By Michael Drakich
Sleinad walked from stall to stall doling out the morning portions of oats and grains. “A useless bunch of nags you are! Eating and eating and bringing me what, nothing! I have half a mind to sell the lot of ya to the tanner.”
“Is anyone here?”
Sleinad turned to look out the stable door. A group of men were congregated in his yard. “Ah, customers, and early ones at that! I smell a profit to be made, and perhaps a mouth or two less to feed.”
Exiting the barn, Sleinad walked to join the group. “Good morning, gentlemen. So nice to see you, and so early! What might I help you with today? A horse? A wagon? Or a combination? You’ll find no better deal than here at Sleinad’s Wheel.”
A burly man sporting a whip tied to his belt stopped scanning the yard to face him. “I’m looking for a horse.”
“Horses I have, some of the finest animals around, and at a price you’ll find quite reasonable.”
The man brushed by Sleinad to enter the barn. “Just show me what you got.”
The man looked into each stall and moved on, commenting as he went. “No…nope…not him…no…no…nope…wait! This is the one!”
One of the others who had accompanied the man leaned into the stall. “You’re sure this is the one, Vreedoo?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
Sleinad tried to quickly assess the situation. The horse in question was his acquisition only yesterday from the farm boy. The fact these men were recognizing it, returned him to his original premise that the animal was stolen. “Ya have a keen eye for horse flesh, good sir. I can let him go for twenty silvers.”
“Twenty sil…bah! I wouldn’t pay five for it, but that’s not the point. That horse is mine, stolen by a thief from my farm not five days ago!”
“I have no such knowledge of any theft, good sir, but if ya really want the animal, I can let it go for fifteen.”
Vreedoo pulled a long dagger and held it toward Sleinad. “What I really want…is to know, where’s the boy that sold it to you.”
A man, who, until then, had stayed in the yard, joined them at the stall. “Perhaps I might best retrieve the information.”
Sleinad turned to focus on this new man. “Master Pruutoc! How nice of ya, a superb wizard, to visit my humble establishment. Are these gentlemen friends of yours?”
“Friends? No, I think not. Gentlemen, unlikely…but employers, absolutely. They have hired me to deal with this urchin in my own way.”
Sleinad rubbed at his chin. “Is the boy a wizard then?”
“Unknown, for sure, but apparently he has the ability to summon demons to his aid.”
“In league with the underworld! What nasty business this! Then please hurry, I have sent him to my friends, Skymond and Skewmon, for lodging and repast at the S & S Inn.”
“Not so difficult now, was that. Pay the man for the horse, Vreedoo. He has cooperated most eagerly so that we can get with this business of yours and be done with it.”
Vreedoo grumbled and pulled up his coin purse to retrieve the fifteen silvers. “It’s highway robbery!”
Once the coins were deposited in Sleinad’s hand, Pruutoc pulled Vreedoo forward from the barn. “Don’t think of it as a cost, think of it as an investment. You know you’re not supposed to have slaves here in the farmlands. You would lose all should the authorities find out. Finding this boy quickly will save you much indeed.”
As the men walked away, Sleinad hefted the fifteen coins. “A good start for the day.”
Dyoran finished his breakfast of porridge with raisins and made for the door. Skymond woke him early on the promise of employment as a house servant for one of the town elite. With Brumain still on the mend, Skymond agreed to keep an eye on the bird while Dyoran was at work. No sooner did he reach the entryway, when the slave master Vreedoo entered with several men in tow.
“There you are, you worthless piece of flesh! What? You didn’t think I’d still come looking for you after you pulled that demon stunt and all? I’ll teach you not to fool around with me…Pruutoc!”
A man adorned in the robes of a wizard stepped forward and looked over Dyoran. “He is but a waif of a boy, surely this is not the man that pulled the demon from the stone?”
“The very same. I lost a good man that day, and an even better horse! Now I want you to make an example of him like you promised. That’s what I’m paying you for.”
Pruutoc sighed. “Very well, an example he shall be, despite the simplicity of the task, my fee will remain the same.”
Pruutoc gestured at Dyoran and cast his spell. “Exto-tato!”
What appeared as a flash of blue light, closed the gap quickly, but in the last instant, the raven flew in between, and in a shrill cry, negated the spell. Still hurt from the wound of the owl, it flopped to the floor, righted itself, and stared at Master Pruutoc.
“Ho! What is this? The boy has a familiar of some sort. My apologies, slave master. I thought you were paying my fee on a fool’s errand, and there would be no sport in it. But much to my surprise, I find myself confronted with a challenge. No matter, I will discharge with the bird and then deal with the boy, at no extra charge. But first, let us see what we truly face.”
Master Pruutoc stepped forward and cast a second spell toward the bird. “Reveal thyself!”
The raven shimmered and the ghostly image of an older man superimposed itself where the raven stood, stooped, bespectacled and holding a large tome under his arm.
Pruutoc broke out in laughter. “Brumain, you old fool! I thought I already did away with you! Your ability to survive surprises even me. Probably another of your measly tricks you’ve learned in that big book of yours. You never were overly skilled, just overly read. You know them all, just none of them well.”
Brumain bowed. “Good day to you, Master Pruutoc. Though I must say I am not pleased to see you once again. However, there you are, and here I stand.”
Dyoran bent down and picked up the raven. “Is he the one who bested you before?”
Before Brumain could answer, Pruutoc yelled out. “Bested him before, and will best him again. So, I understand that now you can summon demons, old man. Before I dispose of you, show me this new trick, that I might test myself with it.”
Brumain smiled and chuckled softly. “That is why you will fall, Pruutoc. For you are quick to judge. It was not I that summoned the demon. Yes, I was there, and just as surprised. But when I delved deeper into it, I discovered the true nature of the demon calling and the source of this paradox.”
Brumain pulled Dyoran to stand in front of him. “The power to summon the demon came not from me, but from one with the true power. Over these last few days I have imbibed him with all of my lore, waiting only this moment for it to awaken!”
Dyoran suddenly felt strange, like as if he was floating or growing and changing into something else, a bright green glowing effervescence enveloping him.
Across the room, Pruutoc watched and grew white in pallor. Vreedoo leaned in. “What is the meaning of this?”
Master Pruutoc looked quickly into the eyes of the slave master. “It means the boy has the Power and that we must all fight for our very lives!”
Dyoran looked over at the master wizard, the slave master and the others. All of the dreams from the past few days flooded into his mind. He smiled. Now, he felt like he could do anything.
A new and exciting author in speculative fiction, Michael brings a repertoire of science fiction, fantasy and thrillers to readers everywhere. Michael lives in the quaint neighbourhood of Olde Walkerville in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
I’ve been writing for some eight years now and have just released my fifth novel, Demon Stones. My previous releases include The Infinite Within, Lest The Dew Rust Them, Grave Is The Day and The Brotherhood Of Piaxia.
Visit Mike at his website – http://michaeldrakich.wordpress.com/