Disclaimer; Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing. I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.
Tier kept the borrowed hood over his head as he made his way through the crowded streets of Lorn. The largest of the coastal cities in Nekar, it was a center of trade and sported freedoms other cities’ no longer had. In his youth, Tier had loathed it and the influence of the visiting cultures. Now, he wasn’t so sure it deserved his disdain.
It was a bustling city, and at any moment he feared he’d see someone who would recognize him. It had taken close to three seven days to get to Lorn, through the mountains, and now that he was here, he feared he’d made a mistake. The docks were a bustle of activity, Tier leaned against a building trying to gather his thoughts. He had to get north, out of the country. His best bet would be to take a ship to Tyrsleth and then passage on a river barge to Sandau, to warn Xin and Geb to get out.
He didn’t want to think about the logistics, not yet. He wasn’t sure how he was going to manage it all. He pushed from the wall, glancing towards the podium where the Harbor Master observed the comings and goings of the ships and their crews. If anyone knew who was going north, he would. Tier hoped the man wouldn’t recognize him.
“I need a ship.” He spoke in a low voice.
“Aye? What?” He barely looked in Tier’s direction, he was fiddling with a coin on the podium.
“I need a ship to Tyrsleth.” Tier said. The Harbor Master’s hand stilled and he turned. His cataract hazed eyes widened and he swallowed.
“Yer sposed to be dead,” His voice was rough.
Tier swallowed, wondering if he should turn and run. A single word raised would alert the ever present guards that patrolled the harbor. “I need to get to Tyrsleth, as quickly as possible.”
The Harbor Master nodded slowly, and glanced around, fingers drumming on the podium. “Come on lad,” he motioned Tier to follow him. “The whole empire is shaking from your, err, death.”
“No one can know I’m not dead.” Tier gripped the man’s shoulder. The Harbor Master bobbed his head several times.
“No one will know. Yer secret is safe with me.” He pointed to a ship at the end of a long dock. “The Prancing Dragon. Captain Kerga runs a tight ship, don’t usually deal with passengers,”
“Because she’s got no ties here, yer highness.” The Harbor Master hissed, half turning. He gave a gap-toothed grin. “Because you deserve better than a pole.”
The Harbor Master led him on the deck, and Tier felt his stomach do an uneasy flop. He could feel the motion of the ship on the water, and he didn’t care for it in the least.
“Aye! Cor, where’s Kerga?” The Harbor Master yelled.
A short, slim woman strode over. She glanced Tier’s way and dismissed him, focusing on the Harbor Master.
“She’s in her cabin, restin. Why?” The woman’s voice was a soft, an oddly familiar burr. Tier frowned, staring at her hard. Were her dark hair longer, her eyes a lighter gray, she could be Xin’s twin or older sister. He swallowed, glancing back at the Harbor Master.
“Just to Tyrsleth, Cor. I’ll pay,”
“Wait,” Tier started, the man shook his head.
“Yer not gonna argue me out of it, Tier. I owe ye, lad.”
Tier hissed a curse, shaking his head. The woman was staring at him, her eyes narrow.
“Tier?” Her voice hard.
“Cor, take us to the captain lass. I’ll explain below deck.” He waggled a finger at Tier. “No arguments, either.”
Captain Kerga was a tall woman with a cap of bright red curls and vivid blue eyes. She listened to what the Harbor Master was proposing while eying Tier. There was something about the way she watched him that made him uneasy. The silence stretched as she drummed her fingers on the surface of her desk.
“That’s a hefty cut you’re takin, Vourum.”
The man shrugged, hand clamped on Tier’s shoulder. “You know, as do I, why this is important.” He looked at Tier. “In some circles yer a martyr.”
Tier shook his head. “Crazy.”
“In others a hero.” Kerga leaned back, propping her booted feet on the desk. “Officially yer a traitor.”
“I am no traitor.” Tier snarled. Kerga smiled.
“That remains to be seen.” She stretched, hands behind her head, staring up at the ornately carved beams overhead. “Lets say I agree, the ships patrolling the coast,”
“As far as everyone is concerned, he’s dead.” Cor spoke up. She’d been leaning against one wall, fiddling with a rope. “If there were any whispers that he might have escaped, it would spread like wildfire in the dry grass.”
“True. Depending on who knows.” Kerga leaned forward, the legs of her chair hitting the floor with a loud thump. “I’ll not put my crew, nor my ship at risk, understand? First sign that you’re bringing trouble, yer overboard I dunna care how far from land we are.”
“Understood.” Tier’s heart was pounding in his ears.
“Discretion, Kerga.” The Harbor Master said quickly.
“I’m not a dunce, Vourum.” Her eyes flickered towards Cor. Tier didn’t dare look towards the slim woman.
“My apologies, I never meant to imply you were.” The Harbor Master tossed her a small bag and turned to Tier. “I’ve a friend up in Tyrsleth, Moya. She’ll put you up while you figure what yer gonna do next.”
“Why?” Tier asked, ignoring the two women.
“I said I owed ya, more than you’ll ever realize.” He gave a gap-toothed grin and held out his hand for a handshake. Tier hesitated before taking his hand. On the back of his hand was a pale blue filigree tattoo that reminded Tier of glyph drawings. “Yer very existence is a slap in the face of that dead-eyed bitch. I like being a part of that.” The Harbor Master bowed low. “Good luck.”
Tier watched him leave before turning to the women catching the amused look they exchanged.
“Find him a space Cor.” Kerga said, pulling over some papers. “I’ve got some paperwork to catch up on.”
Cor nodded, glanced at Tier, and motioned him to follow her.
“We don’t usually take passengers, don’t have any special quarters for em. There’s a bit of a small space you can use.” She glanced at him.
“How long does it usually take to reach Tyrsleth?” Tier asked as they went down the steep steps into the belly of the ship.
“Few weeks, if weather is good, but we have a couple stops between here and there.” She half turned to him. “While we’re in Port, here or further north, stay below deck. It’d be safer that way.”
Tier inclined his head. What else could he do? His life was in their hands.
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