Read The Awakened: Book One Online

Authors: Jason Tesar

The Awakened: Book One (7 page)

BOOK: The Awakened: Book One
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“No, that won’t be necessary.  I’ll take care of it,” replied Adair.  He rose to his feet and excused himself, a feeling of defeat replacing his prior sense of urgency.

Chapter 5

 

The sun was touching the western horizon, turning the dark blue of the ocean a fiery orange as Adair entered the courtyard of his mansion situated in the hills overlooking
Bastul
.  All was quiet except for the voices of his son Kael and Ajani, the youngest of the slaves.  Ajani was only slightly older than Kael, but much taller.  The two were throwing makeshift spears at a nearby tree, and from the look of determination on their faces, it was a competition.

“Hello, boys,” Adair said as he walked up behind them.

“Hello, father,” Kael answered without looking.  The boy was holding a spear above his shoulder, readying himself for his next throw.

“I don’t wish to disturb such a fierce competition, but I was hoping that you might know where I could find Saba?”

“He’s gone until tomorrow,” Kael answered.

Adair paused with his hand on his chin.  “Well, please continue,” he told the boys with a wave of his hand and walked toward the main entrance of the house.  To the right of the stairs, he found Maeryn sitting on a rock ledge which surrounded a broad-leafed tree.  She was pruning a flowering bush with her back turned to him.  Adair suddenly found a mischievous grin spreading across his face as he decided to sneak up behind her.

“Those flowers just don’t stand a chance at looking beautiful when you are next to them,” he whispered in her ear.

Maeryn jumped at the unexpected sound, spinning around.

Adair couldn’t help the huge smile of amusement that spread across his face.

Maeryn’s startled expression quickly melted.  She sprang to her feet and threw her arms around him.  “Where have you been?  Is something the matter?  You left so early!”

Adair rubbed his forehead.  “There is always something the matter; never a moment’s rest for me.”

For an instant, a flicker of some emotion crossed Maeryn’s face.  Adair had a talent for reading people.  It was one of the skills that allowed him to rise so quickly through the ranks to his current position of authority.  But sometimes his wife was a complete mystery to him.  And now was one of those times.  He knew he should ask her what was wrong, but it had been a long day and he wasn’t in the mood for an emotional conversation.  “Kael said Saba will be gone until tomorrow?” he asked instead.

“Yes.  He left just after dinner.  I think he was going to visit a friend.  Anyway, he said he should be back before sundown.  Are you hungry?  I could fix you something to eat.”

Adair smiled.  “I’m starving.  That would be great!”  He knew Maeryn suspected that something was wrong but dinner would be a good distraction.  Besides, he couldn’t tell Maeryn what had happened.  Especially when he wasn’t sure exactly what had happened himself, or how dangerous the situation might be.  Whoever attacked Bahari out at sea was thorough enough to search the beach for survivors, and it wasn’t safe to involve Maeryn at this point.

 

It was midnight, and there was a slight chill in the breeze coming off the ocean.  Adair had been unable to fall asleep and had wasted away the last few hours watching the curtains at the balcony dance in the breeze.  Only minutes ago, he decided that the arrowhead wasn’t going to lead him anywhere.  Saba was the only one who would be able to make some sense of it and turn it into a usable clue.  Unable to bear the boredom any longer, Adair rose from his bed, dressed, and grabbed a cloak before heading toward the guest quarters in the east wing of the mansion.  In Saba’s room he found a scrap of parchment in one of the desk drawers and laid it on the desk next to a burning candle.  Pulling a quill from its ink pot he began to write.

 

Saba
,

Something terrible has happened to an acquaintance of mine.  I am looking into the matter, but have been unsuccessful in finding any useful information to this point.  The only clue that I have thus far is this arrowhead.  I leave it in your possession to find out what you can about the people who made it.  I have been unable to find any meaning in it and would, therefore, be grateful for any information that would aid me in my searching.

Gratefully,

Adair

 

After blowing on the ink to speed its drying, Adair rolled the parchment and tied it with a thread.  He slid the arrowhead inside the tube of parchment and left the message on Saba’s writing desk before blowing out the candle and leaving the room.

 

Even in the early morning hours, the streets of
Bastul
were busy, though to a lesser degree than during the day.  The majority of the traffic belonged to merchants, wheeling their carts down to the docks to be ready for business as soon as the sun came up.  Groups of men clustered in the shadows nursing bottles of wine, occasionally shouting at the passersby, offering some meaningless challenge before collapsing from the exertion of raising their voices.

Through it all, no one noticed the silent, cloaked figure that walked briskly through the alleys, keeping to the shadows so as not to attract attention.  Adair was heading for the Shipping District, just as the merchants, but for an entirely different reason.  He would have preferred to take a direct route, but thought it best to stay out of sight.  It is not often that someone of his position goes skulking around in the early hours of the morning.  …
or, rather it is not often noticed!

Three blocks from the ocean, he came upon a series of small stone buildings that made up the majority of inns and pubs in the city.  Adair peered around the corner and could see a few people hanging around in the street.  They were either waiting to be the first customers of the day, or else, they were the last ones of the night.  Adair glanced behind to make sure that nobody had followed him and when he was assured, ducked down the back alley.  All of the business owner’s living quarters faced away from the main street and toward the alley, so Adair walked softly until he found the building he was looking for.

He walked to the appropriate door and knocked softly.  When no one answered, he tried again, a little louder this time.  The thick wooden door finally opened just a crack, orange candle light spilling from the opening.  Adair pulled back his hood just enough to reveal his face to the person inside and the door opened all the way.  A short, fat man filled the doorway, waving his hand rapidly for Adair to come inside the house.

After closing the door, the man put a finger to his lips and turned to walk through a low doorway at the back of the house.  Once inside the back room he shut this door behind them as well and offered Adair a seat at a small wooden table.  The table wasn’t the only thing that was small; in fact, it fit the rest of the room perfectly.

“What’s the occasion?” the man asked, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

“Why don’t you offer me something to drink, Gursha?” Adair said as he took off his cloak and draped it over the chair before sitting down.

“Sorry,” the large man muttered, and walked out of the room.

While he waited, Adair studied his surroundings as a matter of habit.  The table was obviously where Gursha ate his meals, but the walls were lined with shelves stuffed with an assortment of knick-knacks that didn’t appear to be kitchen related.  Before he was able to come to any conclusions, Gursha returned, carrying a bottle of wine and two dirty glasses.  He set them down on the table and slumped into his chair with a look of exhaustion.  Adair waited for Gursha to pour him some wine, but the man was clearly flustered with this meeting and overlooked it completely.  Adair wasn’t used to meeting his informants in their own homes, so he felt a little out of place, but obviously not as much as Gursha.

“Thanks,” Adair said, pouring himself a glass instead.  “I can see that you don’t prefer to meet in your home, but I can assure you, it will be worth your time.”

A greedy smile spread itself across Gursha’s wide face and then quickly retreated, replaced by a forced look of seriousness.  Usually, Adair didn’t have to pay any of his informants.  There were other methods of extracting information from people.  Some were happy to tell all just to escape the punishment that they justly deserved.  Others found themselves in trouble so often that they would do just about anything to have friends in high places.  Adair had found that Gursha was a unique case.  He ran the pub next door and was a legitimate businessman.  But there was a way to get to anyone, and Adair had a special way of knowing people better than they knew themselves.  The truth was that the
Dockside
couldn’t survive on its own.  Adair timed his meetings perfectly to coincide with Gursha’s financial troubles and was now in a position of providing the pub owner with a necessary second income, to which Gursha had become accustomed.

“Tell me what you know about a man named Bahari,” Adair said as he took a sip of wine, ignoring the stains on the side of his glass.

Gursha grunted and scratched his chin before his eyes lit up.

“A merchant.  Hasn’t been doing well lately…specially this year with the bad growing season and all.  He’s in pretty deep with Quartus.  Last I heard…took a shipment to
Nucotu
.  Hopin’ to get paid better up there.”

Adair liked what he was hearing so far.  “When is he due to return?”

“Should’ve been back a few days ago.  Missed his deadline from what I hear.”

“And why do you think that is?” questioned Adair.

“Don’t know.  Haven’t heard nothin’.”  Gursha’s eyebrows wrinkled as he tried to think of where these questions were leading.  “Didn’t have nothin’ to do with it,” he said defensively.

“With what?”

“Well,” he paused.  “You say he’s missin’, maybe you think I did sumthin’.”

“I didn’t say he was missing,” Adair corrected.  “You did.”

Gursha opened his mouth to defend himself, but promptly closed it when he realized that he had nothing to say.  Adair was amused at how easy it was to get this man where he wanted him.

“Look,” Adair offered.  “I know you wouldn’t be involved in anything like that.  But I want to know, in your professional opinion, why would a man like Bahari not meet his deadline?  And think carefully about your answer.”

Gursha looked down at the table while he considered the question.  Adair knew that this man had all kinds of information in his head.  Most of the time, he didn’t even realize it.  You don’t run a local pub without coming in contact with all sorts of people who like to tell stories.  But the best way to get information from Gursha was to make him feel as though he is constantly on the verge of losing his precious second income.  Fear tended to make this confused man think clearly.

Gursha finally started to speak.  “He was doin’ better ‘till this year.  Was close to having his debts paid off.  Things turned bad.  Maybe he ran away.” He smiled as the words came out, pleased with his conclusion.

“However,” Adair countered.  “He’s got a wife.  And you just said he was close to paying off his debts.  He wouldn’t just leave with the prospect of getting paid more in
Nucotu
.”  This line of questioning was really irrelevant.  What Adair needed to find out was where Bahari was when he was attacked, without revealing any information of his own.

Gursha returned to his thoughts with a look of determination on his face.  Adair thought he looked like he needed a push in the right direction.  “What are some other reasons that a man might disappear?”

“Two things,” Gursha responded.  “If he got in trouble…”  His speech trailed off as the thought got away from him and then returned in another form.  “He coulda been drunk, crashed his boat.  Course, he wasn’t a big drinker.”  He paused in mid-thought, still staring at the table.  “If he was tryin’ to get back on time…probably wouldn’t stop to sleep.  Coulda fell asleep and wrecked on the
reef
, people do that all the time.”

BOOK: The Awakened: Book One
5.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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