Author: theantisonny PM
Slash/WIP When dark forces invade the realm, Micah's world once again spins out of control but this time the nightmare doesn't end. Forced to form alliances with a sheltered member of the royal family and a foul-mouthed outlaw who tempts and challenges him at every turn, Micah goes on a quest to bring order back to the land but lust and jealousy makes the journey anything but easy.Rated: Fiction M - English - Fantasy - Chapters: 4 - Words: 21,653 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 14 - Follows: 20 - Updated: 03-21-12 - Published: 04-30-11 - id: 2911699
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: After many, many months of not writing this story I've picked it up again. Real life got crazy and it may get even crazier in a few more months, but for now I plan to keep writing about Micah, Marin and Fletch regularly. Nick and Dusty beta'd for me and are awesome for it.
When Micah's eyes slid open, he could still feel phantom fingers ghosting over his body. As real as it felt, it had been nothing but a dream. Dual feelings of relief and disgust warred in him, and he released a shaky exhalation of breath. Slicked with sweat, Micah's body was now taut with unreleased tension. This was not the first time he'd suffered one of these dreams within the past week, but it was the first time he had awoken before its completion and subsequently his own release.
The intensity of his arousal was like a white hot coil in his gut, and the flesh between his thighs difficult to ignore. His tongue swept out to wet his lips, and Micah closed his eyes. The dream was imprinted behind his eyelids, it seemed. He saw himself as he'd been in the dream, and as he had not been since that night six years ago when the mist had swept in from The Fall. Hard, ready, and licking hungrily into another man's mouth.
The ragged sigh that escaped him was especially loud in the still, quiet room. His fingers were twitching, but he tried to ignore the primal instinct that was urging them to wrap around the painful hardness trapped in his smallclothes. He tried to ignore the way every nerve in his body felt over-stimulated, and he especially tried to ignore the intense frustration of having been close before some minor sound had woken him. The clear liquid oozing at the head of his cock was evidence enough of what he had been doing in his sleep. A week ago, he would have been shocked at his own lack of self control. Now, dreaming of ramming his cock into the copper-haired Kierna man was a common occurrence.
A shiver wracked his body, and Micah felt himself giving in as he sank back into the echoes of the dream. He heard the low, rhythmic voice moaning when he slid his palm down over the hard plains of his stomach. He was hearing the Kierna's lust filled pleas in some obscure Celestine language, when he began thrusting into his own hand.
When a groan ripped from Micah's mouth, he was imagining a pliant body bending in front of him, and silken copper hair falling forward to obscure the Kierna's face. Micah arched his back as his mouth dropped open, harsh sounds filling the silent room as he spread his thighs further apart.
Micah bit down on his lower lip to muffle himself, but the sound of his hand pumping the slick length of his cock replaced his moans. He squeezed his eyes shut tighter, pale brows drawing together as he replayed the dream over and over in his mind.
Harsh words, the faint outlines of a fight, and then punishing the Kierna with the thick length of his cock. Violently taking the Kierna man, giving him the raping he deserved—except the Kierna was begging for it, was calling Micah's name.
"Ahh," the thick, hoarse sound escaped Micah's lips as he thrust faster into his hand. By the time he spurted onto his chest and stomach, his cries had reached a pitch that easily carried through the heavy wood of his door.
Exhausted, and sated, Micah was still sprawled on his bed naked when Astrid slipped into the room. His chest heaved as he fumbled for a blanket, and yanked it up to cover himself.
"That was near loud enough to draw the Timmet tribes from their caves," Astrid noted dryly. She walked over to his basin, and poured steaming water into it from the jug she was carrying.
Micah licked his lips, and warmed from embarrassment. "Sorry," he said gruffly, sitting up. She looked openly amused but he did not share the sentiment. The notion that years of hard training had still not stripped him of all traces of the naïve boy he'd been in the windswept village of The Fall wiped away any remaining traces of lust.
"Mhm." Astrid arched a brow, and opened the trunk at the foot of his bed. "You weren't nearly this lust crazed a few weeks ago."
"No, I wasn't." He used the blanket to clean his stomach and chest with one rough swipe. "That damned Kierna has done something to me, I swear it."
"Yes, yes," she said. "Him being attractive is surely some kind of sorcery."
Micah sat up, and threw his legs over the side of his bed. "There have been many attractive people at the Spire in the last six years, and I did not have this response. I've heard that those Celestine folk can glamour people into—"
"Don't be an idiot."
He shut up, primarily because he knew he was being an idiot. Grumbling something inaudible, he wandered over to the basin. Being a fully fledged brother certainly had benefits that he had not previously considered. Fresh bathing water was one of them; not having to bath in the cold stream with the other initiates was a welcome change.
The clanking of armor sounded over his shoulder and Micah glanced back after splashing his face a few times. "I won't need those today. I need to scout the forest for my bloody dagger before some Timmet caveman stumbles upon the damnable thing and goes on a rampage with it. Although," he said thankfully, "a scandal associating an iron brother's weapon with a murderous savage would get me out of guardianship sure enough."
"And earn you a cell next to your Kierna."
Not bothering to tell her to shut up about the damned copper-headed bastard, Micah ran a hand through his disheveled white hair. There were a few occasions where he regretted letting Astrid past his carefully crafted walls, and this was one of them. She knew him too well.
"In any event," she said mirthfully, still grinning as she stripped the stained blanket from the bed. "Now that you've woken up happy, you can apologize to the Arch Brother for being a prick the other night. He's summoned you to his quarters right after you break your fast."
Mouth twisting to the side, Micah began pulling on his tunic. He ignored the armor she'd laid out and shimmied into his worn oiled breeches. "Has the runner from Auren arrived with the new guardian postings?"
Astrid shook her head, blond hair spilling down her back as she ineffectually wrestled with the bed. Biting out a low curse, she knelt in the center of the bed and glared at him. "You're going to start making your own bloody bed. Things were much simpler when it was just a pallet."
He snorted and stepped into his boots. "So leave it. No one's checking."
"If you'd stop making a mess of them with your thrice damned Kierna fantasies, I would," she groused. Flipping hair over her shoulder, she stood up and kicked a pillow onto the stone floor. "And no, no postings. But there's a big commotion in the kitchens, and the chamber wenches are on double duty scrubbing the place so there may be a visitor coming from Auren instead."
"Mhm," she agreed. "I overheard Tristan griping over unexpected surprises and high born pissants so prepare to be displayed like an unbroken warhorse for some pretties who want to meet the gorgeous iron man from The Fall, whom also won the small tourney. Word is, plenty of high born ladies are dying to suck that windswept cock of yours."
Finishing with his boots, Micah sat up straight and stared at his serving sister with a smirk. "That's the word, is it?"
She shrugged, hopping off the bed. "Sure enough. Are you surprised? I'd suck that windswept cock of yours if it would harden at the sight of a nice pair of tits. You've grown to be quite nice looking."
Making a revolted sound at the back of his throat, Micah pushed himself to his feet and shoved her shoulder. "Am I truly meant to break my fast with that in mind?"
Astrid laughed, abandoning the bed and picking her way around the room. "I found it horrifying and I'm the one who said it." She reached back to snag his arm when he didn't move from where he stood in the center of the room. "Come. We're already late, and it's bad enough that you're dressed like a scoundrel again."
As they made the descent to the dining hall, Micah found his mind abandoning the last few days' ponderings and focusing instead on what he would say to Tristan. For the first time since the night of his induction, he'd been able to forget about his lost dagger, and it was a pleasant change. The idea of one of the mountain tribes finding his weapon was worrisome. They'd retreated into their tunnels and caves months ago, when the other forest creatures had, but there were still signs of some prowling around the Spire during the night.
He should have searched the long tunnel that led to the Dregs of Auren, but he'd held himself back from the task so far. Whatever had led him to the Vaults during the previous week had spun into lust drenched dreams and obscene fantasies; Micah didn't trust himself that close to the damned Kierna again just yet. By sundown the thief would have had a trial and by the next morning, his hands removed, and that would be the end of that.
The thought caused something in his stomach to tighten and Micah grit his teeth as he took his place at the long table in the dining hall. The idea of a man being maimed for slighting him was distressing, especially since he was convinced that the Kierna had been wrongly accused. A filthy, disrespectful rascal the bronze haired man may be, but there had been no reason for him to rob the tourney masters.
The breakfast of crusty bread, goose egg and leftover pork skin should have been delicious but Micah barely tasted it. He pushed his plate away, and was throwing a leg over the bench to leave before Astrid had even started on her own meal. Her face wrinkled when he stood, but he held out a hand to halt her pursuit.
"Stay and finish your meal."
Astrid flashed him a grateful smile; for the time to eat- as well as the opportunity to continue flirting with the iron brother who was lingering by her side. Erik was older than Micah by five winters and had pursued Astrid discreetly for years. He wasn't the only brother to show obvious favor to Micah's lovely serving sister, but he was the only to whom she'd returned that favor. It was not uncommon for a brother to forsake his vows with a serving sister. However when such trysts were discovered, it was always the sister who got banished while the iron brothers merely repented at the altars.
Giving Erik a hard look, Micah turned his back and left the hall. His steps echoed as he jogged up the winding staircase of the Spire, bypassing each floor until he reached the Arch Brother's quarters at the very top. Tristan was not alone when he arrived; there were several chamber maids tidying the mess of books and scrolls that littered his receiving area.
"Good morning, Arch Brother Tristan," Micah greeted, bowing his head. "I'm glad that you have summoned me. My rudeness has grieved me over the past few days and there are many items which I want to discuss with you."
Tristan waved an impatient hand, fingers busy with the ties to his cape. "Piss on the pleasantries and save your items. The King and Queen will be arriving by midday."
"They've travelled from Meridian through the Mortwood glamoured as a family of merchants. No one knew it was them until this morning." The Arch Brother grunted as he adjusted his pauldrons, tightening the straps and buckles. "We've had no time to prepare for a royal visit. It's utter pandemonium."
Micah's eyes swept around the messy room and settled on the slender window as if he could see the King and Queen's entourage from where he stood. He tried to picture the streams of baggage handlers, servants, cooks and the scores of soldiers that would accompany them. "I've never seen a merchant family travel with so many people," he said doubtfully. "And why through the Mortwood? That place is just as haunted as the Silverwood. What fool came up with that?"
"What difference does it make?" Tristan demanded impatiently, finally dragging his attention away from his clothing. His eyes swept over Micah, disapproval etched clearly into the weathered lines of his face. "Hunting gear will not do, boy. The royal family wants to specifically see you."
Micah paused as all thoughts of daggers and rogue Kierna were replaced by complete and utter confusion. "What—that is—why?"
"Because you're the last fallen man in the kingdom of Rune Landing, and you won the small tourney." Tristan stalked around his desk to stare hard at Micah, eyebrows drawing down and together. "But there's another reason—more than just your new popularity."
People were talking a lot about his popularity this morning. A hint of unease went through Micah and his hands went up to grasp his daggers reflexively, although he only found one. The unease grew colder as it snaked down his spine, but he only stared at the Arch Brother.
"Princess Marilynn is joining the Order," Tristan said with little ceremony. "She is to train to be a serving sister."
A nearby chamber girl looked up with wide eyes, dropping an armful of parchments and scrolls. They went tumbling across the floor but the mess did not stop her from casting furtive stares at them.
Micah didn't even look at her. "That's… odd. Why not marry her to some rich lordling?"
Tristan waved a hand vaguely, not breaking his intense scrutiny of Micah. "She's not the most beautiful creature to ever be born into the Goddard family. None of her mother's bust and hips—bit of a plain thing, and skinny. Boyish, almost. But even then, you're right, it is a bit odd."
Shaking his head, Micah watched a scroll that was marked in red ink unfurl across the floor. It was nearly as long as he was tall, and the borders glittered like gold in the streaming sunlight. The flash of gold reminded him of something, of blond hair glinting in the morning light, and he looked at Tristan in alarm.
"You're not suggesting she be my serving sister, are you? Astrid has been with me through everything."
"That is exactly what they are suggesting," Tristan said flatly. He pushed himself away from the desk and closed the distance between them. Micah's jaw worked with barely concealed anger when a strong hand gripped it tightly. "The iron man from The Fall paired with the royal serving sister. What could be more fitting?"
Micah jerked himself away, his silver eyes narrowed dangerously. He bared his teeth as understanding slammed into him. "You mean more mutually beneficial. The Order gets new blood when the common people find out about all of the popular new inductees, and this princess gets her own personal iron man to play guardian for her."
"A stroke of brilliance," the Arch Brother said sarcastically.
"It's horse shit." For the second time since the ceremony, Micah didn't bother to mask his anger or the words rolling off his tongue. He turned away sharply, running his fingers through his cropped white hair with short, jerky motions. "I need to train, Tristan. Not play at adventure for some royal twit! This is worse than a normal guardianship! You won't let the princess farther than Auren for fear of the ridiculous girl getting hurt on a real assignment. Admit it!"
Tristan shrugged, his interest with this quarrel already fading. "I admit it."
Micah shook his head stiffly, fists clenched. "I won't. I will not do this."
The look that Tristan leveled at him was both weary and exasperasted. "Micah Magnar, it was the King who made this decree. You have no choice."
Everyone was in a rush that morning, preparing for the royal family's arrival. The marble stairs of the White Spire were shining, the Arch Brother's receiving chambers were put in order, and the servants had prepared a feast of roasted pig, duck stew, vegetables roasted and drizzled in butter, and five different kinds of breads and desserts. It seemed extravagant but truly it was meager compared to the fare the king and queen were undoubtedly accustomed to in Meridian. Katie, the head cook fretted about this until the first taste of stew touched royal lips. All the panic, however, was in vain, as the royal family did not arrive until that evening.
They swept into the Spire in a swirl of Western fashion that seemed garish in contrast to the plain garments normally worn in the ivory tower. The women's hair were curled, their faces painted, and even the servants wore ruffles and sunset colors that were typically worn in the Western regions. Micah shook his head and wondered how the royal party had successfully crossed through the Mortwood. The reds, pinks and blue hues normally found in Western clothing should have attracted all of the vicious creatures that resided in the Mortwood.
Micah continued to ponder why until one of the princess's ladies commented on how glad she was that the forest beasts were gone. The Mortwood was a haunted place, known in legend as the site of the bloodiest battle during the war between Aeron and Varys. Children all over Rune Landing were told the stories of the creatures that lived there, which was why Micah had been shocked at the route the royal family had chosen. After hearing the lady's comment, Micah now understood how they had survived. The creatures of the Mortwood had disappeared just like the Timmet people and animals in the thick forests around Auren.
Demands of larger suites and fresh bathing water interrupted his thoughts, and then he was too busy. For nearly an hour the usually silent tower erupted into the clatter of footsteps, and shouted orders. Strange as it was to have the White Spire filled with strangers, the explosion of sound and color jolted Micah out of his sulk and into the reality of the situation.
The king and queen of Rune Landing were really here. They really were going to want an audience with him. Tristan could not stop them, and neither could he.
He reluctantly pushed away from his sullen sprawl on the floor and to let Astrid help him suit up in his ceremonial armor. He grumbled about deserting the Order- connections be damned—and glared balefully as Astrid dressed herself with obvious excitement. He didn't stop grumbling until they reached the dining hall, and the actual members of the royal family finally made their appearance.
The Goddards were known to be a fair family—so fair in fact- that the queen was rumored to have Celestine blood. King Richard was broad shouldered and wide jawed, with thick auburn hair and piercing blue eyes; the queen, prince and princess all possessed the same delicate features and long chestnut colored hair. While Tristan engaged King Richard in conversation, Micah found that he could not help but stare at the other members of the royal family. More often than not, he found his eyes being drawn to Princess Marilynn.
She was not as plain as Tristan had said, but she did lack her mother's beauty. Marilynn and the Prince Lionel had the same full mouths, pert noses and wide set eyes but that was where the similarities ended. The princess had seen seventeen winters as far as Micah's limited knowledge of royalty told him, but she had not developed the womanly curves that her mother possessed. Instead, Marilynn was tall, and thin, flat-chested and had an androgynous look about her. Throughout the feast, the princess kept her head bowed and her voice low.
Prince Lionel's demeanor was the complete opposite of his sister; he glared around insolently and had criticized the hospitality of the Order three times before Katie had even served the stew. It did not take long for his scorn to switch from their temporary quarters, to the food, and finally to the iron brothers themselves.
"So this is your fallen brother or whatever nonsense?" Lionel asked loudly, shoving aside a bowl of soup and causing it to spill over onto the table. He leaned forward on his elbows, head tilting; his thin gold crown slide sideways as he stared at Micah.
Micah met the prince's stare evenly, but he did not reply. Lionel's eyes narrowed and he pointed at Micah, leaning forward so that his finger was less than a hand span away. "I'm speaking to you, lad."
Micah's teeth set on edge to be called a lad, especially from a boy who barely looked strong enough to hold a sword, but he simply took the measure of the prince silently.
"Guard your tongue, boy," King Richard cut in sharply, thumping his goblet on the table. "The Order is sacred, and if you plan to run this kingdom when I'm dead and buried, you had better understand how valuable the Order of Varys is."
Lionel rolled his eyes, slumping back in his chair and swirling a goblet of wine. "Valuable enough to give my sister to them," he said sourly.
Marilynn looked up for the first time, her mouth slightly twisting to the side. But still, she didn't speak. Instead she wordlessly reached out and squeezed her brother's hand. Lionel ripped away violently, but there was a flash of sadness in his face that made Micah despise him a little bit less.
"Prince Lionel—" The queen began in a hushed voice, but before she could chastise him the king cut in. He seemed more annoyed than embarrassed by Lionel's behavior, but Micah doubted he wanted to show either emotion.
"A fucking brat the boy may be, but he brings up the business of why we've come through the marsh and wraith infested filth of Mortwood," Richard said, tossing his spoon down and looking at the Arch Brother and Micah. "Have you wondered why my only daughter is coming to join the Order of Varys?"
Tristan folded his hands neatly in front of him, taking pains not to get caught on his cloak and pauldrons. "I had wondered, yes. However, I assumed your majesty has a very good reason for it."
Lionel scoffed audibly even as his father raked a skeptical glare over Tristan. "Come now. Don't be shy. Let's hear it. Did you think she was mad? Or ugly? Deformed in some way to make her unsuitable for marriage?"
"Of course not," Tristan flatly lied.
Micah's lips quirked up and he covered them with his own goblet.
Richard waved a dismissive hand and looked over at his daughter. She was slightly hunched in on herself, shoulders pushed forward and head down.
"Even if she were the ugliest wretch in Rune Landing, any man would marry the king's only daughter. This is her decision. She wants to remain a maid, and she wants to be away from Meridian to live in obscurity with books and legends. Isn't that so, Marilynn?"
The princess finally looked up. "Yes," she uttered, her voice low pitched and hoarse.
The answer seemed to satisfy her father, although Queen Laurel did nothing more than purse her lips into a tight line. Her pretty face took on a blank quality, and eyes drifted back to the performing fools and singers that they had brought with them on their journey.
"The arrangements have already been made," Tristan said. "Princess Marilynn will be Micah Magnar's serving sister. They will share a large suite on the upper floors—"
Micah's eyes flew to the Arch Brother at the unexpected news.
"—and she will receive excellent training from Sister Astrid, who has served Micah since he came to us from The Fall."
"Excellent," Richard said.
It took the shredded remains of Micah's self control to keep from interrupting the conversation, but Tristan had made it quite clear that he was not to speak at the feast unless one of the royals directly addressed him. Apparently Tristan did not trust his new brother to be respectful to their guests.
"Arch Brother?" Marilynn's voice was quiet, and sounded strained. "What will happen to Sister Astrid when my training is complete? Will she serve a brother as worthy as Brother Micah?"
"Worthy," Lionel repeated scornfully.
"Yes," Tristan said, ignoring the comment. "Of course, your highness. She will serve Brother Erik, who joined the order when he was only—"
"What?" Micah demanded, unable to hold back anymore. The conversation abruptly halted and Micah found every member of the royal family, and their personal servants, staring at him. Some with curiosity, and Lionel with a knowing smirk.
A low chuckle spilled from the princeling's mouth, and he slapped a hand against the table. "I knew that ancient maiden tradition was just nonsense. You're fucking that golden haired serving sister, aren't you? Is that how these sisters truly serve?"
Micah pictured himself driving his dagger up the little bastard's nose, but thankfully Tristan replied before any blood could be shed. "You are mistaken, highness. The sisters are sworn virgins, and the brothers remain celibate after they take their vows. Their irons bind them from impure activities, so that they may focus only on their training and their guardianship duties." He paused before adding calmly, "And Brother Micah preferred men before joining the Order, so you have nothing to fear from him in that regard."
Micah wondered if he would get a cell next to the Kierna if he slit his Arch Brother's throat. The thought caused him to start in shock; he realized that, because of the royal family's visit, he'd forgotten all about that copper ha bastard's trial.
The rest of the feast dragged on as Micah tried to ignore the pointed comments and snide insults from the prince. His hands were starting to lose feeling; he'd clenched his fists so tightly. By the time the moon had risen to its highest point, the king and his son were drunk. Lionel beckoning Astrid onto his lap from her place further down the table. By the end of the night everything, including Marilynn's low mumble, had begun to anger Micah.
After several hours the feast ended, but somehow his torment did not. King Richard decided that Marilynn should begin spending the night in Micah's chamber, so she could spend as much time with Micah and Astrid as possible. Just when Micah had thought he would get peace for the night, the notion was stripped away.
"Calm down," Astrid soothed as they took the steps up to the Micah's newest chambers resided. She patted his hand and commented on how fortunate they were that the princess's ladies had moved his belongings to the new suite. Micah refused to be mollified; as if that made a damned thing better when there was an annoying twit of a girl shadowing their every step.
When they stepped into their new quarters, Micah immediately began stripping off the bulky armor. He could feel Marilynn's eyes on him but he disregarded her gaze as he changed into his leathers.
"Micah," Astrid chastised, rolling her eyes. "You could have warned the princess that you were going to show her everything."
"Well, the princess had better get used to it if she's going to be my serving sister," he scoffed, yanking his tunic over his head. "And she also needs to learn to bloody speak up."
Astrid slapped the side of his head with a glare, but Marilynn just shrugged and stepped further into the room. Her eyes had lingered on Micah's bare torso before it disappeared into his clothing, but now she focused on her new home. It was a large suite with three rooms; an outer receiving room and two bedchambers.
"I know it's not as grand as what you're used to, highness" Astrid began, "But—"
"Please," Marilynn said. She spoke in a clear but low voice, and held herself straighter now that they were alone. "If I am going to be one of you, you should not call me princess or highness. Please call me … Marin."
Micah strapped on his belt and his remaining dagger before giving her a sideways stare. She met his eyes without hesitation, and he found himself holding her gaze. When Astrid pointedly bumped his shoulder as she began collecting his discarded gear, Micah cleared his throat.
Grabbing his dark cloak, he only asked, "Why Marin?"
There was another pause as Marin walked over to one of the thin windows. "It's simpler."
Astrid raised an eyebrow and gave Micah a one-sided smile. "I take it you will not be back until tomorrow, mid-morning?"
"Yes." Micah finished tying his cloak and drew the hood over his white hair. "I need to get to the Vaults and stop this damned foolish maiming." He could feel Marin's curious green eyes on him as he opened the door. "If anyone should come seeking me…"
"I'll tell them that you went to talk to the guards about taking Marin out to the forest tomorrow."
He slipped out of the suite. It was the first time he made the treacherous glide down the side of the Spire with no hesitation despite the gusting winds. With so many strangers around the base of the tower he scarcely had to hide when walking through the forest, which allowed him to hasten his pace. The trip to the hidden tunnel took half the time, although he took more care when taking the underground passage to the Dregs.
Micah had often used the tunnel in the past several years, but this was the first time he hesitated more than once before walking in. The fine hairs on the back of his neck and arms stood on end as he trekked through the widest part of the passageway, and Micah paused several times to puzzle out the source, without success. He could hear the skittering of small creatures that lived in the damp darkness, but the utter quietness felt wrong.
The feeling stayed with him for the better part of an hour, by the time he reached the end of the tunnel, Micah found himself jogging to complete the journey faster. As he scaled the wall and pulled himself out of the hatch and into the Dregs, he wondered if that was the same sensation Astrid had felt the one night that he'd tried to bring her with him.
With one last lingering look into the darkness beyond the hatch, Micah shook the chill away and replaced the cover. He strode out of the alley, pushed off his hood and approached the entrance to the vaults.
"What time are the prisoners brought out to the block?" he asked swiftly, looking from one guard to the other.
"An hour afta' sunrise," the burlier of the two said, speaking around a twig that he'd lodged between his teeth. "Why?"
Micah searched their faces, but neither were the guards he'd talked to about the Kierna on that first night. Frowning slightly, he glanced around but, so late into the night, there were only a few people on the streets of Auren.
"A Kierna was brought in for stealing after the small tourney, and his initial sentence was to have both hands removed. I believe the severity of the punishment was due to a fight he had with me at the same tourney—"
"Oh right," the second guard said, "You're the iron man who won, ain't you?"
Micah flicked his eyes over the man and did not respond to the question. "And I believe," he continued stonily,. "That is the sole reason why he received that sentence. I do not need a man to have a hand removed just because he struck me. And besides that rather grotesque piece of injustice, I do not believe the Kierna robbed the tourney masters at all. I was there when he won the fattest purse, and he was quite pleased with it. There was no reason for him to steal."
The two guards exchanged looks and when they didn't reply readily enough, Micah flexed his hands impatiently.
"Will the magistrate hear me before they go to the block, or not? Because, truly, you are making a mistake."
The burly guard spat his twig on the floor by Micah's boots and rolled his broad shoulders slowly. "Sorry, brother. I would've in'erupted sooner but you was so into yer story and all." He smirked, tucking his thumbs into the thick belt he wore. "The Kierna escaped so there won't be no sentence for 'im."
For a moment Micah couldn't do more than stare. The surprise was quickly replaced with a relief that was nearly alarming. "How?"
"Dunno," the younger guard said with a frown. "We found his cell with nothin' in it but his shackles. The bastard just disappeared. And no person with the look of a Kierna has tried leavin' the gates. Seems like he just disappeared or magicked himself somewhere."
Micah seriously doubted that, but he didn't share that feeling with the guards. Instead he took a step back and pulled his hood back on.
"Thank you for the information."
"No problem, brother," the younger one said cheerfully. "Maybe one day you can tell me how you won that tourney."
Micah seriously doubted that as well, but he just bade them farewell and turned away. His feet turned to the direction of Penny Row before his mind had fully decided, and he knew why. If anyone knew the gossip of Auren, it was the whores on Penny Row.
His preoccupation with the Kierna was beginning to border on obsession, and Micah had the vague hope that as soon as he satisfied his curiosities it would be done. He would not be responsible for a man losing his hands, and he could cast away the unwanted fantasies with the knowledge that the older man was far away.
When he turned down one of the snaky side streets that led to Penny Row, there was a barely audible whoosh behind him. Micah's hand automatically went to his remaining dagger but before he could grasp it there was a lean body pressing against his back and a ghosting breath was in his ear.
Micah stiffened, and his hands spasmed as the Kierna's lyrical voice murmured.
"Fancy a stroll, love?"