A/N: Ok everyone, here is the edited, or as I like to say "the-made-better copy of the first chapter of the last amulet. Please R&R and tell me what you think of this now, if you haven't read the former, I'm sorry, but you're not missing a whole lot. Enjoy.
Their footsteps echoed thunderously as they slowly made their way down the alleyway, their eyes constantly scanning their dark surroundings for serial killers or escaped loonies known to hide in the depths of the city. The alley was dirty and mud was caked along the walls of the buildings on either side of the narrow path. Blood smeared the ground and walls on occasion and a bone or two could very often be seen. Garbage and sewerage decorated the odorous alley and the smell repulsed those who travelled pass it.
Summa was unsure of the reason why she, her brother Willem and their best friend Corey were in the backstreets but there had to be a reason or else Willem wouldn't have led them there.
She was different to most females, though while she was tall standing at just over 6 feet, she was still remarkably short for her race. With extremely long legs and skin the colour of a walnut tree's bark, it was no wonder her cheekbones were high and her jaw-line strong. Upon gazing into her eyes, many a young traveller had fallen prey to their dark, almost black, spell of seduction. Tied neatly at the nape of her neck with a silver buckle, her hair was darker then her skin, absorbing all light and reflecting nothing. While her build was slight, it was powerful and she was able to outrun a horse at full gallop.
Over her right shoulder hung a double-string crossbow and attached to her belt was a quiver containing over 70 bolts. Her breastplate was incredibly fashioned, flowing with all the curves of her body. All her armours were exquisite and impeccably cared for.
Wearing a dark brown, woollen shirt and grey leggings, Summa found it easier to blend in and become of the crowd at Molrand, but this had not always been the case.
Before arriving in Molrand, Summa and her brother had been banished from town to town, and city to city. It was only upon their meeting with Corey and travelling with him to Molrand did their fates, and luck, begin to change.
Corey, who was at the front of the group, halted their wary advance and stared into the gathering mist, sensing danger in the growing fog, he signalled them to draw their weapons. Drawing his scimitar and a throwing knife, Corey turned to see if his friends had taken his lead. Letting his gaze avert to Summa as she tugged at her crossbow, he watched her with his affectionate gaze for moments. He had loved her since the first moment he ever saw her, and as his eyes remained on her dazzling beauty, he remembered that day fondly as the memory flickered in his mind.
The bar seemed to light up as she entered it, all the grime and sweat was instantly washed away. He was mesmerised by her, and as she walked, he could feel his heart pound with the movement of her petite, swaying hips. He couldn't take his eyes from her, her unusual walnut coloured skin, her delicate, but high cheek-bones, and the unforgettable shape of her bosom. As she neared him, the scent she made tickled his nose, tempting him to inhale all of her, and strangely, he felt as though he was winded. He couldn't breathe.
"There she is! She will pay for what she did!" An angry cry came from the door frame. The voice was old and worn, and the hint of too much whiskey lingered on every word.
"No Sir, you don't understand! It was an accident! I didn't mean for it to happen!" Her voice sang out, and to Corey, it was the sound of angels.
"You freaks will pay for coming here. Both you and your brother will wish you had never come here. Go back to where you came from. You black bitch." Behind the angered man now stood 3 other frustrated men.
'Why is he so angry?' Corey wondered, 'She seems reasonable enough.'
Corey stood, placing himself strategically between the girl and the men.
"What seems to be the trouble here gentlemen?" Corey asked calmly so as to avoid argument.
"That Savage behind you decided that she was going to eat in our pub. You're a respected man Corey, you take care of it."
Corey turned to the girl and looked deep into her black eyes. The fear in them was unmistakable and it was then that he realised that she had no idea why they are angry at her.
Leaning in towards her he whispered silently into her ear, so only she could hear the words with which he spoke. "Don't worry. I know that you are innocent. I will get rid of these goons and then we will go and find your brother and head to my place. We will leave tonight after we have got a few things from there."
Turning from the girl he faced her pursuers.
"Back off Frank. This girl has done nothing wrong and therefore has no need to be punished. And she is a person, acknowledge her as one."
"Fine then Corey, you don't want to do things the easy way, then fight." Frank drew his sword and awaited Corey's response.
"I won't fight you, so just get out of my way." Grabbing the girl's hand he walked forward only to be stopped by the point of Frank's sword.
"Fight Corey or die."
"Fine." Corey drew his sword and let go of the girl's hand.
Thrusting his sword at Frank, he was parried and in return he was forced to block a lunge at his head. With the age difference, it was clear to see that the older man was quickly tiring. Corey took his best opportunity and drew the knife at the side of his hip, forcing it into Frank's side. Pulling the blade out, he saw the older man falter.
Taking no chances, Corey sheathed his sword and grabbed the girl's hand once more. Rushing out of the bar they didn't look back, though clearly audible was the hateful cries of the members of the bar.
Bringing his thoughts back to the present, he saw Summa load her crossbow and look up at him. She smiled towards him, her teeth shining in the shadowy light. Smiling back with the smile that he always s made when they were in a situation like this, not knowing if someone who suddenly lunge out at you from the shadows, it sent a wiry shiver down his spine.
Although he was as different from Summa as night is to day, he still loved her. Whenever he was near her and could feel the warmth from her body radiating towards him, his heart skipped a beat and a lump formed in his throat, making it hard for him to swallow.
Running his hand through his short, straw coloured hair, he tried to push all thoughts of the woman from his mind. His eyes were a piercing blue and under the moonlight, they were turned a deep, navy blue. Under normal circumstances his eyes radiated and danced whenever he spoke, displaying his inner-most emotions. Standing at just less than 7 feet, his muscled frame, when encased in all its armours, made even the strongest of men look inferior. The leather cuirass that he wore was moulded and accentuated the curves of his highly defined chest and abdomen, and stiff leather plates covered his groin, armpits and his neck. A flexible, leather baldric hung over his right shoulder, crossing his body to rest on his left hip, each slot containing a silver throwing knife of perfect shape and weight. Each fashioned with different runes along the tang, and a different gem encased in the hilt. His greaves were of polished leather and had become weather hardened over time, covering the lower part of his faded, black leggings.
Before turning back to face into the gloom, he shot his gaze towards Willem.
With facial features similar to that of his sister's, the only difference between them was his sharp green eyes. Just like his sister's, his hair was his black hair, tied also at the nape of his neck with an intricate, silver and gold buckle. Standing at well over seven feet, he was extremely muscled and wore barely any armour. He wore leather greaves and a slight leather strip for a breastplate, as he took pride in the weapons he made, knowing that they were the best anywhere. After drawing his bastard swords, he looked up at Corey and nodded.
Finally satisfied, he turned and faced his back to them, continuing their way through the alleyway.
Suddenly Willem stepped to the right, and an arrow sliced the air just below his left ear. Spinning on the ball of his foot, Willem brought one of his swords up through the ribcage of a hidden assailant and he fell without a sound, his blood splashing noisily in the quiet night air.
Standing straight to face the dead attacker, Willem noticed more assailants pushing through the thick mist. Spying their fallen comrade the attackers launched their angered attack.
As soon as they charged Corey released his throwing knife and it collected one of the attackers in the side of the throat. Summa too had taken decisive action and had loosed the bolts from her crossbow and two more attackers joined their fallen comrades.
Willem stood facing the charging men and closed his eyes. He fought his anger down and searched for calm amongst the fight. Raising his swords to a defensive position and readying himself, he found at last the calm he was after.
Opening his eyes, he quickly assessed the situation. The first thing that he saw was a blade darting before his face and an attacker falling with a knife jutting from his throat to fall to his right. Two more fell with crossbow bolts through their throats. Willem counted the men left, twelve. He signalled to Corey to place his sword on the ground and draw four throwing knives. He turned to Summa who had already reloaded her crossbow and she nodded back to him in acknowledgement.
Turning to face the attackers charge he stared at the three dead men. Glancing at the attackers again and how close they where before steadied himself.
"NOW!" Willem's voice rang out in the dark of the night, startling the attackers making them slow their charge.
Hearing the call, Summa loosed her first bolt and saw it catch a shape in the shoulder, quickly loosing the second; it flew home in the wounded man's eye.
Corey released hid knives, all of which plunged into the throats of four of the attackers, killing them instantly. Bending to recover his sword and drew his second scimitar, never removing his eyes from the slowing men.
Willem saw the five men falter and another trip on his fallen comrades, smashing his skull on the hard cobble-stone path. With half of the force dead the others halted their charge but it was too late. Willem and Corey charged into the remaining men and killed four on impact. The others turned to flee but were in return shot through the back of their throats with a bolt each.
None remained but the leader, his hands gripping, on the hilts of his silver, broadswords.
The slight breeze ruffled the old man's short, grey streaked blonde hair. Two oddly coloured eyes traced around the three youths before him, taking in everything about them, their armour, and their weapons. He was not too short of armours himself. Bronze bracers covered his arms, each fashioned remarkably. A bronze breastplate was moulded and tied criss-cross across his back with two leather straps, and the crest of the king embossed into the right pectoral. His build was large, and his bare shoulders shone in the clearing moonlight, a tattoo of a roaring lion on his left shoulder. Dark leather boots were carefully polished, and purple woollen leggings were tucked into the mouth of the boots.
Looking at the youths in turn, he thought of the day when they he first entered the city. They were dressed in rags and Summa was badly malnourished, and terribly sick. He remembered that he and his wife, Sinead, had welcomed them into their home. They raised the three like their own children, and for 3 years he trained them to become assassins. It wasn't too long before he let them join him on one of his jobs, and the black man saved his life. This was the beginning of their friendship, unfortunately, it was short lived. Following the death of his wife to the Dark Death, the grief he felt over took him, and after a little while, craziness set in. In his emotional state, he joined the army of king Alric, and soon turned from his adopted children.
Bringing his thoughts to the present, he concluded that he must force Corey and Summa back so that he only has to fight Willem. Moving his hands swiftly down towards his throwing knives and drawing two, he threw them towards Summa and Corey. The first grazed that side of Summa's left temple with the hilt, knocking her unconscious instantly, the other sailed between the plates on Corey's leg, forcing him to collapse in pain.
Without thinking Willem charged with an emotionally filled attack. The old man blocked every thrust and riposte and very soon Willem was on his back staring up along the blade of silver that the man handled.
"Before you do anything else, Willem, please just listen to what I have to say."
"Because of you did, Purnell, I don't think that I should waste my time on what you have to say. You betrayed us by going to work for the new king and for that I will never trust you again. You said that you hated him and then you went and double crossed us. You told him that we did the thing when you did, when you were in charge! We have been running for so long and now we are back here, why did you call us here?" Willem exclaimed while a little short of breath.
"I called you here because I want to help you to fight back for what is rightfully yours. Stand up, what you must understand is that I said it was you for a reason. On one of your jobs someone saw you and was about to report the murder, so I said that you did the thing to save you. The king now knows the truth and wishes to seek revenge upon me and someone is bound to come forward about you and your partners. Now if you don't mind, I have bought a wagon and several horses for us, enough supplies to last us until the stronghold at Yaotiss on the east coast and a few bows and quivers full of arrows and more bolts for your sister."
"But why should we even trust you?"
"Because Willem, I may be your only hope, and once again, you mine. Now quickly get Corey and place him on the wagon I will get Summa because I know that at the moment she won't try to kill me if I go near her."
"Should we collect their weapons in case we need them for something?" Willem asked while pointing to the dead men.
"No. Once the watch arrives they will want to know what these men were armed with and these men need to remain as men. Not as disarmed fools."
"I don't care where he has got to but when you find him you SHALL squash him like a bug!" The King roared.
"Yes sire but there is just one small, little problem."
"There shouldn't be a problem Alistair but please continue." The King's irritation was growing with each and every second.
"Well," began Alistair, "Purnell has met up with the people being charged with the unexplained deaths those few years back, and he has already left the city, and nobody saw him leave so we have no idea where to start. One of my men explained this to me just this morning. "
"Well then let me rephrase myself, I don't care where he has got to, or who he is with but FIND HIM and do it NOW! And you will find where he has got to Alistair because if you don't, you will find yourself locked down in the dungeons. Remember Alistair, I still hold you personally responsible even if it was Purnell who caused all this mess." The King boomed while standing threateningly, his hazel eyes wide, gleaming a blood-filled red, shining terrifyingly in the candle-light.
"Yes sire, I promise that I will bring the traitor to you, and if you so desire, I will make sure that his head is on a platter covered with rose petals. That or I will die trying, my lord." Alistair bowed low so as not to show his anger and was waved out by the king.
The King watched the soldier stride from the room, and he sat, thinking of the man for some time. How was it that someone could always conceal his looks behind such a mask? He was a strange man indeed. He was heavily muscled as all soldiers were, and yet, under all his bulk and weapons, his hair was a lovely shade of dark brown and slightly blonde at the tips. Frightening the king the most about the man, were his eyes behind that black leather mask. They were a lifeless grey, and it seemed to the king as though he lost a part of his soul everytime he looked into their gloom. Noting that the soldier wore his colours, purple leggings and black boots, also his royal emblem was embossed on his moulded cuirass. Unlike the other warriors, he wore a gold and silver alloy cuirass; most of the soldier wore a bronze breastplate. Thinking about the man's mask he thought, maybe, because his colours where purple and black that the colour of his mask was black also, so that it would fit in with my royal colours.
Taking his thoughts from the man, he turned on the golden throne, and called for his manservant, Siial.
Entering in his robes of purple and black, the king watched the servant walk happily across the room to stand before him. He was shorter then most men and most people referred to him as a large dwarf, this was mainly due to the fact that he was taller then the average dwarf. His hair was carrot red and a thick, short square beard matched it, only different by a few grey flicks at the corners of his mouth. His green eyes were lively, and the king believed that they looked as though they were in constant dance. Siial bowed and when he returned upright, he looked directly into the king's eyes.
"You seem troubled my lord. Is there anything that I can do for you? I could get you the nicest lady in the palace. Or get the cooks to make you a lovely treat. Anything lord."
"Yes there is something that you can do for me Siial. Could make me a bath in my deepest bath and scent it with Jae Oil, and for my band to be playing. Also, could you also get the kitchen to send up some fruit in a bowl and the girl… what is her name? She works in the cleaning section. She has long legs and swinging hips when she walks. Oh…"
"I believe that is Jasmine sire."
"Yes Jasmine, she always does an excellent job on my room when she cleans it. Tell her of my first name too, I don't want her to call me sire or lord or some other title like that."
"Yes sire, your bath will be ready in about five minutes and the food in ten. Do you want Jasmine as soon as the bath is made or after?"
"At about two minutes after it is made if you will please Siial, and hurry up the bath won't make itself you know."
Bowing as he left the room Siial rushed to prepare everything for the king.
The king wandered to his bedchamber where the glow from the city blew in through the window on the far side. A large double bed was situated in the centre of the room, made from implicitly detailed ebony wood. A purple, duck feather doona lay over the bed, his crest in the centre of the cover.
Pulling off his purple jerkin and black leggings and went to stand before his mirror.
The reflection that he saw was not as he remembered. He stared into the eyes of the man before him. His blonde-brown hair was flowing over his broad, but not very muscled shoulders. His chest and stomach were both defined and strong and his waist small. His legs were long but muscled also, this is where his power lay, he always won races and kick-boxing tournaments, not just because he was the king, but because of the sheer power behind his legs. Looking into the eyes of the man before him again, the king ran his hazel eyes over the face. He had a strong jaw-line and a dimpled chin. Pimple scars were located here and there from when he was a teen.
Compared to the rest of the body the face was what brought him down, and brought him criticism from his friends and family even if he was a better king then his father. From the centre of his left eyebrow and continuing down across his face till just below the right cheekbone was the scar that had ruined his life. He remembered the day as if it was just yesterday. He had stood up for his older sister who had been attacked by a group of beggars. A sword had cleaved down through his eye and he could no long see out of it, the strike also breaking his nose, and slicing through the bone and cartilage. Doctors had worked night and day to repair his damaged nose, and now all that was wrong was that he sometimes had trouble breathing. His sister unfortunately had been stabbed through the lung and they could not save her. His family believe that he could have done more to save his sister, but he and his father were the only ones who knew that he couldn't.
Taking his focus from the scar, he moved away from the mirror and opened the dark oak wardrobe that stood in the far corner of the room. Inside was a large array of clothes and shoes. Rummaging through them he came to a fine, imperial purple silk bathrobe and he donned it, carefully tying the silk bands.
Walking from the bedchamber and moving towards the baths, he could smell the perfume of the Jae flower before he entered the bathroom.
Bursting out of the room at the speed of knots, Siial landed barely inches from the king.
"Ah, yes sire, err, the bath is ready for you now. Sorry about bursting out at you like this sire I was just about to tell you that the bath was ready. I will just go and get Jasmine sire." Siial bowed low and rushed passed the king, then out of sight.
Turning to face the door, the king walked though it and into the bathroom ready for Jasmine to join him.
Walking away from the king, Alistair felt the anger inside of him fester, oh how much he really wanted to walk back to him and punch him just so hard. Forcing the emotion to subside, he walked from the palace towards the stable at the back end of the front courtyard. Once inside the stables he searched the area for his sixteen hands, grey gelding but instead he found a young boy grooming a palomino of fifteen hands.
The boy was tall for his age, thought Alistair but there was something about the boy that reminded him of his own childhood. His close cropped hair was dark blonde, almost brown. Ash grey eyes portrayed the story of the child's life even if he was so young. Dirt covered his clothes and smudges on his face made him look older then he actually was. Attached to his belt was a small leather knife, and Alistair believed that it must be for resizing saddle girths and bridles. He stood watching the boy interact with the large beast for minutes before interrupting their bonding.
"Excuse me young master, I don't mean to interrupt, but where is the grey gelding that came in about three hours ago?"
"Beggin' your pardon sir, nobody calls me a master or anything so I would prefer it if you did the same. Oh the horse that came in earlier is probably in the king's private stable if that is who you came to see sir." The young stable hand exclaimed, his eyes staring deep into the soldier's.
"Could you take me there then please young master?"
"This way sir and please stop calling me a master. I'm just a simple stable hand working for the king that is all."
The stable hand and Alistair walked through a series of corridors and rooms in silence until they came to a small barn on the other side of the palace. The stable hand opened the door and led the man to his horse. The boy saddled the horse ready for the soldier to ride and led the horse out into the fading light.
"Thank you young master, if you would ever like to come and see me some time it would cheer me up greatly. I don't get many visitors anymore."
"I would like that a lot but coming tomorrow I turn nine and then I will be sold to a wealthy buyer and I will have to serve him. I thank you for your kindness even if I asked you not to call me a master. There is a horse that the king said that he would like to have sold to a worthy owner by tomorrow, so if you like, the horse is this way." He went to move off but Alistair picked him up and they rode to the other stable.
Alistair looked over the horse and when he was satisfied he bought it for ten gold coins and he rode from the palace.
Alistair returned to the barracks just as the sun had disappeared over the Beldorn Mountain range, and upon entering the soldier's quarters, he waved the men to sit as they stood routinely whenever he entered the room. Moving to the back of the room and through the door into the bath area, and then finally the door into the masseuses quarters, he was greeted with a wide grin from his usual masseuse, but he had to decline and explained why to her. She nodded and moved aside. Walking to the tables he found his friend Tobias lounging around while being massaged by a new masseuse that the soldier had never seen before.
Build like an ox, Tobias, was a large man, with extremely large muscles. He was one of the best soldiers at hand to hand combat and could knock out a man with one punch. Scars from fierce pub brawls could be seen running over his lips and cheeks, his nose had been broken by thrown bottles and punches more times then the oaf could remember, let alone count. Slowly his dark brown hair was beginning to thin, patches of scalp could be seen more often, and even more hair was becoming caught by the bristles in his comb. While his hair was becoming less and less, the hair on his face was growing thicker with each day.
Looking at the man lying on the table, Alistair saw once again the scars on his back; they were healing well, from when he had been whipped the other day. Idiot, though Alistair, why the man had to get into as many brawls as he did, Alistair didn't know. All he knew was that he was always there to drag him home, back to their barrack, ready to clean as many wounds as he could. This last time though, the larger man had not been so lucky. He had chosen the wrong people to fight, and being the arrogant man that he was; he had refused to turn the challenge down. The three men he fought just thought that he was a drunkard, and that he couldn't hurt them at all. How wrong they were. He had fought them, and won. Two of them were seriously injured, the other killed from a blow to the temple. Several days after the incident, he had been prosecuted for the wanted assault of the three men, and the murder of one of them. Being such a valuable asset to the king's army, the penalty wasn't as fierce as it could have been. Sentenced to 100 lashes, the soldier was happy to be who he was.
Now as he lay on the masseuse's table the scars were still red, and as she ran her hands along his back, they roared angrily at her
"I thought that I would find you here you old dog.
"Alistair! It's nice to see you too," Tobias replied, his eyes still shut, fighting the pain, "So how did the meeting with the king go? Did he say anything that he probably shouldn't have said?"
"You know the king. He is still accusing me of the thing that Purnell did, and Purnell is going to be in big trouble. Not only is the king going to kill him, I am going to kill him too. So what do you think do you want to help me organise a band of several men, well, about seventy-five men and we can go and catch him and his three companions. So what do you say?"
"I would love to help you find the old sergeant. When do we leave? And don't you think that seventy-five is a bit much, how about 30?
"I have to do something first thing in the morning, but after that, Garborne says that they have a wagon and that two of them are injured, so their journey will be slow until they are restored to full health. That will make the chase easier and more fun. Yeah, I think I went a bit overboard with the idea of seventy-five men tracking down four and not being detected.
Sitting up, Tobias paid the masseuse four pieces of silver and stood to rap a towel around his waist. He inhaled deeply and sighed, "Well then, what are we waiting for Alis, Lets get to the old bugga.
Walking out of the room and into the baths, Alistair undressed and they both plunged under the water for their long awaited bath.