Notes: Good morning everyone! It has been an absolutely crazy week for me here in York, so I am glad that I’ve managed to stay on schedule with my writing. Over the past week or so I’ve committed to both a new job and a new place so my life admin is piling up. Still though, the show must go on, and so Chapter Eight of The Cursed King is here below. Regarding real time, I have completed Chapter Twenty this week, and I am currently working on Chapter Twenty One, so plenty to come to keep you entertained. Blog-wise, we are at about 440 followers here now, so thank you once again to those who are following the journies of these characters, and I hope you enjoy.
Now for some quick shoutouts. First, thanks to Mark for his feedback on my last post, Armour. Mark is an independent Canadian Author who is also posting his work online for all to see. You can find these stories here: https://markbierman.wordpress.com/blog/. Mark also has a published book called Vanished about human trafficking, which if you purchase, means that 50% of the profits go to victims of human trafficking so definitely check that out!
On a note away from the book, I’d also like to thank both Pam Kirst and Sandra Yeaman for their wonderful take-aways from my preface to the last Chapter where I spoke about Black Lives Matter. It is absolutely vital that we continue to educate ourselves on Anti-Racism, and Pam and Sandra were very encouraging in their comments, so thank you both. If you missed the last blog, you can check out that post for links to how you can support this movement, but here it is again: www.blacklivesmatter.carrd.co/#
Thank you to everyone who is following this blog and keeping up with the series. I absolutely love the feedback – both positive and constructive. Whether you are just a keen reader or an aspiring writer like myself, keep the feedback flowing as I am eager to improve as a writer and continue writing stories that you enjoy. I will always reply! The next chapter will be posted on the 4th July, which also happens to be my birthday, so I will see you all then! Thanks for reading and enjoy!
It had been a long time since Jerimeh last strolled through the streets of Silver City, and it was easy to remember why. Even before dawn broke, the stench of the inner city wafted through the damp alleys on a warm wind. Although he felt disgusted, he also felt guilty that for so long he had neglected the poorest of the city who curled up into balls on the ground and battled other destitute men and women for the limited public shelter. Effei was far more used to the aromas of the city, however, and spent much of his time at Silver City’s priory when he was not at court.
The Godsons were due to meet The Guildmaster at the dock when his ship arrived from The Old World. They had waited outside guild meetings each week just in case he returned early, but all those concerned seemed certain that this day would be the day of his arrival. It had been almost a month since the poisoned girl broke into Queen Lorne’s cell, and her answers proved disappointing. She could not remember anything from before she took the concoction, or at least she claimed not to. The girl was imprisoned briefly, but soon King Aron’s sympathy caused him to release her
Sir Martin and Sir George were not so lucky. They were found hanged in the woods. Torvic had assessed their bodies and tested their blood, and it seemed to him that they were given the same toxins as the girl. The only man who could give Jerimeh any useful information in his search for Queen Lorne’s poisoner was The Guildmaster. Only he could tell them who he sold his mixture to.
As the sun began to rise, Jerimeh made sure to cover his face completely with his hood. Although most men and women in the city would not recognise his face, it was better to be safe. He could afford no distractions in his search for answers, and Effei was never quite capable of refusing help to a sick or infirm beggar. The sound of the waves roared as the tide made its way onto the shore and the potent smell of fish was a welcome relief from the sickening stink of the city.
“How are you managing with the Ancient Antinnan translation?” Effei asked him casually.
Jerimeh sighed. “This is not the job for one man. Usually on a parchment like this, several more of my education would likely have it completed in a week or two. As it is, and as the King desires privacy on the matter, I dare say it could take me three months or more.”
“I would help if I was able. My knowledge is not nearly as complete as yours, but I want you to know I articulated the value of my assistance to Prince Asher.”
“And I appreciate that. Unfortunately, King Aron sees this as my undertaking and mine alone. Besides, he has always been wont to take his brother’s advice with an ocean’s worth of salt.”
When they reached the dock, a City Watchman guarded their passage, though when Jerimeh lowered his hood, the man stepped immediately aside and offered words of apology. No mist descended over the River Chide on this morning. Usually it was the faces of the fishermen that told of how smooth the water was and how fine the catches were, and today there were broad smiles and a jovial mood around the docks with many men abandoning their rods briefly to play games and gamble. It wasn’t long before a rickety fisherman’s boat docked. The Guildmasters that Jerimeh had met in the past were grizzly creatures, all guts and grease with all the charm of a rotted crab, and faces like catfish. A large, pot-bellied man with sagging breasts that poked through his tunic waddled towards them, and Jerimeh was convinced he had found his man. The figure walked close to them, but passed right by them to greet some of the other fishermen who had their rods in the river.
Effei nudged Jerimeh who noticed another man step off the boat. At first, he took him for nobility – he had a stunning green cloak with black buttons draped around his shoulders and clasped around his neck. Beneath his cloak, he was wearing a baby blue silk shirt with black hosen and excessively pointy shoes. As he approached, Jerimeh saw that he was impeccably fit, and even though his skin revealed the damage of age, his face looked no older than forty, with a full crop of silver hair and a trimmed beard that added to his youth. The man bowed to him and extended his hand to Jerimeh,
“Your worship, what an honour it is to meet you.”
Jerimeh shook his hand, but could not wipe the shock off his face. “You are…”
“My apologies, my name is Andrado of Verula, I am the Guildmaster that you seek.”
Annoyed by his extravagance, Jerimeh furrowed his brow, and felt his tongue about to lash like a whip. “Your apologies should not be made to me, Guildmaster, they should be made to the poor girls who ingested your poison. You may still have to answer to the King himself.”
Andrado looked off into the distance and over the river. “My heart lost a beat on the day I heard about Prince Edward. Such a darling boy lost in such a tragedy,” The Guildmaster swiftly spun his head around towards Jerimeh and Effei. “I will tell you all I know, my holy lords, and I will give my life, if that is what the King desires, for the part I played in this young boy’s death. I give myself over to you and to Natos, though I pray you show me mercy.”
The Guildmaster dropped to his knees and bowed his head in submission. Jerimeh looked towards Effei who appeared as unmoved as he did. There were several fishermen who were beginning to show interest in the scene, so Jerimeh placed his hand under Andrado’s elbow and pulled him to his feet.
“You will take us to your workshop, and you will spare no detail,” Effei asserted.
“At once, your worships. Please, follow me.”
The Alchemist Guild was not a discreet place, for it had no need to be. It was a long rectangular stone building that stood out next to its squatter neighbours. This area of the city was not quite as affluent as the Merchant’s District, but it was by no means the filthy streets and alleys that surrounded the inner parts of the town. Harthelm loomed large over the area, and Jerimeh once again marvelled at the size of the castle and its grounds. He had not spent much time outside of the castle over the last few years, his weary legs would never allow him to travel too far, however he was hoping that on his way back he may be able to greet some old Blacksmith and Butcher friends that he once knew.
Andrado ushered them both into the building, which, although large, looked bare and empty. It was, however, bright and fragrant inside, and Jerimeh could smell lavender in the same quantities as he could alcohol. There were odd jars filled with rabbit’s feet, lizard’s scales and raven’s eyes decorating the shelves. There were a few wooden stations, where alchemists would consult men and women of all ages and creeds, dabbing them with cloths, spoon-feeding them medicines and filling pipes with dried leaves. Other than shelves filled with unlabelled pouches of different coloured sludge, there was little decoration.
“We have some time before anybody else arrives. May I fetch you both some tea?”
“No,” Effei replied curtly. “The only thing you will brew is the concoction you made, and the only words you will speak will be the name of who you sold it to. Do I make myself clear?”
Andrado nodded. “Very well” Andrado stood in front of the work stations and opened the cupboard below the basin that was filled with a variety of liquids. After scanning the contents of the cupboard, he reached in and grasped three bottles and placed them on the counter top. He then reached to one of the shelves above him and retrieved two unlabelled jars – one filled with a thick, black sludge, and the other a thin red liquid with hunks of white matter floating within it. Andrado began mixing the liquids together.
“The formula that I was asked to make is a potion known as Indinifali. It is an extremely powerful painkiller, and, as such, is very expensive. The ingredients themselves are rare and only a few men can make it correctly without the unfortunate side-effects that you witnessed in both the Queen and the young girl. Its potency means that we only ever supply it by the vial, and no more than one vial can be sold to any given person on any one day. Only one drop is needed per day and it is so effective that a blind man being castrated will take it and swear that someone was making love to him instead.” Andrado stirred the liquids together, which began smoking before he added the black sludge that seemed to calm it down. “Maybe an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Now, in too high a quantity, the main side-effect besides frothing at the mouth and intense rage, is acute madness. This is the strange thing you see. I am the only man in this guild capable of making such a potion. You could watch all my alchemists try all day, every day for a year and they would not be able to make it correctly. And I have been in the Old World for the last few months, and have not made Indinifali in over a year.”
Effei and Jerimeh stole a glance at each other briefly before both turned on Andrado. “And who else can attest to your whereabouts?” Jerimeh interrogated.
“The Count of Beullis,” Andrado smiled amicably and pulled a scroll from his pocket and handed it to Jerimeh, who passed it immediately to Effei.
Effei untied the string around the scroll and unravelled it. “It is a certificate of diplomacy, your worship. The dates are correct and the seal is that of the count.”
Andrado poured his mixture into a cauldron and stoked a fire beneath it. “The mixture must be heated for half a day. Then it must be cooled in the cellar for another three days. After that, we test it on a willing participant, and if it is fit for purpose – which it always is – we will then sell it to our buyers.”
Jerimeh walked over to the pot and watched the liquid as it began to simmer. “You say you haven’t made this in over a year. Does that mean you didn’t have stores?”
“The potion cannot last, even in a cellar, for more than a month.”
“And what happens after a month…should somebody ingest it?”
All of a sudden, Andrado’s carefree demeanour vanished from his face, and his eyes showed deep regret. “Then that person would become very sick.”
“Andrado…this is very serious. The King will not know that you made this batch. We are looking only for the heathens that gave this poison to Queen Lorne and the young girl. If you can guide us in this direction, I will give you my word that I will not inform King Aron that it was you who made it.”
Andrado looked around the room and then met Jerimeh’s eyes. “It was over a year ago now. A man approached me to buy a…rather excessive amount of Indinifali.”
“How much would you consider excessive?” Effei asked.
“You sold this man a gallon of this poison? What on earth were you thinking?” Jerimeh snapped.
“Please forgive me, your worship. The Guild was struggling, and the man offered me more coin than I had ever seen at once. It allowed us to remain in Silver City, it allowed us to continue making remedies and helping people.”
Jerimeh scoffed. “Do not beg my forgiveness, only Natos can save your fate now. Who did you sell it to? Tell me now, and I will hear your confessions personally.”
Andrado’s face was awash with genuine remorse, enough to make Jerimeh momentarily sympathise with his plight. “I was not given a name. Only his initials and signature on the receipt.”
“Do you know anything about him at all that could help us?” Effei prodded, irritated.
“I know that he is a rich merchant operating in Silver City. I’m afraid that is all I know.”
“Did you not meet him?” Jerimeh pressed.
Andrado shook his head. “He operated through a messenger. I do not know his name. He was a young man with messy hair and grey eyes, shorter than most, but lean and fit.”
“Do you know where we can find him?”
“Merchants tend to use each other’s sons and daughters as messengers to induct them into the family business. You might find him in the Merchant’s District.”
Jerimeh shook his head, disappointed at what little information he had received. It would be a monumental task to find one boy amongst an entire city. He was already weary from the task even though it had barely begun. Effei’s eyes met his and his protégé shared in his grimacing.
“Tell me, Guildmaster, how much would a gallon of this potion cost?” Effei asked.
“I sold it for 40 Gold, your worship.”
Jerimeh could not constrain his shock. “That is a small fortune! Who in this city could afford such a price?”
Effei suddenly looked hopeful. “Only a few merchants in this entire city I’d wager, your worship. I dare say we have just narrowed down our search.”
Jerimeh agonised over the symbol once again. Each dash and squiggle on the parchment could signify over a hundred different words, and only those who knew the context of what was written could correctly decipher it. Jerimeh had a basic knowledge of Old Antinnan, but this required a far more practiced mind, and far less tired eyes. King Aron had unknowingly provided him with tasks that even twenty years prior, Jerimeh would have struggled with, now they exhausted him. Effei was some help, providing him with the Old Antinnan dictionary written by Garham of Maladh, but the historian’s work was a translation into the Old Tongue, and much of his explanations were lost in translation. The Arkgodson rubbed his eyes and rose to his feet, looking towards his window. It was almost dusk, and he could feel the cooling breeze start to seep through the oriel now that the sun had almost set. Suddenly, a loud rasp at his door echoed throughout his chamber.
“Who goes there?”
“Sir Bethan, your worship. There are some monks at the gate to see you, they say they know you.”
Jerimeh pulled open the door. “I have met more monks than you have seen stars, my boy.”
“I only got one name. A man named Stillius. He claims he knows you well and that you will receive him.” Jerimeh was stunned. He had not heard that name in a long time and did not know what to say. “Would you like me to get rid of them, your worship?”
“No…no, please. I will receive them in the God’s Hall. How many are there?”
“Four monks, a knight, a girl, a civilian and a child, your worship.”
Jerimeh looked at Sir Bethan incredulously, but nodded his approval. It was unlike Stillius to turn up with a group, but then he didn’t know what Stillius was like these days. When he had first heard his name, he felt a rush of adrenaline, and an excitement shot through him. Stillius always brought intrigue and wonder, even when he brought Jerimeh a task. Jerimeh made his way towards the God’s Hall and when he entered, the first face he saw was of Stillius. His friend had aged, though he did not carry it badly. He was portlier than he once was and his face was covered with white stubble, and he wore a satisfied smile upon his lips as he walked to him with his arms open wide.
“Your worship, how wonderful it is to see you again,” Stillius beamed and embraced Jerimeh.
Jerimeh squeezed back firmly. “And you, old friend, though I am not used to seeing you with such an envoy.”
“Ah yes,” Stillius said as if he had forgotten they were there. “Perhaps we can talk in private before we make introductions.”
Jerimeh looked over his shoulder and saw that the group were standing respectfully in anticipation of him. “I look forward to meeting you all,” Jerimeh announced to the group. “Please allow Stillius and I a few moments to catch up.”
Jerimeh ushered Stillius into his office beside the main hall. “You have done very well for yourself, Arkgodson.”
“I suppose I have, perhaps this is the reward one reaps when they dedicate themselves to the Gods,” Jerimeh quipped. “Still masquerading as a monk, I see.”
Stillius half-smiled. “Monks are trustworthy.”
“Do you know what the divine punishment is for impersonating a man of religion?”
“Is it listening to a lecture from you about how wrong it is?”
“No…it is being re-born as a dung beetle for all eternity.”
“I suppose Natos and Jivana have to get their laughs from somewhere.”
Jerimeh couldn’t helped but return his smile. “What brings you here, Stillius?”
Stillius’ smile faded and he pulled up a seat, indicating for Jerimeh to sit first. Jerimeh obliged and Stillius sat opposite him.
“Intelligence from The Order. There are things I am not allowed to speak of. Rumblings across The Settler’s Sea, scandal in the south and military movements in The Blacklands. I came here first to warn you, and secondly to ask of you a favour.”
“What do you need warn me of?”
“I do not know enough specifics to be helpful, but you must watch the King carefully. You must keep him in check and ensure he makes no poor political movements. Peace between The Blacklands and The Hartlands is paramount. The Order expects great suffering in the years to come. You must protect yourself from it as much as you can.”
Jerimeh was used to apocalyptic predictions. It seemed that every new season brought a new doom. “And what would you ask of me?”
“Little in truth. The boy out there. He is a refugee of Ashfirth, his home destroyed in a raid on his village. The war has already begun. He did the Order a kindness, and so he must be protected. We have vowed to search for his mother who was taken, but whilst we try to find her, he needs a place where he will be safe.”
Jerimeh understood and he exhaled deeply. “And you believe that place is Harthelm? There will not be a more dangerous place in the world soon.”
“I do not put my faith in Harthelm, Jerimeh. I put my faith in you.”
Jerimeh shook his head. “Is this really how you want me to repay you?”
Jerimeh extended his hand. “Then so it shall be done.”
They shook hands and Jerimeh ushered Stillius from the room, but before they reached the door, Stillius stopped.
“Your worship. I feel that I must warn you. The civilian out there with the knight and the girl, he is going to offer you a handsome sum for an audience with King Aron. You must promise not to laugh at his request.”
Jerimeh sat across from King Aron, who had cheered little in the weeks since his son’s funeral. He had barely left his chambers and paid little attention to his council meetings. The King had entrusted most of the realm to his brother, Asher, who governed eagerly in his stead. In truth, Jerimeh was relieved that Aron was given the time to grieve, and Asher was a capable commander in his own right. In the weeks after the death of his son, Aron had sworn off wine and drank only water. Though the lack of alcohol had not seemed to have given the King any more joy. Jerimeh’s new oblate, Nadir, poured the water for them. He seemed a bright lad despite his low birth, and did not seem to fear the King as most children tended to. He simply went about his business and did as he was asked.
“That will be all, lad,” Jerimeh dismissed him.
When he left, Aron stared at the door for a few moments. It had been a while since Jerimeh had sat in his King’s chambers. They looked bare. It occurred to Jerimeh that the fine satin-draped, fur-covered bed-spread and rich tapestries that adorned the walls had been removed. All that remained were portraits of former kings, including the enormous gold-framed painting of Aron’s father, King Eldrian, that loomed over Aron’s seat like an unsurmountable mountain. Jerimeh’s gaze landed on Aron who eventually met his eyes.
“I thought you ended child oblation,” Aron said apathetically.
“He is not so much of an oblate as he is a refugee, your grace. I owed an old friend a favour.”
King Aron rolled his eyes. “You do what you can for your friends, your worship. It does make me wonder whether or not you think of me a friend.”
Jerimeh was hurt by the comment, and he was certain his face betrayed that. Yet he knew that the King grieved, and he knew that those who grieve have so much hurt to burden, sometimes they inadvertently pass it on to the people they hold closest to them. “My closest and most beloved, my King.”
Aron scoffed. “And yet you bring me no justice, no relief from this frustration, and I still do not know why my Queen was driven to madness. But here you are, happily providing favours for lesser friends, and here I sit in grief with justice nowhere to be found.”
Jerimeh’s heart pranged, but he could also not help the singe of anger that burned in his stomach like he’d swallowed a flame. He felt his brow furrow for a second, but he softened his expression before Aron had noticed. He looked into his King’s eyes. They rested on plump bags that suited a much older man, his lips were cruelly turned and his face was now almost constantly pink, as if he would explode with violence at any moment. King Aron had never been an aggressive man, but his grief and his frustration seemed to consume him completely beneath the eternal gaze of his father’s portrait.
“You will never find justice for this crime, your grace. Not truly. You may punish those responsible, yes…but I fear you will not find the satisfaction that you seek in that alone. I can tell you that you will feel alright again. Never quite complete, but enough for you to permit yourself some manner of joy. I am still searching. Each day I rise before dawn and each night I do not sleep until gone midnight. When there is light, I study your parchment. And when there is darkness…” Jerimeh hesitated.
Aron could not meet his eyes, but gestured with his hands for Jerimeh to continue. “And when there is darkness?”
“I confess my sins to Natos and Jivana, for the unholy things I do to find you answers.”
“What unholy things have I forced you to do, your worship?”
“When you ask these types of questions, the only way to find answers is to explore the unholy.”
Aron met his eyes, and Jerimeh saw a glimpse of the young boy he helped raise. He found compassion and tenderness, the traits that had made his father such a beloved king. “I have summoned King Aedvard to Harthelm to answer for the crimes of his daughter,” Aron told him.
His daughter, Jerimeh thought. That told Jerimeh more than he needed to know about how Aron now thought of his wife. His anger and his grief had destroyed all feelings of love that he once held for Queen Lorne. It took a moment for the gravity of the situation to reach Jerimeh, perhaps the decade of peace had softened his mind, but now those repressed fears rose to the back of his throat.
“I see,” Jerimeh replied, unsure of what to say. “What did your brother say?” Jerimeh blurted out, but as soon as he had seen Aron’s frown deepen, he regretted it.
“My brother has not said anything, because my brother is not the King.”
“Forgive me, your grace. I did not intend to offend you. I only wonder because you have been consulting Asher on many of the realm’s dealings lately.”
Aron seemed to accept the apology. “He is a capable commander. And he agrees that it is paramount that we address this situation before a war ensues.”
Jerimeh was stunned, but relieved if only for a moment, before he wondered about Aron’s intentions. “What will you ask of King Aedvard?”
“He will have a choice. He can make amends for Lorne’s crimes by bearing witness to her private execution and signing a treaty of peace, or I execute her publicly and take him and his envoy prisoner.”
Jerimeh’s heart sunk back down into his chest. All of the safety and calm that Eldrian and Aedvard’s peace brought about would be crushed under an avalanche of stampeding war horses. “Your grace…you must know Aedvard will never agree to these terms.”
“I know nothing of the sort, your worship. Aedvard will make his choice one way or another.”
“This will end in war. It is the only way that this can possibly end.”
“Only if that is what Aedvard decides.”
Jerimeh absorbed the atmosphere and stared into the King’s eyes. There was not a flicker of fear, or worry, or compassion. There was only wrath and sadness. What Jerimeh had known of King Aron had died the day he buried his son. The King did not seek justice, he sought revenge. He had no mercy in his heart, only vengeance. It was in that moment that Jerimeh realised this man could not be swayed by reason or empathy, he would not be influenced by experience or logic. This ruler knew the consequences of what he proposed, and there was nothing within him that cared. His son was dead, and if he couldn’t avenge him, then he had no purpose left in the world.
“Will that be all, your grace?”
Aron stared through him as if he wasn’t even there. “Yes. You mentioned that The Guildmaster confessed to making the…poison?”
“Yes, your grace, but he did not know what it would be used for. The concoction is a painkiller, only to be used in small amounts…”
Aron was unmoved. “And yet he made a gallon of it for an unknown buyer. He was negligent in his work, a negligence that lead to the death of my son. I thought you should know that he has been summoned to appear at court for trial. If he is found guilty, he will be put to death.”
“Your grace, please. Not every man in the city should be executed for this…the trouble this would cause…”
Aron paused. “I do not seek to punish every man in the city, your worship. Only those who were involved in the death of my son. It appears to me that you care more for the wretched scum that squirm in the pits of depravity than you do about an innocent child. It appears that you care more for an untroubled existence than true justice, and it appears that you will do whatever it takes to avoid the task that I have set you.”
“Your grace, please-”
“Enough! I have heard more than I can stomach of your insolence. You will go about your task that I have set, and you will have my audience only when you have news to tell me. Do I make myself clear?”
Jerimeh exhaled, defeated. “Crystal, your grace.”
Aron sat back in his chair, picked up a quill and dipped it in his ink pot before beginning to write on the parchment on his desk. “Then that will be all,” he said without raising his eyes from the page.
Jerimeh left solemnly, but immediately heard voices echo through the staircase. As he descended, the voices became clearer, and he saw the point of a sword pinning Nadir against the wall, just inches from his throat. The poor boy was still, but sweat covered his face as the sword was held equallly motionless. Nadir caught Jerimeh’s eye and the sword was immediately pulled from his throat as the assailant turned around swiftly and raised his sword to Jerimeh instead. In an instant, Jerimeh recognised him and the sword was lowered slowly.
“Your worship, please accept my apologies, you startled me,” Sir Trevon groaned carelessly.
Jerimeh had not seen Sir Trevon in a long time. It would have been fifteen years since he saw Sir Trevon dismissed from King Aedvard’s guard, and his face wore the signs of age. He had never been a handsome man, but once his rugged features and famed skill won him admirers from across The New World. Now though, his face was marked by lines and scars. His dark, squinty eyes always looked suspicious and his breath lingered in the air and filled Jerimeh’s nostrils with the smell of dark spirits.
“Sir Trevon, why are you holding my oblate against his will?”
Sir Trevon scoffed and then turned to the boy briefly before going back to Jerimeh. “Oblate is it? I thought the Amentians were invading with child soldiers,” he gurgled.
“What are you doing here, Sir Trevon?” Jerimeh asked as Nadir hurried to his side.
The knight stuffed his sword back into his hilt and stood straight. “The Prince sent me to patrol the halls.”
“I can assure you the King has enough of his own guards on patrol, and perhaps if the only person giving you trouble is a ten-year-old boy, then your services are not required here.”
Sir Trevon nodded slightly. “Don’t go running around the halls at night, lad,” he said to Nadir. “Always a pleasure to see you, your worship.”
The old knight wandered down the corridors and into the darkness. Jerimeh looked down towards Nadir. “Do not let him frighten you, lad. The best of that man died a long time ago.”
Nadir looked up at him. “He doesn’t scare me,” Nadir said. “Dying without finding my mother scares me.”
Jerimeh watched the child’s eyes. They were still and stony, filled with focus far beyond his years. He remembered what he had been through in his village, and what Stillius had told him about his bravery in the forest. In truth, Jerimeh did not know what to do with the lad. He was clearly spirited and sharp, but the life of an oblated monk required one to be brought up in a docile way. This lad was far from docile, far from anything that required a calm mind. Anything Jerimeh could set him to that would suit his development would frustrate and anger the boy.
“Tell me, Nadir. What is it you like to do?” Jerimeh asked. Nadir looked up confused, as if that was the last question he expected to be asked. “Serve the Gods?” The boy asked, eager to find the correct answer.
Jerimeh smirked. “You can be honest.”
Nadir paused for a moment and thought to himself. “I like to set traps…and catch rabbits.”
Jerimeh did not expect that. He looked at him and saw the child smiling, and suddenly a thought struck Jerimeh like a bolt of lightning. “Nadir, I think I may have a job you might enjoy.”