Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 1c

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 1c

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Loden woke with a start. Surprised by the unexpected noise, he regretted the sudden return to consciousness as he took in his surroundings. It was many moments before he spotted the source of the unusual sound. The sight of the shattered bottle and the trickle of frothy liquid both dismayed and thrilled him. The hat had worked, though when he glanced up at the moons he could not tell if there had been any significant movement. The larger moon did seem to be more of a brownish green than he thought it had been before. Had it not been mostly blue when he had first seen it?

Shards of glass lay down slope below his position, much of it near the shooter he had dropped. He checked to see where his hat was as he was no longer holding part of in his mouth. Thankfully it was just a bit below his chin, he secured his hold and struggled for a while trying to get it properly positioned over on his right shoulder, where it seemed least likely to slip out of his reach. All the while he expected, dreaded, the noise to have drawn the strange creature. Thankfully, he did not hear the monster’s strange cry nor did it appear above him.

The fear and brief exertion of securing the hat left him fatigued. He tried to stay awake but succumbed to a state of semi-consciousness, startling himself every time his head lolled forward. He did not want to fall asleep again, he wanted to be awake when the next bottle came. Wreaked with exhaustion, dispirited, he sobbed, gasping in short painful breaths. He started to shiver uncontrollably.

Overcome with despair he called out in a raspy voice, “Goddess of Mercy, deliver me from this torture… save me and I will serve your will… I can’t… do this… any… mo-”

Loden swam through walls of blackness, he felt separated from all things, lost and alone. Distantly he became aware of a soft light, he struggled towards it and then it seemed to quickly come upon him. The light bathed him in a warm radiance and he saw a woman walking towards him. At first it seemed to be Asta, but as the figure moved closer, he became less sure. The light seemed to provide solid firmament on which he could walk. He moved towards the woman wanting to warn her of the danger she approached, but his voice was lost to him. As he came closer he could see that the woman was not Asta, she extended her arms and he ran into her warm embrace. She held him, shushing him, stroking his hair.

After a while she stepped back, held his shoulders at arms length and gazed intently at him. He noted that she was taller than he and though she had long wavy brown hair and deep dark eyes that reminded him of Asta, she was much more than Asta. Taller, stronger, self possessed with an inner strength that vitalized him. They held eye contact for what seemed an eternity to Loden. His dread passed, then she slowly drew him forward and kissed his brow. He closed his eyes.

“Loden. Wake up you lazy sod.”

He opened an eye and looked up to see his father standing over him. His head ached and his mouth was dry. The woman cuddled up to his side groaned, swore and pulled the blanket over her head.

“Come on son,” His father grabbed his big toe and gave a yank, “We’ve no time to laze around and no money for whores. I’ve just come from Rashammon, there’s no shipment for us. We’ve been screwed.”

Loden slipped out from under the blanket and found his clothes, “What do you mean no shipment? We get the same thing every year we come to Tisp.”

“Aye, for nearly two decades now, but not this year.”

Loden struggled into his clothing and gathered his pipe and tobacco pouch from the bedside table, “Why? What happened?”

“The rumours we’ve heard of the Empire’s armies being on the march again seem to be true. Rohg Mohk Talh was retaken by the Tannicans late last year. Nothing has been coming out of the city since.”

Loden dug out a few coins from his pouch and left the weight on the small table, “We’re kind of screwed then?”

“That’s what I said, son. Now we have to find another source or replace our cargo. From what I’ve been hearing the cost on coffee, hashish and any of the other Tannican luxuries have gone through the roof. This could ruin us.”

Loden shut the door as they left the room, they made their way downstairs to the ground floor of the brothel. Stepping out through the front door left Loden sun dazzled, making his headache worse. He spat to one side and then thumbed some tobacco into his pipe. “What’s the plan?”

“We see what we can find to fill the usual orders and we look for alternatives for the rest of it. I’m heading to the market over by the temples, I want you to go to the west gate and see if any caravans have come in over the last few eight-days. We’ll meet near Glass-Blower Lane after noon. You remember the cafe run by the copper-skins?”


“Alright, I’ll see you in a while.” His old man trudged off, the scowl on his face and his generally angry bearing caused folks to scramble out of his way.

Loden watched him go, then looked around for some fire so he could light his pipe. After he smoked he went to a nearby public well, drank and washed his face. He also splashed his head, the coolness of it soothing, and then slicked back his hair. Rolling out his shoulder he headed off in the general direction of Tisp’s west gate.

The west gate was located in the northwest corner of the city, a yat or so north of the peers and jetties along the lake. Tisp was sometimes called the Mountain by the Lake and while the lake was impressive enough, the mountain was more of an overgrown hill that most of the city had been built on. While many of the poor of Tisp ate fish and freshwater clams, those that could afford it ate beef, pork, lamb and a variety of plains deer and horse. Beyond the gate were the majority of the city’s slaughter houses and tanneries, the winds predominately came from the southwest, which usually spared the city from the stench that came with the industry. The west gate market still stank, though.

Loden worked his way along the taverns and inns, talking to a few merchants and a number of the locals. While there was still trade coming in from the west and the north, there was nothing coming from Rohg Mohk Talh, not for most of the past year. He did manage to get a few names of merchants who dealt in luxury goods, but had no time to follow up on the leads. As it was, he jogged across much of the city to arrive at the cafe by the early afternoon.

His father’s efforts that morning had produced a small amount of the goods they were looking for and yielded a few more leads they would have to follow up on. Sadly, the soup that Loden had ordered at the cafe was not good, it tasted of bile and dust and he soon discovered he was suspended from the wall of the cafe by a strange gooey substance. Not the cafe wall though, the city wall, there was a strange smell in the air, Loden started to retch.

He woke, still suspended along the rock wall, struggling to break free and calling out for his father. He heard the warbling call of the creature and went still. He could taste blood in his mouth and was disturbed by how good it tasted. When the creature floated in above him and reached down with its ropey appendages, he gave a feeble scream and could not help but struggle to free himself. However, his efforts were short lived; his vigour had waned during the time he had been here and he was certain he would die soon.

After his gruesome feeding, he retched feebly, tried to spit or throw up but found he could not. One spasm after another shuddered though his body, his jaw clenched so tightly he thought his teeth would break. When a smooth, cool stone brushed along the side of his head he was startled but leaned into the new sensation. After a moment he realized another bottle had appeared. This surprised him as he was pretty sure the one that had fallen and shattered on the ground had appeared only a few moments ago.

He started to laugh or weep and for a while he snuggled his cheek into the bottle on his shoulder. Eventually he realized he could have a drink if he could figure out how to open it. He struggled to reach the small jug, but the best he could manage was to brush his finger tips across its smooth surface. He tried to use his cheek and jaw to dislodge the bottle but that did not work either. Eventually one of his fingers snagged the rim of the hat and with what seemed like a colossal effort he pulled it off his shoulder and soon had a hold on the bottle.

Exhausted, he paused his efforts and looked around. The moons were still in the strange twilight sky, though the smaller one seemed to have moved further across the surface of the larger moon. Movement below him drew his attention and it took many moments before he could process what he was seeing. Even when he realized that Asta was scrambling up the slope towards him, nearly on all fours, he was not sure if what he was seeing was in fact reality or an apparition of his desperate mind.

He started to laugh, at least she would be able to help him open the bottle. He really did need a drink.


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