Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sketch in My Notebook: The Order of the Blackened Glaive (Part 5)

Our story so far...

Drakar has been forced from the Sentralian Military Academy because of his half-demon heritage.  However, angels of the goddess Nyx visited him in a dream, commanding him to seek out Fortress Abbadabas and the fabled Order of the Blackened Glaive.  Drakar traveled south to the city of Jakara, where he met a girl--a young wizard.  Having saved her from certain death, the two of them now travel together.
“My name is Elaina,” the girl says, “scion of House Emboo of Wanderhaven.  I appreciate the rescue back there.”
Drakar nods.  “It was my pleasure, though in truth you seemed not to need my help very much.”
Elaina rubs her wrists where the manacles had been.  “It was the handcuffs.  Magic’s illegal in this city, and the Jakaran magistrates use those... things... to enforce the law.  Stupid black iron.  I had no idea it could be used like that.  I’ve seen the Legion’s black iron shields before, but magically inert handcuffs were a new experience for me.”
Drakar looks at her sharply.  “You what?”
“You are a member of the Legion of the Red Lord, are you not?  I confess, this is the first time I’ve ever been rescued by a legionnaire, but I’ll try not to hold it against you.”
“No.  I, uh… I’m not with the Legion.  Not anymore.”  The words come harder than Drakar might have hoped.
“You are wearing their armor, though.  Don’t bother denying it.  I’d recognize that breastplate anywhere.”
“I am,” Drakar admits.  He feels a little embarrassed.  “I’m also carrying one of their sacred artifacts. But I am my own man now.”
“Do you think they’ll come after you?”
Drakar considers.  “I… don’t know.  If they do, I doubt they’ll look here.”
“Good.  I knew I liked you.”
Drakar stops and studies this girl—Elaina—for a long moment.  She returns his gaze with open curiosity.  She’s younger than he’d first assumed, he realizes.  He’d figured her for thirty, but now he can see that she is at most five-and-twenty.  Prolonged exposure to the sun has bronzed her skin and given her lines around her eyes, but she is still only a little older than is Drakar himself.  She’s well-traveled and worldly but also full of life and energy as well.  Her hair is long and brown, and she wears it back in a ponytail, save for a few strands that frame a thin face with high cheekbones and kean, icy blue eyes.  These eyes possess a piercing intelligence that does not shy away from Drakar’s scrutiny.  He hadn’t noticed before, but her shirt is expensive, tailored from finely embroidered white linen.  Her pants are thin, light grey linen—a decidedly mannish cut—as are her boots, which are low-cut from a matching shade of grey leather.  
This girl is much more than a wizard, Drakar realizes.  But then, she has just said as much.  
“Are you not afraid of me?” he asks at last.
“I’m a city girl, Drakar.  You wouldn’t even get a second glance from most of the folks that I call friends.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“Believe what you want.”
Drakar shakes his head.  “So fierce.  But if you don’t mind my saying, you seem a little young to be a war wizard.”
“Don’t start with me, Drakar.  You see that ship over there?  It’s mine.  Not my father’s and not some trading coster’s that’s let it out on a trade-lease.  I own that tub—well, half of it anyway—and I’ve sailed it through every port town from here to the Fire Islands and back.  I appreciate your help back there, seriously, but don’t go gettin’ ideas.  I’m not some damsel who needs rescuing on a regular basis.  I just got jammed up with those stupid handcuffs.  It won’t happen again, trust me.”
Drakar can’t help smiling.  He spreads his hand to show that he means no ill intent.  “I believe you.  It is simply… unusual… to find one who has seen so much at such a young age.  Few indeed have gone up against the Legion of the Red Lord and lived to tell the tale.”
“Don’t I know it,” Elaina replies.
They begin walking again, and soon Drakar can see the ship that she pointed out.  It’s a three-masted caravel.  Though he knows little of ships, this one looks fast.  It is perhaps ninety feet long and twenty wide at its center, with a distinct quarterdeck rising from the aft third of the hull.  Its sails are furled, but the mizzenmast flies the pennant of the Kingdom of the Western Isles alongside the pennant of the Kingdom’s capital city, Wanderhaven.  The caravel’s gangplank is down, and there are stevedores working along the wharf, loading various crates and barrels onto the deck where a spare handful of sailors then use a winch to lower them into the cargo hold.  This process is managed by a massive green lizardman, a legartos, who barks orders that Drakar can hear from fifty feet away.  
The ship’s nameplate proclaims her the Trident.
“You own this ship?” Drakar asks.  He tries not to sound skeptical, but this is almost beyond imagining.
“That’s right,” the girl replies.  She plainly enjoys his confusion.  “That big green lizard up there is my partner Ferdinando.  Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
Ferdinando turns out to be the Trident’s captain.  He hails from Los Rocas del Sol, a legartos clanhome nestled into the rocky eastern coast of the Southern Continent, and though he is physically enormous, he is surprisingly friendly.  Drakar’s only other experience with ships and ships’ captains is Koraph from Koraph’s Delight, and already Drakar can see that the Trident runs along entirely different lines.  Given Ferdinando’s size and stature and the fact that he is in partnership with a genuine war wizard—albeit one who is very young—Drakar supposes that the Trident’s captain can afford to be a little gentler with his crew.  It would take a very foolish sailor indeed to risk crossing a six-foot-seven-inch lizardman on the deck of his own ship.  The fact that Ferdinando also wears the largest broadsword that Drakar has ever seen merely confirms Drakar’s impression that this is not someone whom he should risk offending.  Fortunately, it seems wholly outside of Ferdinando’s nature to become offended.  If he is surprised to see his partner in company of a half-demon, he hides it so expertly that Drakar can see no sign whatsoever of his discomfort.
“So they put you in handcuffs?” Ferdinando asks once introductions are made and Elaina has begun telling her tale.
“It was my own fault,” she replies.  “Stupid Safras said he thought he could get a better price from a Frankonian trader due in next week, and when I tried to remind him that we already had a contract, he took offense.  A bunch of his bully boys showed up, and I…  well, I didn’t react very well.  One of them got close before I could blast him, and the next thing I know, they’re denouncing me as a witch.  They hauled me out into some kind of public square, and if it hadn’t been for Drakar here, they’d have stoned me right there in the streets.”
“I was glad to be of service,” Drakar says.
“But the consignment is lost?” Ferdinando asks.
Elaina nods.  “Yeah, and they stole my purse at some point, too.  So they have the shipment and the golds for it too, the bastards.”
“Do you think we could retrieve it?”
“Twenty crates of saffron?” Elaina replies.  “Even if we somehow manage to get in there, I don’t see how we could get out again, not with what we’re owed.  And that’s assuming it’s packed and ready to go.”
“So you just want to let them get away with this?” Ferdinando says.
“As opposed to what?” Elaina replies.  “That saffron is only one part of our cargo.  Frankly, captain, trying to get it back is not worth our lives.”
Drakar is an outsider to this discussion, but as he listens, he finds himself becoming angry.  Everywhere he looks, he finds injustice.  The magisters cheated him of his chance to join the Legion.  Koraph beat his men and tried to cheat Drakar of his passage south.  Now here in Jakara, this Safras has cheated Elaina, stealing her gold and very nearly stoning her to death as well.  It’s not right, Drakar thinks.  He can feel it burning inside of him.  This will not stand. 
The Pits are deeper than your theology will allow…
Aloud he says, “Should you not pay this Safras another visit to at least retrieve your money?”
Elaina shakes her head.  “It’s insured.  It’s not worth—”
“You misunderstand,” Drakar replies.  “I care nothing for your profits.  It is the principal of the thing.”
“What do you mean?”
“It sits ill with me,” Drakar says.  “All these cheaters and thieves.  They cannot be allowed to continue.  It’s not right.”
“Don’t be such an idealist.  It’s only—”
“No,” Drakar says flatly.  “If you do not wish to accompany me, I will not hold it against you.  I require directions but nothing else.  I will take care of the rest myself.”
Like this story?  Check out Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki, available now for the Kindle and Kindle app.

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