Chapter 17: Seal of the Disciple
Excerpt of a letter from Gliedian to Meriona:
Also, there is a staff. It was brought into the camp with one of the locals and is carved in the shape of a wyrm. I have it from a trusted source that Fedring has lost it and that he discreetly searches for it. Personally, I should be happy if we should recover it first. I grow weary of this Corpus Majoris. Could you imagine our predicament if Fedring were in charge of more than the camp harlots?
Cairn grimaced as Leverkusen set another diem in the pot. Cairn was low on coin, and Leverkusen continued to lean on his lead over the others. Still, Cairn looked at a five, six, eight, and nine – an inside straight. His chance of drawing a seven was faint at best, and each dime was precious when a man was this low on coin. But it was his best hand in the better part of an hour. He looked at his dwindling stack and glared at the caravan captain. Fortune favors the bold, Cairn thought as he placed a diem in the pot.
"That's the spirit!" Leverkusen smiled. "And you?" He turned to Brough.
Brough frowned and threw his cards into the middle. "Too rich for my blood," the guard shrugged.
"Your blood is copper if a touch of silver is too rich," Leverkusen joked as he slid the two of books at Brough.
Brough glared at Leverkusen, peeled the top card off the remaining deck, and slid it face down across the table to Leverkusen. "My blood is iron, friend. Would you care to test it?"
"Non!" Leverkusen took the card and beamed as if given the wild fool. "I'm in search of gold!"
Cairn dropped the jay of knives, face up and pushed it across the table. Brough passed a card back. Cairn's breath caught ever so slightly as he revealed a seven of coin. A lucky card indeed – even an omen! Cairn thought.
After several seconds, Leverkusen pushed a small stack of bots into the pot. "Twenty-seven," Leverkusen smiled. "How many do you have left?"
Cairn matched the bet then stared at the caravan captain. Slowly, he pushed his remaining coin into the pot. "If you want my copper, you might as well take my silver too." He said with a snide smile, and pushed six lunes and twelve additional diems into the pot.
With a whistle, Leverkusen leaned back. "So you finally have a hand, do you?" He asked. If Leverkusen called and lost, not only would it breathe new life into a dwindling opponent, Cairn would gain a slight lead. Leverkusen scratched at the whiskers on his face. "Do you bluff once more?"
"There's one way to find out," Cairn shrugged.
Leverkusen counted out the proper coins and pushed them into the pot. "I shall not be sad when I take the rest of your coin," Leverkusen looked smug. "Now let's see this magic hand of yours."
A cold hatred burned in Cairn's belly as he fixed his eye on the caravan captain. "Nah, let's make this truly interesting," he beamed at his colleague. He put his hand in his shirt and pulled the seal of the disciple and a gold sovereign from his pocket. He set them on the table and pushed the sovereign into the pot.
"Where'd you get that?!" Leverkusen pointed an accusatory finger.
”Just a bit o' the yellow metal," Cairn stated.
"Not that!" Leverkusen frowned. "That!" he snatched at the seal.
"Don't concern yourself," Cairn smirked as he put it back in his pocket. "That's just me dessert."
"Why is it you always get 'em?!" Leverkusen complained. "He don't give the rest of us much of a chance!"
"Me thinks you go too light on the pretty things because you think they like you," Cairn shrugged. "Now push the rest of your coin in the pile and let me see your cards."
"Several of them indeed like me," Leverkusen smirked. He pushed his coin into the pot. "Now, let us make this truly interesting," he said as he reached into his shirt. "You're not the only one with a knock of gold at his heart – but I don't carry no light weight," he noted as he set a gold sol on top of his coin. He stared across the table at Cairn. "Now get that seal back out."
Cairn glared at Leverkusen. "What are you up to?"
Leverkusen shrugged. "Ain't it obvious? I got the better hand!"
"It's off the table," Cairn frowned.
"Too bad," Leverkusen shrugged as he picked the heavy gold coin off the pile. A sol was a full ounce of gold, where a sovereign was a mere tenth.
"Wait," Cairn said as he stared at his cards. He'd drawn an inside straight and completed it with the seven of coin. It was an auspicious draw. Cairn licked his lips. "Okay, let's do this," he pulled the seal of the disciple from his pocket and placed it in the pot.
Brough nodded appreciatively.
"Winner goes home," Cairn continued.
"I ain't working!" Leverkusen snorted. "I go home whenever!"
Cairn smirked. "You win, you do whatever you want. I win, I leave and you to finish my duty. Call me hasty to use the seal – but I think it's worth more than your plain metal – or you too good to look after this lot of criminals?"
"You guard this prison to keep close to Fedring," Leverkusen accused with a frown.
"You caravaners may make the money. Don't be jealous if we maintain political connections," Cairn said.
Leverkusen snorted. "Fine. You want time off? I'll watch your half-dead charges 'til switch!"
With a smile, Cairn dropped his cards on the table. "Ain't no bluff," He grinned at his friend and began to gather the pot.
"A straight," Leverkusen sighed. "The gods gave you a high hand to play."
"Yup," Cairn chuckled.
"Shoulda given you a better one," Leverkusen dropped four watchmen and a six on the table. "Looks like I still have the day off," he giggled.
Brough whistled, impressed by the play.
Cairn rose from his chair and glared at the caravan captain. "You're a first rate shit lord," he accused.
Leverkusen shoved the coin in his purse. He held out the seal of the disciple. "Who's it for?"
"Go to hell," Cairn snapped.
The captain frowned. "Now, you and I both know it can't be used for just anyone."
Leverkusen clucked. "Don't be sore, my brother! I love you still, so let me prove it!" Leverkusen dug in his bag of coin. "I can't take a man's gold," he said. "Not when he has given me so much more." Leverkusen lifted the slight sovereign toward Cairn. "Now, if you still can't tell me who it is I mean to see, that's fine. Really it is. But you keep that. It don't belong to me. If you still can't tell me who's it for, that's fine. It's a nice trophy nonetheless, and I'll see one of the priesthood all the same. Just gentle-like."
Cairn took the sovereign and rolled it between his fingers. He knew he didn't deserve the coin. Silently, he watched Leverkusen pack up and head for the door. The caravan captain talked the whole time as he slowly made his way out.
"I don't know how much coin has passed between us, brother, but its more than this slim bag of pickin's. I hate to see you sore over a bit of discipline – but it ain't fair that you're the one always selected to teach these lessons," Leverkusen shouldered his pack and opened the door. "Some days the gods give. Some days the gods take," He pulled the door closed behind him.
As the door swung closed, Cairn called out to the caravan captain.
Leverkusen opened the door and poked his head back into the room. "What was that?" He asked.
"Wenifas," Cairn said. "You know the one?"
Leverkusen stood in front of the tent as a wicked grin cracked his lips. Only two more days until the next caravan of slaves and he just happened to win a seal of the disciple!? He rang the slight bell with one hand as he fondled himself with the other.
Wenifas pulled the thick canvas aside and stared at Leverkusen. "I'm sorry, fine sir," she began with an apologetic smile, "I'm not seeing anyone today..."
Leverkusen lifted the seal and hung it on the bell in one smooth motion.
Wenifas glanced at the medallion. "Is that...?" Horror caught in her eyes.
Leverkusen put his hand on her face and pushed her roughly back into the tent. Wenifas caught her heel on the rug and sprawled out on the floor. With fear in her eyes, she stared up at the caravan captain. "What have I done?!" She begged.
"You'll have plenty of time to ponder that," Leverkusen leered at her. He pulled off his shirt and undid his belt. "Me thinks you need to learn the proper respects."
Anger and frustration lit across the priestess' face. She stood and backed from Leverkusen. "Get away from me!" she hissed and struck at the man.
Leverkusen stepped forward. He slapped her with one hand, and grabbed her with the other. Wenifas crumbled to the ground, stunned by the blow. "That's proper respect!" he said as he pinned her to the floor. He grabbed the hem of her dress, and yanked. The garment ripped. He yanked again and the dress was almost completely off. Wenifas screamed and kicked and struggled against his onslaught – but to no avail.
A boy appeared from the other room. He glared at Leverkusen, pulled his dagger, and ran at the caravan captain with rage on his face. Leverkusen turned on the boy, shocked to see the slight form as it charged him. Still, he was quite a capable fighter. He knocked the dagger from the child's hand, and smashed the boy in the chest.
"Claiten!' Meu screamed, and reached for her stunned child.
Leverkusen grabbed her and pulled her back. "Interfere again, and you'll get worse!" He scolded the boy. "Now watch how it is between men and women!" He grabbed at Wenifas' leg and pulled her close once more.
The old woman with red hair slunk about on quiet feet as Leverkusen proceeded to rip the small close from a struggling and screaming Wenifas. The old woman jumped on his back and bit his neck.
Leverkusen screamed. He reached over his shoulder and grabbed a knot of red hair. In a rage, he spun her around and sent her crashing to the floor. Leverkusen turned on the woman. Slowly, she stood a vicious as a vicious smirk crept across her face. The look angered Leverkusen. He pulled his long knife.
"It is death to interfere with discipline!" Leverkusen roared at the stranger. He took a step forward, but could move no more. He meant to. He meant to stick this old hag in the heart and have her bleed out as he took the priestess. But he couldn't move as the old woman simply stared him down.
Now, now... A voice whispered in his head. Leverkusen relaxed his grip and dropped the knife.
Wenifas dove for the weapon. She grabbed it up and held it toward the man as she retreated. Tears streamed down her face as her clothes hung from her in tatters. Leverkusen ignored the priestess as she cowered away and hugged her boy. His mind was utter confusion as he stared at the redhead. "Who are you?" He asked.
A darkness surrounded the woman. For a second, she was impossible to see. The darkness faded and the woman was gone. In her place was a magnificent serpent with wide wings and fangs like knives.
"Skin walker," Leverkusen said, astounded. Fear raged through him. He wished to fight this beast, but he could not. Somehow she controlled his body!
The beast continued to speak in his head. The priestess may know of the things you speak, but you must tell me of this 'proper respect'.
Thoughts poured from Leverkusen as Meu wrapped about the man. Though he wanted to run screaming through the camp, his muscles refused to budge. Instead, he spilled his thoughts to Meu.
With the blessing of Fedring, you have upset my friend, Meu grinned at Leverkusen. I think it is time I teach this Majoris a thing or two of 'proper respect', she added and bit Leverkusen again.
Leverkusen approached the apartments of Her Holy Order, and saluted the guard. "Good eve," he said. His manner calm though his nerves were on fire. "Is the Majoris in?"
"He is," the guard frowned. "What business do you have?"
Leverkusen held up the seal of the disciple. "I have finished his good work and mean to report."
Upon seeing the seal, the guard knocked and summoned the Majoris. Fedring opened the door and glared at the caravan captain. "What?" he snapped.
"I have met with the priestess. I wish to report what was said and done," Leverkusen stated as he lifted the seal.
Fedring snatched the seal from Leverkusen and held it toward the man in an accusatory manner. "I did not give this to you!" the Majoris roared. "Where is Cairn?!"
"He lost the seal to me. But I have done his holy duty, as required," Leverkusen stated.
"You have done his holy duty, have you? And did you use his weasel to do it?!" Fedring roared at the man. "The gods do such things for specific reasons! If they meant for you to correct the woman, they would have sent you and not him!" The Corpus Majoris poked Leverkusen in the chest as he snorted and pouted. After a long second, he sighed and continued in a calm voice. "Let me guess, the fool lost it to you in some game of chance? Dice? Cards? Bones?"
Leverkusen nodded. "Cards, your holiness. Four watchmen over a straight."
"Fools! A bunch of damned fools, I say!" Fedring roared. With a sigh, he pushed open the door to his room. "Very well. Come in and tell me what has transpired."
Leverkusen stepped into the room and the Majoris shut the heavy door behind him.
"Well?" Fedring prompted the man.
Leverkusen took a step toward the Majoris with his hands up and open. "She was quite surprised by my appearance," he began. "I held her down and ripped off her dress."
"Yes, yes," Fedring huffed. "What did she say?!"
"At first she only begged me to explain," Leverkusen said as they approached the table. "Then she became defiant," he said as he took a cheap shot at the Majoris. The swing caught Fedring completely off guard as it struck against the man's temple. The blow stunned Fedring and he crumbled to the ground. Leverkusen grabbed the man before he could stand from the floor and wrapped him in a choke hold. Unable to breathe and unable to scream, the Majoris eventually went limp. Leverkusen lowered the unconscious man to the floor. He gagged the Majoris and tied his arms and legs with a slender rope he brought for just that purpose.
Fedring woke. He lifted his head as he struggled with his bonds. Leverkusen pulled his sword. "The beast has me," Leverkusen admitted with a shrug.
It took Fedring a moment to realize what the man was saying. His eyes grew wide, and he blanched as he remembered his encounter with Meu.
"Then you do remember her," Leverkusen noted. "She is pleased. She certainly remembers you," he added with a wicked grin. "Now, if you make a noise, I will kill you," the caravan captain whispered. "I do not want to," he shrugged. "But you know how it is. Proper respect."
Leverkusen dragged the Majoris across the room and close to the bed. He pulled the blankets off the bed and draped them over Fedring one after another. He leaned heavily against the blankets. "Not a sound," he whispered, then proceeded to rifled through Fedring's apartment – but not in a stupid manner. He knew exactly where to look. He gathered three heavy purses of coin from their hiding places. He opened the closet and took the plain half of the witchdoctor's staff. He was surprised to see the shaman's cloak and bag and took them too. But they were not the only interesting things in his closet. There was also a musket of fine crafting, a valuable and deadly object, and so he grabbed it and slung it over his shoulder.
With all this treasure in hand, Leverkusen opened the window and climbed from the apartment. He took one final look at the covered form of the Majoris before he jumped from the window.
Wenifas glared at Leverkusen as he entered her tent. She said nothing – but then, she didn't have to. Her thoughts were already in his head.
Leverkusen secured the tent, turned and sat on the floor as Meu slithered from the other room. He set the purses of coin, the staff, the cloak, the bag, and the musket on the floor between them. "I also found this rare and valuable weapon," Leverkusen pointed to the musket. "Be careful with it. It is more dangerous than it looks."
"How does it work?" Wenifas stared at the contraption.
"You hold it like this," Leverkusen demonstrated. "Point it at your enemy, and pull this lever."
"And it kills," Leverkusen shrugged.
"Like magic?" Wenifas asked.
"I do not know the specifics," the captain shook his head. "Do not play with it. They are extremely loud. Others will come."
"I have left message for Derris. He will attend you as soon as he can. For now, I have another task. Then we escape this place."
"And he comes with us?" Wenifas pointed at Leverkusen as she turned to Meu.
"For a time. Until she cannot control me any longer," Leverkusen smiled. "Then I go free."
"What do you mean, you go free?" She turned on Meu, "He can't go free! We've robbed the Majoris! If you let him go, he will turn us in! They will strip me of everything! They will banish me! Sure enough, they'll kill you!"
"Would you have her kill me?" Leverkusen asked.
"You are nothing to me!" Wenifas slapped the man.
Abruptly, Leverkusen stood. "I have work to do – and you are not making this any easier."
"Wait!" Wenifas grabbed his hand. "When will Derris join us?"
"Tonight his company serves in the Invader's Fort. His shift is over at midnight," Leverkusen said as he stepped from the tent. "But you already know this. If there is nothing else you would ask me, then I go to free the shaman."