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“Here it splits.”
The assassin stepped beside him and put his hand on his arm to lower it and the flame.
“Does it burn out?”
“Only if I want it too.”
“Verry. It’s a benefit of worship.”
“So whats gonna happen to you. You going to some lake of fire where you will swim and talk and think about how silly the light was?”
“I suppose I will bereinvented.”
The assassin huffed.
“Right. So which way then?” the sage asked.
“Were back here too far.”
“It has only been moments.”
“Left it is. Don’t let anything sneak up on us.”
“Just walk and watch your footing.”
The two of them moved down the well hewn tunnel. Carved for smaller folk or in economy of effort they hunched as they walked stopping to examine some divot in the wall or scrap of decay or stone on the floor of their way.
“There is somethingup there.”
The assassin stepped up beside the Sage and held his arm down low again. he noticed the assassin held a blade. It was the first time he had seen him with a weapon. It seemed too small to keep death away from them in a place like this. Still the sea air infiltrated every thing. the roar of the coast was gone though, only the hiss of the exuded flame and the stuttering of the harried coal.
“I see it.”
“Is it moving?”
“I don’t have anything. I don’t have a weapon.”
“I noticed, brave choice, you must be an exceptional fighter not to need one.”
“Damn it. This will not work for me.”
“If we leave it will follow us.”
“God why did we do this.”
“You must run at it. Yell. I will run beside you.”
“Yes of course we should. Of course you want to do that.”
“Do it now.”
The assassin switched hands with the dagger and put his left hand on the Sages waist and pushed him steadily forward into the best run the two of them could manage, bent and pushed together as they were. As they
neared the glint in the dark it grew and seemed to come closer until it was close enough to illicit a scream from Tinderno but the assassin had already slowed him and he held him back now and they stood near to the lump in the hallway. The flame jutted and bent towards the figure, dead some many years it looked. rusted through except for his helm. it was simple and ornate. Silver or something, the assassin only guessed.
The assassin tried to discover the things kind, human maybe by the helm, hard to say, man, the bones were thickened, the skin, if that was what it had been, was black and flexed. He could not see a weapon and the things hands were gone.
“Is it undead.”
“Are you sure.”
“See for yourself.” The assassin gestured at the flame in the Bensant’s hand. he moved it towards the remains and the spigot bent towards it and licked at the red cacked mail and tried to hunger inside it. He pulled the flame back away.
“What are your thoughts on taking the helm?”
“Do you wear a helm?”
“Neither do I.”
“For the wealth of it.”
“Are you in need of the wealth of it?”
“Neither am I.”
“Do you think he fell and then crawled in here to die.”
“Or to get away from something.”
“How much further do you think this goes?”
The assassin knelt next to the remains and studied its face. then he leaned in and smelt it.
He placed his hand on the mail and pressed it.
“I am no respecter of the dead.”
He felt in the filth and gunk around where the form was sat. Then he reached in to the waist and dug with his fingers under the cacked mail and a patch of it broke off and crumpled and he let it fall. then he pulled something from the cavity he dug into. he held it out to the flame and the Sage brought it near. They were coins. Silver maybe, they were dark but heavy, he wiped at them with his thumb, there were five. He took the biggest one, only slightly larger than the last digit of his thumb and he handed it to the Sage.
“You lived, he didnt.”
“Right. this is interesting.”
He put the rest back where he found them and stood.
“So that’s it?”
“You should try on the helm.”
The assassin ignored him and turned back the way they came.
“Is it always like this?”
“Sometimes there is fighting.”
The sage moved up behind him and then went in front again. When they got back he relented the flame and dropped the coal’s stretched and squinting face back into the fire.
“Its wierd but I want to go back down that hall way even though I know it will just keep going and going until it stops at something stupid like an empty room.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Its a road thats all it is, its just below ground. They would have taken anything valuable. They or someone else. Right?”
“Where do you come from?”
The assassin looked at him then back out the cave mouth. he was squatting again.
“You have varied talents. Your learned. You deduce expertly. You can parley words with me. You are shred with your life. Your a healer.”
“They wont risk a climb in the dark so we can leave while there is still brightness in the sky. we should try to move down at least some from where we came down.”
“I wont be able to keep this dry will I?”
“At least it is not cold out.”
The Sage disrobed but kept a particularly thick strope tied around his waist. He had fine laced sandals with silver buckles. Other than that and his rings he was naked. When he nodded the assassin nodded back and the sage rushed the fire out of existance. then they stepped out of the cave mouth after the assassin had exited and made sure in his way that it was ok to leave their hole. it was difficult moving down the rocks and when they leaped into the sea it was overwhelming and cold and the sage bore new fears that seemed more dark and terrible than that night without a fire and he swam the more vigorously and they swam together until after dark
and for a while they did this and it was a small wonder to the sage how he did not tire from it and when Ilius rose clean off the heaving back of the sea the assassin began to swim in toward the rocks and the waves were gentle for luck or for some reason plotted and charted by gods in their high order and they crawled out on a steep and graveled shoal and hovered shivering for the wind and they, both of them desired to return to the water for the warmth and the vigor of it. but soon their heat dried them and they made a short way up some feet into a petty shelter of stone and sat and looked out onto the sea and the many imperfect reflections of their
moon and it was soothing to both and they closed their eyes in turn and dreamed a borrowed dream, given and born by that place they were in. rich in all things they would leave there even itself and they woke with no memory of it but its absence returned them and they stood themselves, ready, hungry for their journey to meet them and one after the other they steped into the sea and swam out into her and then turned as though their minds had changed but only part way and headed again south.
They sat in the icy, roofless ruin of his once home. Fire in the snow. Wood from somewhere, brought by the madman he shared food with. Is this all that is left of the world? The dragon did not eat but the man he looked like did.
“This was your home then?”
Ohern’s head was down yet not derelict to the flames. He spoke little. The dragon would not take meat from the spit and so Ohern took it off and handed it to him. He ate as a man not used to food. Ohern looked at his ribs. The misshapen wrack hunger had made of him, the awkward weakness of being alone and he felt both greater and lesser than he.
“These things of yours they are magical?”
Ohern did not look at the shield or the spear. The breastplate he wore as no other thing but the skin of the beast she had given him. It was a clothing for his chest. He looked at it. He saw use and care and ages unknown to any living thing real to him here or now or ever.
“They say a shrine is here, or up there rather, where you came from. Many plunder these parts sire. Many come taking. That shrine, the old one that they say is there, that ones not been found. They say there’s a weapon and a way up there. Old, old like the war only older. Some would come up here to find it and take it now there’s no Abbey and no Guard.” He ate now and waited. He waited for nothing.
Soon the fire was not enough and he enlarged it in his way and cloaked himself with the skin and dried the wet of it pelt as he turned. Sleep could be here but the wind would make it hard.
“Where do you go and to do what?”
When the last of the colors were shaded cold and the last of the blue that was cool was replaced with the blue that was hurtful, high and distant and those of the stars that would not brave the night clouds were cast out to their sky and the wind woke with an absent sun, he held himself true to her. To her face and he asked her more than he did himself. And he asked her what he should do and she answered him and she told him that which hurt and of the heart that could be healed and he knew this and her love for telling him. And he told her so with his secret self and he cared for the awkward man and he closed his eyes and the dragon would not kill him though the need of the Dark was greater than the need of his own becoming. And in the morning he was gone but he would find those who would stand with or against him and he would rise up enemies and friends and he would put a hand to his heart and unmake it if it was there to be unmade in the end and he thought of this aloneness and of the aloneness of the one he had shared a fire with.
“If I told ye I weren’t a danger would ya come down off yer horse and share this fire and food with me?”
Ohern stopped shimmer. The Old man’s fire was close to the road. His tarpin stretched neatly over a well made Too. His fire ignored the rain and bubbled the contents of a small kettle they both tried to looked into, the old man stirring.
Ohern looked beyond the man, then back down the road behind him. It was a slow climb up Eyegard and no business in the coming or the going. For all the beauty of these hinterlands none traveled here anymore save witches and wild dogs. The rain held its own fear of rushing feet. He no longer felt its cold, he couldn’t but he heard its promise, a whisper of harm to him. He considered the man because he could consider nothing else in the downpour he would not be creating himself and so he told himself the threat in his mind was distant as he did so many years ago. He looked over the old man’s pitch. Those were old ties on the tarpin, magics would miss that. He didn’t like that the man did not make him as a marauder.
“Do you always pitch for strangers?” Ohern asked.
“You’re a Brighton man, I know ya.” he scoffed behind his pipe. Ohern thought of Easel. The man seemed untroubled and poked in the kettle. They took turns looking at each other.
“Anyway it be a good road, for hardy folk, such are ye I rekon.” The old man said. Ohern laughed.
“Alright then, Ill not kill ye.” Ohern said to him dismounting his horse and leashing it to a bend of wild oak. They both chuckled.
“Fair kind of ye. Have a sup, its freshly made. Doe back there a bit, makin the best of good meat fore I salt and sun it, till this rain came callin, not sure what ill make of it now. Ohern took his cup from his tie and a dry blanket, then took off the saddle and set it aside on the oak, dressing down his horse for the rest. At the fire, before he sat, he said his name.
“I know ye.” The old man moved his head towards the road on up the way Ohern was headed. “I met ye afor back days, days so long now I know ye can’t recall. Cursed with keen remembrin. tsow it’s been, always. Terrible thing happened. Glad ya found yer way out of it. Just a terrible thing.” Ohern looked into his stew and cut at the venison with a small knife. “Man lives a life and then its over just like that. Only, he doesn’t die.” The old man was blowing the smoke from his pipe at the fire. “Anyway, I heeled them studds ya had up en’thar. Did some of that smything ya had need for a time. Not the metal work nor the armorin, hell, a man swing a sword can put a sharp on it I say. No, I was for the mares, shoin and the like, always liked it up there. Ye had a place. Escantia.”
“Thirty horses.” Ohern remembered out loud.
“Aye, and good ones. Right fine land up thar, good field, good pasture.”
“You been there lately?” Ohern asked.
“Youl make yer way of it. Have yer hand and yer wits ready I should think ye could fend off what dark wolf or Kord be makin a pit of the place.” Ohearn stung at the mention of Kords but knew the truth of his strength and his ability and that if it were less than ten, he could drive them out.
“Are they everywhere then?”
“Almost, almost.” The old man said.
“Maurauders back a few year. All that could be taken has been took.”
Ohern thought of the Temple and the abbey he had never entered. He thought of the silver and the carnelian and jade that found its way into the sloams and coffers of the merchants. Had he left there with more than what was his? He had hoped not but he had taken a horse and gear and over the years like the evil and the poor, he had hocked and pennied his worth from it until he rode now, again, another mans horse holding a loaned sword heading nowhere.
“You lead from below right? Grey and greasy hands, furtive soul right?” He dumped his cup in the pot for more broth and his hand trembled at the stretch.
The old man looked at the warrior and his demon and was quiet.
Some of the path had caught runoff and now a small stream of dirty water made its way over jumble and rock, pooling in a turn then off again. Snow would be higher up, Ohern looked into the clouds for it but he could not see far enough.
“It’s been a clear road up to these parts from Many Rivers, though I’ve not traveled them for some time. Roads good.” Ohern offered the old man.
“Where you headed.”
Ohern eyed the man. Maybe he was evil, or a witch. Maybe this would be the end of his journey, food and sport for a monster in the thick of a pine scalp in the bones of the Brake. He sat and considered the fire and wondered if there had always been monsters.
“You never said you weren’t a danger.” He told the old man.
“Aye.” The old man said nodding his head at the coals.
The rain was not bothered by any of it and it and fell to feed or drown the world. Shimmer stood shaking his head and looking at the ground for good grass or weed. There was none.
“Do you aim to deter me?” Ohern asked him plainly without looking at him. The old man closed one eye and regarded the warrior sitting next to him on the log.
“Reckon that depends on what yer up to.” He said feeling the strength men felt only around other men. The two of them sat eating venison, sipping broth and taking heat from the fire. At midday the rain lessened long enough for each of their minds to return to the fugue of actions their lives had been that day before comfort was offered and accepted but as Ohern rose and stood, the rain started again harder and the old man
looked up at him. “Have ye taken up the smoke?”
“For a time” Ohern said.
“Have ye one with me and well pretend darkness didn’t swallow the world we both loved, weselves with it.”
Ohern regarded the closeness of the sky, how it lowered in the rain to tempt a man to touch it, but it was always further. Ohern turned and thought about killing the man. Wondered what would jump out of his form or what would be left when its life was forced out with steel. The old man rummaged under his thick blanket of furs and came up with a pouch of tobacco. Ohern gritted his teeth. “Gimme that.” He pointed to the
pouch with his chin. The old man held it out and looked into Ohern’s eyes and he in his. The Old man did not rise. “That your pouch is it?” he accused and the old man was silent. Ohern leaned over and snatched it from him, pressing it in his hands looking for the fingers of another friend but there were only leaves. The old mans throat clicked twice. He was holding out a smallish plain pipe. A new one. Ohern looked at it then the man. He took the pipe from him and looked at it like it was dwemored. The rain was strong enough now that it was a third person in their awkward standoff. It pushed and froze at him and in his caution and rage he resisted.
“Wet ye oen tabako.” He said scowling up at Ohern. He was soaked and the bag of soft dry tobacco was darkening with wet in the downpour. Ohern waited for the monster to come but it didn’t. “Give it.” The old man said looking up at him, stretching out his hand and gesturing for Ohern to toss it back.
“Who are you?”
“I said who are you!”
“A man robbed on the road!” he said hatefully up at Ohern.
Ohern filled the pipe then closed the bag and tossed it back at the man.
“Damn it if the werld hasn’t gone completely black.” He cursed and inspected his smoke and tucked it away under his blanket.
Ohern tamped the tobacco with his thumb after drying it then bent over the fire and dug for a stick to light it with. When it took he sat back down next to the old man on the log. And the two of them blew smoke back into the fire and tried to make something new out of it.
“Wickly? You lived in Wickly.”
“Never lived with people, I worked Wickley, thats how yer gallen knew me and brought me up to be tending the mares when yer Smythimen passed.” The two of them considered his words and let it rebuild for them each a pain and a memory so lost and so cherished.
“Had it been a woman I bet She’d a brought her back.” The old man said and Ohern thought about it too. Leah’dah’s maternity. He wondered if she would have. He had never heard of her raising her acolytes or priestesses, that was a different god.
“Men in the earth, women in stone.” Ohern said. The Old man nodded. “They said the mausoleums for the priestesses were like cities under the temple.” Ohern added, trying to see through the shimmering black coats of the coals. The fire had a small size, the size Ohern would have made it.
“Goes the grave, Goes the man.” The old man said and Ohern looked at him, then went back to meddling with the fire.
“Goes the grave, goes the man.” He said.
It was hours before the rain eased. Ohern felt uneasy for not having ridden in it. When he did get up to go the old man did not try to stop him.
“Wish I had a thing of worth for ye.” The old man said to Ohern.
“You’ve given me your food and your fire. What more of worth is left in the world.” The old mans eyes were wet and he said nothing more as Ohern left.
Tears are love Ohern, tears are love.
Oherns body was exhausted. The Exvocate was there with him. His eyes had not opened in the last two days. She put her hand on his chest to keep him from rising. He could smell her, the herbs. He felt her hand and cried. He held it on his chest and as gently as he could he tried to put his whole body inside of it.
“I’m right here.” He said and tried to rise again but his strength failed against her gentle restraint. He spoke again and she understood the meaning though could not make out the words. She was sitting next to him on a mat. He would not let go of her hand and she did not pull to free it.
“Is he trying to help her Mama.” Said a child bundled against the night cold in a worn blanket and his mother’s arms.
“No baby, he’s dreaming.” said the mother. They were sitting some ten feet from Ohern in the light of a small fire with some others. They had all come to the clearing south of Brighton for the healer, the Exvocate. Some fifty were there now. Some more came and went each day.
“Is the healer ok mama?”
“What do you mean baby?”
“He’s gonna help her. Is she alright?”
“He’s dreaming baby.”
“He’s dreaming she’s hurt?”
“I don’t know baby, someone.”
“Dreaming like you about Daddy?”
“Yes baby, like me dreaming of Daddy.” She looked at her sick child, her eyes suddenly shiny. “I love you so much baby.”
“I love you too Moma.” The two of them sat near the low fire surrounded by others less and more sick then they. She wondered how she had lived in Brighton her whole life and could be surrounded right now, by strangers.
“He’s sick huh.” The child asked.
“Yes baby, he’s sick.” The mother put her hand on the child’s forehead and blew into his hair though her breath was warmer than the air around them. She looked at the Exvocate, face hidden behind a cowel. Her hands looked old and tired as they tied the knots and applied the ointments to the gashes in Oherns stomach. She said nothing. Not with gestures or movements. Not with words. They never said anything.
“Where’s his moma?”
“I don’t know baby.”
“Is he here all alone?”
“I think so baby.” She wondered how many of those gathered for healing had nobody.
“Is he gonna be alright Mama?”
“I think so Baby. The Exvocate is helping him.”
“She’s a healer isn’t she Moma”
“Yes baby she’s a healer.”
“She healed Daddy?”
“Thats right baby, she tried to heal daddy. You remember that?”
“And she’s gonna heal me?”
“Yes baby she’s gonna heal you.”
“Don’t you touch her!” Ohern shouted. The child startled.
“It’s ok baby, he’s just dreaming.”
“What did he say Mama?”
“He’s dreaming baby.”
“He said don’t touch her.”
“Yes he did baby.”
“I don’t know baby.”
“Is he angry mama?”
“I don’t think so baby.”
The Exvocate rose from Ohern and moved on to an old man propped up on a rock just outside the fire light, and crouched over him.
“Look Mama.” The mother looked at Ohern who had raised his right arm, stiff strong as a tree branch. His fist tightened up lick a river rock. He held it up and didn’t move it, and like a phantom over a dying man he held his own arm there, motionless.
“Don’t’ look baby.”
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know baby, close your eyes.”
“I’m scared moma.”
“I know baby, just close your eyes.” The child turned into his mothers chest and held her, his fever as high as Oherns.
“Your gonna make it.” He said to the darkness. The mother turned to look at Ohern. Later the child fell asleep, the mother after the child.
“I’m right here.” He said again. He had calmed. In his fevered dreams Ohern went back to the way it was.
“I’m not going to leave you.” He said but all around him were asleep or burried in their own, private miseries.
Ohern had the occasion, years after receiving the rod as a gift from the captain, to see the ghost wood trees from which it was made. Bleached and charred they had jutted grotesquely above the blistering churn of the poisoned river. If a thing that is natural can be full of power already, before it is permuted into a device of another purpose, and that same power can strengthen its new purpose regardless what bent, then surely it was true for the rod too. It was free of markings save for the lacquered toil of one man’s concern for the strength of other men. Ohern had it now, would use it on the one he waited for.
As Easel had promised, Ohern knew him the moment he saw him and he smiled to himself then he rose from the rail of the corral across the road and began moving towards the smithy. The visitor would be inside before him unless he stopped. As he walked, Ohern raised the baton in front of him and seated the grip in his right hand, twisting it with his left, cinching it into his calloused grip. The lower iron banding barely touched the bottom of his right hand. Then, the one he had been waiting for turned and looked directly into Ohern’s eyes. Ohern nodded and kept walking forwards.
The others expression was intent and it soured when it took him in, dismissing acknowledgement. He entered the smithy. Eight steps later Ohern entered. The one he had waited for, the instigator, was standing near the forge facing Easel with his arms crossed, his back to the doorway and Ohern. Easel’s hammer pounded away. The instigator was talking at Easel. Easel was ignoring him.
Ohern stepped forward raised the rod and brought it down with all of his strength on the instigators head. The crack of his skull was satisfying. It was a hard blow. His head flew forward and his arms came out to keep him out of the coals of the forge. The flesh on his hands hissed and popped. Easel looked up, stepping back in shock. The instigator had pushed himself up off the coals in time to meet the second swing of Ohern’s rod, this time from right. It smashed into the side of his cheek. He fell onto the bare floor of the shop a few feet in front of a low table where he and Easel had eaten several times. Ohern raised his right boot and brought it down with everything he had onto the back of the ankle of the prone man. A bone, or more, snapped clean. He howled in pain, the scream though was otherworldly. Then, in a moment of time, the man on the floor flipped over and faced Ohern, only he was not a man anymore. His face was sunken and long, his skin translucent and his eyes were the deepest black. Ohern started to lunge but stopped. The things hands were large and strong and bore claws that belonged on a welp. The clothes he wore into the shop were gone. In exchange of blood the creatures face leaked a thick kind of sweat. Ohern hesitated, then leaped upon it, never looking away from its eyes. He held the rod between his hands and tried to crush the things throat. The creature met him. Ohern felt a tugging at his stomach.
…A lantern broke near them.
Had Easel thrown it?
He turned back to the thing on the floor but it was gone. Ohern was kneeling. Blood surrounded him, red blood. Was it dark out side? He looked up. It had pulled itself up the ceiling post and had knocked a few boards out of the roof and was pulling itself up and through. Its wounded ankle dangled. Ohearn tried to stand and couldn’t. Half the shop was on fire. Where was easel? He tried to stand again, this time only lower. He moved to his hands and knees and rose. It was definitely dark out. He reached up and grabbed the shattered foot with a strong hold and relaxed his weight. He fell and the thing fell on top of him shrieking. It hit him a few times then scrambled away. Ohern lay there on his back. The fire was warm and it felt good. A stick or something under his back was uncomfortable and he pulled the thing, a handle of some sort, out from under him and relaxed again. He should start thinking about dinner. His stomach growled. Why did I lay down here, he wondered. Perhaps Easel will want something to eat. He reached down and touched the discomfort in his stomach with his hand then brought his hand up and looked at it. It was covered in the thickest most beautiful red blood he had ever seen. I’ll sleep in his shop. I know him. Ill be safe, he thought then fell into the dark.
“A warrior is a man.” The captain said. He stood in front of the boys. 14 of them in a perfect line in the sand filled yard of the keep, the oldest of them 17 years alive, half the age of the Captain. He walked to where one of the young men stood, took the point of his rod and poked the soon to be man’s shoulder with it. The rod was made of ghost wood, an import from the north. It was banded for effect with an iron belt, small studs at each end, effective for a wooden weapon.
“A good warrior…” He said then brought the rod down on the student repeatedly until he lay unconscious and broken on the ground.
“…is an evil man.” Some of the boys had stepped out of their line. They looked at each other. Some whispered, others doubted. Some of the men stood still and waited as though nothing had happened at all. Ohern was one of them.
“Ohern.” The captain said.
The captain tossed the rod at him and Ohern caught it and then held it in the resting position at his side.
“Ohern, turn to your left.”
“Beat the man in front of you from awareness.”
“Yes Captain.” Ohern said. But it was not that easy. The boy next to him was older by a year. None the less he broke his formation and backed away. Ohern followed. He lunged and chased but the other did not give in and after three solid hits fought back, and fought back hard having given himself the permission violence gives any man, the permission to live. None intervened including the Captain. In the end Ohern stood. It was the hardest he had ever fought for something in his life. Though they learned together for a year more after that day he could never remember the boy’s name. Sometimes he would sit and think on it as though it would appear like the image of a meal or a woman. He thought of the face he could not see and tried to remember him as a man met, as others meet, where names are exchanged, shoulders clapped but it never came to him.
Ohern understood why in his own way. In all, he had been doing what he had been told by the person who he trusted to guide him into becoming a warrior. For Ohern it was trust of the Captain to reveal some greater outcome or lesson as words had little power over a boy without letters.
He thought of this now, so many years later, as he broke the fingers of the man who did his smith work. This is it, he thought. I must be willing to do anything to anyone, but what was that if it was not evil?
“Why are you here!”
“Your not telling me the truth Esul.” Ohern said. He had Esul, a younger and far stronger man twisted through grapple work into a very weak position. Off balance, both arms behind his back rendering them strengthless, belly down on a toppled weapons rack and with his free hand Ohern was snapping his tuberous digits though still with some effort.
“You gave two men an order to kill a few days ago.”
Ohern twisted and jammed an already broken finger. “Shut up now and you listen.”
“I know what you want! You won’t get it stupid! You think I don’t know what I’ve done! Get off of me!” Esul said, his breath was strained. “Let me up!”
Ohern thought for a moment then let the man up who he had committed to torturing only a moment before.
“You broke my fingers!”
“Don’t stand in my way Esul.”
“You’re a fool.” Esul said looking at his left hand now some mandrake, swollen and tight. It would take time, coin and pain to righ this wrong.
“I don’t-” Ohern started.
“Shut up and listen.” Esul shouted at him. “You can’t kill him. He is way past your cunning. He’ll have you sniffed out so fast well both die in our sleep. You think I haven’t thought of killin him? I knew Dane. What do you think I want, knowing the order for that mess came through my smithy? Huh? Where’d this streak of Light come from all of a sudden anyways?” Esuls face was red. His thick black hair had come out of its tie and was like a bush after a rain. His chest heaved for the air that baked around them in plenty.
Ohern tried to speak again but Esul hushed him so he could gather his breath. When he did he was sitting down. His injured hand on the bench, a clump of iron he was tired of working.
“He is gonna kill you. Thats alls gonna happen.” He had known Esul since he stepped off the boat in Brighton. “I don’t even think he is human.”
“Few of us are anymore.”
“You don’t know what I’ve gone through.”
“I am certain you haven’t been raped, mutilated and then killed.”
“I told you I had no way of knowing.”
“You knew, as you know now!”
“Your still in the Light! For what? Tell me what your gonna do about all of this. You gonna fly up the Brake cut the wings off that dragon? You gonna go clean the Stitchel road? Huh? Shit, why stop there, you’ll be wanted in the south for sure, I hear there is need for Divine interventions down there.”
“I will kill the man who ordered the death of my friend and his family.”
“He can walk in your mind” Esul said plainly.
“I won’t be talking with him.”
“I’m wasting my time. Why should I care if you don’t.”
“You would survive at what cost Esul? Tell me?”
“I would survive.”
“I will see him killed. I have no other concern in this life.”
“You didn’t even know Dane that well. I knew him. Shit, you and I are closer then you and he ever were and I am just your blacksmith.”
“Who is it?”
“Pah.” Esul waved him off. “Did you know he liked to hit Caye? Did ya know he was fuckin someone here hillside?” Esul waited for it to register. “A whore.” Easel said. “I am pretty sure old Leah’dah wouldn’t have smiled too wide at that one. Parting wicked flesh.”
“You won’t stop me.”
“Piss on you for getting me killed. That’s all that’s happening here. You already killed those responsible, now your gonna kill me.”
“No one made decisions for you.”
“Your not listening to me and you know it better then the rest of us.”
“I always thought you strong. A man of trust and strength. There were times I hoped in your aid and found it.”
“I have no sympathy for you. You’re a killer like the rest. You may even be worse then them.”
Ohern thought about what he said. Esul sat with hammer strokes of pain in his hand. The two men looked across the years and the room at each other.
“He is not due here for another week.” He said, looking at the mess their tussle had made of his shop.
“Damn it, your gonna have to help me pick up around here.”
“How will I know him?”
“He has the look of an assassin, but there are peculiarities to his manner. I do not know his name.”
“He doesn’t carry himself like an assassin, he carries himself like a warrior, He talks like a Sage and he has the presence and calmess like a priest, like a Leahdist.”
Ohern looked at him.
“You think I am being dramatic.” Esul rose and used his foot to begin moving weapons off of the fallen rack. Nothing had been broken. He could feel several places on his large belly and legs where he had been nicked laying on his toppled commissions.
“Give me a hand with this.” Esul bent to pick up the rack with one hand Ohern went over and helped him then squatted and picked up the weapons one by one, placing them in the rack.
“You’ll know him when you see him. Trust me.”
Ohern would have laughed if the circumstances were different. They would laugh most of the time he would visit the smith in his shop.
Esul looked at his hand. Then at his pipe resting in a divot on his work bench, a small dirty sac Esul used for storing his tobacco hung on a peg by the door.
“Well this is a bitch’s gambit.”
The two men sat in the shop and were silent. Ohern tossed him his pipe and sac of smoke. He lit it in the cooling forge.
Light from the afternoon came through the door of the awning wall and through the thick dark air. Small pieces of dust and filth were ignited in it as they appeared out of the dark of the room and moved through its path then disappeared into the black again. In the black the air was clean and empty but in that beam of light that came through the door the air looked so full that you could not breath it with out choking.