The Hawk and Panther part 7, a short story by J.Morgan. Date added: 2011-11-11. Times viewed: 386.
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“It’s a miracle she’s alive sleeping on the streets.” The healer said, coming out of Lilly’s room. She was an older woman whose middle was dramatically thinner than her hips and shoulders.
“Will she be alright?”
The healer looked thoughtful. “If she stays warm and in bed for a few days, and then rests for a couple of weeks, she should make a full recovery. But I’ll have to check on her, if the infection in her lungs doesn’t clear up soon, then I can’t promise anything.” Lilly nodded as the healer left, she went in her room.
Maggie was laying in her bed, her pale skin and dirty hair was obvious in the flickering light. Lilly took a stack of folded blankets of a chair and laid them down on the floor. Then went over to feel the girl’s forehead gently causing her to stir. Maggie’s blue eyes focused on her as she coughed a bit. “Where’s Moya?”
“Who’s Moya?” Lilly asked sitting on the edge of the bed.
Maybe the girl did have family she thought until Maggie answered sleepily. “He’s been sleeping with me at night, the kitty.”
A cat? “I’ll see if I can find him tomorrow. But for now you’re safe, try to get some rest ok?”
The next morning she went looking for this cat in the same alleyway that she found Maggie in. But after finding nothing she went back to the inn to find the captain sitting in the common room drinking a pint of ale. “How’s the girl?” He asked.
Lilly sat down repositioning her sword so that it stuck out the back of her chair. “She’s sleeping. I’ve been out all morning trying to find her cat.” She leaned forward wanting to go back to bed. She still wasn’t as strong as she used to be, she was beginning to wonder if she ever would be.
“Cats…they’re trouble if ye asked me.” Grady grumbled taking another drink.
“Captain there’s no sign, I think he went ahead like ye thought.” Micel came up saying but his eyes opened wide when he saw her. Grady growled under his breath.
“Alright ye brainless octopus, go let the others know that we’ll be leavin tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow, but captain I can’t leave Maggie yet. She’s too sick and..” Lilly interrupted, but she realized that she got sidetracked. Jaden was her goal and if she stayed with Maggie while she got better she might lose her chance at finding him. The captain’s crew might not be the best protection, but she’d begun enjoying their company. “You’re right, maybe I can arrange for her to be taken care of.” She got up pulling her hair forward over her shoulder. “What did Micel mean…are you looking for someone?”
Grady’s lips thinned into a tight line. “One of my crew, stayed behind fer a lady friend, and I sent Micel te see if he was still with her.”
Lilly nodded, he was lying but it was none of her business what he did with his crew. “I’ll go and make sure Maggie is taken care of.” She went to the smaller sitting room on the second floor and found Anton sitting slumped looking into the fire. She paused, he was upset about something. Did everything have to go wrong all at once? She sat down on the arm of the chair and looked down at him.
His sullen features darkened. “Lilly, why can’t I be more like you?”
“Why would you want to be like me?”
His eyes flickered up to hers as he sat up straight. “Oh I don’t know. Maybe because you’re strong and independent and father has always loved you best.”
“Anton!” She stood up. “Father doesn’t love me best he loves us both equally!” Still frowning, Anton glared at her his eyes filling with tears.
“Yes he does and you‘re a better fighter and...and….”
She hugged him tightly. “Stop it Anton! I’m sorry. If you want to go home it’s ok.” Anton shook as he began to cry.
“No it isn’t. I’m not like you. I’m not adventurous, I’d rather be with father in the library going over the forecasted crops or talking with other nobles and figuring out how to fix the trade routes in Daufu.” His voice squeaked. “I should want to help my sister search for the man she loves. Not want to be home, or afraid that I’m going to mess up and you’ll get killed. I’m so scared Lilly. Why am I so scared?” Lilly tucked his head under her chin, rocking back and forth slowly. She was so preoccupied trying to find Jaden, that she didn’t notice that Anton was so homesick. That he wasn’t like her.
“I’m scared too Anton. I’m always scared, but it’s not the fear that makes you brave. It’s doing what you must, despite being afraid. I messed up, ok? This is my fault.” She pulled him back and tilted her head to make him look at her. His blue eye glistening, he breathed in shakily. “I need you to do something for me.”
“What would Lilly say if she saw you like this?” Gavel asked sitting next to him at the bar. He swallowed another glass of Absinth and hissed as it burned going down the back of his throat.
“She would say that I was an idiot.” He smiled as the room spun. “She would challenge me to a fight and I would win.”
Gavel laughed. “I’m not sure you could take her with your head swimming in alcohol.”
Jaden grinned wider. “Maybe not.” His smile turned to a frown. “But she’d forgive me, she always forgives me.” He shook his head and tapped the bar signaling for a refill. The bartender came over and poured him another, eyeing him up warily. Jaden lifted the glass in salute and downed it then slammed it on the bar, shattering the glass. “But she’s gone….and I’m in hell!” He raised his voice being sure that everyone heard him.
Jaden turned seeing a woman regarding him. She was a prostitute, by her red dress with ruffles barely covering up her body, it was obvious. “Hello.”
“Maybe I can give you some respite from your hell.” She said biting her lower lip leaning forward revealing even more of her endowments.
“Perhaps.” Jaden said rising from his stool. “Do you have a room?”
Her body pressed against his in the hallway, her kiss tasted like tobacco and cheep wine. His numb mind didn’t register her hands traveling under his shirt. It took too long to get to her room with a single ratty bed in the center. Cloths thrown everywhere he was surprised that it wasn’t covered in pests. The second the door was closed, his hands clasped around her shoulders and slammed her against the wall kissing her with every bit of strength he had in him. His hands traveled to her wrists, forcing them above her head as he pulled back. “There is no respite from my hell,” he said looking up to see the black tattoo under her arm.
“What do you mean?” She asked suddenly tense, following his gaze.
He leaned in to whisper in her ear. “Didn’t they warn you that a Raziel was going around killing all Saedu?” Her body shuddered.
“No!” She cried… right before he snapped her neck.
She pulled the straps tight, to make sure that the saddle was on properly and then turned around to see Anton frowning. He didn’t like this idea but she knew it was for the best. “You take care of her and when the healer says she can travel, take her home.” She said trying to smile.
He nodded frowning more. “Father won’t be happy that I left you alone.”
Lilly shook her head. “Father knows that I’m stubborn and I’m the eldest so you have to listen to me.”
“Twas a pleasure milord.” Captain Grady came up offering his arm to Anton who took it. “Take care.”
“You too captain, perhaps we’ll meet again.”
“Perhaps.” Grady patted his back then went to the wagon.
Lilly mounted and settled in, glancing over at Zeke who was pouting. Of course he denied that he was pouting, he was angry at Anton for staying, and since she insisted that it was best, now he was angry with her. “Goodbye little brother. Take care of Maggie and keep an eye out for her cat. She says its black and his name is Moya.”
“You didn’t say anything about a cat.” Anton grumbled crossing his arms.
She laughed. “You didn’t ask.” She clicked her horse on as Captain Grady started their caravan off. “Tell father I love him and as soon as I find Jaden I’ll come home.”
“Ok!” Anton yelled, waving. She tried not to be upset about Anton or Maggie, she tried to ignore Zeke‘s moodiness, but the closer she got to Jaden the more afraid she was that everything was going to fall apart. Glancing into the forest as they left the town she caught a flicker of movement. It almost looked like a cat. When she didn’t see it again she put it out of her mind.
“There isn’t a town worth speakin of, until Hesti. But with the ground freezing at night perhaps we’ll make better time than when we did comin the other way.” The captain said eagerly. “As long as the snow keeps away til then.”
Lilly smirked. “Aching to get back to your ship captain?”
He scratched the back of his neck riding the front of the wagon easily. “Aye. She’s me life. Just as I’m sure that ye’re Jaden’s life.”
Lilly paused regarding the captain. “Captain, I want to tell you how grateful I am for letting us join you on this trip. I don’t think we would have made it this far if you hadn’t shown up in Ikhaya like you did.”
Grady smiled, making his gruff exterior crack a bit. “Yer welcome lass. I just hope ye find what yer lookin for in Hesti.”
She sighed and refocused on the road. “So do I captain. So do I.”
They were starting to get wise to him. It was getting harder and harder to find operatives of the Saedu. But he wasn’t about to give up. Jaden jumped from the roof and landed in a roll, pulling his sword out in the same motion as he came up. Hesti was always a dangerous place, he visited it with his father once when he was young. But now it was a den of thieves, it was easy enough to go around killing people as long as no one wanted to ask questions. His reputation was growing and most people stayed out of his way.
He padded silently around the corner and froze. His target had stopped to catch his breath, running through the streets while Jaden took to the rooftops. The man was a mark, he stole children off the streets and sold them into prostitution. Not that it was necessary to know what they did, only that they were a part of the Saedu. He gritted his teeth at the pain in his shoulder from a previous fight. An assassin had landed a lucky blow going right through him, but missing anything vital. It was lucky though because it gave Jaden the time he needed, to finish him off.
He snuck up in the night as the man started to believe that he was safe. Jaden smiled and whistled. The man bolted into a run and Jaden followed happily. He loved it when they ran, the chase gave him time to plan how he was going to kill them. It was almost a game now, playing with his victims. This one was going to feel an appropriate amount of terror before Jaden let him die. Just like all the children he made suffer, all the little girls he made cry. Maggie’s face flashed in his mind.
“Are you any better than him?” Gavel’s voice said. “You killed Maggie’s brother, you’ve killed so many people.”
“That was an accident and the people I kill are all Saedu, all evil.”
“Are you sure they’re evil? Maggie’s brother joined the Saedu to make enough money to take care of her. Perhaps some of them aren’t evil.”
Jaden shook his head. “This one is evil. And if you’re not going to help then go away!” He launched into a sprint coming up to the docks as the mark hopped down to the beach along side of the port. Jaden jumped and flipped landing just behind the man, then threw his dagger catching his prey in the back of the leg, causing him to collapse. Jaden grinned despite Gavel’s words in his head…his words… part of him was screaming for him to stop. But as he always did, he silenced that part with the screaming of his victim.
He wasn’t going to stop until Tritis was dead, until they were all dead.
“Hello there. Have you been following us?” Lilly said to the cat who sat on a branch just above her. The cat was pure black and his eyes reminded her of Jaden, it flicked its tail contentedly while it stared at her. She smiled and turned to go when the cat meowed, she glanced back up but it was gone. She looked around for it, but found nothing. Odd. She shrugged it off and walked back to the fire where everyone was eerily quiet. They all felt a heaviness in the air. Winter was coming quickly and it began to snow by the time she laid down to sleep. She tried to relax, to calm her mind but there was just too much going on to sleep. Dreams of Jaden assaulted her every time she closed her eyes. Of him in pain, of people screaming. The last one though shocked her more than anything. Jaden, kissing another woman, then for some reason he killed her. Even thinking about that dream made her stomach churn. But they were just dreams, she told herself. He would never do that. Not Jaden.
She felt a flittering wind on her face and opened her eyes. The silver hawk stood looking at her, tilting its head and blinking. “Please keep him safe until I get there.” She whispered to the hawk. The bird flapped its wings and took off into the black sky.
Lilly didn’t sleep that night or the night following, she rode like a zombie gritting her teeth from the pain in her middle. Just ahead Zeke was throwing rocks at trees making the heavy snow drop to the ground.
“Zeke, you shouldn’t do that.” She said more sharply than she had intended. Lack of sleep was catching up with her mood, Zeke only sniffed and whipped another rock head hitting a branch high above. Snowflakes drifted down heavily on the caravan making going slower than they had intended. Everyone was getting irritable and cold…the Captain said that Hesti was another few days travel at their pace. Her horse slipped in the pile of snow that Zeke had caused to fall on the road. She glared at the Raziel boy. Ever since Anton stayed behind, Zeke had been bull headed and spiteful.
“Captain have you thought about it yet?” Zeke asked slowing to keep pace with the wagon.
Grady stroked his beard. “I don know boy.” He glanced at Lilly. “What bout yer family?”
Zeke turned his head away frowning. “I have no family.”
Lilly cringed inside and said. “Zeke, you know better than that. Jaden and I are your family and so is Gavel.”
Zeke laughed sharply. “Yeah right Lilly. Jaden left me because of you, and Grand Elder Gavel never has time for me. What kind of family is that?”
She steered her horse closer to him. “The kind that has problems. Zeke you know Jaden loves you, he’s just going through a rough time right now.”
Zeke’s hand went under his cloak and pulled out a small bronze medallion. “He gave this to me you know. He told me that the principles we live by, define us. I used to believe him, but not anymore.” With that he threw the medallion into the forest.
Lilly knew there was nothing she could say to make it better, this was something Jaden would have to take care of. She sighed letting him go on ahead. But it made her heartsick to know that Zeke had become so bitter. If she hadn’t fallen into that coma she knew that Jaden would have adopted him and she would have tried to be like a mother to him. He was young for a Raziel, but still he was of age to be a warrior. He’d hardened and matured beyond what should have been.
“Give the boy time. Children don’t see the world the way we see it.” Grady said quietly. Lilly nodded.
She just hoped he was right.
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