The Loneliest Traid

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  • Published: 2 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 13 May 2017
  • Status: Complete
Love and death and war and Gods and blood and magic and dancing and rest and revenge and kings and fate.
Don't worry, within these three stories you'll know yourself,
And I will put you back together again.

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13. Deserting Twice Keeps You Still - Part 1

Gomez looked around frantically, but it was pitch black, and Chene had left maybe hours ago.

    “There’s no point, sir,” the coachman said, holding a torch out to him regardless, “He deserted us, and there is no way we could find him in this hour.”

    “Keep the horses drawn.”

    The man groaned, “But sir-”

    “I’ll be back before the kings expects me home, that’s all that matters.”

    “If you wind up dead, the blood will find its way back to my hands,”

    Gomez turned to him.

    “...Sir.”

    He sighed, “Never mind that.  If a servant passes with a message from my father, tell them I’m…”

    “Relieving yourself.”

    “Right, and if I’m more than a day and a half tip the coach, set it ablaze and run to a local sanctuary.”

    “Sir-”

    Gomez pulled up his collar and began running into the darkness, “I’m counting on you,”

    “Sir!” he spluttered, but to no surprise it was too late, so he gave to reclining in his chair with a hefty groan, “Yes, sir.”

 

    Gomez, you might remember, was not the birth name of the elven prince.  It was Rilae, Rilae Ta Oaka the second.  His grandfather had been a part of the shamed council that sent woodsprites not yet ten years old out to fight in their war.  His father was a man of military background with no love in his eyes for any of his children, and whose goal it was to rule all the land before the tip of his blade.  Rilae the second was the youngest of all the children, and a runt at that.  Even to Chene, he was petite - and yet - unafraid of it.  He fought with vigilance and always the right fight - which is why it was unfortunate that at the moment he took off the king did in fact send word out into the street regarding the lost son, but rather than a message it was a bounty, and when his coach was found flipping and burned out three days later, it was not the coach driver who had done it, but greedy men who smelled the price on Prince Rilae’s head.

 

    “Chene?  Hello?” Gomez walked from each hill shouting his name.  As much as he was royal, he was foolish.

    But in the end he did find Chene - or rather, Chene found him.

    The soldier fell from a branch not four metres high, and pinned Gomez down by the wrists, a knife between his teeth.

    “Chene,” he breathed.

    He muttered something, but the sharp blade against his tongue took away the meaning.

    “Chene,” Gomez continued, “Thank the Lords, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.”

    Chene quirked one eyebrow.

    “You should have seen what they did to the carriage, the burned it to ashes and set the horses free in the desert without food or water, I’m afraid I couldn’t even find Ruby, I fear she might have fallen down somewhere - but why would the coachman burn it early?  Unless the king has-”

He spat out the knife and placed a hand around Gomez’s throat, pressing down until his knuckles turned white and his fingers grazed the dirt.  Gomez’s breathing became so shallow it filled the air with short, flickering hisses.

“I don't know who you are, and I don't care,” Chene said, his teeth bared and noticeably close to his face, “I want to go home,”

“Then… Go.”

Chene eased his grip for a moment, but Gomez grabbed his wrist and pulled it back around his head.  Chene moved for a moment to to eye the knife but Gomez seemed even more trapped than before, with both hands by his head and a knee pressing up under his sternum.

“Go ahead, I'll call for a horse to bring you back to your commander,” he paused to cough, “I'll give you a pocket of silver for your troubles too,”

“Why?”

“You were nearly killed once or twice, weren’t you?  I believe i-it’s called compensation.”

“Then tell me why I'd want silver when I can have your head?”

Gomez closed his eyes, his muscles relaxing, submitting.

“Ask a better question,”

Chene pinned him down harder, “Why not gold?  Why silver?”

“You think the king trusts his youngest with gold?  Silver is a fortune to me, I should be giving out coppers or lead,”

“I forgot you were a prince,” he said.

“So does the royal family,”

“And why would you hand me back to my commander?”

Gomez shook his head, resting it to the side, his eyes shut, “I never said I'd hand you back,”

“Wh-”

“I said I'd send you back,”

“The difference being?”

Gomez chuckled, “You'll never make it back alive.”

“You’d send your soldiers onto me?” Chene said, his face still unhurt and cold, “I thought you weren’t that man.”

“And I knew you’d be the man to presume that it would be my fault.  You think that I could even get the king to kill you?  Do you think his men bow to me?”

“Don’t try to make me pity you, elf,”

    “I wouldn’t ask you to take pity on me if I were dying in the field, and don’t use my people’s names as a curse.  I am trusting you, tell me why I shouldn’t let you walk yourself to death, or take a horse of mine and run until one of the kingsmen strings you up themselves?” Gomez laughed, a rough noise of a throat stoppered by newly petaling bruises and the swallow that brought back down the sob that rose to his lips, “I’ll give you my silver, because I’d walk a mile and stumble upon it again lying in your cold, dead hands.”

    Chene rolled back on his knees, lifting the weight from Gomez’s chest.  They both sat up, staring one another down.

    “Why would the king set out to kill you?” Chene asked.

    “They think by my going to your outpost I’ve become a rogue and a heathen,”

    “Have you not?”

    Gomez smiled, “I’m far more clever than any deserter I’ve ever know, Chene.  And anyway, I thought that the desert regions were declared neutral.  I suppose that had changed.”

    “The desert lands were home to jinn and fortune tellers for generations, that never changed,”

    “Really?”

    Chene nodded.

    “I suppose there’s a lot I don’t know about magic, anymore” Gomez decided, “But I’ll say this, there’s probably a sum on my head large enough to set up a new town from the tavern itself.”

    “How much would that be exactly?”

    “One, maybe two hundred gold.”

    Chene’s eyebrows shot up, “Remind me why I shouldn’t kill you again?”

    Gomez laughed at this, and before Chene’s eyes could focus he had picked the knife from the ground and aimed it at the other’s heart.

    Chene slunk back, Gomez now the one hunched forward and towering over him like a predator.  His eyes flickered dark for a moment, something unreadable surfacing in them.  He pressed the point of the blade into the skin at his throat, earning a wince and a red line that soaked Chene’s uniform, but little more.

    “You’re strong, boy, but where you pin me to the ground,” Gomez pushed through further than before, “I’ll bury you in it.”

    Chene pushed his face forward, inching closer, his collar ringing with blood, “Will you?”

    He saw the look that had formed shrink back like a wounded animal.  His eyes darted over the knife in his hands, the blood that christened it.  He’d been right before, Gomez would never be the kind to kill.  Whether to entertain the thought was cruel or not, Chene wasn’t sure, but he still couldn’t help but think that it was no wonder the king was so quick to call his son a traitor.

    Gomez pulled the knife back, and threw it into the woods.  Without missing a beat, or dropping his gaze, he pulled a tube from his sash and let the water flow into Chene’s cut, finally drawing the pained groan from his clenched teeth.  The cut was never that deep, but now was little more than a scratch among the rest.

    “Ask me why I went to the tavern.”

    “Why?”

    Gomez looked down at his hands, ashamed of the answer to a question he nearly himself had to ask.  Chene would never be sure if he trusted him, but what else could he do but listen to what might be a lie, or maybe not.

    “I was sent as a messenger, meant to travel to the castle just south of the border and ask the king to join our side in the war, to keep the fortune tellers and fire wielders on our side, but I never made it.”

    “Because you were caught in the tavern?”

    “No, because I never went to the castle.”

    “Why not?”

    Gomez smiled, “I never intended to, I traveled to the border itself to have my fortune read.”

    “Why in God’s name would you try that?” Chene scoffed.

    “Well, who doesn’t love a good fortune?”

    “Jinns,” he said, “Jinns hate fortune tellers.”

    “Oh.  Well, besides you then.”

    “And why would you not go to the king and give your message?”

    “Because I couldn’t kill,” Gomez said, looking up at the moving clouds.  It was windy, and as he crossed his arms he felt how cold his skin had become, and they weren’t even too far from the desert.  He imagined that it must be snowing back home.  He hadn’t seen the snow since he was a boy, and he never would again.

    “Who would you be killing, Gomez?”

    “The desert king.  The message read join us, or die at the mercy of my youngest son which I send with the letter.”

    “You weren’t even the messenger,” Chene said, “You were the message itself.”

    “I’m afraid that that was the idea, but I would much rather sit in a tent and be told I’m going to marry a fair lass,”

    Chene clicked his tongue, pretending as though he didn’t want to laugh, “You are a traitor, so,”

“Not a traitor, I told you, but a deserter all the same.”

“You said you were more clever than any deserter.”

Gomez shrugged, “I am.”

“And your fortune?”

“What of it?”

“What did it say?”

“Ah,” Gomez said, rolling onto his elbows, his head falling against the back of his neck.  He reached up with a single hand and pulled his long curled hair from the two buns it was tied in.  The back of his skull was shaved clean, long strands of hair making out veils to be used to hide his pointed ears and heavy gold piercings.  His cheeks held six golden sparrow tattoos, three on each side that fit between freckles as black as inverted stars.  Sitting this close, he could see the difference between jinns and elves.  Where Chene’s body was broad, his shoulders strong and straight, Gomez’s body seemed unable to form sharp edges.  Chene’s skin resembled that of a rose garden, the thousands of interchanging scars leaving little room for beauty or softness, and although Chene was the colour of hardened beeswax and fallen birchwood, Gomez was made of burnt sienna.  He was a doll, and a runt, and the son of a murderer, or so he claimed.

    “Yes?”

    “Well, the problem is if I told you you’d know exactly where we were going.”

“And that’s a problem?”

    Gomez laughed, “Of course!  If you knew it would hardly be a kidnapping, would it?”

    “You’re kidnapping me?” he said.

    He patted Chene’s back and stood up, heading into the woods to pick back up the knife and slotting it into his sheath, just for emergencies, he promised.

    “Come on, we should try to find somewhere to camp before nightfall, it’s already getting late.”

    “Last time I was in a room with you my heart nearly stopped.”

    “That happens to most people when they’re in a bedroom with me,” Gomez winked at him.    

    Chene forced himself to cringe, “There was a hut not a mile back, we could ask to stay the night there?”

    “If you’d prefer that to a cave.”

    “I would, actually,”

    “Than let’s go, in the morning we head back to look for Ruby.”

    “Ruby?”

    “My horse,” Gomez said, and headed back into the shelter of the trees just as it began to rain, “Oh, and see if we can spot my coachman out that way too.”  

    It hailed for most of the hike, and Gomez shook like a feather the whole way.  He said he didn’t mind the storms, that he had a coat on anyway, but Chene could spend the whole walk eyeing him, wondering if he should say anything or settle on letting the boy frost over.

    He was grateful when inside the house a fire was lit and seasoned meat was being heated above it.  Gomez swore to never harm another creature, much less make meal of it, but Chene ate his fill at the blessing of the old dwarven couple who owned the house, and who always welcomed in travelers.  They gave the two cherry wine they had brewed themselves, and as the four finished the second bottle, Gomez finished a revealing story of his past and of the servants who had raised him back when he was a baby and the woman finished prattling on about her traveling son, the sun finally set and the couple excused themselves for the night, handing both men blankets and pillows and three jars of wine for their journey tomorrow.

    They thanked them both kindly, and traded them what they could - Chene giving the husband a strength spell stored within an enchanted pendant from a town to the fiery south, and Gomez giving the woman a beautiful flower with evergreen sprouting mouths that spat coppers.  She laughed and kissed him on the cheek, thanking them and welcoming them to make themselves at home.  Chene couldn’t look away from Gomez, at the way he smiled and shook hands and made himself known to be so favourably kind.  He looked like a king, Chene thought.

 

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