Authors: John Booth
Jalia and Daniel continue their adventures north to Ranwin, the fabled City of Glass. What they do there changes Daniel forever and he is forced to confront the man he has become. Now as much warrior as trader, he and Jalia head east along the ancient Magicians Road. Heading into the heartland of the slave trade and following the lure of gold.
Book 2 of Jalia - The World of Jalon
First published in 2013 by John Booth Enterprises Ltd
Cover Design by Maria K & JB
Jalon Map by JB.
Copyright ©2013 John Booth
All rights reserved
John Booth asserts the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work,
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Other Books by John Booth on Amazon Kindle
Available on Kindle by the Same Author
The Inspector Monde Mysteries
Jalia on the Road
Revenge of the Brotherhood
Carlotta and the Krius Scepter
House of Silver Magic
Sapphire Magic: Breaking Glass
Gold Magic: Terror in Mind
The Magic Series (Anthology)
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Scrawls in the Dust
Jalia and the Slavers (Jalia #3)
Ranwin had been the great industrial city in the north of the world, famed for its magnificent works of glass. It was said that in the days of the Magician Kings, all the world’s glass came from Ranwin.
The city used glass the way other places used stone, even creating glass towers to pierce the sky. The city was a wonder of the world and people were considered fortunate should they be given the opportunity to visit. But that was over a thousand years ago and Jalon had fractured into hundreds of pieces after the genocide of the Magician Kings by the Fairie.
Jalia sipped her tea before she spoke; savoring the spices Daniel had blended with gintel leaves. “When do you think we will reach Ranwin?”
Daniel stirred the fire with a stick, sending sparks flying into the night.
“No one I’ve asked seems to know. But then, everyone we meet thinks Delbon is a legend and Bagdor a myth. At least they believe that Ranwin exists, so we must be getting closer.”
Jalia smiled, “For their young men, a visit to the village in the next valley is the journey of a lifetime. A chance to woo a girl they’ve never seen before.” Jalia paused. “Do you think we’re strange, Daniel, to wander the world seeking our fortune?”
Daniel looked into Jalia’s eyes, and for a moment was lost in them. To Jalia, the word fortune meant only gold, silver and jewels. It has been months since Jalia lost a king’s ransom to a village healer and for a while she had been deeply depressed. However, he was sure she had already recovered a portion of her wealth. The people they met on their journey were poor, but even the poorest families had the odd gold coin or heirloom. Jalia had a way of making them her own.
There was no need for her to steal, given how popular she was with men. Some reached her as gifts while others were won as the result of a wager. Jalia never lost a game where money was at stake.
Pulled out of his reverie, he grinned at her. “Sorry, I was just wondering if you have recovered the money you lost.”
Jalia pouted. “Not lost, stolen by that witch, Gally Delbar. And of course I haven’t. You can’t take money from people who have none. That’s why I want to get to Ranwin. It used to be the richest city in the world. I expect I can still find some gold, if I look.”
Daniel shrugged. “Everybody we meet warns against going there.
Perhaps that’s where the slavers sell their victims. There must be a market for slaves somewhere and the further north we go the more we hear about raids. It was bad enough around Delbon, but we haven’t encountered a village recently that hasn’t lost men and women.”
Jalia’s hand moved to the knife at her belt at the mention of slavers and she
spat into the fire in disgust. “I hate slavers.”
“Don Tor told me that the Kings of Ranwin have a predisposition for madness. He said that two decades ago, King Talor drowned fifty young girls in the river because he thought they sapped his strength with their beauty. Perhaps we should avoid going there?”
“I want to go to Ranwin,” Jalia said in a tone that brooked no argument.
Daniel sighed. “You certainly sap my strength with your beauty, so maybe he had a point.”
Jalia ignored the compliment, as she always did.
“According to Tor, the King was already an old man when he drowned them. I’m sure they have a better king by now,” she said primly.
Ranwin was straight out of the stories Daniel had been collecting his whole life. He mulled over what he knew about the old times. The stories claimed the world was once ruled by the Magician Kings, eight families who could work magic. Above them sat the High King who ruled the world.
In those days there were many more people in Jalon and its cities filled with people.
Daniel used to believe that there were only a few magicians, but some stories claimed they numbered many thousands or even hundreds of thousands before the war with the Fairie. That number beggared belief.
Over the space of less than a year, the Fairie killed the magicians down to the last child. It was difficult for Daniel to believe that the tiny creatures he had met could carry out such evil, but the stories said so.
The tales described the Fairie as fierce god-like creatures, only marginally human with bodies that merged human traits with those of stags, dragons or multi-headed snakes.
The Fairie hunted the magicians till none were left. Communities killed many of the magicians and stuck their heads on pikes in an attempt to placate the vengeful Fairie.
The great works of the Magicians Kings fell into decay. Engines on rails that pulled great loads from one end of the world to the other stopped, never to move again. The rivers, once full of commerce, decayed to a state where only short stretches were still navigable.
Some of the great roads lasted longer, but a millennia is a long time. Population shrank and trade slowed to a trickle as the city states rose.
The Fairie had disappeared from human sight. When they were seen, they were inexplicably small and flew on gossamer wings. They retreated into the forests far away from human kind. It was a mystery that Daniel longed to solve.
The next day they came upon a village that was bigger than most they had seen. Daniel was on foot as usual, with Ferd, his lead donkey, following close behind him. Jalia rode ahead on her magnificent grey horse. They barely made it past the first cottage before a gaggle of teenage boys appeared from nowhere, offering up handfuls of grass to Jalia’s horse.
This was not at all unusual and Daniel laughed, much to Jalia’s disgust. He shouted out a greeting.
“Hello the village. The lady on the horse is Jalia and I am Daniel. We come in peace and bring fine goods to trade.”
Three men ran towards them. Unlike the boys they looked grim and carried pitchforks. Daniel saw women peering anxiously from windows.
“Kob, Dirk, get away from that horse and bring the other children with you.”
The oldest boys in the group turned and stared at the man who had spoken.
“But Drall...” Kob whined.
“Now,” the man said firmly. The boys admitted defeat and grabbed at the other children to pull them back behind the men.
Daniel smiled. “I assure you we mean no harm.”
“We lost Alla, Ben and Dan to raiders a week ago,” Drall said. “Why should we trust you?”
“Because if we wanted to harm you; you would already be dead?” Jalia suggested.
One of the men started to laugh, but the sound died in his throat as Jalia drew her sword from its sheath and laid it casually across her saddle.
“Do raiders bring a train of donkeys with them?” Daniel spoke quickly before the men got hurt trying something stupid. Any attack on Jalia would be immensely foolish and quite probably fatal.
Drall scratched his head. “I suppose not,” he conceded lowering his weapon. The other men pointed their pitchforks at the ground and Daniel gave a sigh of relief. Jalia put her sword away in the same fluid motion she’d used to take it out.
There were thirty-two families in the village of Bent Elms, which made it one of the biggest they had seen on their travels. However, it soon became clear it was not a happy place. Many of the villagers were recent additions to the community, having abandoned their farms when slaver raids became frequent. Almost everything was in short supply and no one had anything to offer Daniel in return for the goods he carried. He ended up giving some of his goods away to the children.
“Thank you for the meal,” Daniel said as he sat back. The whole village had joined them in the Lord’s House and the atmosphere was becoming friendly.
Drall Pador thumped the table bringing the room to silence. “And thank you, Daniel al’Degar, and the lovely Lady Jalia for the fine southern spices that made this the best meal I’ve had for many a day.”
Grunts of approval rumbled around the crowded room.
“And we must also thank you for the generosity you have shown us in these trying times. Is there anything we can give you in return?”
Daniel looked down at the table. He knew these people had nothing to give and did not know how to reply without causing offence.
“Information,” Jalia said into the silence that followed. “We are travelling to Ranwin, but have no idea how far it is and what we will find when we get there.”
Drall shook his head. “No one in their right mind goes there. There are rumors of a gold strike in Telmar and Baltar has become a staging post for those seeking their fortune. Baltar is only a few miles from here and Ranwin is little more than a stone’s throw further; though you would have to throw that stone over the River Jalon to reach it.”
“Is there a way across?” Jalia asked sharply. To have come all this way to be defeated by a river was unthinkable. She stored Drall’s words about a gold strike for further consideration. If gold was available, Jalia planned to find some of her own when the opportunity arose.
“A great bridge crosses the river. Built in the time of Magician Kings,” Drall replied to Jalia’s considerable relief.
“Why wouldn’t we want to go to Ranwin?” Daniel asked.
“King Fran is every bit as mad as his father was. Those who set out determined to see the City of Glass never return, not for the last score of years or more. The King believes that the High King is to return and King Fran’s death at his hands will signal the coming of the new age.”
Drall spat on the floor in disgust. “Insane jabberings from a member of a family that was once revered.”
“How do we get there?” Jalia asked.
“Follow the road and you will come to Baltar soon enough. You can’t miss the bridge or Ranwin from there.”
A few miles turned out to be more like ten and it was early afternoon the following day before they sighted Baltar. They reached the crest of a hill that gave them a clear view of the town, which lay less than a mile away.
The River Jalon stretched as far as the eye could see to the east and west, dividing the landscape in two. It looked to be at least half a mile across. Daniel saw a large boat making its way upriver using sail to counter the flow of the water, and a similar boat making its way down-river.
Mist rendered the lands north of the river as a white blur. Above that shroud, the tops of massive towers glinted in the sun. They reflected sunlight like mirrors and shone in reds, blues, greens and yellows.
“They can’t be made of glass,” Jalia whispered.
“Clad in it, at the least,” Daniel said. “But by what means, I cannot imagine.”
Jalia gestured towards the docks of Baltar. “People are leaving the boats and heading east. I can see carts, wagons pulled by oxen leaving the docks and along the road to the bridge. They must be prospectors heading for Telmar.”
Daniel had missed seeing the bridge, which was largely hidden in mist. Now it was pointed out to him, he could not imagine why he hadn’t seen it before. It was an immense structure with large and crumbled towers along its length. The river flowed white on the downstream side of the bridge. The bridge cut the water into streams with its many piers acting like the teeth of a comb.
“Why would anyone build a bridge that makes the river unnavigable?” he asked, but got no answer. When he looked up he saw from the look in Jalia’s eyes that her thoughts were far away. He sighed.
Daniel reflected on his problem. Jalia had spent the day getting excited about miners flush with gold and the possibility of winning some of it in the drinking and gambling establishments of the town below. Daniel knew with the certainty that comes from travelling with Jalia that the end result would be a hurried exit from Baltar, almost certainly carrying a great deal of money that people would be chasing after in the vain hope of getting it back.
The last thing he wanted was have to flee towards Ranwin with a mob of angry people at his back. The only option was to try to persuade Jalia to go to Ranwin first and thus keep their potential enemies at any one time down to a manageable number.
“I think we should go to Ranwin before you sample the delights of Baltar.” Daniel said and waited for the inevitable outburst.
Daniel checked Jalia’s face for signs of deception; this was not the answer he expected.
Jalia grinned at his disconcerted look.
She knew she was acting out of character. It would do him good to know she could still surprise him from time to time.