Currently on hiatus. Will resume in July, or sooner.

Current story updates:

Current story interludes/Side stories:
Every other Saturday

Other pieces:
Every other Saturday (Saturdays I don't run the Interludes/Side Stories)

During certain periods updates may come more often; at other times updates may come less often. This schedule is my hoped-for goal.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sigilian 20

So, this is the END OF PART 2 (Said in spooky echoey plot voice)

Robert stood up from his weeding and took a few steps towards the farm house.
Branwen had come back in a hurry, riding the horse hard, and she had barely stopped to dismount.
He stepped around the vegetable garden and walked to meet her.
“What is it?”
“You Soldier. There is a rumour going around that you are missing”
“I’m surprised it’s taken a week to get here”
“Rumour is you’re dead”
“Dead. Some crazy woman killed you, stabbed you through the heart or poisoned you or something”
“And then you fell off your balcony and your body was stolen. The rumours are flying”
“I…but, I’m not dead!”
“No, but they think you are. And if the people think you do then that means that there is likely something wrong with how the nobles are acting, especially your parents. So they may not think you’re dead, but they’ve done something to make the people think that they think that”
“I’ve got to go, I’ve got to go let them know I’m alive!”
“And more importantly you have to get the danger you represent away from my son”
Robert nodded.
“I’ll leave as soon as I’ve gathered my stuff”
“Best get to it. I’ll saddle your horse then pack some supplies. Then you’ve got to leave”
Robert didn’t waste more time, turning to begin packing.
Ten minutes later he sat astride his horse by the side of the road.
“Soldier. I have to thank you for everything that you have done to aid me”
“And I you Branwen. You’ve taught me a lot this week”
“Just don’t forget it. And make your way back as fast as you can. Don’t trust anyone, don’t tell anyone who you are. If they believe you they’ll just grab you for ransom, especially at a time like this. Understand?”
“Yes. I’ll trust nobody with the truth and try and be blunt”
“No putting up a false front or acting out. Stay anonymous. Now go”
“Yes. Luck to you Branwen”
“And to you Soldier”
He wheeled the horse and took off down the path. He glanced back once. Branwen had gone inside, was not at the windows.
Her son who she had forbid him from talking to waved from an upper story window. He waved back and then concentrated on the path ahead of him.

Hiros turned to check that the saddlebags were still closed and had not spilled anything. They were, and had not. Good.
This was the seventh trip in as many days into town. It was apparently taking quite a long time to move ‘as many chests as he could touch’ from the linked cave to elsewhere.
His plan had been simple and brilliant.
He had found the cave he needed and performed the necessary ritual to link it to the inside of the mine.
Sketching he had found himself inside the mine, next to the Chief.
Well, he had stabbed the Chief and taken a look around.
Not much in the room except for all the treasure they had collected. The room was at the far back of the mine, the deepest mine-shaft. He had not thought that anyone else would be there.
But it made his job far easier.
He knew that he couldn’t risk a second trip back, not with the sounds of fighting growing ever closer, but he had piled as many of the crates as he could and then laid across them, spread eagled.
He had tried to touch as many as possible, because that was the only way he could bring them with him.
It would require Completing to bring that many, but he had the time to do so…he had hoped.
He had had time, and had arrived in the cave with a dozen crates stuffed with the spoils of banditry. Money, trade goods, art objects…
It was a small fortune.
And it was all his, so long as he killed those pursuing him each day.
Which really had not been a problem.
After all, he was a crack-shot with a crossbow, and at least half the people he had killed had themselves had extra bolts for him. How thoughtful.
He smirked at the thought, stroking his crossbow already.
As good as it was to be rich it was almost better to be able to shoot people. Although that ran the risk of no success, so, being rich did indeed trump it.
However, now there was a slight snag. He drew on the reins, bringing his horse to a halt.
Two men stood in the path before him. Both of average height, both dressed in common clothing with leathers over top, both entirely innocuous, except for their stances.
They held themselves like murderers and thieves. And both had their lefts hand was curled into fists, but for the thumb which both pointed in towards their own legs.
“Ah. So, my fun has ended has it? Time to get back to plotting?”
He was fine with that. He’d linked pieces of gold off to enough hideaways that he could safely retire anywhere and end up rich. His favourite trick, linking his nondescript bag at his belt to anyone of a dozen identical bags scattered around the world, buried deep underground, left at the bottom of garbage heaps that were sure to never be moved, tossed overboard while the ship crossed a trench.
Each was sealed shut, couldn’t be opened, and for good measure was in a locked box.
But if he linked the bag here with one of those bags…
Oh ho ho, then the fun began.
Drop something in here, it would end up in whatever bag he had linked it to. Reach in to this bag, he’d reach into whatever bag he’d linked it to.
It allowed him to have access to any number of things, whenever he needed them.
Most handy.
Unfortunately he couldn’t really go about pulling trade goods in and out of them; their locations meant that putting those kinds of things in the bag would spoil them, as well as the fact that they would not physically fit.
All that the bags meant is that so long as he could find a plain burlap sack the size of his two fists then he would have money.
Which meant that even if these two fools led him on a wild goose chase then he would still be able to get back to where he was right now, circumstances wise, not physically.
“You’re needed. Where have you been?”
“Busy. You have any idea how hard it is to find my way out after everything goes to hell? Escaping a bad situation takes a lot of work, and always leaves me in the middle of nowhere”
Even his closest allies didn’t know how his power worked. It let him make lies like that without fear of being discovered.
“Well, it is a good thing we found you”
“Yes, whatever would I do without you loyal bloodhounds?”
Hiros sighed as he got down from his horse.
“I’m assuming you’ve got some other means of getting out of here? Or something that will require leaving behind what spoils I could gather?”
“Of course. Follow us”
Hiros started after the two killers and shuddered slightly.
He was glad that they were on his side. Those two would be able to kill him without any trouble at all. They had been assassins on the mainland, top killers able to hire themselves out to anyone for any price they chose.
He still had no idea how Natasi retained their services, but he assumed that it was costing her a fortune. Otherwise those two would not suffer the idiocy of this plan for very long at all.
A shadow fell over him and he slowed.
Looking up his jaw dropped open before he ran to catch up.
Grabbing onto the ladder that had been lowered he scrambled up to the doorway as best he could, pausing only once to look back at the horse with a sad look of longing.
They expected him to be sad about losing the money after all; he needed to appear to need them or else he’d become a liability.
But, he was beginning to think that it might be worth allying with the conspirators for good at true this time.
As he finished the climb into the main floor of the floating Border Tower he shrugged aside his past concerns.
Yes, they may be foolish and the plan may be ill-considered, but anyone who was able to hijack a Border Tower was worthy of his respect.
Realizing that he’d best make sure he wasn’t left behind he scurried up the stairs after the two towards the control room.
He’d been in a border tower once before during a con. They’d thought he was helping them, and in fact he actually had been. The ones he’d been conning had been the bandits, and with the arrival of a Border Tower over their headquarters they’d been very happy to surrender, leaving Hiros free to plunder what he had needed.
And so he knew that it took a lot of training to be able to fly these things without crashing, and that to even be able to control it required years of training.
So the mystery of how they were piloting it was something that intrigued him even more than how they had gotten a hold of it.
“Is everyone aboard?”
The crisp military tones seemed to imply that they had the pilot working for them.
But the pilots were chosen because of their unshakeable loyalty to Destria. And then they had it drilled into them, day in day out for years, that Destria was the only true power that they could obey.
In Hiros’ personal experience, and in the tales, they were all zealots and insane, unable to do anything, unable to think for themselves.
The fact that they had corrupted one had him even more frightened.
“Yes Captain. The special passenger is aboard. We can about the KIng’s business now. The special order is from the King himself, as is proper”
“As is proper”
The tones were slightly distorted, dimmer maybe, and as Hiros climbed the final stairs he could see that the pilot was slouched, slumped in his chair. That in itself would have been unusual enough, but the vacant look in his eyes and the shadows trailing from the wounds in his body told him the rest of what he needed to know.
The man was less of himself than usual; he was a puppet controlled.
Stifling a shiver he took a seat as the Tower slowly spun and began to accelerate towards its next destination.

Tomas sat in the chair in their room at the inn. He was so engrossed in the book, reading about the area and its history with bandits that he almost didn’t hear when Laerian walked in.
“I’m back. No more news”
“None at all?”
“None. The good news is that the last of the captives we rescued has been picked up by someone. Which means that we can save on the rent for the inn room”
“We can save on ours too. We’re leaving”
He closed the book gently and turned to face Laerian.
Dark bags still hung under his partner’s eyes, and there was a bit of a haunted cast to his face. The captives had not seen it, every last one of them thinking him dashing, if still being as scared of him as they would be of any man after what they had gone through.
But Tomas could see. Seeing him before, and then now, he could see how the darkness had grown within the man, how old pain had been reawoken, how he was fighting something inside.
Tomas fought the same thing every day, but he could tell that whatever Laerian was fighting it was far worse.
“Are we?”
Learian was leaning against his bedframe, trying to look casual, but still tense.
“Are you still in the State?”
“What if I am?”
“Leave it now”
Laerian grimaced for a minute, then let it go.
The tension flowed out of him, but it seemed that the strength did too. He sagged onto the mattress.
“So, where are we going?”
“The Ferrian Reach”
“Whats that?”
“It is the bandit headquarters. Nobody has ever been able to get in or out of there unless they’re a bandit. Nobody has ever been able to clear the bandits out of that place. Its a hell hole, and a home of debauchery. Even the army was defeated when they tried to clear it out”
Sitting bolt upright Laerian’s eyes went wide.
“No, you’ve got it wrong. Not ‘Ferrian Reach’. ‘S called Hell’s Gate, for obvious reasons, and its not even pronounced like you said it.
“Its called Faron Rek. The spelling is all weird, but it’s Faron Rek. And no. We are not going in there. No way, no matter what you think. Even what I did in the mine wouldn’t be enough there; nothing would.
“We’d be killed for sure. We can’t just walk into the home of the bandits, of the Blood Red King, and expect to survive. Plus its on an island. We’d need to take a boat there, which would delay us further, and would make all kinds of trouble, and we’d need to find a captain, and they’d kill us on the way there and-”
“Laerian. Calm. There is a way to go there without being killed right away. We become bandits”
Laerian’s eyes became truly dark. The bags, shadows, the slack in his limbs a looseness, readiness for motion of any kind, the sudden light in his eyes the surge to kill.
“We are not becoming them in order to kill them”
“No. We’re not. But we can say that we are. We tell them that we were the ones who killed this group, and let them know that we want to start our own. We can tell them that the others were infringing on the territory that we had claimed, and that in response we killed them”
Laerian relaxed again as he considered.
“It…is a good plan. It would likely get us in. What then?”
“We can then use the cover of recruiting others to bring Hiros in. Once we have him we can either wait for him to try and clue us in on the plan, or we can torture the information out of him. Once we’ve done that we can do whatever else we need to to get out. Perhaps if we have time we can kill the Blood Red King”
“No. We are not killing the King. If he is killed it will spark a succession war among the bandits, which means that each group will try and prove its own worth and attack the others, attack more targets of opportunity. They’ll cause as much damage to Destria as a real war would, or at least to this coast of it. We’re not going to take out the king, no matter what. Agreed?”
“I can agree to that”
“Then let me sleep for a night before we get going. I’ll find a boat going that way in the morning and we can get going then. But, sleep first”
“Of course”
As Laerian lay down again, even now taking the time to undress, check his clothes over, and fold them nicely off to one side before sleeping.
And Tomas really couldn’t blame him; if he had the power to awaken clothes like Laerian had done then he would want to take good care of his clothes as well.
In fact, for the last week he had been doing so, trying his best to care for the clothes, keep them clean and in good repair.
He would need to buy a set of fashionable clothes that could serve him in the court of the Blood Red King, and then he would be ready. The plan was foolproof, especially with the backup that he had decided upon.
If all else failed he would sacrifice Laerian in order to complete the plan. It would not even be hard to do; the man was self destructive enough already.

Tomas sat back down at the table and continued to read.

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