Read Enflamed (Book 2) Online

Authors: R.M. Prioleau

Enflamed (Book 2) (3 page)

BOOK: Enflamed (Book 2)
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“What?”

“It’s a popular treat amongst
brownie children.
Nyrium-tegos
are made from sweetberry nectar.
Very tasty, indeed!”
The stranger licked his lips. “Ah,
brings back memories of Mum givin’ me one before bed every night.”

Before Kaijin could respond,
Miele screeched. She swooped down, snatched the honeystick from his hand, and
returned to the rafters.

“’Ey, now!
Get that soddin’ thing away from me!” the stranger
sank back into the hay.

Kaijin smiled as he watched
Miele hang from one of the wooden beams and began feasting on her treat. “Don’t
worry. She would rather eat her honeystick. She is a fruit bat.”

“Fruit bat, vegetable bat—does
it matter? She’s soddin’ dangerous! She bit me, she did!”

“She probably thought you were
trying to harm me, so she attacked—and perhaps she had every reason to. Who are
you? Rather,
what
are you?”

The stranger gawked at Kaijin.
“What? Never seen a brownie before? Well I sure as ’ells seen plenty of ’umans.
This place is swarmin’ with ’em—’umans, I mean. Did you ’ear about all those
refugees comin’ from Easthaven? Soddin’ shame, it is....”

Kaijin opened his mouth to
respond, but the brownie continued talking.

“Oh! Th’ name’s Nester. Also
known as ‘Nimble’ Nester Two-Blades. An’ you are?”

Kaijin exhaled once Nester
finally stopped. “I’m, ah ... Kaijin.
Sora.
Also known as Kaijin.”

“Kaijin!
Good to meet you!” Nester relaxed a bit, his
attention no longer focused on locating Miele. He emerged from the hay and
picked out the strands from his hair and long sideburns. Standing before
Kaijin, Nester’s head barely reached his waist. “What were you doin’ all ’oled
up in ’ere for?”

Kaijin sighed. “I was tired
and needed a place to sleep.”

“Well th’
stables ain’t no place for winkin’—’less you like th’ smell of ’orse piss.”
His eyes focused on Kaijin’s haversack. “’Ey, that
was a ... a nice
book
you ’ad in there....”

Miele shrieked a message to
Kaijin in his mind.
“He did
that,
did he?”
Kaijin replied through
the link. He shot a cool gaze at Nester and said aloud, “It is, isn’t it? Some
ruffians tried to steal it from me, too. I dare ask what kind of bold fool you
are to attempt to steal from someone who is far bigger than you?”

Nester huffed and puffed out
his chest, making his leather jerkin appear smaller on him.
“’Ey!
I may be short, but that don’t mean I don’t get around. ’Sides, your book
looked interestin’.”

“There’s nothing interesting
about this book, I assure you,” Kaijin said flatly. “If
it’s
gold you want, I have none. Those ruffians beat you to it.”

“Pah! These peepers know value
when they see it.” Nester deflated his chest and picked out another stray piece
of hay from beneath his jerkin. “Are you lookin’ to sell it? ’Ow ’bout
we
... ah ... split th’ profits, aye?”

“What!” Kaijin’s eyes widened.
“My spellbook is
not
for sale!”

Nester’s jaw dropped.
“S

spellbook?!”

Kaijin pursed his lips and
quickly averted his gaze from him. “Yes, I’m a mage,” he muttered in a low, bitter
tone. “Apparently, people like me aren’t allowed in this city.”

“Well, it ain’t like that.
There’re lotsa superstitious sods ’round ’ere—more than ever now after
th
’ news of what ’appened to Easthaven. You know that
Ghaeldorund’s only a three-day walk north from ’ere, aye? Everyone around ’ere
says a fiddler from that city came an’ destroyed Easthaven. Can you believe it?
One soddin’ fiddler destroyin’
a
’uge city like that?”

“‘Fiddler’?”
Kaijin chewed on his bottom lip. “If you mean a mage,
then yes, I can believe it.”

“Poor sods are scared, as you
can imagine. They don’t want
th
’ same thing to ’appen
to Faywald. Everyone says fiddlin’ is dangerous—’ells,
fiddlers
are
dangerous! They got every soddin’ right to be afraid if a fiddler can destroy a
whole city.”

“Magic is only as dangerous as
the wielder.” Kaijin’s mouth turned bitter.

“Well I sure ’ope th’ evil
fiddler’s been stopped. I sure wouldn’t like to be
th

unfortunate bloke to meet ’im.”

Nester’s words stung.
Did I
really cause this?
“Yes, well ... I’m just a man trying to survive like the
rest of the refugees here. I’m not looking for trouble.”

“You’re not just a simple
bloke. You’re a simple bloke who knows a bit of fiddlin’. Say! You can ’elp me,
y’know!”

“Me? Help you?” Kaijin
blinked.
How absurd!
“I’m a mage, remember? I’m ‘dangerous’. How can I
possibly help you?”

“Pah! I never said I believed
in all that soddin’ rubbish.” Nester waved his hand dismissively. “’Umans tend
to take things out of proportion, y’know? Buncha cowardly blokes, some of them
are. But a scared ’uman means ’is peepers ain’t watchin’ ’is coin purse none
too closely, if y’know what I mean.” He gave a gap-toothed smile.

Kaijin frowned. “You take
pleasure in stealing?”

Nester gasped and looked
overly surprised.
Probably acting.
“‘Pleasure’?
Nay, Kaijin.
Who do
you think I am? Some kinda poor street bloke lookin’ for
a
’andout? I’ve got a bit more dignity than that.” He proudly thumbed himself in
the chest. “Th’ way I see it is, if all these soddin’ refugees are just sittin’
on th’ streets with pockets full o’ gold and not spendin’ it, then what’s th’
point in ’avin’ it in th’ first place? That’s where I come in. I ’elp ’em spend
th
’ money they’re not spendin’, see?”

Kaijin crossed his arms, eying
him coolly. “I fail to understand your logic.”

“That’s ’cause you’re
a
’uman.” Nester tapped his finger against his temple. “It’s
a known fact that brownies got
th
’ sharpest wits.”

“I see....”

“As for th’ ’elp, well, I’m
runnin’ out o’ funds here, y’know? Th’ soddin’ innkeeper at th’ Cask an’ Iron
thought it’d be nice to raise th’ prices of th’ rooms a few days ago when all
th’ refugees came floodin’ into town. And on top of all that,
th
’ sod wants all th’ inn patrons to pay
three days
in advance! ’E’s gonna kick me out soon, I know it! Can you believe it? Anyway,
I prigged—er—
did favors
around town but I’m still short—er, not
literally. Well, I
am
short, but I didn’t mean it like that....”

“Whatever shady business
you’re doing, you can count me out. Why don’t you ask some of those ruffians
who tried to rob me, instead?”

“Pfft! No, they’ll just get
all
th
’ good stuff and leave me th’ scraps—or try an’
prig ’em off me if they’re good enough. But you, Kaijin—you’re a fiddler! The
first fiddler I’ve seen around ’ere who actually talked to me! Not like some o’
those other arrogant, pompous sods from Ghaeldorund and beyond. ’Sides, if we
’appen to get in a pinch, then you can show off your
‘dangerous’
fiddlin’ skills, aye?”

“Magic is
not
a toy,
nor should it be misused.”

“Never said that, mate, though
it must be fun to make li’l sparklies come outta
your ’ands
,
aye?”

Kaijin rolled his eyes.

Nester tapped his chin. “...
Tellya what.
If you ’elp me, I’ll share my room at
th
’ Cask an’ Iron. Other than that soddin’ annoyin’ innkeeper,
th’ place’s got comfy rooms, good food an’ drinks, an’ cute, tall women.” He
chuckled. “So, do we ’ave a deal or what?”

Kaijin paused to consider his
options. He was beginning to smell horse piss on himself, which reminded him of
the dreary conditions he’d endured. He looked at Nester, who bore a childlike,
mischievous grin on his face.
“I don’t know if I should trust him, Miele.
What do you think?”

Miele responded with a soft
screech and a single flap of her wings.

A surge of excitement filled
Kaijin’s mind, and he cracked a smile.
“Yes, I know you’ll keep me safe.
You’re a good bat.”
He regarded Nester again and his smile quickly faded.
“All right.
I’ll help you earn some coin. But no thievery,
you hear?”

Nester’s face brightened, and
he clapped his hands together once, startling the horses. “Wonderful! Well,
then! Let’s be off. Th’ Cask an’ Iron is in th’ northern part of town—quite
ritzy, I might add. I’ll tell you all about my li’l project when we get there.”
He turned and walked out of the stables, with a happy skip to his steps.

 

* * *

 

Entering the Cask and Iron,
Kaijin was overwhelmed by the scents of various types of wines and strong
incense. The windows were decorated with colorful, cascading draperies, while
plush, exotic rugs covered the wooden floor. Dim light from the sparse candles
placed throughout the quiet, empty main room created an atmosphere so calm, it
made Kaijin yawn sleepily.

“Looks like th’ innkeeper
stepped out,” Nester whispered to Kaijin as they made their way to the stairs.
“Good riddance, I say. Let’s hurry upstairs before—”

A door creaked shut behind
them.

A set of footsteps padded
across the wood floors from the backroom. A thin, middle-aged man poked his
head through the doorway. He bore a deep scowl on his angular face as he
regarded Nester and Kaijin with dark brown eyes.

Nester sighed as the man
approached.

Kaijin studied the innkeeper’s
immaculate attire. The sleeves of his tunic were trimmed in silver. A matching
silver buckle molded in the shape of an abstract design accented the belt he
wore around his small waist. His white pants were clean and crisp, devoid of a
single speck of dirt.

“You think I not forget?” the
innkeeper said to the brownie, placing his bronze hands on his hips. His voice
rolled in a thick, exotic accent.

“’Ey, I’m paid up for three
more days, yet!” Nester retorted. “Don’t go ’oundin’
me
’bout payin’!”

The innkeeper bent down and
prodded his finger in Nester’s chest. “Your
type are
sticky-fingered cheats. I have my eye on you.”

Nester slapped the man’s hand
away, glaring. “And ‘your type’
are
a buncha greedy
sods!”

The innkeeper stood and
regarded Kaijin. “Do not trust these little people, sir. They pick your pockets
faster than you blink!”

Kaijin nodded absently,
remaining silent. He tried to place the man’s strange yet familiar-seeming
dialect.

“All right,” Nester grumbled.
“If you’re done patronizin’ us, can we be off to bed, now?”

“He
pay
?”
The man thumbed at Kaijin.

Nester groaned and rubbed his
hands over his face.
“Soddin’ ’ells!
Fine!”
He grabbed five silver pieces from his coin pouch and
presented it to the innkeeper forcefully.
“’Ere!”

The innkeeper took the coins,
carefully counted them and then looked at Nester. “I charge you double for
trying to sneak him in.”

Nester’s eyes widened. “What!”

“Excuse me,” Kaijin said
finally. “I don’t mean to cause any trouble here. I will find someplace else to
sleep for the night. Please give Nester back his money. I will leave.” He
headed for the door.

“Oy!
Wait!” Nester rushed after Kaijin and grabbed a
handful of his robes. “I still need you, Kaijin! A deal’s a deal, y’know! I’ll
grit my teeth an’ bear ’avin’ to lose th’ money if it means a greater treasure
awaitin’ at th’ end, aye?” He glared at the innkeeper from over his shoulder.
“I can’t stand you Ankhram sods!”

Kaijin paused, reaching for
the door handle to go outside.

The innkeeper huffed. “It is
called business, little man. I can easily throw you out of my inn.”

“Try as you will. You’ll have
to catch me, first!” Nester jeered.

Kaijin
quirked his eyebrow at the innkeeper.
“Ankhram?
You are from Ankhram?”

The man’s eyes turned to
Kaijin. “Yes, and contrary to what the little man says, I am quite reputable,
as is anyone from Ankhram. We are a noble race.”

Kaijin moved away from the
door.
“How interesting.
My mother—she was from
Ankhram.... At least, that was what my father once told me when I was a boy.”

The man’s thick, jet-black
beard shifted slightly upward as he made a wide smile. “Ah, then you would
understand, yes? It is not often I meet travelers from the old country. Most
are traders.”

“My father was a trader,”
Kaijin said. “My mother stayed at home and took care of my brother and me.” He
paused, feeling a lump forming in his throat as he remembered his family.

BOOK: Enflamed (Book 2)
11.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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