The Revenge of the Elves: Chapter One excerpt
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
"Move your skinny asses!" the man yelled at the disheveled trio of captives trudging along the dry roadbed. He cracked his whip on the back of the closest one. "These sluggards are gonna drive me crazy, strolling along like it's a fucking holiday," he said to the man walking next to him. "What are you laughing about? You got nuthin' at stake. I'm the one who found 'em. They're my responsibility now. My problem." He glanced back over his shoulder down the path. Something caught his eye. A branch moved.
"It took some great skill on your part to locate 'em, you mean?" the short, dark haired man laughed again. "That's a joke! So you found 'em! Luck. That's what it was. Luck and nuthin' else."
"Ain't nuthin' wrong with a little luck sometimes." He turned and looked at his friend. It must have been the wind rustling the trees, no one else would be foolish enough to wander in these hills. "But if I don't get 'em all to Peltaran before two days are up, I won't get paid and this whole damn thing won't be worth shit."
"If I was you, I'd be more concerned about what's gonna happen to me if they should get away than I would be about the money. If you lose 'em after all this..."
"She don't scare me none," the big man sneered, kicking at the dirt. The thick, grey fabric of his pants was worn and fraying at the hem and it flapped around the ankle of his boot. Catching these prisoners was the best thing that could have happened to him. Or so he hoped. "She's lucky it was me who found 'em. It could have been someone from Tallon. They were damn close to that town when I spotted 'em, and you can be sure no one there would have helped her get 'em back to Peltaran," he said with conviction.
Tallon and Peltaran were as different as two towns could be. One was a refuge from the darkness, the other a sorry adjunct to it.
"You know who she is, Madar. Don't fool yourself. She gives orders whenever she pleases. And now that you've dragged me into this, I probably got to worry too," the smaller man said, shaking his head. "How the fuck did I let you do this to me again?"
"Go then if you want! I didn't force you to join me and I ain't forcing you to stay. I can do this alone."
Teren was content to scavenge things from the abandoned homes and shops around the countryside. And when Madar wasn't looking, from the countless corpses they saw everywhere. "Sure you can. Just like you did the last time," Teren derided him. "Remember the last time?" That had almost gotten them both killed. Madar was too soft. He didn't have the stomach for the things they needed to do. Teren, selfish to the core and wily as a fox, played his friend with ease.
"That wasn't my fault!" Madar replied red-faced, his hands shoved deep in his pockets like a sullen kid. "You really piss me off, you know that? Why do I ever give you a chance to help me." He turned away in disgust. Something shiny dropped to the ground as he pulled his hands free.
"Give me a chance?" Teren exclaimed, placing his foot over the copper coin. "Fuck me with a spiked club, you shit-faced son of a bitch! You'd be dead by now if not for me." He'd as soon betray his mother if the payoff was big enough. And as the times grew darker, he grew harder. He bent down to scratch his leg, lifted the coin with two fingers and concealed it in his palm. Madar scoffed as Teren slipped the copper into his own pocket.
As they toyed with each other, one of the three captives eyed them from behind. His blue eyes glinted in the morning sun, watchful and alert. They missed nothing. He straightened up and sniffed the dawn's air.
Madar turned his back on his friend and dug his boot heel into the ground. A branch caught on his leg and he slapped at it with a meaty hand. Suddenly his skin prickled. He could swear the bush moved again. He turned his beady eyes back to the path. "These people must be pretty important if she wants 'em so bad," he said at last. He tried to look through the dense brush, but couldn't see anything.
"You think?" Maybe they were worth more than Teren realized. Who they were had not even occurred to him. "You know my friend, you never told me how much she offered you."
"No? Well, what's it matter to you anyways?" he replied, feigning indifference and sighing like he was bored. "You're leavin'."
Teren ignored his friend's remark and leaned in close to him. "Come on man. How much?"
"Twenty pieces of Gwendolen gold!" Madar whispered, cupping his hand over his mouth. His eyes darted from left to right.
Teren's face lit up.
"Like I said, they must be pretty damn important for her to offer me King's gold."
"A dead King's gold," Teren reminded him. A murdered King's. "What does she want 'em for anyhow? They don't look like much to me. That pale haired bitch wouldn't fetch more than a few coppers at Miss Caitlin's place, and look at that other one! Best she keep her head covered lest she scare off the snakes."
"It don't matter none to me who they are. The less we know about 'em the better."
"I wonder if the Mayor of Denton would have any interest in 'em," Teren said, raising his hairless brows. King's Garold's gold was cursed, everyone knew that, though plenty of people would kill for that much of it.
"Oh, no ya don't!!" Madar jumped on his words. "You wanna go and sell 'em out from under the witch woman to a higher bidder? Are you fucking crazy?"
"It was just a thought," Teren said quietly. Madar couldn't see an opportunity if it smacked him in the face, dumb as he was. Besides, Teren had nothing to lose. The witch woman didn't even know he was here.
"It was a bad fucking thought," Madar bristled. "Twenty pieces of King's gold ain't nothing to spit at. It'll set us up nicely."
"Fifty fifty?" Teren asked. He'd let Madar carry the coins. He'd like that, and Teren didn't want to walk around with it in his pockets.
"Sixty forty!" Madar replied, avoiding his partner's eyes. "I found 'em."
"Fuck you! You got me into this mess there ain't no way either of us can walk away now. You'll screw it up without me anyways."
"Fifty fifty then," Madar scowled. He didn't want to do this alone.
"Partners is partners!" Teren thrust out his grimy hand. He knew he'd get his way. Madar was an easy mark.
"Partners is partners!" Madar replied, offering a gnarly palm in response.
Neither of them noticed the slender youth chained behind them nodding to the other prisoners. With his sinewy back to his captors, he raised his shackled arm and extended his index finger northward. The air around it crackled and sparked, enveloping his intricately mottled hand in a glove of pulsating blue light.