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The King's Thief: Chapter 9

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Chapter 9 of The King's Thief.
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  Chapter 9Beck opened his eyes. Dawn had broken, and with it Beck’sconcentration. He rolled from his seated position onto all fours,feeling stiff muscles protest at having to move. Staggering to hisfeet, he moved to the window and flung open the shutters, letting acool breeze roll in. Turning to the form on the wheeled hospital bed,Beck took in the site of his efforts. The lesions and small bruiseswere gone, that been the easy part, but the silver orb was gone. Thebiggest change had taken place on the head of the body which hadonce been Sayela. The silver had flowed as if liquid to cover theragged face, turning the charred landscape into a reflective half-orb. The effect was as if Sayela was wearing a solid silver fencinghelmet, like the ones the recruits used in training. Standing overher, Beck could see himself reflected and oddly distended, andbehind him, the grinning face of Kaliss. Whipping round, Beck’shand went for his sword-belt, but it was lying on the bed where hehad left it. The empty room taunted him. He blinked slowly; mentalfatigue was getting to him, evidently. The other main task Beck had undertaken was far from physical; hehad mentally raped Sayela using a MindGlass aura of his owninvention. Her brain was an empty vessel, and he had taken what heneeded. The time she had spent with Kaliss was an open book tohim now, part of his own memories, and although it would take hima while to properly assimilate the impressions and separate themfrom his own, he had the information he needed.For several days Beck had tried to deal with the problem of Kaliss’sapparent void ability. This made locating the man very difficult. Theman who filled his thoughts, who had robbed him successively of hisrank and his possessions without so much as lifting a finger, theman who even now burned in his mind, taunting him and yetstaying just out of reach. No matter that Malketh wanted him alive,he deserved death, or worse; Beck knew several techniques that hissuperiors would frown on, things that he learned at the front lines,for torturing a body well beyond its limits. For hours, a thousandimagined agonies had passed through the Private’s mind, alldirected at one man. The first part of his revenge, the hardest part,lay completed on the gurney in his room, and thankfully the secondrequired little preparation.“Kalisssss…”*** The same sun that reflected on the unearthly helmet also dawnedon the warehouse, shining in through the skylights. Kaliss snappedinto wakefulness, feeling as refreshed as he ever had. As he sat upon the mattress, he realised that there was a flurry of activityaround him, but the bustling Sylvan workers had already cleared  most of the warehouse. The desks were moved to the sides,presumably as they had been found, while there was only a patch of disturbed ground to show that the field had ever stood, exactly asRyn had foretold. The hammocks were all down and were beingused as slings for the men and women to carry various objects, forthey had all flung their hoods back and Kaliss could now tell themapart.Ryn detached himself from the main group, most of whom seemedready to depart. He wordlessly handed Kaliss a black robe, identicalto the others.“So what’s the plan? We just walk out under the time-distortingspell?”Ryn shook his head, blond hair dancing around his sharp features.“No. The stress would kill the Kinroc, and besides that if we collidewith someone who is not desynced, the results could becatastrophic. Generally speaking we only use time ergnul inprolonged periods of hiding, or in absolute emergencies. There arestrict rules controlling it.”“But we will be using some sort of… ergnul , yes? I mean, you’reobviously Sylvan, and I’m a wanted man. Anyone catching sight of us will be ready to kill us…”“No. It will not be so, for the robes we wear are not just to makesure that any humans who do see us are not made uncomfortableby our normal mode of dress. They have ergnul of their own, woveninto their very fabric, present in the cotton plants that produced thematerial. They project an aura of hiding, causing people to simplynot notice us, unless they have a particular talent.”Kaliss nodded slowly. The Sylva seemed to have a logical answer forevery impossible thing they could do. As he was about to walk overto join the main group, Ryn lay a hand on his shoulder. Turning toface him, he cocked a questioning eyebrow.“So far, you have only talked to me, and that is good. But outside,you may mingle with our group. Not all of us are as tolerant as I am,Kaliss, some have lost loved ones and even their way of life to yourarmies.”Considering his own lost love, Kaliss nodded his understanding. Together, the two men joined the main group, leaving the last oneor two Sylva to form up behind them.Kinroc Faergaldan looked around, his wooden eyes taking in eachface. Finally he alighted on Kaliss and the two exchanged gazes fora quiet moment, before the Sylva broke the contact. He put hisarms around the two nearest Sylvan black-robes, who in turn puttheir arms around another person each, the chain continuing untilKaliss found he had an arm around each shoulder. Faergaldan madea simple pronouncement, and suddenly there came the sound of bustling noise from outside the warehouse. The sun was up and thestorage district was buzzing with activity. The group of black-robes,conspicuous yet drawing no attention whatsoever, set off towardsthe city’s eastern gate.  ***Approaching the large gatehouse structure, the group’s pace didn’tlet up in the slightest, but under his black cowl Kaliss began tosweat profusely. The sun was warm on the dark material, but thatwas not the sole source of his discomfort, for he could see a partyapproaching the gate as well as their own; a small honour guardsurrounding the bent body of a magician, one dressed fashionably incanary-yellow robes trimmed with feathers. The profile of the manshowed a crooked nose, a sharp chin and a tall forehead; it was onethat he recognised, the deceptively weak-looking Malketh. For just amoment he was torn between continuing their daring escape fromthe city, straight through the main gate, and simply turning andrunning. Even one guard or magician noticing the group wouldcause the crowd to turn on them, and Kaliss didn’t think they woulddifferentiate between robed humans and Sylva. Suddenly he felt aripple of calm filter through him; he reminded himself that themagician was someone who had helped him, could still be of use inthe future, despite his threats, and besides, was this not what theold man wanted? For him to go to Sylvanasher? The magician had stopped, and was speaking with the Captain of the Guard at the gatehouse, and as they neared, the conversationgrew clearer.“…and you say he hasn’t reported for duty again today?”“No, sir, he sent a message reporting a most dire situation, sir, acase of the flux that not even the infirmary’s healing magic hasbeen able to halt.”“Most unusual, he looked in good health when last we met. Strange.Ah well, Captain, I’m sure I will run into the good Private in the nearfuture.”“Very good, sir.” The Captain saluted and as he did so, Malketh looked past theman’s face, seeming to look straight into Kaliss’s eyes, somehowimpossibly picking them out under the cowl. Then the moment wasgone, and the group of black-robes had moved on past the two men,under the gate.“Carry on, Captain.” The magician turned to leave.Kaliss left the city of Theria, reflecting that this was not at all how heenvisioned doing so; in the company of a group of people that, werehe of a mind to, he could consider to be his enemy. But then thethought was gone, and his journey truly began.*** The land immediately around Theria, for many miles in everydirection, was farmland. The valley in which the city lay had a muchshallower ascent on the other side of the river, leading some in thecity to wonder what had possessed the srcinal settlers to use the  steep side as their camp. However, once the group had traversedthe side of the valley, the land became flatter and many dozens of large farms were revealed, all of which were concerned withsupplying grain, livestock, poor-quality toba and wine to the city. The group walked brazenly down the dusty main road and met fewpeople coming the other way. There was no conversation, and Kalisswas beginning to suspect that this was the normal way of travellingfor these people, a silent unseen presence. They walked through uninspiring scenes of fields and pasture forhours, and it was not until the sun was nearing the horizon behindthem that they began to deviate from the path. They had notstopped for a midday meal, instead snacking on fruit and hunks of alight bready substance which Ryn had identified as nommas-bread,made from the impossible corn. It was satisfying in a way which thenormal coarse bread Kaliss was used to could never be.Moving away from the main path, Kaliss saw that they had passedbeyond the last farm, a poorly-fenced field being the final marker. Infront of them, the path wended between what looked like two halvesof a forest, but the Sylva were veering towards the rightmosttreeline. As they gained the forest, the sun dipped below thehorizon, and the increased cover made their surroundings dimindeed. The troupe stopped, apparently for the night.Kaliss stood to one side, observing with interest what happenednext. The Sylva, as one, placed their hammock-packs on the ground,removed blankets and lay them on the ground. They then removedtheir cloaks, revealing that they were, indeed, only wearing theroughly-woven kilts. Kaliss was able to finally, and abruptly, see thatof the twenty six people in the group, five of them were definitelyfemale. Lithe waistlines lead to firm breasts, unashamedly revealedto the night-time air, and the cool breeze caused instant reactions.Meanwhile the men were mostly built in the same way, lean butmuscly, blond hair shading to grey in some, the only outwardappearance of age. Kaliss saw a range of quick impressions; oneSylvan man with a huge mass of scar-tissue from his hip to hispectoral muscle, as if a creature had clawed at him; one of the olderwomen, her hair slightly grey at the roots, still young in her body asif age touched her lightly; the Kinroc, his somewhat larger framesporting an array of scars to match even Kaliss’s.“We do not expect you to disrobe too, Kaliss. We do not feel the biteof the wind, and in this way we are made comfortable. See, we aremore carefree now.” Ryn was standing nearby, his own thin torsobare. He pointed to where a trio of Sylva had set up a cooking potalmost ridiculously fast, a fire already being built in preparation forthe evening meal. Meanwhile two others had brought out whatappeared to be a lute and begun an intricate melody that somehowput across beauty and joy at the same time.“Come, we celebrate the natural bounty around us, thief. You arewelcome in our circle.”

Karte april 17

Sep 19, 2017
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