Twenty-nine

Twenty-nine

A Chapter by Isemay

Waking, Kwes felt cold and nauseous. His belly ached as if Tark had given him a beating while he slept. He tried to sit up and someone next to him jerked awake and pushed his shoulder down as they brandished a knife at the tent flap. 


“You need to rest, Magpie.” Rook gave him a vaguely annoyed look and pulled her knife close to herself as she laid back down by his side.


“You sleep with a knife?” He managed to rasp. “Why…” 


“You were attacked on the road and you wonder why I sleep with a knife?” She lifted her head and gave him an impish grin. “Are you thirsty?”


“Yes.” His mouth and throat felt drier than he could ever remember them feeling.


The Rook sat up again but someone was pushing a cup in toward her before she could leave the tent. Gently, she helped him onto his side and let him rest his head against her leg to sip the water.


“I don’t remember what happened.” 


“From what I understood, a group of men approached and one shot you with a crossbow without warning. Grimgrip managed to keep you alive but he couldn’t fight them and do that too. Master Odos talked his way into keeping all of you from being murdered until Cyran and I caught up to you.”


He shuddered, beginning to remember some of it, “Where are they now?”


“Most of them are dead. The one who’s still alive probably wishes he were dead at this point if Master Odos hasn’t lost his touch.”


“You saved us?” He sipped a little more water and gave her a weak smile.


“Cyran and I did. We shouldn’t have fallen back and left you all so unprotected. I’m sorry, little brother.”


After another sip he groaned and rolled onto his back. “You can make it up to me by finding me a circlet like Syreilla’s Eye. If I had one of those people would stop taking me by surprise.”


Her laughter was infectious and he clutched his belly as he briefly laughed with her.


“I’ll see what I can do, ‘Syreilla’s Eye’, as you call it, goes to Sirruil. Rest.”


Kwes closed his eyes as she stroked his head soothingly. 


Sometime later he woke to the sound of an escalating argument outside of his tent. 


“He needs more rest, old man!”


“He can rest at Delver’s Deep. We need to be moving, Rook. The cart-”


“Have you ever been injured and ridden in a cart? Every bounce f*****g hurts!” The female voice sounded as if she were inches away from violence.


“We have no more water, Syreilla.” The apologetic voice sounded like the priest.


“I’ll be careful of the bumps, Lady Rook.” That was definitely the dwarf.


Clearing his throat, Kwes decided to offer an opinion, “I’ll risk it. I don’t think I’m at death’s door, Syreilla.” Calling her by name felt a little peculiar but calling her Rook suddenly felt impersonal.


“That is an idea-”


“No, my little rook. Uncle’s doorstep isn’t your personal shortcut.” Odos sounded amused, “I understand you want to spare your little brother pain but he’s mostly healed. He just needs rest.”


He heard an exasperated sigh and then Syreilla’s head thrust into the tent, “Are you sure? I can take you over the doorstep.”


“I’m sure.” At the thought of walking across death’s doorstep the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Even walking would be better.


Camp was struck. Kwes watched from his bedroll feeling a little pleased that he wasn’t required to assist. The mundane chores were always the most annoying. A place in the back of the cart padded with the tents was comfortable enough and the pair of horses their attackers had with them were saddled so that the less fresh horses could be used as pack animals. 


The Rook fussed over him as he was settled as comfortably as possible in the nest of tents on the cart. Odos watched with a doting expression before shooing her away.


“We need to be going, Rook. He’s as comfortable as can be. There’s a village we should reach by tonight, and a few more of these little patches of trees along the way. Why don’t you ride ahead and make sure we don’t have any more surprises.” 


The look on her face as her eyes searched the road ahead for a moment made Kwes shiver.


“Don’t fall too far behind. Cyran, you stay with them and if anyone approaches you start casting the wards I taught you and sort out their intentions later. Master Odos or Juddri can give them a warning.”


She was on her horse and off ahead of them in moments.


“What wards did she teach you?” Odos asked curiously.


“The one for holding, one for freezing and burning at once, one for igniting clothing and hair with common flame, one to make a man’s flesh fall from the bone, she said they were simple-”


The old man started to laugh and the dwarf muttered something under his breath.


“Those are her favorites. When she teaches you a few spells I expect you’ll learn how to blind a man and render him mute before you learn to leave them confused.”


“That woman is a terror but she’s a comfort to have around when she’s on your side.” Grimgrip leaned back on the bench making it creak. “No one who can do so much harm should be able to heal a man so well either.”


“Heal?” Kwes tried to tilt his head to see the dwarf. “She said you were the one who kept me alive.”


“Until she arrived.” Grimgrip turned to give him a faint smile. “I did the best I could but that wound should have been mortal. She used up most of her power to heal you.”


“You can’t send her ahead by herself.” He struggled to sit up despite the pain in his belly, “If she’s weakened-”


Odos and the dwarf both broke into laughter. 


Cyran smiled shyly from his horse. “Anyone who attacks Lady Rook will have only a short time to regret it. She kept the first watch and one man, who had wisely run away in the commotion, unwisely came back, perhaps thinking she would be tired or easy to subdue alone.


“I woke to her shout of warning but before I was out of the tent with my sword she’d killed him with her boot knife. The man was armed with a small axe.” The priest gazed ahead admiringly.


Settling back into his makeshift bed, Kwes nodded. “I startled her awake and she had the knife in her hand ready to kill anyone coming in the tent before she knew what woke her.”


“A dangerous woman to share a bed with.” Grimgrip reached back to pat at his shoulder, “As long as she’s fussing over you like an overprotective mother you can sleep as deeply as you like.”


Kwes smiled to himself and then shook his head, “Why didn’t she tell me she healed me?”


“My rooks sometimes see things,” Odos sighed, “strangely. If I had to guess, I would say she doesn’t feel she did well enough in healing you because you aren’t on your feet. Or perhaps she doesn’t want you to feel as if you can’t be angry about being left undefended. Knowing my little rook it’s probably both. Not that she ever freely confessed to her good deeds. You can ask her to list every terrible thing she’s ever done and she’ll spend all day trying to list them, she may even embellish them. But if you ask her about her good deeds you’ll more likely get a shrug.”


“Brother Somi always said good deeds are to be done not to be sung.” Cyran sounded thoughtful, “But if only evil deeds are spoken of…”


“Good deeds come from good hearts.” Grimgrip adjusted himself on the bench again. “Why shouldn’t they be spoken of?”


“My brother believes that if you do good deeds others will speak of them.” Odos snorted, “Others tend to gloss over that sort of thing and tell the story they want to tell. He does it himself. Good people are forgotten and the loud ones are remembered.”


There was a moment of quiet.


“No one forgets the Rooks, do they.” Kwes expected a laugh and lifted his head with a smile but the old man closed his eyes and looked pained.


“They do, in time.”


“No one will forget Lady Rook.” Cyran spoke firmly. “No one forgets the gods and she is a goddess.”


“Gods can be forgotten too, but I think anyone who forgets my little rook will be reminded with a face full of dragon’s fire,” his wry tone made the mood feel lighter again.


“I pity anyone she runs into.” Grimgrip breathed a laugh, “They’ll be on fire before she asks why they’re on the road.”


“There is something I don’t understand, Master Odos.” Cyran sounded pensive, “You’re the god of thieves-”


“My damnable brother!” Odos laughed, “Call me Uncle, Cyran. I’m the god of poets, wits, and mischief. It was the puzzle of locks that drew me to thieves and my brother began including them in my title. My thieves are the clever ones, the ones who live for the puzzle, the mischief, and the challenge of it all. Those were just men who like to take other people’s things with no thought at all. Mine don’t kill unless there’s no other choice, I prefer things to be done cleanly, it’s more of a challenge.”


“Lady Rook doesn’t have a problem with bloodshed.” Grimgrip turned on the seat to glance back.


“She gives them the choice.” Cyran and Odos spoke at the same time.


“It doesn’t help,” Odos continued, “that I sent her to learn from mages. Old mages are all vicious and Zylius was the worst of them. When I made my choice it was because he had a reputation for being skilled and his name echoed my mother’s. He sent her on a few jobs he expected her to fail before he began teaching her. And then the things he taught her…” 


The dwarf snorted, “A few simple wards?”


“And how to mix dragon’s fire. He encouraged her to practice often. I sometimes suspected he was trying to kill her.”


“Why would he send her on jobs he expected her to fail?” Kwes adjusted himself to get more comfortable as he watched the clouds going by above him.


“If she succeeded he would have something he wanted, if she failed he lost nothing. No one else would take his jobs, they were too dangerous. He had her stealing from other mages and lich, going into places that had been sealed and filled with traps almost as thoroughly as the Nameless, and she never once disappointed him. There were only a few jobs she came looking for me to help with, getting into the treasury of Mad King Hannor of Vreya...”


Kwes lifted his head again to see Odos grinning, “Mad King Hannor? The one who filled his treasury with so many traps and wards that his people killed him because he was bankrupting them to protect a shrinking pile of gold?”


“He was trying to protect something else, he thought he’d sealed it away so well that no one could get it, even he couldn’t get close enough to make certain it was still there. It took both of our wits to get us in and all of my luck to get us out again.”


“What was he protecting?” Cyran frowned but looked curious.


“It was supposed to be a dragon’s egg,” Odos started to laugh, “but it was a large stone box, shaped like an egg carved and inlaid with gold. It held a gem that belonged to one of my half-brothers but the box had been sealed by my brother. Zylius inspected it and could feel that there had once been some sort of power stored in the box but because the power of the stone was shielded it seemed empty and the stone egg, while beautiful, was useless to him. He didn’t know its true provenance or value.


“My Rook brought it back to me asking what I wanted to do with it. She’d gotten paid and she’d give me what she’d promised or I could have the egg.”


“Do you still have it?” Kwes clutched his belly as he pushed himself up to sitting.


“I treasure it. I told her I had it carved up and sold the pieces, which is what happened to my other half-brother’s stone. Syreilla’s Eye was a piece of it.”


“It was a piece of…” Grimgrip turned on the bench almost completely. “Does she know what she’s giving the boy?”


“Dwarves took Vezjahehdhethrah’s stone and carved it, she’s returning a piece that had made its way out of a mine back to one and returning it to the purpose they had given it.”


“It’s from the Glan Minrhia?”


“If that was the name of the mine they dug out and destroyed to get back what they could…” 


“That stone should be going to Bhiraldur.”


“That stone goes to Sirruil or you’ll have an angry Rook breathing dragon’s fire into your mines. Dwarves are the only ones who’ve never been cruel or disappointed her. Steal from Sirruil and you’ll break her trust.”


The dwarf faced the road with a grim expression and Kwes laid himself back down. After they’d gone in silence for a time he offered, “It’s the boy’s inheritance. He’ll be the one bringing it to Bhiraldur and using it. I suspect I know who’ll claim him.”


“He should have belonged to me but I’ll let Khiril have him because it’s what Hammersworn wanted. He belongs in a mine.”


Grimgrip snorted, “You married her off to a dwarf and expected her children to belong to you?”


“I never expected her to marry or to have children. She’s the first of my thieves to make that choice. Usually they’re consumed by the joy of the work and never think about what else there could have been until they’re crossing Uncle’s threshold.”


“Syreilla Hammersworn wasn’t a woman who failed to think. But her husband is why she married, he’s a determined man. He wanted her for a wife and persuaded her.”


Kwes could hear the smile on the dwarf’s face as he spoke.


“She was willing to be persuaded and Batran approved of him. My rooks are always close with their families, but Hammersworn didn't have one until she found her place in Delver’s Deep. That was my fault. I misjudged her mother.”


“Is that black smoke up ahead?”


“We’ll see what my rook has done when we get that far.”


The quiet felt tense but Kwes’ mind wanted to wander as he looked up at passing clouds in the silence. Amtalia had hinted a few times that she wanted to marry and be more respectable, to enjoy their wealth, and he did have enough to last for some time. The storefronts she owned turned a small profit and The Bent Elf certainly did. They could try getting a house and spending their accumulated wealth for a while. Maybe he would even enjoy it… 


It had some appeal but he could imagine the creeping boredom all too well. Hammersworn had kept working, only a few select jobs…and the dwarf had mentioned she helped them fortify their treasure rooms didn’t she? He could design thief proof puzzles just as well, perhaps they’d let him have a look at her work, she’d written tomes on the subject after all.


He must have dozed because he was startled awake by dwarvish swearing.


“That’s a child with her horse. Cyran, stay with the cart. Wait here a moment, Master Grimgrip.” 


Odos went ahead of them and the cart stopped for a few moments. It began to move forward and Kwes lifted his head, “What…” 


“A child by the road is feeding a small pit of dragon’s fire and Lady Rook’s horse is tied nearby.” Cyran had come to ride close by the side of the cart.


As they got closer he heard Odos over the sound of horses and wooden creaking. “What else did she say?”


The child’s response was too quiet.


“No, they won’t. We’ll go with you to your mother as Lady Rook suggested and sort things out.”


“Oh! Master Dwarf!” An excited child’s voice rang out, “She said I should show you what happens when I feed it stones!”


“Stones don’t burn…” 


The cart stopped and there was a sound of stones falling together, fire that had been fed, and a few pops that startled the horses.


“They burn with dragon’s fire! She said I could feed it anything at all but I shouldn’t get too close because it would eat me too.”


The dwarf sounded like he was cursing under his breath before he asked, “Why would she leave a child alone with that?”


“I was cold.”


“Edun has lost his father and older brother to the bandits who attacked us. The horses we took from them were theirs.”


“She knew we would stop if he had her horse.” Cyran smiled faintly, “And she couldn’t leave the child cold.” The priest dismounted and Kwes could no longer see his face. “Kwes has the spare blankets. We can put out the fire and you can ride with him in the cart.”


“She said her brother, Magpie, was in the cart.”


Kwes lifted his head to see a child of perhaps ten or twelve being helped into the cart to sit at his feet. “She calls me Magpie. Most people call me Kwes.”


“He needs his rest, Edun. Let him close his eyes again until we reach your mother’s home.”


“She said he was hurt…” The child peered at him with oddly piercing, pale eyes for a human, “Is he going to die?”


“No.” Odos had remounted his horse and come close to the side, “Lady Rook won’t allow it. She’d scold him if he tried.”


He dropped his head back with a smile, “I wouldn’t dare upset her by trying.”



© 2021 Isemay


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Added on January 30, 2021
Last Updated on January 30, 2021
Tags: thief, dwarf, elf, dragon, gods

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Isemay

Germany



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Spent some time away from here but I've come back to peek in and post again! Review my writing and I will gladly return the favor! I love reading other people's stories, and I try to review hone.. more..

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One One

A Chapter by Isemay


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A Chapter by Isemay