Siraj – Finale

Siraj - illustration by Dan Warren

From a rooftop two levels above the ground, Siraj watched five guards at the gate playing dice in the rain. Siraj was impressed with their devotion to the game. He would never use his dice in the mud. The gunk would mess up his weighted end. He never liked trusting in luck, even if others thought the white streak in his hair provided it.

The Brother Knight supervising the guards seemed disgusted, but said nothing. He obviously understood that he needed the guards, at least right now, much as Siraj needed an alliance with Prudence. The street rat had gone to Larimore to carry out Siraj’s plan. If Siraj was right about his gamble in hiring Prudence, then he could get out of Karngard. If he was wrong, and Prudence promptly forgot how Siraj rescued her from the Order of the Tome as well as the money he’d given her, then he would have to bump into her again before the Order found him.

The hard part now was waiting. And watching. The Order had spread throughout the city of Karngard in search of him. The evening storm’s clouds limited visibility giving him an advantage. There weren’t many knights of the Order, but there was enough to cause him plenty of trouble. If he were caught this time, he wouldn’t be jailed while a judge readied the case against him. This time, he’d be paying his penance immediately.

A concentration of Brother Knights stopped in front of their Sanctuary, guarding the wagon where they continued to pass out bread. That wagon was his target. The anxious crowd buzzed in the rain. The Order had their city guards. If things went as planned, Siraj had the people.

He heard the step a fraction of a second before the weapon draw. Siraj ducked and spun, rolling across his back and into a four point crouching position. Siraj flipped his hair out of his face. A Brother Knight stood five steps away. How had he seen Siraj, let alone gotten that close?

The knight smiled with recognition even though Siraj had never seen him before. “It appears the Creator has placed you in my hands.”

Siraj thought of a quip about not knowing where those hands had been, but thought better of it. He hated cliches. The knight obviously knew Siraj was the Order’s primary quarry. He didn’t need to ask how the knight was so certain; it was the streak of white in Siraj’s hair. As lucky as kissing a wolf’s behind. Sure, if you survived, you must be lucky. Unfortunately, surviving it was the problem. Siraj knew only one person on this roof with luck tonight and he was counting on it running out. Siraj slipped his dagger out of his sleeve, keeping it hidden inside his palm.

The knight blew a whistle.

Who brings a whistle to a knife fight?

He could stop this knight. It was the others answering his call that concerned Siraj. The knight blew the whistle again. Footfalls crescendo over the steady beating rain. Shouts joined the whistle. Only one option remained.

Siraj ran.

The knight stopped blowing the whistle. Though he’d been silent sneaking up on Siraj, his steps echoed as he gave chase. Siraj neared the edge of the roof. The edge’s lip raised up to Siraj’s ankle. He used the edge to stop his momentum and then duck down. The knight tried to stop. The roof was slick. He slid. At least until he tripped over Siraj, then he fell. Two stories. He didn’t blow his whistle anymore. Siraj smiled. He tucked his dagger back into place.

“I command you to cease fleeing in the name of the Brother General of the Order of the Tome!” a new knight shouted.

“I don’t flee,” Siraj said, more to himself than to the knight. “I run.” Siraj ran back across the roof and leapt to the next roof. It was one story closer to the ground. He hit the roof and slipped into a forward roll before bouncing back to his feet to leap off this roof and back to the street, repeating the same action. He knew the Order was near, but they had to run around the house. That should buy him some time. Siraj ran down the alley.

“I ordered you to–” the knight said, or tried to say, obviously not much of a runner as he gasped for breath, “cease fleeing!”

Siraj looked back. No one would hit him with a thrown baton again. Three knights were with the shouter, an older man by about twenty passes. All had their batons at the ready.

Siraj ran into a post. He clutched his head and looked to see why he’d missed the pole earlier. It hadn’t been there. A knight about as old as Siraj was when he lost his virginity held a metal stave pointed at Siraj’s neck. The youthful knight tried to look authoritative. He failed, not that Siraj was in the mood to verbally criticize him.

“Excellent work, Brother Quennel,” the Brother General said as he staggered near Siraj. He glared at the thief. “You cannot outrun justice.”

If not for the headache, Siraj would’ve laughed. The best he could manage was a groan that led into a snort. It got the point across.

“Still, you debase the Order?”

“No,” Siraj said. “The knights of the order are already renowned for their humility. I would think it not possible to bring them any lower.”

The elder knight’s eyes grew to a fiery glower. He gestured for one knight to fetch his horse. “The penance for this disgrace is beyond what you can pay, thief.” then, the Brother General gestured for two knights to hoist Siraj to his feet. “So you will pay with all you have.”

The Brother General didn’t notice the gang of fifty street rats coming from the east. Neither did the one knight or the herald still passing out the bread from the wagon. Siraj noticed them and smiled. Prudence had done it.

A gang slammed into the wagon, turning it on end. The hungry crowd seemed frozen as bread tumbled on the ground. The one remaining knight launched himself into the gang. The chaotic throng seemed to swallow him whole.

The throng grew. Those previously content waiting grabbed the bread and ran. First one person, then more followed suit until they appeared as frenzied as the storm clouds above. The Brother General ordered his knights into the fray. The elder mounted his horse and entered the horde, forgetting about Siraj.

It was what he’d counted on. No one even noticed his lucky white streak of hair as he slipped into the chaos, picking up a souvenir off of one of the knights, their medallion. And no one was at the gate as he left the city, moving toward his next undertaking in Nor Azylon.


One comment

  1. […] Siraj – Finale […]

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