Alvig watched as Orin slowly slide off Bomer’s sword and slumped to the floor. Alvig could not see the boy’s face, but he knew that at least now the pain was over. He only hoped that the dragon would come and take him, even though he was not a full Muras.
Bomer dropped the sword onto Orin’s body and grinned at Alvig. His teeth were caked in the blackroot and his eyes were bloodshot. Bomer’s left hand was trembling but he did not seem to notice.
“Now,” Bomer ran his hands through his black hair. It had become disheveled from the fight and he used his hands to pull it all back into a slick atop his head. “I have business to attend to.”
Bomer went into one of the bedrooms; Orin’s; and came out with the sheet from the bed. He lay it out on the floor next to Leku.
“Ithi, Krel, lift the boy,” Bomer ordered his two men. They ran over and lifted Leku so that Bomer could place the bed sheet beneath him and then they lay him down again.
“Ithi, watch the old man.” He began to fold the sheet carefully, making a make-shift shroud for his son. “I don’t expect him to go anywhere, but if he is a Muras then don’t take your eyes from him. Yvas?”
Ithi nodded his head, but Bomer was not looking at him he was focused on his work. Bomer looked up at Ithi with an irritated look on his face.
“Yvoy,” Ithi replied, afraid to anger his already distraught boss.
“Krel, you keep a look outside and make sure that no one else decides to visit today.” Bomer was finishing his wrapping on his son.
“Yvoy.” Krel was quick to reply. Like Ithi, they had seen this man kill and angry and they wanted to be on then far end of that side of this man.
Krel went outside and sat by the fire pit. He threw on another piece of wood and rubbed his hands together to warm them up. Alvig watched him through the broken paper door but said nothing. In five, out four.
Ithi sat near the indoor fire to keep himself warm. He sat on the floor, away from the blood as if he were afraid that it would touch him and he would be attacked by it.
Bomer stood and lifted his wrapped son over his shoulder. With barely a struggle, the man placed the boy onto his shoulder and walked out through the already broken door. He kicked at the frame, damaging it even more. He turned to face Alvig, still bound to the post.
“When I come back,” Bomer coughed. “I will start with you.”
Bomer trudged off of the porch and into the woods. Alvig could here Bomer’s boot on the dry leaves and branches crackling as he left. When he no longer heard the man walking, he turned his attention to the two men that remained.
Ithi was picking at his fingernails with a dagger, trying to free something loose. More likely than not, he was trying not to look at the blood on the floor.
Krel sat by the fire and closed his eyes. He did not expect anyone to arrive. Why would they? That was one of the reason’s that Bomer had picked a place so far away from everyone and everything else.
Alvig continued to breathe as he felt the ropes get looser. His Dragon’s Breath was stretching the ropes little by little. Five in, four out. As he kept himself calm, he tried not to think about the boy. Either boy. Leku, born to a thief and forced to live that life. Sure, he had wanted to fight Orin, but he was never shown the way. Never given a chance to walk the path.
‘Don’t think about him.’ Alvig told himself. Five in, four out.
And Orin. Son. Not his son by birth, but his son by the Order of the Muras. Alvig did not know who the boy’s parents had been, just as he did not know who his parents had been. It is the way. The Muras take away your name and your past and give you the title of ‘Son’, hand you off to one who is now a ‘Father’ and the training begins.
‘Not the past, fool. Look ahead.’ The thought echoed in his head. It was his own voice scolding him, but it had a tinge of something else. A memory. An almost forgotten yet painful memory. One of his Father telling him when he was a Son.
Alvig was loosening up his wrists now, watching Ithi with close eyes, trying not to make big movements. Five in, four out.
The Murai were all but gone. With the new emperor, he did not feel the need for the warriors any longer, so he dissolved the Order. The remaining Murai took it upon themselves to continue to train so as not to lose the Dance of the Dragon and to be ready when the day would come that the Murai would be called upon again.
Living in this small home in the mountains, away from people, was a way to train and to teach as well as to hide from the eyes of the emperor. If a Muras is found, they are captured and taken to the emperor. Alvig did not know what happened to them when they were caught, but they were never seen again.
‘There are too few of us now.’ Alvig thought as he worked a hand loose in the bindings. He was close to being free.
“Ithi,” Krel was whispering harshly through the broken door.
“What?” Ithi asked loudly. He was annoyed because he had gotten himself comfortable and was looking for some much-needed sleep.
“Sh,” Krel hushed his companion. He placed a finger over his lips and with his other hand, he motioned for Ithi to come outside.
“Bomer said …”
“You are going to want to see this,” Krel whispered again.
Curious now, Ithi got to his feet and stood by Alvig.
“What about him?”
“He’s not going anywhere,” Krel replied and looked out into the woods. “Come here, but move quietly.”
Ithi did. He walked softly on the wooden floor, careful not to let his boots hit hard, and he looked like a poor imitation of an actor playing a thief in a play. Ithi’s movements were over exaggerated and not required, but Ithi thought that he was doing a good job of being stealthy.
“Is it the boss?” Ithi asked in his own harsh whisper.
Ithi stepped outside and saw what his friend was looking at. A red wolf was out in the tree-line near the house. It seemed to be watching the two men. Ithi knelt down by Krel so that they could speak quietly without turning their heads to face one another.
“It’s a wolf,” Ithi said, not understanding why Krel had called him outside.
“It’s a red wolf,” Krel said the words like that was the answer to life itself.
“So, what. A wolf with red fur.” Ithi could not stop looking. He felt mesmerized by the animal and stared all the same.
“Don’t you know anything about anything other than money and women.” Krel hissed at Ithi and then looked at the man. “Well, money anyway.”
“Hey, how was I to know that there were men that dressed that way?” Ithi’s integrity had taken a verbal blow and he was getting angry.
“Simmer it, I was only playing.” Krel calmed his companion down. “But, this is a red wolf.”
Ithi shrugged. He really did not know why that was such a big deal. Krel shook his head and chuckled.
“Up north, in the drylands, you may see wolves this red all of the time, but down here in the southern mountains, you won’t.”
As he explained, Krel drew a map in the air with his fingerless gloved hands. His fingers were so brown with dirt and grime that one could almost not tell where the gloves ended and the fingers began.
“Okay, so why did you call me out here to look at a dumb animal?”
Ithi turned to his thieving friend, “What is ‘oof’?” he asked and saw the sky turn black as he was hit on the side of the head.
Ithi and Krel slowly awoke to find themselves in a familiar situation. The one that they had placed the old man into. They were tied to the wooden pole in the house near the fire. Their circumstances were slightly different. They had cloth in their mouths to prevent them from speaking or even yelling for help.
As the pair struggled, they looked around for the old man. They could not see him. The body of the boy, Orin, was also gone. Alvig returned and saw the pair awake. He stood near the fire and looked down at the pair of thieves.
“I welcomed you into my home and you have broken my trust.”
As Alvig stood, he leaned against the fire pit. Being bound had taken some of his leg energy away from his and his blood flow was returning.
“Now, I have lost my son and my path is no longer clear. But what is clear to me, is that you will be given to the warden’s in the village at the bottom of the mountain.”
The two men shook their heads and tried to speak through the clothes in their mouths.
“Now, we will wait for your leader to return so that I may discuss with him the conditions of his surrender.”
Alvig stood up and adjusted the sword on his side. His robe was dirty and had blood on it, some dry and some fresh. His hair had been retied behind his head and he wore a bandage over his wounded eye. Blood was soaking through, but the man gave no indication that he was in any pain.
Boots stomped up onto the porch outside.
“I thought that I told you two …” he stopped when he saw Alvig standing with Ithi and Krel tied to the post.
“So, you really are a Muras,” Bomer said with his blackroot grin. He placed a hand on the sword at his side, Alvig’s sword, and entered through the broken door. “I have your sword here, Muras. So what is that tied to your waist? The boy’s sword?”
Alvig nodded and spread his feet. He took a fighter’s stance but did not draw out the blade.
“That’s not that wooden toy now is it?” Bomer asked, tilting his head to the side. As he walked in, he was taking in the surroundings, trying to find if he could have an advantage in one area over another.
Alvig drew the wooden sword from the scabbard. He held it in front of him in one of his stances. Dragon’s blood.
Bomer laughed. It started as a chuckle and grew into all out laughter.
“That did not do your boy any good?” Bomer said through his laughing. He noticed that the body was gone. “Moved him already have you? And I had such fun plans for his corpse. Maybe later I will find it, eh?” Bomer drew the metal blade from his scabbard and stood ready to fight.
Alvig did not move. He kept his body facing Bomer and waited for the man to strike him first. Bomer was an impatient man, Alvig could tell. All that he had to do was to wait him out.
Seconds stretched into minutes and Alvig did not move. He was breathing his Dragon’s Breath only in a different rhythm now for the fight. Four in, hold one, three out, hold one. And he repeated. His heart would be beating at a normal pace while the thief would be working himself up into a frenzy.
Bomer moved closer to Alvig, sliding to his left to get onto Alvig’s right side with his wounded eye. Alvig had expected that. It was why he chose the area of the home that he did. That part of the house was filled with furniture that would make it difficult for Bomer to maneuver.
“Last chance to give up, Muras.” Bomer twirled the sword in his hand. Fighters did that to look like they were master of the blade. Warriors knew better. “I may even kill you without the torture.”
Bomer smiled. The hair was falling over his eyes, but Alvig could see that the pupils were dilated and that Bomer was not in his complete mind.
“Who am I kidding?” Bomer laughed. “Of course there will be torture.”
Bomer swung the sword, and Alvig deflected with ease. Bomer weighed the defense in his mind before attacking again. Alvig deflected and added his own attack, striking the hand that held the sword.
Bomer growled a bit as he shook his hand from the pain.
“You may be better than me, but I have metal against your wood.”
Bomer slashed at Alvig, who brought the wooden sword up and around to deflect Bomer away with ease and to slap Bomer’s knee with the wood.
Bomer growled again and put both hands on the handle. Alvig changed his stance and readied himself. Bomer attacked.
The two men exchanged strikes and parries during the fight. The metal never touched Alvig but the wood hit Bomer more than once, but the thief kept attacking. Each strike that Alvig dealt was harder than the one before, but still, the man kept attacking.
Bomer continued to try to take advantage of Alvig’s right eye being injured, but Bomer was not left-handed so that was his weaker side to attack. Bomer resolved to himself to make Alvig’s left eye bleed then, and attacked with the sword coming down over his head.
Alvig stopped the blade with the wooden sword, and the two stood locked as the metal pushed down on the wood.
Bomer was visibly angry mixed with confused as he could not understand how his great strength would not cut this wooden toy in half with the blow. He drew back his blade only to drive it down again and again. Alvig was deflecting, but the force of the sword was forcing him to place the blade above his head, and he went to his knees to hold the wood with both hands.
The thief was powerfully strong with the blackroot fueling his anger. Alvig was struggling to keep the metal away from him. Bomer began to hack with the sword, bringing it down fast and hard until finally the wood split.
As it broke, Alvig pulled his body back to avoid the blade from cutting into him. He held two pieces of broken wood in his hands and Bomer smiled. He raised the sword to strike and Alvig attacked, first one wooden piece, and then the other into the stomach of the looming Bomer.
Bomer’s eyes widen and he looked down. This little man was trying to hurt him?
Bomer lifted again to attack and Alvig removed both pieces and moved back out of the way as Bomer brought the sword down. Alvig spun and stabbed Bomer in the back with one and then the other wooden piece.
Bomer tried to grab the wood out, but he couldn’t reach it. He stood, moving slower now, and pointed the sword at Alvig.
“You will not kill me, little man,” Bomer threatened.
“You are already dead,” Alvig replied and stood weaponless before him. Bomer moved towards Alvig and stumbled to his knee. He tried to stand again, but his other knee hit the ground. He looked up at Alvig with surprise in his eyes.
“The Murai are not all gone?” he asked with disbelief in his dying eyes.
Alvig said nothing as the large thief fell forward onto his face dead, the sword clattering to his side.