders moved to each side of the giant and started clearing ahead of them. The Vayr’s heavy breathing and growling, along with the swoosh of vines and branches under their blade’s colored the night sounds.

Darting around to the flank, the fifth fell under the subtle edge of his long dagger. The raider coughed and gurgled as he collapsed next to the Vayr. His growl turned into a roar as a smokey blue light erupted out from within him. Everything within ten feet was leveled. Elias and the other raider were caught in the blast. The raider hit a tree in the center of his back and crumpled on the ground dead. Elias flew further before hitting a tree with his shoulders spinning him into the dirt and knocking the wind out of him.

The Vayr growled, charging towards Elias’ prone form. Elias rolled away from a downward slash. He rolled backwards onto his feet with both weapons in hand. The brute’s buckler met him as he caught his bearings slamming him back against a tree. Trying to regain some ground Elias slashed a shallow cut across his opponent’s stomach. A grunt game in reply.

His long sword chopped at Elias’ neck, just missing over his duck. The sword was stuck again and Elias lashed out. Anticipating a kick he thrust one of his long daggers into the Vayr’s thigh and the other into his forearm. Another howl came in reply. His grip loosened on the sword and Elias twisted his blade. He withdrew the long dagger in his thigh and ran it all the way through his forearm

The Vayr wrenched his arm free, pulling one long dagger clean out and the other one pulled from Elias’ grip. Blood poured out of the Vayr’s shoulder wounds and his arm onto the debris below. They say a Vayr has ten times the amount of blood as a normal man. That they can fight til there’s no blood left. Elias had no intention of finding out.

The giant was in a blind rage. He threw his buckler off his arm and ripped the long dagger out of his other arm. He was going to tear Elias apart with his bear hands it appeared. He charged in again, rippling muscles bulging like a crazed bull. Missing Elias, he nearly toppled the tree crashing into it. Elias ducks out of the way and punched his long dagger in twice into the Vayr’s side. He backed away wary of what he might do next. The raider’s breaths were ragged and blood dripped down both sides of his mouth. There was internal bleeding, he was slowing down.

In a final effort the Vayr lurched forward reaching his arms out. Elias leapt back and slashed his long dagger across his throat. He crashed to the ground like big game tired to fighting death. Elias knelt just out of arms reach listening to the last haggard breaths of the massive man, and catching his own.

In a whoosh of air the man was dead. Elias leaned back against a tree looking up into the Miasma filled sky. Now the trek back.


An Evening Of Choices

“You are naive,” he hissed.

The sounds echoed off the sweating walls of the alley.

“What can we do? What is your plan?” Zoar fumed.

Gilbred’s pacing revealed enough.

“All you knew was from orders given. Why don’t you forge your own path? We’re in danger, and I’ll take all the help I can get.”

Gilbred rounded on her with a pointed finger, “You don’t know if you’re any safer with them. I know what they offer.” His eyes drifted away for a moment.

“They offer us food, shelter, possibly even hope. You gave up nothing coming out here; I gave up everything.” Zoar turned to the stairs. She watched the mouth of the dark alley where Gilbred lingered.

The door creaked upstairs and Greggor appeared next to her. Zoar continued to watch him. His head whipped up seeing Greggor standing with her. She could see the decision in his narrowed eyes. He took two long strides and was out of sight. Zoar took a deep breath fighting the heaviness and went back upstairs. Greggor joined her a few minutes later.

The festivities returned after a short time. Zoar’s own feelings were dull. She was still excited by what she could learn from these people; but she was still distracted by her loyalty to Gilbred.

***

“So please tell us everything,” one large man blurted. His excitement spread throughout the room as everyone quieted to listen.

Slight discomfort edged in on Zoar as she collected her thoughts.

“I do not know where to start,” she said taking a sip of her wine. Zoar explained the first encounters she had with the Man. She was forced to retell the story with painstaking detail. If she did not the group would groan with dissatisfaction and request more. They whooped praises when she described how the Man had appeared to her. And when she had been protected against the High Priestess.

“Now let me ask you this,” Zoar interjected just as her story ended. “Who is this Man of Light?”

The room went quiet, several looked to Greggor who had been quiet the whole time.

A smile spread on his face, “Why do you look to me? You know as well as I do, tell the girl she deserves answers.”

“He is,” a little girl sitting between her father’s legs looked around for the words, “our hope.” Her father patted her on the head with a smile.

“Your hope?” Zoar asked, the word was foreign to her.
Another person piped up, “Do you not know of hope?”
A brief wave of embarrassment swept over her. She shook her head.
Greggor spoke out, “Hope is looking forward to what we can’t see, but we know.”
“I don’t understand,” Zoar said.
He mulled it over a little more this time. “It’s like tomorrow, we hope for it. We know that if the Light wills it we will see another day. So we live our life in hope of tomorrow.”
Some around the room nodded, other just smiled at her.
“How do you mean the Man of Light is our hope?”
“He comes and goes when his wisdom sees fit, and yet we trust in him even when we cannot see or feel him. He gave us all a promise, and that is our hope. That he will make good on his promise.”
“What if he doesn’t?”
“Let me ask you a question, why did you follow him?”
Zoar had avoided asking herself that question. She went back to the times he came to her, to her decisions, and what drove her to them. “Freedom.”
“Exactly!” Greggor burst with excitement. “You see, it is that you hope for freedom and you felt he offered it. Am I incorrect in this assumption?”
It was true Zoar realized, “No, that is correct.” A sudden wave of emotions hit her. A promise had been made, of a way out of the bondage of the tribe. And it had been made good. She felt like she was floating, she couldn’t pin down any more words. Why would anyone make a pact with her? Where emotions of awe had filled her vulnerability began to creep in. He had no right to obligate her this way.
“Forgive me if I cannot grab a hold of your hope like you have. The Man has been gone since I left my tribe, that’s the only reason I came with you Greggor. I wanted to find him and get answers” Zoar stood up and grabbed her spear. “Your hospitality,” she said to Greggor, “has been unwarranted.”
Everyone sat in silence as she left the small upper room.
***
Zoar navigated the grimy walls and shady nooks of the city back to the small tavern room. Gilbred’s possessions were gone. She sat down on a rickety stool in the corner and starred off with a blank expression. What now? A plan had to be organized. She tracked her steps to where she was now, refocusing.
Several hours later Zoar’s head bobbed as she fought the heaviness in her eyes. A loud crack startled her into a crouched position spear ready. Someone had slammed into the door sending a nail from the dilapidated door jam ringing across the floor. Loud swearing came from the other side of the door as a thud sounded and the door knob turned. It giggled but the door wouldn’t open. With another loud snap half the door jam bust off as the bartender came crashing through the doorway.
“Damned door jam,” he muttered now inspecting the damages.
He was startled when he noticed Zoar in the room.
“What are you doing here Rajani,” he spat out. “Your owner left, he didn’t pay for another night so you best find some other hole to stay tonight.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
The bartender laughed, “I don’t know what business you had here, but he was obviously finished.” His eyes went wide for a moment, hands wringing out a towel, “And I was serious about you leaving.”
Zoar stepped around him never taking her eyes off of him. She nearly tripped over the large bucket of water in the hallway. She wasted no time leaving the muttering man to his business.
It was cold tonight. The Miasma drew closer, bolstered by a fog that had rolled in. The Miasma hung just outside of reach, a thick fog that was unaffected by wind or passerby. Yet it shifted on its own accord, leaning against anything within its grasp. There wasn’t a time Zoar remembered being able to see more than a handful of strides in front of her.
On the street again, only worse off than before. Alone and confused she wandered. Drawing her firs close to fend off the cold’s bite Zoar leaned against an alley wall. It was packed with garbage and debris as was most of the city. But, tonight trash would have to do. Before settling into something like rest she fortified herself within the heavily laden alley. It helped keep her warm and facing the side street, but it smelled like the inside of a stomach.
***
Something demanded urgency on the edge of consciousness. It was surely a dream. It hissed again. This time it wouldn’t be lulled back.
Familiar accents ripped Zoar from her half sleep. The voices were right on her, there was another though. The darkness slowly revealed the presence of those speaking. Three men stood at the mouth of the alley, another two facing her but looking at the last figure standing. All Rajini except the one being interrogated. It was the Rajini Blood Scouts. The person they questioned violently stood only a few feet from her.
“Where is she?”
“I told you I must’ve been mistaken, I thought you meant someone else,” the man frantically reasoned.
“You have lead us astray before, I will give you one more chance where is the High Priestess?”
“I, I don’t, ack!” The leader stepped forward and kicked the man’s knee, then punched his spear into his chest sending him backwards against where Zoar was hidden.
The other Rajini stepped forward and they both pierced the man’s chest with their long spear heads. The man whimpered and coughed. A scream left his throat as the two warriors drained the life from his body up the shaft of their spears and into themselves.
Satisfied they turned and whispered orders to the other three and were gone. Heart pounding, Zoar pushed the body off of her niche and took a closer look. The man’s face was sunken and withered but it was clear who it was. An especially quiet man from the evening dinner. Surely a friend of Greggor, probably the one who had lead the Blood Scouts away the first time.
A lurch doubled Zoar over as she wretched on the cobbled ground. Blood was on her hands, blood she didn’t ask for but blood none the less. Should she go back with them, resuming her role as their leader, or were they here to exact justice for the death of the last High Priestess? In a town this size, especially with so little defense or surveillance they would continue to kill until they found her or a new trail. A thought made her freeze, Gilbred or Greggor dead in the alley. Fear and remorse filled her.
She would have to warn them.