Haidley L-LII

Death comes quickest when
life is most happiest.

L

The agony was merciless.

Glazed over, he felt

all control finally released.

He wept. Even that

only added to the

pain he was feeling.

Thormo’s look was almost

orgasmic. He had won.

But he savoured the,

moment. “So, you are

broken, me boy. I

said I would get

you and now you

are here before me.”

He chortled, half to

himself. He felt elated.

“Your defiance was always

going to cause you

more problems. What say

you now, eh boy?”

Haidley barely heard the

words above his open

slobbering wailing. He could

not stop himself. He

spluttered as he tried

to speak but all

that came out of

him was a globbering

sound. Thormo laughed. The

others also laughed but

it was delayed and

over enthusiastic. Not a

few saw their own

fate in the broken

young man before them.

Thormo signalled for help.

Two muscular men stepped

forward and lifted the

Guild Master easily and

guided him carefully down

from his seat and

forward to the prisoner.

Thormo stopped just out

of reach: somehow, he

still dreaded this young

man even though he

chained and broken. A

man with nothing left

was always someone to

dread, so thieves often

said amongst themselves. And

Thormo suddenly realised this.

“Well, this is indeed

a glorious morning. The

Ravens are no more;

what’s left are just

paupers eking out a

nothing existence. Many are

already dead or fled

these lands. Some have

even seen the sense

and joined our brotherhood.

Is that not right,

brother Mingus?” From the

cluster, a figure made

his way slowly forward.

Haidley half saw him

and his weeping seemed

to stop. Mingus, his

former friend, stood before

him. Haidley’s heart rose.

But then it was

beaten down as Mingus

suddenly spat at him.

“You fool, Haidley. Because

of you the Ravens

are no more. And

Senna is dead. All

because of your stupid

pride. Well, I realised

the error of my

ways and recanted. Now

I am living the

life of ease and

trust because Boss Thormo

took pity on me

and saved me from

your foolishness.” He spat

again. “A pox on

you. Only sorry that

Klax and the others

ain’t here to see

this. They would be

overjoyed, as I am.”

Haidley’s eyes watered but

then he slumped his

head. Senna is dead?

Thormo heard the former

Raven’s speak and smiled.

“Yes, me boy. While

you were gallivanting down

in our southern warmth,

Senna was trying to

make ends meet. Unfortunately,

it got all too

much and she passed

away not long ago.

I thought to let

you know but I

thought to save it

until the annual festival.

But I see that

I’ve been pre-empted. Never

mind, it’s better coming

from a former friend,

Wouldn’t you agree?” But

Haidley said nothing in

reply. He couldn’t. Not

yet. Somehow, though, the

heartbreaking news suddenly gave

him strength. He spat

back at Thormo, staining

his expensive silk shirt

with his blood. “I

swear by Senna’s death

you will pay for

all of this, pig!”

Thormo’s face flared up

at the offense given.

He lashed out with

his baton, sign of

his office. He heard

the cracking of bone.

“Only oath you will

be giving, me boy,

is your last rites.”

 

LI

Delog looked around the

room. Many of his

men had returned. Some

were now guarding their

booty. A few were

missing. He noticed Klax

was not among those

now attending to their

wounds and quietly supping.

Bilon came up with

a bowl of something

hot. Delog just pushed

it away, instead opening

the bottle and drinking.

Bilon merely shrugged and

took back the bowl

and began eating from

it. “Take it things

went well, boss?” Delog

nodded. “It did though

we came close to

being nabbed. That guard

commander reacted pretty

quickly. Did anyone get

a look at those

guards. They didn’t look

the usual runts you

see guarding convoys. I

thought I saw gold

pauldrons under their cloaks.”

Some of the men

nodded. But no one

was game enough to

respond or so Delog

believed until he spotted

a familiar face. “Haik,

you seen them before?”

Haik, one of his

lieutenants from out west,

nodded. He was known

as the Learned because

before he had turned

thief, he had been

a scholar of high

repute. But a falling

out with a previous

employer with an attractive

wife meant that Haik

was not a wanted

man. Delog had taken

him in and he

had risen quickly because

of his background. “Yellow

pauldron did you say?”

Delog remembered the almost

fatal combat with one

of the guards who

had charged him tonight.

He barely escaped with

his life and thanked

his lucky stone for

helping him trip up

his attacker. That chance

was all Delog needed to

run the man through

with his blade. “Yes,”

he replied. “I think

there was also a

golden bird on his

cuirass. Or maybe flower?”

Haik’s eyes seemed to

squint as his mind

raced through his memory

seeking a connection. It

came but then so

did his concern. “If

it’s a bird, then

I don’t know. But

if it was floral,

then we’re in for

trouble.” Delog’s face brightened

somehow. Trouble?

“The only outfit I

know that wears flowers

all over their uniforms

are the Juniss, boss.”

A bell seemed to

ring inside Delog. Juniss?

Here? Moreover, what were

they guarding cos Juniss

don’t just guard anything.

Delog’s curiosity somehow awoke.

He stood up, glugging

down the remains of

the bottle. He looked

at Haik. “What’s in

those crates then? Bring

your team. Let’s find

out why the Juniss

would be this far

from home. They don’t

leave their fortress of

Solitude for anyone or

anything other than a

direct command from the

King.” He stormed out

of the room followed

by at least a

dozen others. As soon

as they’d left, the

room erupted into voice.

Not a few quickly

began collecting a few

things and departing. Hason,

puzzled by all this

accosted Bilon who continued

to eat as if

unconcerned. “What is this,

friend? It seems the

mention of this Juniss

invokes great response, all

of it,” he pointed

to the quickly diminishing

numbers, “because of the

mention of their name?”

Bilon nodded as if

mulling over the question

carefully. “Dunno, matey. This

stew is tasty. Want

some?” He offered his

still steaming bowl. Hason’s

sudden appetite was enough

to answer his question

for the moment. Bilon

looked over to Jesip

who was quietly packing

his things as well.

“Here, I’ll get it

for you,” he said

as Jesip stood up

and slowly made for

the door. Hason accepted

the bowl and bread

and began eating ravenously.

By the time, he’d

finished, Bilon was gone.

He looked around and

saw that only those

too injured to move

on their own were

left behind. Hason’s face

fell but then the

savoury memory of his

meal made him forget

anything else real quickly.

 

LII

The trek to the

Palace took most of

the night. As they

reached the fortified gate,

sun was struggling through

the grey clouds slinking

about. “Open the gates!”

was shouted out. “Who

goes there?” came the

challenge. “What’s left of

the King’s convoy,” was

the reply. There was

commotion as confusion ruled

the battlements. Finally an

order was given and

the clanking creak of

the drawbridge being lowered

broke the morning’s peace.

Klax was tired. Alive

but tired. He’d tried

to wriggle himself free

of his bonds; it

was just rope after

all. But whoever tied

the knots knew their

business. The more he

struggled, the tighter the

bonds became. Finally, he

just gave up. He

stared up at the

looming giant of a

castle. He’d never been

here but had heard

of the Summer Palace

and all its menacing

grandeur. The packed battlements

and the armed guards

stationed beneath added to

that air that would

deter most ordinary folk

and, perhaps, a few

would-be robbers. The

fact that a large

mounted force also rode

up added to that

well-guarded perception he’d

reached. “Hail there Tuniss,”

he overheard the leader

of the mounted patrol say

to the convoy leader.

“What is this? Had

a little fun on

your way here. Must

say you look a

little worse for it.”

He saw Klax but

said nothing. Tuniss glared

at the new arrivals.

The drawbridge was down

and the wagons were

crossing over. Klax acted

humbled but tried to

listen in on the

conversation. “Greetings to you

too Lyll. We had

a little encounter. They

picked their spot well.

We would have lost

more if not for

the alertness of one

of the lads. But

at least we have

a prisoner,” Tuniss replied.

She and the leader

of the patrol rode

across together. “I’m sure

Minister Oka will be

intrigued by your full

report then. Unfortunately we

saw nothing on our

routine patrol this morning.

A few larks and

tree squirrels and maybe

spooked a few deer.

I shall be keen

to hear of your

night activities. Shall we?”

He kicked his horse

forward and Tuniss complied.

As she rode by,

she glanced down at

Klax who returned her

stare by openly looking

back at her. He

received a clout for

his impertinence by the

guard watching over him.

“Eyes front, scum.” Klax

teetered forwards a little

but still stole a

final glance at her

as she rode past.

Her fair hair. Deep

grey eyes. Straight nose.

Lips that were red

but appeared bleak and

stern when fired up,

so he recalled. Her

voice still sounded like

a song. Klax suddenly

realised he was in

love. Poor pitiful Klax.

© 2017 L. Tafa

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Author: b20f08

I enjoy solo wargaming and writing. The first caters to the boy that never grew up; the latter satisfies a deep desire to communicate. Cheers.

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