Siraj part 3

Siraj - illustration by Dan Warren

“And your name is…?” Siraj asked the girl. Normally, being tied up with a knife at one’s back was a call for first name status.

She didn’t respond, her eyes looking at the ground.

“My name’s Guido,” Siraj lied. It wouldn’t matter. He was certain the street rat had never been outside of Karngard so she’d not question why a Nizolu wanderer would be named Guido.

“Call me Prudence,” she said as she cut his bonds.

Siraj laughed. He flexed his wrist a few times to work out the stiffness. “Is that your stage name?”

Prudence raised one eyebrow. “It’s the one my grandmother gave me.”

Siraj’s laughter grew. “Any grandmother who does so is a grandmother I’d love to meet.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” Prudence said. “She’d kick your arse.”

Siraj put his hands up in mock defense. “Fair enough.” He sat and massaged his wrist, still getting the blood flow going.

She led Siraj up a pipework and onto a roof overlooking the stable and most of Karngard. In the distance stood Sanctuary, a cathedral of immense glory, its brazen tops of the dark towers encircled the central sanctum hidden behind the walls. Siraj had never seen the inside. He never wanted to.

“Why did big ugly back there want you?” he asked, throwing his head back in the direction of the stable where they come.

“They don’t like my husband.”

Which one? Siraj thought but didn’t open his mouth.

“Most people let the Order do what they want. He calls them on their hypocrisy,” she said

Siraj nodded. “Someone has to. What’s his name?”

Prudence smiled, her face taking on a glow that only lovers were capable. “Larimore LeRue.”

Siraj recognized the name, though her view of him as her husband was skewed. He led the Dark Hand chapter in Karngard, and certainly had no love for a successful sovereign in the trade such as Siraj, especially one formerly of the Torn Parchment. Not that Prudence, or likely even Larimore, would know anything about the Dark Hand’s hatred of the notoriously independent members of the Torn Parchment who loathed paying tribute to anyone more than their own pocket. Siraj knew that feud was an intrigue of the Southland.

A shout of alarm broke through the city streets. Siraj spotted ten knights of the Order gathering at the stable. They would find the bald knight sooner than expected. Prudence read his thoughts and ran across the rooftops in the opposite direction, Siraj trailing her. Avoiding those on the ground would be easy. Getting out of the city would be an entirely different situation. He couldn’t stay in Karngard. He needed to get to Nor Azylon, and with the knights alerted, he had no idea how to do so.

“We can’t do this all night,” Prudence said the obvious as she slinked onto yet another rooftop.

We can’t do anything else, Siraj thought. “I’m open to suggestions.”

“Let’s charge two of them and steal their clothes. We could get out of the city then.”

Siraj silenced the urge to call her a foolish girl, partly because he hated using the word fool and partly because he had no better ideas to offer. He would never pass for a northlander and she would never pass as a Brother Knight. Instead of giving a response, he shook his head and asked her to give him time to think. She bit her lip. Obviously, she knew her idea was foolhardy at best.

They leapt two more roofs and then found a cluster of Brother Knights and a line of at least a hundred people stretching behind a wagon, listening to the shouts of one of their Order.

“It is darkness that starves you,” the Brother Knight said.

“Why do they listen to this rubbish?” Siraj whispered to himself.

“To receive the bread in the wagon,” Prudence said, jarring Siraj. He either spoke louder than he thought or Prudence had very alert ears.

The gathering listening to the brother’s rantings stirred. Hunger drove them, and that was a dangerous force. As with anything else, if used properly, it could be a weapon as powerful as a ballistae.

Siraj nudged Prudence. “How much would it cost to hire Larimore LeRue’s group?”

“Larimore’s group?” She questioned. “How do you know he has a group?”

Siraj shrugged with a grin.

Prudence stepped back cautiously. “More than you have.”

“It’ll be worth it to you and him,” Siraj said.

“What would we have to do?”

“Nothing he wouldn’t mind doing for free,” Siraj responded with a wide smile. “And he’ll get paid for it.”


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