Authors: John Booth
Jalia and Daniel continue their journey to Slarn onboard the Steam Dragon, one of the three fabled steamboats from antiquity. Their objective is to retrieve the magic ring and dagger in the possession of Gally Sorn, but this will not prove an easy task.
And then there is the matter of the swords in the hold; enough to decide the outcome of the civil war about to start in Slarn. There are many factions on board who wish the swords for their exclusive use and will kill to obtain them. It will prove to be an eventful journey.
Book 5 of Jalia - The World of Jalon
First published in 2013 by John Booth Enterprises Ltd
Cover Design by JBE
Jalon Map by JBE
Copyright ©2013 John Booth
All rights reserved
John Booth asserts the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work,
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Other Books by John Booth on Amazon Kindle
The Inspector Monde Mysteries
Jalia on the Road
Jalia in the North
Jalia and the Slavers
Jalia at Bay
Revenge of the Brotherhood
Carlotta and the Krius Scepter
House of Silver Magic
Sapphire Magic: Breaking Glass
Gold Magic: Terror in Mind
The Magic Series (Anthology)
Visit the author’s web page
Scrawls in the Dust
Jalia at War (Jalia #6)
Jalia and Daniel are seeking to recover the magic ring and dagger, which were stolen in the Northern Forest. The trail has led them to Boathaven and onto the Steam Dragon, one of three ancient steam ships that travel between Boathaven and Slarn. They know the magic objects are in the hands of Gally Sorn, who is also on the ship. She has refused to return them though she does not know they have magical powers.
Jalia and Daniel have been assisting three traders, Tonas Mallow, Wilf Denger and his brother Tred. These are the survivors of a larger party that set out from Telmar. The traders are bringing three thousand three hundred and sixty swords to Slarn where Gally Sorn will pay them the remainder of the money she owes. The amount of money paid depends on the number of swords delivered and, unknown to Gally, the full amount are now on the ship.
Their other adult companions are Cara and Don Marin. Cara is fleeing the constraints of her family and Don is coming along reluctantly. Their mother Brila Marin ordered them to kill Jalia and Daniel because the two killed Cara’s youngest brother. Cara decided not to carry out her orders and joined them on their journey.
The city of Slarn is divided into three groups known as the Triums. The borders of these segments are defined by the river Jalon splitting into two at the center of the city. Each Triums is controlled by a royal family. Known as Dalk, Jenver, and Tallis, the royal families also take these names. A king is appointed to rule the city from one of the three royal families.
Tradition dictates that a King is selected from each of the royal families in turn. Always a man aged between forty and fifty, and he rules for life. When the last king died, it was the Jenver’s turn to appoint the king.
The only candidate they offered was Kalenda Jenver who was unacceptable to the others because she is a woman. The city is in a state of cold war that is threatening to become a hot one.
Jalia took on a child companion during their journey through the forest. The girl was fatally wounded in the fight on the docks to recover the remaining swords. Jalia ordered Daniel to save Hala using the magic she believes he possesses, he being the last living heir to the Magician Kings.
Jalia woke as dawn broke. With less than three hours sleep she was exhausted. This was unusual. Normally, lack of sleep had no impact on her at all, but things were far from normal.
There were four bunks in their cabin, but Jalia had been sleeping on the floor between the door and the beds, using her body as an obstacle to anyone who might enter the room. She was also there so she could react immediately if her companions stirred.
As she rose wearily to her feet her first thoughts were for Daniel. He lay exactly as she left him. His face so pale it looked as if he were dead. His breathing so shallow it was inaudible. Jalia checked yet again to reassure herself he was still alive. She did not try to wake him. She had tried that repeatedly and fruitlessly in the early hours of the morning and now considered it best to let him wake naturally, if he ever did.
Jalia al’Dare was five feet six inches tall and of slim build. Her hair was dark brown, but people mistook it for black because her complexion was so pale. Her skin was the color of milk. Dark blue eyes took in the world around her, missing nothing as she surveyed the cabin. She had the kind of looks that encouraged little boys and grown men to flock around her in the hope she might notice them. Jalia had the look of someone who could change the world if it dared to stand in her way.
The bunks were arranged in pairs. Daniel lay in the bottom bunk to the left, where she had dragged him the night before. In the bottom bunk on the right, Hala lay unmoving.
She was a pretty little girl when she bothered to wash. Her hair was a lighter brown than Jalia’s, arranged in two braids.
“Hala,” Jalia said quietly, putting her hand on the girl’s shoulder. Hala’s eyes sprang open in shock.
“I had a terrible dream, Jalia. I was up on a roof and killed a man with my knife, then he shot me with his crossbow and I died.” Hala’s hands squeezed Jalia’s arms convulsively.
“You didn’t die. The rest is true.”
Hala pulled the blanket off her body, finding she had been stripped naked while she slept. Her hands flew to her belly where the bolt had struck. Her hands pressed against unmarked flesh.
“I had to take your clothes off to wash them before the blood dried. Don’t think this means you can stop wearing knickers. I am sure they will be dry soon.”
“Daniel saved me,” Hala whispered incredulously. “It’s true about who he is.”
Jalia frowned. “You must never tell anybody. If the Fairie get even a hint of it they will come after him.”
“You’ve met the Fairie? Are they beautiful and powerful, like gods?”
“The ones I met were of the sand variety. They died much like ordinary mortals when I cut their throats. They killed my father, Hala. I have little time for them.”
“Daniel, Daniel.” Hala jumped out of bed and ran to his bunk. “Thank you for saving me.”
Hala grabbed Daniel’s shoulder to shake him awake and stopped as she felt how cold his skin was. He had not reacted at all.
“Is he ….? Oh, please, Jalia. Don’t tell me he died saving me.” Hala sat on the floor beside Daniel’s bunk and began to cry.
“There will be plenty of time for that when I get around to punishing you for disobeying me,” Jalia said coldly and pulled Hala to her feet.
“Daniel is not dead, but I cannot wake him. We must give him time to recover and no one must know he is like this. Do you understand?” Jalia shook Hala to get her attention.
“Yes, Jalia,” Hala managed to get out between sobs.
“We cannot afford for anyone to connect you with Daniel’s absence, which we will put down to food poisoning. So you have to come with me and act normally.”
“I can’t stop crying.”
“There is plenty for you to cry about without mentioning Daniel. There was a massacre on the docks last night. Hadon, Dav and Perder are dead.” Jalia paused because she knew that the next two names she gave would upset Hala even more. “As are Tel and Grilt.”
Hala wailed and put her arms around her, sobbing uncontrollably. Jalia always found it difficult to deal with emotional matters and resorted to patting Hala gently on the back.
“Grilt was always nice to me,” Hala said, once her sobs had reduced to the level where she could complete whole words. “He used to ride with me and that felt special.”
Jalia pried Hala from her, which turned out to require considerable effort.
“I can see you are beginning to become a young woman.” Her speech was drier than the front of her jerkin, which was soaked. “I will get your clothes. I’m afraid the leather items will still be damp, but it looks like it’s going to be a warm day so you are unlikely to catch a chill.”
“How will I explain they are wet, if anyone asks?”
“Tell then that Daniel was sick over you. Offer to let them smell your clothes to check they are clear of it.”
“That’s disgusting.” Hala wrinkled up her nose at the thought.
“A few weeks ago, you would never have noticed a little sick on you,” Jalia pointed out.
“But I’m a clean young lady now,” Hala said with some pride, twirling around on her toes with her arms held out wide. “And I wear knickers all the time, which is more than you do.”
Jalia gave Hala a look that had the girl backing to the corner of the cabin, hands covering her nakedness as best she could. Jalia turned away and smiled.
The girl certainly had spirit; you had to give her that
Tonas Mallow was in the dining room, eating a breakfast of warm bread rolls and hard cheese. On the other side of the table the two Denger brothers sat gloomily, their rolls barely touched. Tonas was a good looking man, immaculately dressed now that they were no longer on the road. He put his hand through his short curly hair and decided he had to snap Wilf and Tred from their sadness.
“Eat your breakfast,” Tonas ordered, unconsciously using the same tone of voice and mannerisms as his dead father. “You are going to be very rich men, very soon.”
“If we live long enough to enjoy it,” Wilf Denger muttered as he cut a piece of cheese. He didn’t bother to put it in his mouth, preferring to stare at it.
“Your father told us this was going to be a simple business transaction,” Tred Denger pointed out as he rubbed at the stubble on his chin. His large white moustache was in a bit of a state as well. Neither he, nor his brother had managed to get a wink of sleep since they finished bringing the swords onboard. Tred found that whenever he closed his eyes he saw the faces of his dead friends as he left them on the dock, staring at him with sightless accusing eyes.
“It will be simple from now on, and we will be safe from Gally Sorn because she believes our shipment is three hundred swords short. I intend that we shall keep her in that state of ignorance until the last possible moment.”
“That will be a nice surprise for her when we get to Slarn,” Wilf muttered. He picked up a roll and then put it down again untouched. “After all, Slarn is her home city and no doubt she has lots of armed friends and relatives. What makes you think she will not have us killed rather than pay us?”
Tonas smiled grimly. “My father was not the most honorable of men and Slarn has three warring factions. If Gally Sorn does not pay in full, then there are others more than ready to step in. In fact, I think it is more likely that she will die shortly after paying us, rather than the other way around.”
“I had not realized you were as much like your father as you are,” Wilf said thoughtfully.
“I thank you for the compliment.” Tonas gave a small nod.
“It was not meant as a compliment.”
Jalia and Hala walked into the dining room and strolled over to where the food was displayed. Hala picked up three rolls and two large chunks of cheese. She could not believe how hungry she felt.
Tonas turned away from the brothers as he saw the women enter the room. He waved them over. He could not help but notice that Hala’s clothes were damp, as though she had been swimming in the river. He also noted that her eyes were red and puffy.
“In the civilized parts of Jalon we take our clothes off before we bathe,” he remarked dryly.
“So do I.” Hala lifted up the front of her leather skirt, “Look, my knickers are dry.”
“Daniel suffered a bout of food poisoning last night,” Jalia said lightly, as if talking about the weather. “Hala stood rather too close to him when his stomach parted company with its contents.”
“We washed it all off though. Have a smell,” Hala said cheerfully as she moved closer to Wilf who tried to back away from her.
“I wondered where he disappeared to last night,” Tonas said, ignoring Hala’s comment. “One minute he was loading bags of swords, the next he was gone.”
“I had to get the last two bags myself,” Tred stated irritably, his moustache shaking with indignation. “A man my age shouldn’t be humping around bags of swords in the middle of the night. My back is killing me.”
Tred and Wilf were in their mid-forties, though their snow white hair made them look older. Wilf nodded in agreement with his brother. The two started this journey to make a lot of money, not to be shot at with crossbows or threatened with swords, and certainly not to have to work as if they were servants. They were men of influence and power back in Telmar and now they were following the orders of young Tonas Mallow as if he was his father. The Denger brothers were far from pleased at the way this trading mission had gone.
“I expect it will be a couple of days before Daniel fully recovers,” Jalia continued cheerfully. “I am going to get him some broth from the boat’s galley as soon as Hala and I have eaten.”
“Jalia,” Tonas said forcefully, bringing the conversations around the table to silence. “I don’t want you or Daniel to say anything about the swords to Lady Sorn.”
“Why not?” Jalia said a little belligerently. She didn’t work for this man and he had no right to tell her what she could or couldn’t say to anybody.
Tonas backed off as he realized he had angered her. He had seen enough of her to know Jalia al’Dare could kill him before he could get his hand to his sword, if she chose to. He decided to try to placate her.
“If Gally Sorn knows we have all the swords she will be motivated to kill us, so I would rather she doesn’t find out until we reach Slarn. That is my only reason to ask.”
“She’ll find out soon enough when the bodies are discovered in the lock-up. The Lord Protector’s men will be all over us soon. I’m surprised they aren’t onboard already.”
“We left Boathaven over an hour ago,” Tonas informed her. “You can feel the throb of the engines through the floor. We are miles upriver of Boathaven.”
Jalia had taken the slight rocking of the boat as motions in the harbor. Now it was pointed out to her, the throb of the engines was self-evident. She felt slightly foolish for not knowing their journey had already begun. As always, feeling foolish brought out Jalia’s belligerent side.
“Well I, for one, would welcome a fight with Lady Sorn.”
“But think how much fun it will be, knowing how much money she will have to pay when she reaches Slarn. Isn’t it worth it to keep her in ignorance?” Wilf suggested.
It was a good try, but it would never have worked if Jalia hadn’t considered the fact that she and Daniel needed to recover the dagger and ring. Once Sorn knew about the swords, she was much more likely to be on her guard against any attempt to retrieve them.
Jalia nodded her head. “Very well, I shall inform Daniel and we shall keep your little secret for now. But remember, Daniel and I owe you nothing and you do not order us to do anything on any matter.”
Tonas nodded in agreement at the deal. “Will you instruct Cara and Don Marin not to say anything?”
“That’s for you to agree with them and nothing to do with us. You may remember that Don originally followed us to kill us and Cara is under no obligation to any of us.”
“I will keep quiet for only two pieces of gold,” Hala said brightly.
Jalia grabbed Hala by the ear and the girl squealed as Jalia pulled her away from the table. “Hala will say nothing,” Jalia said ignoring Hala’s cries of protest. “We will eat at a separate table, if that causes no offence?”
The Denger brother’s grinned at Hala’s discomfiture and waved them away. Tonas nodded his dismissal. Jalia led Hala some distance away before she let go of her ear.