The latest from my online epic, Lore of the Underlings.
Chapter 1 continues:
Jixy backed away and looked for a gap to slip through the wall of watchers. But there was no escape from the ring of lights and lives that surrounded her. She cut behind John Cap and the boys and broke for the circle’s empty center. Bylo the Finder followed.
“Useless scrub! Soiled seed!”
“Quickly girl,” guided the tall young woman of gilded tresses. “Come here.” Her bright green eyes sparkled like precious jewelstones in the flickering torch light. “Stand at my side.”
Jixy ran to her as if they had known each other forever. As if they were blood.
“Surrender the sneak!” hissed the steaming Hamyx. “It belongs to me.”
The woman raised an open palm against Bylo’s charge. He halted and slid on the soft sweetgrass, landing hard on his hefty buttocks. “Oof!” Before he could pick himself up again, her two companions arrived as reinforcements. Morio planted himself on Jixy’s other side, John Cap three steps behind watching their backs.
The woman lowered her hand. “No harm shall come to this child.” Jixy gazed up at her with a look of wonder.
Bylo shook with anger, flinging droplets of stinking sweat all about him. “So this is the smelly cheese you sell? Well, as you wish. But know that the Guard have a garden of thorns ready for robbers of the Keep and those who harbor them.” He laughed bitterly and spit again, just short of the woman and girl.
“Oh I’m glad that’s settled!” chirped Morio, pulling out the boven sack of foods that Jixy had left on the ground. “Let’s all celebrate with a snack. I must say that I am most hungry after such a long journey.”
Suddenly, Bylo looked puzzled. “Journey?” he mumbled to himself.
Morio reached deep into the torn sack, but to his dismay came up with only a small Treasure Pie and a pickled billit egg. “It is somewhat short of a feast,” he sighed, pondering the items. “No matter.” A warm smile spread across his face as he turned to Jixy and handed her the golden, crusty pie. “This, my dear, is for you.”
Her innocent eyes grew wide, as if she had never seen such a delicacy. She looked up at Morio and back to the pie. Then she snatched it from his soft, meaty hand and gobbled it gone in three wolfish bites.
Bylo’s jaw dropped. His oozing eyes bulged.
Morio displayed the egg to the young woman, then held it out to John Cap. “My friends?” The woman stared back, expressionless. John Cap shook his head. “If you are sure,” said Morio lifting the shiny reddish orb to his mouth, “then don’t mind if I… Ouch!”
Something hard and heavy sailed past Morio’s nose and knocked the billit fruit from his grasp. It rolled away into a thicket of long blades, lost.
“Stop!” screamed Bylo, scarlet as the egg itself. “Accomplice! Leech! Caught red-handed. You mock me to my face, gorging on the very meal this runt stole from behind my back.”
Jixy picked up the broken chunk of pummel stone that had landed at her feet.
“Now, now. There must be some misunderstanding,” assured Morio calmingly as he rubbed his sore fingers. “Let’s have a drink together and everything will become more clear. Does anyone have a drink? Some brewn ale, perhaps?”
“I would just as soon shrink to a bloodless prune as drink with the likes of you. Ha! Or dine on a menu of maggots as sup at your side…” Bylo squinted suspiciously. “And these two, these pretty treelings…” he sneered, turning to the crowd and bending both of his snaky arms to mark the young woman and man. “Ask yourselves… whenever did such tall and fair ones spring from the soil of Syland?”
The swarm of folk began to buzz, like a poked pod of stingle wings. Then they and the night closed in tighter, breaching the arc of firestalks to flood the space with lightless heat.
“The Finder is wise!”
“He speaks an ugly truth!”
A gust of wind blew away the smoke of oil, wood, and meat that hung on the air.
More to come. To read this chapter from the start, click here.