The Coastal Kingdoms of Olvion: Book Two of The Chronicles of Olvion (8 page)

BOOK: The Coastal Kingdoms of Olvion: Book Two of The Chronicles of Olvion
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Fauwler stood again.  “What harm can result from hearing more about this land?”

“He is
my prisoner!”
Tallun screamed shrilly.  “I will do with him as I please!”

Fauwler gave a slight smile.  “That is eerily similar to what that brat of a nobleman snot said when he ordered his serf to be lashed.”

***

Kal and Gann were removed from the hall and marched to a large confinement facility.  They had been kept there for a tenday while the Council of Captains prepared an invasion fleet.  Kal was heartbroken, but he took some solace in the fact that he was among his crew.  He had to admit that they were being fed and treated well if one ignored the fact that they were jailed.

Kal had been surprised that the man who had been identified as Captain Fauwler visited the jail each day.  He had Kal taken out of his cell and brought to a wooden bench just outside where the two discussed at length the social structure of Aspell.  The tall young Captain appeared to be genuinely interested in the subject and accepted Kal’s explanations as fact.  At first he thought it was possible that Fauwler would be able to sway the opinions of the pirate government against attacking his kingdom.  Fauwler told him that he had tried his best, but the prevailing opinions were not with him.  The attack would go forward.  Once again Kal asked for the blessing of a clean and honorable death.

“I understand your position, Friend Kal,” Fauwler had told him.  “Alas, you are the prisoner of Captain Tallun.  Our system conveys all rights of captured crews to the seizing Captain.  You must make your request to him.”

That had been the last day that he had been visited by the sympathetic Captain.  The following day he and his crew had been marched to the quay wall and divided up amongst several waiting ships before embarking for Aspell.

CHAPTER EIGHT

GERAAR

Midway through the second day of travel, Taggart and Toria were stopped for a rest and to take advantage of the refreshment offered by a sparkling stream that ran near to the forested path they had been following.  Taggart had removed his pack, giving his shoulders a rest and was sitting with his back against a large smooth-barked tree.  He had already drank from the stream and was casually enjoying some of the dried meat and fruits that had been provided by Chadd and his people.  It was not the first time that Taggart was appreciative of the relatively small number of bothersome insects in Olvion.  The surrounding tall trees cast long shadows, and Taggart could see several large birds flying high above.  The mild morning temperature was very pleasant, and he was enjoying the opportunity to relax. 

Toria had also relaxed for the time it took her to bury her face in the water and tear off a hunk of cheese that had been wrapped in cloth.  The cheese had been consumed in a space of time that had left Taggart genuinely amazed.  The girl was now once again abusing nearby shrubs and trees with the heavy sword he had received from Chadd.  Taggart’s brows knitted as he tried to recall when and how the young woman had gotten it away from him, but since he had allotted himself at least a half hour to rest, he let her actions entertain him.

Toria was dressed much as he was.  She wore light green linen trousers held up by a drawstring and a sleeveless jerkin that was long enough to reach her hips.  The jerkin was covered and held down by a wide leather belt.  Into that belt she had positioned her two knives. 

The youth seemed to possess endless reserves of energy.  Taggart was impressed with her willingness to engage in training for combat at every opportunity.  As he observed her actions she was holding his sword high with both hands while side-stepping quickly toward an unfortunate tree.  When she got within striking distance she feinted a strike up high then pivoted totally around and buried the blade into the opposite side of the trunk.  She seemed to have a natural affinity for weapons and was able to use speed and flexibility to make up for the upper body strength she lacked.  He smiled as she tugged at the embedded blade, which was now stuck quite firmly.  She turned a quick glance in his direction to see if her problems in freeing the weapon had been noticed.  Taggart pretended to be watching the clouds.  She then placed a booted foot on the trunk, and pulled with all of her strength.  The sword released its hold, and she struggled to keep her footing when it did.

He had been enjoying her antics and was ready to signal a return to the path when his senses sparked something in his subconscious.  He was instinctively on his feet and hefting his spear even before his mind started to engage.  He was searching in every direction trying to determine what had triggered his alarm.  He saw nothing at first.

“Toria, come here!”

The young woman appeared ready to argue but caught his expression and ran to his side with the sword held in both hands.  Together they visually inspected every part of the exposed forest.  Taggart identified one of the reasons for his state of worry, there was no sound around them but the gurgle of the rushing stream.  The sounds of the forest…the chatter of squirrel-like creatures, the scolding squawks of birds, and the clicking of burrowing insects…had stopped.

Toria seemed to have figured it out for herself.  She slowly passed the big-bladed sword to Taggart and smoothly drew her Tooth and Claw.  She evidently felt safer with them because of the amount of practice she’d had in their use.

Taggart took the sword in his right hand and raised the spear over his left shoulder.  They both stood absolutely still.  He made a mental note to himself that she was cognizant of the need for seriousness when it was called for.

It happened with a terrifying swiftness.  There was a snapping of a dry stick off to their right, and five Grey Ones erupted from the tree line, running straight at them.

***

Kal was marched from the quay wall up the rise to the castle stronghold.  It was midday, and the heat burned his exposed calves.  His royal uniform had been either burned or given to members of the pirate crews.  He wore only the remains of his once-immaculate shirt and trousers.  His clothes, like he, were filthy.  His embarrassment and sense of failure tugged at tears, but he refused to release them.  It was enough of a dishonor to be brought home in chains and at the head of an attacking force.  He would not add the additional weakness of weeping in front of his captors.

Kal wondered where Captain Gann and the other crewmembers were.  Probably still divided up and confined among the hundred or so pirate ships.  The fleet in the harbor behind him was an odd lot, a mixed collection of large converted freight carriers, sailing sloops and even some vessels that had actually been crafted for the business of war.  The armada had obviously been put together mostly from captured shipping.

There were no weapons held upon him, but he knew that any attempts to escape would be less than futile.  He was tempted to do it anyway so that it might invite his execution and end his shame.  He had been told what he would be expected to say.  He wasn’t going to say it. 

After climbing the ascending streets and finally arriving at the approach to the main gates leading within the stronghold, the procession stopped just outside of archery range.  Tallun, smiling broadly and immensely enjoying himself, sauntered forward as close as he dared and yelled up to the defenders that were arrayed on one of the observation levels above him.

“In the stronghold.  I am Captain Tallun of the Kylee ship Necromancer.  Do I have your word that if we draw nearer we will enjoy diplomatic protections?”

Above them, Kal could make out the faces of King Tyner and Jo-Dal, the King’s Sword.  Tyner had his head leaned in close to Jo-Dal as they discussed the situation before them.  He thought he might have seen a widening of the eyes of Jo-Dal when he looked in his direction, but he couldn’t be certain.  Kal knew there was no way that the king would be able to pick him out. 

The King’s Sword put his hands to both sides of his mouth.  “I am Jo-Dal, Sword of the Good King Tyner. You have my word that our archers will pierce your bodies multiple times with the excellent arrows that we manufacture right here in Aspell.  Diplomatic protections are reserved for diplomats.  King Tyner is not surprised that you are not aware of the protocol since you are obviously lawless pirates who march to our gates leading one of our citizens as a hostage.”

Tallun backed up a few steps and his broad and beaming smile disappeared.  This was not the reception for which he’d hoped.  He looked over his shoulder and pointed at Kal.  “Do you see chains on your citizen?  He is no more a prisoner than I,” he lied.

Jo-Dal smiled. “Oh, my apologies then Good Captain.  Send my citizen forward, and we will have him tell us of your good intentions.”

Kal smiled.  Jo-Dal was no fool, nor was the king.

Tallun frowned and looked back at the glowering Bonn behind him.  Bonn shrugged.  Evidently his second-in-Command had no ideas to offer.

“You must understand our situation,” Tallun shouted.  “We are in a strange land and have no experience with your culture.  Your Royal Engineer is the only guarantee we have of our safety.”

King Tyner spoke to Jo-Dal in a tone too low to hear from Kal’s position.  Kal was prepared for the position that he knew the king would be forced to take.

Jo-Dal nodded when Tyner finished.  He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  There was a look of regret on his face.  “It would seem that your safety is sufficiently protected by the dozens of war ships that litter our harbor without our permission.  Let us end this farce.  We are all aware that you are an invading force.  You will surrender every member of our crew and send all but two of your vessels out to sea.  They can remain near enough to respond to signals.  Since you now know that we have levels of intelligence far greater than you’d hoped, we will allow a small number of diplomats inside our walls if you are truly disposed to establishing a cordial and mutually beneficial relationship between our cities.  Those are the only concessions that we will offer.”

Tallun walked back and conferred with Bonn and several of the other captains that were in their party.  Jo-Dal and Tyner waited patiently above them on the wall.  After more than a few moments the pirates seemed to come to an agreement and Tallun carefully approached shouting distance again.  His smile had returned.

“As you said, Lord Jo-Dal, let us both end this farce.  We have a force of thousands of armed fighters.  We have many summers of experience in successfully attacking and conquering coastal cities such as yours.  You could avoid the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands of your citizens by recognizing the weakness of your position.  We would ask only a fair tribute from your kingdom, recurring every summer with small increases each time.  We also require reasonable access to your women for the time we are here and some to accompany us when we return to our home.  In return your city stays unbroken, your people alive and healthy.”

“And our citizens from the Wind of Aspell?” Jo-dal asked.

Tallun shrugged.  “Unfortunately some of them are no longer…healthy.  The others have been seized on open sea by ships of the People of Kylee.  By me, specifically.  As such, our laws make them my property.  They will not be returned.  In fact, if we are forced to be unpleasant in our attempts to accomplish our task you may find parts of your crew scattered here and there below your walls in the morning.  I will give you until the sun touches the sea to consider our terms.”

Tyner reached his hand out and passed a small object to Jo-Dal.  The Warrior looked at it in his hand and smiled.  He turned to the pirate delegation below and tossed the object.  It hit on the brick road surface and bounced with a musical “chiiiing”.  When it landed again, it rolled around and around in diminishing circles until it settled on its side.  It was a copper coin, the smallest denomination available in the kingdom of Aspell.

“My King Tyner advises that this is the upper limit of any tribute you will receive from Aspell.  As to our citizens whom you hold, they were aware of their situations when they volunteered to undertake their mission of peaceful discovery.  If you wish to put the full extent of your cowardice on display then they will suffer their fate with courage and dignity.  No son of Aspell would trade his safety for the lives of other citizens, especially our wives and daughters.

“Know this, Outlaw!  These gates will never open to such as you.  If you attack our walls we will slaughter you by the hundreds.  If ever you would be successful in breaching them, within you will find only poisoned food stores and salted wells.  Any gold or silver you seek will be melted and fed through sieves.  The small particles that result will be crushed into powder and fed to our coastal winds.  The women whom you expect to find docile and frightened, will stand shield to shield with the best of you in fair combat to the death.  In the unlikely event that you are successful, your efforts will win you nothing but an empty, burned out shell of a castle and a stronghold full of ghosts. 

“You wish to test the mettle of the people of Aspell?  By all means, send forth your legions of future corpses.”

Below him Kal shouted and cheered until he was struck by a spear shaft alongside his ribs.  When he fell to the ground he continued to shout, “Aspell, Aspell, Aspell…,” until a blunt leather-covered club knocked him unconscious.

***

Grey Ones, more commonly known as Greys, are sub-human monsters who hunt every living creature, including humans, for food.  They had attacked Olvion in the hundreds of thousands just six months prior to Taggart being returned to Earth.  It was that invasion that the people of the four known kingdoms now referred to as the Great War. The brutes were squat of build and more heavily limbed than the slender human population.  They had protruding eyebrow ridges from which a thatch of coarse black hair grew, running up over their head and down to the small of their back.  Their name was derived from the dark grey color of their flesh.  They were soulless, savage and violent.

Toria immediately stepped back until she was standing slightly behind Taggart giving him room to swing the sword without fear of hitting her.  He waited for half of a heartbeat to let the attacking mob get close enough so that they would be too close to avoid his thrown spear.  It shot forward, powered by muscles that had been formed for thirty years in the denser gravity of Earth.  The deadly missile sank deeply into the chest of the closest beast.  He fell and was hopped over by his unconcerned companions. 

The remaining four all targeted Taggart since he was the most obvious danger, and the girl could always be taken after he was dealt with.  Fortunately, they were not armed with javelin or spear.  Two wielded the crude metal swords that they produced in their mountain strongholds, one bore a two-headed battle axe, and the fourth had only a wooden club.  Taggart thought these five, now four, were most likely one of the many groups that had fled the slaughter on the battlefield and were now attacking targets of opportunity for food.

They did not surround Taggart.  Such a tactic would have been more difficult for him to guard against.  Instead they ran straight at him which served to give only two of them the opportunity to strike first since the other two were unable to get close enough.  Taggart knew better than to stand still and let them time their attack.  When they were three steps away, he roared and dashed forward.  He caught the descending sword hand of one grey ogre at the wrist and held it while he hacked at the other.  The blade of his donated sword may have been heavy and oddly-shaped, but it parted bone and flesh adequately.  Taggart’s strike caught the second swordsman directly on the collarbone and cleaved him all the way down to the navel.  He hopped to the side, pivoting his body, and used his grip on the other’s wrist to throw him to the ground.

BOOK: The Coastal Kingdoms of Olvion: Book Two of The Chronicles of Olvion
7.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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