Just a quickie before you go onto the story. This chapter is a little different from the previous ones, as you’ll find out if you decide to read on. I’ve had a lot of feedback, which I really appreciate by the way, and a lot of people have said the chapters are too short. What I’ve tried to do with this entry, and all of my other current stories, is lengthen them a little. Because I don’t want the story quality to suffer they’re taking a lot longer to write than they normally would.
Plus I recently moved to a new country with a new man and I’m struggling to find the time to write as much as I used to ;o)
Can I ask that you stay as patient with me as possible? A few of you seemed worried that I might not finish a story but I assure you they all have a conclusion, it just might take me a while to figure out what it is and then find away to write it down ;o)
So Cheers guys and I hope you enjoy.
Tate hurt, from his throbbing calf to his broken wrist all the way up to his pounding head. He closed his eyes and lent his head against the wall of the old inn as the tracker ordered a room for them both. He could feel the fat old innkeeper’s eyes on him. No doubt the old man wanted to know what a tracker was doing dragging an injured tinker into his establishment. It couldn’t have been a common sight. Since he had first worn the gypsy’s garb he had been banned from most taverns and inns. Not now though. No one would dare bar him now.
He felt a firm hand on his upper arm and started violently. “Asleep on your feet lad?” The tracker asked, pulling him towards the stairs and all but lifting him up each step. “I’d think the son of a barren would be made of sterner stuff. Your mother’s blood must have tainted your fathers something fierce.”
Tate didn’t bother to answer. The insults meant little to him now. All he really cared about was getting some sleep before he fell facedown from exhaustion.
He limped after the tracker, trying not to flinch from burning pain in his leg. The tracker pushed him onto the bed furthest from the door. Tate was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.
“He’s taken him hasn’t he?” Tanis said quietly, trying to keep his anger in check as he walked alongside his old teacher. “That traitorous vagabond found him and then instead of bringing him back here he’s taking him back to the palace himself. The son of a dog! If I ever get my hands on him I’ll rip him in half.”
“He might not have found him yet.” Kenner said mildly, idly checking the locks on the wooden cages as they walked towards the front of the precession. “He might be on his way back here as we speak.”
Tanis snorted loudly, causing some of the tinkers to raise their heads in alarm. He glared at them and immediately regretted it when a little girl began bawling her eyes out. Is this what I’ve become? He wondered in self disgust, a monster only fit to frighten tinker children?
“He could be dead.” Kener suggested, as if such a thing could comfort him. “The bastard has proved remarkably resourceful. Perhaps he and the other two tinkers killed him.”
“A number of people have seen two men of their description riding towards the palace. Of course he isn’t dead! Damn it, Christian will crucify me unless I come back with him.”
“Then what do you suggest we do?”
A very good question and he supposed there could only be one answer. “We go after them.”
They couldn’t take a large number of men. Despite the tinkers passiveness they still outnumbered the soldier’s considerably. So then it would just be the two of them. They were ready to leave in the hour.
Tate woke sometime later. It was still dark outside but he guessed it was getting close to morning. The tracker lay across from him, his bed positioned so that it blocked the door. Tate shifted slightly and realised that his feet were tied together. His leg cramped as he sat up and he had to stifle a moan. He looked up sharply to see if the tracker had noticed but the other man’s breathing remained slow and constant. He squinted at the intricate knot binding his legs and repressed a curse. He wished he had enough light to see by, but he supposed wishing did him little good. He tried to untie the god forsaken thing but with only one hand it was near impossible. Maybe if he had more time but the sun was starting to rise and he knew the tracker would wake soon.
He needed a knife, any sort of weapon. Surely the other man’s pack was filled with them. He eased himself down off the bed and pulled himself belly first slowly across the floor. Without the use of his legs and with only one arm it took him a distressingly long time but he finally managed to catch one of the packs. He sat up and started opening it.
“Come on lad, did you really think than was going to work?”
Tate let it drop and ran his hand through his hair. He hadn’t expected it to work but he had hoped it might. He looked up as the tracker rolled out of bed and stepped over him. The other man grabbed the top of Tate’s injured arm and hauled him back to his bed. “You bursa escort don’t give up do you?” He asked as Tate desperately tried to gain some purchase with his feet and take some of the weight off his arm. “I have to admire your courage, if not your intelligence.”
Tate buried his face into his pillow and let out a muffled curse. By the gods, how much more could he take? He turned on his back and tried to sit up but the tracker knocked his roughly back down. He pulled out a knife from his belt and sliced Tate’s bindings. “Put your boots on.” He said, flashing his fierce wolf grin. “It’s time to go.”
Millianous stood up and stretched his aching back. The chains rattled loudly as he slowly flexed his thin arms and legs. By the gods how he wished to be free of the flimsy chains, but then that was impossible as long he remained trapped in the even flimsier prison of his own flesh. He released a tired sigh and tried not to dwell on the almost tangible sky that lay just beyond the crumbling stones. What would he give to step beyond the tiny window and feel the rush of the wind and sky on his face once again? If only the others would come for him.
He stepped to the limits of his chains and reached out towards the window. It was open again now, opened because he had submitted and behaved. Wind and water caressed his outstretched fingers, bathing him in their purity and light.
He heard laughter then, cruel and malicious. He stumbled back and nearly fell over the cumbersome chains. How long had he been watched? He shuffled back to his chair, desperate for some sort of anchor. Rough hands caught his arm, halting him mid-step and pulling him back. He was pulled close to the princeling, so close that he could feel the heat radiating from the young mortals fevered body. The chains attached to his wrists were pulled together behind his back. He could feel Christians other hand on his hip. “So beautiful,” Christian mumbled into his ear, his voice mocking and dark. “So pitifully vulnerable.”
“What do you want Christian?” Millianous demanded, refusing to be cowed by a half insane pup. His hackled rose when he felt Christian’s fingers trace over his spine. “Do not!” He thundered, throwing power and fury into the two small words. Christian tensed but he didn’t release him immediately. His own pride would not allow it. Instead he leaned forward and pressed a quick and chaste kiss against Milianous’s hard mouth. There was no lust, no passion. Christian feared Millianous too much for that, even if he wasn’t able to fully admit it to himself.
“Where is he?” He asked, Pulling Millianous to his chair and throwing him down into it.
“Your half-blood you mean?” The prophet asked mockingly. “One of your wolves has him I believe.”
He could feel Christian’s excitement and pleasure. It sickened Millianous that he had contributed to it.
“And they’re on their way?” he demanded.
Millianous closed his eyes briefly and concentrated on the half-blood. It was becoming easier and easier to locate him. It was odd but there was something about the runaway that Millianous felt drawn to. He saw a brief image. The boy was sitting on a log within a forest. Just in front of him another man was cursing a fallen horse. In his temper he lashed out at his captive, kicking him a solid blow to the leg. The half-blood’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head. He fell down onto his back and stopped moving. “They’re on their way.” He answered thoughtfully, his voice tepid with sorrow. It was odd that he should care about the wellbeing of a mortal but some small part of him felt for the young one. What would happen to him when Christian finally caught him?
Come here.” The tracker snarled as Tate began to fall behind. His leg was throbbing and he was exhausted but the other man could have cared less. All that mattered to him was that they maintain their speed. The tracker wrapped his hand around Tate’s uninjured wrist and pulled him close, forcing the smaller man to keep pace with him. Eventually though Tate’s leg crumpled beneath him and he fell. “Damnable weakling!” the tracker yelled. “In the name of the gods, how did your father never drown you at birth?”
The half-blood was too tired to mind the insult. It felt like someone was forcing rusted nails into his flesh. He lay back and tried to block out the other mans acid tongue but it was difficult to ignore the sharp slap across his face. “Answer me when I talk to you!” he snapped, twisting his hand through Tate’s shirt and forcing him up into a sitting position. “By her lady’s grace I swear I’ll permanently cripple you if you don’t get up.”
Tate had to bite down on his tongue to kill his first response. He took a deep breath and gestured at his calf. “I can’t. Call me weak or womanly but the damned thing won’t take my weight. You’re the one that decided to put a knife in me and it’s hardly my fault that your horse was lame! What would you have me do, fly?”
The tracker snarled in disgust and pushed Tate away with more force than was necessary. Tate banged his head on the rocky ground and let görükle escort out a quiet moan of pain. The constant pounding that had accompanied him since morning was but a pleasant memory compared to the fierce stabs of pain attacking his eyes and skull. He rolled over and wished quite uselessly that he was back in the wagon he had shared with Lukas.
He must have fallen asleep because when he next opened his eyes the sky had turned black and there was a fire burning happily beside him. The tracker was staring intently down at him, his wolf like expression made more severe by the light of the fire and the encompassing darkness. His smile was ghastly. “There’s someone out there half-blood.” He said softly, his voice barely loud enough to travel over the crackling flames. “There might be two of them. They move so well though that it’s hard to tell.” His smile widened. “They will have horses. They may have brought us exactly what we need.”
For one heart halting moment Tate thought it was Lukas come to help him. Then a woman burst from the darkness and threw herself at the tracker. They went down in a tangle of limbs and blades. A hand caught Tate’s shoulder and twisted him around. A smiling young lad of some twenty summers raised his blade and placed it gently against Tate’s lips, clearly intending for him to stay quiet. He looked over Tate’s shoulder and his grin widened, almost splitting his face with its intensity. Tate didn’t dare move but he heard the trackers muffled scream. One more muffled groan and then silence.
“Well done sister.” The boy said brightly. He looked back at Tate and gently rolled the blade across the half-bloods lips. “Hello little tinker.” He said, still smiling as Tate stared stiffly back at him. “Tell me my friend, do you have any blades, any weapons at all?” he moved the blade away slowly. “Do not lie to me. Have you or not?” Tate shook his head once and the other man laughed. “You’ll forgive me if check for myself.” So saying he ran his hands over Tate’s body, patting him down to ensure he was unarmed. When he was seemingly satisfied he fastened onto Tate’s broken arm and drew it out between them. “My my little tinker, you have been through the wars lately haven’t you? Did your friend do this or are you just clumsy?”
With the blade gone Tate risked a glance over his shoulder. The tracker lay flat on the ground, his body bent at an odd angle. Was he dead?
“Can’t you talk little friend?” he looked over Tate’s head. “I think we’ve frightened him Silvia.”
“Stop being cruel.” The woman laughed. She bent down beside Tate and rested her hand on his knee. “You’re unconscious friend seems to have hurt you quite thoroughly hasn’t he? Misbehaving were you?” She tapped her long fingers over his leg and up his thigh. “My but you are a pretty one, isn’t he pretty brother?”
“Beaten up but decidedly pretty, what a marvellous find you are. What do you think the traders would give us for him Silvia?”
“Well he’s a half-breed. Take him out of these clothes and he’ll be worth considerably more. Your people are not particularly popular at the moment.” She said, looking back at Tate. Her hand wrapped around his wrist and she pulled him to his feet. She was only a little taller than him but she was very strong. “I’ve a notion to keep him for myself.” She said laughingly.
“Too bad we need the money.” The lad said with an exaggerated sigh. He reached out and grabbed Tate’s other arm, pulling him away from the woman and into his own embrace. “Though I’ve a mind to enjoy him before we sell him on.”
“No!” Tate said, twisting in the other mans arm. He managed to free himself but then his own leg betrayed him and buckled. He fell to his knees, panting in agony as his injured leg pulsed angrily beneath him. The woman laughed and the boy smirked as he tried to crawl away from them. Why, he thought desperately, is this how it’s always going to be? Is there nothing else?
The boy dropped on top of him, his weight forcing the air out of Tate’s lungs. He screamed out his fury and denial but the other man just laughed at him. Tate’s feet scrambled for purchase, the pain in his battered body momentarily forgotten as he tried to break free. Hands ripped his brightly coloured trousers and forced them down Tate’s thighs. Tate saw iron gleaming at the boys side and he reached for it. His attacker realised what he was doing a moment too late. Tate had the dagger in his uninjured hand. He held it up, preparing to thrust it in the bastard’s neck. He never got the chance. He heard a pained grunt. The boys eyes widened in surprise as he looked questioningly down at Tate. “Silvia?” He said faintly before collapsing on top Tate. The half-blood tried to push him off but another force dragged the dead man off him. He looked up, expecting the girl. Instead the tracker flashed Tate his wolf smile and showed the younger man his bloody dagger. “You alright?” He asked, his eyes wide and almost crazed looking.
Tate’s instincts took control. He surged up, trying to bury the knife in the trackers gut. The other man jumped away at the last possible moment. His smile bursa escort bayan sharpened as he looked down at the half-blood. “Is this how you thank me Tate? I just saved you from the southern slave galleys.”
“Fuck you!” Tate hissed furiously, limping back from him. He could feel hot tears streaming down his cheeks but for the life of him he couldn’t seem to stop it.
“Drop the knife you little fool, or are you really going to make me take it from you, again?”
They stared at one another for a long time. Tate didn’t try to attack him but he couldn’t just give the blade up either. The tracker let out an exasperated sigh and stepped towards him. In one swift move he simply plucked the blade from Tate’s numb fingers and placed it in his own belt. He shook his head wordlessly and gestured to the ground. Tate continued to stare at him until his legs were kicked out beneath him.
“Do not move half-blood. I’m going to get our new horses.”
And Tate didn’t move, because he was finally starting to realised that he wouldn’t get anywhere until he was whole and healthy and that wasn’t going to happen if he kept giving the tracker excuses to hurt him. It had been a slow and painful lesson to learn but he understood now. He just hoped it wasn’t too late.
We’ve got no food left, no money and we can’t go into the towns or cities because the moment we do we’re solider fodder. So tell me Lukas, truly and plainly, what is it you expect us to do?”
Lukas tried to school his expression as he pulled out the last loath of hard bread they had left between them. Robert had been keeping up a constant flow of insults and misgivings since the following morning and Lukas had finally had enough. He threw the loaf at Robert and stood up. “Damn it Robert, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do now, I don’t know how to save the others, I don’t know how we’re going to avoid the soldiers forever! Why do you keep asking me, why don’t you know these things?”
“Me?” Roberts smile was cruel and bitter and entirely unlike him. “I would never suppose myself your equal in anything Lukas. How could I ever hope to succeed where you’ve failed?”
Lukas opened and closed his mouth a few times but he couldn’t find the words. The gulf that had opened up between them seemed wider than ever and he didn’t have the slightest idea how they would ever cross it. He wished their father was with them. He’d make Robert see the way, he’d make him understand that the anger he was harbouring wasn’t going to help anyone. But he’s not here, Lukas thought as a fresh stab of guilt struck his chest, growing more profound as his mind wondered to thoughts of Tate.
They heard screaming then, loud and high. It had steadily grown worse as the days progressed and both brothers were at breaking point. Lukas supposed Tanis had been controlling his soldiers somewhat but since he had ridden off two mornings ago it had become an almost constant noise.
“That could be any of our sisters.” Robert hissed, his hands clenched tightly at his sides. “For mercies sake Lukas, what if that’s Rose or Lillian?”
Lukas looked wordlessly back at him. He felt sick as dreadful images streaked through his mind. He dropped his head in his hands and tried to block out their screams.
“We have to do something Lukas!” Robert snapped. “Damn it man, listen to them!”
“I can hear them brother.” He answered softly.
“Then in the name of the gods do something!”
“Don’t you think I would if I could?” Lukas said into his hands.
He only barely heard Roberts’s mumbled reply. “This is your fault.”
And the gods help him, it really was.
“Can you read this?” The tracker demanded as he thrust a dirty piece of paper in Tate’s face. “They did teach you to read didn’t they?”
Tate took the parchment from him and scanned the contents. “It’s confirming the outlawing of tinkers.” He said faintly as his heart started hammering in his chest. “What are they doing with them after they’ve been rounded up?”
The tracker gave him a sly look as he plucked the paper from Tate’s grasp. “I’m not sure; some will become southern slaves I suppose and the rest.” His grin grew wide and wolfish. “I’m betting they’ll be slaughtered. All the worse for them that you decided to seek their help, eh half-blood?”
How could he defend himself when the other man was speaking the truth? It is all my fault; he thought guiltily, all of those people are going to die because of me. It was almost too much to bare thinking about. Instead he turned his head and scanned the town courtyard. He realised that he’d passed through the town before, a short time before he met Lukas and his family. It struck him suddenly just how close he was to his home, which meant he was just that much closer to Christian. For a moment white hot fear flared through him but it was quickly smothered with guilt. All those good, innocent people were going to die because of him, because he refused to give into a spoiled, stupid boy. Perhaps it was only fitting that he be given over to Christian. The gods only knew what the other man would do to him when they met. Tate very much doubted that the councillors promise to take him into his household would hold still hold sway. From what the tracker had said Tate had suddenly become common knowledge and clearly no one objected to his treatment.