Sampling of the fourth, and unpublished, book in the Creed of Kings Saga of Intense Action
Sampling of the fourth, and unpublished, book in the Creed of Kings Saga by Allen Bagby
Kayna has planned to escape the temple where she is currently the Oracle. Her mother, Leyoi, has planned with her. A male co-conspirator named Erif agreed to aid them. As Kayna and Erif made their way to the rendezvous with Leyoi prior to this scene, they met an enormous man named Trute playing a cithara and singing outside a tavern. Trute takes a liking to Kayna and then fades into the background of the story to re-emerge later. We enter the sequence just after Erif has been killed and Kayna is running for her life. Erif had secretly planned to betray Kayna for a lot of money, but at the last moment changed his mind and ended up dying in a sword fight so she could escape.
Kayna’s hopeless sprint was nearly over. A wooden fence blocked the alley. Driskin and his cohort were closing in, grasping. She knew the intersecting lanes much better, but alas, she could not turn corners fast enough or outrun these men without her horse. She hoped they would give up as she zigzagged through the alleys. She wished for an instant and then despaired as they kept coming. Her legs and lungs burned with fatigue.
One grabbed the tail of her flailing cloak, but she shrugged it off. It slowed her down, but they stumbled and it put some pointless distance between her and the pursuers more for a moment. She came to the fence, spun, and put her back against the slats. She braced herself, clench-fisted, tears spilled. Then the plank at her back gave way and she fell through. She sprung to her feet stunned. The fence jolted as the pursuers slammed into the fence and cursed. Only the one plank was rotten. The break was too small for either of the men. They clawed at her and tried kicking through boards.
She blinked at the turn of fortune. Odor wrinkled her nose as she shuffled back ankle deep in something. The ground moved around her feet, a rat-infested pile of scraps. She gasped and slogged through reeking rubbish toward a door with glowing cracks, but collided with a drunk stumbling out. It was a tavern. She could run through back to the street. The man smiled, using her to hold himself up. He retched and regurgitated on her sandals. She fought to get around him as the pursuers broke through the fence. The drunkard saw them and summoned his inebriated courage. He nudged her aside, stood chest out with chin up, “For the Emperor! May he live forever!” He charged with an imaginary sword and a hiccup, but immediately collapsed forward face down into the pile of waste. The impact sent up a plume of filth.
Kayna pushed through the door into the tavern packed with burly men, mead dripping from their beards. Slack-jawed, they gaped at her. Pressing on, she excused herself politely at first weaving through the celebrants, but halfway in, they realized this was no regular tavern wench and called out, taunting and fondling her, threads ripping on her rough-spun dress. She bit a grubby finger and kicked free. The carousers did not seem to be complete miscreants. They laughed when she cleared the last table and went back to their goblets.
Driskin came through the back entrance, hazy in the thick pipe smoke. The celebrants re-engaged in revelry unwittingly walled off her pursuers. She shot through the open doors into the night. Momentum carried her into the empty street.
The cloak gone, dress flapping at the knees, sandals slapping down the path, she saw the temple glowing on the hill. I’ll make it.
The last bridge. Three more men rushed into the street, cutting her off. She halted and gasped for air, eyes darting around. Two more appeared on her left and crouched stalking toward her. She darted down an alley to her right before they closed the gap. It was the darkest alley she had been down during the exhausting chase. She knew it dead-ended with a drop-off into a swift stream, but there was no choice. The men hesitated, calling out signals. They knew they had her.
It was too late to stop when she glimpsed the mountainous deeper shade amidst the darkness of the alley. She slammed into it and landed on her rump. Supported by her palms, she stared up dazed, trying to comprehend what had happened.
Huge firm hands pulled her up. “No!” She tried to squirm free, impossible.
“Friend run fast.” The voice had a smile in it.
Lips quivering, she whispered, “Please, don’t be with them.”
“Go.” He nudged her lightly, but so firm was his hand, it nearly knocked her down again.
At the end of the alley, she nearly fell down the slope that dropped into the swift deep branch of the river. She picked her way down, fists were smacking with cries of pain behind her. Her foot slipped in a gap, but momentum carried. She jerked the ankle out, but from the pain, she knew it was wrenched. She tumbled down the bank landing in the frigid water.
She gasped from the shock of the cold, the current tugging as she clung to an algae slick rock. Movement on the bank made her shrink back. She wiped wet hair away and risked a glance. It was Driskin, his frame barely outlined in the city’s collective torchlight. His eyes bore down on her. “You ain’t gettin’ away.” He laughed and scampered down but a silhouette rose from behind, engulfing his smaller body. Choking, flailing, and then a grunt, sent Driskin’s body flying overhead to crash in the stream. She glimpsed Driskin’s feeble effort to stay afloat, but he went under gurgling.
The huge figure approached. Her ankle throbbed, teeth chattered. She recognized his face and reached up but lost her grip on the rock. She clawed at the slippery bank but the rushing current dragged her down. She tried to swim, but with one useless ankle, she floundered.
It only took Trute a few enormous strides to bound downstream to the small bridge she would have traversed had the men not forced her down the alley. She reached, desperate. He leaned over the rails and plucked her from the waters. As he hauled her up by the wrist, Driskin lunged from one of the bridge’s support beams and grabbed her around the waist. She thought her shoulder would give way. As Trute lifted, the man slid down her body and seized her sprained ankle. She cried out and let go of Trute’s wrist, but he held on to hers. Still in the water up to his chest, the current dragged Driskin under the bridge but he clung to Kayna as if her foot was the last knot in a rope. Her ribs were grinding against the floor planks of the bridge. Trute could have easily pulled her up, but he did not. Instead, he was feeling along the wooden rail with his free hand. The weight of the man was going to tear off her foot. “Please,” she groaned. Trute broke off a piece of wooden railing just the right size, leaned, and whacked the clinger’s head. Driskin dropped like a corpse, into the racing stream.
Her soaked dress rained on the planks. Trute lowered her and she sat in a puddle shivering. Tears blended with water streaming from her hair. She looked up as she rubbed her ankle, “Did you see my friend?
Trute nodded sadly.
“Is he…?” She could not finish the question.
Trute nodded. He eased her up and cradled her in his massive arms. In the fortress of his muscle, she wondered if he felt the weight of her heavy heart. The morbid dread of the emperor’s visit clutched her as she saw the soft glow of the temple in Trute’s eyes. She rested her head against his chest. He carried her uphill to bitter sanctuary.
Leyoi caressed the image on the necklace’s sliver of antler. An Alyndrean should never cherish such things. Forgive me goddess. She had come to Iddissium with a baby girl at her breast. She held the necklace in secret when worrying about Kayna. She had hoped to give up the burden tonight. I ought not to fret. She is a woman now. I will confess everything…on the other side of the river. That hope had changed suddenly…
Follow my writer blog at http://artravis.wordpress.com/