Reminder: After the fight with the Green Fish Gang, Carthinal’s gang, The Beasts, discover The Wren, Carthinal’s pickpocket partner, is missing. the Rooster, the leader of the gang, sends Carthinal and The Cat out to search for her.
Carthinal left with The Cat to search. “I think th’ guard caught ’er,” The Cat said. “I ’ope not. Th’ penalty fer killin’ is death by ’angin’.”
“But we don’t know she killed anyone.”
“There was a fight. Folks got killed. She was in the fight, so they’ll blame ’er fer killin’.”
Carthinal frowned, a sadness filling his indigo eyes. “Come on, then. First place to look is the jail.”
“We can’t go ter th’ jail, Fox. They’ll ’ave us in there as soon as we appeared.”
“Do you want to find Wren? If not, I’ll go myself.”
“Nah! I’m comin’ wi’ yer. I’m usually a lucky bloke. You have luck too, Fox. Mayhap our combined luck’ll ’elp us find Wren.”
The pair neared the jail and paused.
“I’ll climb onto th’ roof an’ see if I can find anythin’ out. There’s a chimney I can listen at.” The Cat sprinted around the side of the jailhouse and began to climb. Carthinal hid in a doorway opposite, chewing his fingernails. Soon The Cat returned.
“They’ve got ’er, alright. They’ve got a couple o’ Green Fish, too. Put ’em in th’ same cell, they ’ave. By luck, th’ Green Fish ’aven’t started on ’er. Not yet, anyway.”
“How can we rescue her without the Green Fish, too? In fact, how can we rescue her at all.”
The Cat thought for a moment. “If we can some’ow get th’ guards out o’ there, I can slip in an’ pick th’ lock. ‘Ow t’ stop th’ Green Fish gettin’ out, too, I’ve no idea.”
Carthinal pressed his lips together as he walked towards the jailhouse. He must rescue Wren. She was his partner, yes, but more than that. He was unsure quite how he felt about her. He was, after all, in terms of human life, just a boy in his early teens.
He passed through the door and found himself in a single room. On his left were two cells, and a table stood immediately in front of him. A guard leaned back on two legs of the chair with his feet propped on the table. He had his eyes closed. Carthinal drew in a breath. It was the guard who had thrown him out of Gromblo’s offices.
He turned to make a rude comment in order to get the guard to chase him but he heard a voice. “Fox!”
The voice came from the second of the two cells. Carthinal looked and saw a pair of hands gripping the bars of the door.
At the sound of her voice, the guard opened his eyes. “It’s you! Kendo Brolin’s grandson. What are you doing here?”
Carthinal swallowed the words he was about to say and looked at the guard with eyes wide.“You believe I’m his grandson?”
The guard nodded, “There was something funny about that death certificate. And there aren’t too many red-headed half-elf kids about.”
“Then why didn’t you help me? Why didn’t you expose him?”
“Grondin has friends in high places. It would have been dangerous to try. Besides, he made it worth my while to keep quiet.” He swung his feet down. “How come you know this girl? She called you Fox. Are you with The Beasts now?”
Carthinal glanced towards the cell door and did not answer.
“You know there’s a warrant out for any of The Beasts or Green Fish?
Wren called out from her cell. “There’s always a warrant for us. What’s new?”
The guard stood and walked towards the cell. “You keep out of this. There’ll be a rope for you.”
Carthinal thought quickly. How could he get the guard to release The Wren? He had an idea. “You said you knew the death certificate Gromlo showed you was forged. That means you knew he swindled me out of my inheritance, yet you did nothing. You took his bribe and left me to starve on the streets. I was lucky enough to fall in with The Beasts and that’s kept me alive.”
The guard looked at him through narrowed eyes. “What are you saying, boy?”
“I’m saying it would be hard on you if your superiors found out. Even after a year, they would still not take a good view of a guard taking a bribe.”
“You go to the bosses and they’ll arrest you before you get one word out.” He smirked at Carthinal.
The boy replied, “But if they got a letter, they wouldn’t know who it came from, would they? They’d have to investigate, and you would be dismissed. What would you do then?”
The guard laughed. “And who will write a letter? All you street kids are illiterate.”
“Are you so sure about that? Aren’t you forgetting who my grandfather was? He sent me to school.”
The guard blanched. “What do you want?”
“I want my friend released.”
“And how will I explain where she’s gone?”
“You’ll think of something. Now, give me the keys, and you go and stop those Green Fish from breaking out when I unlock the door.”
The guard picked up the keys, but before handing them to Carthinal, he turned to the door.
Carthinal jumped in front of him and drew his knife. His nostrils flared and his eyes blazed “Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to run out on me.”
The guard put up his hands. “I’m just going to lock this door, then if those thugs make a run for it they can’t get out. I’ll get them back into their cage then unlock the door for you and your friend.”
Watching closely, Carthinal held onto his knife and kept it pointed at the guard’s throat as he locked the jailhouse door and went to unlock the cell.
The Wren rushed out, followed by the two Green Fish. The guard tackled one of them, bringing him tumbling to the ground. The youth rolled over on top of the guard and looked like being able to overpower him, but the guard bucked and threw him off. As luck would have it, he banged his head on the wall of the cell and lay still.
Carthinal and The Wren took on the other youth. He was a big young man, but Carthinal threatened with his knife and as he approached, The Wren stuck out her foot and gave him a push. He stumbled enough for Carthinal to finish his fall and sit on top of him. He held the Green Fish’s long hair and pulled back, holding his knife at the other’s throat.
”Now go back into your cell like a good boy,” Carthinal said with a smirk, “or I might forget I’m a nice person.”
The guard dragged the first youth into the cell, and the second went in quietly, looking all the time at Carthinal.
“They’ll end up on the hangman’s gibbet, no doubt,” the guard said. “Now get out of here before I have second thoughts.”
Carthinal grinned. “You won’t. I know too much about you.”
He and Wren left the jailhouse and met The Cat outside. “What kept you? I thought you were goin’ in ter lure th’ guy out.”
“Long story, Cat, but I found a better way to do it. I’ll tell you on the way back to HQ.”
Wren reached up and kissed Carthinal on the cheek. “Thank you for rescuing me.”
He blushed. “I…it was nothing. You’re my partner.”
The Wren smiled.
Another year passed. Carthinal had been with The Beasts for just over two years. There had been many more fights like the one with the Green Fish. Other gangs tried to take over the Beasts’ territory. It was the best territory in Bluehaven, having the market. Carthinal learned to fight with his knife and usually came away with few injuries.
“The luck of the elves,” The Wren told him.
His relationship with The Wren deepened, and soon they shared a room. They were a good team, too, and The Rooster was proud of the way they never failed to get a good haul when they went out to pick pocket.
It was the spring equinox, Grillon’s Day and the first day of spring when they went out, not to pick pockets, but to watch the entertainers in the square.
Grillon’s Day was a day of celebration all over Grosmer. First, there was a service in Grillon’s Grove outside the city. Most people went there or to his temple in the city. Here the priests gave thanks to Grillon for past productivity and fertility. He was the god of the wild and wild things, and beloved by hunters, but because his day was the first day of spring, everyone worshipped him on this day. All except the gangs.
After the services, people came into the towns to feast and be entertained, then in the evening, there was dancing around the bonfires, after which couples sneaked away into the woods. Any children born after this celebration were not considered illegitimate, but thought of as Grillon’s children.
This year, a magician was billed to be appearing, and Carthinal and The Wren got to the square early. They stood hand in hand waiting for the show to begin.
It began with dancers in the centre of the square, then a group of singers appeared. Clowns and people on stilts followed . The stilt walkers began to dance and the audience clapped, cheered and threw money into the arena. A man dressed in a clown’s costume with a bucket, picked the coins up and then went round the crowd shaking it for people to add more.
A woman brought her dogs into the space and they ran around seemingly at random at the beginning, but then she began to play a flute and dance. The dogs followed her movements and soon they were all dancing, weaving around each other. That brought more cheers, and people threw money again. The same clown picked it up and asked for more from the crowd.
Finally the magician appeared. He wore a deep blue robe with stars and moons printed all over it. He had a hood pulled up over his head so no one could see his face. He waved his hands around in the air and appeared to pull coins out of the air.
“I wish I could do that,” whispered Wren. “We’d no longer have to steal to make a living. We’d be rich.”
“I don’t think it’s real magic, though,” Carthinal replied. “If he could conjure coins, I don’t think he’d be here doing that.”
The magician approached the crowd. He reached out his hand and seemingly pulled a sweetmeat from behind a small boy’s ear. He handed it to the child who immediately put it in his mouth and grinned.
This went on for some time, until Carthinal began to feel a prickling all over his skin. He scratched.
“What’s wrong?” Wren asked. “Got fleas?”
Carthinal shook his head and watched the magician carefully. He was muttering some words and a flame appeared on one of his fingers. Still muttering, he made it jump from one finger to the next.
The next thing he did, Carthinal felt nothing, then he felt the prickling again. This time the man held a globe of light that changed colour as he moved it around. He threw it into the air and it turned blue, then disappeared against the sky.
This went on for some time. The crowd loved it, especially when the magician conjured bursts of coloured lights in the sky. All this time, Carthinal’s skin prickled.
After the show, as the pair walked back to the headquarters, Carthinal said, “I think some of that was real magic. Not all of it, of course, just some of it.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Didn’t you get a prickling of your skin when he did certain things?”
Wren shook her head. “No, Nothing. Why?”
Carthinal looked down at her. “Doesn’t matter. I thought it was interesting, that’s all.”
Was it real magic, and can Carthinal sense when it is being used?
Please leave a comment in the comments box. and tell me what you think of this story.
If you would like to find out more about how Carthinal turns out and his later adventures, you can do so by reading The Wolves of Vimar Series. Just click on the book covers in the side bar to go to its page on Amazon, wherever you are.