First Meeting: Face to Face

Long awaited things have been … well long awaited! I thought you’d like that. Just the same I wanted to share another tease from my first novel Adventures in Valdore: The Beginning. I know, I know it was supposed to have been back on sale by now, it will be soon enough the editing is done and as of today needs proofreading. You know, just to be sure I didn’t still screw up. I can’t say exactly when I will announce that it is available for sale, but I will say that it will be late march … at the very latest, for reasons that I’d rather not disclose just now.

Reaching the top of the stairs they made their way through the dim light of the upper hallway. Again Sarn felt that someone else was nearby before he could hear or see them. When he came to the first doorway he stopped and backed against the closed door as the others continued along the hallway. Sarn pushed up against it trying to become as small as possible. The low light of the lamps at either end of the hallway cast crossing shadows down the hall. He began to blend into his surroundings, completely hidden in the shadow of the doorway. Had anyone been watching, they would have claimed the boy had disappeared or had become part of the wall surrounding him. He counted each set of footsteps as they came behind them.
“Two,” he said under his breath, “no three.”
He listened as his companions reached the end of the hall and turned the corner. As the oncoming footsteps got closer he took a deep breath, holding it deep in his chest and waited. Watching as they passed in front of him, they were three steps beyond him when he stepped out behind them. Following them, Sarn echoed the steps of the guards as they walked.
‘What am I doing?’ he thought, ‘I am behind three guards that would kill me if they saw me. If they see me, when they see me is more like it.’
He kept behind them as they reached the end of the hall. Turning, the guards began down the same hall as his companions. Halfway down he stopped and stepped into the next doorway pushing into the darkness again. He was not sure why he did it until the three turned suddenly and headed back in the direction they came. Sarn waited several seconds until he slipped out of the shadows again and went to rejoin the others.
“Where did you go?” Sala asked when he reached them.
“He was following us,” Dagger said, stopping short of a true explanation.”
Sarn was glad that Dagger answered her for him, he was sure that she would not have liked the truth. Somehow even he could not have told her everything and believed it. Dagger poked the guard again, pushing him to move. As they turned down the front hallway Sarn again slipped into the shadows of a doorway. Pressing into the shadows he held his breath and listened to the footsteps. He then began separating those of his companions and those of the guards by the rhythm of their walks. If he had been asked about it, he would not have been able to say how he was able to separate the footsteps of each person, it just seemed to happen. Dagger’s footsteps were first, then Sala’s and Tig’s and then those of the bound guard. That left him with just his own heartbeat and the footsteps of two others. He waited as they turned and went into a room further down the hall. He was about to step out behind the two guards as they passed him, yet, something told him that there was at least one more. Counting off their beat as they walked, he singled them out and listened again to another rhythm of steps. They were trying to echo those steps of the guards to hide in their sounds as he had done before. Only this one was just a little off the beat of the others. He pushed himself even further into the wall as if he were trying to become part of it. Closing his eyes he felt his heart beating harder in his chest. As the footsteps stopped in front of him he felt their breath on his neck.
“With all the men in this Kingdom they send a boy retrieve their Prince.”
Sarn swallowed hard squeezing his eyes shut tighter, as if he were playing a child’s game.
“Closing your eyes will not help hide you from me.”
“It could not hurt,” Sarn said, opening his eyes.
The dark figure loomed over his head and he looked straight into the covered face.
“I know you,” the voice said, “but … where?”
“I do not believe that we have ever met. I am certain that I would remember an ugly face such as yours.”
He was surprised at how calm he had become as he spoke. It was as if something deep inside him had told him that he had little to fear from the person behind the voice.
“If you could see it that is,” he said turning away from Sarn.
“True,” Sarn lied. His face was just as clear to him as if it they were outside in the daytime.
“Do not bother swinging that sword at me. It does not have the power to kill me.”
Tilting his head as if he were trying to figure out how he knew what he was doing, Sarn lowered his sword.
“I would guess that your companions have already made their way into the Prince’s room, and at this moment are waiting for you to join them before trying to get out of here.”
“Perhaps,” Sarn said. “Then again I could be here alone.”
“I doubt that, Sarn of Penif,” the figure laughed as if he had just figured out who he was talking to. “The great thief Ryn Mar would not allow you with in a thousand leagues of this place alone.”
“If I agree with you, what happens then?”
“Nothing,” the figure returned, surprised that he had not lied. “Neither of you have a chance of getting out of here alive.”
“A bit of a fairy tale saying, but I will allow you to use it.” He had no idea how he collected so much courage to think it, let alone say it.
“Fairy tales, ah yes, that is right you are not a believer; no doubt your father’s idea.”
“What do you know of my father?”
“I met him once, hiding as a stone cutter if I remember.”
“My father hides from no man.”
“True, he does not hide from a man, only from his heritage, just as he keeps it from you,” the man said walking away from him. “Let us go and see if you are alone Sarn of Penif.”
He was not sure why he seemed so obedient in following the man, but he did, keeping his sword ready to strike.
The man laughed as they reached the door that the others had entered. He pushed the door open without saying a word. Sala stood alone in the middle of the room with her back to them and her arms out to her side, not that she was surprised by their appearance. Dagger had warned her that she should expect the tall man in black.
“Ah, well, it would appear that you have come with someone. You must be the scullery wench, Sala. Where have Ryn and that animal gone to? Has he taken our Prince away and left the two of you behind to pay the price? It would not surprise me in the least if they are gone. I do believe that it would not be the first time that it has been done by them. I seem to remember another time. But that is a story that is better left to another time when we have less pressing issues.”
“He has not gone far and will not leave without us I am sure,” Sarn replied.
“I would think a second time if I were you, as I said it is not the first time Ryn has slipped away leaving others to pay for his crimes. Just as well, you my boy are an even higher prize than Prince Gregor could ever have been. As for your woman there I am sure that my men will be happy when I give her to them for their pleasures.”
Turning around and facing the two, she watched wide eyed as Sarn swung his sword catching the tall man across the back of his head. Falling to his knees the man laughed as Sarn hit him again before plunging his sword into his back. Still laughing he leaned to one side and ended up on the floor. A few seconds later the man lay silent as his blood spilled from the wound made by Sarn’s sword.
“Where did Dagger go to?” he asked Sala.
“Come on you two,” Dagger called from the hall. “Take Prince Gregor and head to the front door and wait for me there.”
“I will not leave without my friend,” Gregor said.
“And with any luck you will not. Now leave with them, they will protect you.”


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Filed under My Books, Traveler's Adventures in Valdore

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