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In the Markets of Marripesh

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In the Markets of Marripesh By Joshua Sherrer

Out of nowhere he came to the city, wandering in a little used side gate and down the dusty streets. He was looking for a place to rest. The streets were crowded with a myriad of traders, fortune seeker, and beggars. Even so he still stood out among them. He was more than six feet in height, a sleeveless black leather tunic showed bulging, scarred arms. His hair was closely cropped so that more scars were evident. The face was another mass of scars that radiated from the eye patch on his right eye. Strapped to his back was a large sword.

He walked the streets with an uncommon grace for one so large, his black boots barely leaving prints in the dust and sand. He stopped before a tavern door and opened it. Stepping in he let his eye adjust to the darkness. He did not even look at the crowd as he walked to the bar. A few took time to look at the massive stranger. He placed a coin on the counter and waited as the bartender routinely handed him a drink. Taking the drink, he went to a quiet table to watch the crowd.

The place was rather lively. Various people were gathered at tables telling stories, dancing or gambling. Some had gathered around a small stage and were watching a minstrel band play. The people seemed to be fortune seekers, treasure hunters, or of the mercenary persuasion. All of these people having a good time made him feel good. For a moment he could forget the past.

He leaned back against the wall and closed his eye. The sounds and smells flowed through him, soothing him. Taking the horrors he had seen away from him. The band played on and his mind went back to Casacus. The sounds and smells of his old home returned to him. The cheers of the crowds at the arenas played through his mind, as did the screams of those dying at the fall of the city.

Casacus was a city-state several days west of his location. At the peak of its life it was the jewel of the area, but was consumed by its own greed and lusts. A series of tyrants, each crueler than the last, had brought its days to an end. In one day the plots of covetous nobles, guilds, and crime syndicates had utterly destroyed the city. Now all that remained of Casacus was ruin and dust.

Thankfully his thoughts were interrupted when the door opened, flooding light into the barroom. A man stepped in followed by a child. They quickly scanned the room and chose a table by the bar where they sat down. He was wearing white pants, black boots and a blood red shirt. His long white hair was tied back with a ribbon of unknown color. He had no visible weapons.

The child sat next to him, she was wearing a simple white robe that ran to her feet. Her blonde hair was left loose and came to her shoulders. She sat in her chair and watched the crowd with disinterest. The patrons of the bar tried to pay no attention to them, but it was obvious that they were being watched just as close as the pair watched them.

The scarred man recognized the older gentleman. He called himself Lord Silver. He had a long list of rumors attached to him. The tales of him were always told in private and were chilling. Lord Silver was called many things and at the top of the list was the word assassin. He was common to Casacus before its fall. He was known to be a patron in the arenas after he had taken care of whatever business he was in the city for. The child was a mystery. Few had ever come to know her name, less how she came to be with him.

Silver noticed the stranger studying him. The scars and the eye patch stirred his memory,

he knew him from somewhere but could not place him. He prided himself in his ability to recall anyone he had met. He searched his memory and recalled the man.

He had seen him in Casacus, a gladiator possibly, but few had survived the fall of the city. His thoughts were interrupted when a voice came from behind, "Nice to see you still alive." Silver turned to see the speaker. It was a man of a stocky build with wild black hair and a scraggly beard. His deep-set brown eyes darted around the room. He wore old leather armor and carried a battered long sword.

"Kelvin," He began dryly, "What brings you here?"

It irked Kelvin that Silver spoke to him this way. The b****** never even offered him a seat, let alone a drink. It was also the demand of his presence that made him decide to sit and not let himself play the "Lords" game. "Order me a drink and I'll tell you," He said flatly.

The girl stared at him, wondering what type of person would act this way toward her father.

Kelvin was beginning to feel uncomfortable from the child’s gaze . Silver was at the bar getting drinks and Kelvin was wishing He'd return. "So you are the Kelvin my father talks of," She said.

The girl bothered him to no end. One day Silver had shown up with her calling her his daughter. He had said her name was Sopheles. That was as much as people cared to ask him about her.

To Kelvin’s relief silver returned with the drinks. Kelvin took a long drink to steady his nerves. Silver leaned back in his chair, folding his fingers in front of him. “ So, what is it you wish to tell me Kelvin?”

Kelvin made a sidelong glance at Sopheles, hoping that Silver would send her away.

After a moment Silver said to her,"Go on and watch the band honey. Daddy has business."

When she left Kelvin leaned to Silver, "I've got a lead on someone here, someone you will be most interested in."

Silver looked him in the eyes “Do go on," he said.

"Lorin Del Shay came into the city two days ago," Silver barely hid his surprise at Kelvins statement. Seeing that he had Silvers attention, Kelvin continued, “he is traveling with a group of Jhadir merchants. This is our chance to finally get him."

Lorin Del Shay was a notorious slave trader, mercenary, and bandit. He and Silver had crossed paths once and it had nearly cost Silver his life. To say that Silver owed him was an understatement. He had been hunting the man for years always staying a step behind him. Now it seemed he could finally repay the debt, provided that Kelvin could be trusted.

A large man walking to the bar distracted Kelvin. It was the same man that Silver had been watching. The man placed his mug on the bar and walked out. "I'm surprised to see him," Kelvin said.

"What do you mean," asked Silver.

" I'm surprised that you don't know. He was a gladiator in Casacus. He fought under the name


" So he's one of the survivors? I wonder why I don't remember him."

Outside the bar the "Cat-man" was walking nervously. Too many people from the last days of the city were around. First Lord Silver then Kelvin the bounty hunter, and he also had heard the name of Lorin Del Shay. It seemed his whole life was coming back to haunt him. He spied a group of buildings that looked to be an inn. There, he thought he could rest and come out at night when the lack of heat would make it easier to think.

He paid for a week's stay, and went to his room. It was small but clean and well maintained. There was a bed on one side of the room and a small washstand on the other. The Cat- man sat on the bed and placed his sword next to him leaned against the wall and his bag next to it.

He washed himself with the water from the small basin on the stand. His hot skin cooled by the water, he opened the window. It was small, there was no glass and a board shuttered it.

He looked out over the busy marketplace. People were moving around from stall to stall talking, buying and selling goods. They all seemed so happy to him, he found himself longing for the day he could walk among them. He ran his fingers across the scars on his face. Soon, he thought to himself, soon. He could leave his past and start life anew. Just like . . . The thought was interrupted when a sharp pain came from his cheek.

Pulling his hand back he inspected the nails. They had grown long and sharp, slightly curving at the tips. He sighed. The curse had not shown itself for weeks. And it had been months since it manifested majorly. He hoped that it was just one of the few minor fluctuations in the curse instead of his fear that seeing Silver and Kelvin was setting it off. He watched the street looking for signs that they were watching him. Satisfied that they were not there, He lay on the bed. He would see the city tonight but now he needed rest. As he lie on the bed, his mind wandered to Casacus. He thought of his few friends, the many people he knew, and the crowds cheering him on. One face formed in his mind it was that of the closest one to him. He saw her dark hair and teasingly playful eyes. He tried not to think of her. His mind though had other ideas. Rolling onto his side he wiped away many tears as he slept.

At the time the Cat-man was looking out the window over Marripesh, Two figures could be seen darting through the dusty alleys. They were following a man, he was nervous as he walked between the buildings. He turned his head to look behind him for what Kelvin thought was the hundredth time. " Why are we doing it this way?" whispered Kelvin as they ducked behind a handy group of boxes.

Silver just smiled slightly as he watched the next way their quarry chose. They snuck on through the seemingly endless backsides of buildings. They waited again as the man looked around another building and scratched his head. Silver was watching him from around a corner "I do believe he is lost." Silver said.

" Great," Kelvin shook his head "Del Shay will be gone before we ever leave the alleys."

Silver shushed him as the man walked again this time to a small wooden door in the side of one of the buildings. The two waited for a few moments and watched him enter. When they felt it was safe they proceeded to either side of the door.

Silver drew two small crossbows from his side-pack. When he readied the bolts, he nodded to Kelvin who was waiting with his sword drawn. Taking a few breaths to calm him Silver nodded to his companion and kicked the door in. He loosed the two bolts and heard answering screams, moving out of the way just in time to dodge two returning shots. Silver was reloading when two men came running from the opening Kelvin cut them down without mercy. They waited to see if any more were coming. When none came, they entered the door. Silver replaced his crossbows with a pair of short swords. They entered into a dusty room. There was very little light and two doors on either side of them. In front of them they saw the bodies of the two men Silver had dropped with his crossbows. Each was laying on a small set of stairs leading up to an unknown room.

Silver and Kelvin check the rooms to their sides. They were empty so they slowly ascended the stairs. Each made their steps as light as possibly, hoping not to alert any who would be up there. The near darkness caused their other senses to go into full alert. Listening as well as smelling they knew others were at the top waiting for them. They pressed themselves on either side of the wall and lowered to a near crawl. Kelvin peeked over the top of the stairs into a large room. Five people stood in there. One was the man they followed. All had swords readied and were watching the stairs. He recognized the men’s race as Jhadir, the former holders of a large empire from over one thousand years ago. After the loss of their empire they had fled to another land but returned to the region fifty or so years ago. Kelvin showed five fingers to Silver, both waited for a few heartbeats and then jumped into the room.

Wasting no time Silver cut the sword from one of the Jhadirs hands and spun to attack a second.

Kelvin followed suit with an attack that cleaved one cleanly down the middle. Silver dodged a sword blow with the skill of a dancer. He sliced through the man’s neck with precision. Kelvin was backing the man they chased into a corner the Jhadir tripped over a small bench and knocked himself cold. Silver finished the last one off with a stab and the two looked for more attackers.

Not seeing any more they searched the room after tying the man they followed with a rope. After a thorough search that turned up nothing Kelvin looked to the unconscious one. "What about him" he asked Silver.

"We take him. And question him," he knelt by him as he said this. Out of the corner walked a small child dressed in white.

Kelvin nearly jumped when he saw her and his blood ran cold when he heard " The usual place father?"

Silver gave a cold, approving smile "Yes my girl, that will do"

Night had fallen in Marripesh. The streets were still alive with the buzz of the market. To the Cat-man it seemed the city never slept. He walked through the crowds listening to the chatter of trader and customer alike. He found the darkness comforting, he always felt he could move more freely at this time. He was amazed at how different this city was from his home. Casacus was always quiet at night. The city guard did not allow any movement by commoners after sunset and killed all who broke that law. The people there lived in fear and suspicion of everyone.

Here people were actually talking and joking with the guards. He liked it here and hoped he could make Marripesh his home. His thoughts were interrupted by the smells from a food vendor's stall. His stomach growled as if commanding him to eat. He walked up to it and ordered a sizeable meal. While he was waiting, he noticed he was being watched from an alley.

His watcher was a female of about sixteen or seventeen years of age. She wore a cloak with the hood up so that just the bottom of her face showed. Her gaze was fixed on him. He worried some about this but knew if she were planning anything harmful she would not succeed. He took his food and sat on a small rock wall by some trees to eat. The meal was excellent. It was a mixture of rice, meat and spices. As he ate the Cat-man decided to put the watcher out of his mind.

A shadow covered his plate and he looked up to see what had caused it. The girl was standing before him. "May I sit with you?” she asked.

He looked at her for a moment and replied, "Yes, feel free to." He could sense a fear of some sort coming off of her. It troubled him to see this. She pulled the hood of her cloak back and he saw her face. Her hair was brown and came to the bottom of her ears. The eyes were a light brown. The face was angular coming to a definite point at the chin. He found her features attractive and hauntingly familiar. She looked like . . . no, he would not think of her.

She spoke "I am in need of a bodyguard. I've followed you for some time now and feel you can do the job."

The Cat-man was astonished. How she had followed him and never betraying herself to him was a mystery. He looked at her and could tell she'd not eaten in days. Looking to his food he handed her the plate. " I can't" she said.

"You need it, besides, it is better than scrounging in the waste bins, isn't it?"

Her face could not hide the surprise. How could he have known? He had only entered the city a few hours ago and she knew he had not seen her. Regardless, she ate thinking to ask him later.

After she finished she said ," I can pay you well for your service and only need you for a few days. I will bother you no more after that."

He sat thinking it over for a few moments. Thinking he was going to say no she rose to leave.

"I will help you but you will not pay me." He said

She had heard this before and knew for sure what he was asking. One did not live on these streets as long as she had not to. "I know what you ask. I...will do as you want. I've had to before."

The Cat-man looked almost hurt "You misunderstood me I will help you. Accepting payment makes me a mercenary and that I am not."

Somehow she knew his words to be true. Standing she looked at him the scars and eye patch told a different story. She knew she would have to question him further on this but now was not the time. "Do you want my help or not?" he asked the question held no rudeness.

"I accept, follow me and I will tell you the story" she answered.

The girl took him to another inn in a seemingly shadowed part of the city. The building was small and rundown. As they walked in a few eyed them but none spoke. The room they entered was small and unkempt, with barely enough room for the two of them. She removed her cloak; under it she wore white pants, tan boots and a loose white shirt. The clothes were stained with the dust and dirt of Marripesh. On her left hip hung a small scabbard with a thin sword in it.

Sitting on a small cot, she motioned her new bodyguard to sit on a stool across from her. After he had sat, she began to tell the story, "I am a thief. I was born here and have lived on the streets all of my life. I was working in the market when I saw a large cart being driven by a Jhadir trader.

I waited until he had left it and peered inside. I saw enough goods to keep me in money for years.

" I stole the cart and took it to some people I knew that could sell the goods. I did not know that someone had followed me and I was ambushed in an alley. I escaped but have been followed ever since. Like most merchants they will leave soon but I need protection until then," her face showed her worry and she had been fighting back tears. She moved her arm to wipe them away and he saw a bandage stained with blood on her arm.

He took her arm gently and began to unwrap the bandage to see the wound. She tried to protest but he stopped her saying, "If you are to make it through this I need you as well as you can be."

She said no more as he investigated the wound. The cut was deep and ran the length of her right forearm. It had begun to fester and was in desperate need of attention. Taking some water from a pitcher he washed the wound out. Her arm jerked back in obvious pain.

"Hold still I know it hurts but you must trust me," he took some herbs from his bag along with a needle and some thread. Wetting the herbs he placed them on the wound. They soothed her some, and she watched him closely as he worked.

He held the herbs in place to draw out the infection. He waited for a while and then removed them threading the needle he began to hum. She felt her eyes getting heavy and wanted to sleep.

She noticed that the humming almost sounded like a purr. The sound became more and more distant as she drifted off then, a final thought took her, she had not told him her name. It was too late. To the Cat-mans satisfaction the girl was asleep.

The countryside of Marripesh was as quiet as the city was busy. The only sounds out here were of the night bugs chirping. There was a half moon that cast alien shadows along the ground. The shadows and sounds were also present in the small group of hills and rocks a few miles outside the city. As with most of the land here it was barren. Only a few small trees and shrubs broke up the sterile landscape.

Kelvin was freezing. He did not know how Silver could stand it here, blazing hot days with freezing nights, the lack of scenery and the emptiness of the land made Kelvin homesick for his old home. He sighed; Hidleguard was just a memory now. His chosen career dragged him here and left him no way back. He had been here for ten years and found more to hate than love about this continent. Lighting a small cigarette he looked at the moon, breathed out the smoke, and thanked The One that the screams had finally stopped.

Silver had been torturing his captive for hours. Kelvin could never watch such things. He wondered what it took to create a man like "Lord" Silver. He had known cold people in his life but none like him. Silver seemed to enjoy his work a little too much, he almost gloried in killing.

Kelvin had known him as long as he had been here, and was as close to a friend as he’d ever had, but he would never trust him.

His musing stopped when a few loose rocks skittered behind him. Grabbing his sword hilt, he turned to face Sopheles looking at him from atop a boulder, her blue eyes glowing in the moonlight. "Father would see you now." The voice still showed no emotion at all. She sat on the bolder not moving, just staring at him. The child bothered him more than anything he had seen since coming here. She was cold and seemingly devoid of emotion. She could stare through a person like only a few could. Adults never matched her gaze. They all got the impression that she was reading their thoughts, even the most hidden ones.

Supposedly Lord Silver adopted her while on an "adventure," Kelvin thought it more likely that he had killed her parents but could not finish her. He'd done that before usually he took the child to an orphanage and was on his way. Perhaps it was her nature that made him keep her around. Still, he thought, the girl showed odd abilities and he knew he did not want to know where she had gotten them.

Calming himself he asked, "Where have you been, child," the word child coming very coldly.

He could not tell if she had noticed. She only stared at him. Not wanting to match her eyes he looked above her shoulder. She did not move or even avert her own gaze.

"Doing my Fathers work."

Kelvin shuddered, the phrase brought images in his mind that were not pleasant. Then it dawned on him that Sopheles had not been with them when they had come here. How then, did She know Silver wanted him? He was going to ask but she was already gone.

His feet crunched against the gravel as he walked to the cave. It was well hidden behind a few bushes. In fact Kelvin had been here several times and had never seen it until Silver pointed it out. He walked into the cave afraid he'd see the poor fellow Silver had tortured. To his relief he did not. Kelvin walked into a large chamber, Sopheles was there talking to her "Father." Silver sat on a large rock that resembled a chair sipping wine from a metallic goblet. The few torches around them cast sinister shadows in the room. He swore that the child looked older in this light.

Seeing Kelvin she went into another chamber leaving the adults to talk. Silver took another drink and placed the goblet on a rock. " good to see you." Silver seemed almost euphoric. Had torturing done this to him or was it the wine? Kelvin did not want an answer to that. "I have gotten some useful information from our...guest."

Kelvins throat ran dry, he did not like the tone he was hearing. Or the fact that He still had the victims blood on his hands. Silver walked to a "corner" of the chamber and opened the drawer of a small desk that Kelvin had not previously noticed. Silver lit a cigarette and spoke "It seems Del Shay is working for a merchant right now. A few days ago a girl stole a cart of theirs but she escaped before he could kill her.

“Guard work is odd for His sort. Is there any other reason for Him being here?"

"None I could find, nor do I know where he is. Our guest...Expired before he could tell me," Silver picked up his glass and sipped more wine.

"How long do we have," Kelvin asked leaning on the rock Silver had sat on.

"Two days. Then they leave."

"We'd better leave now." Kelvin said agitated, "What of the body?"

Silver stopped mid drink and let the light dance off the goblet, his face shrouded in shadow "Sopheles has taken care of it, she is a good girl. Don't you think, Kelvin?"

The morning sun broke over the walls of Marripesh. The city was alive with the business of the day. The sounds of the traders bringing their various goods along with the cries of merchants was underscored by the singing of birds. The girl awoke to those sounds she looked around the room she saw the man she had hired dozing in the corner. She checked her arm and saw that the wound had been cleaned and dressed. Getting out of the cot she saw that a stack of new clean clothing and a plate of fresh fruit had been sat beside her.

She ate quietly and then dressed. Afterward she awoke her bodyguard. "I guess I should thank you," she said. He smiled, stretched and rose from the stool.

"You found your things then?" he asked. She was looking up at him. His height was shocking.

"You really shouldn't have," she looked at the new clothing. It was much like her old garb; the same cut and color. She was amazed that he even got the right size. She could tell that she was happy she liked them.

"We should be going," he said. He stood and opened the door waiting for her to follow.

He gave her a puzzled look when she did not come immediately, "I'm sorry," she said, "I don't even know your name."

The Cat-man did not know how to respond. He had never been given a name outside of what they gave him in the arenas. There was one he had always liked; it was that of a soldier he knew from Casacus. He decided that it would be his name also; if nothing more than to honor the man who saved him during the fall of the city. "Khatam," he said, "my name is Khatam."

"Well, pleased to meet you Khatam. My name is Queenie, and thanks again for your help."


"It is my pleasure. Now, Queenie, we must get you out of the city and to safety." Khatam picked up his sword and walked out of the room without another word. The morning sun hit them with its full glory as they entered the busy streets of Marripesh and was on their way to safety.

Camels, horses and oxen moved along the sandy streets of the markets. Travelers others were pulling carts filled with diverse goods to different, more prosperous locations led some. Khatam could tell that high trading season had begun. He could imagine the boats that would line the ports offloading their goods with dreams of the gold that they would bring. Marripesh was the biggest port in the area next to the city of Vesped. He had never been there, and promised himself he would.

The two walked among the crowds for the cover they would give Khatam kept ever alert for possible attackers and did his best to watch Queenie. The two did not converse much so, Queenie busied herself with studying her bodyguard. She took note of the scars, eyepatch, and how short he kept his hair. It amused her to see the people part away from him. She could imagine them seeing this large scarred man, dressed in black carrying the huge sword and not wanting to be on the same side of the street. Yet, for all of his intimidating features he showed an amazing gentleness and grace for one his size.

She wanted to learn more about the man. She made a list of several questions she wanted to ask and filed them in her mind waiting for a good moment to do so. Queenie wondered why he had bought her the clothing. Perhaps she took him, she found herself secretly hoping.

They came to a circle of people at one of the crossroads. Working their way to the edge of the crowd they saw that they were watching a sword fight. The two figures moved with astounding speed and skill. Khatam was surprised to see that one of the fighters was a woman. She was winning her opponent spent most of his time blocking and evading instead of attacking.

At the right moment the woman kicked her opponent in the mid-section dropping him to his knees, her sword hovering inches from his face. "Yield" she said. The man looked as if he was going to restart the fight when she pushed her sword tip to his chest. "I suggest you yield," she responded with a lopsided smile.

"I yield milady," the swordsman responded. The crowd erupted in applause for the victor; she bowed and walked to a small pavilion at the edge of the street.

Queenie could see the confusion on Khatam's face. As the crowd broke apart they walked on and she explained what had happened. "The woman is the princess of Marripesh. She holds these trials to test the abilities of the warriors in the city, should she ever need them," she then added, "she's never been beaten."

Khatam thought of this. Trials by sword without death was an alien thought to him. He could see that this princess was experienced and he hoped she would never know of him or his. Khatam could see that Queenie was tiring of their walk. He looked for them a suitable place to rest. A few feet ahead he spied a café by a low walled garden with tables outside so he could watch who was coming. He pointed it out to her and she whole-heartedly agreed with the idea. Soon they had food, drink, and a place in the shade to rest for a while.

Unknown to Khatam and Queenie, Lord Silver and Kelvin had also watched the fight in the street. They walked the other direction from them and acted as if they had never seen them there.

When they were well away from the crowds Kelvin spoke to Silver. "I don't know how we're going to find him in this mess of people Silver. Are you sure he's still here after what we did to his men?"

Silver just looked ahead and kept walking. "Dammit Silver answer me. Are you hiding something from me?"

He turned and looked at Kelvin a mischievous glint to his eyes. "You did not see the gladiator from Casacus in the crowd did you?"

"No where was he?" he asked puzzled.

Silver shook his head in disgust, "he was standing with the girl Del Shay wants. My guess is she hired him for her bodyguard."

"Your point then, oh great lord," Kelvin was getting tired of being treated like a child. After all it was him that offered Silver the chance to help.

"The point, bounty hunter”, the last two words coming sharply, "if we follow the girl we find Del Shay. But, we must not be seen at all."

It dawned on him what Silver was suggesting. He did not care for Sopheles but using her for this was too much. Did Silver not care for her safety or was his revenge all he thought of? Kelvin was ready to confront him, if need be, to find Del Shay on his own for this when Silver said "trust me, she is quite capable of the task at hand, it is play for her."

At the café Queenie drank the last from her cup. The drink was a strange mixture of fruit juices that was said to have come from the Bhatamin Islands. Whatever it was she liked it. Khatam was resting, ever alert, by a small group of trees. The two of them had eaten their fill and was in good spirits. She thought that they would be out of the city soon, so she took the chance to ask more about him.

She was moving to him when four figures came out of nowhere. They carried swords and wore masks of cloth. They were running towards her at full speed. Seeing them she grabbed the edge of her table and threw it to the men. She drew her sword and yelled to Khatam. He saw the closest man to him and grabbed his arm pulling the sword from his hand and kicked him square in the chest.

Queenie had met another and matched him strike for strike. She was pushing her attacker back when another came from her side. She barely moved in time to dodge the attack. Seeing this also Khatam ran to her aid drawing his sword. The patrons were running this way and that making it hard for him to get to her. Finally he broke free of the crowd when someone grabbed at his legs.

He tripped and went to the ground hard losing his wind the sword falling from his hand.

Khatam rolled to see the man he attacked holding his leg. As hard as he could he kicked him in the face breaking the nose and sending a spray of blood into the air. Getting to his feet he grabbed his sword to see Queenie being backed into the garden wall by all three of the remaining assailants.

Queenie looked for Khatam but could not see him. She was surprised that she could hold off all three of these men but knew that it would not last. One lunged in for a blow but fell short. Using this she stabbed into his chest killing him instantly. Now only two remained. They were infuriated by their friend’s death at the hand of this girl. They pressed her harder and she tripped on the wall falling on her back. She knew it was over. She pulled all of her wits together for one final attack when a large hand appeared over one mans face.

He was thrown violently away from her. The other turned to see Khatam, the good eye filled with rage, staring at him. He swung his sword at him but soon saw his error when Khatam's blade cut through his and into his body cutting him nearly in half. His free hand took hers and pulled her to her feet. "We're leaving," he said as they ran the direction they came from.

Only moments later Silver and Kelvin walked to the scene of the fight. They saw patrons of the café talking to members of the city guard. Slipping by them they looked at the bodies of the unknown assailants. "More Jhadir," Kelvin said to Silver as he looked at the one Khatam killed.

"Any idea where they went?" he asked Silver.

"No, we'll find that out soon enough," Silver looked to a small group of shadows studying them, "you may come out now," he said. One of the shadows pulled away from the rest and formed into Sopheles.

Kelvin jumped back startled from the sight of Sopheles' sudden appearance. "There were four father. The girl and the gladiator killed two and fled the others chasing them."

"Which way," Silver asked.

"Towards the Princesses pavilion. If we hurry we will catch them."

Silver gave her a long look "your staying here. It gets too dangerous for you from now on. Go home."

Sopheles looked unhappy but walked away. Without another word Silver and Kelvin ran to the pavilion.

Queenie and Khatam ran as fast as they could. They dodged people and carts as they tried to put space between them and their pursuers. Somehow they were right on them and more had joined in the chase. The two of them began to overturn tables and throw as much as they could behind them to slow the men down. Queenie could run no longer sensing this Khatam had turned and drew his sword the girl followed suit.

Khatam stepped in front of her as the men drew to them ready for the fight. Khatam never moved, the man inched forward ready to cut down the bodyguard. Then he paused a look of fear on his face. Khatams ears had grown pointed and were elongating, the one good eye now had a vertical slit where the pupil had been, the teeth were longer and the nose and mouth more pronounced. He opened his mouth and let out a low hiss.

The men wanting Queenie stepped back not wanting to fight with this one. No one moved a muscle. A voice off to their side sounded "what in the name of the gods is going on here," it demanded. Queenie risked a sidelong glance and saw the Princess of Marripesh looking at the group. She never realized that they had run to her pavilion.

Out of the crowd stepped a man with long brown hair and tanned skin. She pressed herself to Khatam. He looked to the girl then to Khatam, shook his head, and looked to the Princess.,"Forgive the intrusion Milady, this is something that is between the girl and I," he looked to Khatam ignoring the strangeness of his features, " give me the girl and you live," he said. As if to drive his seriousness home the men that followed them raised their swords. Queenie dropped her sword and stepped away from Khatam.

"I'll go Del Shay," she said. Khatam tried to grab her arm to stop her. "No," she said, "this was my doing I'll go with him." Del Shay grabbed her hair and began to drag her to the waiting men. Queenie let herself be drug by him. Khatam watched as her bandaged arm hung loose by her side he saw a dagger come from her sleeve, she gripped it and waited for the right moment.

Khatam increased the grip on his sword and felt the nails of his hands growing. The excitement of a fight overtook him as the curse was showed fully. As Del Shay reached the edge of the crowd that had formed she swung the dagger towards his wrist cutting it deeply. He screamed and let her go. She could hear him yelling to his men to get her as she ran for her sword.

Khatam rushed past her to engage the first of Del Shay's men. The roar of the crowds approval to the fight filled Khatams ears and spurned him on. His sword met that of another knocking him off balance. His free hand raked sharp claws across his opponents face. Queenie reached her sword in time to meet her own attacker. She met him head on not giving him the chance to attack fully. Queenie could see Khatam fighting also; his moves were fast and precise. Queenie knew that she had let herself be distracted when a foot landed in her stomach sending her to the ground.

Del Shay stood over her, his sword at her throat. Knowing it was over she prayed silently for a quick death when she heard the sound of a crossbow bolt cutting the air. Del Shay grabbed his arm when the bolt hit, his sword falling in front of her. Jumping to her feet she ran to aid Khatam. Suddenly she felt dizzy as she felt blood running down her arm. The stitches had burst in the fighting. Unable to move anymore Queenie knelt to the hot sand.

As Del Shay tried to stand a shadow crossed his vision. In front of him stood Lord Silver a look of satisfaction on his face. Making it to his feet he saw that Silver was holding his sword. Without a word Silver threw it to him, drew his own swords and lunged at him. They fought fiercely neither one giving up ground to the other.

Kelvin was busy assisting Khatam. Five of Del Shays’ men had surrounded him and were a tough fight even for him. Even the Princess had joined the fray wanting more than anything to test her own abilities. The three of them held their own in the uneven match. The crowd cheered them on, as money exchanged hands from bets on the outcome.

Silver was doing well with Del Shay. He had not even been hit by the man he owed revenge too.

He swung towards his head with one sword while stabbing at his gut with the other. Del Shay reacted faster. He slammed into Silver and cut both of his thighs in one stroke of his sword.

Landing on his now prone body Del Shay punched Silver and ran back to the crowd. Silver reached for his crossbows but found them gone.

From where Queenie sat she saw Del Shay run from silver. She stood shakily hoping to get to him. He stopped and looked to a crowd and leveled a crossbow. Queenie followed his aim and saw he was going to shoot the princess. She yelled to Khatam and ran to stop him. Before she took two steps he loosed the bolt and tried to run.

Kelvin saw the missile coming for the Princess. He wasted no time to aid her pushing her to the ground he cut it out of the air. Khatam saw Del Shay running trying to escape his attempted assassination of Marripesh's monarch. Like a shot he took off for the bandit. Kelvin dropped the last of the attackers and helped the Princess to her feet. Silver also tried to intercept him. He ran into Del Shay but could not hold his ground he fell before him looking up to him.

Del Shay felt his luck improving. He may not have gotten the Princess but he would finally rid Itar of "Lord" Malladec Silver. His sword was at his waist when he began his final swing. Silver tensed waiting for the blow that would end his life. He forced hid eyes to stay open in a last act of defiance. The sword never made it's mark. It landed in the sand with a dull thud. Del Shay's eyes lost all sign of life. Silver saw the blade of a large sword sticking from his chest. The body fell off the blade and collapsed into a heap. The last thing Silver saw before he passed out was a man with a cats head looking at him.

Days later Sliver, Kelvin and Sopheles were sitting in a tavern enjoying a meal. Silver was looking well for the wounds he received in the fight. Kelvins hair and beard had been trimmed. He was also wearing new clothing. "The Princess paid well from what I hear. With the reward for her saving and the bounty for Del Shay I figure you will live quite well for a long while," said Silver.

Kelvin nodded, "that reminds me, here's your cut," he placed a large coin filled bag in front of him. Silver took the bag and thanked Kelvin. He had heard that the Princess offered him a position on her royal guard. He did not know if Kelvin took it or not.

There was something else he wanted to ask him,"I hear Lorin Del Shay and the Jhadir he was with were actually here to kill the Princess. In fact I hear you knew that all along," Silver did not expect an answer to that.

When he got one he was surprised."Your right. I guess I've been around you too long, I'm keeping too many secrets," Kelvin rose to leave, placing a coin on the table to pay for the meal. "If you'll excuse me, I have another matter to attend to." Silver rose his glass to him as he left.

In the city of Marripesh were several gardens. All were of ancient design and had been part of the city for hundreds of years. Khatam and Queenie were strolling through one near the eastern walls of the city. She was enjoying a conversation with him about the flowers there when they saw a man sitting on a bench in front of them. At first it was hard to tell who he was, then they recognized him as the man who'd saved the Princess.

"I just wanted to give you this in thanks for your help," he handed her a bag filled with coins.

Khatam was going to tell him to keep it when Queenie spoke, "thank you we will use it well."

As he walked away he could hear him asking why she took the money. She never told him why they should take it, only saying, "I have seen many strange things here in my life but none like you Khatam.” They walked on for a while enjoying the sun and smells of flowers. Khatam liked this girl he wanted to call Marripesh home, and stay here with her. Once again he thought back to Casacus he was happier here, ready to live a new life. Queenie finally broke the silence, "when Casacus fell there were stories of gladiators who were altered by wizards. They were made to be better fighters ones name was the Cat-man ever hear of him?"

Khatam just looked at her and said, "no," he continued walking. No matter, I've got all the time in the world to figure you out, she thought, and turned to follow him out of the garden.

Copyright 2003

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You know if you read this you could leave a post saying if you liked it.... wink2.gif

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Nice opening chapter, I'm looking forward to the next one. original.gif thought the names of some of the charecters could be more ..oh I don't know whats the word...umm well diferent sounding (didn't like the name Queenie or Lord Silver) but good charecter discriptions and I could see in my mind the background like the landscape and the inn. Very very good overall thumbsup.gif

Oh just thought Marripesh sounds very much like Marikesh and it sort of influenced me into thinking of a landscape I'd expect to see there. Don't know if this was your plan or not. Just thought I'd mention it. original.gif

Edited by Halo_Jones

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Great to see that you have this one posted. Can I expect to see the others on this forum as well?

As Halo stated, the imagery is very good...can't wait to enjoy more of these.

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Halo---- I am glad you enjoyed far as the names go well, they could just be aliases

Soulfire---yep you will see more....

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Hey all,

Along with the Fatebringer rewrite I am also preparing Marripesh for submission to a magazine.

So any suggestions would be useful.


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