Gremlaw rocked from side to side as the covered wagon he rode on swayed along the rutted roads of the kingdom of Trathlain. He had forced Fitlock Haguana into allowing him access to one of the teams responsible for the distribution of Forever within the kingdom. Threatening the luckless man had been difficult for Gremlaw, especially after he had learned of his wife and daughters who were being held as an insurance against Haguana’s compliance. After all, this was the same treatment he had been subjected to by DeLarouge who, Gremlaw recalled with anger, held his own mother against his compliance.
Haguana had sobbed like a child as he told Gremlaw ships inbound from the Lavashian empire sometimes delivered letters from his family. Gremlaw recalled a small group he had been involved with who had paid him to steal certain documents from some high ranking military officers in the city. They were able to copy any style of handwriting and produce any type of paper or ink. Gremlaw wondered if Haguana’s ‘family’ were actually a group of near sighted men labouring in a sweaty room. He said nothing more to Haguana about his family.
“Look lively, boy!” The gruff yet kindly looking driver interrupted Gremlaw’s thoughts, “We’re almost there.” Gremlaw looked toward the depressed city, a pall of black smoke hung over it like a bad headache and he realized this was the reality of living in a border garrison town. The civilian populace here existed to provide for the soldiers who manned the fort. It was a dump.
No doubt the garrison was spotless, yet the level of decay, filth and general disrepair which marked the civilian portion was horrific to witness. Gremlaw looked at his companion with an expression of disgust. Jornsa pursed his lips and said,
“Used to be this were a nice little town. Then war come and people, they don’t get the point of looking after a place what might be run over by them Lavashians any day.” The driver had a way of speaking which reminded Gremlaw of his father and his chest tightened in grief.
The wagon trundled through the streets towards a large warehouse as far from the military outpost as was possible and only Gremlaw knew why. Jornsa, along with the other wagon drivers had not been told of their new cargo which had been discreetly hidden inside crates of wine from Lavash.
Jornsa halted the wagon inside the large warehouse which had a separate building inside it,
“Keep your eyes ‘n’ ears opened, boy,” the older man said, “But don’t be looking round too much, there’s things here you won’t want to see.” Gremlaw thought the exact opposite yet took the driver’s meaning. The man who had opened the doors to allow entry stomped towards them after closing them again and Gremlaw nearly recoiled as he saw half the man’s head had been horribly burned. One eye was missing and the waxy, yellowing scar tissue which covered the wound sported no hair,
“Jornsa,” he growled, “Got me bottles?” The driver nodded curtly so the disfigured man ordered, “Just drop ’em over by yonder door.” He pointed to the smaller construction inside this building.
Halfway through the unloading process, Gremlaw smelled the pungent odour of what seemed to be burning fruit coming from within the smaller building and wondered what it was.
“Sir,” he addressed the burned man, “I be thinking you’s got a fire inside, sir.” His natural mimicry of a peasant boy was flawless.
“Don’t be worryin’ yer pretty little head about that, me boy, ’tis nothing.’ As soon as the scarred man said this, the door in the smaller building was wrenched open.
Two odd looking men were revealed by the dim light inside the wooden room. Gremlaw had no idea where they were from, yet he knew it was not from the kingdom. Beyond them in the room was an array of copper piping and tubes which Gremlaw could only associate with apothecary use. This was the source of the smell, they were boiling the wine for some unknown reason. Gremlaw’s puzzled mind tried to sort through the information when Jornsa screamed,
“Lavashians!” Before staring dumbly down at the foot of bloodied steel which had punched through his chest. The old man looked pleadingly at Gremlaw before coughing up a fountain of blood and collapsing to his knees.
Gremlaw felt panic rise in his chest as the scarred man turned towards him. The two Lavashians were systematically smashing their equipment to pieces and one took a hammer to the newly delivered bottles too, sending a nasty look in Gremlaw’s direction as he let the wine flow into the packed dirt of the floor.
Gremlaw felt his consciousness shift, allowing him to see negative space but he could see no viable means of escape, even half blind the scarred man was viper fast. Gremlaw’s consciousness altered again and time seemed to slow as it had done with Dron in training. He could see his opponent tensing his muscles to stab Gremlaw and saw his eye fixing just below his ribcage. Gremlaw dropped to one knee, leaning over into the other man’s blind spot while he withdrew his own dagger, more of a short sword. As the sword thrust narrowly missed Gremlaw’s shoulder, burying the tip into the wall, the young man drove his dagger up into the scarred man’s belly and into his chest. It sliced into his intestines before sliding into his right lung and skimming his heart just deep enough to cut into one of his ventricles.
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