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Souls' Rebellion: Part 3
The Golden Hammer Inn and Tavern was the place to be if you wanted to fade into the background. So much was happening at once on a given night that only the most brash, yammering patrons commanded anything but a passing interest. It was to the proprietor’s credit that no one was lost to service. He was a shrewd businessman with an organized mind and a quick eye. Petrik’s tankard had not been empty yet tonight, and as for his stomach, it was the most comfortable part of him.
Master Bartham was also, thankfully, a very discreet confidant. Petrik certainly did not want to be openly known yet. Six months away from home had not yet eased the pain he felt whenever he thought of his fair Sulin and the newborn child he had never even seen. How could he have borne it? But now the guilt was setting in and he was warring within himself. Shouldn’t he go home? He had responsibilities, sons who needed their father, a child to...NO! He could not consider it yet. He prayed for the thousandth time for something to come to him, something to help him reconcile the death of his wife and the birth of a new child. He would not return until...
“You think too much.”
The voice took him by surprise and he looked around to see who had spoken. A young dark-faced woman with wild white hair was gazing back at him appraisingly. “Excuse me. Did you speak?”
“I did...Your thoughts are so loud I can hardly hear my own.” She spoke Common, but with an odd sort of accent.
“I don’t believe we’ve met?”
“Nor do I, but we may yet.”
Petrik looked more closely at the young woman. Her skin was much darker than any he had ever seen - darker than the Moorish merchants who could sometimes be found in the marketplaces - and her features were fine but strong. How her hair managed to be that wild-looking and still seem clean and kempt, he would never know. Her clothing was clean but seemed to have been worn a long time; travel clothes, to be sure.
Glancing back at her face, he was suddenly struck by deep, violet eyes that seemed to look into his soul. His mouth went dry and, for a moment, he could not tear his eyes away.
“I cannot understand the words, but your face tells a tale.”
“I...um...Who are you?” Suddenly embarrassed at his own rudeness, he began again. "I...I’m sorry...I’m Rik.” He offered his hand.
She smiled winningly and eyed his hand for a moment, but did not take it. “Rik.” The soft burr in her voice made the name seem exotic and quite un-Common. “I have seen you here. You never speak to anyone but the barkeep and the maids. You hardly seem to be aware of anyone else, so lost in your thoughts are you. I wonder, what secrets do you keep. It invites me to find out what is hidden away in you, what mysteries I may uncover...” She rose gracefully and padded away and, with one quick glance back, she was out the door.
Petrik was thunderstruck. Who was she?... Why did he care?
Before he knew what he was doing he had followed her into the street. But when he got out into the lamplight, she was nowhere to be seen. He stood for a while gazing into the darkness, first one direction, then the other. He had almost decided he was crazy, and what the hell was he thinking, and who in Heaven’s Name was she!?!, and he was going to go back inside and call it a night, when he caught a glimpse of white that flickered at the corner of his vision. He almost leapt in that direction. Two buildings down...around the corner...there! by the lamppost across the street...he dashed across the street and into the alley between the stables and the blacksmith...WHUMP. He was slammed flat against the wall with an arm across his throat. He was not trapped, for she was strong but not as strong as he. However, he was so stunned that he didn’t even cry out.
“I have knives, but I will not pull them out unless you force it.”
“WHO ARE YOU?!”
“I am through with speaking!” She took her arm away, and slowly tilted her face up. He could have fallen into her eyes and drowned!