Horselords. Training

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Davrael was taking his turn at leading Moonbeam while Kimi rode. The usually dour and serious young man was smiling. He had never felt so happy in his life. He had no possessions, just his horse, which he reasoned they would have to sell when they reached Hambara, no family left except for Kimi, and no idea where their next meal was coming from, but he had never been more optimistic in his life. Of course, it was all because of Kimi and his love for her. At last they were together, and that was all that mattered to him. He turned and smiled up at her.
She smiled back. ‘I think it’s your turn to ride now, Davrael,’ she told him, stopping the mare and sliding down from her back.
‘Let’s both walk for a while, Little Mouse,’ smiled Davrael. ‘I want to hold your hand.’
Kimi reached out and took her new husband’s hand in hers, twining her fingers through his. They walked on together, not speaking, but just contented in the company of each other and the contact made through their handclasp.
It was a slightly warmer day than they had known recently. It was always a bit warmer in the lee of the mountains, but they had now left the range they knew as The Barrier far behind. The sun was shining too, adding to the feeling of optimism they shared.

‘Davrael,’ Kimi said suddenly, ‘I feel so happy. It doesn’t make any sense. Here we are, destitute and in a strange land. I should be feeling at least a bit nervous about the future, but somehow I don’t. I know everything will turn out well, somehow. Ever since we were married in that glade, I’ve had a feeling that we’re being looked after. It doesn’t make any sense,’ she repeated.
‘It’s because we’re together at last. Now nothing can separate us,’ Davrael replied, ‘Not even our parents. Somehow, I too know things will be fine. We’ll find work and somewhere to live, don’t you worry.’
Kimi laughed. I’m not worried, I just told you, didn’t I, you silly goose.’
They decided to stop for a break and something to eat as it was almost six hours since dawn and time for the mid-day meal. As they sat on the grass by the side of the dusty road, Davrael thought he heard something moving in the trees behind them. He quickly signed to Kimi to remain quiet and sit still. He stood, drawing his two knives, and crept silently to the trees behind them.

A man rose from the under-brush with a short sword drawn and ready. Davrael yelled a war cry and slashed with his left-hand knife. The man was not expecting this, thinking Davrael would use his right, a fact that Davrael was counting on. Davrael’s left-handedness had often caught unwary opponents in the Games held by the tribes on the plains.

The man parried the blow, but then was surprised by Davrael spinning and then bringing his right-hand knife into play. After a few more parries and attempts to get past Davrael’s guard, he took off into the trees. He had been unnerved by not only Davrael’s skill and the fact that he had never before faced an opponent wielding two weapons, but also by the frightening aspect of the Horselord with the hawk tattoo on his face. Davrael returned to a frightened Kimi.
‘Are you all right?’ she asked him, probing him with her eyes for any blood. ‘Do you think there are any more of them?’
‘Yes, Little Mouse,’ replied Davrael, ‘I’m fine. I think the man was just an opportunist who saw what he thought were two helpless travellers and thought he would try his hand at robbery. Maybe he wanted Moonbeam. She is after all a Horselord horse.’
‘Maybe,’ replied his wife, ‘But I think we should be moving on, just in case he comes back with friends. You know how these Grosmerians covet our horses.’
The pair set off again. After a while, Davrael spoke again to Kimi, who was once again riding.
‘I’ve been thinking, my love,’ he said, ‘That you should learn to fight. There are only we two, and we are vulnerable. If there had been more than one man back there, we would now probably have no horse at the very least, and maybe we would be dead.’
‘I can use my bow, Davrael,’ replied Kimi. ‘I often had contests with my brothers, and also went hunting with them.’
‘Yes, that I know, Mouse,’ replied the other, ‘but sometimes a bow is not enough. Sometimes an enemy can get in close before you can damage or kill him. Then what?’
They decided that each evening, Kimi would learn to fight using a pair of long knives like those Davrael wielded so efficiently. The Horselords did not use swords as did most of the folk of the northern part of the continent of Khalram, preferring to either attack with short bows from horseback, controlling their galloping mounts with their knees. If they were on the ground, they used two knives, longer than daggers, but considerably shorter than short swords.
That evening, Davrael began Kimi’s lessons. He told her to find a stick about the same length as one of the knives, and he did the same. He began to teach her the rudiments of defence with one knife, using a stick in lieu of a wooden practice knife. At first, he managed to ‘kill’ her every time. At the end of their first practice, which he only allowed to go on for about a half-hour, she felt her bruises where Davrael’s stick had got past her somewhat imperfect defence. She complained to him, and thanked the gods that he had not decided to use real knives or she would really have been dead, several times over.
‘Young boys begin their training at six years old,’ Davrael told her. ‘You are eleven years past that age. They would all be expert knife fighters by the time they are seventeen. You must forget how old you are, how good your brothers were at your age. Remember, you are as a six-year-old in this.’
She smiled at this thought, but it did bring her a little comfort. She had, in fact, been thinking that she was nowhere near as good as her brothers, but, as Davrael had pointed out, she was remembering them practising in their teens, not as small boys. Both her brothers were older than she was, four and eight hers her senior, and had always seemed so grown up to her. She could not remember them being as inept as she seemed to be with the knives.
‘You did very well, for a first attempt, Kimi,’ Davrael told her, and he pulled her to him and kissed her soundly. ‘We will practice every evening. Next time it will be for an hour.’
Kimi groaned at the thought of all those extra bruises.
‘You’ll just have to stop me getting through then, won’t you, my love?’ laughed Davrael as he pulled her towards him once more.
Each evening, when they stopped, they practiced with their sticks. Soon Davrael was hardly able to touch Kimi, and he began to teach her to attack as well as defend. He was very proud of the way she had taken to the skill. She was learning much faster than he had hoped, or even considered she could learn. She was a natural, as he told her one night, after they had made love under the light of both Lyndor and Ullin. He hoped that she would be able to handle a real knife by the time they reached Hambara. He would buy her one there, he determined. She would like that.
And so the pair continued on their way towards the second biggest city in Grosmer, unsure of why, or what they were going to do once there, but both as happy as they had ever been.

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Horselords Part 6

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First of all, may I apologise for not posting this part last month, but I promised to do the cover reveal for D.H. Nevins. thank you for your patience. I hope you enjoy this part.

Kimi rode her own piebald horse as they trotted out of the camp, waved off by Andrid. Kimi felt happy and began to hum a tune. She was going home at last, and her longing to see her family made her excited.

But it was a long way. The Swooping Hawks held a large territory, and it would take nearly a sixday to get back to Kimi’s father’s farm.

Each evening, Davrael came to talk with Kimi in her tent. Mimola sat at the back sewing so the two young people could talk without her presence disturbing them. At first, Kimi asked her to join them, but she declined saying she had sewing to do. She was embroidering a tunic for Andrid. It was a surprise for him and this was an ideal opportunity for her to be able to get on with it without him knowing.

During the journey, the pair got to know each other better. Kimi liked what she saw of the young warrior.

One evening, Davrael said, ‘You remind me of a little mouse, Kimi.’

Kimi frowned. ‘A mouse?’ she said.

‘Yes, a mouse. Not because you’re timid. You are definitely not that, but you are small and brown, and very sweet. Your hair is brown and your eyes are brown, and you are very tiny.’

Kimi was not sure quite how to take this comparison, but she decided to accept it as a compliment. She smiled at the man opposite her. He looked into her eyes with his paler brown ones and she felt as though an electric shock passed through her. He seemed to jerk back slightly himself, as if he, too. had felt something. She saw a slight frown pass across his face, then he was back to normal.

Each evening passed in a similar way until they reached the edge of the lands claimed by Kimi’s family. Then, Davrael gave orders for his men to stay where they were with the horses and he and Kimi rode on towards the homestead.

The sun had just begun to set when they arrived at the farm. They reined in their horses just as Kimi’s mother came out of the house. She carried a bucket towards the well when she noticed them.

Giving a scream of delight and surprise, she dropped the bucket and ran towards the pair. Kimi slid off her horse and ran towards her mother, falling into her arms.

‘Kimi, you’re back, you’re back,’ said her mother, over and over again.

Her father came out of the barn at that moment and saw Kimi. He dropped the bucket he carried and ran to where the girl and her mother stood, still hugging each other.

‘Kimi,’ he said, tearing her away from his wife and hugging her to him. ‘We thought you lost, perhaps even dead, and here you are returned to us. Praise to Kassilla.’

Kimi extricated herself from her father and turned towards where Davrael sat on his horse a little way away. She beckoned him to come forward and he dismounted and led his horse to where the family stood. Before Kimi could say a word, her father’s face darkened.

‘I suppose you’ve come for a reward. Taking our little girl and then bringing her back. Not to mention the horses. Where are they? I expect you’ve kept them.’

Kimi’s face fell. She turned to her father. ‘It wasn’t like that, father. Davrael did not capture me.’

‘Hmm. Then how come you’re with him now?’

‘Father, he rescued me. I was captured by the Prowling Lynx. Davrael’s from the Swooping Hawks. The Lynx were the ones who stole our horses, and me. They wanted fresh blood in the tribe and were going to make me marry the son of their chief. He was horrible. He’s a cruel young man.’

‘They’re all the same, the Tribes. Thieves all. If it hadn’t been the Lynx it would have been the Hawks no doubt.’

Kimi’s eyes filled with tears. ‘Father, the Swooping Hawks are honest and they’ve punished the Lynx, including their chief. They would never have done the things the Lynx did.’

‘Perhaps they didn’t steal the horses, but where are they now? Tell me that.’

Davrael held up his hand and whistled. From out of a stand of trees, three warriors drove the missing horses. Kimi rushed to the gate of the paddock and opened it as the men drove the animals in.

‘But you want a reward, don’t you? Your kind never do anything for nothing. What do you want?’

‘I’m just happy that Kimi is back with her family. and safe. I want nothing more.’

‘Well go, then. You’ve brought our daughter back. There’s nothing more for you here. I won’t pander to the greed of the Tribes. It’d only encourage more theft and kidnapping.’

Davrael leaped onto his horse’s back and, calling to his men, he galloped ioff into the distance.

Kimi rounded on her father, tears in her eyes.

‘How could you, Father? Davrael was so kind to me. You were rude and now he’s gone.’ She burst into tears without quite knowing why.

‘Come in, dear,’ her mother said. ‘You must have something to eat and a nice hot drink,’ and she led her daughter towards the house. Kimi turned to look at her father.

‘I didn’t think you could be so hard, father,’ she said. ‘Davrael is a nice, decent human being,’

‘Of course he is. He wants you to think that, then you’ll be able to get round me to provide a reward. Or so he thinks.’

He turned and went back to his work.

Kimi was glad to be home with her family, of course she was, but she did miss Davrael. This surprised her as they’d not known one another very long. then one day, about a sixday later, as she rode along past some trees, a rider came out, She screamed, but then recognised Davrael.

Riding up to him, with a huge smile on her face, she said, ‘Davrael, what are you doing here?’

‘I came to see you. I needed to see you. Kimi, I missed you.’

‘And I you, Davrael. I’m sorry my father was so horrid.’

‘Kimi, in the time we’ve been apart, I realised I wanted to see you more and more. My tribe had moved near to the border of your land, following the horses and so, if you wish, we can meet a few times each sixday.’

He looked so anxious that Kimi almost laughed, but she smiled and said. ‘Of course I want to see you, Davrael.’

During the next few months, the couple met as often as they could until one day, Davrael said he wanted to marry Kimi. He had told his father, but he had forbidden marriage with one of the Settlers. The Tribes view of the Settlers was not much better than that of the Settlers for the Tribes. Davrael’s father had also arranged for a young woman to visit to see if Davrael liked her, so they could marry. It would be a disgrace and a dishonour if Davrael were to reject her out of hand. The young man told Kimi he would be prepared to give up his place in the Tribe and settle down in one place, if that was what was needed.

Later, Kimi spoke to her mother and told her of Davrael’s promise.

‘Your father will never agree, even if Davrael does settle down, although I can’t see him doing so, The Tribes are wanderers.

‘Mother, once our ancestors were wanderers, too, and they settled. I’m sure Davrael can do it.’

Of course, her mother was right. Her father adamantly put down his foot. No daughter of his would marry a Tribesman. He would find her a nice, steady young man to marry, and give them six of his best horses for a wedding present as well as some land.

The pair met in secret then, hoping against hope something would change.

Will Davrael and Kimi manage to change their parents’ minds to allow them to marry? Read next month’s instalment to find out.

Please leave any comments on this episode in the comments box below.

If you want to know more about Davrael and Kimi, read The Wolf Pack.

http://mybook.to/TheWolfPack

Aspholessaria

 

 

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The days passed. Asphodel worked and Vass went out with the people he called his friends. One day he brought them home with him. Asphodel did not like them and after they had gone, she told him so. Vass laughed at her and said that it did not matter. They would get them money and riches.
‘When, Vass?’ Asphodel asked him. ‘I see little coming in yet.’
Then one say, about a week later, he placed a bag of coins on the table.
‘I told you I’d get money, Asphodel, didn’t I?’ he said.
‘Where has this come from?’ she asked. ‘There’s as much here as I earn in two days.’
‘Ah, from selling stuff,’ he replied.
‘Selling what?’

‘Stuff.’
‘Where did you get it from? You didn’t steal it did you?’
‘Steal?’ Vass’s eyes widened. ‘Why would you think I stole it?’
Asphodel walked to the table and picked up the bag.
‘Because I can’t think of what you had to sell that would bring this much money,’ she told him.
She put the bag down again.
‘I need to know where you got the ‘stuff’ you sold, Vass.’
Vass turned away from her and stomped to a chair.
‘You sound like my mother, Asphodel. My friends gave it to me to sell. They took some of the money and I had the rest. Now give it a rest. We’ve money for the rent with some left over. I’m going out again.’
And with that he strode from the room, slamming the door behind him.
Asphodel worried. She worried about where the money came from and what Vass had been given to sell, and she worried about Vass himself. He seemed to be changing. He was out much of the time and when he was in he was not as loving as he had been.
Asphodel waited, and waited, and waited. She went to bed. In the early hours of the morning she heard the door open and Vass came in. He was full of energy and sat on the bed.
‘That was the most amazing evening, Asphodel,’ he told her. ‘We went all over the city and my friends took me to some places I’d never have been able to find without them there were lots of taverns hidden in back streets and I couldn’t have got back on my own.’
Vass paused to take a breath. Asphodel rubbed her eyes and sat up.
‘One tavern had a bear in a cage at the back and you’d never believe what it could do and they had a talking bird–I don’t know what kind, but it was colourful–it was swearing like a…a…oh, I don’t know. Someone who swears a lot.’
‘Vass,’ said Asphodel, ‘slow down. I can hardly make sense of what you’re saying.’
Vass laughed. It was almost a giggle. He stood up and began to jump around the room like a child.
‘Oh, I feel so great, Assy. I could do anything. I can’t sleep. Come out with me.’
‘Vass, I need to sleep. I’ve got to go to work tomorrow.’
‘Oh pish to your work. I can earn enough for us both. Look, I’ve got a bag of money here.’
He pulled a rather thin bag out of his pocket and put it on the table. He looked crestfallen for a moment, then he laughed.
‘Oh, look. I seem to have spent it all. I wonder how that happened?’
Asphodel got back into bed and turned over.
‘Asphodel, come out with me, please.’
The girl took no notice of him and so he eventually left once more, picking up the meagre money pouch as he went.
This went on for several weeks. Vass had initially been selling grimlo, a powerful drug. Then one night his friends has persuaded him to try some himself.
‘After all, you need to know what you’re selling to the punters,’ one of them said.
Soon Vass was spending more money on buying the drug for his own use than he was getting from the sales. His ‘friends’ demanded their share of the sales, but Vass did not have enough to pay them for the drugs he bought from them. He was also drinking heavily.
One day, he came to Asphodel and demanded she give him money.
‘Vass, you’ve been spending money we can’t afford on your drinking and, I suspect, drugs too. That was the ‘stuff’ you were selling, wasn’t it?’
Vass looked her in the eye.
‘What if it was? It got us money, didn’t it? We needed money too.’
Asphodel sighed.
‘Vass,’ she said, ‘you’ve not brought any money in for an age and you’ve spent all my earnings. I don’t have any money. We are in debt and are likely to be thrown out of this hovel because we have no money to pay the rent.’
Vass narrowed his eyes.
‘Then give me some of your precious jewellery to sell. I can get some more grimlo from my friends and sell it for more than a necklace is worth. That’ll get the rent and more.’
Asphodel reluctantly handed over one of her gold necklaces and Vass left. She left soon afterwards for her own work.
Later that day, when she arrived home, she found Vass sitting on a chair in the apartment. He looked at her as she came through the door.
‘I need some more jewellery,’ he said abruptly. No greeting nor kiss.
‘Where’s the money you promised when I gave you the last piece?’ demanded Asphodel.
Vass made no reply, but stood up and walked over to her.
‘I need some more,’ he said. ‘That wasn’t enough. I needed to pay my friends for what I’ve already had. Now I need money to get more.’
Asphodel looked him in the eye.
‘Well, you’re not getting it from me. You’ve spent all my cash and my wages and are now spending my jewellery. You aren’t going to sell any grimlo, are you? You’ll buy some more from your so-called friends and use it yourself. You’re addicted, Vass. Those people saw you coming. They trapped you nicely. Get you to start off selling the stuff and promise great riches, then they get you to try it yourself, and bam! you’re addicted and spending all your, no my, money making them rich.’
Vass’s eyes blazed.
‘Give me your jewellery.’
He reached towards the cupboard where the jewellery was kept.
Asphodel stood in front of it.
‘No!’
Vass raised his hand and swiped Asphodel across the face, then he punched her in the stomach and left her doubled over in agony as he reached into the cupboard and took the pouch of jewellery. As he stormed out of the room, a ring fell from the pouch and Asphodel crawled over to pick it up.

Aspholessaria.

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Once in the village, the pair found an inn where they booked a room for three nights. Vass said if there were work in this village they would see about finding a more permanent place to stay, if not, they would need to move on. After all, their money and Asphodel’s jewellery would not last for ever.
Asphodel left Vass in the inn bar talking to some of the villagers about work. She made her way to a herbalist.
‘Do you have any herbs to prevent pregnancy?’ she asked the old woman who seemed to be in charge of the shop.
‘Is it for you?’ the old woman said, peering over her glasses.
When Asphodel answered in the affirmative, the old woman looked at her sharply.
‘Are you married?’ she asked.
Asphodel blushed and looked down at her feet.
‘Why do you ask?’ she said.
‘Because I don’t encourage promiscuity. I don’t sell to unmarried women and girls.’
‘Y-yes,’ lied the girl. ‘We were married in Quantissillaron just before we came here.’
‘Hmm.’ The old woman peered again at Asphodel, then said, ‘I’ll have to believe you. I don’t know anything about elves so I can’t tell if you’re lying or not.’ She turned round and reached up to a box on a shelf behind her. She weighed out some of the herbs then reached for another box. From this one she added a different herb. She put them into a pestle and began mixing them together.
When she had finished, she took a small pot and poured the herbs into it, then fastened a lid over the top.
‘Take a tea made with one spoonful of the mixture each evening and you will have no trouble with pregnancy,’ she said. ‘You have enough there to last you for three or four weeks, but don’t forget you need to take it every evening.’
Asphodel handed over the money the old woman demanded than almost ran back to the inn.
Vass laughed when she told him she had got the herbs, and almost rushed her up the stairs to their room.
They did not find any work in the village, and so they left after their second night at the inn. Vass thought they should go to Frelli, the capital of Erian. There would be more work there, he reasoned, and so they set off once again.
It took them a sixday to reach Frelli. The capitol city was in a wide valley in the Mountains of Doom, not too far from the border with Grosmer. in days gone by, there had been many wars and skirmishes fought between the two neighbouring countries and Frelli had developed into more of a fortification than a city.
From the Erian side, it appeared as a normal city, with surrounding walls it, but on the Grosmer side, the valley narrowed and the walls had been built across the valley, completely barring access.
Asphodel and Vass approached form the Erian side, of course, and so did not see the forbidding approach from Grosmer. They passed through the gate into a city of streets that seemed to wind around in a spiral towards a castle with a high tower.
‘So this is Frelli,’ Asphodel said, as they searched for an inn. ‘I’m not sure I like it very much. Not much in the way of trees is there.’
Vass shrugged.
‘We can stay here for a while and make some money, then we can go somewhere you’d like better, if that’s what you want.’
Asphodel smiled.
‘Yes, I’d like that. Somewhere where the wildlife can flourish, Perhaps a little farm somewhere.’
Vas put his arm round her.
‘I know nothing of farming,’ he told her, ‘but if that’s what you want, I’ll learn.’
The pair found an inn, and the next morning set off to try to find work. Asphodel quickly found a scribe who was looking for someone who could read and write. His last clerk had left the previous week. Vass, on the other hand, found work more difficult to come by. He had no skills required by the businesses in Frelli.
‘Couldn’t you get something as a labourer?’ Asphodel asked him one evening.
‘What? Get myself filthy? Darling, I don’t want to come home to you dirty.’ He lifted up a lock of her black hair and kissed it. ‘I have more respect for you than to expect you to live with someone who’s dirty.’
‘But you could get washed, Vass. I would barely see you dirty.’
Vass looked at her.
‘Asphodel, the labourers end up with the dirt ingrained in their skin and hard hands. I don’t want you to have to put up with callused hands on your beautiful skin.’
Asphodel sighed. She argued no further but thought she would not mind as long as the hands belonged to Vass.
Vass left again the following morning to look for work and for somewhere for them to live. After all they could not live at the inn. It would be far too expensive. Asphodel left soon afterwards to begin her new job at the scribe’s office. At the end of the day, she rushed back to the inn to tell Vass about her day. He told her he had not looked for a job that day, but had found them somewhere to live. He had put down a deposit and they could move in immediately.
Asphodel was delighted they had somewhere to live, but said, ‘ Why didn’t you wait until I came home before you took it. I’d have liked to have a say in where we’re going to live.’
Vas put his arms round her and said, ‘Asphodel, my darling, I daren’t wait. The place might have gone by the time you got home. There aren’t many places to rent in this city, you know. I had to make a decision straight away.’
They gathered their meagre goods and, after eating a last meal at the inn, went to the apartment Vass had found.
Asphodel was appalled. It was in the poorest quarter of the city with rats running around in the filthy street. The apartment itself was one room. It had a filthy rug in the centre of the room and a sofa that looked as if it had been dragged in from the rubbish tip. It, too. was filthy. There was a greasy sink in one corner of the room, and a fireplace with an oven at the side. In the fireplace were ashes left from several fires.
As she stood there, not believing that Vass could have agreed to rent this place, a cockroach ran across her feet.
‘Vass, this is awful,’ she told him. ‘We can’t live here.’
‘It’ll only be until I find work and we can then get something better. Darling, we can’t afford anything better at the moment.’
‘I suppose it won’t be too bad if I can get it clean. I’ll start now. It’s a good job we ate before we left the inn. I wouldn’t like to eat anything that had been cooked in here.’
Vass told her he would only be in her way if he stayed. He was not very good at cleaning, he said, so he would go out.
Asphodel spent the evening cleaning. She did not get everything to her liking, but it was better than before. She killed at least two dozen cockroaches, and went out to buy mousetraps as she felt sure there must be mice there.
A large cupboard stood next to the sink, and this she filled with cleaning products and then she cleaned out a small cupboard with a mesh front for food. The bed she could do little about, but she determined to wash the sheets the next day. They had access to a small garden at the back of the house and she thought she could wash the sheets before she went to work the next day and with any luck they would be dry when she got home. The mattress she could do little about that night, but decided that one of the first things she would do would be to go out and sell some of her jewellery and buy a new one.
Vass turned up just before the eighteenth hour of the day. (On Vimar, the day began at sunrise on the equinoxes, 6am, and so it was the middle of the hours of darkness when Vass arrived home.)
Asphodel brushed a strand of hair from over her eyes and stopped cleaning the fireplace.
‘You’re late,’ she said.
‘S-sorry,’ stammered Vass. ‘I meeted, no, met, shome blokes in the tavern.’ He staggered. ‘They shtold me all shorts of shtuff. Oh, I feel shick.’

He rushed to the sink and was sick.
‘That’sh better,’ he said, collapsing on the bed.
‘Vass, you’re drunk!’ Asphodel said, but he was already snoring.
The next weeks followed a similar pattern. Asphodel cleaned before and after work and Vass went out to meet his new friends. Each evening he came home drunk. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
One evening Vass did not arrive home at all. Asphodel was at last satisfied with what she had done to the apartment and had been out and bought some flowers and put them on the table. she cooked a meal with what they could afford and waited for Vass to arrive.
The meal got cold, then congealed. Asphodel threw it away. The night crept on and Asphodel fell asleep on a chair. She worried that Vass had gone somewhere else in Frelli and had got lost in the maze of streets. The layout of the city was confusing. It appeared to be straightforward, with the roads spiralling towards the castle, but in reality it was a maze.
Just as she woke, the door opened to admit Vass. She had dark circles beneath her eyes from worry and lack of sleep.
‘Asphodel,’ Vass said, taking her in his arms. ‘You look awful. So tired.’ He ran a finger over her eyes. ‘You mustn’t go to work today, but sleep to get your beauty back.’
Asphodel yawned and pushed him away.
‘I must,’ she told him. ‘You’ve no job and we need money. You’re spending what I earn drinking with your friends.’
Vass laughed. ‘I’m investing it,’ he replied. ‘My friends can get me work. I need to keep on their good sides though, so I must drink with them.’
‘What sort of work? Your ‘friends’ don’t seem to do very much.’
Vass tapped the side of his nose.
‘I can say nothing, yet,’ he told her. ‘I need to sort a few things out first, but be assured, I’ll soon have more money than you’ve ever dreamed of.’
Asphodel turned to the door. Then she turned as she left and said, ‘I’ve never dreamed of money, Vass. Just you.’