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Old 07-30-2021, 09:37 AM   #53
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Idaho Falls
Default Re: Into The Labyrinth - a work of fiction

Part 18
Lost in his thoughts for a moment, Brendun had missed something else that the woman in the corner was saying, but he already surmised that he had stayed in the room too long. He was beginning to get that familiar tingle in the neck, when the hair begins to get stiff, and he was sure that if he did not get moving again someone here was going to recognize him.

There were just too many people in the tavern for the odds to be in his favor. He knew it. It was just another bit of good luck that the person who did recognize him was someone he knew he could trust. Kenneth Fraddle.

Kenneth was a few years older than Brendun. When Brendun first travelled to the capital to take a run at the Death Test, Kenneth was a regular guard in the Counting House of the Queen’s Sheriff at Millton, the village north of Greenwall, the very northern border of the kingdom itself, where the many wind driven mills were built to grind all the wheat brought into the country on the Queen’s ships.

Greenwall, was on the western coast of the Hakkru peninsula, on the Bayfield Sound. It was connected to, but south of the city of Bayfield and it was a city of rain and almost constant winds. The soil was dark in the fields east of the city, but there the farmers grew wine crops, fruits, and rare nuts. Wheat came from the south and west. South of Greenwall you crossed the Bay of Norr, while to the west of Greenwall and Bayfield, across the sea, you would be in the City States of Leran, a place ruled by tyrants and thieves.

Keep going south and east from the city of Norral, in the Bay of Norr, and eventually you would be in Acklaj, the capital city of the kingdom of Kijzta, and the palaces of the Queen of the House of Korr and her family. The Death Tests of the Queen, they say, were modeled after the first Death Tests of the old ruler of Ardonirane, farther to the east than Brendun had ever dared travel, in a land of dry desert sands and fierce tribes. Greewall was about as far north and distant from the capital of Kijzta as a place could get, but even here the Queen of the House of Korr kept track of everything and everyone coming and going across the Sea of Ses Elran, whether they were her subjects or not, and the Queen had been keeping her eye on Kenny for a long time. That was how she came to know Brendun.

The Death Tests had been set up long before Brendun was born. The architects, engineers, and wizards of the House of Korr had chosen the ruins of the old Lavinar Abbey as the place to construct the special chambers, traps, and battle rooms for the Death Test in Acklaj. By the time Brendun was old enough to be allowed to take the risk, the Death Test had passed four hundred ninety-seven and killed two hundred twelve, or so they say. As a young man of seventeen, Brendun was stronger than most, agile, and quick minded. He entered the Death Test with two friends. All three of them survived. His friends, Roger and Fran were sent west to join the Queen’s Darrls in Fasminir, Brendun was selected to go to Bayfield and joined the Door Guards in the counting house of Millton. His first assignment was as Kenneth’s Dogsbody. Kenneth, on the day Brendun was assigned to the Counting House, had been promoted to Captain.

Three months, and several unbearably dull assignments later, Kenneth was dishonorably discharged from his post, opening an officer’s position in the Counting House for Brendun to take. You see, Kenneth was a hard man, a brave man, and a handsome man, but he was not a smart man. Kenneth liked women, wine, and betting on horse races. He had enough sense to choose fine wines, to keep his head in the game, and usually picked the right horse in any race, but the women he chased, well, that is where Kenneth’s failings came to the surface and after a disastrous breakup with a tool master-maker’s wife, Kenneth was no longer a favorite of the Queen. Brendun moved up to Second Lieutenant, when Gabrielle Dolon took the Captain’s office. Kenneth? Well, Kenneth stayed in Greenwall, after all, even if he wasn’t all that a Queen’s Man should be, he still had his good looks, his winnings from the ponies, and even now, more than ten years since that time, he still had his strength.

A large, clean, and well-manicured hand appeared out of nowhere below Brendun’s chin, took his shirt in a tight grip and pulled Brendun away from the table. He didn’t dare reach for the knife tucked in his belt, for fear of drawing attention to the scene, but let himself be dragged quickly away from the table. The crowd was so thick that at first Brendun didn’t get a good look at the man who was rough handling him. He could only tell that the man was tall, broad shouldered, and had long dark brown hair under a wide, fancy, brown felt, three-cornered hat.

He was suddenly spun to the left and forced against a section of the tavern wall between two windows, the only clear spot around, and that was when Kenneth’s smiling face, ice blue eyes, and large front teeth came into Brendun’s view.

“Kenny!” Brendun said with joy.

“Dun-man, my boy, what the hell are you doing here,” Kenneth’s words came fast, and he sounded troubled.

“Kenny, let go of me,” Brendun now said as he put both of his hands on Kenneth’s fist, remembering that it was easily almost twice the size of his own.

Kenneth did not release his grip, but pulled Brendun’s face right against his own, whispering, “This is no time for a reunion. There are people looking for you. You’re in a lot of trouble Mark. I heard you were dead. I heard assassins had already gotten to you. We need to get you out of here, now.”
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