Authors: R.M. Prioleau
Book 2 of
Copyright 2011 by R.M. Prioleau
© 2011 R.M. Prioleau.
All Rights Reserved.
Edited by Misty Wolanski.
Cover Art by Sarah Ellerton.
Aransiya Map by R.M.
Visit the author’s website at:
This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is
No part of this book may be used,
reproduced or transmitted in any manner without the express written permission
of the author. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
The orange-hued skies began to
darken, and Kaijin walked alone, speaking to the presence he couldn’t see. “I
am yours,” he murmured through dry, cracked lips, tasting blood. He slowly
raised his eyes to observe the stretch of wilderness and the dirt road he had
been traveling for only the gods knew how long.
He heard faint whispers in his
mind, resembling the sound of crackling flames:
“You belong to me, Kaijin
Kaijin smiled, listening to
the unknown entity. “I belong ...” How long had it been since he felt
“The boy’s smart, but he has
no common sense,” his father had often said.
“There’s nothing wrong with
him, Ramon,” his mother would argue. “He’s just ... different.”
His younger brother, Rorick,
had often given him odd looks, saying, “You’re strange, Kaijin.”
Kaijin shifted his gaze toward
the ground. No one understood him—or perhaps they were simply afraid of him.
Fate had an interesting way of contending with fear. An entire city was
destroyed as a result.
rang through his ears. The more he dwelled on it, the more his mind was flooded
with memories, both old and new. His eyes burned, unable to shed another tear.
The screams of the dying, the sights,
forgotten none of that fateful day of judgment.
Kaijin blinked when he realized
his mind was wandering again. “They didn’t have to die,” he muttered.
“You think they were all
the fiery voice asked in
“No,” he replied aloud,
shaking his head. “Not everyone was guilty. Not everyone had to die.”
“Death is not fickle. The
lands have been purified.”
He chewed his bottom lip,
staring at his travel-dirty hands. “Then why does the blood of so many
“Ignorance is not
Before Kaijin could respond,
he heard high-pitched screeching from above. Miele, his familiar—a furry, brown
fruit bat—fluttered happily in the sky. Other creatures began emerging from
their habitats, and soon the eerie sounds of night filled Kaijin’s ears.
Where am I going?
When he received no response from the flames in his
mind, he asked aloud, “Why do you continue tormenting me with your damned
“You chose to serve me, and
serve me you shall,”
“The debt you owe has yet to be repaid.”
Kaijin frowned. “I think I
have paid off that debt from the suffering you’ve put me through. Why are you
doing this? Who are you?
Why won’t you face me, coward?”
The sizzling sounds of the
flames tickled Kaijin’s ears.
“You belong to me in more ways than your
mortal mind can begin to comprehend....”
Kaijin stopped in his tracks.
His stomach twisted anxiously. On the road ahead, several armed men loitered
amongst the remains of a broken cart. The air seemed to stiffen, and the
shadows of approaching night danced eerily about the area.
The vagabonds spotted Kaijin
and fell silent. One man emerged from the group and approached. The remaining
light cast shadows over the stranger’s pockmarked face as he carefully assessed
Kaijin’s unkempt condition.
The stranger’s lips curled
into a light smirk. “Well, now, what do we have here? Bit late to be out alone
on an evenin’ stroll like this.”
Kaijin met the man’s gaze and
scowled. “I’m rather tired, sir. I’ve traveled a long way and am in no mood for
your senseless banter.”
“Oho! A little cocky, aren’t you,
jack?” The man crossed his arms. “And just where’d you come from?”
The man raised an eyebrow and
then acknowledged his comrades.
wan’ take a look at this one!”
Moments, later, a path was cleared
from the group, and another man came forth. Torn, bloody leather armor covered
Durant’s brawny frame. Two short swords were strapped to his back. He stood
before Kaijin and studied him briefly. “What’s going on, Lander?” he asked his
“Easthaven, Boss!” Lander
replied, wide-eyed. “This jack’s sayin’ he’s from Easthaven!” He looked at
say ‘Easthaven’, right?”
Kaijin frowned. “Did I
“Impossible,” Durant said.
Destroyed by the gravers almost a month
“You sure it was gravers,
Boss?” Lander interjected. “Thought someone said it was—”
“—Gravers!” Durant reiterated,
shooting a glare at the other man. “I don’t believe in all that finger-wigglin’
shite those gullies keep raggin’ about.” He returned his attention to Kaijin.
“This road was plagued with slaggers up until a few days ago, though. Thought
we picked everyone clean.
Looks like we missed one.”
Kaijin blinked at the bandits’
strange dialect, but he understood their threat well enough.
The air grew tense. He looked
from Durant to Lander—who had vanished. Unnerved by the man’s sudden
disappearance, Kaijin refocused on Durant. “Please ... just let me pass. I
don’t want any trouble....”
Durant snorted and gestured to
the rest of his band who began closing in. “Trouble? There’s no trouble here
unless you’re intendin’ to start some.” His gaze hardened. “You see, we’ve had
almost half the city of Easthaven comin’ to town. Faywald’s practically
overflowin’ with slaggers, now. The city’s going to need some funds to be able
to accommodate everyone. Your contributions would be ... most helpful.” He
Kaijin’s left eye twitched as
he attempted to stave off the rage fueled by Durant’s threats. “I’ve no money.
I’ve nothing of value. Let me pass.”
Durant’s gaze bore into Kaijin. “What kind of
heartless bastard are you, to not want to help all those poor, displaced jacks,
Kaijin’s arms were restrained
from behind. He gasped and attempted to pull away, but the grip on him was too
tight. Kaijin peered over his shoulder spotted Lander, smirking wickedly back
at him. Black, smoky mist dissipated from around the vagabond.
“As I was sayin’,” Durant
continued, stepping forward. “I’m sure you’ve plenty to donate to the cause.”
He pinched one of Kaijin’s gold-plastered earlobes and gave it a firm tug.
Kaijin winced. Except for his
necklace, all his gold jewelry had melted into his skin in what had happened in
Durant whistled as he
appraised the gold with his eyes. “This is easily worth two hundred
here—enough to feed many mouths.” He yanked Kaijin’s
earlobe so hard, some of the skin ripped off with the gold.
Kaijin let out a terrified
scream of pain. Another vagabond approached and delivered a hard punch to his
gut, silencing Kaijin’s cries. Kaijin’s eyes burned. His ears numbed from pain.
He smelled blood he was certain was his own. A bitter, coppery taste lingered
in his mouth.
Durant ripped the gold from
Kaijin’s other ear, and then tore the globs that remained of his rings from his
fingers. “Hey, I’m being gentle here, you know.” Durant laughed. “It would’ve
not hurt at all, if you’d cooperated before. Now, what else do you ha—
Miele dove at Durant’s face
then took off again, leaving behind bloody bite marks in one of his eyes. She
soared back into the night sky and disappeared.
Panic and confusion swept over
the group of men as Durant cried out, holding his face. Blood poured from his
left eye and seeped between his fingers.
You’re bleedin’!” one of the vagabonds shouted.
“No shite!” Durant bellowed,
his voice muffled by his hands. “What in the bloody hells bit me? Gods! I can’t
see! I think ... I think I’m blind!”
Some of the men scrambled to
tend to their leader, but he shoved them aside. Blood dotted the ground around
“Search this jack,
chalk him afterwards,” Durant ordered. He turned and
then stumbled down the road. “I’m goin’ back to town to find a warder.”
Kaijin felt a twinge in his
mind and winced. He frantically scanned the skies. He concentrated through the
pain in his body to find Miele’s whereabouts. Sensing her preparing to give
Durant another round of attacks, Kaijin told her mentally,
“No, Miele. Get
away from here. There are far too many of these ruffians. I don’t want you
hurt. Go hide, and don’t come out until I tell you.”
Miele’s silhouette fluttered
to a nearby tree, where she remained.
Someone pulled Kaijin
backwards. The men around him disappeared and then reappeared from the shadows.
In unison, they drew their weapons, the steel of the blades reflecting the
light of the rising moon.
Why are they advancing?
“I told you! I have
Lander pinned Kaijin to the
ground on his back. Four men pointed their blades at Kaijin’s throat. One of
the men took Lander’s spot while Lander began rummaging through Kaijin’s
“Now, let’s see what we have
here....” Lander pulled out Kaijin’s weathered spellbook, which locked with a
metal clasp. Lander scrutinized the book, running his fingers along the raised
crevices of runes, glyphs and tiny gems embellishing its cover.
“No! Don’t touch my
spellbook!” Kaijin cried weakly.
“What kind of book is that?”
one of the vagabonds asked.
Ignoring them both, Lander
attempted to unsecure the metal clasp, but it wouldn’t budge—the
spell made sure of that.
Lander finally shook his head
in puzzlement. “Hells if I know. But it looks like something that’ll fetch some
good coin.” He tossed the book aside and emptied the container. A sealed jar
and a well-kept silver dagger spilled out. He took a moment to examine the
dagger’s blade and then sheathed it in his boot. “Not worth shite, but one
can’t have too many shivs around, eh?” He opened the jar, and then snorted at
what he discovered inside. “What in the bloody hells are these things? Sugar
sticks?” Frustrated, he threw the jar to the ground.
Kaijin struggled against the
men’s grip as Lander picked up the book again. He felt his golden amulet slip
out from beneath his robes. The symbol, shaped like a flame,
a warm, soothing heat against his chest in time with his heartbeat.
The smile on Lander’s face
the shiny we’ve been lookin’ for!” He reached
for the charm.
Kaijin’s breathing became
ragged. “No, don’t! Don’t touch it!”
Lander’s fingertips barely
touched the golden surface, and something sizzled. “Ow!” He yanked his hand
back and nursed the tiny burn wound. “Now, if that isn’t the strangest shite
I’ve ever seen ...”
“No....” Kaijin’s voice
weakened. His mind was jumbled, and he felt dizzy. Soon, the men’s voices
around him began growing fainter in his ears. He knew this sensation, and he
felt unable to stop it.
Lander thoroughly examined the
grabbed it, gritting his teeth.
Too weak to resist, Kaijin
blacked out for a moment. He began to come to when he heard Lander cry out in
pain, followed by several sets of feet trampling closer. Kaijin quickly opened
his eyes and spied Lander holding his hand, which was burned to the bone. The
other men scrambled about in a panic. Watching Lander suffer brought a smile to
The unknown presence spoke to
Kaijin’s mind again.
“Such insolence will not go unpunished.”
A soothing warmth filled
Kaijin’s body, and he felt himself lose his will. He closed his eyes briefly,
succumbing to the unknown force that possessed his body. When he reopened them,
the world around him was painted red. He stared at the group of men.
Tightening their grips on their
weapons, the vagabonds began slowly backing away from Kaijin and Lander.
Lander gawked at Kaijin.
“Who—What in the—”
“Looks like finger-wigglin’ to
me!” one man shouted.
“Them finger-wigglers are
dangerous!” another said.
believe the slaggers’ rumors about a finger-wiggler destroying
doing that shite. Pretty sure it was gravers.”
“Get your facts straight,
jack. It was neither.”
“Hey! I know finger-wigglin’
when I see it.”
Lander whipped his head around
to face his comrades. He shouted, “Enough! This jack’s just some punk who
wishes he was like them Ghaeldorund finger-wigglers. Now, someone help me get
this damned necklace off him.”