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A damp torch flickered in the luxurious room. A large shape filled an extravagant couch. A timid knock resonated throughout the room.
“Enter!” sounded the deep voice.
“ Sir?” the small boy almost whispered.
“ Yes, yes. What is it boy?” Tappaja was getting impatient. He had to remember not to hire small lads. They were always tongue tied in his presence.
“ Sir, we’ve found him. We’ve found Exosus Proditor.”
Tappaja laughed his deep laugh and answered, “Good! Good! Give my signal to bring him in alive. I want to kill him myself. I want to kill him with my own two hands.”
As I woke up this morning, I knew something was off. I should have known it had to do with Tappaja. You would think he would be over the whole horse fiasco, but boy can that man hold a grudge! I really hate living like this. Always on the run, never getting to rest. I mean, it was only a couple hundred gelda! Although I will say that it was totally worth it to see the look on his face. Best prank I’ve played in a while. I only got to savor it for a second though. Then I really had to run. Who knew he was clever enough to put guards outside when he confronted me? These thoughts ran through my head as I made a bland porridge. I hate porridge.
“I really need to go to the market’’ I said to no one in particular. Corvus was out hunting, so he couldn’t come. Well, no use putting it off. I donned my cloak, grabbed my staff and went out into the annoyingly bright and cheerful world.
As soon as I stepped out onto the street I knew I was being watched. I would deal with them after I got a decent breakfast.
With my belly full I decided where I would go next. I knew I couldn’t go back to that little hovel. That left two options. Dolor’s house (If you could call that shack a house) or the woods. And since I lacked proper supplies, I opted to visit Dolor.
Let me tell you a little about Dolor. She is a two-eye ( You know, a torturer) but she never joined the Coven so she was never trained. This means she is a good ally . Although this can backfire because if she touches you with bare skin, it hurts. A lot.
On my way to Dolor’s, I saw two green eyed Athelorean guards. This could be trouble. I quickly split into an alley. This was a poor decision. I had approximately two seconds before I went flying into garbage heap, my jaw throbbing and little ravens flying above me. Must have been hit by a green eye. Only person that could have hit that hard. They were probably working for Tappaja. I quickly jumped to my feet, immediately alert. Perhaps they had left.
A deep rasping voice growled,
"That oughta ruin yer pretty little face, grey-eyes.”
Apparently not. I stood, dusted myself off, and readied for a fight.
“Oi! None of tha’! I’m surposeder bring ye back alive an’ kickin’!” He looked slightly concerned.
“ Oh! Is the big, scary, green-eye afraid afraid of a little tussle? Or perhaps you don’t understand proper wellspeech? Allow me to translate: Oi! Are ye afraid of a lit’le fight?” The second I said it I knew it would have the desired effect
“ Me? Afraid o’ a lit’le thing li’ you? We’ll see abou’ tha’” He lumbered toward me “ Jus’ come quie’ly an’ you won’ get hurt” At this, I started laughing. Clearly he doesn’t know who I am. Or what I am. Oh well. If he wanted to fight, I wouldn’t object. This was going to be enjoyable . I wondered how much Tappaja was paying him? Not enough for what was about to happen to him. “Oi. why are ye laughin’?” Now he was scared.
“Nothing. Anyway…. Where were we? You were going to bring me in?” It took almost all my willpower to not burst out laughing.
“ Righ’ righ’. Jus’ come quie’ly.” He rasped. Or that’s what he wanted to say. Dolor got to him first. It was over quickly. My only concern was that his screams were loud enough to alert the guards, so I clapped my hand over his mouth.
“ Curse it Dol! I was going to take him out!” I furiously whispered.” You know how boring the last two weeks have been? I’ve been dying for a probable-cause beating!” It’s true. I can’t go for more than three weeks without doing something. Otherwise I might do something unwise. For example, the last time that happened, almost the entire Orlinean army was hunting me down for about four weeks. I think at this point they think I’m a ghost or spectre of some kind, but that's their mistake.
Dolor interrupted my thoughts by saying,“ Exo, you can’t keep living like this. Something bad is going to happen and I won’t be around to save you.” This was to far, even for Dol. I was mad. No, I was furious.
“ Dol.” I said in a dangerously quiet voice.” Where would you be without me? What would you be doing? If I hadn’t come along, you would be stuck in a coven or lying dead somewhere. If you don’t enjoy my company, I can rectify my decision.” I am her leader. I expect respect from members of my cohor. I will tell you Tappaja, would react in no kinder way. If you made a remark like that to him, you would be writhing in pain before you could say two-eye.
Dol was looking at me with a strange gaze, like a wolf before the strike. She darted forward and grabbed my leg with a grip of steel.
“ AH!” Of all the days to wear my shorter trousers! The agony radiated up my leg like a raging fire, running up and into my chest, entering my heart, burning my blood and freezing my bones. A small moan escaped my lips against my will. Black clouded my vision as I began to scream and writhe.
“Shhhhhhhhhhh” she whispered, placing a fell hand upon my lips. The pain entered my head now, stopping my thoughts and filling it with nothing but this torment that wracked my body. Though my senses all felt as though they were slowly being roasted slowly on a spit, I still had not lost consciousness.
Through it all I heard a voice say “ Tappaja sends his regards.” At those words my head cleared and a rage filled me so potent I could no longer feel the torture inflicted on me. I slammed my knee up into her skull, making the pain slowly drain out of my body as she fell backwards. I quickly jumped up, drew my dagger and placed it against her exposed throat, positioning my body so she couldn’t touch me.
“WHY!?” I screamed in her face. How could she do this to me? When she didn’t answer, I looked at her face. A strange, vacant look pervaded her eyes as she fell unconscious. It must have been an amulet of some kind. I checked the back of her neck. There was a black charm. I ripped it off with distaste. This wasn’t good. The charm meant Tappaja knew Dolor and me were in close proximity. Unfortunately, my thoughts were interrupted. A large rough hand grabbed my neck.
“ Though’ I had really conked out, din’t ye?”
Wow. What an idiot. Clearly he wasn’t thinking straight. Looks like I’m gonna get that fight after all. The first thing to do was to remove his arm from my neck. A quick blow to the back of the elbow should do it. As I executed the blow, I heard a loud CRACK! Clearly, I had miscalculated the force required to release me from his grip. In my defense, he did let go of me. A howl permeated the alley that surely must have alerted the guards I saw earlier. Sure enough, I heard the clanking of armor as the green-eyed guards ran around the corner, weapons drawn. This must have been an interesting sight. A large man standing over a seemingly helpless lad, a small girl passed out a little farther back, and the men clearly assumed the large green-eye had harmed the two innocent children. They acted accordingly.
“ Sir, we ask that you put your arms to your side and turn around to face us.”
Tappaja would not be happy about this! He hated negotiating with authorities.
“ Lad, are you alright?” Ah. I had forgotten that I was the victim.
”Y...yes, sir. Th… thank you, sir.” I trembled slightly.
“What’s your name?”
Ooh, this would be tricky. I used to have a large repertoire of names but I had used all of those in recent history.
“ Son? Did you hear me?”
I was running out of time. “B...Boli, sir. Boli Lazov” Behind me, Dolor stirred,
“ Exo? H..hello? I don’t feel very good…”
That’s when she threw up. All over the green-eyes. As I stifled a laugh, I managed to choke out,
“ This is my sister, sir. She has been very sick.” It was obvious that the guards just wanted to get out of there. So they gave me the salute of Athelor and marched the giant man out of the alley. As soon as they left the alley, I collapsed into a fit of hysterics. I think Dolor was slightly concerned for my health.
“Exo? Are you alright?” Ha. If only she knew. I had to tell her or it might happen again. I opened my mouth to tell her what happened, but before I could, I heard a loud CR-R-RUCK as Corvus circled down to my shoulder.
“ Hi there Corvus. You missed the all the fun!” Corvus is my raven. She often gives me terrible advice about food. Other than that; she is really just there to keep me company. As I turned to face Dol, I was surprised to see that her face was shimmering with tears. Now, normally I love it when other people cry, but this time I was a bit scared. I had never seen her cry before. What do I do in this circumstance? Ask what’s wrong? Give her a hug? I opted for the former. “Dolor? What’s wrong?”
She looked me dead in the eye and responded in an even voice,”You know what’s wrong. I deserve to be beaten. You should kick me out and leave me to die. Take me to the nearest coven and leave me there.” As tempted as I was, Caelum and Terra were out of touch and I needed more comrades than a sarcastic raven.
“ Don't be like that Dolor. I need your help. What if I have to torture someone?” At this, her face lit up.
” You forgive me?” It was too soon for that. I mean, she had tortured me, even if she didn’t mean to.
” It’s a bit early for that. It still hurts where you grabbed my leg.” She gave me another look, took a deep breath and nodded.
“What do we do next?”
Honestly, I had no idea. I knew I couldn’t live in hiding anymore. I knew I would die of boredom. I was in the process of figuring out how to get me out of Tappaja’s mind, so I could do what I wanted. He had never done well with chaos. How could I cause as much chaos as possible? The answer hit me like a green-eyes fist. A war. I could start a war between countries! That would be interesting and it would keep him of my tail! I quickly voiced my idea to Dolor, and her response was,
“ You really think that’s a good idea?” Yes I thought it was a good idea! What else was I going to do? “ The first thing we have to do is go live on a farm!” She gave me a look that said
“What are you talking about?”
Her look only made me feel a little mad. In an exasperated voice I responded,
” Or maybe we should just start espionage today?” Clearly, she doesn’t understand that we needed a remote place to plan. But before that, we needed to actually find a farm. The easiest way to do that is to walk around the market asking farmers if they needed a helping hand. So we strolled, hand in hand, to the market and walked around for awhile until I saw a pleasant man with a big smile.
I pointed to him and whispered to my comrades,”He looks sickeningly bright and pleasant. Let’s ask him.”
As it turns out, he was there looking for some help. Our lucky day! He was a sickeningly bright and pleasant fellow by the name of Occisor. Amet Occisor. He has one son named Malum. His wife’s name is Gaudere.
How do I know this? On the way to his farm, he would not stop talking! It was bordering on obsessive behavior. The ride was almost three hours long! By the time we got to the farm, I knew every detail about his child’s youth, his favorite crop, and his political views. It was a big farm that looked like it required real, good-honest work. Not my favorite thing.
But, we would have to suffer through it. We were introduced to his family. His lovely, bright annoying family. Malum was a thin but muscular with hazel eye and sandy hair. For dinner we had…. that’s right, you guessed it! Porridge. The most bland porridge ever made.
This was going to be a long two days.
Then, I intended to get out of there as fast as possible. As soon as we finished we were shown to our quarters.
It was a barn. Filled with horses. And cows.
I hate cows!
We were supposed to sleep in the hayloft, but hay makes me sneeze so I slept on the same floor as the animals. Worst night of my life! I think I may have closed my eyes once the entire night.
For breakfast we had porridge. Again. Then we went out to the potato field to pick my least favorite root-vegetable until lunch was ready.
You're never gonna believe what we had for lunch. Not porridge, that’s for sure. We had salad instead.
After that I had to feed the horses with Malum while Dol helped Gaudere with the laundry. During this time, we had one of the most uncomfortable conversations in the history of farm work. It didn’t help that he had a deep, husky voice that almost put me to sleep.
“So,” He grumbled in my direction, “Have you lived in Athelor your whole life?” This was a conversation I did not want to have. My heritage has always been a bit murky. You see, I was raised at an orphanage in Duranos, and I had no idea who my parents are, and I wanted it to stay that way.
“Yes.” Maybe if I keep the answers short, this wouldn’t last long. I just hope he doesn’t ask about Dolor. That’s an interesting story that I didn’t want to share.
“Who’s your friend? She your sister or your girl?” Of course. I asked for this and I got it in spades. At this point, I was nurturing a strong dislike for the boy. A dislike so strong, I was resisting the urge to throw my pitchfork at his perfect little face.
“She’s my cousin.’’ I hoped he would get the message and stop talking.
“Well, it looks like we’re done.”
Oh, thank the Begetter! I had plans tonight and I needed to talk to Dol about them before they were instigated.
Later that night, me and Dol were considering options about espionage. She had just suggested pretending to be a spy and feed the king false information when I heard a snap! Just outside the door.
It had to be Malum.
I signaled to Dol that she needed to go around back while I distracted him. I quietly opened the door and sure enough, there was Malum, his ear pressed up against the wall, facing the opposite direction from me.
“Hello, Malum.” He jumped about 3 feet in the air.
“ H..hi Exo.” He stuttered,” How are you?’’ Ha. He couldn’t hide for long.
“ Cut the horse crap Malum. How much did you hear?” Now he was scared. I could see it in his hazel eyes.
“Since you started talking.” his voice was even now, but he was still frightened. I was glad he was such a straightforward boy. I just hoped he wouldn’t run.
Clearly I had overestimated his courage. Right as Dolor was going to grab him, he did run. If you could call that half-blind stumble a run. I easily caught up to him and tripped him. Then, I placed my foot on the small of his back until Dol could catch up.
While she was getting there, he began to scream for his father and mother. This wouldn’t do. I bent over and grabbed his windpipe. Needless to say, he stopped screaming and just sort of squeaked.
Dol caught up to us and squeezed his bare leg. He was wriggling like a worm in the dirt. It was so comical that I began to laugh. A deep laugh that I hadn’t used in a while. After he passed out, we dragged him to the creek and almost threw him in but decide against it, so we tied him up to a tall tree with a bit of leather. I made sure it was real tight.
Afterwards, we did the same to his parents.
Luckily for them, they were already out cold. I guess farm work will do that to you. After that, I decided to do something to pay them back for their horrible porridge. I was also sort of bored.
Dolor didn’t want me to but I did it anyway. Besides, I’ve always loved fire. The way it devours and curls up hope has always interested me. Realizing we needed to get out of there fast, we stole two of their horses, riding off into the night, with the smell of burning dreams echoing behind us.