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Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Elven_Fforestydd, Jun 29, 2014.
Birds chirped their familiar call and response chorus as they flitted back and forth among the trees in the sun dappled forest. Their song barely missed a note as a young, slight man walk quietly among the under-growth. His feet landed carefully among the under brush, each step purposefully placed, his pace was hindered little by the speed of his pace. His tunic was simple and stressed after many days of use. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to the elbow, allowing access to the small summer breeze. The man’s dark brown hair was cut short, to keep his eye’s clear, was wet and sticking to his forehead. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand, clearing sweat from his eyes. The man carried a pack and a single blade. Little about his appearance would tell of his identity.
Emmett FitzRoy had been traveling since morning, leaving under the cover of dark. Emmett had spent the last several months traveling from various lord’s estates, talking to their household and inquiring into their income and allegiance. The information that he had discovered would to be passed along to the King’s Ear to be used in the continuing search for the missing people. Emmett’s had uncovered several clues that could lead to illegal slave markets.
It would be several hours before he reached the next small hamlet. There he might be lucky if he found a hot meal. After that, it would only be a few days before he would be home again in the capital. It had been many months since he had last been there, and in that time his communication with his brother had been a few, hastily posted messages. Most communication was checking in with The Ear or receiving new orders. He was looking forward to spending time with his brother Raoul, the only family member he cared for. His mother had died when he was a child and her dying act was to leave him with his father, King Edwin. His father had been welcoming to a point and accepted him as a son, giving him the name, FitzRoy, denoting his father’s acknowledgment of his bustard son. Edwin’s second son, Lucas, felt very different. He treated Emmett with hatred and contempt the moment he arrived. Many of Emmett’s childhood memories were filled with Lucas tormenting Emmett for one reason or another. Half of the time Raoul would come and tell Lucas off, but in later years Raoul spent more time away, learning the role of heir and future king.
Birds song filled the forest as the group sat not far from the road, quietly chatting as they waited. A motley crew of bandits whom had gotten their start as pick pockets and petty thieves. That was when he joined after all, Vincent or Vinny Ferretpaws as the other men called him. They knew not of his real identity only the lie he weaved. He was given the nick name Ferretpaws for his upbeat and playful attitude as well as his knack for lifting just about any object from someone’s pocket. Be had become good, damn good at picking pockets and had made the bandits quite a bit of coin as well as laughs. He was also quite skilled with a bow although he rarely used it for more than parlor tricks. Never had he used it against someone. So naturally he was nervous as he sat with the group.
For Vinny this was all a game. Playing pick pocket and getting into trouble was nothing more than entertainment for him. But when his band of friends started getting into more serious crime, he simply couldn’t just back away. The man was too deep in it now. For months he’d avoided going with them on their ambushes, not wanting to kind nap people for the bands new lucrative slave trade. But he’d been challenged and if there was one thing the prideful boy couldn’t do it was back down. He ran his hand through his thick wavy black hair as he bounced his knee. He was dressed in light leather armor, something that would both allow him to move and be protected at the same time. Where the dark leather didn’t cover was mocha skin. His chocolate brown eyes darted to the trees as he prayed no one would come down this road today.
But he didn’t pray hard enough as a bird like whistle trilled, the scout signaling the rest of the men of someone arriving. One short chirp sounded the number of people spotted. One. Vinny closed his eyes and rubbed his face as he dreaded the moments to come. “C’mon Vinny, time to earn a notch in your belt.” The leader of the band called to him, a short but very stocky man with dark hair and beady steel blue eyes. “Ah but just one? We could let him pass right?” He said trying to talk his way out of this. “Something is better than nothing. No get to your feet.” He commanded. Vinny sighed and stood to his feet, his very lanky six foot frame towered over the older aggressive leader.
Silently everyone got into position, Vinny placing an arrow in the string acting as though he were ready. But in reality, he wasn’t. Then everything started to happen very quickly. Men burst from all sides of the road, surrounding the man that walked along it. Reluctantly Vinny darted out with them, pulling his bow back and aimed at the man. His heart thundered so loud in his chest that he barely heard his leader. “Hold it right there, friend.” He said in a mocking tone. “You are being kidnapped… and robbed.” His men laughed a bit, although not Vincent. “So come along quietly and we’ll have no need to rough you up.” He said with a devious grin on his face.
Emmett’s keen ears picked up a rustle of leaves to one side. Pausing a moment he listened until he was satisfied he had heard only an animal. Part of him was worried that he was being followed. Near the end of his stay, several questions were being asked that shouldn’t have been, leading to a hasty departure. Emmett subconsciously ran his hands along the underside of his arms, outlining the small daggers that rested there. Large weapons stood out and caused wandering eyes to question.His small flat knives fit perfectly into his sleeves. Reassured he continued.
Emmet was just thinking of his cat back home when the still forest suddenly erupted into a flurry of large men crashing though the leaves and a surrounding him. There were several of them, most with bows pointed at him. Emmett’s heart thudded lousy in his ear, racing faster then it had been minutes before. Emmett quickly studied the men. There was no insignia to be seen. It was unlikely then that these were men from Lord Oburon’s, unless they were hired. Probably, from the shabby disheveled looks of the, they were outlaws or bandits thought Emmett. Highway men were common occurrences along roads such as he was on. They had him well outnumbered and blocked him from all directions. Emmett’s gaze halted for a moment a rather tall man. He seemed more unsure of the situation, new to the outlaw life perhaps.
The apparent leader spoke up and declared his intentions, which caused several of the men to laugh, obviously to please their leader for the man said nothing of humor. Emmett looked at the options before him. He could try and talk his way out of the situation, perhaps pay them off greatly for free passage. If they were common outlaws then the sight of a few extra crowns would be enough to send them on their way. If they wanted a fight, he would be in deeper trouble. Although trained in combat, and quiet able at hand to hand, Emmett could never hold his own against that many men. He would be lucky to take down three before completely overpowered and shot. The last option was to create enough of a gap to slip away and lose them off the road. If he did, he could cover his tracks and remains hidden until he was in a safer area.
“Gentlemen, I am afraid that I would have little value to offer if kidnaped. I have no title nor land, but having a hearty father and wanton mother, I have money enough to supply all of you with seveal fine evenings.” Emmett had found that lies based mostly on truth were some of the easier to fabricate and get away with. “What is your price?” Emmett hoped that by using a persona of heir and pomp we would be able to convince the men that he was a man of affluence and someone who would be missed if he never came home.
Everything in his mind seemed to be playing with heightened senses. The rustling of leaves, the callous chuckles, the shuffling of boots. Vincent’s own heart also pounded in his chest. The man looked surprised and not terribly frightened. Was this normal? Or did this guy just have a cool head? His hands tightened on his bow as his eyes darted to the rest of the men. He silently prayed the man wouldn’t run. That he’d just give himself up without a fight because if he ran Vincent wasn’t sure he could pull the bow string and the arrow hit it’s flesh and blood target. Thankfully he didn’t run, at least not now. He countered his boss’s words with logic. But did he really expect to talk his way out of this?
Vincent closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. No, no, no you idiot. Don’t tell him you have money! He thought to himself before opening his eyes. His boss raised his brows and he seemed even more interested. He looked back to his men, all of whom murmured amongst themselves. “Hey Vinny, if he has that much cash you could avoid the next few missions.” The man closest to Vincent whispered. But for Vincent this was never about money, just about amusement. And this was far from amusing. He shot a glare at the man beside him. But maybe he could act as a voice of reason for the man. “Would be better to take his coin and let him walk home naked wouldn’t Boss?” This roused a few laughs from the men as Vincent spoke to the shorter man.
But the boss man merely smiled at the thought. “If he has money, he’s worth money.” He said looking back at Vincent. He unsheathed his sword and walked to Emmet, placing the blade towards the man’s throat. “Hands up. Check him for weapons.” He nodded to the nearest lackies. Vincent sighed, so much for trying to help the guy.
Emmett observed the motley band as he gave his proposition. He watched the way they shifted in their boots, testing their weight as they waited for a command from their leader. He could see he picked a sensitive topic bringing up money. The leader’s interest was perked, as was the taller man. He spoke again, causing the men to chuckle. Emmett was not wholly shocked when the leader pushed aside the walking naked idea, much to Emmett’s relief. He had never been comfortable being bare in the company of others. Shared baths during training had been particularly painful.
The leader eyed Emmett up and down then approached him, his sword drawn. Emmett held still, a flutter in his stomach as he felt the cold steal of the blade rest along his sensitive neck. “Now I think I have given you the wrong imprecation.” He said. He needed to keep calm and keep his cover. “I may have money, but as a person, I have no value attached to me. Let’s just say my father had a hard time keeping to himself, particularly when in the company of the fairer gender.” He hoped that they would see his reasoning, take his money and leave finding he would be ransom-less. It was a lie of course. Raoul would pay to have him back, and most likely his father, but he didn’t need them to know his family connections.
Emmett felt himself being searched for weapons. All they had to do was feel for the familiar outline along his arms, hips and boots. He could feel his heart begin to beat faster. He could continue to play the spineless wander, let them take his weapons and do what they would, or he could try and escape. He could take the few on him now and maybe manage to slip past the others. A split second choice made Emmett decide that the information he needed to carry back was to important to wait if he were detained to their bandit camp to await ransom. He needed to act.
He took the wrist of one of the men and twisted, easily of balancing him, slipping away from the blade at his neck. Using the man’s own weight he dropped him to the ground and attacked the next one.
Just don’t do anything stupid… Vincent thought as he watched the men search the hapless wanderer. Maybe this was going to be easy and nothing major would happen. The men chuckled at Emmet’s reply but that didn’t stop them, nor the leader. “You see, it’s been my experience that… when you have money you are worth money. And even if you don’t sell for a pile of coin… I think what you claim to have will compensate.” He replied darkly. Vincent started to think that everything was going smoothly. Maybe nothing would happen after all? But alas he was wrong, very wrong. The man exploded and tossed one searcher off him and dodged the blade of his arrogant boss. Instinct made the man tense and pull his bow string back but he lack the cold soul to let it fly.
Everything started to happen fast and Vincent was caught in a daze was he watched. The one man hit the ground with a surprised grunt as the next man pulled his sword. This second man swung upwards trying to upper cut Emmet across the chest. Meanwhile a third man rushed in to try and grab Emmet from behind. More men moved in quickly ready to defend their fellow men should they fall. The boss simply backed up barking a single order. “Grab him!” He bellowed like a general giving orders on the battle field. The other archers waited for a command, not wanting to hit their own men. But Vincent’s bow lowered a little as he watched the battle. It was unfair and he worried for the traveler. He wanted to speak up and say something but he couldn’t in this heated moment.
As Emmett straightened he glimpsed a second man approaching, his sword arching upward for his chest. Emmett jumped back, missing the blade by inches. A force barreled into him from behind, thick arms entangling themselves around his body. Emmett used the man’s forward momentum to make enough space to slip one arm around the back, grabbing ahold of his belt and the other slide up till it reached the man’s lapel. Emmett dropped his body, bending at the knees, sending the larger man keeling over top of him, his back landing with a thud against the dirt.
Emmett heard the learner bellow commands, ordering his men to attack him. Emmett wasted little time to see if they were following them. He used the split second he had to run. There was an opening where his attackers had come from. He darted for the opening, dodging one man’s grasp. He felt a slight sting on his arm. Looking down, Emmett saw a crimson blotch on his sleeve. “Just a nick” thought Emmett. He kept running. If he could get enough space between them, he might be able to lose them in the forest. He dared a look behind him. Sure enough they were following.
An arrow whistled past him, burying itself deeply into the trunk of a tree. Emmett changed directions, beginning to zig zag, weaving through the trees. Another arrow struck a tree as he passed. Breathing hard he kept running. He could hear the voices of the men behind him. Running to avoid being his was slowing him down, and the voices were getting closer. Emmett ducked, nearly missing a low hanging branch. He lost his footing and stumbled into a durable patch, the small thorns clutching onto his breaches. He pulled at the plant, freeing his legs.
A force took him by surprise from the left. A man had ambushed him from the side, knocking him down, in the the brambles. Emmett struggled to get the man off him. He felt the man’s fist make contact with his face. Emmett rammed the palm of his hand into the man’s ear, causing his to lose his balance. Emmett wiggled out, barely standing, only to have another man trap his arm behind him and yank painfully upward. A small gasp escaped Emmett’s lips as the man forced him to his knees. Emmett struggled and tried to throw the man above him. He managed to get him off, by tucking and rolling to the side. Standing Emmett pulled the knives from his boots and cut at someone, drawing blood. He slashed again, blocking a oncoming blade. He turned, watching all sides, slashing. As he turned his knee gave way as one of the men’s boots came into contact. He dropped to his knees, his knives falling from his hands.
Instantly two men were behind him. “Get his arms!” Someone yelled. He felt himself being yanked up again, his arm’s locked behind him. Kicking, Emmett tried to break free, but he knew it was useless. There were too many of them. He was drug out of the brambles, now free and his adrenaline failing he could feel the hundreds of scorched that covered his face and hands. They man that Emmett had wrestled in the briars wasn’t much better, his face red and puffy from scratches. He gave the incapacitated Emmett a sly grin before he punched him in the gut, causing Emmett to double over in pain. “Here comes my favorite part of this game” Thought Emmett as the man struck again, then again, each time manhandled up and held by the two brutes on either side.
Vincent watched in horror as things quickly spiraled out of control. He lowered his bow as he watched the chaos of more men running the hapless man. He was rooting for him, all the way. Chanting in his mind and letting out an excited gasp when Emmet flipped the man over his head. He even caught himself whispering ‘go go’ as he bolted to run. His thief brothers however quickly took chase. The man beside knocked an arrow back. It was his friend Mark, who was a damn good shot. He’d not miss. In an instant Vincent acted without thinking. He nudged Mark just as the arrow flew, knocking the other man off target. Vincent saw the Emmet kept running and the arrow graze his arm. He’d saved him for the moment from serious injury but Mark was furious. “What the hell Vinny!?” He bellowed in anger. “You made me miss my shot!” He yelled.
“Boss said he’s worth more alive.” He retorted as he chased with everyone else. Mark darted after him, not happy about the miss. “I was aiming for his shoulder! He would have survived!” But Vincent was no longer listening but instead was hoping for Emmet to escape. But the other men were too far away for Vincent to properly disrupt their arrows. Every one that thudded into a tree man him root the man on more and more. Then… he fell. Either lost his footing or he tripped Vincent was too far to properly tell but that gave more than enough time for the others to catch up. He skidded to a halt as Emmet was knocked to the ground. His heart sank. He couldn’t move and his fellow men passed by him as he could only stare a moment. Everything happened so fast. He was tackled then repeatedly punched, even as he was dragged to his feet.
The sight of the man being brutally beaten was almost too much for Vincent. Suddenly something in him took over and he rushed over, slamming his bow into the comrade that was brutalizing Emmet. Such was his force that he knocked the man over, whom was none to pleased with such a harsh reaction from one of his own. “What the hell are you doing!? We’ve caught him. Isn’t that enough?” Vincent bellowed in a confident tone, something foreign for the prankster. But he suddenly had to explain himself. “He’s worth more alive than dead. You think we’ll get paid if you beat him to death?!” He bellowed as he stood in from of Emmet.
None of his actions were missed by Boss. The shorter man narrowed his eyes and sighed. He knew Vinny was soft but this was pathetic. If he didn’t like the boy so much he’d cut him loose now. But he’d save their words for a private matter. For now there was some reason in his words. “Oh Vinny, you’re so serious all of the sudden. Man needed to learn he shouldn’t run…” He said breathing only a little heavy from the romp in to forest. “But you do have a valid point. Slavers won’t pay for dead slaves. Tie him up and bring him back to the caravan.” Vincent breathed the fire from his lungs and started to turn to look at Emmet but he simply couldn’t bare to look at the broken man. He slid the bow over his chest and walked away.
The beating continued. Emmett tried to keep aware and not lose face. He called out once and exhaled sounds of mixed pain. Suddenly it stopped and Emmett felt the grasp on his one side vanished. Glancing, he noticed that the one man has been shoved to the ground by his comrade who was not yelling at him. Emmett's other capture held on to him tighter, for fear he might use the disruption as a diversion for escape. Emmett struggled to his feet, exhausted, his knees gave way and he slouched back to the ground. There was no likelihood of him running for a few hours.
Emmett licked his lips, his dry mouth greeted with the taste of liquid iron. He felt his face. His lip was swollen and bleeding and his nose felt crooked. His entire body hurt. He was no stranger to a beating, but it had been a few many years since he had encountered one this rough.
The leader of the pack finally caught up, a little slower then his brutes. He confronted Emmett's savior, out of earshot, before addressing his men. Emmett was drug up to his feet, strong arms supporting him as his legs quivered. He pulled his arm free as a man grabbed them to tie. Suddenly he found himself on the ground, tripped over the man's intentionally placed leg. The man laughed then tied his arms behind his back, pulling it extra tight. Emmett was again drug upright and marched away from the brambles.
He used the time to inspect the men. Several of them were covered in briar scratches and a few bruises were forming on their face's. One man nursed a broken nose. Emmett grinned to himself. "At least I won't be the only ugly one tonight" he muttered. He braced himself for the slap that came next. He coughed but managed a grin. "You won't be grinning for long." A man said.
Vincent looked back a moment when he heard Emmet’s voice mocking the man he’d just brawled with. He winced at the echoing slap but looked in time to see the captive grin. He was either terribly brave to stand up to these men. Or incredibly stupid. Bravery and stupidity was such a fine line to walk and either could be confused with the other. Vincent frowned and looked away as he caught a burning glare by Mark, the man whom he’d disrupted his shot. But he didn’t pay the look further attention. He couldn’t handle the brutal beating that the man Emmet was being subjected to. His Boss didn’t miss this either and planned on talking with Vincent in private. Forcing him to join them or chose something far worse. He liked Vinny but if he became a loose end, then he’d be snipped.
“Boss! Lookie here!” One man who’d been riffling through Emmet’s bags said. He held a letter with the seal of the king. The stout boss grinned as Emmet just became more interesting. “Oh my dear boy. It looks to me like you are of far more importance than you claimed. Empty his pockets and bring him along.” He said motioning the men to follow. Emmet was aggressively brought along with them, dragging him in necessary to ward their waiting horses. He was tied by a long rope to a horse and forced to walk the lengthy distance to a nearby cabin. On the outside it looked like an inn, although only the motley bandits rested there now. With a spacious common hall and many tables and chairs to eat at. The second floor held all the various rooms where travelers and bandits alike stayed. But it was the ale cellar that was vastly different from the cozy inn.
There was only a keg or two of ale with a few bottles of wine. Leftovers that wouldn’t fit in the new cellar. No the old one was dark, damp and transformed into a foreboding maze of cells. All designed to hold the various people they captured and planned to sell to slavers. The cellar was vast, taking up more room underground than the inn did above ground. Some cells were more sinister in nature, serving as torture chambers for those unfortunate souls who held more important information to the bandits or slavers.
Vincent sat in a corner of the common hall, with a mug of ale and a bowl of stew in front of him. Both sat untouched as he held the apple sized ball of bread in his hand. His brown eyes looking nowhere in particular as the laughter of his comrades filled the hall. He couldn’t help but wonder what the young man was going through right now…
Emmett watched as a letter was removed from the bag. The Boss's interest perked up. Emmett swore to himself silently. He wasn't supposed to have paper on him. It was a letter to his father, a curtsey message. His relationship with his father had never been the best, and had deteriorated over the years. In the letter was enclosed a few notes he had been given by his contact while under cover. He hadn't destroyed them before leaving, something even the newest to the order would know better then to forget. The man went to dig further into the bag. His comrade kicked him. "We'll just have to re-pack it. Wait till we are back. We can do it all at once then." Another man grinned, his yellowed, and teeth missing mouth in Emmett's face has he roughly towards a horse. "It'll be the best night of your life."
Emmett's bond hands were tied to a length of rope behind the beast where he was forced to walk. The journey wasn't that far, Emmett had apparently traveled near to them unknowing. He reckoned he had been an easy catch for them that day. Emmett, however, had a harder time walking back then earlier. The men walked the horse just slightly faster then Emmett could keep up with in his state. He tripped several times before having to jog.
Finally they arrived at the hideaway, a converted inn or something. Inside was roomy, but Emmett wasn't treated to that for long. He was husled down the stairs into the dark belly. There was long passage ways, an old cellar that had been expanded and converted. They walked past a few cells. Although dark, Emmett could make out movement in several. This was obviously a dungeon or holding area of some sort. They confirmed his fears that this rouwdy group of men were more then just bandits.
They shoved him into a room, closing the door behind them. A dingy yellow glow from the lantern left Emmet in near dark with two of his captors. There was a long table and several chairs. The two men sat, one pointing a knife at the still bound Emmett, leaving no chair for Emmett. The larger of the men ploped Emmett's bag onto the table and opened it. He dumped, spilling the contants across the table. There was a change of clothes, a hunting knife, a pouch with ink and pens in it as well a charcoal, a bag of money and a small notebook. The man picked up the notebook, flipping through it. Lifelike sketches of people, nature and scenes filled the pages. "What is this?" The man grunted. "My sketches" Emmett said. "Boss might like to see that." The man said. The book really was nothing more then images that took Emmett's fancy.
The man continued to search the bag. Finding no hidden pockets he tossed it aside. He stood up. The shorter man tugged at Emmett, bringing him closer. "Boss said we was to search you and render you defenseless before inspection." He tugged the rope, drawing Emmett's arms up. "I can very well hold my own arms up, thank you." Emmett said. He tugged back but kept them up. The burly man pulled at Emmett's shirt until he pulled it over his head and neck. Several blades were revealed. He ran his hands along Emmet's arms, stopping as he found the latches and releases the blades. He unhooked them and tossed the blades to the table. Roughly, but slow, he felt down Emmett's chest and sides. When his hands reached his hips, he pulled out two more blades, then runs his hands down his the hips again before pausing, a sneer across his face. "You like that?" Emmett stared past him at the wall. His friend snickered The man yanked Emmett forward, into a half embrace to reach around behind him, finding two more blades.
The rest of the search continued this way, slow and tantalizingly. Emmett tried his best to keep looking straight ahead. Soon they found his last knife, and left his handing barefoot and shirtless on the cold floor. The burly man gave another grin before reaching into Emmett's pocket and pulled out a ring, an ear ring attached to a chain and ear cuff as well as a compass. The man tossed the compass into the pile on the table. Then he examined the ear ring.
"Let me keep that." Emmett said. It was the only thing he cared about. "You can have all the gold, and the ring." The man inspected it. "I think it's gold." He tossed it into the pile as well. "Everything belongs to us now." The men shoved the pile back into Emmett's bag. "Including you." "Out" The other man said. They led him to a smaller room and locked him into the dark room. He listened as their heavy foot steps faded away into echo through the cellar. They would be back.
Vincent almost couldn’t handle the treatment of their prisoner. Every ounce of him was screaming this was wrong but the man did nothing to stop it. Nor did he hang around to watched the further mistreatment of him. Instead the normally gregarious man huddled in a corner of the inn common hall, his demeanor quiet and brooding. So many thoughts ran through his head. So many emotions. But the most prominent feeling was regret. He was also ashamed at himself for helping in the man’s capture. The ale and stew before him started to warm as he merely stared at it. Using the spoon to occasionally stir the food. He had no apatite and he care not to drink. What fate was to fall on Emmett?
Boss, as he was simply known as, watched the aggressive and degrading treatment of the new person for their new slave trade. He chuckled as his henchmen taunted him. “Better watch it. He might like you being frisky like that.” He said in a mocking tone. His brows raised at all the hidden weapons that the man had. He looked over every piece taken off him with only mild interest. Although his ears pricked as Emmett asked to keep something. He snapped his head over, curious as to what he held close to him. He watched the ring be flippantly tossed on the table, from which he snatched it from. Inspecting it closely he realized this was no ordinary ear ring.
Of course the ignorant brute didn’t know it’s significance but Boss sure did. He realized it was something part of the slave trade well over one hundred years before. He clasped it tightly in his hand as he wondered how the hell this young man ended up with it. The ear ring was the only thing he didn’t allow to be shoved back into the bag. He waited till Emmett was gone before he spoke to one of the other men. “Send word to King Lucas that we have found his elusive missing baby brother.” He chuckled darkly as he glanced at the golden object before speaking again. “This warm fuzzy family reunion will pay very well.”
When Emmett was taken away, the burly man went through the pile of stuff. "A lot of steel." He muttered. The man put the knives into a bag for himself. He toss the coinage to the boss. The other man picked up the ring, there was empty patch on the front. Carefully he twisted it, revealing an embossed signet. "Spies Network" huffed the man. "For a self proclaimed bastard, he sure travels with power." He handed the ring to the Boss. "He fits the the description."
Time passed and Emmett remained in the dark room. At first he inspected it, his eye's having adjusted to the gloom. It was small, but large enough for several people to be detained in. There was no furniture aside from a pot in the corner and a pile of hay in the other. It was obviously a holding cell. The door was solid wood, locked from the outside, the floor hard and damp.
Emmett checked the hay, finding it worse for wear he sat on the stone floor, wrapping his arms around his bare chest to ward of the chill in the air. He body aced, purple bruises well on their way to forming. His nose stopped bleeding and blood had hardened on his face, his nose hurt to touch, mostly likely broken. All he could do now was to wait. He suspected they were slavers. They acted like them. Now only time would tell the next actions. Emmett could only hope they hadn't pieced together his identity. It was bad luck for a spy to get caught. Although stripped of most of his belongings, he still had a capsule of poison hidden. Now was the situation he had been trained for. His knowledge was to dangerous to the rest of his order.
Slaving had been illegal and had been for a hundred years, other countries were always raiding within his, looking for fresh meat. The salve trade had died out, and the slave class, once freed, had slowly risen into the merchant class. As most of the slave before were imported they brought with them their own culture, history and lives. Today they comprised most of the artisan class. They were a proud group, opening proclaiming their past by the wearing of an earring on the left. Once a mark of servitude now it was a cultural mark of pride and heritage.
Emmett heard a small noise through the wall. He went over. "Hello?" The choked sob stopped for a moment. "Hello?" He tried again. He heard some shuffling through the wall. "Have you been captured too?" He asked. There was silence, then the crying started up again. Emmett backed away from the wall. He huddled against himself again and bunkered down to endure the wait.
Boss nodded to the remark about the amount of steel. It was quite a lot. More than the average traveler would have. He pulled out a hastily folded parchment. He unfolded the cream colored paper to read the bounty, and eye the well drawn face in its center. It was a secret reward posted by none other than King Lucas. It wasn’t something one would find at a town information board. No this was passed only through dark alley ways between shady characters. This bounty was meant for the slavers whom after centuries of being banished were now allowed to ‘harvest’ new merchandise, by order of the king. Secretly of course. He caught the coin as it was tossed his way.
The paper called for the alive capture of one named ‘Emmett’ whom was the bastard son of the late king. Hence Lucas’ brother. The drawing looked remarkably like Emmett and even gave details of what he might have on his person. There was no doubt in Boss’ mind. He had Emmett. That was going to make him a very rich man indeed. “Well I suppose if you had the power, why not carry it?” He gave a mocking chuckle as he showed his men the picture. “Though it helps if you know how to use that power.” He laughed as he tied the coin purse on his side, a show that he meant to divide it among his men. Folding the paper up he laughed exuberantly as he patted the man on the back.
Time passed and a woman held her terrified child to her in a cell. She held the child closer to calm her crying as shuffling of feet and clanking armor told her the guards were coming. She dared not peek from her cell as they dragged a man to the cell next to her. Thick brick blocked her view from the beaten and bruised man but she could still hear him. She sat quietly as more time passed. There was silence until her child shifted in her mother’s arms, alerting Emmett to their presence. He called to them and the child froze before crying quietly again. The mother stroked her daughter’s messy blonde hair. “We have all been captured… Yes.” The mother’s weak voice spoke softly to the voice behind the wall. The tone was someone middle aged and whom despite being weary, still held strength and calm. “I s’pose they aim to sell us… though I’m really not sure what they plan to do.” She waited a moment before speaking again. “Were you… traveling with others?” She asked almost hesitantly.
Emmett didn’t respond right away, the silence echoed dully through the stone. “No. I was traveling alone. No one knows where I am.” He finally said, hearing his own voice in the muffled room speak aloud the truth. He was alone, utterly and compactly alone.
Lucas Esmour glanced at the paper on his desk before he brushed it aside with the others. Surely there were other ways to keep armies from rebelling beside drink and women. He supposed he would need to purchase a few more slaves. He pieced up another piece, a report from his largest mine. Reading through it he smiled. The results were positive, more ore was being mined and his oversea profit was growing. It wouldn’t be long before he would have enough to bank on his alliance with Preth and ready a full attack and take the throne from his pathetic father and brother. He had spent the last several years building a secret support network of nobles within the country, as well as abroad. Most expenses were funded by his mining, but supplemented by the lucrative slave trade that he had helped get running again.
A side note at the bottom of the notice requested more help in the mines, as a few slaves had come to an unfortunate end in mining accidents. It was no worry. There was a shipment of new slaves due in the next week. He could pick out the best for himself and ship the rest overseas to eager buyers.
The next few days passed slowly for Emmett. Much of it was spent in the cold room, alone. He could hear the men walking around through the corridors, opening doors and yelling. The noise of the surrounding cells seemed to grow, as more people were added to them. Although seemingly forgotten about, Emmett was provided with food and a blanket.
All of the captives let out once a day, in the afternoon and allowed to walk in a circle, not talking. AS the week progressed, Emmett noted the growth in captives. Starting with only a handful, their numbers reached almost 30 by the end of the week. Emmett tried talking to the girl through the wall again, but she didn’t respond much. Emmett looked for a way to escape, but none presented themselves.
One night for dinner, Emmett noticed that his usual gruel tasted strange, a bit bitter. He realized to late as he spit out the rest of his food, his head suddenly fuzzy and heavy. He felt himself fall to the floor, deep in sleep.
Emmett woke to the sway and jostle of a wagon. He found that he had been shackled with the other slaves, pack in tight. It was dark out and they were making haste down the road. How long had they been traveling? “Where are we going?” Emmett asked the man beside him, who was also awake. “Not sure. Been traveling awhile.” “South I think.” Emmett whispered. There was a river south if he knew right. “Shut up!” came the harsh voice of one of the guards. He walked over. “Be quiet or I cobbler you over the head.” He growled, walking beside the wagon. “Oo, very eloquent.” Emmett said. “Say something else, my heart swooned.” The hit came as expiated, Emmett would have fallen, if not supported on either side. “Let your heart swoon on that a bit.” The man said, laughing as he walked away.
By early morning they reached the river, the River Ose, deep and fast. Emmett could just make out a ship in the middle. The ship was flat perfect for river travel. Looks like wherever we are going has river travel.
Emmett was right. The ship docked on the river. Wall stretched along the river, hiding the inside from curious eyes and keeping whatever was there inside. The slaves were led off the boat. Many of them, particularly the men were still drugged on something, preventing them from escaping. Emmett had refused food, eating only what was necessary. This was his only chance to escape. He made sure he was on the end of the line, his hand still shackled in the front. The group was stopped at the gate, to ask permission. As it was granted and the group was funneled through, Emmett slip to the side, the guards to worried about everyone else to notice. Emmett stood still until everyone had gone in. Then he ran.
It had been some time since Vincent left that horrid inn full of slaves. Having to catch that one man the normally gregarious man couldn’t shake that guilt. That sense he ruined someone’s life. Possibly sentenced them to death. Much to Boss’s disapproval, Vincent didn’t join in the other captures. Instead he made himself somewhat useful to them by tending to anything that didn’t have to do with slaves. Once he had a chance to leave the man took it. He knew he had to get out of this business and fast. Though there was one last task he couldn’t escape.
Vincent was one of the men that brought up the rear of the caravan. But he hung back, flinching at the sound of physical abuse ahead of him. He kept his eyes down as he horse plodded along the road. His mind drifted and he thought about his family. People he didn’t often think about. Though there was no ill will between him and his father, he could see his father’s head explode from Vincent’s current actions. He paused his horse near the people as they loaded, turning his brown steed away so as not to see their faces as they were loaded. Pulling a bit of fresh bread from his pocket, he nibbled on it until something caught his eye.
He slowly turned his head and to his surprise, the man he helped catch was running away. Silently he cheered the man on but something deeper roused in him. Looking down at his horse then looking back. Emmett would get much farther on a good steed. He shoved the bread back in his pocket as he looked back. “Gotta take a leak. I’ll be back.” He said steering his horse after Emmett. The men hadn’t noticed the other’s escape and merely nodded to Vincent as he road off.
The thief easily caught up to Emmett, his horse’s hooves clicking the ground as road beside him. “Hey! Hey! Take my horse!” He said to Emmett in a hushed tone. He sped the horse up and cut Emmett off, forcing him to stop. He slipped from the saddle and tried to hand the reins to the other man. “Please, take my horse and get the hell outta here.” He said, pleading almost as he looked at the broken man.
Emmett had barely slipped out of eyeshot when he was cut of by Vincent on a horse. Emmett froze. The man jumped from his horse and held out the reigns to Emmett. Emmett looked behind him, he could still hear the clatter of the slavers moving inside the walls. He looked at Vincent again, staring into his deep brown eyes. Was it a trap? If it was, it was better to try it. Emmett took the reigns from Vincent. "Thank You." He said softly. Gracefully he hoisted himself into the saddle and urged the mare into a trot. Looking back he saw the rather handsome slaver watching him go.
Emmett kept his head low as he walked the horse against the flow of people entering the fortress. It would appear that today was salve day as many slavers and their catch were coming in. Emmett avoided the eyes of everyone he could, particularly those which were armed and acting like guards. One man seemed to take interest in Emmett as he went by, watching him carefully until he had passed. As soon as he was out of the main flow he picked up the pace.
As the fortress grew smaller behind him Emmett began to feel like he could breath for the first time in a while. Glancing behind him he saw no one was following. He urged the first horse faster. If he could put a decent distance between them and him, then when they noticed his vacancy he would be well ahead. From there he could make it back to the capital in a week.
Feeling ansy Emmett checked behind him again. His heart dropped. a dust trail was rising up and Emmett could make out the figures of three horsemen. Emmett cursed and urged the mare faster. She picked up the pace. They must have seen him leaving! or, it had been a trap. The mare started limping. She slowed. "No! Come on!" Emmet yelled. Frustrated he pushed the horse. He could hear the pressures closing in, the hooves growing closer.
Soon enough the three had him surrounded. Two of them Emmett didn't recognize, the third was from the slaver party. The smaller man, his skin dark, spoke. "Well little rabbit, your escape did not go as planed. " "I am not escaping." Emmett replied. "I am only traveling through the area and my horse has gone lame." The big man laughed. "You are funny." He rode over, leaning down into Emmett. Although only slightly taller them Emmett, he was impressive in the way he presented himself. This was a man one did not say no to, someone who was used to getting his way. "You see, I watch, and today is Market day." His partner laughed. "And if you were invited to attend, then you wouldn't be leaving now would you? If you had something to sell, like this gentleman." He gestured to the slaver. "Then I reckon you wouldn't be leaving either. Now, if you were, say a guard, protecting the market, you most certainly be leaving either. They only person who would want to leave on a fine day like this, is one who didn't want to be here. Someone like you." He smiled, then unexpectedly he shoved at Emmett, who taken off guard wobbled. As he wobbled, the partner yanked him down from the horse brutishly forcing him hands behind him to tie them. "It also helps." The dark man said. "That I was told of your escape. Eyes are everywhere." Emmett knew then that he had been tricked.
The party walked back into the the fortress, most of the other slavers already in. Once they were in, the fortress guards left, leaving Emmett with the salver. "Boss will be glad to see you." He said as he shoved Emmett along the way. They went into a side room. There were all the people he had run from. Emmett was brought over to where The boss was. Emmett caught the eyes of Vincent, and glared at him. He knew what had happened.
Lucas sat back watching as slavers brought their ware into the large hall. Each slaver brought in women first, then men, all of them naked. Lucas's men inspected the salves, picking the ones that were needed to run the place, which meant strong fit men to work in the mines and perhaps be able to recruit for the army. Fewer women were needed, a few for the kitchen, or cleaning and pleasure. The rest of the slaves were shipped off to his allies, sold for profit. Lucas felt comfortable sitting back and allowing Saverio, his assistant do the choosing.
Vincent’s heart started to swell. He’d done something good. For once. Watching that man ride away with freedom was also freeing to himself. Though he did start to notice something. Emmett was the only person moving against the flow. Just when he started to think further about it an aggressive rough hand slapped down on his shoulder. His face whipped back to see his fellow archer, Mark. The dark scowl on his face told him everything he needed to know. “You just conveniently lose your horse, Vinny?” He remarked in a foreboding tone. Had Mark seen him give his horse away?! His mind started to panic but some sanity clung on, albeit snarky sanity. “No the horse lost me. Left me for another man. Tragic really, I’m heart broken.” He retorted in a smarmy tone.
Mark of course was not amused and shoved Vincent forward, without letting him go. His mind started to race but with all these people here this would either be suicide or a walk in the park. One could never tell in these situations. More of his comrades rode past easily catching up with Emmett. That was when he noticed the horses limp. What had happened? His foot stepped on something sharp, looking down he realized it was a nail. The mare must have gotten the nail stuck in her hoof. The gods were not on their side today.
His eyes clenched shut as yet again Emmett was brutishly yanked from the horse. But the forcible jerk to his shoulder was a sign he needed to open his eyes. When the other man said eyes were everywhere a glare was shot his way. But little did Emmett know, Vincent was now in deep trouble. He tried to be subtle with his head shake, signaling ‘no this wasn’t me’. When Emmett was led away Vincent was herded behind him, pushed towards his own fate. “Hey! Why so pushy?” He remarked to Mark. “Messing with the Bosses money? You know what this means Vinny. You can’t ferret your way out of this one. Vincent had to hold back the smirk. Mark was an idiot and didn’t have a firm enough grasp on him. He’d merely wait for his moment and escape.
Without letting go of their grip, Emmett was manhandled to the ground, his clothes pulled from his body and his hands tied securely. Two of the men were stationed to hold him at all times, until he was safely out of their way. Emmett put up a small fight and was reward with several hits. Soon enough he himself in a large room, lined up with all the other capture men from the slavers. He picked a point on the far wall to fix his eyes upon, trying to block out the whole experience.Out of the corner of his eye he watched the large man who had caught up with him. The man disappeared around a wall for a time, then re-emergered with the boss in tow.
Saverio had quiet enjoyed the little adventure. It had been a rush. Slave auctions could get dull very quickly, as by the time they made it to him, they were already broken. It was exciting to get one with a fighting spirit. Now, however, came the finagling and price dealings. After he was done and picked out the best ones for his master and to sell overseas, other buyers would have a look. "Walk me through your wares" he said to the head slaver. " I only want the best. Strong men for the mines and strong women for cleaning, cooking and bed." He chuckled. "As well as some to ship to our neighbors in the East who cannot make the trek here." Saverio was always cautious when doing business with slavers. They tended to get ahead of themselves and mistreated many of the slaves, making them unable for good work.
He started with the women, quickly eyeing them over and pointing out the ones that he liked. He assistant made note of them. That business went fast. It was the men he was interested in. He took a moment at each slave, pausing and inspecting them. A few he asked questions. What did he do before? How far from home was he? Saverio also quested the slaver himself, learning about each slave as he went. Emmett watched as Saverio grew closer. The nearer he got, the more tense Emmett got. He truly was out of ideas. There was no where to run, nowhere to go. He was trapped.
Saverio stopped in front of Emmett. Emmett refused to look at him, staring past him. Saverio smiled as he recognized him. "I see they have you well controlled, my slippery friend" He said. He studied Emmett, a hand reaching for his arm. "You don't appear strong, but you are deceiving. He gave it a squeeze. Emmett pulled away. "What can you tell me about this one?" Saverio asked.