1. A Storm is Coming
It was the most dangerous storm the Lands of the Realm had seen for fifteen years and Giza hoped she would never see another like it. Cradling her new-born in her arms, she leaned further against the bedroom window. Watching the monsoon crush down. Hitting the cobbles without mercy.
As if the rain wasn’t good enough for the Goddess, traumatic winds borrowed down into the alleyways turning the wooden structures of the market stalls into rumble. Now and then the spirits in the wind would pick a wooden pole up in their icy hands and twirl it around and around. Then letting it fly against the wall of the southern tunnel.
Giza’s infant let out a wail as lighting flashed across the sky, “Tis alright little one.” Giza continued to bounce the babe until the cries fell into sleepy sighs. Her attention was pulled back to the sky as she watched the White Giants of the Heavens pull and tug at it's black fabric. Letting another flash of blinding white light illuminate the alley. The Goddess was really going to work tonight .
Downstairs in the kitchen Giza could hear her brute of a husband and his friends laughing and smashing about. Sighing with frustration she distracted herself once again with the storm roaring outside. She was fascinated by the raw powerful of it all. Yet it wasn’t the stalls being torn apart that caught her eye.
There was a black figure, hunched up yet still with high, moving past her house and heading for the southern tunnel. As he passed by, Giza made out the thick cloak the man wore. Yet the man kept the hood down and his long hair lay drenched over his shoulders. Another flash came from the Giants and in the light Giza caught a smaller figure walking behind the hooded man and in the light a chain was revealed joining the two.
Giza let out a shriek as the smaller man looked directly up at her window. She stepped back in hast, knocking into the bed and causing it to rattle against the wall. Slowly she seated herself and forced herself to breathe evenly, oh Goddess his eyes!
It was a minute after that, when down below on the first floor, Giza heard the knock at the door. Giza’s being froze, her babe went silent, and she heard her husband’s boots shuffle, in a drunk manner, across the floor boards and open the door. His voice was a muffled roar and laughter from his drinking fellows followed.
When the door slammed shut and the muffled talking continued Giza breathed a sigh of relief, no need to fret. Probably someone’s wife calling for their oaf of a husband to return home. She rose once her heartbeat was softer and even. Placing her babe in the cradle when her ears caught the voice of her husband, “Giza? Giza get down here you lazy woman!”
Giza entered the open space that formed her kitchen; a stove and sink in corner, long oak table in the centre with matching chairs and a large fire in the far wall. As soon as she stepped down her husband grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her into the empty space to face the audience.
She swallowed the scream that threated to escape from her mouth. The sight of the cloaked man and his younger companion, huddled together next to the fire, made Giza's head spin. Her husband’s friends were now sitting in silence at the table, looking anywhere other than the direction of the strangers.
As Giza’s husband slapped her forward with a tight, “go on woman. We've got guests, get em’ some drinks.” He ended with a dry chuckle and seated himself down and turned to the cloaked man. Giza made busy at the work top with a jug and goblets. Yet little could be do without the trembling as she walked over to the trio and placed the tray down on a near-by stool. Ale slosh in the jug and dripped in a wave down the side as thunder pounded in the sky.
Giza jumped back with a yelp and her husband followed, yelling a curse and raising his hand. Yet the slap never landed on Giza’s cheek, like it had done every day and night since her marriage. Slowly she opened her eyes, the cloaked man was on his feet, standing six five over them, his thick hand was wrapped around her husband’s wrist keeping it inch from her face.
“I’ll accept a man for many things. But beating a woman isn’t one of them!” the man’s voice was thicker than gravel and drier than the eastern lands.
It took another minute or so until her husband was let free and it would take another hour for his pride to return. Giza made herself busy with serving drinks, not meeting the boy’s gaze. However she did see the multi-coloured tattoos covering his hands. Stepping back quickly she let the men talk.
Half an hour pasted and Giza wished the last of her husband’s friends good night. Closing the door she shivered and made busy with cleaning the table. Her husband was still by the fire with his strangers and Giza picked up on their conversation, her husband’s hushed tune as he referred to the dozing boy “How’d ya get one like him?”
“I won him in a fight. It’s a tradition in his tribe, the loser become slave to the winner.” The stranger’s voice was still blunt and emotionless. Yet Giza noticed an accent from the east, a rare thing since the Seventh Great war which needless to say had lost its greatness once the third one came.
“So you setting him in the fights?” Giza hated the bloodlust in her husband’s voice.
“No.” and that was where the conversation ended. Giza’s husband left for bed, with a grunted message that his guests were staying the night from the storm. Once her husband was upstairs and his snoring heard through the floor boards Giza looked across at the others. And didn’t stop the gasp.
The boy was now standing an inch from her, his face tilted to the side as his eyes traced her features.
Oh Goddess his eyes…