Read Dragon Choir Online

Authors: Benjamin Descovich

Tags: #romance, #fantasy, #magic, #gods, #ships, #war, #dragon, #pirates, #monsters, #swords and scorcery

Dragon Choir (2 page)

BOOK: Dragon Choir
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He is a liability,” the disembodied voice of stone and dirt
uttered an avalanche. “He must be dealt with.”


He’s protected. An investor felt that ...” the Guildmaster
hesitated in thought, staring at Elrin.


Well, now you have an excuse,” boulders split and fell into a
swamp. “End him!”

The energy
warped around him and then evaporated, retracting the presence and
leaving the air tight like the skin on a drum.

The
Guildmaster opened the back door to his study and rang a bell
beside it. Four warriors responded immediately, their scabbards
clacked against their armour as they filed through. Their surcoats
bore the insignia of the city guard with the golden sun rising over
the mountain range, but these were no ordinary city guardsmen. City
guards were fitted with short swords and light armour, maybe a
spear or pike for sentry duty. These men had their own weapons,
broad swords and axes. The leader walked with a mercenary swagger,
like the sellswords that loitered around the trading post.


Get him out of here, Malek,” said the Guildmaster.

Malek bowed
his head, so as not to look the Guildmaster in the eye. He glanced
over the scene, noting Elrin’s paralytic state.


Official business Master?” Malek rubbed his neck and
grimaced.


No.” The Guildmaster brushed the frog’s powdered remains from
his hands into a dustbin. “Take him to the slumper
alley.”


Does he need an introduction?”

Malek waited
for an instruction, but none came. The Guild Master sat down at his
desk and took a sheet of paper from the top drawer. He dipped his
quill in ink and scratched away.


Guildmaster?”


No!” The Guild Master slammed his hand on the desk, breaking
his quill and tipping over the ink well. “A farewell, Malek. This
is to be a farewell.”

Malek bowed,
and motioned his men forward to collect Elrin. Two took his arms
and one his legs, lifting him out through the study door.

Elrin
struggled to move and panicked; his lungs could not keep pace with
the pulsing of his heart. He strained to send a limb into motion,
to wiggle a finger, even to blink. Nothing would work. He gave up
trying as the guards carried him down winding stairs and through a
confusion of dank passages. Breathing became his priority.

They stopped
at a dark green door with a torch burning beside it. Malek’s keys
jingled in the lock and the door opened with a shove. They lifted
Elrin outside and rested him against a stone wall in the alley
beyond.

A gang of
ruffians and delinquents crowded around a game of dice. Seeing the
guards emerge from the green door, they gathered up their shine
from the cobbles and backed away, pulling their weapons out, ready
for an attack. Unstable eyes considered their chances against the
city guards. These men were on edge. Their eyes were black wells,
unsure whether to run or fight. Others lay beside the wall on piles
of hessian and straw, their haphazard positions betraying an
unnatural slumber.

One of the
guards, the biggest among them, kicked an unconscious addict in the
ribs. “Piss off slumper! You lot too. Take ya skagin’ arses out of
here!”

The slumper
stumbled to his feet, half dazed. His remaining wits spurred him to
flee down the alley and the dice players followed. The big guard
kicked another slumper dozing in a sky dream and moved him on
too.


Get some ink, roach!”

The guards
laughed. One hurled a stone after the fleeing man. It missed and
skittered across the cobbles.

Elrin
assembled his thoughts, searching for an escape.

A meaty hand
slapped him across the face then grabbed his chin. “Right then.
You’re off for the long snooze like a good little slumper.”

***

The alley was narrow and drenched in cold shadow
from the high stone wall behind him. Red brick tenements rose
across the other side with willows crowding beside a small
courtyard wall, eager to watch his fate. The burly guard tipped
Elrin to the ground. He hit the cobbles, stiff like a plank, but
felt nothing of the impact.


You got the blaze?” asked one of the guards.


No,” Malek cut back. “Why would I have it?”


Well we don’t, you know. We didn’t ... I mean, we’ve never
...” The guard looked to the others for help, but none was
offered.


You think I just carry around a kit to get set up on my
break?” Malek shoved the guard into the stone wall. “I’m no
slumper!”


You had the blaze with you last time is all. I just
thought.”

Malek struck
his foot against the green door, slamming it shut. “Ash to all of
it! How many more of these do we have to do?”

The guards
waited in silence as their captain cooled off.

Malek opened
the green door. “Right. You pillocks keep an eye on him while I go
back and get the kit.” He stomped away into the passage under the
wall.


So what did you do, eh?” The mouthy guard stood over Elrin’s
head. “What’s the matter, can’t you talk?”

The guards
chuckled with the self-congratulating idiocy of practiced
thugs.

The mouthy
guard leant over Elrin and struck him across the face. “Feel
that?”

Elrin’s body
crumpled over. Blows thumped upon him, brittle brown leaves
crackled as his body scuffed the cobbles with every kick. He felt
no pain, but his ears were insulted by the stupid, juvenile
laughter of the guards having their fun. With no control of where
he looked, his vision skipped from stone wall, to red brick; blue
sky, to black.

He didn’t want
to see, but the darkness swallowed his breath and panic clawed at
him. Was he dead? No, he still heard the taunts and the scraping of
his body against the ground. Not dead yet, but soon he would be.
Perhaps he should welcome it. He was tired of his life; almost
twenty and not one tattoo to show for it. He knew more than any
apprentice his age, but books were as good as dust without a
father. No guild apprenticed without a father’s approval, so he’d
never get his ink; he had nothing.

There was only
hope if his father lived. But, where was he? Was he here in
Calimska? What did the Guildmaster have to do with his father? So
many questions wrenched at him.

He searched
for any trace of feeling from the beating, but there was nothing
physical, his paralysis was complete. All at once, Elrin’s vision
rushed back. One of the other men was jumping on his abdomen and
laughing at the mouthy guard who had his shoe off, rubbing his foot
in pain.


Ya never learn Ginny. Boot’n ‘em hurts like kickin’ a rock.
Jumpin’s more fun. Look at him. Can’t even frown!”

Malek came
through the green door holding a leather pouch. “Get off him,
arseholes!”


C’mon Captain,” whined the guard. “Once the Guildmaster
stiffs ‘em up, ya can’t hurt ‘em none.”


You’re no good to me with broken bones. Off!”


Get this Captain,” said Ginny. “I reckon I know this poor
bastard. His ma’s the old Pride of the Bard’s guild; that plum
who’s all mournful these days. What’s her name?”


How would I know his mother’s name? He’s the errand boy for
some priest of Nathis, Herder Kleith or something. Who
cares?”

Ginny put his
boot back on. “You fellas remember that bird don’t cha? I reckon I
could make her happy again. Though she’d be crying right
after.”

They all
laughed, stirring Elrin’s defeat into burning anger.


Cor, she’s a looker. Big pair a lungs on her, eh. And those
outfits make your mind travel.” Ginny thrust his hips.

They laughed
again and Elrin strained in his petrified state. He was sick of
being the bastard son, the relic of celebrity and the arse end of
jokes. He was tired of Calimska and all its rules, the damn guilds
who wouldn’t have him. Everyone had him marked for scorn and it
burned in him. An angry heat seethed inside. It raged against the
magical bonds cast upon his body.

Malek held a
flame to the bottom of a stoppered glass tube. Elrin watched and
boiled inside. The powder within turned to vapour and the guard
captain knelt beside him, jamming the vessel in Elrin’s mouth. He
drew it into his lungs and his vision swam. Rage exploded, searing
through his body. The fire reignited his senses and energy rushed
through his limbs.

Elrin gripped
his hands to fists and found the dagger’s hilt already upon his
palm. He sprang up and slashed out with the mysterious blade,
driven by an urgency to cut and kill before the poison shut him
down. The first slash tore across Ginny’s face and he fell to the
ground, struggling to hold his mouth together, blood pouring across
his clasping hands. Elrin wheeled around and caught another guard’s
arm reaching for his sword upon the cobblestones. Blood coursed
through the air and splattered on the pavement while the guard
shrieked and grasped his wound, falling to his knees.

Captain Malek
drew his sword. “How in the five hells did you do that? That lot
would’ve put down an ox.”

With his mind
aflame, and chest heaving, Elrin boiled with power out of his
control. The young man’s hands shook and the dagger seemed to pulse
in his tight grip, as though it were alive and hungry for more
blood.

The remaining
two guards drew their swords and edged toward him.

Elrin was no
battle hardened warrior, he did what a lowly messenger did best. He
ran.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

In a Door, Out a Window

 

Elrin fled down the alley, feet tingling with
every stride. The blaze whipped at his heart and his vessels
thrummed with power, pushing thoughts through his mind faster than
his legs could travel. Searching for a way to safety, he careened
out of the alley onto Merchant Circuit which bustled with trade. He
jostled and weaved through the crowd, dodging around an elderly
woman and vaulting over a vegetable cart. He leapt further than he
expected and ploughed headlong into a rack of colourful silk
garments. Scrambling to his feet and trailing green and yellow
brocade, he darted down the adjoining alley. Halfway down, he
chanced a glimpse over his shoulder. Malek, the guard captain, had
caught up after the fall, taking the turn into the alley
alone.

With a swing
of his arm, Elrin knocked over a stack of crates and sped on,
Malek’s heavy footfalls still pounding behind him. The guard
captain crashed through the hazard like a raging orc, cursing and
yelling for blood.

After a dogleg
in the alley, Elrin spotted another of the Guildmaster’s men at the
next street opening, flanked by two city guards. They shouted and
drew their swords, muscling down the narrow backstreet, blocking
any escape. The only door was without a handle and no amount of
shoving would make it budge; there was no way out. He backed up to
the door holding his dagger tight, ready for his last stand.

Elrin raised
his eyes to the heavens praying to Nathis to take him to paradise.
There above him his eyes found the gift of an open window; Nathis
must be have been too busy to take his soul. Not one to let an
opportunity pass by, Elrin clenched the blade between his teeth and
leapt for the sill. His hands found it and he pulled himself
through, arms still surging with unnatural strength.

The blaze
crashed through his system while the city guards ran off down the
alley, one of them ringing a bell. Every clang registered in his
ears like a brass cymbal upside the head. They’d be back soon and
the whole city would be out for him. Malek ordered one of his men
to kick in the door. “You just wait up there, you can’t run from
me.”

Elrin shut the
window, squinting in the dim storage room where barrels were
mounted on stands and the yeasty whiff of spilled beer fouled the
air. There was a door. He took his chances, running out and
knocking into a barkeep. The startled man was quick to grab at his
collar, but Elrin was faster.

He bounded
left and right, dodging tables and pushing past the morning drunks
nursing their tankards. As he got to the front door, it burst in
and four city guards blocked his escape.

Elrin swung
around, chest heaving, eyes wild. He charged up the stairs, taking
the full flight in three paces. Dashing down a narrow hall, he
tested each door, desperate to put a barrier between him and his
pursuers, but none would open. Elrin rushed to the window at the
end of the hall which wouldn’t open either, so he cracked the hilt
of his dagger through the glass and clipped off the remaining
shards. He was about to go through when the door beside him
opened.

A woman stood
in the doorway wearing a short silk nightdress. Her hair fell wild
about her shoulders in a tumble of cinnamon and saffron. Dark eyes
appraised him.


Try my window.” The woman beckoned him in. “I’ve a much
better view.”

Elrin’s voice
stuck in his dry throat. He entered her room, unable to refuse or
think with clarity. The woman winked, closed the door between them
and locked it.

Guards,
thundered up the stairs and down the hall. The beautiful woman
stopped them outside, but Elrin could not make out her words.

What if she
trapped him and was after an easy reward for his capture? He moved
to her window and tested it. It opened with well-oiled ease. He
hesitated a moment, checking for guards down on the street below.
It was perfect. The high roofline obstructed most of the street
view, concealing his exit.

BOOK: Dragon Choir
6.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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