Friday, August 10, 2007
I am about to leave the house for several hours. I wanted to get this posted before I left, so of course Picasa was acting odd, so I have to do the picture by hand, and I'm in too much of a hurry to do more than drop it in and hope for the best.
This is a scene a little later in Paid in Gold and Blood. I have snipped out part of the middle because without the other material leading up to it, it just wouldn't make much sense. And besides, it got very long. (grin)
The group has reached a trail-side inn, just as night falls. Tyren and his men are not happy and won't have Katashan and the body inside with them. He's going to spend the night in the shed. The others have gone inside and left him to take care of the body and getting the gate closed.
A moment later the sound centered on the trail still leading down to the coast, and within a heartbeat a ghostly figure of horse and man came into view. The rider sat wrapped in a black hooded cloak, the same color as the horse he rode, so that they looked like a single piece of the night taking shape in the mist-filled darkness. Katashan took a step toward the gate again, ready to slam it shut.
"Ah, I made it!" the stranger said as he threw back is hood -- dark hair, pale face. That didn't much help Katashan's feeling that he ought to be retreating to safety. The man vaulted off his remarkably calm horse and looked around, his eyes settling on the travois and the ice-packed blankets.
"She's dead," Katashan said.
"I would certainly hope so at this point."
Someone, at least, with a sense of humor. Young, too, but he didn't seem to have the bravado of most young men Katashan had known at home.
"They're not going to let you in, I'm afraid," Katashan said, waving a hand toward the door of the building. Raucous laughter and shouts irrupted from the inside, and a sound that might have been a body hitting the floor. Maybe he shouldn't complain so much about being left outside. "They're spooked by the fog and the body."
"Ah. I see." The stranger looked out at the fog and made a little dismissive gesture. "They're not from around here, then. We have such fogs quite often. But then, from your accent, you aren't from here, either. Are you a Northerner? Tarisian?"
"Yes. You are a local?"
"Mostly," he said, and flashed a smile. "I have traveled quite a bit in the service of my lady. Shall we go inside? There are bandits in the area, and the weather is cool besides. I think there is a shed we can share? Providing, of course, there is room for the three of us."
"This does not bother you?" Katashan said, indicating the body.
The smile left his face. He looked older. "It bothers me a great deal. But I don't want to stand out here in the night and invite the sort of people these walls were made to protect us from. Shall we go in?"
(Snip of an introduction, various things, and Peralin taking the body to the shed.)
Katashan kept an eye on Peralin until the man had slipped into the shed. Then he hurried to the gate, pulling out his blade and slicing his finger once more. He made quick dabs of blood on the inside of the bar, out of notice, and whispered an incantation of power that ran from it to the gate to the wall as he put the bar in place. Fingers of fog that had started to work their way through the crevices and over the top of the wall retreated even before he finished.
When he looked back, Peralin stood at the doorway to the shed. Katashan unobtrusively pushed the blade away again and started herding the donkey's into a fenced corner of the enclosure. The black horse -- Night -- stood like a guard outside the shed, and Katashan thought anyone -- or maybe anything -- would be leery of going up against such a formidable animal
Peralin pulled his cloak tighter as Katashan grabbed his pack from by the door and approached the shed. He looked past toward the wall with a frown, and for a moment Katashan thought he might know about the magic. If so, he said nothing.
"The night is going to be cold," Peralin said as he stepped aside. "Let's get settled, share a little dinner perhaps?"
"I have very little left in food."
"And I'm over-stocked for the short journey I'm going to make."
"You are very kind."
"And glad for the company," he said as Katashan came to the shed. Peralin had already set a little candle in place, dispelling some of the darkness. It didn't seem like such a bad place. "All in all, I thought at best I would be spending the night alone, since I had no intention of sleeping with a group of snoring, bad-tempered men. You seem the far better choice."
"And my companion?" Katashan said, nodding to the body that was settled against the wall.
"I doubt she snores."
Katashan looked back at him and weighed many things -- but mostly he thought about the danger he might be putting this man in.
"Perhaps you should know something more before you make a final decision about staying here," he said and leaned against the wall inside the building. "I found her, bound in ropes and chains, and with a knife through her heart, at the base of a Verina Guardian. I believe she had been sacrificed, and I can't guarantee that she is such safe company as she appears."
The man's dark eyes didn't flicker, though he remained still for a half dozen heartbeats. Then he shrugged. "I'm glad you told me. It makes things much easier. Here, have some wine. I think you need it."
He reached within his cloak and pulled out a decanter and two crystal goblets.
He could not have been carrying them there.
Katashan would have sensed magic had he used it. He knew of no spell strong enough to hide such power from him. This stranger had no magic. But he did have power -- and there was only one other way --
"Gods protect me," Katashan said, lucky he had his back to the wall. Peralin stood in the doorway, and he had no chance to make it out of the shed and the stables before -- whatever this was caught him.
"We shall share wine," Peralin said, putting the goblets on a ledge by the door. He poured the liquid; it sparkled as it fell, glittering in the candle light. A scent, rich and heady, filled the tiny area and left Katashan half dizzy. When Peralin held a goblet out, Katashan shook his head and pressed harder against the wall, his hand reaching for his blade.
"Don't," Peralin warned and stilled Katashan in his movement. "Take the wine."
"Who -- what are you?"
"A guard," he said with a deceptive little shrug. "You need one tonight, don't you?"
"I might need one from you," Katashan said.
"Not everything of the dark and the night is your enemy."