Mourning came and Hexla woke up becoming aware of the situation. She was furious. Luke and Abalyn were about all that kept Hexla from tearing me out of the back of the carriage. Finishing a bit of speaking, I stopped to take a breath. I could rest now. Martin would be stable for a while. He still slept from the Quatane induced sleep I’d put him in the night before. It would be deep and long and most importantly painless.
I unfortunately needed to confront Hexla and give a thorough report of what had happened the night before.
“You will never Blood Hunt again!” Hexla cursed at me as I exited the carriage. I figured I was missing something, because otherwise she had no reason to be this up set.
“What…” She interrupted me before I could ask my question, and I was too tired to really care.
“You let him get away!”
“What? Yeah, because I saw Martin…”
“Ruah, you are useless…”
“Hexla, he saved a man’s life,” Luke spoke. I hadn’t noticed the others coming up around us. Pete was with him.
“He says Martin’s going to live,” Pete added in my defense.
“Do you even know why he ran?” Hexla asked me, ignoring the others.
“I don’t know,” I was too tired for heavy thinking.
“Hexla, Pete has offered to join us, he knows the woods and his trail will be easy to follow, especially with the wound Dmitry gave him,” Luke spoke.
Hexla was still staring me down. “He fled from us, not the caravan. Why would he want to flee from us?”
After a pause, Hexla spoke again, “He realized what we were…”
“Why would that bother someone?” I was following her. “He was a Hemomancer…”
“If he was a Hemomancer then we’d all be dead, he knows a few though, I can promise you that,” Hexla added, “By Ruah and the Creator I can promise you that. Probably went to warn them, or worse, bring them after us. He could bring us right to them. Now, because of you, we have to go find him.”
“Hexla, we’re ready to go,” Orion spoke this time.
“Mam, I mean Speaker, if you’re taking one of my guards shouldn’t I get one of yours?” Brevin had braved the conversation.
“You’ll have the boy,” Hexla answered.
“Pardon me, but he doesn’t look like he’s about to be able to swing a sword,” Brevin bargained courageously. “Perhaps one of the big…”
“I’ll stay,” Abalyn spoke up. “We’ll meet you in Ross in about-”
“In a week, no later. The Stone Hearth” Hexla said. “Hopefully we’ll have our friend with us.”
They readied their horses and were off. Leaving Abalyn and me with the remnants of the caravan. Finished with the conversation, I stumbled back into the carriage and curled up in my bed roll, which had been brought inside at some point the night before. When I woke up, the carriage was rolling down the road.
I felt rested so I returned to Martin. I quickly checked for any infected flesh prepared to burn it away and start the regrowth of flesh once again. Thankfully I did not have to, so I continued healing. I kept up this cycle of sleeping and healing for most of three days. But at the end of it Martin had nothing to show for the knife wound but a light pink scar. After this feat of Speaking I gifted my self a nice long nap of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
On the mourning of the fourth day I awoke with the rest of the camp. After stopping for Lunch, Martin walked next to me between the carriages as I rode. Abalyn and I were alternating scouting ahead and behind so two people would always remain with the caravan if needed.
“So you’re a Speaker aye?” Martin asked. He had seemed nervous around me sense I’d awoken him from his sleep.
“Yes,” I answered.
“I haven’t ever seen a Speaker so young, only seen a couple ever carry a sword.” He paused for a moment then as if talking to himself, “Though you used those words, you fixed me didn’t you, why?”
“What do you mean? You would have died.”
“I.. I know that, just the way my Pap explained it to me was that a Speaker would receive inspiration from the Creator and would began speaking in the language Ruah spoke, and the words would give them power over the world.”
It had been a long time sense I had heard anyone talk about the Quatane like that. “No, I’ve studied and been instructed with the Quatane, it’s just a language that gives you influence on the world.”
“So you don’t need divine inspiration or anything?”
“No, just a tongue and a will. You were just lucky the wound was treatable and that there was a speaker nearby.” I laughed trying to lighten the mood. “Being lucky isn’t bad.”
Martin suddenly lightened up. “Maybe the Creator was watching out for me.”
I laughed a little under my breath, “I’ve never really thought of the Creator as actually interacting with the world, I always just thought of him as well the Creator, Even the H‘tym barely mentions him.” The H’tym were the stories of Ruah accepted by the Church.
“You are the Speaker, you would know. What about Ruah? Wouldn’t that be interacting with the world? The son the Creator gave to the barren whore…”
“Concubine to the Blood King Ardain of Vez.” I wasn’t planning to continue the story but Martin had perked up like a child. I guess having a Speaker orate a H’tym would be an exciting experience for the man. Also, I’d just caught sight of Abalyn coming up from behind and I could delay taking my turn scouting. So I briskly continued. “Her name was Thaana; once the beautiful daughter of a rival king. The Blood King Ardain, had kidnapped her and brought her back to his palace. To avoid being violated and raped she had tried to flee but had only made it as far as the Palaces phylactery, where in her desperation, she tried to commit suicide by drinking the contents of the various vials hoping one was poison.
“One was, but it didn’t kill her, an assortment of others left her barren much to the Blood King’s dismay. He had hoped to father sons on her that he could place on her father’s throne. The king however kept her as his concubine and would have his vengeance and pleasure with her most nights. This went on for ten years. The girl became a woman still beautiful but her soul was aged past her time.
“One night as she lay in bed a hand came to rest on her shoulder. Soft, loving, and gentle, not the hand of the Blood Kings, not truly even the touch of a man. She rolled onto her back and beheld the face of one that is not meant to be beheld. One whose face and body are not meant for this world. She took the Creator into her bed, and they loved each other for the briefness of their contact. But something was left with her, she felt life were there should only be death. Sweet pleasurable warmth in a womb long cold.
“Time passed and soon her pregnancy became visible, and the Blood King’s vengeance turned jovial, in his greed he let her carry the child. He would finally have the son he needed. He sat Thaana next to him at feasts instead of his wife, so he could show off her growth. He’d even give speeches claiming that if she bears a son then she will be his wife, and that their son would have the East. However, what he didn’t know was that his son would take it all. Even the land of his supposed father. Thus was borne Ruah, the Son of the Creator.”
“Well spoken, Speaker,” Abalyn Said, coming up to us.
“Yes, thank you Speaker.” Martin said formally.
“It’s clear behind us,” Abalyn said speaking to me. “And Jameston is just a mile ahead, no need to ride out.” she was right. We had already passed a couple of setback cottages, and a couple of what Martin called sugar shacks were they would boil down maple sap into maple syrup. It was one of the Ross Woods primary exports.
“Be there in not so long,” Martin replied brightly.
“How much further to Ross?” I asked.
“By the road, three days. Ferry, one,” Martin answered.
“There’s a ferry?” I asked.
Martin nodded. “Down the river in the morning into the Eliar then up stream to Ross and back before night fall. The usual schedule, I grew up here.”
“But we’re guarding the caravan,” Abalyn added.
“My contracts only till Jameston, Ross thoroughly patrols the roads out to the local towns. Jameston included. Cain’s ended here, so did Pete’s, we were going to take the ferry into Ross ourselves.”
I shrugged and kicked my horse forward so I came to ride alongside Brevin who drove the lead carriage. “Will you be needing us after Jameston? Martin said all their contracts ended there.”
“Did he,” Brevin scowled then shrugged. “Well there really won’t be any real need for you. You won’t be wanting any coin for this will you?” he asked sternly but sounding concerned.
“No, we’ll just be on our way,” I said. “We’re taking the ferry in the morning.”
“Good, I mean good luck to you. Uhh Speaker…. Skagora is it?”
I nodded and dropped back. “We’re free once we reach town.”
“If you two need a place to sleep, the ferry captain’s wife runs and inn right next to where the ferry docks.”
“We should head out now. Better to not be associated at all once we’re in Jameston.” Dmitry suggested
Martin nodded. “Well good luck with your – hunting, and thank you for saving me.”
“Creator bless you Martin,” I said before we rode off. It seemed like something he’d want to hear from a Speaker.
The actual main of Jameston was only a dozen or so odd buildings clustered around the river. The majority of the populace was spread out through the woods. The Ferry Inn was as conveniently named as it was easy to find. Rooms were cheap with the promise that you would be taking the ferry in the morning.
That evening Abalyn and I sat in a booth separate from the rest of the inn’s occupancy which wasn’t much. I took a sip of my Maple whisky.
“According to the barman they distill this in Maple Syrup.”
“It’s sweet,” Abalyn said taking a sip from her own, “Still prefer wine.”
“So much waiting, you forget we’re Blood Hunting.”
“I figure waiting is most of it, waiting or traveling, luckily we have horses so it isn’t marching. That’s most of what a Glren does, that and training. Luke, Orion, and Hexla are actually doing it.”
“You could have gone,” I said before taking a sip.
“And leave you with a defenseless caravan?”
“You weren’t fighting anything and nether was Martin. I wouldn’t trust Bevin with a bow or any of his family.”
I shrugged, and then smiled. “That caravan would have probably been safer if we had never run into it.”
“Probably, but if we hadn’t Hexla and the others wouldn’t be tracking down a likely lead.”
Several drinks later and the inn was becoming populated with locals. The sun had just set which meant it was early for being drunk and our booth was a little less private.
Abalyn emptied her wine glass. She’d switched to wine after she’d finished her whiskey. “I think it might be time to sleep soon.”
“It’s early,” I said.
“I’m drunk, and we need to make a ferry in the morning.”
“True,” I shrugged at the remnants of the whiskey in my glass.
“Finish it, let’s head upstairs.” She smiled in the way that you can’t miss even when you’re drunk.
“If you say so.” I downed the whiskey and threw some coins on the table for a tip as we stood. We made our way clumsily upstairs and into to our room. It was large with multiple smaller rooms. “Saved for travelers,” the owner had explained. I’d found my way into my own and tediously removed the traveling clothes and the mail I’d been wearing underneath. It was meant to be worn under my blood hunter robes, snug and custom fit, but difficult for my drunken fingers to manage. Mostly through removing it I heard footsteps and my door opened.
“You need help?” Abalyn asked.
I turned to face her. “I’m all…” Abalyn naked was much better than Abalyn in armor and or grubby riding clothes. Not that she wasn’t always a good looking young woman.
She smiled and walked forward. “Such a boy…” her voice was soft as she strode forward. Tall, athletic, beautiful. She didn’t say anything else that I can recall, and neither did I. She helped me out of the last of my clothes and I figured out the rest.
Interlude 3: A Brief Interruption.
“Who’s Abalyn? Why is this the first time I’ve heard about her?” Gem asked, interrupting my story.
“I had no reason to mention her, can I get back to the story?” I wanted to finish the story of my first Blood Hunt soon, it was almost noon and I was famished.
“How many others have you had no reason to mention?” Gem asked.
“Gem, we were hardly together when this happened, and no others. Can I get back to the story?”
“Trusting you isn’t easy.”
“Well let’s get through this part so we can eat something,” Jamison said, echoing my wishes.
Chapter 18.2: A Woman Named Abalyn Continued.
The next morning I awoke and Abalyn was already up. She was clean and mostly dressed when she popped into my room while I was getting out of bed.
“There’s a wash basin in the bathroom, you should use it. Be ready to go shortly. We don’t want to make the ferry wait,” She said with a smile and left my room.
I took her advice. The water was cold but I hadn’t been clean in a while. We were ready for the ferry right on time. It was small, only enough room for a crew of four and about ten passengers, with their cargo and horses kept below deck. The flat bellied boat maneuvered well down the river guided by two men out front with poles, then once it emptied into Eliar Lake the rest of the crew broke out more poles to help aid our progression upstream against the slow current of the lake. Eliar Lake is large and long but also wide enough where I couldn’t make out the far side in the morning fog.
The river ferry skirted the edges of the lake never venturing deep. Much larger lake craft were seen drifting down stream, or heading up stream boasting massive oars that flourished in and out of the water propelling their crafts. The Orlo’s shot up massive and sudden at the edge of Eliar Lake. Ross the city itself emerged from the Ross Wood and Eliar. The city was older than Ruahden. It had been constructed at the beginnings of recorded history and rebuilt a half dozen times. The Forest had been cleared out about a hundred yards from its large blue stone walls, though it looked to be reclaiming parts. Other than the walls the city was made of very little stone. Wood was a commodity they had ample access to out here.
We approached Ross a little after midday, and were deposited onto the docks with our horses, then quickly into the streets. We must have been in an important trade district because the city was bustling. It took a portion of the afternoon but eventually we found the inn Hexla had mentioned. If we had been hoping for another easy night we would have been disappointed. Luke was there waiting for us when we entered, he hadn’t been their long but that didn’t matter. He had us back out the door the moment we entered.
Tyler W. Golec