The Prisoner of Nimm
They made their way from the craft up to the crest of the ridge. Angel took his place laying flat against the ground as he peeked out over the rock. Torrein followed suit. They lay quietly watching. Lord Fallon stood with more than a half dozen of his soldiers. Four Goblei stood in their midst. Fillip was saying something to Lord Fallon. Both men quieted their minds in an endeavor to hear. Torrein pressed a control on his visor to amplify the voices that spoke in the distance. Quickly Angel did likewise. They heard Fillip saying.
“I would make a good soldier for you Lord Fallon. I survived the combat of the pits. I evaded your search parties. I know many hiding places that the desert has to offer and I can show you these places. I am strong, and offer my hand to your sword. I ask only that you find a place for me and my woman inside your city.” Dulci stood stiff. She had stopped calling to Torrein’s mind. Angel warned Torrein in a whisper barely heard.
“Do not speak to her mind. We do not know what kind of creature Lord Fallon be.” At that moment Lord Fallon turned. He looked directly towards where they lay just beyond the dunes among the rocky formations lying low to the ground, a deep menacing growl curling up from his throat.
Angel spoke to Torrein’s mind.
‘Not a single move.’ Torrein had begun to pace his breath, soft and slow, shallow and unheard.
After a moment, Fallon’s attention returned to his prisoners. He moved towards Dulci. He squatted into a crouch, swaying back and forth in front of her. Suddenly and without warning she kicked at him, knocking him off balance. She turned to run.
Fallon was the only one to move. He moved so quickly that it took several seconds for his shadow to catch up to him. The eerie moved directly in front of Dulci. A startled scream escaped her as she slammed into his chest. Her thoughts turned to Torrein and his ability to do this same thing, then quickly she put him out of her mind and began to play the chant that father had taught her.
Inside her own mind, she heard her voice shaking.
Fallon did not touch her but stood so close she could feel the heat radiating off his armor. His arms moved out to form a barrier she could not pass. She glared at him. Her hands curled into fists. He said.
“I take it, that it is not your desire to be inside my city? You wish the desert to be your master?” His finger reached to run across the material of the slip she wore. She could feel the strength of his clawed hand even with his gentle stroke. He asked.
“Tell me how it is the desert provides you with such generosities as Beddian silk.” His hand moved quickly to grab her forearm as he pulled her tightly to him. His mask revealing the ridges of razor sharp teeth, his voice a deep growl as the modulator imbedded at his throat skewed and twisted his voice.
“Where did you get this?” She struggled to get free. Torrein began to move, stopped by Angel. His mind spoke sharply to him.
‘You must not escalate this situation. He will choose to hunt her. Be still. She knows we are here, she will not call to you and you must not call to her. You must let this play out. Now be still or we will die with Fillip.’
Torrein could not see Angels face through the visor but knew he had been conditioned by the desert to be a very patient man. Reluctantly he did as Angel instructed, turning his head to once again watch Dulci struggle against Lord Fallon’s grip.
He turned her and pulled her back into him, pressing her against his chest. His hand moved to the back of her neck to push her upper body forward and reached to pull down the back of her slip. He examined the markings that appeared like a tattoo across her shoulder blade and ran down her back, disappearing under her slip. He said.
“You are a child of the house of Lar-san-cou. How could he abandon a prize such as you? I would have paid great price for you and I pay for no woman.” Dulci struggled as he held her effortlessly with one arm, the finger of his other hand tracing the pattern that marked her bloodline. Fillip moved forward and spoke loudly.
“She is mine. She is mate to me.” Fallon’s free hand moved quickly to land a blow to Fillips chest, sending him backwards, slamming him to the ground. He growled,
“Look around you. Everything that you see and more, belongs to me. This woman is Venoche’ and Venoche’ belong to me, as you are Venoche’ and belong to me. I am the one that says who mates to who and I can tell you now this woman does not carry your scent. She has mated to the Beddian, the Varda boy. But which one?” Fillip drug himself up from the ground, his voice sounding near disbelief.
“It is true, you mated to Torrein? I did not believe Galan when he spoke it. I believed you to be honorable. But you bedded him? You bedded him while promised to me?” He stood glaring at her, his eyes held rage. His lips pressed to a thin angry line. Lord Fallon began to laugh.
“So our young prince made his way to your tribe and lay with your woman. Interesting. While in my custody, I gave him good stock for breeding…but he would have none of it. But when I gave him beauty…he folded. Again and again…he folded. And now it seems he chooses the greatest beauty of all, and another man’s bounty.” Fallon quickly released her, causing her to fall forward to land on her hands and knees. Fallon turned his attention back to Fillip.
“Tell me where to find this man of Varda.” Without warning and before Fillip could blink, Fallon had moved to stand directly in front of him. Fillip still watched Dulci. He did not move to look at Fallon. Fallon moved closer to his ear.
“I want this boy and you will give him to me.” Dulci shouted.
“Speak and be hated. Betray and be pariah. Do not do this thing Fillip. Think of your children…for once. Think what you will make of their lives. Leave them to the desert. She is not a cruel mother. She cares for us and provides. Do not Fillip. Please do not do this thing.” She looked to Fallon and said,
“Take him as a solider, he wishes it. But leave me to the desert. It is my home.” Fallon did not move from Fillip. Again, he said,
“I want the Varda boy. Speak what you know.” Fillip, his eyes still holding his anger spoke softly.
“He hides beyond the Fire Rim. Many hide there.” Again, the quickest of movements took him. Dulci watched in horror as she saw only the after math of Lord Fallon’s speed. Fillip dropped to his knees as blood began to trickle from his head down over his face. The daggers hilt shown itself at the top of his head. The blade protruded out his throat. Dulci screamed as his body fell forward into a heap.
Tears ripped from her eyes as his name ripped from her throat. She stood frozen for a moment as terror rocked her, then slowly she began to move towards him. With shock consuming her body, her knees could barely hold her upright. Fillips body lay on the ground as the thirsty sand sucked up his blood. Dulci whispered his name, but before she could reach him, Fallon had retrieved his blade and had stepped between her and her destination.
Torrein had watched the atrocity. The scene before him wavered…shimmered in a peculiar way, blurred and then became solid once again. He pressed his eyes closed tight and then opened them to refocus. It must have been some trick of the desert, maybe the heat shimmering off Lord Fallon’s armor.
Just then, a small desert scavenger glided into view. It came to set down only a few meters from the Insurrection. The hatch opened and Lar-san-cou walked down the short ramp way, his eyes going first to the dead and then moving on to Dulci. His step faltered. Then slowly he continued, walking directly for her. She recognized him. Quickly, she stopped her tears. She refused to allow him to see her cry. Her posture stiffened. A brief moment of joy took her as she remembered the man that had shown to her only kindness and love. Then the anger came as she remembered that she, Galan, and her mother had been cast away. Had he ordered it? Or had he searched for them? Would he recognize her? What would he do? What would he say?
He arrived at where she stood. Lar-san-cou stood staring at her. She watched his throat work as he tried to swallow. He whispered her name,
“Dulcinaia?” He held his body rigid in an effort to allow no emotion to show. He slipped,
“Dulcinaia. How is this possible? I searched for you…for months…years. I”
He caught himself and stopped. He stiffened. He felt Lord Fallon watching. He had taken several steps back and stood, just watching. To show weakness in the presence of Lord Fallon was a death sentence. Fallon asked abruptly.
“What are you doing here?” Lar-san-cou answered,
“Treachery has taken three of my sons from my House. I search for them. I have already posted bounty so my hunt is legal.” He turned to look at Fallon and spoke.
“Thank you for retrieving my daughter Lord Fallon. I am in your debt. You may call on my House to collect your bounty.” Fallon was having none of it. He said.
“I did not retrieve her for you. What we find…we keep. She is mine. I will have her to my House. Also you said you searched for your son, she does not look like a boy to me.” Lar-san-cou stood for a moment contemplating his next move. There was no one more deadly than Lord Fallon. His skills and speed in battle were known to all, his decisions made quickly and always irrevocable.
Would he fight for her? His hand slowly moved to his blade. Dulci saw and spoke quickly.
“I do not belong to either of you.” She bent to pick up several rocks and threw one with all her might at Fallon. It hit him square in the chest. He looked to where it had landed and began to laugh. The voice modulator twisted it, making it sound macabre. It inspired her dread. Lar-san-cou spoke.
“Our Overlord Rue-don has spoken the law. And he has spoken that you may gather the castaways. They belong to you. But Dulci was never cast away. A conspiracy took her from my house and those responsible paid the price that treachery requires. Bounty was placed for her return…as well as the return of her mother and brother. Do you dispute the law of your Overlord? Do you ignore the laws of our lands you have sworn to uphold?” He was hiding behind the man in power, the Overlord Rue-don. He hoped it would be enough to keep him alive and his daughter safe from this monster. Fallon said.
“Your bounty has long ago expired on this one.”
“My bounty for all three of them is still at post. It remains in the coffers for claim. If it had expired, it would have come back to me. You may check the records. Bounty exists for all of them.” His eyes moved to her. He had a question he was desperate to ask. She knew what it would be. Was her mother still alive and was Galan safe? She saw it briefly from his mind. She saw he wished more than anything to embrace her. It shook her. She saw as Lord Fallon had begun the smallest of movements. She shouted at them to distract him once again.
“Shut up…both of you. I will not be bargained for.” She heaved another rock. Lord Fallon caught it in his hand and crushed it. She felt as her throat constricted as she watched the dust drift to the ground just before anger washed through her. She straightened and walked to Lord Fallon stopping only inches from his mask. A remarkable feat of bravery… or idiocy. Who could tell at this point? She said, reiterating her father’s words.
“The law of the Overlord Rue-don protects me from you. I will not be named to your House…” She turned to glare at her father.
“Or to yours. I am of the desert. I am subservient to no other. If you think that you have a claim…then you will have to fight me to make proof of it.” Lar-san-cou smiled. He was proud of her. She had been even braver than he had been. He turned to Fallon to say.
“The bounty for her is great Lord Fallon. You will not be disappointed.” She stepped to her father to land her hands flat against his chest as hard as she could. It caused him to take a step backwards. She shouted at him.
“Why do you want me? To sell me to the game… to acquire your precious points? Humor yourself all you want by labeling your children Venoche’… the unclean, but know in your heart that it is your blood that runs in our veins. It is your blood that gives us our defiance and the strength of will to fight the injustice you have put to us. How does it make you feel to sacrifice your sons to die at the hands of your enemy so that they can gain rank to try and best your House. Make no mistake that it is your very blood that you see running on the ground. How does it feel to watch your daughters raped by your adversaries once again to improve their station at your expense?” Once again, her hands smashed into his chest. She glared at him as she continued.
“At one time the Renajian people were honorable and proud, sought for their skills and knowledge. But they allowed Sulkar to sink their fangs into their very lifeblood and pollute their honor with perversions. You allowed them to twist and ruin your sacred texts and all that you held dear. Even now after all they have taken from you, you still give their ways sanction in your House, in your very bed, and in every aspect of your lives…forsaking your own proud traditions and allowing, to this day, Sulkar corruptions to continue to diminish our society. See what this has brought.” She stepped away to gesture to the desolation of the desert that surrounded them.
“The Sulkar and your arrogance have brought plague and desolation to a world that once held great beauty. This world is now known as one of pain and suffering, sorrow and hunger. Because of your submission to the Sulkar, there is no more art, no culture, no science or education. No family, other than the ones Sulkar wished you to have and only in the way that fit to the Sulkar’s own need to consume pain and suffering…and make no mistake…the very flesh of your children. And here you are…offering it up. You, the Renajians who claim to be so superior and intelligent have continued these ways and with that, have ruined their world and any chances for future generations by offering nothing but torment and death.” She had gotten their attention with the fury in her soul. She was so angry and frightened that she had not even noticed that with each statement, the palms of her hands had slammed into her father’s chest and her rage made her so strong that he had to brace himself to keep from being moved by her.
He was so proud of her. But he could not allow Lord Fallon to know. She had reached the end of her tirade. She rolled up her fist and leveled one to his jaw. It nearly knocked him over. Lord Fallon stood watching Lar-san-cou while Torrein and Angel lay watching just over the ridge.
He had heard what she had spoken, saw what she had done, and he too was proud of her…and scared out of his mind for her. Torrein looked into the mind of her father and saw that he loved her and was desperate to embrace her and tell her. He was desperate to protect her from Fallon. But he could not, because to show weakness to Lord Fallon would mean certain death. A moment past before Fallon spoke,
“Let us make a game of it. We will give you one hour’s head start… then we will come for you. Whoever catches you, you will agree to take as your master.” She tossed her wild hair before saying,
“I will make only one promise. If either of you are capable of catching up to me, know that only one of us will live to make their way home.” As she turned to run Lar-san-cou grabbed her arm and turned her. Quickly he drew his blade. He flipped it over to offer her its hilt. He said.
“If you are indeed going to kill me, at least do me the honor of cutting my throat with a blade from the house of Lar-san-cou.” She did not hesitate to take it.
“Come for me…and I will cleanse it in your blood.” He could see the small tremors that rocked her. She glanced to see Fillips lifeless body lying on the ground and her knees went weak once again. They were shaking when she began to run. She was not sure if they are going to support her or for how long. She could feel her stomach turning over. She was close to tears as she tried to put on a brave front. She could not help herself as she remembered the man that Fillip had been…not the man the drugs made of him.
She had watched as the creature Fallon, had slain Fillip and was then placed in direct proximity to her birth father. She had also heard Fillip betray all of his tribe…put at risk all of the people that had raised him, knew and loved him, and even trusted him. She knew that if the creature Fallon came and captured the Fire Rim tribe, the first thing that he would do, would be to execute those that the people looked to for leadership, putting KoMahn, Angel, Samuel’, Gray and Jadon in mortal jeopardy.
Fallon had watched Lar-san-cou and how he had responded to Dulci. After several moments of silence, Fallon stated flatly.
“You love a woman of Venoche’.” Lar-san-cou responded.
“Do you believe that love shown to a woman, to anyone, is a sign of weakness?” Fallon’s posture changed. A challenge. He spoke firmly,
“What I believe is irrelevant. I ask you what it is that you believe.” Lar-san-cou braced for what he would bring to himself with his coming words. He said to Fallon,
“To love is not weakness, but in love we find strength. In love, we find the courage to do things that otherwise would make us hesitate. It is a weak mind that does not know this.” In that moment, Lar-san-cou prepared himself to face Fallon down. Fallon asked.
“Does love make your blade swifter?” Lar-san-cou stared into the eyes of death as he watched the creature that was Lord Fallon take a menacing stance. Resigned to the inevitable clash that he believed was coming, he said,
“We will see” He took his stance and prepared for Fallon to come for him. He had shown his weakness, to love a woman of Venoche’. Fallon said.
“Yes. We will see…because your child just ran in the direction of the free roaming Goblei.” Lar-san-cou pulled back. He looked to where Dulci had begun to run. In the heat of the desert, a cold chill played down his spine. He began to move quickly towards his craft. Once again, with a speed that surely belonged to the Wyrding, Lord Fallon moved to block his path. Suddenly, with the creature in front of him, he froze in place, stunned by the swiftness that startled him every time he had been witness to it. Fallon said to him.
“If you believe that love makes you strong…then believe me when I say to you…” Lar-san-cou prepared himself to hear his challenge. Fallon finished his words.
“She is safer with me, than those that surround you. And she is safer in my city…than in yours. You have my word on this.” Lar-san-cou was stunned absolutely still. A moment passed before he realized that a promise had just been made to him. Fallon, in his strange way had just given his word that he would keep her safe inside his city and that he would cause her no harm.
He stood watching this strange being as he recalled the rumor that Lord Fallon kept a woman…one woman. It was said that she was guarded day and night and no one ever saw her. But this creature made from the strange kept…one… woman. Did this creature…love? He respectfully bowed his head to Fallon. An Acquiesce. Lar-san-cou decided to take one more chance. He said.
“I do not throw away my children. I do not trade them for favors or property. I do not give my girls to the game or my boys to my Overlord. I earn my points in the way of trade of skill, and mind. My children are not punished for their mix of blood. My blood running in their veins makes them mine. I am father to all of them. I will kill or die for any one of them. I believe as my child has spoken, that Sulkar took much from us when they walked upon our world. And I will kill or die to change this.” He turned and resumed his path to his craft, again Lord Fallon moved to block him.
“I promised her one hour… and she will have it. Stand down until she has had the time promised.” Again, another surprise for him. Fallon was a…man…of his word. Lar-san-cou said, his tone worried.
“But the Goblei, they…” Fallon stopped him.
“She has your blade and is more than capable…as she has shown this to both of us. She will not reach this place for some time. Best she sees her possibilities. It will make her more grateful when she is saved.” Dulci’s father knew that if he pushed it, there would definitely be a physical confrontation between them. He also knew that he would not win, not against this creature that possessed this supernatural speed. He nodded.
“Agreed. We will both wait.” Fallon turned and walked back to his craft. He called back over his shoulder to his soldiers.
“Bring the body… to feed the beasts.”