Feb 22 2019

Daughters of Fate (Chapter 5)

Posted by Mathias in Daughter of Fate, Fantasy, Novels, Projects

And Sarina tore asunder a dove, handing to each of her sisters a half.  The half that Sashna held did grow into a healthy bird.  The half that laid in Octeava’s hands did wither and die.  And Sarina spoke to her sisters, “Now see and understand your roles in the cosmos.” 

-Book of Fates 1:5 

Chapter 5 (33rd of Elgatan 6198) 

Stiff and frigid, the wind ran through hollow streets and alleyways.  Signs hanging on storefronts creaked and strained. They banged against the fronts of shops closed more often than open these days.  A fresh blanket of thick snow covered the rooftops and cobblestones. 

The low winter’s sun cast almost everything in bone-chilling shadows.  

Sounds of a horse’s quick pace echoed through the streets, seeking someone’s ears – anyone’s ears.  Unfortunately, there were few that dared venture out in this hostile cold.  Most remained indoors huddled around small fires.  Even the wealthier, usually able to afford any luxury, found this winter harsher than most.  

The supply wagons from the north had stopped coming weeks ago.  Food was low.  Morale was not much better.  

Most suspected the weather was to blame.  But there were more nefarious rumors.  Bands of thieves, possibly even rebels, had been hijacking the convoys.  Even more prevalent was the fear that Lord Hedric himself had ordered a halt to the supplies to the south.  Punishment for the actions of two governors who had aided and abetted the rebellion against his rule. 

There was the hope of supply ships from the Western Borderlands.  But they were eight days past due.  A request sent from eastward had been summarily rejected by every trading post and city along that route.  The dwarves did not trade with the Empire.  And they would not start now. 

Crime had grown rampant.  Would-be thieves turned to any means necessary to feed themselves and stay alive.  The town guards were of little help. Not even able to clutch their swords most had abandoned their posts.  

Yet, at least one person dared to go outside this day.  A singular, hooded and cloaked form skirted from shadow to frigid shadow with uncanny grace.  Breath fogging in the biting air, it showed little sign of being bothered by the weather. 

Snow crunching underfoot it crossed the street and stopped in the shadow of a dilapidated doorway in the city’s northern and poorest precinct.  Hidden eyes kept watch from the depths of the hood.  Reaching up a gloved hand, the specter-like form knocked once lightly.  

There was a moment before a small slit in the door slid open.  Eyes peered out.  “Mandane?” whispered the eyes in the secret code of the thieves.  “Cho walkis?”  

“I do,” the stealthy form replied in a woman’s voice.  Removing the glove from her hand, she allowed the eyes to view a ring adorned with a pair of pearls set in curled thorns.  

The eyes quickly disappeared.  The sound of the latch being undone followed. 

The door opened slightly and the woman moved inside with all due haste along with a blast of cold air.  Behind her, a middle-aged man closed and resecured the door.  

The cloaked woman breathed deeply, thankful to be inside.  Even though it was still chill, it was not nearly as bad as outside.  Pulling back her hood, she ran her fingers through the tangled knots of her long red hair.  

The middle-aged man watching the door approached and took her cloak.  “Mistress Stormband,” he spoke with deep reverence to the woman not even half his age.  “Master Treobane has been waiting all morning for you.  He is not pleased with your tardiness.”  

Sheala snickered at the thought.  Smoothing out the wrinkles of her black tunic, she deliberately delayed.  “Daquer does not make my schedule.”  

“Please do not talk with such disrespect, Mistress Stormband.  He did not take kindly to your little indiscretion the other night.  And neither did the new governor.”  

Sheala eyed him with a look that made him hold his tongue.  “We both know who really runs this guild.”  

The doorman turned and placed her folded coat on a shabby table.  “As far as I am concerned?  It is Master Treobane, my lady.”  

“Perhaps, but only in status.”  Sheila walked to the back of the room. She opened another door to reveal the ascending stairway beyond.  

She heard the doorman return to his post behind her.  Beginning to walk up, she decided it was time to ease the small knife in her palm back into the cuff of her sleeve.  She felt certain he no longer posed a threat.  Her hand felt for the dagger nestled in the top of her high boots.  Kept there as a secondary precaution. 

The journey up these stairs had become a common one for the young woman.  She had been called many times to answer before the guild master since leadership had changed hands two years prior.  In fact, she couldn’t remember being in Daquer’s presence without someone’s blood on her hands.  This time was no different.  

At the top of the stairs, another door blocked her path.  She knocked.  A coldness from the howling wind outside rushed through the loose boards of the wall. 

“Enter,” a voice from beyond responded.  

Putting her hand on the frozen knob, she gave it a slight turn.  As she did, a bizarre feeling came over her.  It was one she couldn’t remember ever having before at this point.  It was fear.  

She didn’t know why her confidence weakened this time.  

Sheala pushed open the door and walked into the room.  The walls were draped with heavy rugs and furs to hold in the heat from a small fireplace.  Sitting at the far end of the sparsely furnished, makeshift headquarters was an older man.  He was hunched over an antique desk as he wrote.  

Sheala allowed a small spring to pull the door shut behind her with a creak.  She waited for him to acknowledge her.  

Daquer looked up from his work.  “Ahh, if it isn’t the ever prompt Sheala Stormband.”  

Sheala paid his sarcasm little mind as she sauntered over to stand before him.  “Even though my schedule is rather full, I didn’t want to keep you waiting too long.”  She added her own bit of wit.  “What is it you want?”  Her voice turned more demanding.  

“I think you know.”  Daquer opened a small drawer in his desk and removed a folded piece of parchment.  He slid it across to the young thief.  She picked it up and read the words.  

The letter was from the new Governor.  It demanded Daquer turn over the member of his guild responsible for the death of a guardsman.  A guardsman Sheala killed while attempting a robbery.  

Sheala crumpled up the once neatly folded note and tossed it to the table.  “So?”  

“So?” Daquer cocked an eyebrow.  “You’ve put me in a difficult position here.  Sheala, not only did you disobey my orders not to go into the eastern district – again.  But you also killed a guard who happened to catch you due to your own gross incompetence.”  

“So?” Sheala repeated.  

“SO!” Daquer bolted up and nearly across the table, tired of her arrogance and confidence.  “Once again, you’ve shown no regard for our treaty with the Governor!”  He pointed an accusing finger at her.  “Governor Kobal may have just been placed into that position, but our previous treaties still hold!  You know the eastern district is off limits.  Unless I give orders to the contrary.  How many times do I have to say that?”  Daquer retook his seat, finding his composure.  “And this time you went too far by killing a guard.  I could have had it taken care of if you would have just surrendered.”  He lowered his head.  “I’m sorry, but I’m placing you on an extended leave of absence.”  

“What?!”  Sheila shot her fist into the table with such force that it shook.  She clenched her teeth at the pain her rash action caused.  “‘Extended leave of absence’?  You’re suspending me?  You can’t do that!”  

“Like Hell I can’t.  You’re done.  Finished, until this blows over.  I’m going to meet with the Governor tonight to discuss this situation.  I’ll assure him that none of our people were involved.  I’ll pin it on the Black Palms if I can, but you are to cease all activities until further notice.”  

“You speak pretty boldly for someone with less support in this guild than me.”  Tapping her finger on the table, there was a slight edge in Sheala’s voice.  “Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll have your position.”  

“I’m not like Master Arias, Sheala.  He brought you into this guild six years ago, but I can take you out of it.  He’s dead, Sheala.  He can’t protect you anymore.” 

“I never needed his protection!  I’m better than any five members of this guild.  You know that.”  

Sheala’s blade moved from the cuff of her shirt into her hand.  She didn’t try to conceal it.  

Daquer’s eye’s focused on the steel. “There are many members of this organization that want you out, Sheala.  One way or another.  You’re drawing too much attention our way.”  Daquer shifted in his seat, “I’ve kept the veteran members off your back because you’re a good thief.  Your icon status among the younger members should not be construed as power, however.”  

“Let them come,” Sheala goaded as she turned and marched to the door.  “You tell Redrian, Wulther, and anyone else that thinks they can take me out to give it their best shot.” She turned and pointed her knife at him when she was halfway to the exit.  “I know they know better than to try that.”  

Angrily she continued out the door.  It slammed shut behind her and the room fell into silence, aside from the crackling of the fire.   

Daquer felt frustration swelling within him.  His hand slipped from the handle of the knife hidden under his desk.  He wondered if he would have been able to get it drawn in time if he would have had to. 

He always felt that Sheala overestimated her abilities.  But he also knew that her abilities were better than most.  He also felt that, one day, Sheala would make good on her promises.  She would come for his position as Guild Master.  

Master Arias said all she needed was a little discipline.  After six years, Daquer had seen little progress.  

Yes, it was true she was better than any five other members.  Maybe even any ten.  But she was sloppy.  

For now, Daquer hoped she listened.  Suspension from the guild was not a situation to be taken lightly.  If she was caught, the guild would make no move to help her. Daquer thought it might serve her good to spend a little time in a cell stewing before meeting a hangman’s noose. 

Lifting his quill out of the inkwell on his desk, Daquer fetched a fresh piece of parchment.  He began to ink a letter to the Governor, hoping to diffuse the situation.  

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