the alley. “Hey Bandor look what we have over…” Whatever he had been about to say cut off with a thud, as a stone dining bowl hit him in the temple. He crumpled to the ground, the knife he had in his hand clattered onto the wood floor.
“Grevail!” Braiden was behind him, already holding another bowl over his head. “Come on out the front!” Grevail scrambled up, and ran over to him, looking back at the man still down in the doorway, only his legs inside the house.
“Norum! You idiot! You have to open doors before you go through…” Whatever else he said was lost as Braiden pulled him through the house to the front door and shoved him out.
“That was close, I thought I had heard someone.” Braiden looked flushed, his blonde hair swung about as he looked down the street. “Now we have to get out…”
Suddenly a few talking voices could be heard, seconds after a band of men and women came around the corner. They were all in blue tunics with an odd black symbol on their chests, but between the dust from the street and Braiden pulling him the other way, he couldn’t tell what it was.
“Faithless!” Somebody behind them cried, he could hear people start running behind him, and he ran faster, keeping stride with his brother. They took their next left, and Braiden jumped over a chair in his path, as Grevail stumbled and almost fell. When he looked back up he saw the two thieves standing in the street. The skinny man who‘s back was to them, Norum, facing the big man apparently nursing his head wound. Luckily they didn’t see them right away, as they were deep in conversation.
“Keep running!” Braiden shouted, as he ran right toward them and jumped into the air. The big man looked over the skinny mans shoulder right then, pure astonishment and surprise marred his face, his eyes widened and he managed to get out a hoarse shout before Braiden crashed into the skinny mans back, knocking him into the big man. Braiden rolled off the pile of thieves and flowed back into a run. As if on cue the mob that had been chasing them came around the corner, all shouting and screaming about the faithless. They slowed when they saw they had two quarry’s now instead of one. The big man pushed the smaller man off of him, stood up, and immediately began running towards the nearest alley, and his partner wasn’t far behind. The mob looked torn between the two groups, but they went with the closest and ran down the alley after them. It looked as if one or two would continue after them, but they decided against it, running after their fellow mob-members.
They kept running, they ran through streets empty of life. Once he thought he saw somebody slinking from building to building down an alley and Taurana popped into his head. He hoped she was okay, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now anyway. They crossed the larger streets in much the same manner as Grevail had earlier, waiting a few minutes before bolting across. Once a group of people ran down the street in front of them as they hid in an alley. They didn’t have the tunics on, but Grevail didn’t want to hail them down to find out who’s side they were on. Soon they came to the western edge of town, luckily no one was waiting at the gate for people. They ran through the gate and towards the woods outside of town. The stretch before the woods was probably the most harrowing. He noticed Braiden kept looking back at the gates, hoping no one would see them and follow.
Once they reached the woods, Grevail crashed into the nice soft wet grass in the shade under an oak. He turned over sweating and breathing heavily.
A long silence stretched between them as they caught their breath. The rapidly depleting sun was hovering above the horizon.
“What should we do Braiden?” His brother was on his hands and knee’s his breath coming and going in long strokes.
“I don’t know, I guess we should head for Desson. Like we had planned.” He squatted on his feet, brushing a dead leaf out of his hair.
“Taurana said that’s where she would head. I hope she is okay.” Grevail sat up, brushing dirt and vegetation off of himself.
“I’m sure she will be fine brother, she is a smart girl.” Braiden stood then, light from the sinking sun illuminating his hair, making him look quite heroic. “We had best start traveling, I don’t think it’s wise to build a fire in these woods tonight, or even stay around the town. Who knows how far those lunatics will venture out.” He waited a moment for Grevail to rise to his feet, and then headed off into the woods. “We should travel in the woods along the road till we are well past Tamirra, just to be safe.”
Grevail only nodded. With all that had happened in the short amount of time since his arrival in town, he was tired. He would have liked nothing more than just to sit down and sleep, but he knew Braiden was right. Tamirra was no longer home, and he didn’t feel like being anywhere near it.
They traveled through the forest well into night. Moving quietly among the tree’s. Once a group of people appeared on the road with torches, heading towards Tamirra, they were talking softly among themselves. However since they were unable to tell exactly who they were, they simply laid flat in the underbrush until the group had gone by.
After that they saw no one, and they talked little. That is until the lights of a farmhouse appeared through the tree’s in a small clearing. Grevail knew they had long since left the town behind and proposed a question to his brother.
“Maybe we should ask if we could sleep in their barn tonight Braiden.” He asked his brother as they crouched in the brush just beyond the light of the windows, the small house emitted.
“Okay…I wouldn’t imagine that those heretics would find this place yet. I almost feel like we should warn them anyway.” Grevail nodded silently, he felt much the same way. At least they could help somebody be aware before a mob fell upon them.
Braiden slowly snuck out of the bushes, and Grevail followed. The house was a squat one story building, and Grevail could see that they had added on to it over the years, but not by much. Much of the original house was made of old wood, and looked to have been painted red at one point, but it was hard to tell in the dark. The newer additions of the house had wood that was still bright and fresh, and yet to be painted. A large barn stood directly in back of the house towards the end of the clearing and the sounds of animals could be heard. Braiden sauntered up to the door after it was clear that nobody was outside, which also gave support to the idea that these people had not heard of the happenings in Tamirra. Grevail deduced they didn’t know or they would have placed a watch, or already have fled.
Braiden reached up, and rapped on the door three times, loudly and clearly. He was about to knock again when an older gentleman, perhaps in his forty’s poked a bald head, and full beard out into the night, peering around suspiciously before his gaze landed on the two young men at his doorstep.
“What do you want?” His tone was a no-non-sense one.
“We are looking for a place to stay for the night.” Braiden replied solemnly. “We could even pay you a bit of mirra if you have some extra food, and a place in your barn.” Grevail simply stood behind his brother, and looked as meek as possible. Hoping that the man would say yes. Grevail didn’t relish the thought of sleeping under a bush tonight. “We also have important news we would like to share with you about the town of Tamirra.” Braiden stood back then waiting for the older man to respond.
He was still looking at them suspiciously, but Grevail could see that his guard had come down somewhat. Obviously he and his brother were far from rough looking, and couldn’t be mistaken for thieves or brigands. But who could be too safe?
“I noticed a lot of people on the roads today when I was walking my lands. I thought it a bit odd.” His suspiciousness vanished altogether as he turned from the door. “Johanna! Heat up two bowls of that stew, and get something to drink, we have guests!”
Soon after they were comfortably seated in the man’s house, who after a bit of chatting told him his name was Avlov. He lived here with his daughter Constance, and his wife Johanna, he was a farmer mostly, but had a few chickens and cows so he could sell milk and eggs at the market in Tamirra.
The house was as small as it looked from the outside, a kitchen with a large dinner table took up most of the room inside the main cavity. A couple small chairs were set up around a coffee table near the door. On the walls he didn’t have paintings but old farmer’s tools, a hoe, some shears, that gave the little room a nice cozy, rustic feel. His wife had a great variety of different herbs growing in pots and hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen to dry.
“Now what’s this business with Tamirra.” His blue eyes shifted across the both of them, though Braiden had been doing most of the talking.
“Well…” Braiden began, taking a sip from the simple homemade country beer, in a pewter cup, that sat in front of him. And holding off a burp from the great beef and barley stew they had just consumed. Grevail busied himself by picking at a leftover chunk of bread. “The town has been taken over Avlov.”
The shock on Avlov’s face was obvious, his wife he had just come from what Grevail supposed was their bedroom had also heard.
“The town has been what…?” She was not overly pretty but had a nice motherly face, she also had blue eyes, but blonde hair not like Avlov’s brown. She was a short woman, and her hands like Avlov’s showed the wear and tear of working on a farm for most of her life.
“That’s impossible, how could this have happened?” Avlov was getting quite nervous now his eyes going to slits, almost as if he suspected these two young men were playing a prank on him. “What about the Lord Nobles, surely the would never have let this happen.”
“I have heard that some of the Lord Nobles are dead, which ones, or how many I cannot say.” Braiden put his glass down, and Grevail looked to him somewhat angrily. He wondered what else his brother had not told him. “Apparently there was a battle around the town square, and the Lord Noble’s lost.”
“But to who?” Johanna’s voice sounded as amazed as she looked. “Who could do such a thing?” Her voice trembled slightly, as she took another sip of what Grevail assumed was wine.
“Some fanatic religious priest. Thoma Crista was what his name is said to be”
“Religion!” Avlov said bewildered. “They took over the town because of religion? I didn’t know there were other religions to even be believed in!”
Braiden nodded slowly, taking another long drink of beer before going on. “Apparently he has been preaching that he is going to bring an old god back or something of that nature. I never saw him, but I had heard talk of him in town for a couple days.”
Johanna spoke up. “What about the Order of Orlead, surely they could not have defeated them?” She looked at her husband as if to be reassured yet he just sat there waiting for Braiden to respond.
“Lord Noble Daryn had sent out the entire Order of Tamirra to hunt down brigands on the road to Desson. Bit of bad luck that.” Braiden shook his head dejectedly. “Had he not the Order would have had no problem with Thoma.”
Avlov looked worried. “Well, do you think they will come for us here? We mean no one harm, we just wish to be left in peace to farm our land.”
“There were dead bodies in the streets.” Braiden regarded him gravely. “My brother and I were chased through the streets, I don’t know what would have happened if they had caught us. But they were calling us the faithless, and I can honestly say that I don’t think their intentions were anywhere near good.” He emptied his mug down his throat, setting it back on the table. “I would get out while you still can, I think this Thoma means to set up his own little empire in the middle of Iri Kadai.”
Avlov did not say anything after Braiden had finished talking, he just sat clearly weighing his options, and his wife sat next to him, waiting to weigh the options he provided to her.
“Well, I think it’s best we move out then.” He looked at his wife with what appeared to be frustration.
She smiled back at him, trying to comfort him. “We don’t have a choice really Avlov, we could go to Trebidona, I’m sure your brother would be more than willing to give us a piece of his land he has more than enough.” Avlov simply shrugged his shoulders and nodded. “I suppose it would be best to travel to Desson, and then charter the next ship to Trebidona.” His patted him on the shoulder, clearly agreeing with his decision.
“I just hate to leave everything behind that I’ve built, but I’d hate to see someone destroy it even more. Your right Johanna, begin packing our necessities, and tell Constance to get her things together. I’m going down the older road to tell Yora, and Menni the news too if they haven’t heard.”
Johanna sighed “Be careful Avlov, I don’t need to be losing you too.”
Avlov chuckled. “Don’t worry woman, I’ll be back to you before you know it.” A note of seriousness entered his voice after a moment. “If I am not back by dawn, I want you and Constance to be on the road to Desson. I will catch up with you there if I am not back.” She gave him a worried look and headed down a hallway. He turned to face Grevail and Braiden. “Now if you boys will come with me I’ll set you up in the barn.”
They entered the barn with Avlov and saw by the lantern he had brought with him that it wasn’t very full, a few cattle, a few chickens in a henhouse, and five horses. Grevail didn’t really like sleeping with animals, but again it was far better than sleeping outside with real animals. “The hay loft should have plenty of hay in it.”
“Thank you again for the food and the place to sleep Avlov.” Grevail said genuinely as Braiden headed to the ladder that went up into the loft.
“No problem boys. But I need you to do me a favor.” His face had the look of a man who was about to do something he didn’t want to.
“Anything Avlov.” Braiden, about to climb the ladder stopped and turned around, scaring a mouse out of the hay, which bounded for the door, but Avlov ingored it.
“If I am not back by morning I want you two to help Johanna hook up that wagon over there, and accompany them.” He pointed to a wagon tucked into a slot to the left of the initial entrance. “I just fear that if something were to happen to me they would never be able to reach my brother. I’m sure I’ll be fine, but with these people running around converting and killing. Who can say?”
“Anything you ask Avlov.” Grevail said as Braiden nodded his head. “We are going to Desson, so we will accompany them to there.”
Avlov nodded. “Thank you boys. For your trouble I will give you two of these horses. They are not the best, but they will get you to Desson a lot faster and maybe give you some money when you get there.”
Grevail and Braiden were both shocked. Horses were expensive! It looked as if Braiden wanted to object and so did Grevail, but surprisingly neither of them did.
“Good, now get some rest, it’s time I was off.” He walked back to the front wall of the barn and grabbed one of the many saddles that hung there. He then opened a stall door and began saddling a big brown bay as Grevail and Braiden climbed up into the loft.
They just laid there until Avlov had left. Then Braiden spoke up. “I can’t believe he offered us his horses!”
“I know! I wanted to say we couldn’t take them but it was just too good to pass up.” Grevail said.
“I know I felt the same.” His brother admitted and there was a rustling of hay as he sat up to look at Grevail. “I almost feel bad for telling him, now he has to leave all he knows, pull his family up and plant them somewhere else.” He sounded as if he was about to weep. “I will pay that Thoma back Grevail. Even if it takes me to Darina I will see him dead, if it wasn’t for him father would still be alive.”
Grevail nodded, feeling as much sorrow as his brother. “At least we did warn them Braiden, if we hadn’t much worse could have happened to them.”
“I know…” His brother said miserably.
“And one day we will get our revenge on Thoma, Braiden, but It can’t be now, I don’t think our father would want us to have revenge if it meant losing our lives.” Grevail, felt his own resolve harden. One day Thoma Crista would die, and Grevail hoped he and his brother were the ones to do it.
“Your right Grevail, I guess we better get some sleep. Tomorrow we will be one step closer to Adellus. I’m sure he could really help us.”
Grevail rolled over onto his side. “Yeah, I just don’t want to be the one tell him about dad.”
After those words another long silence stretched until Grevail heard his brothers breathing slip into the slow lull of sleep. And then he too drifted out of consciousness.
Grevail awoke to voices in the barn. Opening his eyes he realized dawn was right around the corner, the night sky starting to lighten from black to grey. He rolled over looking for Braiden, and found him missing, looking around he saw him peeking over the edge of the loft. Yawning and sitting up he was about to ask where Avlov was when his brother turned around. A finger straight against his lips. He pointed to the rafters below them. Grevail crawled over to his brother as quietly as he could and was able to hear two men below them as they talked.
“A few horses…” As Grevail peeked over the edge with his brother he saw a normal looking man with brown hair gesture at the horses as he talked with a very tall blonde haired man.
“Could be worth a few gold.” The blonde man took a step towards the horses, but the smaller man stopped him.
“We can’t take them now though, we have to tell Thoma, come back with more men to round up the family and their stuff. We can’t let them get away.” He spit on the ground and grunted. “Thoma says he needs more followers, and we are to take them by force if we have too.” The tall blonde man only nodded, and they both headed for the door. Grevail and Braiden hid in the hay as they neared the door.
After they had gone Grevail sat up on his knees. “We have to get Johanna out of here. I’ll go wake them up, you get the horses ready.” Braiden nodded.
“Be careful.” He said as he got to his feet.
Grevail was already scaling down the ladder. “I will, just hurry.” He hoped that Avlov was back, he would hate for him to have been caught by this **** Thoma! Grevail quietly crossed the barn his footsteps softened by the hay. He reached the door and peered out through a crack in it’s planks. He couldn’t see anybody, but that didn’t mean they were just hiding in the woods, or that they wouldn’t be back in minutes. There could be a hundred of them just down the road! He snuck out the door and made it to the back of the house, listening to see if anyone had seen him. He went to the left side of the house, away from the direction the heretics had taken.
“Grevail…” At first he didn’t even think he had heard his name called. But a second call convinced him. He traced the sound to it’s source and saw Avlov’s face peering out through the tree’s. Grevail waved him over, and he soundlessly made his way to him.
“I just came back and I saw those two men wandering around the outside of the house. I decided to wait and see if they’d leave without going in the house, but when they went in the barn I thought they had found you for sure!” He whispered quietly but the concern on his face made his words all the more potent.
“They didn’t see us, but we heard them say they needed more people to take you and your family and all your possessions.” Avlov looked angry and frightened at the same time. “Braiden is in the barn now getting the horses ready for the wagon, hopefully Johanna has already gotten everything you’ll need.”
“Right, you and your brother pull that wagon around front, and we’ll start loading it up. Maybe one of you should go down the road and keep a watch in case they come back.” He was already headed for the front of his house before his last sentence ended.
Grevail immediately turned around and ran back to the barn, where he found Braiden with the horses all ready to be hitched. “Help me hitch these two, I chose the two silver bays for me and you.” Braiden’s smile wasn’t true, but the attempt was uplifting.
“Avlov’s back, lets get this wagon around front so they can begin loading it up. Then you and I will ride down the road some, and keep an eye out while they get their things.” Braiden nodded, he jumped into the driver’s seat. “I almost feel like burning this place down Braiden, leave nothing for that loony Thoma.”
“Good thinking Grevail, finally starting to use that lump you call a brain eh?” Braiden laughed, feeling jovial despite their situation. Truth is Grevail felt good too, as morning light began to pour into the barn, he couldn’t help but feel the excitement of adventure creeping up on him. They were really leaving. The sorrow for the death of his father hadn’t lasted long, he cried last night, but he doubted he would again.
Braiden flicked the reigns gently and the wagon glided out of the barn on it’s creaking wheels. Grevail turned around and mounted his silver bay, which Braiden had already saddled. It had been a bit of time since he had last ridden a horse, maybe a couple years. Though he was going to have to get used to it quickly with all the riding he and his brother had ahead of them. He grabbed his brothers silver bay and led him outside, and handed the reigns to his brother who had jumped down off the wagons seat. Avlov and his wife were tossing things in the wagon, then hurrying inside to get more. Along with them was their young daughter Constance. She was so pretty that Grevail stopped to stare for a moment. She had blonde hair like her mothers, and the blue eyes her whole family seemed to have. That light blonde hair framed a heart shaped face, her cheeks were red from the work and the chill of the morning. She wasn’t as short as her mother was though, and she probably stood a good half a foot taller than her, almost as tall as Grevail.
A poke to his ribs brought him back to himself, and his grinning-like-a-madman brother. “You should ask her if you can give her your eyes as a gift, cause it appears she owns them.” He chimed in after she had went back for more stuff, never giving the two of them more than a glance.
“Shutup Braiden, lets get out to the road.” Grevail heeled his silver bay into the tree’s towards the road. His brother followed him laughing softly to himself. They went down a rather steep hill, and for a minute Grevail was worried he would be unseated, but his riding skills were coming back quicker than he thought they would have. It took only five to ten minutes to reach the road, and once they did, he and Braiden dismounted and stood next to their horses, each on of them looking a different way down the road. Braiden towards Tamirra, Grevail to Desson.
They stood there, Grevail idly scratching behind his horses ears. Braiden humming some odd sounding drinking tune. They waited for what seemed an hour, and the sky clouded over from the crisp bright spring morning as if to rain, but nothing ever came of it.
“Well, I think they should have most of their things loaded by now.” Braiden said, leading his horse back into the woods on the left of the road. Grevail grunted in agreement and began leading his horse after Braiden. As they began climbing the steep hill towards the farmhouse, voices reached them through the tree’s. Angry voices.
“****!” Braiden breathed. “They must have come back through the forest, why didn’t we think of that! Leave the horses here, lets have a look.” His anger was evident, and Grevail could feel himself becoming quite angry too. These lunatics wouldn’t leave anybody alone.
They both climbed the hill on their hands and knee’s taking care to make as little noise as possible. When they reached the top, they saw seven men in front of the farmhouse, facing them was a lone Avlov, Johanna was in the wagon seat, and there was no sign of Constance. Most of the men wore leather jerkins and lesser fabrics of average townspeople. However one or two had the rags of the homeless and the poor.
“Best you stand down old man.” The tall blonde man from the barn was saying to Avlov in an arrogant way. “We have orders not to kill anyone.” A few of them grunted out some words of difference about that, but Avlov stood tall.
“My family and I were just leaving, you can have whatever of the house you wish, but leave us be, we mean you no harm.” He stood with his feet spread apart, a dagger, and a sword had appeared on his belt since Grevail had last seen him.
“We can’t let you do that, either you come with us or we will kill you, take your woman and your property.” The tall man gestured to the shorter brown haired man also from the barn. “Hanival, take the things from their wagon.” Hanival strode to the wagon lifting out the wooden back, and began rummaging through the family’s possessions. Before Grevail could even think, his brother burst from the tree’s beside him with a yell and threw a fist sized rock into the air. All of the men turned to face them, but the tall blonde man was a little slower than the rest, and it would prove to be his last mistake. The rock collided with his temple sending him to the ground in a heap of skinny limbs. A second later Avlov’s dagger appeared in the neck of a ratty looking man with rags on who was just to the left of the blonde man, he fell to his knees choking on his own blood. Braiden kept running after he threw his charge and he jumped onto Hanival’s back as the man drew his sword and faced Avlov. The two danced about as Hanival tried to get the choke hold Braiden had on him out.
Utter surprise had gripped the other four men. One turned and ran towards the woods from where they had came. The other three, a big bald headed man, with a belly as big as Grevail stepped toward Avlov, who had pulled his short sword out. An arrow shot out of nowhere to take one of his counterparts to the ground, an arrow jutting out from his belly, he groaned in pain, but another arrow soon landed by the first, and Johanna, standing atop the wagon was knocking another arrow. Grevail, picked up a piece of wood that lay next to him about as long and as thick as his arm, and rushed into the fray. Hanival threw Braiden off of his back and swung at him with his sword, Braiden rolled and the strike sliced his arm above his elbow, and stuck into the ground. Braiden cried out in pain, and as Hanival tried to pull his sword away for another blow, Grevail’s own strike took him across the jaw, and he too crumpled to the ground.
By the time Grevail looked up, the fat bald man was on the ground in a pool of his own blood, apparently felled by Avlov‘s blade. And the other ordinary brown haired man had two arrows sticking out from his leather jerkin.
“What should we do about this Hanival?” Grevail asked, pointing with his stick to the man at his feet.
“Leave him.” Avlov said with disgust. “I don’t like to, but I’ve had enough killing for the day.” Just then Constance rose out of the wagon seat by her mother where she had apparently been hiding.
“Everybody all right?” Johanna asked the group.
Grevail looked back down at his brother. “Are you okay?”
“Oh…right as rain.” He let out a weak laugh.
“Braiden took a cut to the arm.” Grevail said helping his brother to his feet.
“We can bandage that on the way.” Avlov was already climbing up onto the wagon seat. “We must leave before that one that ran gets to town. Or before this scourge wakes up.” He looked down at Hanival with pure disdain.
“Get into the wagon Braiden, I’ll go get the horses.” He didn’t object and hopped up into the wagon. His wound didn’t appear to be all that bad though. Avlov flicked the reigns and the wagon trundled off down the path to the main road.
Grevail looked at the men on the ground. He hoped he hadn’t killed Hanival, even though he was not a very good man. Grevail didn’t want to kill. He saw a rather fine dagger sticking out from under the mans body. It had a blue handle like blue marble, and the base of the blade had an eagle embossed into it. He took the dagger, and the sheath, on his belt. On second thought he also took his sword, which was plain but of good make he supposed. No chips, and the scabbard for that as well. He also took the fat balding mans sword, looking into those dead eyes chilled him as he stripped it from him. He also took another dagger that was just lying on the ground, and Avlov’s dagger, laying next to the man it had killed. He must have pulled it out right before he died. Avlov must have been in such a hurry he forgot it. Not to say he blamed the man. He figured his brother and he would need these weapons if this is what traveling was like. As he walked away from the farmhouse down the hill he heard Hanival start to grunt but ignored it.
He threw Hanival’s dagger in his saddle bags, the sword he tucked under them as he didn’t have a belt for the sheath’s yet. Maybe Avlov had one. He did the same with his brothers weapons on his horse. Then he mounted his horse, took his brothers horses reigns and headed down to the road to catch up with them. At that moment Grevail realized he had seen many people die in the last two days. He didn’t like it. All he could do was try and stay alive though. And get to Desson, and Adellus.
Thoma propped his feet up on the Lord Nobles Desk. He had ordered several women to sew him a robe of the finest wool that could be found which he wore now. It was blue, with the symbol of Solin in black emblazoned on both shoulders, it was very comfortable and professional looking, just what Thoma liked. He had ordered another be made of the same scheme, and two more with opposite colors. After all, he liked a color change every now and then. The office was small, but richly decorated. Various paintings with vibrant colors and ornate frames hung about the room. Thoma didn’t much care for them though, he would have to order that they be taken down and destroyed.
“…not much gold.” Barim was saying in front of him, the black haired boy of a man had become an apprentice of sorts to Thoma. His grammar was far from the best, but it had certainly improved as of late. “It seems some citizens managed to break into the bank and steal what they could before they left.” He coughed, judging Thoma’s attitude toward the subject. When it became clear Thoma had little to say he continued. “We have taken another two hundred mira from the bank, and maybe another hundred from houses.” He had some papers in his hand but hadn’t looked at them much.
“Good Din Barim. What is the status of the outlying areas?” Thoma took a drink from his goblet of fine wine Barim had found in the cellars. A little sour, but better than Thoma had been accustomed too.
“Well, most people had already heard the news and fled. Some people were not so lucky though, around five hundred have been brought in. They have been put under watch doing various duties.” Barim brushed his hair out of his face again. Thoma hated that, he would have to order that he cut it. “Some have been put to work on your orders regarding the improvement of the fortifications. Others have been sent to the quarry a mile from town to collect stone for the fortifications. And that is where a large contingent of our soldiers are being used up guarding them. Most are farmers, so a majority are building the walled farming complex you ordered.” Barim slowed to a stop, not an emotion displayed on his pierced face.
“Good.” He was going to need more crops since he had basically destroyed the towns food intake by raiding the surrounding farms. The walled complex he had ordered to the east of the town would take months to build, but when it was done he could use much less manpower to guard the medians and faithless. “How many followers do we have as of now Din Barim?” His voice carried the tone of boredom but Thoma didn’t care.
“Just above five thousand savior.” He brushed his **** hair out of his face once more. “Around three thousand escaped the town.”
Thoma nodded silently, stroking his beard. He should have put people at the gates before his plan moved into action. That would have stopped most if not all of the people from escaping. No matter now though, he had what could be had.
“Weapons production?” He asked the question quickly, reaching down into the desk drawer he pulled out an apple. The desk itself was also beautifully inscribed with scroll work, swords, shields, plows, all the things Thoma supposed a manager of a town would think about in his daily business. It wasn’t too worked over, and he had already decided it could stay.
Barim looked at the apple in his hand, then back to his face. “Only two smiths remained in town. One was captured hiding in his house yesterday, and the other, as I’m sure you know, is our beloved Aramis. They are both churning out weapons, but the stock is small at best, though given a month or two, we could likely double it.” Barim shifted his feet. Aramis was a touchy subject.
After they had taken the town the insufferable man had demanded a place of authority. Even asserting, however subtly, that it should be higher than Thoma himself. For now the smith had refrained from violence. Thoma was far from a coward, but he knew Aramis’s connections with less than reputable people, and didn’t want to end his crusade before it really ever gained momentum. So he had let Aramis make his outrageous demands for the time being. If his brazen disregard for Thoma’s leadership continued however action would have to be taken.
“Speed up production as much as possible Din Barim. It won’t be long till word reaches Ivon Tevouine.” A hammer of a man, although kind in his own way. Not at all a harsh ruler. Iri’ Kadai had definitely seen harsher Roussans. Thoma had even seen him once throughout his travels. Some parade in Iri’ Kadai, for some barbaric holiday of these people. Brute and bearish he seemed. Thoma had no doubt that a sharp wit lurked behind that rough face though.
“Yes savior Thoma, it will be as you wish. May Solin find us.” Thoma diffidently waved a hand at him as he bowed and backed out of the room. May Solin find us. It had become a prayer of sorts among the more established of his believers. For the people recently captured, or those who just didn’t want to believe the obvious, Thoma had ordered mandatory attendance to readings of the revised book of Adus every day. If somebody were caught using defamatory language about Solin, they were punished. Usually a public whipping, thankfully Thoma hadn’t been forced to kill anyone yet. He needed as many people as possible.
It had been a week since he took the town, and he just yesterday finished the book himself. He had been amazed at Train’s clairvoyance. The book read that somewhere in this palace was a portal to Solin’s world, where he had been trapped. It offered no description of where this portal was or what it looked like. An ancient language was to be inscribed on the front as reading, “Open only under permission of the Gods.” That was impossible though. Thoma already knew the current gods were worthless and fake. Solin was true. He had his Din search the palace from rafters to floorboards and had so far come up empty. The book also spoke of a pendant, that would be needed to open the door. And someone in town with the title of Preserver, should have it. However after searching records and questioning townspeople there was no mention of this Preserver anywhere. And nobody had ever heard anything of a portal to anywhere in their town. It was the first wall he had hit so far and it proved to be a large one.
He sighed, and removed his feet from the desk. He took his simple silver wine goblet and stepped over to the window taking a drink. Against all odds the town had become quite a thriving community. Sure some of the medians still protested, but that would pass with time. Medians were the name his Din had given the people they considered no longer faithless, but were on the verge of converting. Seeing the truth. He already had set forth plans to try converting more people around Tamirra, by sending out what he liked to think of as an emissary of Solin. Keepers of the faith is what he personally had named the group. Only the most fervent of believers could be chosen for this. He had yet to send out the first of them, but he had already commissioned robes for them to wear. One purpose of the Keepers was to project an image, along with bringing people around to the cause. They would be ready in a matter of days now. The Keepers numbered one hundred, men and women as of today. Another job of theirs would be recognizance. They would report the location, population, and military presence of towns if there was one. That way, Thoma could send his own troops if the settlements output of Din was less than expected.
He had two guards stationed outside to bar anybody he did not want to see, and one of them stuck his head through now. “Din Barim is here to see you Savior Thoma.”
Solin’s mercy, what did the man want now. “Very well, send him in.” Thoma turned on his heel and plopped down in his chair once more to hear whatever news Barim had.
The slim pierced black haired young man strode in through the door obviously upset at being barred from Thoma by the guards. “We have found record of the Preserver Savior!” He clutched a book to his chest that didn’t appear to have any words or titles on it’s simple black surface.
“Well out with it man, what is it?” Thoma asked, feeling excited for the first time all day.
“I didn’t read it Savior, I thought you should be the first.” Barim handed him the book with downcast eyes.
Thoma took the book with just an itch of annoyance at the young man, but he was too excited to say anything. He opened the book where the bookmark had been placed and began reading. “Lords and Titles, in the year of blah blah….” He read on, his eyes hungry for the information he sought. “Ahh here we go, the title of Preserver, shall hereby be given to the family Brinkloviar, shall they respect and fulfill their duties throughout their generations, and the customs of the position be passed on from father to son.” That was it. Thoma slammed the book on the table. That didn’t tell him anything, all it told him was that he had more searching to do than he had originally thought. He looked up at Barim to find his mouth wide open, and moving slightly.
“Are you okay Din Barim? Do you need a drink?” Thoma reached for the wine pitcher.
“I know a Brinkloviar! He was my boss, when I was a stable boy! I can’t believe it.” His mouth seemed to work fine now, but his eyes were round as could be.
“Well do you know where he lived, and what he looks like?” Barim nodded almost as soon as the question left Thoma’s mouth. “Good, gather up as many Din as you need and search for him, and search his house as well. Question everybody about him and his whereabouts, and I mean everybody. We need to glean as much information from this as we can.” Barim nodded, bowed and backed out of the door once more.
Thoma stood in the room for a moment longer, stroking his beard and looking at the book. Brinkloviar. He needed to find the man, if he couldn’t find this pendant, all was lost. It would have been nice had Trian told him of it beforehand. He was beginning to realize that there was a great amount of helpful information that Trian had not been privy to provide.
Thoma exited the office, the guards outside greeted him by slapping their hands to their chests, over the symbol of Solin. He acknowledged them with a nod. They immediately returned to a attentive position, hands on sword hilts. Two guards that stood parallel to them across the hallway immediately flanked him on either side. Ever since Aramis had become unruly he felt better about having these men with him.
“I think I will make some rounds today, I want to see the how the fortifications are coming along.” Thoma cinched the black belt around himself tighter so his robes wouldn’t billow as much in a breeze. The belt loops were situated too low however. He would have to tell the women to make adjustments.
“Yes, Savior.” The guards saluted him in their fashion, which he ignored as he headed down the hallway to the stairs. The palace was only a two story building, being short as palace’s go. Although Thoma had to admit it was very lavish for a smaller town. The stairs were wide with wooden steps and it flared out at the bottom, the carved rails curving back in on themselves at the bottom. There was a west, and an east wing that contained rooms for servants and guests. Thoma had been staying in this Lord of Nobles apartments. All the personal items of non-importance that he had found he burned.
The small clerk-receptionist desk that was immediately to his left was empty, obviously this Daryn had managed to warn the staff before Thoma arrived. He exited down the hallway through the wide wooden double doors. They were wide enough that four men could fit through abreast, and tall enough that a man riding a horse could pass comfortably. The brass handle felt cold under his grasp as he pushed it open.
It was maybe an hour past noon, and the sun felt hot on his head even though the day was not overly warm. The large courtyard was maybe three hundred feet lengthwise, and surely one hundred width. The militia barracks, a square short, but large building, with no windows was directly across the space from him. The stables, which sat to the right of the barracks had few horses in them. Thoma preferred his old friend Mordelai anyway.
He turned to the guard on his right, they had not been issued helmets yet and his dark brown hair glinted in the sun, his dark brown eyes seemed ready to obey. “Saddle my horse. And be quick about it, I want to be on my way.” His face showed no emotion as he slapped a fist to his chest, and ran off toward the stable as Thoma walked slowly with his other guardian toward the front gates around the building to his right. The Palace grounds did have a wall around them, but it wasn’t much of one, maybe six feet.
The guard trotted up with Mordelai in tow in a respectable time. As Thoma mounted, he reminded himself to save some mira for the buying and breeding of horses. His guards had to protect him, and keep up, and that was hard to do if they didn’t have horses. A matter for another time however. He rode out through the Palace gate, and towards the eastern gate of town.
As he road some people bowed, some even fell to their knees with heads down. Some cheered “Savior Thoma!” and “Solin be praised!” But an equal amount bowed or saluted only because they had too. Their eyes were downcast, and some were filled with hatred. Thoma had an urge to reprimand them immediately, to make them respect him or make them die. He couldn’t now though he knew, his forces were spread too thin as it was. The last thing he could afford was a rebellion on his hands, so he merely waved and smiled.
As they came to the eastern gate, people were carrying stone from carts pulled by the few oxen they had manage to capture to the wall. There, people who had been masons, or had some stonework experience in their previous lives cemented them to the wall. It was regular river rock, rounded and grey. Thoma regretted that, he would rather have finer stone of color. After all he had an image to present, it would make people more willing to join the cause. See the truth
A foreman of the operation jumped down from one rock cart to walk over to Thoma. He was a middle aged man with red hair and green eyes. Although the amount of freckles he had on his face and arms made him seem older.
“Savior, how may I be of service?” He said with a bow and a smile.
“Working as hard as you are is service enough.” He smiled back, and genuinely. It was nice to have proper respect. “How goes the operation…may I inquire your name?” It was more of a demand than a question.
“Roland Savior. Roland Ormeon.” He said, obviously pleased that his master had even wanted to know his name.
“And how goes the operation Din Roland.” Thoma flicked his reigns in his hand, his eyes straying keenly to the workers.
“It goes well Savior.” Roland scrubbed a hand through his fuzzy red hair. “It will take some amount of time to widen the wall as you describe Thoma and add crenellation. With more workers of course the time could be lessened. But I would assume it will be three months at the most, and maybe even less.” He fidgeted a moment, his feet scrubbing at the dirt of the street.
“Good, Din Roland.” He reached into his pocket and tossed the man a leather bag with ten mira inside. “Keep up the work Roland, and their will be more.” He nodded at the man’s grateful smile, spurring his horse to a slow canter he headed out the gates.
The farm complex or what was beginning to look like one soon filled his vision. It was immediately outside the walls, and the ankle high wall had just begun around it. The complex was six hundred feet, by six hundred. Since it was so large, he knew that it would take a considerable amount of time to build the wall, so he had ordered that the wall was of the lowest priority. If you couldn’t feed your people, why defend them? Some small wooden buildings separated in a checkerboard fashion by small paths made up what had to be the henhouses. Wooden fence poles were laying all about, and some had even begun to be built to make cow pens and pig pens. He had figured that in the day they would be let out to graze, and then brought back inside at night for protection. All seemed to be going good from what he could see, another cart was trundling through a gap in the wall, which could only be a future gate with more wood for fence posts. A group of young boys and women sat beneath the shade of two tree’s cutting off branches, and nubs from the posts. Those tree’s would have to be cut down eventually, but the shade they provided had value for the time being.
He stood around and waited to see if the overseer of this project would come around, but he didn’t. Gaben he thought his name was. Gaben…Gaben something. Thoma wheeled his horse and headed back to the palace, his guards following silently behind him. The crack of stone, and the bellows of oxen soon again filled his ears passing the mason’s. Roland stopped to put a fist to his chest before turning back to his work.
“Savior, I have news of the issue we talked about earlier.” Barim obviously had a mind for secrecy, and it was all for the better, showed he used his brain.
“You may speak of it now Din Barim. I have no qualms about talking in public. We are surrounded by those who appreciate Solin Barim.” He said it loudly enough so other people passing could hear, but not so loudly as to be obvious.
Barim appeared as if he doubted the “appreciate Solin” part, but continued anyway. “We went to the man’s house we spoke of, and found him dead on the floor.” Thoma winced at that, he had wanted to find him alive. “It is said he has three sons, the oldest is a merchant ship owner. The younger two lived with him and both of these men have had an encounter with them.” Barim waved at the nearest man, the bald one, and cued him to speak.
He wasn’t totally bald now that Thoma was near him, he had thin wisps of blonde hair coming down his head, but he wasn’t that old. Just unlucky.
“What is your name faithful Din?” The wispy haired beady brown eyed man didn’t take more than a second to answer. “Norum…uh…Savior.”
“And how did you come upon these two young men Din Norum. And where are they now?” Thoma said. The anticipation was evident in his voice, and he was anxious to find out.
“Well, you see…me and a friend were…checking houses…for people to capture for you Savior, and that’s when we wandered into the house of the Brinkloviar fellow. I stuck my head inside sir, and what d’ya know? I saw two kids and a dead man, so’s I turned to my friend Baldor and I said…”
“Just get to the point Norum, do you know where they are now?” Thoma ground his reigns in his hands but held his temper well enough.
“No sir, after that they ran…sir, so’s I don’t know where they might have lit off too.” Thoma frowned, at least he had someone who knew their faces. Although it was apparent that his friend and he were not looking for people to convert.
“And you? What is your name?” Thoma looked to the other man, not short, not tall, he was handsome and had a grace with the way he held himself. His brown eyes, and brown hair were common, but something else about him made him distinguishable in a crowd.
“I am named Hanival Corin, Savior.” He bowed, making it a bit of a garish performance, but a flattery non-the-less. “I came in contact with the two boys…” He said boys in a heated tone, and Thoma liked it. “five days ago. We went out into the country side as you ordered sir, when we came upon a farmhouse. We found the owner and his wife throwing their belongings into a cart, and were about ready to depart when we arrived. We had the situation all in hand when two mere boys jumped from the wood. One of them hit my friend Landen in the head with a rock and killed him. That gave the man and his wife enough time to produce weapons, they killed all but two of us. One of our number ran, and I have yet to see him again, although I have inquired.” His voice said he would very much like to see that man again. “And I was knocked unconscious by someone.” It was evident he really didn’t know who had rattled his brains. Yet clearly, he would like to find out. “I awoke soon after the had vacated. They left on the road to Desson, but whether or not they are still in a group, or still on that road is impossible for me to say.” He even ended his informative report with a salute. Barim looked over at the man jealously.
“Yes…very good Din Hanival.” Thoma liked the man, obviously had a head on his shoulders, and showed proper respect. “Hanival, I want you to take…Din Norum, and his friend that he spoke of, and head down the road to Desson and see if you can find them. They should have a pendant of Solin’s symbol somewhere about their person. I want you to bring it back to me. There will be a very large reward for the three of you. And I mean very large.” He had no doubt that by the time they returned he would have funds well enough to give them. Thoma slapped at a fly that landed on his neck and went on. “I would give you more men, but they are needed here. And don’t worry about killing them if you have too. They are of no consequence, just remember the pendant Hanival. You may set out immediately, take whatever weapons and food you may need, along with horses. I will send word to everyone so they give you what you need without any trouble.” He nodded down at them from Mordelai, who for a moment danced as if feeling Thoma’s excitement. For a while he had even forgot he was on a horse.
“It will be as you and Solin wish Savior.” He saluted, bowed, then dragged Norum after him, already set on the task ahead. Thoma knew he would have to remember that one. He could see that young man achieving great things.
Turning to Barim, he spoke in with a determined air. “Get people to work on finding that portal Barim. Search yourself if you have too.” He prodded his horse into a slow canter. “Oh quit pouting Barim, I have important things for you to see too as well…”