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A Dance With Fire (Excerpt)

By Martyn Ritson All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Magnes Orowin I

The rain was sweeping into the bay window glass of the Goats Bed Inn, it offered a strange comfort to Magnes. Watching the drops of rain make their way to a puddle on the windows sill was oddly fascinating, he wondered if this was how lakes came to be. The noise of the local patrons singing in their cups and dancing to a local bard’s lute was what they needed after a long day’s work in their fields. Life seemed far away free of all stress.

Magnes had almost forgotten how long he was sitting in the inn for, four maybe five days? Waiting made him feel uneasy and on edge, most jobs that came to him where from the local village elder, or the town mayor, usually just to kill a bandit or play guard to a caravan headed to market with wheat, fruits, meats or fish.

Though this was a special case, it was not every day he was handed a letter that was sealed by the wax of a Duke. Duke Fulmore of High Haven was not a man to send letters to sellswords, least of all by way of a child. Magnes would have found this odd if he was not a close friend of Duke Fulmore, saving a man’s life tends to lead to friendships being forged however, he had not seen Fulmore for over ten years. Though this was not something that bothered Magnes over, much he was a lifelong loner moving from city to city, town to town it made it hard to keep in touch with old friends such was the life of a sellsword.

He sat at his table alone with his half eaten bowl of what he thought was meat stew, it tasted nice but looked less like stew than the table it was sitting on, next to the bowl sat a chunky brick that he was told was bread and a mug of ale that was more filling than the bread and stew. He picked up the letter that brought him here, the letter was given to him two weeks ago in Granston a small fishing village of no importance. A dirty child came running to Magnes out of breath saying he was to hand a letter to a Sir Magnes. Sir was not a title he had heard aimed at him for many years, nor was it a title he was fond of, the writing style of the letter was not of someone who was of low birth the letters finely scrawled and the spelling perfect, though Magnes was not known for his reading ability he could make out the important.

Dear Sir Magnes allow me a moment of your time, I have need of a man such as you for an important job one that I do not ask lightly, so if you would please make your way to the Goats Bed inn on the gold road and meet with my most trusted knight Sir Torren, I apologies for the lack of information in this letter all will be made clear soon, if you are not there after the grand harvest there will be no harsh feeling held yours Duke Edmund Fulmore.

A short and to the point request that spoke well, Magnes was sure this was indeed Fulmore. He was never one for discretion, allowing a child to carry what seemed such an important letter, it was not the smartest move for a duke but who would steal from a child wearing dirty clothing and looking like he had not eaten in weeks? Magnes had not had a good job in a month so this was a boon that was welcomed. Making in sure bandits did not steal fish was not the most fulfilling work or the best paying, though travelling sixty miles north was not something he would do for anyone else especially on so little information. Molend was not the easiest country to traverse with its thick forests and mountains, it made travel a difficult exercise as roads were hard to make without going around or over the mountains or cutting through the forests.

All doubt was laid to rest when the inns door came open with a gust of wind and rain, three armoured men stepped into the inn soaked, they bore the crest of a birds talon on a field of blue the crest of house Fulmore, they were wearing steel breastplates and dark blue jerkins, the older of the three men wore a deep red cloak that bore the silver crest of the family Fulmore. The older of the three spied Magnes sitting in the back of the inn he gave one of the men following him a wave of his hand and the man walked to the counter to talk with the inns owner, leaving the old knight and the other to approach Magnes.

“Sir Torren” the knight proclaimed “And this is my second Sir Doric.” he said in a firm and proper manner giving a slight bow he gestured to the free seat.

Magnes gave the chair a kick pushing it out so the knight could sit “Please do” the two men sat, there armour making it a task in of itself. “So...Do we get to business or am I still in the dark?” Magnes spoke in a tone of a man kept waiting.

The older man gave a smile “I am sorry to say our Lord is keeping everything under the strictest confidence in the truth, we are the only men out of the duke’s court to know this much.” This was not pleasant to hear, five days of waiting was putting Magnes in a foul mood, not to mention the coin he spent just to stay here though most of that was spent on the bed of a tavern girl. Magnes knew this was not the knights fault he was doing his job.

“You know ale is not cheap...” Magnes said smiling back trying to lighten the mood.

“I bet!” the old knight said laughing.

The younger knight did not take the hint as a joke “And I suppose you want coin sellsword? ” he shot Magnes a glare.

Magnes looked at the younger knight with a smile “That would be a great start junior.” He was young for a knight maybe in his early twenties though that was not uncommon, lords often got their sons raised to knight through coin and favour, but Fulmore was not a man to raise a man to knight if he had not earned it.

Sir Torren gave a little chuckle to that and put on a hard face. “Sir Doric please stay quiet, I am not so old that I can’t defend myself from swords and witty tongue both. Magnes you will be paid for your time whether you take the job or not, lord Fulmore has told me as much.” Doric bowed his head and kept an eye on Magnes.

“Now it has been a long trip and these old legs are not as strong as they used to be, we will talk more in the morning.”

Magnes chuckled. “What no horse for travel....or ale?”

Torren stood. “Sadly not good Sir, my bed calls me, and horses are in high demand we were not granted any, we must walk back to High Haven” He grinned. “And I don’t drink when traveling.”

He spoke the truth horses were always scarce in High Haven with such large distance between High Haven and the outlying villages that paid tax to Duke Fulmore, troops used them to make patrols of the vast land and High Haven was never known for horse breeding.

A large man loomed behind Torren, he wore the same armor as the others though it did not bare the silver crest of his lord’s house. This means he was no knight but a guard to a knight Magnes thought. An odd sight but not uncommon, older knights did take on more than one page though they could only raise one to knighthood when he proved worthy, usually the one from a rich family.

“Your room is ready my lord” the man spoke in a soft manner, at least for such a large man.

“Thank you Maurice” replied Torren. “Allow me to introduce Maurice, Sir Magnes.” Sir Torren gestured to the man.

“Good to meet you Sir Maurice” Magnes gave a slight bow.

“And you Sir Magnes” Maurice gave a bow.

“I am no knight” Magnes sat back in his chair with a smile, taking a sip from his ale.

“Neither am I” Morice grinned arms folded this proved he was not a knight and was never going to be, low birth boys often turned to the army to provide their families with an income, but this man must have the skill to have caught the eye of an older knight Magnes mused.

“Well my bed calls, I do apologize for not speaking with you more Magnes it is an honour to meet you I have heard much,” Torren spoke with a pride, Magnes was not expecting a knight to show respect to a sellsword, for the most part, knight’s fancied themselves elite men who would never talk or be seen with lower class warriors.

“The honour is mine” Magnes gave a slight nod.

The knights picked themselves up and strode away up the wooden stairs of the inn there armour clanking with each step. Magnes was hoping for questions to be answered when they arrived about this job that Fulmore had, and why after ten years he sought him out, he knew it had to be important why else would he look for Magnes out of the many men he could have been asking, even with his renown as a master with a sword and adept with minor spells, nothing fancy but enough to get by, even with that after ten years it seemed a little odd.

The night offered little rest, Magnes slept less and less these days a product of age healers told him, though he was only in his thirties he did feel age creeping up on him if not physically it was mental he had grown old before his time, one of wars many downsides he had come to learn, though the war was twelve years over his mind always wandered back to it, all those men young and old dying, some friends some nothing more than helpless peasants recruited into fighting with no real option to say no, and how the war ended was something of a painful thought, a sudden sharp rapping at the door woke Magnes from his newly found sleep his eyes burned with the suns rays beaming through the window.

“What is it!?” He shouted in anger.

“Sir Torren asked I wake you, my lord.” A soft voice replied “he said to tell you that there is not much longer to go before you set out again so hurry for breakfast” it was a young girls voice Magnes realised.

“Thank you miss, may I ask your name?” He asked in a groggy tone.

“Sarah my lord.” Her squeaky voice proclaimed.

The tavern owners youngest, a girl of thirteen so no chance of some morning fun, maybe for some men but not Magnes.

“OK Sarah, it is nice to be awoken by such a soft voice, tell Sir Torren that I will be down shortly”

“Yes my lord.” She spoke softly.

Magnes swung his legs from the wool sheets that covered his bed and to the floor his back sore from the bed. “Would be better sleeping on the ground than this thing” he mused.

He had arranged his gear out on the table the night before, a habit he picked up in the war, being woken in the night because of attack made you do things like this. He wore nothing fancy a plain red doublet and white under shirt, steel bracer to protect his wrists and forearm, and a pair of loose fitting black pants with leather boots, his sword was the most expensive thing he owned, a silver longsword finely crafted, markings on the blade gave it the look of an enchanted blade and it was, they made the blade light and easy to use but with the strength of castle forged steel and when swung it had the weight of a claymore, a gift from his teacher Master Rylus. A man who was as renowned for his fighting ability as he was for being a archmage of some power, rare for an half elf to become powerful, either political or magical. Elves looked down on their half breed offspring and humans looked down on both elves and half elves.

Coming down stairs he met with Doric, his face set with a grin that spoke of arrogance, his hand resting on his sword.

“Morning sellsword” he said with a mocking tone.

“Morning...where is your Sir Torren? “ ignoring the jibe.

“Outside, and eager to get moving looks like you missed breakfast.” He said with a chuckle.

“I had not noticed.” His voice dripping with sarcasm.

As he said that Sarah came out of the adjoining room with a cloth sack. A blonde skinny thing with boundless energy and a liking for Magnes that worried him a little.

“For you my lord I kept some of the leftovers.” She smiled.

“Why thank you, really sarah you honour me” Magnes smiled at her and then to Doric letting him know he won there little morning contest.

“Yes well should we be off” Doric turned and walked out.

“Did I do some wrong my lord?” Sarah wondered.

“No not at all, in fact you did more good than you realise.” Magnes laughed and patted her on the head as he walked out of the inn, tying the cloth sack to his belt, he saw Torren and his guard Maurice they looked eager to be off.

“All is well I hope Magnes?” Torren asked adjusting his armor.

“Yes all is good, I reckon we should reach High Haven by midday if we keep pace” he explained

“Indeed I was hoping for as much, Maurice Doric we are leaving”

“Sir!” they both replied

With that they left the Goats bed inn behind to travel the gold road to High Haven, Magnes was eager to set out as-well it was a nice thought to meet Fulmore again though he would have hoped for less formal circumstances.

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