Secrets and Sorcererson January 24, 2013 at 10:04 am
Another peek into Chapter 1 of Katarina the Dragonslayer and the Secret of Kilara’s Keep…
Siawn fell to the floor coughing blood. He tried to get up, but a heavy boot planted itself firmly on his back. “Don’t bother,” Zendavian said, and looked to the shadowcaster. “Maybe we should try my methods.” He reached for the weapon at his belt.
“I wasn’t going to keep it,” Siawn conceded. “I kept it safe, but the buyer never came for it.” Focus. It’s only pain. No real damage. The curator’s got almost all his weight on me, which means there isn’t much on his other leg. No, he’d probably have his shins armored. Siawn’s looked to the floor behind the counter, just two feet away. Keep them talking.
“The second buyer, you mean,” Zendavian replied. “You killed the first one when you got a better offer from the head of the Farad High Council. Don’t try to deny it. He did, and it disagreed with his health.”
“So if he didn’t send you, and the Repository didn’t—”
The shadowcaster laughed. “You never knew who you were really working for, did you?”
Siawn frowned, and kept slowly reaching for the small square tile in front of him. “In Farad, it’s best not to ask too many questions. You know that.”
“Some would say it is better to look for answers,” the shadowcaster replied. “However, I will say we were pleased that you remained true to form in not investigating the motives and connections of your employer. Not that it would have mattered, since Behúko thought he was working for the Repository, and that silly goat of a Faradi politician thought he was in business for himself.”
Siawn looked up at his captors. “Huacal, then.” This is worse than I thought. If Huacal is involved, then …
“Now, I’m sure you have some manner of failsafe in place. Right now you are probably thinking that you will set it off once we try to make you open that little safe-box of yours, and that you’ll be able to escape with the goods. You are wrong on both counts.”
“You’ll kill me just as soon I hand it over.” Just a bit more. I can almost reach it.
The shadowcaster waved a bandaged hand carelessly. “And as much as Zendavian would like to kill you, that isn’t what we came here to do. Get him off the floor. I tire of looking down.”
Zendavian seized the elf by the scruff of the neck and hauled him to his feet. Siawn cursed inwardly and flexed his fingers. There’s still the trigger by the safe. Then I have to get Mika and make for the Hollow. I have no friends there, but they’re oathbound to protect one of their own. “You’ll leave me alone after you collect it, then? I’ve no desire to be involved further with Huacal or his order. I’ve made a good life in this place.”
“I wish I could believe that you’d hand it over so easily,” the shadowcaster said. “In any case, that decision is neither yours nor mine to make, nor is it Huacal’s. You have served a higher purpose even than that of the ku’ja, though you knew it not.” Seeing the elf’s confused look, he added, “The service of the Stone Prophets is not to be cast aside.”
“The Stone Prophets left thousands of years ago,” Siawn replied. “I’ve heard they can’t come back.”
“And yet the holiest of their kind remain with us, few in number but potent, and generous rewarders of those who serve,” the shadowcaster said. “Huacal is but one of the faithful, as are we. Faithless though you may be for now, you have been of some use to us, and we may have further use for you.”
Siawn gave the shadowcaster a contemptuous look and spat on the floor. “You speak of the tomach’nar?”
The shadowcaster rippled with darkness and clenched a fist in Siawn’s direction. The elf’s body convulsed with agony, and Zendavian let him fall retching to the floor.
“Do not ever call our masters by that name again, you misbegotten child of the woods. I do not have leave to kill you without need, but I can acquaint you with torments you could not imagine while sparing your life.” The shadowcaster looked to the back room, and his tone brightened. “Now get up. You have a safe to open, and we have a great destiny to fulfill.”
Siawn rose to his feet, holding on to the doorway for support. “The Stone Prophecy,” he rasped. “Is that what this is about?”
“I’m surprised that you know anything of it,” the shadowcaster said as Zendavian shoved the elf into the back room. “Yes. Now open the safe.”
Siawn rapped on the wall. He winced as he pulled the door open. I’m bleeding inside. Not fatal, but it will take weeks to mend, and could easily get worse.
The shadowcaster gasped, and Zendavian let out a long, slow whistle. A dark stillness washed over the room. “Yes, it is true,” the shadowcaster said at last. “The cornerstone of them all,” he whispered. “He who opens the secrets of the deepest dark is filled with light.”
Siawn shuddered. “You know what it is, then.”
“And you only think you know,” the shadowcaster replied. “It is far more than what you suspected. It is not just any riyschia of the Stone Prophets, but I am not at all surprised that you could find no use for it except to gawk at it like a dimwitted child. ”
The elf held his tongue but smiled inwardly. I have a use for it alright. And I’ll find a way to get it back from you before you reach Harkad. I have to time this just right.
Zendavian took out a square leather pouch and clipped it to his belt. He shouldered Siawn aside and gingerly lifted the cage by its handle at the top. As he opened the pouch, Siawn could see that it was lined with a heavy silver mesh. Zendavian slipped the box into the pouch. “You won’t be paid, of course,” he said with a smirk as he snapped the pouch shut. “We should kill him.”
“There’s no need,” the shadowcaster replied. As the power of the riyschia faded from the room, the dark aura that clung to him flared outward in thick tendrils, and the shadowcaster looked toward the doorway and sniffed. “There’s a residue here,” he said. “You smell it, don’t you, Zendavian?”
“Sure,” he replied. He jerked a thumb toward Siawn. His other hand stayed close to his weapon. “All Melloren elves have magic, though his isn’t much to speak of.”
“No, you fool!” The shadowcaster’s hand stroked the doorway, leaving it stained. “His magic is concealed, smothered under a piddling construct woven into a garment, or some such nonsense. I ought to have noticed it sooner. This is different, stronger. It seems weak, but only because we assumed it was coming from him, that it is the residue of someone who is here all the time.”
Zendavian took a half step toward Siawn, who did not move. “If it’s from someone who was only here briefly, then it’s strong— really strong.” He looked around. “It feels similar to Huacal’s.
“Yes!” The shadowcaster stomped his foot and cursed. “Those reports everyone dismissed were true. She’s been here.”
“She?” Zendavian raised an eyebrow.
“The Pelethite child were were told about last spring,” the shadowcaster replied. “There was some rumor that it was she who killed the Sun Dragon, but no one believed it, and we’ve had no spies among the dragons of the Covenant for some time, so we could hardly confirm it.”
“I don’t see how this matters,” Zendavian said. “We got what we came for. If Huacal wants to capture her or kill her, let him send someone else. I don’t work for Huacal.”
“There is more at stake here than what Huacal wants.” The shadowcaster pulled a small vial from his cloak and drank the contents. “The Stone Prophets themselves have an interest in this girl, and I mean to see that interest well-served.”
“I’m still not interested.” Zendavian’s voice eased into a tone that was calm and yet filled with threat. “Remember our arrangement.”
Never mind, then.” the shadowcaster said. He waved a hand dismissively at the huge man and stepped through the doorway. “I’ve no doubt that those fools who came with us on are on her track as we speak, looking to collect a reward of which they are unworthy. Stay here. We will decide what to do with this fool when I return.”
The room grew less dark as the shadowcaster left the shop. Zendavian took another half step toward Siawn, who sidled his way closer to the safe. “Maybe you’d like to try something,” he said in a friendly tone. “Maybe you tried to make a run for it and I had to kill you. Or maybe I just don’t care.” He leaned in toward the elf.
Siawn leaned against the wall and tried to mask his eagerness.For a moment, he considered his wife. I’ll come back for her after I kill this mongrel and secure the riyschia. “Maybe I don’t care, either,” he said, and reached for the pouch in a flash of movement.
Zendavian was faster. He knocked Siawn’s hands aside and delivered a open-handed strike to the side of the elf’s head. Siawn, crumpled to the floor under the safe, and Zendavian laughed. “Did you really expect to be able to pull that off?”
“No, but I had to try.” And I had to really let you hit me for it to be convincing. Siawn passed his palm over a blue tile. A section of the floor swung downward, and Siawn rolled into the darkness as the failsafe erupted, engulfing the shop —and Zendavian— in sheets of green flame.