When a boy rushed toward the Oathtakers, a knife in hand, they halted.
The child stopped, just feet away, and made a face at them. “Who are you?” he growled.
Liam waved his hand at him. “Go about your business, little one.”
“Little one!” He ducked his head and charged, weapon first.
Rafal grabbed the youngster’s tunic before he could make contact with his companion and whipped him about. Then he clutched the boy’s wrist and twisted.
“Hold it there. What’s this all about?” he asked as the child’s knife dropped to the ground.
“There, ya see?” came the gruff voice of a man approaching. “Go on, now,” he ordered the young one.
The boy grimaced on sight of the newcomer, then reached down for his weapon. When Rafal stepped on its blade, he looked up at the Oathtaker and growled again.
“Ha ha ha!” the man who neared them all, laughed. “Well, I’ll give ya points for yer efforts, Odin. Now, git ’long wi’ cha.”
When Rafal refused to let the child’s weapon loose, he huffed, then shuffled away.
The man watched him retreat, a smile on his face, then turned back to the Oathtakers. “He’s a good ’un. Jus’ too anxious tuh be a warrior.”
“He’s nothing but a child,” Liam said.
The man’s eyes narrowed. “Where ya from?”
“We’ve just returned from a mission into Oosa,” Rafal said. “We came here because our next stop was to bring messages to Zarek. We heard he was here.”
The man watched him closely, as though measuring his words. “Huh. Well, he was here. He came tuh o’rsee the openin’ of the new quarters for the slave wimmen, but he left some weeks back.”
“He has us trainin’ the boys.”
“Zarek says we can’t start ’em too young. But, Odin . . .” He looked back in the direction in which the child had gone. “Like I said, he’s a bit too anxious.” He turned back. “Now, are ya off ’gain right away then? Or will ya be stayin’ here for a time?”
Liam and Rafal shared a glance.
“We heard Zarek visited here with an entire entourage. Did they all head back to Fallique with him?” Liam asked.
“Most of ’em . . . though Brother Pestifere set off ’fore ’im on some journey of ’is own. I don’t recall that he said where he ’as headed.”
“And Zarek’s son? We heard he accompanied the emperor, as well.”
“Yeah, he ’as ’ere.”
“What was he like?” Rafal asked.
The man shrugged. “Can’t rightly say. Didn’t see much of ’im m’self.”
“I see.” Liam shuffled his foot in the sand. “Well,” he said to his cohort, “I guess we’d best continue on our way to Fallique, then. We’ve a report to make.”
With that, he and Rafal set off.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish