Inside the little cottage Ayla and Atrocious shared, three cups of tea were being consumed. “The summoner is an addict and a criminal,” Ariadne explained, regarding her brew with suspicion. “There is a reason why we must always find the summoner before she has her twenty first birthday. Do you know how old this one is?”
“I do not.”
“Thirty one.” Ariadne said. “Practically ancient for a human.”
Reed sat cross-legged on the thick wall overlooking Clitera City and rolled herself a lief. It was a process. One that took a little time, and involved a little ritual. First she set her little smoking pouch in front of her and drew out the rolling paper. It was three inches long and two inches wide, big enough to get a decent amount of plant matter into it. Reed’s choice of plant was referred to on the street as ‘Blue Lady’. She’d known the proper name for it once, but it didn’t come to mind as she picked purple tinged leaves out of the pouch and put them into her little hand grinder. For long minutes she turned the handle, round and round, round and round. When there was no more resistance against the sharp spinning blades, she tipped the resulting powder into the paper.
The sun was beginning to set behind Reed as she carefully rolled the paper up, put the cylinder to her lips, struck a match and inhaled. Thick blue smoke curled out her nostrils in slow coils as she held the load inside her lungs, letting it saturate her being.
Far from Clitera City, a pleasant and rather spacious white cottage sat in the middle of a green field. A few brown cows grazed here and there, chewing their cuds with a peaceable demeanor. In the distance, snow capped mountains rose into purple pale heavens. The bucolic scene was as beautiful as it was idyllic.
The disruption began subtly. First, a cloud passed over the sun, casting a shadow. Then, over the course of a few minutes, clouds began to gather, dark clouds crackling with lightening. A wicked wind began to blow.
“Jailer Hide!” Reed beamed as she was dragged through the maw of the portcullis of Deep Tower prison. It was a curved protuberance at the very head of Lake Lac, a building that went much further down than it went up.
Jailer Hide was waiting at the top of the ascending stairs. There were a lot of descending stairs in the prison. Most of the stairs went down, down, down into the depths. Hardly anybody went up the down stairs. Once you were down, you stayed down.
“Beautiful as ever,” Reed said, dipping into a bow between her captors. “A vision of loveliness to be sure. It’s a crying shame they keep you here with the dregs of society, Jailer Hide. A crying, crying shame.”
Reed was stuck.
She seesawed halfway through a window, her feet and legs stuck out into the street, her head and arms caught in the relatively palatial interior of a merchant’s store house. There was a jar of Iskendari incense worth hundreds mere inches from her hand, but she could not reach it for she was pinned by a heavy window sash which had come down with all the force of a guillotine when she crept through it. That had been unfortunate. More fortunate was the fact that the small hand mace tied at her waist had taken the brunt of the blow and spared her being chopped in half.
Here’s the final post in the first volume of the series.
There had been a few instances in the past where they had butted heads, but none of them had the quiet intensity of that moment. Ayla sat crosslegged and perfectly still whilst Kira shuffled uncomfortably. Atrocious could sense that Kira had already lost before they’d even begun, but why? She was strong, incredibly powerful in her own right. Now that Atrocious’ temper had settled she was amazed she’d had the nerve to go after the warrior at all. Overnight Kira had shed some of the weight of her armor and was wearing a simple leather tunic and pants. Her arms were free and bare and covered from shoulder to elbow in curling tattoos that Atrocious knew must have hurt like hell to get. Underneath the tattoos, toned muscles rippled with even the slightest movement of her arms.
In comparison, Ayla seemed weak. She was not quite delicate in appearance, but the naturally refined set of her features did not lend themselves to violence. By all rights, Kira should have been able to dominate Ayla easily, and yet she did not. For all her bluster and insistence on order, Kira came second to Ayla.
Nibbling at her chocolate, Atrocious noted that Kira wasn’t pleased by the fact. Her handsome features were slipping ever closer to a full blown pout, making her look incongruously childish.
“Are we going to need a demonstration?” Ayla pressed the question softly.
Atrocious and Kira stared each other down whilst Atrocious dangled from the warrior’s grasp. It was all dreadfully impressive, but Atrocious just couldn’t get into the spirit of the thing. “I’m hungry,” she said. She was more than hungry, her stomach was growling and also somewhat unpleasantly sore in a familiar, unwanted way.
Taking Atrocious’ words as some kind of acknowledgement of her authority, Kira lowered her down to the floor. “Then eat something and stay out of my way whilst I deal with this robber.”
“Just leave her alone,” Atrocious snapped testily. “Can’t you go five blasted minutes without starting a fight with someone?” She turned away from Kira and started going through Ayla’s bag. She was pretty sure the witch had packed some food in there. She was craving sweet satisfying goodness, something derived from the cocoa bean if at all possible. She went through the bag tossing out dried meats, dried fruits, cheeses, even the fine bread she usually enjoyed greatly. “Why isn’t there any proper bloody food in here?”
“What are you looking for?” Ayla made the inquiry patiently even as Atrocious made an unholy mess out of their provisions.
“Something worth bloody eating,” Atrocious growled.