Deliverance Ch. 02byDarkHaze©
First of all, thanks to everyone who took the time to read, rate and comment on the first chapter. I know it’s been ages, but I’ve finally knocked together another chapter, a little longer this time. I’m not sure if all the names, places, terminology etc will be overwhelming, but see what you all think. And don’t worry, Izak and the mystery girl will return next chapter. Enjoy!
Chapter 02: Burdens
The merchant city of Joraleth was the busiest place in the entire eastern kingdom. Located on the edges of the Piazzu desert, its vast white buildings were like bleached bones in the sand. The city was encircled by a great stone wall, with high towers arcing up into the sky that ensured the archers and sentries manning the defences could spot approaching danger from all sides. From above, the city of Joraleth looked like it was surrounded by a great white crown.
Joraleth attracted people from all over the world of Avalus, and had quickly become known as the capital of trade. Its markets were always bustling with traders, its taverns constantly overflowing and its streets teeming with activity.
Arryk Eldor loved it here.
He stood at the top of the steps overlooking Ila’s Square, Joraleth’s huge market district. Hundreds of hide tents were packed into the area and crowds of men, women and children of all species swarmed amongst them.
It had been a long time since Arryk had last visited the city, longer than he had ever spent away and far longer than he preferred. But in truth, Joraleth never really changed.
Arryk’s dark blue eyes surveyed his surroundings as he made his way down the steps towards the sea of people around the stalls. He clutched the shape of the leather satchel tightly under his arm as he entered the square.
Arryk slipped in amongst the crowds and became instantly assailed by the sights, sounds and smells that made Joraleth such an amazing place to be. It truly was a cross section of the society of Avalus; barring of course the denizens of the forbidden Black Regions in the south, one had the chance to see not only the varied cultures of the Eastern Kingdom of Man, but also individuals and groups from other species such as the winged Trivas or the mysterious Silans.
Market vendors and tradesmen bayed, squabbled and shouted as they bartered and advertised their goods. Children laughed and squealed as they chased each other through the jungle of adult legs. Arryk kept a casual air as he moved, but his gaze was constantly watching those who passed close by. There were pickpockets aplenty in Ila’s Square, and Arryk had too much at stake to have his plans ruined by the swift hands of a street urchin.
He took some time to examine the different stalls and tents as he made his way across the Square;you could find anything in Joraleth.
Arryk passed a trio of weapon smith tents that were displaying a variety of arms and armour. He spotted the strong, unyielding steel of longswords crafted in the Drell family armoury sat alongside exotic lances from the Mistonian Isles. Large round shields made from the sturdy trees of the Anrin forests hung next to a gigantic suit of spiked armour that looked dangerously similar to that worn by the demonic soldiers of nightmare.
Nearby, he saw an apothecary surrounded by tables of various potions, salves, ointments and other more questionable concoctions. The small, bespectacled figure was promising incomparable treatment of wounds and ailments, the top of his gleaming bald head glowing pink in the merciless sun.
A vividly garbed man and woman stalked through the teeming mass of people, proclaiming themselves as enchanters. They offered to bless his sword so he could smite his enemies with the force of the gods themselves. Arryk politely declined.
The smells of exotic fruits and other varied produce from faraway lands mixed with the aroma of sizzling meats in the area of the markets where the food vendors plied their trades. Now and then, the undeniable scent of blueweed smoke reached Arryk, the potent drug as popular as ever in the city.
At a number of intervals, he spotted skimpily clad whores from the Velvet Dagger. They moved smoothly through the crowds, working their sultry magic to entice those with enough coin to satisfy their fantasies. Joraleth had a great number of whorehouses, but the Velvet Dagger was by far the most renowned, if not infamous. Arryk flashed a brilliant grin at each of them as they sauntered past, vivid memories of his many visits filling his mind. He had spent enough time at the Dagger to know almost every one of the girls by name. Arryk made a mental note to drop by when he had some spare time, and see if there was any new talent on display.
Arryk marvelled at a place that openly accepted debauchery and the deeper pleasures of the flesh, among other generally unfavourable activities. The laws of the kingdom were slightly relaxed in comparison to places such as Tyrell’s Keep or Jannicksville. The merchant princes that ruled over Joraleth made sure that their monthly tithes to the king were nicely swollen with added bonuses, in exchange for a blind eye being turned on some of the more unsavoury business that occurred within their city.
No place had ever felt more like home.
Arryk spotted his destination just ahead, a generally unimpressive domed tent made from a filthy patchwork of materials that had perhaps been white at some point. People passed it by without a second glance, and paid no attention.
Arryk glanced briefly around him before pulling the hanging veil of the tent aside and ducking within.
It was dark inside, and surprisingly cool. The air within was thick with cloying smoke, and as his eyes adjusted to the darkness Arryk managed to make out the shape of an incense burner on a nearby table.
He cleared his throat to speak, his eyes squinting into the shadows.
There was sudden movement either side of him, and Arryk froze as a pair of blades was suddenly at his throat. He looked to the left and then to the right at the wielders of the heavy swords, two dangerous looking figures in dark robes that stared at him with murderous eyes. They had emerged like phantoms from the smoky darkness, uttering not a sound.
Arryk swallowed hard and tried to remain perfectly still. A voice filtered to him from somewhere, a rasping whisper that set Arryk’s teeth on edge.
‘Eldor…do you have the artefact?’
Arryk squinted slightly, trying to penetrate the gloom. He could just discern the outline of someone sitting near the back of the tent.
‘I have it,’ he said, reaching for the satchel under his arm. One of the guards seized his arm and yanked the satchel from him, stepping away with the bundle held in one massive hand.
‘Come closer, Eldor,’ the voice uttered after a moment.
The sword at his throat was lowered and Arryk stepped forwards, glaring sidelong at the emotionless guard. His dusty boots sank slightly into the pile of furs covering the ground, and he crossed the space of the tent until he reached a separate section at the back. The guard who had taken the satchel from him adjusted a lamp hanging above, and a dull glow emanated around the small section.
A thin, narrow faced man was sat behind a long table, watching him through hooded grey eyes. His head was shaved bare, and he had a thin black goatee. A crossed scar was etched into one of his gaunt, sunken cheeks.
‘Malik.’ Arryk greeted him with a stiff nod, the very sight of the man making the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
‘Eldor,’ Malik returned in his rasping tones. ‘Please, have a seat.’ He gestured with a pale, skeletal hand towards the chair before him.
Arryk stared at Malik for a moment before sitting in the chair. The satchel was open on the table, and the artefact it had carried sat on top of it.
It was a heavy, leather bound tome, the black
cover beaten and worn. The pages had yellowed with age and the book had a stale, musty scent.
‘It has been quite some time,’ Malik said. ‘I trust your journey was not too…arduous?’ He grinned, showing a row of sharp, pointy teeth.
Arryk had spent the better part of a year seeking that damned book. And it had cost him more than just time. He still shuddered at the thought of the places he had ventured to in his journey, and the things he had seen.
‘I survived.’ Arryk gave a shrug, trying to remain nonchalant.
Malik chuckled, a horrid suck hiss that made Arryk cringe. Rumour had it that Malik had been poisoned by one of his associates in a bid to seize his criminal empire. But even Dragar poison had failed to kill the sadistic bastard. And as for what happened to the associate…
Arryk forced the thoughts from his mind.
‘I heard tales of quite an eventful time in Vandire.’ Malik raised an eyebrow with a smirk.
Arryk stared at him. ‘Your men all died. Do you have my payment?’
Malik stared back at him for a moment before gesturing at the guard standing beside them. The robed figure turned and reached into a chest in the corner, before dropping a small sack that landed with a heavy thud upon the table. Arryk opened the sack and smiled as the glint of gold shone up at him. Malik had promised a tidy sum for the book, but Arryk would have happily turned down ten times the amount to stay out of the Dark Lands. The persuasive technique of Malik’s goons beating the shit out of him and threatening to ram hot pokers down his throat had somehow affected his decision, however, and sent him on a journey through hell.
‘We’re done now.’ Arryk pushed his chair back and rose from the seat, securing the gold in the pack over his shoulder. ‘You have your goods, and I have mine. Our business is finished.’
Malik just continued to smile at him, that unnerving smirk. His grey eyes glinted in the dull light.
‘Our business will never be finished, Eldor. We have crossed paths countless times, and our tangled little web will always bring us together, one way or another. It is the fate that was written for us.’
Malik was reverently stroking his fingers across the cover of the book, tracing the raised symbol on the leather. Arryk tried to avert his gaze. The symbol made him nauseous if he stared at it for too long.
‘Goodbye, Malik.’ Arryk walked away, his boots cushioned against the piles of furs. He paused as he lifted the veil of the tent.
‘Be careful with the book. It is more dangerous than you know.’
The rasping suck hiss chuckle followed him out of the tent.
Arryk sat nursing a tankard of Talaskian ale, staring into the amber liquid and ignoring the busy sounds of the tavern. The meeting with Malik had left a bad taste in his mouth, and not even the strong, oaken flavours of the beer could displace it.
Arryk thought he would be relieved, almost overjoyed, to be rid of the book at last. But he was tired, and shaken from the experience. The accomplices Malik had sent to ‘assist’ with the search had all perished in a number of horrific ways, and even though most of the bastards had deserved it Arryk could not shake the sounds of their screams from his mind.
Arryk was surprised that he felt empty from the sudden lack of any purpose. The past year he had been entirely focused on his search for the elusive artefact, and now he just felt at a loss.
Arryk patted his backpack reassuringly. With the haul he had received from Malik, he could easily cover the costs of his journey and still have enough to do anything or go anywhere he wanted.
I could go home, Arryk thought, taking another sip of his ale. He owned a rather luxurious manse in the tropics of Urdeshia, the closest place to heaven on Avalus. It had remained locked and gathering dust for close to two years now. But it was more of a house than his home.
Maybe a few weeks spent at the Velvet Dagger would cure his mood. Arryk smirked and shook his head. He would pay a visit soon, very soon. The trials of his quest had left little time for his more primal urges. But for now, he needed to rest. He drained the last few dregs of the tankard and slid from his seat, tossing a few bronze coins onto the bar with a nod to the innkeeper. Without a second glance at any of the raucous patrons currently drinking their currency away, Arryk made his way up the stairs and retired to the room he had hired.
It was small, with few furnishings, but the large bed dominating the area was all Arryk cared about. He dropped his pack next to the bed and undressed, leaving his clothes and sword in a pile on the floor. As soon as he had slipped between the covers, Arryk had fallen into a deep sleep.
Arryk woke suddenly, eyes darting around the small room. Night had fallen, and a thin shaft of silver moonlight was shining through the framed windows. He ran a hand through his unkempt, sandy coloured hair and tried to discern what had woken him. Normally he could sleep amongst a herd of wild boar and not stir once. His body only jump started itself when there was danger nearby.
Arryk pulled the covers aside and reached over the edge of the bed, his hand closing around the hilt of his sword. With a soft ring of steel, he drew the blade and rose to his feet, scanning the room. The stone floor was cool beneath his bare skin as he padded slowly towards the door. He checked the handle, but it was still securely locked.
He was about to turn back to his bed when the sharp point of a dagger was suddenly pressed to his throat. Arryk froze. He had felt no presence behind him. He let the sword slip from his fingers, where it clattered to the ground. He gave a frustrated growl.
‘This is the second time today I’ve had a blade to my neck, and I can’t say I’m too fond of it. Either cut me open now, or let me get back to sleep.’
He could almost hear the smirk in the voice that replied.
‘What a pity. I really would have expected more from such a famed adventurer.’ There was a sarcastic edge on those last two words.
The pressure against his throat softened, and the edge of the blade was dragged slowly downwards along his neck and back upwards again. He felt warm breath caressing his ear, a sultry whisper.
‘There’s a juicy little price on your head, Arryk Eldor.’
The voice was feminine, but strange. The tone and accent kept shifting at random intervals, making it impossible for him to identify his would-be attacker.
‘And the client has requested very specific conditions.’
Arryk’s breath caught in his throat as the blade was suddenly held beneath his manhood, the edge pressing into the base of his shaft.
‘Tell me, Arryk Eldor,’ the voice purred with a soft chuckle, ‘have you had a blade to your cock at all today?’
Arryk focused on remaining perfectly still. The only sound was the pounding of his heart. It seemed to shake the entire room with its heavy thump-thump, thump-thump.
A slender thumb encased in dark red leather ran slowly along his shaft, brushing back and forth with a soft, feather light touch that sent a tingling pulse straight through him. Arryk closed his eyes and groaned involuntarily through gritted teeth, silently willing himself not to grow aroused.
‘What, no quips? No witty remarks?’ The voice was full of amusement now. ‘Oh, Arryk Eldor, all that time in the Dark Lands has made you a dullard. You used to be such fun.’
A hot, wet tongue traced the outline of his ear, swirling around the earlobe. The gloved thumb was rubbing firmly across the head of his cock now, and his shaft began to harden and grow inexorably.
Arryk groaned again and winced as the sharpened edge of the blade began to cut into his flesh. A stinging sensation grew at the base of his shaft, which was soon coupled with a sharp pain in his ear as teeth sank firmly into his earlobe.
Arryk tried to draw his hips back and pull away from the dagger cutting into his cock, but his body betrayed his mind and was reluctant to break from the tantalising touch of that single thumb.
The figure seemed to sense this, and the other hand snaked round and gripped his cock, firmly stroking the length of his shaft in its leather digits.
‘Such a shame to take your manhood, but the price is very tempting,’ the voice purred. ‘Tell me, what would you do in my situation?’ The hand gripping his shaft squeezed tightly, and Arryk forgot his peril entirely. He mumbled a string of incoherence, and the figure behind him laughed.
He almost didn’t notice the blade being withdrawn completely, but the sensations that were sending bolts of pleasure through his loins suddenly doubled as both of the gloved hands were suddenly stroking his length in unison, pumping his cock in a quick, firm rhythm that made his rigid shaft quiver and twitch. Beads of precum began to leak from the swollen head, and a thumb swept across the tip to smear the warm liquid around. Soon both of the hands were pumping even faster, sliding quickly up and down as Arryk’s cock became slick with his own fluids.
Arryk groaned loudly this time, the sound escaping easily from him as he felt the pleasure overwhelming him. His breath was coming in ragged gasps, and his entire body was starting to tense.
Everything stopped as quickly as it had started. The hands released his cock, which stood proudly on its own, quivering with its need to unleash. His senses suddenly came flooding back, and Arryk blinked as if he had been slapped.
He heard the dagger being drawn again.
‘You’re a nice size now, Arryk Eldor,’ the voice said, suddenly devoid of any emotion. ‘Makes it that much easier to cut.’
Arryk snarled and spun to face the intruder, grabbing for the hand clutching the dagger. His attacker was clad in a hooded cloak that obscured their entire features, leaving only the lower section of the face just visible.
His move was a fraction too slow, and the cloaked figure dodged away nimbly. Arryk leapt forward and tackled the figure, his arms clutching around its slender waist. Both of them crashed to the floor, but before Arryk could press the advantage of being on top of his attacker, a boot was planted into his midriff and he found himself flying through the air.
Arryk landed on his stomach on the bed, cursing as his head cracked against the oak headboard. He rolled over just in time to see the figure leap up to land on top of him, straddling his waist. Powerful thighs squeezed tightly against him, and Arryk lashed out with his fist, catching the hooded visage in the jaw.
The figure’s head snapped back and the hood slipped, revealing youthful, pretty features with exotic tanned skin framed by long, raven black hair. Her luscious, full lips had a thin trickle of blood leaking from one corner where he had struck her. She grinned down at him, her deep green eyes intense and fierce, before her tongue snaked out and licked the blood away.
Arryk ceased his struggling as recognition slowly crossed his face, quickly replaced by confusion.
She responded by pressing her lips to his and kissing him hungrily. She moaned deeply, her tongue pushing insistently into his mouth. Her hips pressed down hard against his naked crotch, and Arryk could feel the heat of her sex through the material of her leggings.
Arryk pulled away from the kiss with some effort and Talia’s teeth sank into his bottom lip, biting hard. He growled and tore his flesh free, grabbing her by the shoulders and staring into her wild, vibrant green eyes.
‘What the fuck are you-’
Talia silenced him abruptly with her hand over his mouth, shaking her head as she continued to grind wantonly against his cock.
‘Shut up. Time to talk later.’
She shrugged the cloak from her shoulders, the rune-spun material spilling to the floor in a pool of midnight. Beneath, Talia wore a leather corset that was the same dark red as the gloves that stretched up to her forearms. The corset had intricate black patterns inscribed across the leather, and though Arryk could not see them, he had no doubt Talia would have a number of blades secreted in hidden sheathes amongst the tough material.