Haidley XCI – XCIV

If you read this
fair stranger, spare a
moment to pray for
us, we sorry few,
who have chosen to
guard these borders from
the….for….

Part of an inscription found on a stele that was removed and broken up to form the foundations of a nearby manse.

XCI

Delog looked at the

crossroads for some time.

The flights overhead told

of the annual migration..

Delog shielded his eyes

as he calmly watched

their slow yet noisy

passage. Apart from those

few going about their

business, there was nothing

alarming happening at the

intersection. But he waited.

“We good, Boss?” someone

asked, breaking his scrutiny.

He turned then nodded.

“Just making sure, Pydo.”

The caravan, strung out

behind the low knoll

slowly moved out to

rejoin the highway. It

was nearing mid-morning

and already the air

was beginning to burn.

He pulled up the

scarf he wore. The

caravan lumbered noisily onto

the rutted road, teamsters

cajoling the moaning oxen.

Delog watched the procession

for a while from

where he’d been observing

the intersection between their

lands and the vast

desert beyond, the Shadow

mountains standing sentinel as

if warning all travellers.

Then he mounted his

horse and accompanied by

his bodyguards rode down

to join the freighters.

As the dust began

to annoy him, the

lead wagon stopped. He

continued on toward the

waiting few. “Which way,

Boss?” Delog merely pointed

at the Shadow mountains.

“Make for the oasis.”

Some of the freighters

looked at each other,

concern in their eyes,

but none said anything.

XCII

“You say they are

making for the desert?”

The messenger, dusty from

his frantic riding, nodded.

“Yes, Guild Master. Solam

thinks they’re switching at

one of the many

watering stops. But he

don’t know which.” Thormo

nodded. He glanced at

the map conveniently spread

on the long table.

He traced a route

on the map with

his finger and noticed

the nail looked dull.

“How many wagons are

there?” The messenger thought

about it for a

moment. “Six. We thought

there’d be more but

that’s all we spotted.”

Six? But the manifest

said seven. Where was

the other one? “And

Sollam is going to

bring this scum back?”

“Uh,” The messenger fidgeted.

“Yeah, I guess so.

He didn’t say so

openly but I reckon

that’s what you be

wanting, right Boss?” His

unshaven face hid enough

of his blotchy skin

to make him acceptable

but Thormo didn’t care.

Well, you head back

and tell Sollam that

if he doesn’t bring

that traitor scum Delog

to me, with the

shipment intact, then I

will enjoy throwing him

and the rest of

you ingrates into the

Pit. Now get!” The

man suddenly jumped to

his feet and hastily

bowed as he retreated for

the doors. Thormo watched the

departure coldly before turning

to the ever attentive

Ufa. “Search Delog’s warehouses

and city lodgings. I

want to know where

all the wagons are.

I smell a ruse

but I need to

be sure. Take a

strong company of my

guards with you. Find

that wagon.” Ufa quickly

bowed and signalled to

his associates and left

chamber. He hid his

concerns though. The thought

of combat frightened the

official, more at home

being conniving and devious

and getting others to

do his physical needs.

Already he was starting

to sweat and there was

a chill wind blowing

tonight.

 

XCIII

Delog’s city possessions were,

like most clan turf,

well fortified and protected.

But Ufa’s mandate granted

him the authority, under

the Guild’s charter, to

enter any member’s property

without as much as

“Hello, can I come

inside and search your

property for no reason?”

The clan guards were

at first reluctant to

even let the small

official his due entrance.

But when they saw

the armed Guild guards

standing menacingly behind, they

slowly stepped aside. “Ho!

What’s this?” said a

voice. Ufa looked over

and saw Haltog, Delog’s

younger brother, approaching. With

him came an armed

group of men, looking

quite fierce (so Ufa

declared privately). “Well met,

Brother Haltog. I am

Ufa, Steward to Lord

Thorm…” “I know who

you are, lackey. But

I didn’t say you

could enter. Froff, what

were you thinking,” Haltog

yelled to the gate

keeper who stood there

sheepishly now. But before

Froff could reply, Haltog

was pushing Ufa backwards.

Alarmed Ufa looked behind

him for help. The

Guild escort leader stepped

forward, hand on hilt,

and stopped Haltog, who

angrily brushed the interfering

hand aside. “What right

do you have here,

Guild scum. Eff off

before I have you

lot tossed out like

the gutless wonders you

are.” But the Guild

man stood his ground.

“Master Haltog, we’re here

on Guild business. Now,

if you want to

get in a huff

over it, then speak

with your brother and

then Lord Thormo. I’m

sure he’s more than

happy to confiscate all

of this over your

refusal to allow us

our legal business.” The

words came out quite

calm and reasonable. But

it only agitated Haltog

even more and he

had to be restrained

by his friends. The

Guild man smiled and

turned to Ufa. “Where

do you want us

to search first, Master

Ufa?” Ufa was visibly

shaking but he managed

to point a wobbly

arm in the direction

of the stables. “Start

there if you please,”

he replied in a

squeaky voice. Haltog’s friends

were having a hard

time of restraining him

as he shouted verbal

abuse as they dragged

him away. The rest

of the household could

only stand and watch

helplessly as the Guild

men went about their

business with pace.

 

XCIV

The camp that night

was settling in when

the attackers came. The

freighters were hired to

cart, not fight. But

in that brief time,

everyone played a part

although the speed of

the raid took them

all by surprise. By

the time, it was

done, the raiders were

in possession of six

laden wagons. All the

freighters were dead, along

with their caravan guards,

bar one. He knelt

by the glow of

the firelight nursing his

busted arm. His face

was mussed up with

trickles of blood making

it much worse than

it appeared. Sollam studied

the wounded captive for

a moment. He was

a deliberate type of

man, a rarity among

thieves of this kind.

The news on learning

about the cargo had

surprised him initially. But

now he understood. He

smiled. “Where is Delog?”

The captive looked up.

He spat some phlegm

and blood at Sollam’s

feet. “Who?” Sollam lashed

out with his booted

foot at the wounded

arm. The captive fell

howling in pain. Sollam

quickly realised that he

wouldn’t talk. He’d seen

that often enough. He

walked away to one

of the wagons where

some of the men

were examining the crates.

The look they gave

him as he approached

alerted him something was

up. He peered into

them. It looked like

household furnishings. Not exactly

what he was expecting.

One of the men spoke.

“We gone through it

and it looks like

trade wares for sale,

boss. Do you want

us to check the

others?” Sollam nodded. But

he was expecting much

the same. He turned

back to the captive.

But he was already

dead. When the news

confirmed his suspicions, he

ordered the group to

hitch up the teams;

they would return this

lot to Boss Thormo,

minus his cut of

course. But let the

fat man decide what

to do once he

provides proof that old

Delog had once more

given him the slip.

He started to laugh.

 

© 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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