Mar 16 2019

Daughters of Fate (Chapter 10)

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

I dreamt of the forming of clouds.  Like a coming storm.  I watched as on one horizon clouds of white gathered and on the other clouds of black.  They moved towards each other and clashed, producing a thunderous roar.  Legends speak of the coming of The Storm.  But I do not understand the meaning of two. 

-Journal of Reane Matir 

Chapter 10 (7th of Taru-Des 6198)

As the wind howled outside, inside the Red Moose Tavern a few patrons wondered in from the streets of Catersburg.  The fire raging in the central hearth warmed the air and provided a haven from the winter weather that had become slightly less harsh in the past couple days. 

In the corner, Sheala sat with two others.  Drumming her finger on the table, she looked about the tavern. 

“C’mon Civn,” she moaned, watching an ominous looking man as he held five playing cards in his left hand close to his face.  His right arm was covered with a long sleeve and his gloved right hand balled into a fist rested heavily and unmoving on the table.  His face was like chiseled stone. “This is Bahnar, not sorcery.  Either raise the pot or call. Or Fold.” 

He glowered at her.  “If Civn want advice from de likes of you, Civn let you know.” 

Sheala detested the way he talked.  “Quit stalling.” 

She’d already folded.  Bowing out gracefully from this round.  Her hand was not high enough for the pot that now piled up on the table.  She couldn’t help but feel regret that she’d added so much to the winnings. 

Civn ignored her as he looked over his cards.  He then looked at the woman across from him.  Not much older than Sheala the woman with sandy blonde hair she was holding her own cards.  She lounged casually with one arm draped over the back of her chair.  Her look was impassive, not allowing even the slightest hint of the cards she held. 

Reluctantly, Civn pulled a card from his hand and placed it face down in front of him.  He added a large, thick silver coin to the pile of money resting between the two on the table.  “Yer move Reane.” 

Reane took a look at the pot and then back to her cards.  “Well, I don’t see any point in dragging this out any longer.”  She tossed in a ring with a small emerald setting.  Then she laid down one card just like Civan had.  “I’ll call.” 

Calmly she laid down her remaining four cards on the table; three knights with swords in various poses and a king on his throne was the other. It was called “A Court”.  One of the two highest hands possible. 

Civn was visibly upset as he scowled at the cards.  “Ya cheated!”  He threw his cards in anger and stood, lowering his gloved fist into the table top.  The heavy thud that resulted echoed through the nearly empty tavern.  His other hand moved for his sword. 

Sheala reacted quickly, pulling the knife from the top of her boot and holding it up to his throat.  “Now, now.  Reane won fair and square.  So let’s just leave it at that and no one loses any blood today.  What do you say?”  Sheala pressed the blade of her knife against his skin. 

Civn took a second to figure out his situation.  He reluctantly watched Reane, impervious to the confrontation, collecting her winnings.  He moved his hand from the hilt of his sword.   

“Ah’right.”  There was a hint of reluctance in his voice that Sheala was certain would play itself out at another time. 

Reane funneled the last bit of coin into a sack and pulled it shut.  “Pleasure doing business with you, Civn.”  Sheala’s friend walked by her as she left the table and tapped her on the shoulder. 

Sheala responded by dropping the blade away from Civn’s throat and then cautiously backing away.  He angrily picked his fur cloak from the back of his chair and stormed out of the tavern with a roar. 

Sheala followed her friend over to the bar and sat down beside Reane who was already sipping from a glass filled with green liquor.  The bartender collected the sack with her winnings sitting on the counter.  For a small fee, he would convert the assorted odd items into coins. 

“You did cheat,” Sheala confronted her.  “Didn’t you?” 

Reane turned to her friend with a hurt look.  “Me?  I can’t believe that you would accuse me of that.” She rolled her eyes and returned to her drink.  “Do you really think that I can’t beat a simple-minded fool like Civn without reading his mind?  I’m thrice the card player he’ll ever be.”  Sitting her empty glass down on the bar, she motioned for another with a cough as the spicy liquid ran down her throat. 

“Reane, I watched you concentrating on his thoughts.” 

The bartender came over and filled the glass again.  Reane was quiet until he left.  “Maybe just a little peak,” she admitted.  With a flick of her wrist, her second drink was consumed.  “Civn’s thoughts are so sloppy that they’re hard to read accurately.  But I do know who broke into old man Relian’s house and stole his gold.”  

“Reane,” Sheala warned with a quiet voice, “sooner or later someone’s going to catch on to that little talent of yours.” 

*That’s why I don’t win all the time.*  The voice in Sheala’s head was as clear as if Reane had actually spoken the words.  *Just because I can use my mind better than most, is it so wrong that I do?

Sheala hated that form of communication.  “Reane, I’m just speaking as a friend.” 

*Uh uh uh,* Reane spoke mentally as she sucked down a small amount of remaining liquor from her glass.  *You’re not using your mind.  Shame on you.

Sheala frowned.  Concentrating, she focused her thoughts like Reane had taught her to.  *Reane, you know I don’t like this.

“Sometimes I don’t understand you.  Isn’t the most dangerous opponent one who knows what you’re thinking?  I am that opponent.  A stray thought here, another there, it adds up to quite an impressive arsenal of knowledge.” 

“What good is knowledge if you don’t use it?” 

“Extortion is not what I do.”  Tossing a small coin from her winnings onto the bar, Reane turned and cast her gaze across the nearly vacant room. 

“Oh, come on,” Sheala begged.  “Just tell me something.  Like who that woman Mayor Bergon is always with.  I know it’s not his wife.” 

“And where’s the fun in that?” 

“Who cares about fun?  I want to get my hands on some money from the treasury. And extortion is a whole lot easier than breaking and entering.” 

“It’s all business with you.  Just accept the fact that, even if I did know, I probably wouldn’t tell.  If I just handed all this knowledge to you, then you wouldn’t learn anything.  Besides, aren’t you under suspension?” 

“Never you mind about that,” Sheala groaned softly. 

“Oooh, sounds like I hit upon a touchy subject.”  Reane turned her eyes to the door as she heard the bell attach to it ring.  A strange man entered, wearing a dark leather mask over the left side of his face.  His fur cape was flecked with wind blow snow and he sat down at the far end of the bar. 

Sheala also watched the man.  “A rather bizarre person.  I’ve never seen him in town before.” 

“Nor have I.”  Reane checked her glass for any more liquor.  Seeing none, she set it down on the bar. 

The bartender engaged the stranger in a brief conversation, and he pointed to where Reane and Sheala sat.  The stranger shook his head as if not liking the answer he was given. 

“I think he’s a thief,” Sheala spoke while trying to look like she was not watching him. 

Trying to reach into the man’s mind, Reane found was a vacant space where his thoughts should have been.  She found that odd and tried harder.  Still, she had no luck.  “That’s strange,” she commented. 

“What?” 

The bartender interrupted the two.  “Man at the end of the bar,” he spoke softly, “is looking for a ship.  He wants passage out of here.” 

Reane gave him another coin and watched as he poured her another drink.  “What did he say, Guane?” 

“I told him about you, Reane.  But he didn’t seem to take kindly to the idea.” 

Reane flipped another coin onto the bar.  “Thanks for the info.”  Dropping from her stool she picked up her drink. 

Sheala followed Reane as she swaggered down the bar.  The stranger seemed oblivious to their approach.  Standing next to him, Reane leaned on the bar and sloshed her drink in its glass.  Taking up the seat next to her friend, Sheala ordered a drink of her own; a double shot of Pingorian Rum.  Just like she always did. 

“Pardon me,” Reane spoke politely.  “But my sources say that I might be able to provide a service that you are in need of.” 

“I’m looking for a ship,” the stranger looked at her and then around her to Sheala.  “Not the village whores.” 

Sheala choked on her drink at the comment.  Reane blushed, still trying to read this man’s thoughts.  “I think that perhaps you may have a somewhat distorted image of me and my associate here.” 

“That may well be true, but I am in need of an experienced captain with a fast ship.  You look rather young to be experienced.  Besides,” he added, “I doubt you’d be willing to go where I want.  No one else seems to be.” 

“The other captains here in town are really just a bunch of cowards.  I’m probably the only one to have never been caught smuggling by the Imperial Navy.  I might not be the oldest sea dog around, but I’m just about the best. Plus the ice flow barely a mile out to sea has them a little spooked.  The dead of winter’s a dangerous time to be thinking about sailing.” 

Guane came over and sat a mug of ale in front of the stranger.  “Listen to her, friend.  Reane here is about the only one who’s going to be able to take you to Fimmirra.” 

Sheala choked on her drink again.  Reane paid her little attention. 

“Fimmirra?” Reane echoed. 

“That’s right,” the stranger confirmed.  “I want to go to Fimmirra.” 

Reane shook her head.  “That seems a little odd to me.  People just don’t go to Fimmirra unless it is important business.  Imperial ships are known to patrol the common shipping lanes leading to the islands.” 

“I’m sure an experienced captain such as yourself would know of a few uncommon shipping lanes.  Besides, I’m more than willing to make it worth your time.”  He took a polished golden coin from his pouch and tossed it into her hand, still not certain about the prospects Reane held.  “I’ve got ten pieces of elven gold.  Half now.  Half when I get to Fimmirra.” 

Reane checked over the coin to make sure it was authentic.  It was.  “You could buy your own ship for that.” 

“But not an experienced crew.  I’m concerned about avoiding detection by The Empire.  So I want to keep this quiet.” 

“Sailing to Fimmirra means cutting around the cape and the ice is sure to be more treacherous there than even here.” 

“If you don’t want the job –” 

“I’m not walking away from this,” she turned the coin over in her hand.  Elven gold was so rare and so refined that it was worth ten times the normal coin of the realm.  For ten pieces of it, Reane would probably have tried to sail to the moon if asked. “My ship’s the only one in port here that’s equipped to handle ice like we’re seeing this year.  And stranger, you’ve got yourself a ship if you want it.  Name’s Reane Matir and my ship is the Oracle.  She’s undergoing some minor repairs but will be ready to sail in a few days.” 

“Looks like I don’t have much of a choice but to wait.” 

“That’s probably true.  -um, I don’t think I ever caught your name.” 

The stranger took a drink before responding.  “Anthony.  Anthony Rodan.” 

“Well, Anthony Rodan, where should I send one of my men to collect you when we’re ready to sail?” 

“There’s an inn about two blocks away from here.” 

“You mean the Gearsmith’s Hostel?”  She was surprised.  “That place is a hovel.  With the kind of money you’re carrying, I figured you’d be staying at the Lumena Inn over in the Eastern District.” 

“I’m a fairly simple man of simple tastes.” 

“Suit yourself.”  Reane turned around and tapped Sheala on the shoulder, who was rubbing at the liquid she had spilled on her shirt and trying to remove the stain.  She slid the coin back to Anthony.  “I’ll send one of my men to collect you.  So be ready to go.  Because we’ll leave as soon as the repairs are completed.  Come on, Sheala.” 

Guane pulled the two women’s winter cloaks from behind the bar and handed them over.  Sheala thanked him and gave him a piece of copper for his trouble. 

Anthony watched the two women as they left the tavern and until the door shut behind them.  He turned to Guane.  “You sure she’s on the level?” 

“Reane’s a good girl.  Her father was one of the best smugglers I’ve ever done business with.  Taught her everything she knows.  Not only is she on the level, but she’ll get you to Fimmirra.  You don’t worry about the Empire, my friend.  Once you’re on the open sea, they won’t be able to lay a hand on you.”  Guane poured him another drink.  “You just leave everything to her.  I swear by Earoni’s Eye.”  Guane placed his left hand over his heart so that Anthony could once again see the silver ring he wore. 

“She’s not an ally,” Anthony mused as he took a drink. 

“All the better.  The Empire is not looking for her.” 

“What do you think?”  Reane pulled the hood of her cloak up to hide from the winter weather as she and Sheala stood outside the tavern.  The cold bit at her cheeks, quickly turning them red. 

“You’re the telepath and psychic.  You tell me.” 

Reane looked at the door of the tavern.  “You know, it’s odd.  But I don’t seem to be able to read his thoughts.”  She thought about the gold coin he had handed over to her.  “His money is real enough though.” 

The sign hanging in front of the Red Moose squeaked in the breeze.  “I don’t know.  He’s definitely been in a scuffle or two.  I’m sure he’s not covering up that eye for his health.” 

“Some people have things to hide.”  Cinching her cloak, “Will you be joining us on this little excursion?  You haven’t seen Brentai in nearly a month.  Besides, Fimmirra should be lovely this time of year.  And yule is only a couple weeks away.” 

Sheala scowled.  “You know how I feel about going there.” 

Reane could see the anger her friend felt.  She did not even need her other abilities.  “You can’t run away forever.  The one time I actually convinced you to go you spent the three weeks in your cabin.” 

“So?  I’m stubborn.” 

Reane chided, “You can say that again.  Listen, King Turon was a good friend of your father and of my father too.  And he’s your uncle.” 

“You just remember that we have a deal.  Ok?” 

“Cross my heart and hope to die.”  Reane made an X over her heart with her hand.  “I won’t tell King Turon about you.  My lips are sealed.”  She nudged her friend in a playful manner.  “You know Brentai would be disappointed if you didn’t come.” 

Sheala smiled and blushed.  “I know, I know.”  She turned away, and the look on her face turned cold as the winter’s day.  “But you know I can’t.  I’ll stop by and see him before you set sail though.” 

Pulling up her hood, Sheala trudged off in the thin blanket of snow towards the center of town. 

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