The Kingdom of Zaniah
”Oh my apologies for offending you miss. Where are my manners? ” Nimers voice was sarcastic as he rolled his eyes.
Ray beat the ground with her foot and grabbed Jex by the arm. ”Come-on, Jex. Lets leave this mule to drown in his riches. ”
Jex pulled against her, ”No, wait, ” he insisted and approached Nimer once more. He fished into the small case attached to his belt. He pulled out the blood stained shard and placed it on the table. ”Here. ”
Nimer froze, blue eyes narrowing on the broken shard. He picked it up and handled it, stroking it with care. ”Where did you get this? ” he asked.
”An old man, he came through our village just this week. He told me he slew a dragon to get it, ” Jex insisted.
Nimer sat back down in his chair and mulled over the shard. Power surged from it, a power that longed for Jexs touch. He handed the shard back to Jex with a long, lingering sigh, memories flooding him like water. ”I can believe he held onto it so long… he must- ” he paused tapping his chin, ”On that thought, Ill take you. ”
Jexs eyes gleamed as he stuffed the shard away, ”Excellent! ” he turned to Ray, ”Hes gonna take us! ”
Ray bunched her lips. ”Jex, may I speak with you a moment, ” she asked, pulling him aside. ”Are you insane? Jex, we can go with him. We don know him. He could be the wrong person. ”
Jex knitted his eyebrows, ”Ray he knows the way. Hes our only hope on this. ”
”A week Jex, I said a week. ”
Jex sighed, defeated. ”All right hold on. ” He turned back to Nimer, ”Um we have a time limit. Can we do this in a week? ”
Nimer gave him a long stare that dulled the longer his eyes were on the farm boy. ”A week? You might as well turn around and go home. This trip is nowhere near as short as a week. Who came up with that bright idea? ”
Jex bit his lip holding Ray back whose face had turned vibrant red with rage, ”Well do it, as long as it takes, ” Jex said in Rays defense.
”Hm, change of mind? ” Nimer said and slung his bag over his left shoulder and walked past them with his last words, ”Meet me tomorrow at the city gates by day break. Don be late, ” he said opening the tavern door and grinned as he slammed the door on the way out.
Billows of frozen particles drifted in clouds from Ray and Jexs breath as they rode towards the gates of the city. The sun began to rise, deep reds and oranges blending with the deep blue of the fading night. A vast shadow hung over the city, dropping the temperature several degrees. The morning was still. Torches still bore diminished flames for the early morning travelers. All was quiet, almost dead.
Jex turned to Ray meeting her stubborn expression of displeasure. He had received an ear full the night before. No matter how many times he apologized, Ray would not listen.
”Come on, Ray. It will not be that bad…
” he urged.
”Look on the bright side. We
e going on an adventure. Is that not enough? ”
Ray refused to say a word. Jex sighed and pushed onward. The sun peeked over the foothills ahead of them casting morning shadows on the rocks of the mountains before slipping behind grey clouds still hanging in the sky. Jex feared a storm.
As they approached the gate Nimer was there waiting for them. He leaned against the outer wall, low lit embers burning in the chamber of his pipe. A stench of exotic herbs hung in the air, ones Jex had never smelt before. Two curved, brass handled cutlass hung sheathed at his sides. Next to him stood a profound stallion, black as the voids of sleep. A feral glint hid deep in the placidity of its eyes though appeared docile for the moment.
Nimer glanced up from the ground and pulled from his thoughts as Jex and Ray dismounted. ”I thought you would never show, ” he said then knocked the rest of the loose ash from the chamber, slipping his pipe away in his coat.
Jex glanced to Ray then to Nimer, ”Sorry, we had a late night. Hope you weren waiting too long. ”
”Not at all, ” Nimer answered. ”Well be heading towards the next town. Its about three days north of here. Well stop for camp along the way. Where I am not liable for your safety, I ask of you to follow me as close as you can to prevent anything I can assist you in. Well spend days traveling and evenings hunting and preparing camp, ” Nimer informed, ”Oh yes, what weapons do either of you have? ”
Jexs head was in a whirl from the information, but answered, ”Ray is excellent with a bow but I find myself to be quite an expert with a hunting knife. ”
Nimer sighed, ”So useless. Oh gods… ” he added and turned to his horse.
”If you don like it, then don lead us, ” Ray spat, a little loud for the time of morning.
Nimer turned to her with a gleam of danger in his eyes. ”If I wanted to lead you I would, but that would distract to my intensions. ”
”What intentions? ” Ray growled.
”Time brings answers, not man. ” Nimer mounted his steed and pulled back on the reigns as it snorted smoke from its flared nostrils. ”If it were up Id leave you to find the kingdom yourself. I am a guide, not a book, not a leader. I know the way and I will guide you there. End of discussion. ”
Jex mounted his steed and Ray mounted hers in reluctance. She rode behind Jex as they followed Nimer out of the city and climbed the hill to the main road headed, north bound. At the top of the hill, Jex turned and looked back at the blue tinted city. He wished he could stay longer, but returning would have to wait for another date.
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