~ 2 ~
The boy hadn’t come. He’d spent another night waiting. Its hours had twisted the mystery tighter, hardening the knot it had tied around his mind. Staring at the paper before him gave him no insight. He’d scratched in lines marking off the tunnels he’d already tried. How many more were there? Thirty nights had passed since that ill-fated morning.
He’d turned a corner and jigged to avoid some statuary haphazardly left in the exact spot for maximum traffic disruption. A body had collided with him just as he’d rounded the statue’s base and he’d glimpsed for a moment a pair of eyes whose irises glowed a steady emerald. Then the cloaked and cowled owner of those eyes had fled like a spooked horse without so much as an apology.
A dull ache had distracted him from the fleeing figure. Settling first behind his left eye, the pain had spawned tentacles that had pierced his brain. By the time Nulthir had made it back to his office, his head had throbbed worse than any hangover. He’d dropped into the chair behind his desk and leaned his head against its padded back moments before a veil had descended to blot out his vision.
The memory hadn’t come as a fully assembled whole. No, not that first time but as a collection of bits that had swirled about like broken glass. In each piece an image had reflected back at him–a glowing eye with a vacant stare in one, a ravaged back weeping blood into the remnants of a tunic in another, a dank cell in still another.
Nightmares had provided the glue that stuck some of the pieces together forming until he had a fully realized vignette with sound and scent. It played out every time he closed his eyes giving him no respite. That boy needed to be found. Then this whole thing could be put to rest and he could go back to being the captain of the guard and have no further truck with anything even slightly related to magic.
For that’s what this had to be–some vile spell cast upon him so that he couldn’t think or do anything but seek that boy with the glowing eyes. Seek him he did but all to no avail.
A bang roused Nulthir from his non-productive thoughts. Algathar glared at him from the opposite side of the scarred piece of wood that pretended to be a desk. He’d slammed his helmet into the desk and the way he held the pitted thing, it was obvious that he was planning on a repeat.
“What the feck is wrong with you? I’ve been standing here for ten minutes trying to get your attention.”
Nulthir shoved back his chair and stood up. Hauberk plus helmet in the hands of his second equaled trouble. The kind that required the guard captain to get off his arse and do something.
“Another riot?” Nulthir asked as he glanced about seeking his own hauberk. It took a second before he realized that he was already wearing it. In fact he had taken to wearing it day and night since the he’d started seeking a boy so full of magic that it spilled out of his eyes. Not that he had any hope of a mail shirt turning back any of the boy’s mage-craft but the weight of his hauberk reassured him. Right now he needed every crumb of relief he could get.
“Not yet. Just a lot of speech-making and a fool trying to rile them up. Fecking indentured. They’re worse than cockroaches.”
Nulthir nodded and snapped up his helmet. He’d left it on top of a pile of paperwork that just kept growing. When it toppled over and covered his desk, he’d make time to deal with it. Until then, let the fecker grow. He had riots to quash and ringleaders to fling into the dungeons.
Before leaving, he felt for the loop that secured his truncheon to his person. It was there though it would do him little good in the crowded confines of the Lower Quarters. Still, he stroked its grip feeling better just having it near to hand.
They quit Nulthir’s office and Algathar waved Nulthir to the left instead of right towards the series of linked chambers that served as barracks for Mount Eredren’s contingent of guards.
“I sent them on,” Algathar said in answer to Nulthir’s surprised glance. “Don’t you dare reprimand me for that. When I couldn’t rouse you, I roused them. Then I came back to bully you back to reality.”
Oh that made sense and it deflated Nulthir’s anger. A pity that because for a moment, he had felt something other than the all-consuming need to find that boy. He should be grateful to his long-time friend and comrade in arms for taking action. Did Algathar want his job? If the man, he could have it and all the headaches that came with it.
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t take your job for all the money in Shayari.”
Algathar smiled and thumped Nulthir’s back.
“Neither would I but the Lord of the Mountain gave me no alternatives.”
“Exactly and that’s why I avoid his eye. Something you should have done.”
“Hindsight,” Nulthir muttered glad Algathar had not asked about the drawing he had been staring at moments before.
They lit out at a fast walk taking the first turning out of the light-drenched, statue-crowded corridors their betters used to circulate about the mountain stronghold in favor of the rough tunnels ancient stone-mages had dug throughout the mountain. Here they could run full tilt without alarming anyone and run they did. Both men hoped that this one time the demonstrations wouldn’t end in a bloodbath. Deep down, they both knew that it would. It always did.
MORE OF NULTHIR
Read the intro.