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All the Heavens - Title

Chapter 11

“Going somewhere, puppies?”

While the Knights had been debating their course of action, the argument among the guardsmen had drawn to a close. Most had scattered to the four winds, but ten remained. They were drawn together in a tight, hostile bunch, swords unsheathed and held at the ready. They edged forward threateningly.

“Go on! Get out of here! These wagons are ours, not yours,” one of them, apparently, the leader, said gruffly.

The Knights looked at each other uncertainly. They hadn’t planned on this.

Aaren took a step forward and spread his hands in what he hoped was a placating manner. “Surely there’s enough here for all of us,” he said smoothly. “After all, there’s more wagons tha –”

“Shut up!” the leader interrupted loudly. “These wagons are ours!”

Aaren plastered his most winning smile on his face. “We’ve fought side-by-side up until now. Is this any way to act?”

The leader glowered at him. “Alright. Tell ya what, if ya leave now we’ll let ya live.” Coarse laughter sounded behind him.

Behind Aaren, the Knights slowly loosened their weapons in their sheaths. Elric grinned wickedly and flexed his fingers; the spellbook he’d taken from the dead mage had contained some new spells and he was eager to try them out.

Aaren cast a quick look over his shoulder at his friends. They nodded encouragement to him and he turned back to the former guardsmen. “And if we don’t leave?” he asked politely.

“Then we give you a decent burial!”

Aaren smiled thinly. “I see. Well in that case I guess we have no choice.” He half-turned to leave, his eyes flickered at his friends and he nodded slightly.


The guardsmen hadn’t been fooled by his conciliatory manner. Their faces hardened and they surged forward.

Elric’s voice suddenly rang out behind the Knights. “Look out,” he called warningly. A sphere of glowing power shot from his hand at the charging guardsmen as he incanted quickly. It exploded in a billowing mass of horrible green and yellow vapors, swallowing them instantly.

The Knights halted their charge in amazement. They could hear the guardsmen coughing and choking from inside the billowing, sickly-looking cloud.

Horace caught a faint whiff and jerked his head back with a snap. “What is that?” he gagged, backpedaling furiously.

Elric bounced up and down on his toes, a grin splitting his face from one ear to another. “A spell I copied out of the spellbook I captured,” he chortled. “It creates a cloud of the worst smelling gas you ever came across.”

Horace was still backing away from the cloud. “I could have told you that myself,” he growled. “That stuff is awful!”

One of the guardsmen staggered blindly out of the cloud, coughing and gagging, snot and tears running down his face. Jon trotted over, took the man’s sword from his unresisting fingers, and sat him down upwind of the cloud. Katrina pulled a length of rope out of one of the wagons and helped him tie the man up. Another one crawled out of the cloud and they tied him up next to his companion. As the wind slowly dispersed the sickening cloud, the Knights captured it’s luckless victims as easily as scooping fish out of a barrel. One or two attempted to resist but their swings were wild and weak. Elric stopped one man’s sword swing with a single finger.

Soon all ten were snugly tied together, all their bluster and bravado gone. The leader looked up at them through tearing eyes. “What are you going to do with us?” he coughed.

The six friends exchanged an uneasy look. It was a good question; what were they going to do with their captives?

“Put ‘em to the sword,” Katrina opined carelessly. “That’s the same kind of treatment they were going to give us.”

The captives shrank back fearfully.

“That’s barbaric,” Elric snapped at her. “We can’t kill unarmed men. Then we’d be as bad as they are.”

“So what do you suggest? We can’t let them go,” she rejoined.

“Hand them over to the authorities,” Jon interjected. “And they can hang them.”

Katrina laughed shortly and twirled around, her arms spread wide. “Sorry, Jon, but I don’t see any authorities around here.”

“In Taeljurm,” he said tersely.

“Are you going to guard them all the way there? Morning, noon, and night?”

Mira shook her head. “Will you two knock it off? We can’t kill them, but I don’t feel like hauling them into Taeljurm either. I’m not one of the King’s guards.” She cocked her head thoughtfully. “Why don’t we set it up so that they can get loose after we’ve been gone for several hours?”

“Let them go?” Jon cried in shock. “Never!”

Mira shook her head again. “You know Jon, for a man who is supposed to be a thief, a rogue, you’re the most uptight, law-and-order, black and white man I’ve ever met in my life. Can’t you think like an adventurer? Or at least try?”

Horace snickered at Jon’s wounded expression. “I think you got him good there, Mira."

She grinned wickedly.

“Here,” a voice broke in.

“Hunh?” She looked down at the dagger that Elric was holding out to her. “What’s that for?”

“It’s dull and rusty,” he said. “If we give it to one of them, it’ll take them a while to saw through the ropes after we leave. That’s what you wanted isn’t it?”

Aaren grinned at her from over Elric’s shoulder, his eyes dancing.

“Perfect.” She took the dagger. “Thanks.”


Jon watched with a dubious expression. “Are you sure about this?” he muttered. “It doesn’t feel right, letting them go.”

Mira nodded confidently. “I’m positive.”

Katrina draped a friendly arm around the troubled thief. “Look at it this way Jon, if they get loose and do follow us, then we get to kill them,” she said brightly.

His eyes lit up. “And it would be self-defense,” he said thoughtfully. “Cut and dried in any court.” He smiled grimly. “I like it.”

Aaren caught Mira’s attention again and rolled his eyes heavenward. “How did those two get so bloodthirsty all of the sudden?”

“Beats me,” she shrugged.

“If you are done with them, how about searching the wagons?” Horace interrupted impatiently. “Time’s wasting and maybe some money too.”

His friends chuckled at his eager expression. “Lead on, O Greedy One!” Elric bowed low and waved him on ahead.

*     *     *     *     *

The take was both good and bad; good in that the value was high, bad in that the bulk was equally high.

“More clothes,” Horace growled in disgust. He slammed the carton closed with a bang and clambered down out of the last wagon. “I don’t believe this.”

Katrina was having fits of the giggles. “But they’re really expensive clothes,” she said gaily. “The best I’ve ever seen.”

Elric was also having trouble restraining a grin. “I thought you liked that fancy stuff,” he said, eyes dancing.

Horace snarled at them and stalked away. They watched him for a minute then burst out laughing. His back stiffened even more and his fists clenched. The rest of them joined in until finally he relaxed and began laughing somewhat painfully himself.

“Okay, okay. The joke is on me,” he admitted ruefully. “But now what?”

Aaren shrugged slightly. “We go on,” he said. “What else? We’re only a few days from Taeljurm. We can find some way to make money there. After all, we’re adventurers. We’re supposed to be footloose and fancy-free. Right, gang?” He looked around at the others for support.

“Right,” Elric said quickly. “Maybe we can find some monsters to kill.”

“Or damsels to rescue,” Mira added.

“Or a grand quest in the face of hopeless odds,” Jon ventured.

“Or something else altogether,” Katrina finished. “The possibilities are endless.”

“Then what are we standing around for?” Horace asked. He swung up into the saddle with sudden eagerness. “Let’s go!”

The others were quick to follow suit. Within moments they were mounted and ready to ride. After double-checking the prisoners, they wheeled their horses and spurred them away with loud whoops and yells, thundering across the plains towards the distant city.

Freed from the plodding pace of the caravan they made excellent time through the wild countryside. They saw no more bandits, or the bandits left them alone, it was hard to say which. They rode from sunup to sundown and within two days they were riding through the wide gates of Taeljurm, watching the people and gawking at the sights as if they’d never seen a city before.

Out of a lingering feeling of responsibility to the Seven Thumbs, they swung by the company office in the business section of the city to tell them about the loss of the caravan. The clerk listened to their story with a tired expression then thanked them listlessly. His only visible reaction was surprise they had bothered to report in at all. Feeling somewhat let down they left the office and ventured back out onto the crowded streets.

“You see?” Katrina said disdainfully once they were outside. “The guard was right, the bean counters are covered no matter what.”

“I’ll say,” Jon agreed. “That guy like acted they expected to lose the caravan. He couldn’t have cared less.” He made an angry gesture.

Katrina shrugged. “That’s life in the big city. No one cares about anything.”

“Come on you two,” Horace rumbled. “Forget that guy. We’re here in Taeljurm. We’ve got some money in our pockets, not much, but some. We can do anything we want, go anywhere we want, stay as long as we want, leave when we want – let’s live it up! Let’s have some fun!” He looked imploringly at them.

Aaren laughed. “The big lunk is right. Let’s have some fun, maybe tear up a bar. What do you say?”

They grumbled for few more minutes then allowed themselves to be cheered up so they could go off in search of fun and adventure.

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