The Seven Jewels

by Rev. Joe Kelly
read from the beginning

part two.

The captain was a large man, almost heroic in size and stature, but he had a gloomy and dour aspect about him that no hero should have. It was this, and the fact that he was an outsider, a mahogany-skinned Wose of the far western isles, that set him apart from the men.

Nidru sighed as he left the troop and approached the captain. Once again, he would have to play ambassador between the men and their leader, for the sergeant could tell even those loyal soldiers were close to mutiny. And no wonder: they had been dragged far beyond their duties, into a dangerous land… all because of a woman.

Nidru muttered a curse and halted a few steps from the captain. He knew the Wose was aware of him, though he gave no sign of it.


He got not so much as a grumble from him.

Nidru tried a different tactic: “Alruf.”

The captain grunted, “What?”

“How far do you have to take this?”

“To take what? My duty to the Shah-ru?”

“Midrada doesn’t want you risking a full troop of his city guard in the pursuit of one thief. You know he would never order such a thing.”

Alruf shook his head ever so slightly, his attention still on the wash around them. “My duty is to break up the brotherhood of thieves that plagues Amul. We pursue one of the worst and most murderous of their number.”

“But he’s come all this way–surely he doesn’t intend on returning to Amul! You’ve chased him out of the city. Midrada is rid of him. What need, then, is there to run him down?”

Alruf did not reply.

Nidru swallowed hard. “This is not about your duty to the Shah-ru. This is a personal vendetta. You and I both know it. The men know it.”

Alruf’s shoulders tensed a little, but he said nothing.

Nidru ventured a little further: “No woman–”

Alruf whirled on him, and Nidru found himself halted before his baleful glare. Through Alruf’s tangled black hair there blazed his bright blue eyes. They gleamed ferociously from his face, like Angra Mainyu’s lightless fires dancing madly in the Outer Dark. So uncanny was his aspect, that the men liked to joke with the other troops that their Captain was a djinni. But Alruf’s demoniac temper was no joke, and even his own men quailed a little when those eyes burned fiercely upon them.

Nidru found his voice again. “No woman is worth the lives of the men of your troop. Hell, no woman is worth your life alone!”

Alruf glared at him still, but the burning fury faded; and he hesitated before he shook his head. He muttered, “This isn’t about her.”

“Then it’s about your pride! Your barbarian’s honor! For that, will you get us all killed?”

Alruf considered Nidru’s words a moment. At last he turned back to the head of the wash. “He’s near.”

“He’s miles away!”

Alruf shook his head. “He’s waiting for us. He wants to be done with this thing.”

“How could one thief possibly face two score of men?”

Alruf turned back and smiled sardonically. “He’s a match for any ten of the men. Maybe more.”

“One thief–and a boy, at that?” Nidru scoffed. “You mean to tell me a boy of barely twenty would be a match for even one of the Shah-ru’s hand-picked guards? He’s a big son of a bitch, I’ll grant you that, but he’s no soldier, and by Marodak, he’s certainly no mighty warrior.”

“You haven’t seen him in action. He moves like lightning. And word has it he’s one of the Kans.”

Nidru gave Alruf a canny smirk. “I don’t believe for a second a Chazgar renegade, no matter how impressive his feats, is one of the Kan clan. None of those arrogant bastards would stoop so low as to become a thieving rogue.”

Alruf turned back to the top of the wash, where it opened up to the low plateau. “Like I said, you haven’t seen him in action. I wouldn’t have believed it myself otherwise.”

“You’re just sore that he fucked your woman.”

Alruf’s eyes blazed once more. His jaw tensed with the pain of wounded pride.

Nidru’s smirk faded. “She’s not worth it, Alruf. No woman is–and certainly not her.” He stopped short of calling her what she was: a harlot. That might be enough to set Alruf off.

They held a staring contest for a moment before Alruf turned to the head of the wash once more. Nidru sighed, and turned to walk back to the men. “I’m going to have the men pitch camp at the base of the wash.”

“Belay that,” Alruf barked without turning. “We’ll camp up on–”

Something snapped beneath Nidru’s heel.

Both men whirled to face each other. Tensely they watched the edges of the wash. The troop was staring about in furtive fear. Their hands hefted spears and shields.

There was a slight sigh, a hissing, as of sliding cords–and the sides of the wash exploded to thundering life.

All around, rocks and boulders the size of men’s heads and torsos burst out from the sides and tumbled down in a crashing avalanche. The wash funneled them inward, directly towards the men. The soldiers, the best and bravest of the Shah-ru’s army, screamed, threw their arms aside, and fled like desert hares, stripping off their armor in their panic.

Nidru chased them down without thinking and hollered, “Turn back! Idiots! You’re running into the path of the rocks!” Thinking only of his men, he was heedless that he had made the same mistake. Alruf shouted after him: “NIDRU!” Too late: a boulder smashed into his back and sent his crumpled and bloody body flying limp through the air.

on to part three.

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