The following is a short excerpt from a dark fantasy story I’m currently working on. The story follows Sagan, a student of master assassin/warrior/spy Preceptor Zora. When they accept a job to investigate the kidnapping of an Inquisition Guild member, they assume its just another ploy by one of the other guilds that are locked in a power struggle with the Inquisition. But when clues suggest the involvement of worshipers of the nefarious Elders, the so-called simple job will lead them down a path into unfathomable darkness and put Sagan’s training and loyalty to Zora to the ultimate test.
Sagan’s head pounded like a blacksmith’s hammer as he laid beneath the heavy layers of bearskins and mammoth hides. In the back of his throat the stale stickiness of last night’s copious amount of mead lingered like an unwelcome guest. The after taste made his stomach flip-flop and his bowels grumble, but he knew any attempt to get out of bed and rush to the outhouse behind Preceptor Zora’s adobe lodge would only result in a head spinning crash to the dirt floor and passing out in a seeping pool of his own filth.
He gritted his teeth and swallowed back the surge of biting bile as it seeped into his mouth, a harbinger of his unruly stomach’s contents. The sensations were nothing new, he’d lost count of how many nights he’d wasted drinking himself into a stupor along side that behemoth Narr. Sagan should’ve know better than try to keep pace with the big man’s insatiable thirst for mead, but his pride always got in the way. Most likely it was Narr who brought him home, again. Hopefully, his bumbling giant of a friend managed to avoid Preceptor Zora’s attention, else Sagan would be sending the weekend whitewashing the walls, again.
Jarring voices and clanging dishes swept into his room from the other side of the crimson silk that hung in the archway across the room. They were followed by the pungant aroma of frying goat meat and boiled yams. Ordinarily it would be a tantalizing aroma but Sagan’s stomach recoiled at the idea of anything filling it. He yanked the blankets around himself and curled into a ball, hoping that he could once again retreat into the depths of sleep. But the chattering of women’s voices and the yapping of a wolf-pup needled through the thick layers of fur. The noise made his head feel like it was being split open by a butcher’s cleaver.
The rustling of the silk drapes and plodding of barefeet filled his room like a swarm of irate hornets. “If you aren’t dead you best get up now, otherwise I’ll feed your share to the pup and you can do your chores on an empty belly.”
The sound of Preceptor Zora’s shrill voice sent a tremble down Sagan’s spine. A mountain lion sharpening its claws on a slab of limestone would be more pleasant. He pulled down the blankets just enough so that he could see the wiry middle-aged woman with a complexion like a melting snowman and a mop of steel gray hair pulled up into a top-knot looming over him. Her pale forehead was covered with the elaborate winding and eliptical ritual scars that only a master warrior could wear. A few more elongated ivy-like scars meandered down both sides of her face and looped around her ice blue eyes. As usual she wore a pristine robe crafted from polar bear and arctic fox fur over a loose fitting violet silk tunic and matching pants.
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Sagan said, flinging the blankets aside, “but I still draw breath.”
Zora glared at him. “Mind your tongue and get up, Taos is waiting on you.”
Sagan slipped out of bed and sucked air through his clenched teeth as the room seemed to teeter around him. It came as no surprise to him that he still wore his grey wool tunic and leather breeches, both of which reeked of sweat and Laka smoke. Perhaps its was the potent effects of that weed’s smoke that made his head throb. He wondered if he should find another friend to spend his nights with besides Narr or spend them by the fire with his grandmother and listen to her tales of the Ancient days. “Taos, what’s she doing here?”
“How should I know,” Zora said, heading out of the room. “She will only speak to you, you know that. Now hurry or I will stick her in the stew pot for tonight’s meal.”
Sagan ran one of his calloused olive hands through his disheveled black mohawk and then down over his long oval face in an attempt to wipe away the lingering fatigue. As his fingertips brushed against the jagged scars on his forehead that marked him as a student, he sucked down another lungful of air and exhaled before trodding out of his room.