book one in the goddess knot
A Summer Story
P R O L O G U E
It was not yet dark, but the town of Stonemaris was already asleep. The only people still on the streets were drunk, wandering home from the local tavern, or thieves, slinking along the walls of the city, eyes flashing greedily at a noble with an exceptionally large purse.
The town was usually busy in the day. In fact, it was the biggest trade town along the southern boarder of the kingdom Scarhak. It was built on a river, half the town on one side, half the town on the other, and bridges connecting the two.
This certain night in mid No-leaf two men sat at a table that overlooked the river that the Stonemaris people called the Jewel.
One was a mysterious man, a thief by nature, with no fixed name. A long jagged scar went across one eye and a patch signified that the thing that had made the scar had also taken his eye. The other was a shifty eyed noble, a fat man in red and gold robes. They talked in deep whispers, jumping at the laughter from a mud brick house where there was a party.
"Numris, I don't think we should be here." The noble said, his eyes darting to a slow trading boat that was making its way up the Jewel.
"Hush up Thortak. You want the girl, right?" The thief snapped back.
"Yes, yes, let's get on with it." Thortak sighed. "Fifty Hemlocks as planned?"
"Sixty for delivering her to you." Numris laughed, carving roughly into the table with his knife.
Thortak nodded, impressed. "You push a hard bargain." He commented, sliding a bag across the table.
Numris counted the coins eagerly. After being satisfied his customer had paid the right amount, he whistled loudly.
"Idiot! Someone will hear you!" Thortak fretted.
"Shhh," The thief laughed, "here they come."
Three people walked out of the shadows. Two stiff looking men leading a struggling girl between them. When she spotted Thortak she hissed angrily.
"There she is Thory. The girl, alive and well."
Thortak grinned. "Alive and well is right. Will you help me, girly?"
The girl remained silent but her blue eyes were sharp and defiant.
Thortak smiled mockingly. "Not talking are you?"
"I don't talk to traitors." The girl spat, her voice hoarse.
Thortak snarled. "I'll make you a traitor by the time-"
Numris snorted. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves."
The girl in chains struggled wildly, trying to get to Thortak. The chain bearers yanked hard backwards on them and the girl fell to the ground with a cry of pain.
"Strong for a young one." Thortak laughed as the girl whimpered. "How old is she?"
Numris looked troubled. "We stole her. I do not know. Looks old enough to help you with your job, heh?"
"I am fourteen summers. My family was going to make me a warrior this coming spring."
"Spring?" Asked Thortak suspiciously.
"Bud-leaf." One of the men with chains replied.
"Ah. Next season then?"
"Correct, Tremner dung." The girl snapped weekly. Her eyes fluttered as she struggled not to pass out.
"A sharp tongue for being only thirteen summers." Numris laughed.
Thrortak nodded briskly. "I need to be going. The night is young but men like us should not drop our guard in Stonemaris. Though I am armed, the girl is not."
Numris smiled. "Yes. Goodbye."
Thortak turned to leave, taking the chains and shaking them. "What is her name?" He asked.
The girl looked up at him. "My name is Renna." She said before passing out into darkness.
When Renna awoke she was in a dark closed in space. It was jolting horribly and for a moment she thought she would be sick. The feeling passed and she looked out a knothole in the wood to see streets, stalls and people passing by in a hurry. Were they running away from her, or was she going faster than expected? Suddenly a moan came from the other end of the carriage.
"Who's there?" She twisted on her toes to look into the bright violet eyes of a scruffy haired boy.
"I might ask the same of you," He glanced down at her belt and saw the knives sheathed and loosened for use.
"Well, I asked first. So speak up, street rat." She said as she looked him up and down. He wore a dark blue and torn cape, like a clear midnight sky; a stained burgundy tunic; black breeches rolled up to his knees, and his legs were covered by the tattoos of a thief. He didn't have shoes, his feet were tanned and cracking from sun and cold weather. His face was grimy and his hair was shoulder length and a deep, dark black that still shone, even in all of its knots and tangles.
"Do you really think I'm going to tell you?" He said as he pulled a knife from in his shirtsleeve. He fumbled with it and then looked up at her.
"Thieves never tell their names, not their real ones anyway." His eyes turned back to her knives. "You can call me Kak, short for Kakrian."
"Is that your-" Renna began but his eyes stared her hard in the face and she stopped talking.
"No, that is not my real name!" He stared at his hands, casual once more then looked up from the scars and tattoos, "Who are you?" His eyes showed sympathy, but only for a moment.
"Since I don't have a clue whether you're some mass murderer I'll let you call me Wren, short for Wrenlark. And no, Mr. Scholar, that is not my real name!" She looked him in the face; pride gleaming in her clear blue eyes, breaking her mask of anger.
"Fine then, Bird brain," He stated and turned around to crawl back to his corner.
Renna scowled at his back and sat down quietly underneath the knothole.
Abruptly Kak's voice slunk out of the shadows and reached out to her.
"I'm surprised you didn't ask about the men," He muttered, "I've heard them day and night for nearly half a year!"
"Year?" Renna asked quietly.
"A summer, whatever. That's not the point; don't you want to know who they are? What they want? That sort of thing? Aren't you in the least bit, curious?" He prompted, his voice cracking at the climax of his half sermon.
"Sure, but if you won't even tell me your name, why would you tell me that?" She asked, not knowing what he expected of her.
"Because I know something that you don't know... Something that will change your life something that will-"
"Oh, shut up and get it over with!"
"Fine then, nearly one summer ago, the day I turned thirteen, these men; three big stiff guys in black caught me in the dead of night; actually, I tried to steal one's purse. But that's another story. Anyway, they got me and brought me to this fat man... his name was, er, um..." The boy paused in thought.
"Thortak?" Renna recalled her uncle's name. How could he be involved in this scheme? And take her away when she was about to live out her warrior dream!
"Yes, that was his name! Thank you. They brought me to him and this other one-eyed, scar-face, thieving, rotten, slime ball of a ... never mind, nothing important. Then, the next day, guess where I am! In this carriage tourin' the whole realm of Scarhak!
"Every day I hear the fat man talking to the horses or something, singing weird songs about girls and thieves and flames. I don't have a clue! Then, last season, he starts on about you. The 'Girl' from some prophecy. And if you ask me, the girl in that thing is a crazy lunatic!"
"A lunatic! My Uncle Thortak called me a lunatic?!" Renna nearly crawled over and punched the boy in the face!
"He didn't call you that, I did." In the dim light Renna saw the flash of a grin spread across Kak's face.
"Well, what did the prophecy say?" Renna asked impatiently.
"I got it memorized, but I'm not under any circumstances singing the dang thing!" The boy started to chant a haunting song, one that remained in Renna for the rest of her life:
When the road to the Kingdoms of elements open,
Let the two words of power speak!
The children of old hold the oath to be broken,
And the knot of the Goddess must not grow weak!
When fire and dread flood the realm,
And the thieves reign strong and true,
The two will gather and open the gates,
For those who have not yet guessed who!
The dead will live and the sun will grow dark,
The nights will be bright with the dawn,
The children will know when the time is right,
To open the gates to the wronged.
One girl of a noble family,
A warrior to the bone,
Will join up with one boy of the old times,
A boy with the sacred stone!
One girl with hidden gifts,
And the mask of a bird from its nest,
Will help the boy in question,
To complete his quest!
Renna stared at Kak.
"What?" Kak asked, eyeing Renna, "I didn't make it up!"
"Maybe not, but this whole deal is stupid." Renna snapped, glaring out the knothole. The busy town scene had been replaced by rolling mountains and steep hills. Strange furry mammals with large eyes and long tales flitted from rock to rock. More time had passed then Renna had thought!
"I am going to explain this deal to Uncle Thortak and he will let us free. I will even 'forget' you are a thief." Renna said kindly, standing up.
"Seems like your Uncle is a real friendly guy." Kak retorted, glancing at Renna's ankle.
Renna followed his eyes down to where a large metal clasp around her leg held her tethered to the wall.
"He chained me to a wall!" Renna screamed, not trying to hide her surprise or fury, "and tossed me in a caravan with street scum!'
Kak smirked. "And you know what?" He laughed at last, his delight showing in his grin, "He didn't tie me up!"
Renna looked at the thief's ankles. It was true, his legs where not tethered to the wall like Renna's were.
Renna sank to her knees. "Why?" She muttered, dizzy.
Kakrian hooted into another fit of laughter then realized the strange girl had not been joking. "Because you are a mage." He explained, stifling his laughter.
"Why are you laughing? I am not a mage!" Renna growled back.
"Are too!" Kak laughed, "Why else would you have been captured?"
Renna cocked an eyebrow in question but Kakrian had no time to reply.
The caravan had stopped moving.
Kak's face became a mix of fear and hastiness. "Wren, quick! Thortak is coming!"
The noble looked confused. "What am I supposed to do?"
Kak didn't reply. He was looking at the door.
It opened, light flooding in. Renna shielded her eyes with her arm, feeling something groping at her chained ankle.
"Hello, princess." She heard uncle Thortak laugh.
Her eyes adjusted and she moved her hand to her side, reaching instinctively for her dagger that wasn't there.
Thortak had undone her shackle and was staring at Renna. "I see you are awake." He laughed.
Kak, Renna noticed, was moving slowly towards the open door.
"Yes, and I demand you let me free." Renna snarled. "If father knew…"
"But he doesn't, does he?" Thortak spat, his dirty robe slapping Renna in the face as he turned angrily. "He never will."
"Because, young one, I killed him."
Renna gasped, "No…no…"
"Yes dear girl, I killed him and your dear mother too. There bodies rest in the Jewel now."
"Sorry to break up the family reunion." Kak said, grabbing the gold studded saber from Thortak's belt, "But I agree with Wrenlark. I demand you let my friend free on penalty of death."
Thortak spun around calmly. "Ah, Kak. Put that weapon down before you hurt yourself."
"The only one who will be hurting is you, Thortak." Kak barked, moving into a battle position.
Thortak laughed again, hollowly. "Yes, well, I am afraid that is not true."
"Scared?" Kakrian growled boldly.
Thortak smirked, drawing a second sword from his belt, "Never. Come on Kakrian, drop your act."
Renna watched as her uncle started towards the little figure of Kakrian. She hissed, wanting to be in his place. She wanted to stab Thortak for what he did to her mother and father. Stab him again and again…
Kak made the first move, leaping towards Thortak who parried the move.
Renna pulled angrily on the chain. Mage? Ha! Even if she was a magic worker this chain was not coming loose…
Thortak thrust at Kakrian who backed him up against the cart. Thortak was in reach of Renna now.
"Kak!" She screamed at him over her Uncle's grunts and insults. "Throw me the dagger!" She looked to either side and gave the chain one final tug before holding out her hand. The chain fell away with a tinkling of metal and she fell forward.
Kak, backed up against the wall, stared in awe as the clasp broke free of Renna's ankle.
"No!" He yelled back at her and held on to the dagger firmly. The jewels along its surface bit into his hand as it tightened around the handle in anxious waiting.
"Give it up, street rat, the girl's gone, ran off, right?" Thortak hissed without turning around.
"In your dreams I ran, you lousy excuse for a man!" Renna charged at the fat noble and raised her fists. She beat down hard on his back and he turned to face her, a nasty grin on his face. Kak took the chance and the fancy dagger swooped in a wide arc and buried itself in Thortak's back. The man let out a shuddering cry and Kak pulled the weapon out. He wiped it clean and shoved into his belt.
"Is he ... dead?" Renna asked in a hoarse voice and Kak turned to look at her with shining purple eyes.
"He'll live, the driver will start to suspect something soon, we'd better leave." Kak hopped out of the wagon and started to walk off.
"Are you coming, Wren?" He asked, for once truly sympathetic.
"Yeah," She nodded her head and climbed out after him. Before Kak turned he saw one tear slide down her cheek.
This story is not just written by me: It was written by me and my best friend, Falconrider. We wrote it over the summer (hence THE SUMMER STORY) and hope you enjoy it...If you took the time to read, please leave a review! Falcon would love to know what you think of this (and requests you not make fun of her 'clever' name, Kakrian.
-Shadow and Falcon