Another short story of dubious quality. This was an attempt to tell a complete story that could take place in a larger universe, either in conjunction with other stories or a book. Feel free to comment and pass it around.
Destrin crouched in the shadows, watching the inn. His target was still inside, and a right good time he was having, based on the boisterous noises spilled out into the darkness. Destrin sighed, wondering again who the man who hired him was. Who knew killing was such boring sport.
The former soldier had worked as a scout and spy in the border wars of a few years past until peace and the enlargement of the empire’s borders had led some of the more unwanted members of the army being released from duty. Destrin had heard rumors that Ol’ Silverhair was still heading up an intelligence agency for the empire but no one had ever contacted him regarding the matter. After the excitement of the years at war, Destrin found himself unable to keep employment in the boring life of peacetime. He soon began spending his time drinking and gambling, trying to forget some of the horrors he had seen in the war and waking up most mornings to find he had passed out in a gutter.
That was where the strange man had found him, a tall pale man with a wild shock of black hair that had a streak of white down the middle. The man had hauled Destrin out of the gutter and dumped him in the nearest horse trough.
“By the gods, what a despicable mess you have become,” the stranger muttered as Destrin’s head broke the water only to be pushed back beneath the surface. Destrin tried to rise several more times only to be dunked. Finally, the stranger grabbed him by the scrape of the neck and tossed him to the muddy ground.
Destrin scrambled to his knees, coughing and sputtering and swinging at the man in front of him, who merely took a step back.
“Quit acting like a bloody fool,” the man hissed at Destrin. “I need you stone cold sober and that was the quickest way to get it started. Gods, I’ve seen monks on vows of poverty wear nicer clothing then you. Have you even eaten solid food lately?”
“I had a slice of bread the other day,” Destrin mumbled defensively.
“You certainly do not look like the man who I have been tracking down. But facts are facts. You are Destrin of Pelorn, are you not?”
“What’s it to you,” Destrin asked defiantly as he stumbled to his feet.
“Tsk, tsk. I suppose we must get you cleaned and fed. I am staying at the inn in the center of town. Once you can walk under your own power, go straight there and give the clerk your name. There is a room reserved for you and they will have a bath and some food prepared. I have some matters to discuss with you over breakfast. Do not dally to long.” With that the stranger turned and walked, leaving Destrin blinking as he swayed on his feet beside the horse trough.
Destrin stirred as the door to the inn opened; light, laughter and music spilling out into the dark. He tried to quell his trembling fingers as they reached into his belt for the poisoned dagger. The dark shape grew closer as the man walked drunkenly to the privy. The would-be assassin settled back once the man reached the lights of the lanterns that lit the way to the privy. It was not his man. Destrin looked up to the sky, judging the moon. Still plenty of time, he judged.
Burning eyes looked across the table at the newly washed and clothed former spy. Destrin picked at his food, knowing too much food would not sit well on his stomach. “So what do you want with me?”
“I have a little job for you. I understand that during the recent unpleasant activities along the border with Tamarland you were rated very highly as a good intelligence officer.”
Destrin shrugged, mouth stuffed with bread. “Unpleasant activities is a bit of a understatement. I saw women and children slaughtered and raped. I don’t want to do anything related to what went on during that war.”
The stranger smiled. “Ah, but Destrin, you could prevent such from happening again. A high ranking Tamarland nobleman is visiting the country, ostensibly under the color of diplomacy, but we have sources that say he is involved in espionage and wanting to restart the war. They still have not got over losing the land we took from them.”
“You want me to kill a diplomat, a nobleman? I would hang.”
“This mission comes from the top. Most of the citizens of the Cimar Strip are happy to be citizens of the empire. Think what would happen to them if Tamarland and Cimara went to war. Since Cimara is part of the empire, empire troops would be involved, not just the Cimaran regional soldiers. You saw the last war. Do you want that to happen again?”
The back door of the inn opened again; Destrin swallowed, clammy fingers closing around the hilt of the dagger. He waited until the man reached the light and swore. The man was wearing the clothing with the exact same insignia that the stranger in Falora had shown him. At the time he had told the stranger that he had never seen any Tamarlanders wearing such insignia, but the stranger brushed him aside and said that it was the markings of the inner circle.
Destrin gathered the cloak around him that the stranger had provided and step out behind the nobleman headed to the privy. He wrapped an arm around the nobleman’s throat and stabbed for his stomach. The poisoned blade bit into the soft belly again and again, the dying man crying out. Destrin whipped around, dropping the body as he saw the light as the inn door was opened. One of the inn guards stood there, his eyes meeting Destrin’s as he saw the body on the ground.
Destrin bolted for the shadows only to cry out when he felt a heavy weight strike him in the shoulder. The cruelly shaped arrow tore into his flesh. Stumbling, another struck him in the back, then another as he arched in pain, then fell to the ground. I hope I have made you proud, father; he murmured silently as his blood soaked the soil beneath him.
A group of several guards and a well dressed man with black hair that had a strange stripe of white gathered around his body. Another guard approached after checking the body of the nobleman. “Lord Telarus is dead, sir,” he told the pale stranger.
“Who would have the balls to take out the queen’s nephew,” replied Sir Archer, who was well known as a dangerous courtier vying for power with the other plotters at court. He had been traveling with Lord Telarus on a hunting trip and Telarus and his friends had welcomed the chance to stop and actually sleep inside.
“I found this in a hidden pocket in his cloak, sir,” a guard crouched by the body of the assassin said as he handed Archer a bloody envelope. Archer held it gingerly and opened it with his handkerchief.
The courtier swore as he read the letter. “Who knows why he kept such incriminating evidence but thank the gods above he did. Saddle my horse, I must ride immediately back to court. It appears someone in the court of the Hawa Island kingdom paid this assassin to kill the queen’s nephew. I suppose they are not content with the lands they gained by treaty. I can only hope this does not mean another war.”
It was coming, everyone said so. The sun was bright and the skies were clear but tomorrow or the next day would be different. A storm was coming. The fishermen were either beaching their boats high upon shore or heading far out into the open sea. Gifnear, the local weather mage, had delivered the message of the impending storm and proceeded to drink himself into a stupor. Such a storm as was coming was more then any one could hope to affect, he had said, and he did not want to be sober to suffer any feedback it might kick through any lingering magics.
“Calling a hyrakain a storm is like calling a berserker a wee babe. The only thing you can do is crawl into a hole and pull it in after you until it blows over. The last one I saw was over fifty years ago and it stretched over a hundred miles. Winds blowing faster then you could believe spinning in a circle, rain just hammering down and blowing up six and eight foot waves. Cilicia was preparing to invade Bormad only to have their entire fleet destroyed and half their capitol destroyed. Now they pay tribute to the Bormadians.”
The old man paused, taking a long pull from the jug of wine at his side. A young man sat at the ground beside him, back against the wall of the house and legs stretched out before him. “So these…hyrakains roll right over islands but die out on the mainland?”
“Aye, so it appears. Although they can affect weather patterns far into the continent. There was one fifty five years ago that hit against Saladan and caused storms all the way up into the Wailing Mountains.”
The young man whistled appreciatively, listening even as he watched the people of the villages bustling around, preparing for the coming storm. Windows were boarded over, every available container was being filled with water and food supplies laid by. It would not be unusual for the villagers to be holed up in their homes for a full day. “I wish I could help. All I’ve been doing is lying around eating people’s food. I want to contribute somehow.”
“One does what one can,” the old man said with a shrug. “You have a broken arm and can barely walk on that leg. What exactly would you do?”
“I don’t know. I just feel so…useless.”
“Then when you are well and find your way back to your homeland, send some payment. Buy our fish and clothing. Nothing needs to be done now.”
“If only I could remember my homeland, or myself,” he muttered.
“It will come. That was a hell of a shipwreck you survived. You need to learn some patience.”
The young man grunted. “Well, at least we know something about me.”
“Look at those hands. We know you are not a farmer or fisherman or other type of labourer. In fact, those look like the hands of a swordsman.”
Looking down, the young man idly rubbed the callus at the base of his thumb. He opened and closed his other hand as well, the arm hanging comfortably in a sling. “Both of them?”
The old man shrugged. “I do not know the ways of swords. I used to swing a mean scythe though,” he laughed.
“Are you sure there is nothing I can do?”
“Relax, my young friend. All will be taken care of. We will close the shutters tonight, open a jug of wine and listen to the storm.”
Sighing, the young man rose to his feet, far more gracefully then most would accomplish with one arm in a sling. He nodded to the old man and started to walk, taking the path that led from the town into the nearby woods. The old one studied the man, noting the easy way he moved. Tall, with a lean yet muscled build, he seemed like a cat prowling about. Intelligent, he often seemed to know things but could not remember how he knew them. It had been a month since one of the boats had fished him out of the sea and brought him into town and he was no closer to knowing who he was. It would happen when it happened, the old man thought.
The first bands of rain started that night but it wasn’t until mid morning of the next day that the hyrakain struck. Those fisherman who were the last to come in said it was a monstrous storm and it was expected to affect the entire Scotay province as the hyrakain roared on its northeast path. Other then a narrow spit of land connecting it to the mainland, Scotay was practically an island and none of it was more then thirty odd miles from the sea. Damage was expected to be widespread and flooding was all but guaranteed.
The skies grew grey as clouds covered all that could be seen. Now the rain truly started, thick heavy sheets that pounded the ground. Thunder crashed and lightening flashed. The old man sat calmly in his rocking chair in the middle of his small but snug home, a jug of wine in his hand as the young stranger stood at the window, staring out over the town and harbour.
“There is something…captivating about all of this,” he murmured, almost to himself.
They could hear the roaring of the wind as it flew through the village, seeking what could be carried away. “Aye, the fury of nature can be beautiful,” the old man said as the other started pacing back and forth. “Restless?”
“Yes. I feel like I should…” He stopped and shook his head. “Its crazy but I want, need to be out, out in that,” he gestured at the window with his good hand.
“That wouldn’t be a good idea. If the rain and lightening isn’t enough, think of the wind. I’ve see boats tossed a quarter mile off the shore. Wouldn’t one of those to hit you.”
“No, you are right, Kellan. It would be wise to stay here but…” He went to the door, trying to unbar it with his good arm. “I have to.”
The old man sighed and went to help. “Very well,” he said. “Try not to kill yourself.”
The young man flashed a grin and slipped through the doorway. Kellan watched him until the rain hid him from view, certain that the man had been stripping off his clothing as he went. Who was this man that had been living with him for this past month? A flash of lightening revealed a man standing on the slight hill on the outskirts of the village, nude and arms outstretched. Shaking his head, he closed the door and settled the bar back into place and dropped back into his chair, picking up his jug and taking a long pull of wine as the wind blew and roared around his small island of calm.
The hyrakain that blew through the Middle Sea in the fifth year of King Silius IV’s reign was one of the largest on record. It took several days for all the reports to come in from the scattered weather mages and the government officials. Blowing right over the Scattered Isles, it had caused widespread flooding and loss of crops. Then it had turned instead of continuing to the mainland and traveled over open ocean, although its passing had caused extremely high storm surge along the coast several hundred miles from its centre. It travelled right along the coast of Scotay, dumping huge amounts of rain upon the province with strong winds causing a good deal of damage. The port city of Hagilon, with one of the largest known harbours in the world, had taken a good deal of damage. Three ships, one of them a man of war, had sunk and half of the docks had been washed away. A day’s journey by foot along the coast, an unnamed fishing village on the shore of a small harbour, escaped the storms wrath. They had seen summer thunderstorms hit harder.
Kellan never did see his young friend again although they had found a pile of clothing and an arm sling in the centre of the village. No body was ever found. A month later, a merchant caravan stopped by, wanting to buy up all available items of clothing the women could spare. An investor of the merchants had been singing their praises and he wanted to take the items to sell in the lands over the mountains. The colour and texture (Five hundred thread count!) would sell amazingly.
“What is that pendant,” Kellan asked the caravan leader.
“What? Oh, this is the emblem of the storm god. Why d’ye ask?”
“There was a young man here, he had the same emblem tattooed on his bicep.”
“Not very likely. Not even the priests are allowed to tattoo his sign on their bodies. Only those claimed by the god or his descendents.”
“Aye, you know how randy the old buggers are. Brats all over the place.”
“How would you know one of these children of the god?”
“Hell if I know, old one. They are men much as the rest of us, although it is said somewhat more. Some have longer lifespans; some are born with the use of power. I hear they tend to be a lot like ol’ Red Beard himself; warriors sell swords, some are healers. Only thing that seems to be in common is that the weather bends around them. An area around them somehow falls into a trough in the worst storms and is protected. Who was this man you said had this mark?”
Kellan smiled softly. “A friend.”
I don’t know where she was going, I barely remember where I have been
We were a world apart yet we came together in the end.
I believe we were brought together for a reason
Perhaps the goddess has a plan, even if it only lasts for a season.
Fifteen years her junior and she holds my heart in her hands
She has entrusted me with her very soul and that trust makes me a better man.
Two passing strangers strike an idle conversation in the night
Now they love each other with all their hearts and all their might.
Two different people, brought together as one
Two made one and the healing has begun.
Portrait by Giuseppe Ruberti