Blood and Bone

Blood and Bone by Ian C. Esslemont Read Free Book Online

Book: Blood and Bone by Ian C. Esslemont Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ian C. Esslemont
Tags: Fantasy, Azizex666
crossing his arms.
    The man removed the twig from his mouth, studied it, then tucked it back in. ‘Yeah. I see that.’
    Murk wanted to slap the damned thing from the fellow’s mouth. ‘Listen, merc. What’s your name?’
    ‘Sweetly,’ the man answered, his face flat of any emotion.
    ‘Sweetly,’ Murk echoed. ‘What’s your name – Sweetly?’
    The scout glanced about the darkening shadows of the dunes and pockets of low dry brush. His gaze returned to them. The twig sank as his mouth drew down. ‘ ’Sright. Now c’mon. You two got a report to make.’ He jerked his head towards the coast and started off.
    Murk and Sour followed along. ‘Oh look at me,’ Sour grumbled sotto voce as they walked. ‘I’m a tough guy. I chew twigs. Look out for me.’
    ‘You just don’t like meetin’ someone named Sweetly,’ Murk told him, smiling.
    Sour’s grumbling descended into dark mouthings.
    They found a camp pitched just inland, sheltered from the winds by a high dune. Pickets led them to a central tent, currently more of a simple awning as its canvas sides were still raised. Yusen ducked from beneath. Sweetly gave a tilt of his head then ambled off.
    The mercenary captain regarded them from within the deep nests of wrinkles surrounding his eyes then drew a heavy breath and crossed his arms.
    ‘What?’ Sour said, bristling.
    ‘Let’s have it,’ the man sighed.
    ‘She’s interested in the dolmens,’ Murk answered.
    ‘Dolmens?’
    ‘The standing stones. That’s why we’re here.’
    Yusen got a pained look on his face. He lowered his eyes to study the ground for a time. ‘Damn. I was hoping that wasn’t the case.’
    Sour glanced to Murk. ‘Now what?’
    ‘Now you two stay on her good side, that’s what,’ Yusen answered.
    Again, Murk almost saluted. ‘Yes, Cap’n,’ he said. The man shot him a searching sideways glance then grimaced his impatience and waved them away. They ambled off.
    After searching for a while Murk stopped a mercenary and asked, ‘Which one’s our tent?’
    ‘That one,’ the woman answered, pointing to a pile of poles and bundled canvas. Then she walked away.
    ‘Yeah, very funny,’ Murk called after her. He waved to Sour. ‘Looks like you’ll have to put it up.’
    ‘Me? Whaddya mean, me?
You
put it up.’
    ‘No, you.’
    ‘You.’
    ‘I ain’t.’
    ‘Well, I sure ain’t.’
    ‘Both of you put it up!’ a mercenary bellowed from the next tent. ‘Or I’ll put them tent-poles up where they don’t belong!’
    Both offered choice gestures towards the side of the tent then knelt to the damp canvas. ‘Just like the old days, hey?’ Sour murmured.
    ‘Yeah. Unfortunately.’
    * * *
    K’azz, it turned out, fully intended to go alone. He only acquiesced to a token guard when Shimmer told him flat out they would come regardless. In the end she chose two of the remaining Avowed mages, Lor-sinn and Gwynn, and three of their best swords: Cole, Turgal, and Amatt.
    Tarkhan, captain of the Third Company, would be left behind to command Stratem. Shimmer was not happy with this arrangement as the Wickan tribesman, a formidable knife-fighter, had been among the top lieutenants of Cowl’s ‘Veils’. Though, she could admit, the intervening years of commanding the Third through various contracts across the world did appear to have tempered the man. And K’azz had every confidence in him. But then, that was one thing K’azz always did well – give and instil confidence.
    Seeing the surviving Avowed gathered together in Haven was a pleasure for Shimmer – and at the same time a melancholy reunion. A pleasure to see old friends; heartbreaking for all the absent faces and the painful thinness of the ranks. Her count put the total number at less than seventy. Yet that number varied as the occasional lost Avowed would suddenly appear in Stratem, having made their way from imprisonment, service to some patron, or from simply being stranded in this or that land. And there was

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