Castle Roland

Sands of Time

by Roland

In Progress

Chapter 9

Published: 8 Apr 14

Sands of Time

Copyright © 2014-2017 by Roland
All Rights Reserved

From Chapter 8:

"His fur!" El'izar cheered. Thane let the boy go, and he ran up to the dog, and again threw his arms around the pup. "It's so soft and... fluffy!"

Ev'izar quickly joined his brother, and the tears of happiness that came from both boys made everything Thane had to go through to get to this point, well worth it. Almost.

It took Xavier almost ten minutes to find Syth. He heard about the 'fight' with Mablin, and quickly ran off to find his friend. When Xavier finally found Syth, the boy was gently petting Agrona, while laying in the back of the wagon they had purchased from Mablin. He looked up at Xavier with tears flowing. "I am sorry my Prince, I just can not do this."

Xavier sighed and climbed into the wagon, sitting on the side. "You know, you said that once before to me. Do you remember when that was?"

Syth looked confused, but then started to think back. Finally he shook his head. "No."

"It was one week after you pushed me down when you saw the assassin. Right after my father gave you and your entire family your freedom, as well as land and coin. You had decided to stay with me, and I showed you to the room you would use, instead of the slave quarters. I brought in some of my old clothing, and asked you what you would like to do or learn, since I was explaining to you that the life you knew was over now, and the stars were your only limit." Xavier paused as he saw Syth start to smile.

"I could not decide on anything. I most certainly could not get used to talking like the rest of you. Yet you worked with me, day and night. When I missed my family, you brought me in and let me sleep in the same bed that you did. Yet through all of it, you never once looked down at me."

"Exactly." Xavier picked up again. "You tried to tell me that you could not do all of this. What did I tell you?"

Syth looked off into the distance, a look of understanding coming to his face. "You said that I would never have to face anything alone. That we were friends, and friends do not allow other to face hardships alone."

"Exactly." Xavier said as he laid a hand on top of Syth's. "I meant that then, and I mean it now. You can make it through this. It will be hard, no doubt. Harder on you than probably any of the rest of us, but no matter what, you do not have to face this alone. We have all been through more than any of us should have, in order to survive. By being together, sharing the pain we have endured as well as the joy. I am not sure exactly what we are going to do yet, but I can say that we will do it together."

Xavier squeezed Syth's hand, and the boy gave a tearful nod. He reached over top of his winged Bobcat and pulled Xavier into a tight hug. "Thank you my Prince. Even if I can only call you that in private, you will always be my Prince."

Xavier sat back after a few moments in the embrace, and smiled at Syth. "You know what I think you should do now?"

"What is that?" Syth asked as he wiped away the tears with the sleeve of his tunic.

"Well since, Mablin knows that you are not truly a slave, I think it would be best if we asked him to help us figure out how to properly act in this world." Syth looked down for a moment, and Xavier could not help but chuckle. "Worry not my friend, from what I overheard between Mablin, and Killian, Mablin is impressed that you have held up this well. I think we should go talk to him, and see what he thinks."

Syth nodded, got up, patted Agrona on the back, then jumped out of the wagon. Together they walked, side by side, back to the Inn. Just as Xavier was about to open the door, Syth stopped him. "Thank you." Was all he said. Nothing more was needed, and Xavier only had to nod his reply.

Inside they found their friends, minus Thane, sitting at one table, while Mablin, his lead guard Drathmore, and Killian sat at the one next to it. Xavier allowed Syth to lead the way to Mablin's table, where the conversation between Mablin and Drathmore ceased. There was a few moments of awkward silence before Syth finally spoke. "Sir, I wish to apologize again for my actions early. I was hoping you would speak with me."

Mablin looked into Syth's eyes for several moments before he nodded, then turned to Drathmore. "Please see to the plans. I would like to see what we can get set up for our trip to Junsac. From there we will see where Quati leads us..."

Drathmore nodded, drained his ale, then left the table. Mablin motioned for Syth and Xavier to sit, however, Xavier smiled but shook his head. "I think this is something best handled by the three of you alone. I will join the rest of our friends. However, if you have need of me, simply say so, and I will return."

"As you wish." Mablin said with a smile to the boy, then turned his attention to Killian, making a quick motion of his hands, and saying a few arcane words. Mostly of his motions were hidden from others, and few even noticed as Mablin cast the spell on his slave. Mablin turned his attention to Syth, confident that Killian would be able to follow the conversation now. "You have my attention."

Syth took a deep breath, then let it out slowly before he began to speak. "I find myself needing to ask for your and for Killian's aid. You were right, where I am from, I am not a slave, yet in this place, if I wish to not be the downfall of my group, I must be one. While I was born a slave, I was given my freedom nearly seventeen years ago. Also, where we are from, slaves are not treated anything like they are here, so I find myself needing to ask for your assistance. I need to learn how to act like a proper slave for this land."

Mablin studied the boy for many moments, his mind swirling with questions. But in all honesty, the answers did not really matter. Not at this point. He glanced at Killian, and saw his slave was smiling slightly, so Mablin nodded. "I brought Killian to find you today because he has expressed an interest in learning the language of the Drow. While personally I have no interest in such, a good merchant never turns down an opportunity when it presents itself. If I agree to this, I will expect you to obey me as if I were your master. If anyone asks questions, Xavier loaned me your services while we are in the city. It will keep you close so I may keep an eye on you, plus allow you and Killian to learn each other's language. I will expect hard work out of you, and for you to listen and obey without question. If you are willing to do this, I will instruct you on the proper etiquette of a slave."

Syth could do nothing but grin and nod. He was about to respond, when Lucas called out, unaware that the spell he had cast earlier, the one that allowed those he spoke to, to understand his words. "Thane! Did you visit your father's court while we slept?"

"Lucas, I would shut up before I end up making Olpha very unhappy with me." Thane said as he escorted the two halfelf boys towards his friends. Of course, he forgot he still wore the necklace that also translated his words. Not that it would have helped had he not had it on, after the afternoon that Thane had, he was not in the best of places to keep silent.

Chatter in the inn stopped suddenly, as if someone had cast a silence spell. Several people even held their breaths as the words were exchanged. Half a dozen people either had tableware moving toward their mouths or drinks and all motion stopped. Two people at the bar kept their ale tilted as they were just starting to drink which caused the liquid to spill into their laps and they still didn't move.

One particularly strong Swordsman, who was discussing a job with a merchant in the corner, gripped his wooden mug so hard it splintered, but then not even he moved a muscle.

Off to the side the Halfling innkeeper was the first to speak. "Oh, oh, oh, oh, no, no, no, no! Me lord, Merchant Mablin should have told me!" The woman scampered over to Thane, dropped to a knee and kissed his hand, "No, it is all my fault my lord! No one to blame but me! I will have the main suite cleared at once and have your belonging moved up there at once!"

"Oh... For the sake of all the Gods. Xavier, you are the Prince. YOU deal with this!" Thane said in total disgust.

"Well... Thank you Thane, there goes our cover." Xavier said as he dropped his head into his hands.

A series of gasps echoed across the deathly silent room, as if the air was being sucked out of the room. Those who could do so, slid further away, including one unfortunate older man who ended up getting his cloak too close to the fire. He jerked away, but it was too late. The left corner stated to burn and quickly worked it way up the cloak.

By this time all the spell casters in Xavier's group, including Xavier, were so out of sorts they all cast a water spell in an attempt to quickly extinguish the flames. The combined force of the spell casting, was so intense, it knocked the man into the wall, put out the fire in the fireplace and killed two lanterns in the back of the room. The steam rolling out of the fireplace put the candle chandelier out, effectively plunging the room into darkness.

A few moments passed before an arcane phrase was spoken. Moments later the whole room lit up as Mablin held up his mug with a powerful light spell cast on it. "Well now, let's not totally ruin a fantastic meal of Speed Stag goulash."

After a long exhale Mablin glanced over at Xavier. Seeing the boy was about to explode or pass out, he wasn't quite sure which, he decided to try to help knowing even as he did so it may mean his head or a massive tip. He was betting on the tip. "So, Prince Xavier, I assume this meal is on you, since you and your court members have caused such an uproar?"

Lew couldn't help himself as he to dropped his head into his hands whimpering about a 'VERY long five years.'

Xavier just shook his head, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. He took a gold coin out of his pouch, and tossed it to the innkeeper. "Please keep the plates full and the mugs fuller for the rest of the evening, if you need more, just ask."

Those who didn't quite get the fact there was royalty in the room, saw the flash of gold and a couple more plates and mugs hit the ground.

Thane looked to the Halfling Innkeeper who was staring at the gold piece, and spoke softly. "Please do not move our belongings..." He was about to say, and try to keep what happened here quiet, but then he remembered, he was talking to an Halfling. Which would have been pointless. So instead he simply led the two boys with him, over to the table.

Drathmore could not hold his tongue any longer, "People, they are just royal kids from out of country who really don't realize what they just did. Eat up, drink up and party. But for Rovnar's sake, close your mouths before he starts having flies enter them!"

Thane shook his head as he sat down heavily, pushing the two boys into their own seats, before he reached over, grabbed Lucas's mug of ale and downed it.

Olpha looked at the two boys, then spoke to Thane. "So... you have a rather interesting tale to spin... I think we are all interested in hearing it."

He opened his mouth to speak, clamped it shut, grabbed the necklace that was hanging from around his neck, and nearly tore it off. Lucas took the hint, and quickly cancelled the spell that he still had up, while Xavier removed his necklace. Once Thane was sure there would be no more accidents, again opened his mouth to speak again, then thought better of it, grabbing the two necklaces, and dropped them around the young boy's necks. "Now you will be able to understand what is said."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mablin whisper to Killian, making sure the boy could still understand what was being said. Getting a nod in return, Mablin sat up, and Thane was able to begin his tale. "As you all know I left to find the Animal Shop to see what I could find as far as a pet goes. However I never made it there." He paused only long enough for every mug to be refilled, as well as the two new boys getting fresh mugs. Everyone could see that these must have been the best mugs. Even Tillcor, who had, only the day before, been one of the slaves here, was now suddenly treated like royalty.

"I was walking past an alley way when I saw five teens, all of them older than us, about to attack these young lads. The only thing standing between the teens and the boys, was this young lad's dog. By the way, the lad to my left is is El'ivar." Thane said as he placed a hand on the boy wearing the red, the dog sitting next to him. "And his brother is Ev'izar." He said indicating the boy in the blue shirt.

"When I saw this, I could not help myself, but had to intervene. After a short fight, and the help of a well dressed lad..." Thane paused as he spotted Hontel sitting near them. He didn't recognize him at first, because the lad was now dressed in clothing more befitting someone of a lesser class. "Hontel?" He asked loudly.

Hontel nodded and stepped over. "It is a pleasure to see you again.. Highness."

"Please, do not use that title." Thane said in a groan.

"As you wish." Hontel said with a nod as he sat down. "This young lad stepped in, and convinced the guards that the five teens were indeed attacking the orphan boys, so they were arrested."

Mablin glanced over at Hontel, noting the boy was wearing finely crafted but subdued clothing and had a bracers on with inlaid black amethysts, "So I gather one of those allows you to speak and understand?"

Hontel gave a brief nod, "The other, when activated like it is now, allows me to speak in the language being spoken so it is not understood by others. Right now both are active, but I only have six hours before everyone will be able to understand me. It recharges with the Light of Zerris."

"Interesting Items, very interesting." Mablin couldn't contain a hint of jealousy, but switched topics quickly, "So Thane, or is it Lord Thane…" Seeing the boy shake his head ferociously, Mablin smirked, "I think the proverbial cat is already out of the bag and rumors here will run amuck, so you will have to deal with it to some extent, but we will need to deal with those issues later. For the real question is why in the name of Quati are you worrying about such trash, they are someone else's throwaway refuge at best!"

Seven sets of eyes narrowed into intense glares and pointed in Mablin's directions. However, it was Thane that spoke first. "Sir, if I ever hear you speak of these boys in such terms again, I will meet you in the arena, even if it means my life."

"You may or may not know this Sir, but I am just as much an orphan as those two boys." Lucas said, just as coldly.

Mablin rolled his eyes, "Boy's you can get as mad at me as you wish, and for the sake of everyone here I will bend a little, but where you are from, the life of someone who is nothing more than a mouth to feed must have more meaning than an open mouth and empty stomach does here. The cost of feeding these two… beings… is more than it is worth and there are those of much higher status who are worth spending coin on. Do you even know their stories? Do you? Did you bother to find out if they were tossed out because they were open mouths with no real use? By the breath of Frexla, at least with them being clean and well dressed they can be…" Mablin shook his head seeing his words were falling on deaf ears.

He looked up and said another few very soft words to Quati and glanced back at Thane, "You want 'em fine, but don't expect anyone to see you for… well let me put this nicely, no one is going to pat you on the back for helping them. The dog, maybe. Them, nope."

Garnet was shaking in rage, it surprised most of his friends that he was able to keep his voice lower than a roar. "You are actually sitting there and telling me that Orcs take better care of their young than the supposed 'intelligent' races?"

Mablin snorted, "Like I just said, young one, the life of an open mouth and empty stomach must have much more worth where you come from. Other than a few experimental Vindayin and Syria temples who treat orphans as something above… useless… so they can make more Channelers, orphans are the lowest caste of society, below slaves, below the dog sitting next to them for that matter, be mad if you want, hate me if you want but you all asked me to help you understand what and how things work here. I am doing so. If you don't like it go back to where you came from.

"Oh, and before your heads pop off and you go all Dragonling breath on me, Garnet, keep in mind those two…" Mablin had to bite his tongue to prevent saying what he wanted to. Instead he looked away from the two Halfelf boys, "Keep in mind, those two are probably two of forty or more orphans inside these walls, which makes them better protected than ninety-nine percent of the orphans out there. You want cheap easy to grab labor, go for it but remember you will have to feed and clothe them, teach them how to be something above… what they are. The cost is more than it will ever be worth, but it is your coin, and I will still allow you to travel with me if you desire. By Quati's Night Sky I will even hold classes and teach them to be… intelligent, but I will charge."

Olpha quickly held up her hand, and stopped everyone else from saying anything. She took a deep breath then looked at Mablin. "Sir, I will agree that there are vast differences from where we hail from, and here. However, if I may be permitted to ask a few questions, simply to try and understand this new, and rather disturbing, line of thinking." Mablin nodded, so she took another deep breath and continued. "What makes these two lads any different than say someone who was born to a merchant like you?" Mablin began to respond, but she stopped him so she could finish her question. "When these two were born, did they not know the exact same as those born to someone of the merchant class?" She then looked at Killian. "Young sir, when you look at these two boys, do you see the Magic that flows around them?"

Killian looked at the boys for a moment, then hesitantly nodded. "As I had thought. These two are trainable. Would it not make sense to spend the coin it takes to keep them fed, and taught, as well as to train them to their fullest potential. Would that not make sense?"

Fortunately for the group at the tables, the word of free drink had gone out and people were arriving in droves. A minstrel even set herself up in the back corner and was singing a tune of a dragons meeting their end and the ruptures of magic this had caused.

Because of all this activity, those at the table were quickly ignored other than a space was kept around them since word and rumors of them being powerful spell throwers and royalty kept swirling around them.

"Girl," Mablin paused then continued, "Um, Olpha, Your name I have a hard time with for some reason. Anyway, it matters not what you know when you are born, it matters what blood you come from. Are you telling me you do not have Merchants, peasants, slaves, squatters, beggars, and the like where you come from? How can a beggar born urchin do more than beg? It is what he or she was born into, all he or she will ever know, unless God touched and lucky. Some will rise more will fall. But their bloodline is tainted by their parents and those with great parents are destined to be great, while those with low bloodlines are destined to be what they are. What you say and by the way you behave tells me you are, nobles or of noble upbringing. Is this not passed down by your blood lines? If it is not, then how is a noble determined?"

Drathmore nudged Mablin, "It is my duty to point out this place is getting a little cramped and protecting you and those with you is going to get difficult very quickly. We really should retire to a more private location."

Mablin glanced over to Xavier, "Drathmore is correct, but you hold station on me, and so it must be your choice, such is being gifted with a higher blood line."

Xavier nodded, and they all retired to their common room. It was a tight fit, but they were all able to get somewhat comfortable. "Sir, I realize our ways are as strange to you, as yours are to us." Xavier began the conversation up again. "However, I must strongly disagree with you, and I shall explain why. I shall start with myself, if you will humor me." Mablin nodded so Xavier continued.

"You heard that I am a Prince. My father is the King of Sand Storm. However, my great great grandfather was born of no royal blood at all. He worked, and scraped, fought many battles, and became the King of Sand Storm. Thane was indeed born to a long royal line. Olpha is the daughter of the Royal Mage, who I might add was born as a slave. Lucas lost both parents to those who surround Sand Storm. Garnet was born to parents who served in the military. Malachi was born to what you would consider to be low merchants. As you have heard, Syth was born as a slave. Where we are from it matters not what you are born as, but what you have inside of you to become. What your inner drive pushes you to be. Where we are from everyone is allowed to be, encouraged to get educated, to better themselves. Even when the fight was at its fiercest, we taught people, we had to. It was the only way to survive. If someone were to come in and assassinate all of the royal line, who would take over if everyone else were kept down, and uneducated. How can a people get better than they are now, if they do not try to educate all its members. They can not, only fall. That is what we see here. A people that is falling into nothing."

Mablin took a long breath, "There is always blood to rise to the top, but once there, do not those who rise to the top deserve to have their bloodline rule until not fit to do so any longer?"

Mablin glanced at Xavier, "Otherwise there would be no royal blood, it would be a free for all and a bloody battle every time a king falls. My very studies tell me this is what happened at the end of Drow war. The Alphar and Garm abandoned us to chaos. Sure they left us in a world free of the Drow and the horrors of Under River, but there was a void at the top and it ripped apart what kingdoms were left as everyone with any power tried to make a grab beyond their ability and right!

This cannot be allowed to happen again. There will be nothing left. Those of poor bloodlines are put here to serve the whims of those greater than them, unless they can prove otherwise. I have even heard this really strange rumor of late of a slum squatter boy who is now doing great things above the silver Spine mountains. If this is true, then he chewed and clawed his way out of his squatter status and has gone through hardships the likes of which should doom him. If it does not, he deserves whatever power he can obtain, but those are rare things, all but unheard of. Such is the way it should be!"

As they were talking, two members of the town guard entered the main entrance, looked around at all the drinking and merriment and exchanged glances with the man behind them. With a nod from the man they were looking at, the junior guard bolted back out the front door to round up more guards. There was no way they could allow any member of royalty to stay unprotected with this amount of spirits flowing out of the taps. On the other hand, the coffers of Welliger would get a good pump from this kind of activity, so there was a strong upside to making sure nothing untoward happened to their 'guests'.

The lead guard did his best to push his way to the bar, but finally the man behind him took the lead, pulling people out of his way as he went. They got to the bar and the extra barkeep hired by the Innkeeper looked up. The man's eyes went wide, "Captain, extra bouncers have been hired for the night. Be there a problem?"

"The royal party, were be they?"

"They retired to private rooms after paying for an open tap!" The man pointed to the door just around the corner of the bar.

The Captain of the Guard looked up and said a short prayer to Jolan for guidance before forcing an opening large enough for him and his companion to get through. As he got to the door he glanced over at the guard, "Sergeant, your goal for the night is to protect this door. Once I figure out who is who, I will tell you who can come and go, but for the moment, one of them has already been accosted and if word gets back to the Baron of Junsac heads will roll and more than a few necks will snap and then the Watch will take over from there. No one touches them again, got it?"

"I'd prefer to get dropped in an alligator's pool 'er piss on a Death-Stalker than make the Watch mad, Captain. So me'll die before me let no one touch 'em. An' me be sure me men know they be food fer da Watch. It won't take no more, and ya knows it!"

The Captain of the Guard nodded and gave the door a very firm knock, "I need to speak to the well dressed one from some royal court on an urgent city matter!"

Xavier was about to respond to Mablin's statement when the knock, then the voice came through the door. Xavier looked at Thane and smiled wickedly. Using his mind master abilities he spoke in his friend's mind. "For now you are the only one known. I need to handle things, and try to keep this as quiet as possible. I am sorry to ask, but you will need to fall back on your Alphar Court experience for this." Thane sighed but nodded. He looked at Tillcor, and motioned for him to open the door.

The Captain of the Guard looked at Thane who was still very well dressed, "Young noble, it has been brought to my attention you were accosted in my streets this day. We have all five in holding and wish to know what punishment you decree. Do you wish them beheaded, flogged until death, locked in stocks and flogged and starved to death, Put in the pits for a death match for your enjoyment, hands removed, feet removed, both?"

While the Captain of the Guard was talking about possible punishments, all the kids were more and more shocked. "You have got to be kidding me!" Thane nearly exploded, but stopping himself, took a deep breath, and looked at the Captain. "This is what WILL happen, and I had better not hear it went otherwise. They will each receive ten lashes of the whip for assaulting a visiting noble. You will not use a barbed or knotted whip either. This will happen first thing in the morning. They will then be bathed, and dressed as is appropriate for someone who is traveling with me." He motioned to the twins, then to Tillcor, who was dressed better than he had even been before. "They will then be given the option of indentured servitude to myself, which means they may never see this place again, or I shall sell them as slaves to someone who wishes them."

The Captain hesitated for a moment, but then quickly nodded. "Also, my father had sent me here to investigate possibly opening trade routes with this area, so I would kindly ask that my title and position not become common knowledge. There would be no way for me to do the duty my father has asked of me, if that was known."

The Captain actually let out a breath as he nodded. "If that be yer wish, then I'll make sure it happens."

He then glanced around the room and took in all the faces inside it, "Before I take my leave young noble, we could offer you a place for you and all those with you at the Earl's keep on the west side of the city. If not, is there anyone else who you wish to have access to this room? I need to get a list to my detachment who will keep such events from happening again."

Thane was shaking his head before the Captain even finished speaking. "Captain, if we are followed by guards, and have guards waiting outside our room, do you think that I would be able to do my job properly? Of course not." Thane paused while he ran his hand through his long blond hair. "I know you will not allow us to go unguarded, so please tell your guards to remain as discrete and hidden as possible. I would expect them to be 'invisible'."

The Captain gave a brief nod, fully accepting the orders as he spoke, "And the arena match with my guard, and the other arena match, since you have said nothing I am taking it to mean you wish it to continue as scheduled?"

Thane nodded his head, dismissing the Captain. Just as the man reached the door, Thane spoke again. "Remember Captain, my punishment decrees only, not one step further..."

"Of course sir." The Captain said quickly, and left the room.

Thane glared at Lucas for a moment, he didn't say anything he didn't need to. The look alone though was enough to send most people into fits of laughter.

One of the 'invisible' guards walked up to the table Thane was sitting at, and waited, rather nervously. Thane sighed, grabbed the Magical necklace, placed it around his neck, then looked up. "What?"

The guard gulped visibly, starting to say something, stopped, cleared his throat, and started again. "The five young ones you wanted, are waiting outside for you."

Thane sighed, finished his mug of juice, then stood up. "Fine, lead the way." The guard turned and practically ran out of the inn. Thane was much more comfortable this morning, wearing only a pair of leather breeches, a somewhat tight, but well made cotton shirt, his traveling boots, battle bracers, and his cloak.

Thane, followed by the rest of his group, as well as Mablin, Drathmore, and Killian, left the Inn at a much more sedate pace. When they walked outside, they saw the five boys standing in a line in front of the stables. The Captain of the Guard, stood behind them, as well as a full contingent of guards standing nearby. "Sir..." The Captain starting, knowing that the boy did not want a royal title used. "As you have requested. The boys have received their lashes, were bathed, and dressed. I hope you find this acceptable."

"Thank you Captain." Thane said as he walked close to the boys. The rest of his group stopped a ways away, with only Xavier walking with Thane, although he stayed two steps behind. They had discussed all of this last night, and Thane was indeed going to be the 'royal face' of their group.

Thane's face was stone cold as he walked in front of the boys looking them up and down. He noticed all of them looked uncomfortable, probably because of the whipping they had just received. Although three of them were in slightly worse shape. One of the boys was obviously favoring his injured ankle. Another one, Thane could see the bandage under his shirt, where Thane had raked his 'claws' across the boys chest. And yet another had bandages on his shoulders due to the two throwing spikes that started the entire fight.

Finally after having paced in front of them twice, Thane started to speak. "Here are your choices. You may indenture yourselves to me, for a period of no more than five years, and no less than three. During which time you will act as caravan guards, protecting me, and my companions. You will be trained, equipped, and fed. Of course the likelihood of seeing this town again is slight.

"Your other option, is for me to sell you as slaves, here in this town. Frankly I do not care what price I get, however, I will make sure that the person who buys you is... fitting."

Thane stopped in front of the leader of the group and looked him in the eyes. The boy glared at Thane, and it did not take Xavier's Mindmaster abilities to see the hatred rolling off the boy. Thane spoke softly to the boy. "You want to go another round?"

"If you weren't some noble..." The kid shut his mouth but still glared. Thane nodded and he stepped back. He took off his cloak as he looked to Xavier. "Heal him... fully!"

Xavier nodded, as Thane raised his voice and spoke to the Captain. "For this fight there is no class. He WILL not be touched for this. Is that understood!"

The Captain stepped forward, grabbed the other boys and pulled them back. "You heard 'em. Rumeck is not to be touched by anyone."

Thane looked at the boy as Xavier finished his healing spell. "We fight till either one of us surrenders, or can not continue. You beat me, you walk away free. I beat you... you will be my personal slave." Thane paused as he looked the boy in the eyes. "Do you accept the rules. And still wish to fight?"

Instead of answering, he rushed Thane, taking the younger boy a bit off guard. Rumeck had about ten centimeters on him, and easily 15 kilograms. When the teen slammed into Thane, it nearly took his breath away. One thing that was easy to tell was that this boy knew how to fight. Even before they hit the ground, the boy had landed two solid blows, one to Thanes side, and the other to the side of Thane's head. The blow had Thane seeing stars, but he rolled away from the boy as they landed, and quickly came to his feet.

Even without the help of the 'Claws' Thane was still a very quick, and agile lad, even for an Elf. Rumeck jumped to his feet, and again charged, but this time Thane was ready for it. He jumped out of the way, just in the nick of time, and managed a glancing blow to the teen's back, although it was not enough to drive him to his knees.

They circled each other a few times, both of them breathing heavily, waiting to see what the other boy would do. Already Thane could feel the side of his face puffing up, and his eye starting to close. It wasn't bad yet, but he would need to end this soon if he wanted to win, which he did.

Thane was barely able to jump in time as the boy tried to sweep his feet out from under him. He certainly did not want to grapple with this lad while on the ground. Rumeck's size and weight could easily outmatch Thane's speed and agility.

The boy spun back around, ready to press the attack, but hadn't counted on just how fast Thane could be. Before Rumeck's eyes could find Thane, the side of the Elf's foot connected just above Rumeck's jaw.

No matter what Thane may have thought about the boy, he had to give the Human credit, the boy never fell. He spun the other way, but was able to keep his feet about him, and come at Thane quickly, even as he spit out three, now broken teeth. Thane didn't really think the boy would have been able to keep his feet, and wasn't ready as Rumeck slammed his full weight into Thane's midsection, driving the air from his lungs.

As much as this kid was a fighter, Thane was a warrior, tested on the field of battle, and bloodied many times. Even as they were falling, he grabbed one of the boy's arms and shifted to one side, so that when they hit the ground he was able to slide up Rumeck's back, pulling the arm with him into a perfect hammerlock.

Thane then reached an arm around Rumeck's neck, and wrapped his legs around the teen's waist. Thane held the lock, as he regained his breath, as Rumeck screamed out in pain. When he could speak, Thane hoarsley cried out, "YIELD?" He knew the boy was in great pain, and shouldn't be able to take it long, so was very surprised when the teen screamed out "NO!"

Thane cinched the lock even tighter, causing the teen to scream louder, but when Thane again asked if he would yield, the teen managed to reach down deep and again responded with a negative. The yard around the Inn was deathly quiet, as they all watched the show, no one could believe that the boy was still unwilling to yield. Thane was about to ask again when the boy went slack. He had passed out from the pain before he would allow himself to yield.

As soon as Rumeck passed out, Xavier, Garnet and the Captain ran forward. Thane had already released the boy before they got there, and was trying to catch his breath. As the Captain grabbed Rumeck, Thane waved him off. He tried to speak several times before he was actually able to get the words out. "No... Summon a Shaman! He fought like a demon. He has my respect."

The Captain nodded, and looked at one of his men who ran off. Thane cried out in pain Garnet carefully probed the Elf's side. "You have broken ribs." Garnet said softly.

"No kidding." Thane growled out in pain. He saw Xavier start to ready a spell, and spoke while waving him off. "Not yet." He grabbed onto his side, and stumbled over towards the four other boys who looked at him in wide eyed fear. Rumeck was a Primary Step four Swordsman who knew how to fight, and he was just bested by an Elf.. who was younger than he.

Thane forced himself to stand tall in front of the four as he glared at them. "What of you four. Servitude, or Slavery?"

They looked at each other, when the youngest, Skolter, having recently reached Training Step 3, bowed his blond head, quickly followed by the other three. "Good. You will have to earn the right to continue training, and to get your equipment. If you have not done so by the time we are ready to leave the city, I will sell you to brothel by the gates."

All four of them paled as Thane walked away. He glanced at Mablin and asked softly. "My I ask that you look after them till I am able?" Mablin nodded, still in awe of what he just saw. Thane refused to let anyone help him until he made it inside the Inn and into their private room.

If you are reading this story, email Roland and tell him what you think of the story: Roland

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