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The Dagger, Part III – Of the Saviour

March 31, 2013

Voices heard beyond his realm of understanding, like children in the fog. He couldn’t open his eyes, not all the way. The world was but a dark room to him, as the voices grew louder.

“I couldn’t leave him there to die,” one said. This was a man, his voice strong and commanding.

“Pray tell, husband, why it had to be you? Surely one of the other ramblers might have stumbled across him,” a woman replied. She sounded angry, as if his being here was an inconvenience to her existence. “I don’t like it. Why was he there? Who did this to him? What if they come looking for him?”

“I doubt they even know he is still alive, whoever they were. Look at him. He is lucky to be breathing, by the Gods.”

Silence befell for a moment, but it was only through sleep. A few days must have passed, for the pain of his wounds had mellowed, and the room he lay in was darker, lit only by a single candle on the window sill. Outside, it was snowing. Winter was still upon this place, embedded deep within the hills of the ward.

He wasn’t alone. A single figure stood by the bed. A young woman with piercing green eyes, she was watching him, only to flinch when she realised he was awake. “I apologise,” she spoke, softly. She can’t have been much older than seventeen, maybe a little younger. Her skin was still soft, her fingers delicate as they rested against her stomach. Her eyes told of inexperience with the world. She still had much to learn.

Bayn swallowed. It hurt, but he didn’t show it on his face. He was good at hiding his emotions. He couldn’t speak, either. His throat felt tight, as if someone had plunged their hand down his throat and taken away his voice. “You were sleeping,” she continued. “I just wanted to change the water in your pail.”

Bayn turned his eyes back to the window. The snow was falling hard. How long have I been here? “My father says you were carrying this when he found you.” She nodded to the nightstand next to his bed, and Bayn noticed the gleam of the metal from the light of the candle. His dagger rested atop a tunic and some dark pants, probably left by his carers. They were expecting him to get better.

They had left the dagger there, a sign of trust perhaps? Could they not see it was stained with blood? Most of it had been washed away. “This is far from any city wall,” the girl went on. She went to the window and looked outside. “The winter is not over for all of us, and we still have many days of this to come.” Turning around, she folded her arms across her chest. “I am curious, though. Who are you?”

He would not be able to answer her, but even if he wished to do so, he would have been cut off by the door opening, bleeding some light into the room from the hallway outside. Bayn turned his head and saw a man in the door way. Human, with dark hair and a beard, he held his hand out. “Come, child, leave this poor man alone to sleep. He is injured, and needs his rest.”

“But father I…”

“Come I said!” He had a booming, powerful voice. “You have much work to do.”

Then she was gone, and Bayn was looking at this hard-working, grease covered man. “I apologise for the interruption to your sleep.” Bowing his head, he left Bayn alone. It was no nuisance, of course, but he didn’t have the voice to project that. For now, he was just a mute.

 * * *

 A day must have passed. Bayn opened his eyes and saw the glow of the early morning sun creeping in through the window. Outside, the snow covered mountains were lit up by a ginger hue. He could perceive the sounds of cows somewhere outside the log cabin, and the beating of horse clogs on stone pathways. There was laughing and clink-clink of ceramic mugs, surrounding him like some imperceptible scene playing out in his mind.

When he tried to turn onto his side, he was hit by an intense stabbing pain in his side. Gently, he reached his hand beneath the covers and felt something where his ribs should have been. Grimacing against the pain, he lifted the covers up with his other hand, and saw the white band of cloth encompassing his torso, wrapped around his body like a cummerbund. Possibly, to hold my body together, he considered. Wincing, he rested his head back on the pillow and pulled the covers back up to his neck. The sun might have been out, but it was deathly cold. Where his skin was still exposed, he could feel the wispy cold breath of the incessant winter conditions touching him. Somewhere, a cold wind breezed into the cabin, and for the first time in his life, Bayn felt a numbing fear course through his body.

Bayn had been touched by death, and he didn’t like it.

 * * *

 Another day passed. Perhaps it was two. He awoke in the bed when the night was still darkest, and he was lying on his good side. The window was at his back, but he could feel the tendrils of ice-cold cold chills down his spine. He pulled the sheet a little closer around himself, and resolved to go back to sleep.

It didn’t happen.

There was a noise, somewhere outside the room. Throwing the covers off, Bayn tried to sit up on the bed, but he scarcely managed it before collapsing back onto his side. There were voices outside his room. The door was blowing softly back and forth, and Bayn could see a luminous tinge of colour just through the small opening. A shadow passed over the glow, and he felt his own heart skip a beat in his chest.

“Is someone… there?” he asked. His voice was still trying to come back, and he sounded more like an adolescent trying to call for his mother when he had bad dreams.

It hurt to for him to swallow, let alone speak. “Show yourself.”

A second passed, not even that, when the door flew open, and he saw a dark shape come into the room, only to stop at the rear of the bed. Looking right, to left, the intruder saw Bayn on the bed, and then started to raise his arm. Like something in slow motion, the finger outstretched and pointed at Bayn, two eyes set in crimson red beneath a leather cowl.

With mouth opened, this thing started to shriek piercingly, like a wailing banshee. The din cracked his skull, sending strands of non-stop pain down his spine. Bayn let out a cry of his own, just as the hooded figure spun around and withdrew a long handled cleaver from his robes, swinging it through the air and bringing it in an arc down onto the bed…

… Bayn woke with a start, almost coming off the bed as he let out a loud roar. It took a few moments for him to realise he was still in the log cabin, but in that short time, Bayn ran his hands all over his body to make sure he was still alive. The door to the room came open with a clunk, and several people stood over him, as he sat on the floor. It was only when a hand came to his shoulder that Bayn looked up, with a startled look on his face, and knew he was safe. It was but a nightmare.

 * * *

 “Where did you come from?” The child at the side of the table was a somewhat chunky boy, with a broad nose on his face. His hair was a mess, and Bayn would wager he hadn’t seen a comb in his life.

“Bastor, leave the man to his meal.” The mature gentleman must have been the father. His beard was turning a shade of white, but he still had the body of a hard worker, with brawny leathery skin around the arms and trunk, tanned from the warmness of the sun.

Bayn coughed into a fist as the child moved away from the table, the look of a wounded beast on his face. Seconds later, he was picking up his timber sword and swinging it like some soldier. Bayn checked his environment vigilantly, like the stalking-predator he was trained to be. They had a normal family home, the shelves with pots, pans and plates, food laid across a set of tables near a stone oven. Something was cooking within, and Bayn could detect snowberries, possibly a hint of ginger. His senses were still kicking in. It had been nearly a week since his bad dream, and after some much needed sleep, he was coming back to the physical fitness he once enjoyed before he was…

Quickly, he put those ill thoughts out of his mind. “May I ask, sir, what circumstances you found me in?”

The man with the pallid beard had identified himself as Sol Gavon, a farmer who owned Little Pale Stead, a plot of land just outside of Huntingwood to the east. “I found you at the base of my mill about to be minced by the propeller,” Sol replied, pouring some spicy tomato bisque into a wooden bowl. “You must have been washed down the river from Faircross, I wager.”

“Did I have anything on my person when you discovered me?” Bayn noticed the others were looking at him, curious about this stranger.

“Only a dagger,” Sol replied. “I left it on your nightstand. You were holding it quite tightly, to the point of blooding between your fingers. My daughter Gaila was able to clean most of your wounds otherwise, but…”

“You found just the dagger?”

Sol hesitated for a moment, then started to place freshly cooked bread rolls onto a platter in the centre of the table. “That was all. Your clothes were torn and waterlogged where your body was carried downstream some ways. You were fortunate to have survived the ordeal, my friend.”

Friend? I have no friends. I am an assassin, a dark shadow in the night. And I would contentedly place a dagger in your throat if paid to do so. He swallowed that reflection down deep, and watched as more of his children played near the crop-fields, just outside the back-door to the cabin. It was a large habitat, with several rooms, and an additional block that someone had erected onto the side. There was a small trophy room at the back, where Sol and his family, no doubt, had placed all the spoils of their hunting expeditions.

“Thank you,” Bayn finally said, after a prolonged silence filled the room.

“What for, son?”

“You saved my life, sir. Any other person would have been happy to leave me awash on the side of the road,” Bayn admitted.

“Around here, we look after each other,” Sol told him. “Now, time to eat.”

“I am indebted to you,” Bayn went on as the family spilled into the room. He had three children, although Gaila was nineteen now, a grown woman. The other two, Bastor and Gallus, were twelve and nine respectively, and had about them an air of grace as they sat at the table. Sol’s wife, Jada, still had long hair that fell to her shoulders, but it was turning a shade of grey like her husband. Sol had brothers and sisters, but none of them were here tonight.

It was him and his ideal family.

For the first time in his life, Bayn was thinking about how he was going to repay these people for putting him up, and saving his life. Shadows guide me.


From → Stories

One Comment
  1. Your writing is improving each time, Daz. That was a damn good read! Can’t wait to read the next installment!

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