Lowborn Ch. 10byDarkniciad©
Mindblind blinked his eyes open, squinting against the morning light streaming through the window, and tried to focus on his surroundings. Eventually, Raven congealed out of the haze, standing at the foot of the bed with her hands on her hips.
"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"
"Morning to you, too," he said as he sat up and groaned. He was stark naked, and as the sleep fog burned off, he recognized he was in a room at the Cat.
"The hell made you run off alone like that, you damned idiot? Figure you were just going to walk up there, cut his head off, and come back for a beer?"
"Not exactly like that."
"And what about this?" Raven knelt down, and then stood up with a blood-stained sheet. "Damn healer had to spend an hour pulling chunks of steel out of your hide before he could do anything else."
"It's a long story."
Raven walked over and plopped down on the foot of the bed. She lifted a hand and made a little circling gesture with it. Long story or not, she planned to hear every word of it.
Mindblind sighed and launched into the tale of learning that Reed was behind the whole thing, and how his sword had urged him on, almost taking control of him. The metal shards were explained by the explosion of the magical blade. There wasn't much to tell after that, because Raven had arrived not long after.
She blew out a whistling breath. "I've heard about magic stuff that gets in your head like that. You're lucky as hell. Guess we should have listened to Indigo."
"Magic never has worked real well on me. My sisters used to throw spells at me all the time. Started calling me Mindblind because I was the only one who couldn't do anything with magic. Hell, even Vlad can do some little things he's learned from the Heraklan temple."
Talking about them set off a sudden surge of homesickness he never would have expected. Home was only a few miles away, but it suddenly felt like a thousand.
"Well, I guess you survived, and you have a good enough excuse, so I'll let you off this time."
"Thanks," he said sarcastically. "Don't suppose my pants are around here anywhere?"
"It's a whore house. Who's going to notice if you're swinging in the wind?" She laughed. "Actually, Pomp sent over some things, because your stuff was pretty torn up and bloody. In the drawers there."
"It's nice enough and all, but I hope he isn't going to follow me around like a damn puppy trying to pay off that debt he has in his head," Mindblind said as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and opened the drawer.
"Not going to complain about one part of it. I can't believe the change in Yani. She's almost... Normal."
"Yeah, she looked a lot better when I saw her last night, even when she was passing out. What time is it, anyway?"
"Damn. I was out for a while."
While Mindblind dressed, it was Raven's turn to tell him about a few things he'd missed since he collapsed the night before. "Between Pomp, Indigo, and Yasmine, they convinced the guard and the governor to leave us out of it. Only other one they talked to was Yani. We're all free and clear."
"Least I don't have to get raked over the coals."
"Guess the two that were with Reed didn't really know what he was up to. They knew enough for him to bribe and threaten them, but had no idea how far he was willing to go to salve his burnt ego. His lordship is going to give Yasmine the coin from selling off that blueblood scum's stuff. Hardly makes up for what he did, but I guess it's something — and he is dead. You could have saved some for me, you know?"
Mindblind cinched up his new pants, which were of a cut and material that probably made them worth more than the whole of his sparse wardrobe at home. The shirt was likewise fine. His old, comfortable boots contrasted sharply with the new attire, but he was going to put them on anyway. "Suppose you could find where they've laid him out and stick him a few times."
"Don't tempt me. I'm of half a mind to cut off that inch worm of his that started this whole mess."
A knock sounded on the door, but it almost immediately flew open. "Are you decent?" Alice asked as she swept into the room with Betty and Cammie hot on her heels. "Damn, we're too late."
Mindblind shook his head and chuckled as he pulled on his boots. "Things getting back to normal?"
"Nope. Yasmine isn't going to open back up until tonight. We've been shooing guys away from the door this whole time. And that's sort of what we wanted to talk to you about."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Yasmine really likes all our ideas. She's sending a letter to Yvonne and Samantha about it, and she's going to help us set up in Stingy Pussy. We were kind of wondering if we could use one of the wagons?"
"Hell, I got no use for the damn things," Mindblind said with a shrug.
"Hard to hide from the law in a wagon," Raven added.
"Great. We figure it will only take us a couple of months at the inn to have enough to find a place of our own."
"Stuff that," Raven said. "I'll give you some coin so you can get your own place to start, and hire some burly guy to watch out for you."
"I... R-really?" Alice stammered. All three of the prostitutes wore looks of stunned surprise.
"Yeah. Just a few conditions. I don't pay when I need some pussy, the place has to have a back door and a basement, and I can crash there sometimes if I need to."
"Done. Hell, we'll set you aside your own room," Alice said.
"I'll give you all the free ones you want," Cammie said, and giggled.
Raven grinned, and then moaned. "I'll catch up with you later. I've got to do some business to get the coin."
"Don't get caught before you get back to us," Betty teased.
Raven twitched her eyebrows. "As if."
"Well, we're going to see about hiring a guard then. Maybe we find somebody who will do it for free ones, and save us some more coin."
"Probably can," Mindblind said.
Alice cocked her hips to the side and struck a provocative pose. "Interested?"
"Thought I was already getting free ones?"
She laughed. "You are. A girl has to try, though."
"Go on," Raven said, waving her hand. "Lots of guys in Stingy Pussy waiting to get their pricks wet. You don't want to keep them waiting."
"We can't thank you enough — either of you," Cammie said.
"You're welcome. Now get out of here," Raven told them, again waving toward the door.
The three filed out the door and Mindblind heard Betty say, "Think he's about to get a free one." The other two laughed as the door closed.
"Heh. Tempting, but I figure you're pretty much fed up with bed, huh?"
Mindblind nodded. "I need some fresh air."
"And I need to go fence a few gems to get them that coin. Meet back here in a couple of hours?"
"Yeah, guess so."
Raven looked him up and down. "You know, Pomp's got pretty good taste. You look good in that."
"What worries me is how well it fits."
Raven laughed. "Yeah, that usually requires some measuring. Think he just has a knack, though. Sent over things for all the girls that fit just as well, so doubt he was measuring you up with his eyes — at least specifically."
"Don't be late getting back here. Last time you weren't where you were supposed to be, it got pretty hairy."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"You do that," she said, and offered her crooked smile before heading out the door.
It took Mindblind a few minutes to make it out of the brothel, because everyone wanted to greet him. Even Yani was up and about, looking better than the night before. The healer was obviously good at his job.
Eventually, he made it out the back door, and took a deep breath. Feeling the need to be alone with his thoughts for a while, he walked straight out from the back of the Cat, into the fields scattered around town.
Mindblind knelt next to the rectangle of recently turned earth and sat down a bunch of wildflowers he'd gathered up just before returning to town. Delly had kept flowers in her room whenever they were in season, so he guessed that she'd probably have liked the gesture.
"Ain't real good at this," he muttered under his breath. "Guess I just want to say sorry, and thanks. Never felt like a damn outcast when I was with you. Wish I could have done something to keep you from getting killed. Best I could do was kill the son-of-a-bitch that was responsible. Hope that's enough."
Feeling extremely self-conscious, he remained for a minute or two more before making his way out of the graveyard. As usual, he kept his eyes fixed straight forward, trying not to notice what was going on to the sides. It helped when he couldn't see the people staring at him or darting inside.
It was impossible to completely avoid, though. A man walking down the street in the opposite direction drew near, and out of the blue, offered a brief nod of his head before passing by.
Somehow, Mindblind contained his surprise. What happened next was even more shocking. Someone approached him from the side of the street, moving to intercept him. He paused, not sure what to do in the completely unfamiliar situation.
"I just wanted to say that you did a good thing," the old man said. "Sure he didn't hurt anyone as bad as he did those folks at the brothel, but he caused plenty of pain to the folks around here over the years. Wouldn't nobody else have stopped him."
"Just did what I had to do," Mindblind responded, at a loss for words.
"Well, I'm glad you did, and I ain't the only one. I won't trouble you no more." With that, he nodded and returned to his place sitting on the weathered wooden porch of a storefront. The group of similarly aged men he was rejoining all nodded or touched the brims of their hats in Mindblind's direction.
After that, Mindblind let his eyes roam as he continued across town. Naturally, some still shied away as he approached, but others nodded, waved, and even offered words of greeting to him. In a few minutes, the people of the town gave him more notice than they had for the entirety of his life up to that point.
The feeling was odd, and even a little uncomfortable. He almost wished that they'd just put their heads down and walk away as they used to. Even as he thought that, he realized how absurd it was in light of his years of rankling over exactly that sort of treatment.
"Ho, my good friend."
Mindblind recognized Indigo's voice and turned that direction. The Draxnian met him in the middle of the street and reached out a hand to shake.
"I sought you out at the Cat, but they said you had gone out."
"Yeah, need to clear my head."
"Understandable, my friend. All is well that ends well, eh?"
"Guess so. You going to head home soon?"
"Actually, I think I will stay for a time. Travel this country. There are many things said about this land in my country, and already I find many of them are false. I would learn the truth for myself."
"You know, Alice and a couple of the girls are heading back to that town where we ran into you. They could use a man with a sharp blade riding with them."
Indigo laughed. "We are truly kindred spirits, my friend. I have already heard of their journey and asked to accompany them."
Noticing a shiny new sword on Indigo's hip, he said, "Speaking of sharp blades..."
Indigo muttered something in his own language and slapped his forehead. "I had nearly forgotten. It is a gift from Pompeil. Come, my friend. You need a blade to replace what you have lost. He asked me to find you and bring you to his offices here."
Despite what he'd said to Raven earlier, he needed a new sword, so he wasn't about to pass up a free one if Pompeil wanted to provide it. "Lead the way. I have no idea where it is."
"This way, my friend."
The place wasn't far, and Pompeil emerged from his office almost immediately after the doorman to the warehouse admitted them.
"Ah, welcome. Come, let us browse my stores and see if there is anything to your liking. If not, I will be glad to commission something appropriate."
"You know, Pompeil, you're going to go broke if you keep this up."
The merchant laughed. "Ah, rest assured that I have a very long way to go before I exhaust my coin. I have enjoyed some measure of success in my career."
"Well, I'm not turning down a free sword."
"And a suit of chain, if I may? I would see you better protected, should you have need of such in the future. I have someone on hand who can take measurements, and I will have it delivered as soon as completed."
Since he had been saving — very slowly — for a chain shirt, he wasn't passing that offer up either. "Sounds good."
"Splendid. Splendid. Sword first, though. I have a fine selection."
The merchant wasn't lying. Considering the unrest in the area — and it was much worse the closer to Draxnia or Normandal one ventured — only a fool who made his living in trade wouldn't take advantage of the market for weaponry. Nearly any type of blade Mindblind could imagine was represented in the crates opened for him to look through.
One immediately caught his eye — a large, hand-and-a-half broadsword. It wasn't nearly as massive as the weapon that had nearly turned him into a slave, but it was a dramatic improvement over the short sword he'd carried at the start of his journey.
Pompeil noticed his interest. "Please, test the balance. See if you like it. I believe it suits you."
Mindblind picked up the weapon, already liking the way the hilt felt in his hand. With his great strength, he was able to hold the sword in one hand, and after giving it a few swings, a wide smile spread across his face.
"I do believe we have found you a match," Pompeil guessed.
"Truly, it suits you, my friend," Indigo agreed.
After giving the sword a final swing, Mindblind said, "It feels good."
"Then it is yours. The scabbard should be in the crate."
Mindblind dug through the packing material inside the crate and located the scabbard. Having grown used to carrying the magical blade on his back, it felt perfectly natural when he strapped on the scabbard and slid the new sword in.
"Well, then only one thing remains to complete our business here today. The process is a bit uncomfortable, but shouldn't take long, and I believe it will be worth it. Ah, there you are, Emelia."
Mindblind turned to see a blushing blonde woman with a length of twine carefully marked in small, even segments. It was hard not to notice that the young woman spent a little more time with certain measurements than others — all below the waist.
Once she was done, Mindblind said, "I'd best get back to the Cat. If I'm not there when Raven expects me, she'll have a fit."
"Something I would wish on none, my friend," Indigo said. "I must draft a letter to my family, but I trust I will see you again before my journey south?"
"Sure I'll be around."
"And glad I will be to see you."
"Appreciate this, Pompeil," Mindblind said, nodding toward the sword on his back.
"As with everything else, it is a small price to pay for my life, which surely would have been forfeit but for your intervention."
"I'm off, then."
Both offered him farewells as he headed to the door and back out into the bright summer day. A look up at the position of the sun caused him to quicken his pace, because he guessed that Raven was already waiting for him.
He was right. Fortunately, she ignored that he had arrived a bit past the agreed-upon time. "Nice," she said upon seeing his sword. "So, what now?"
He'd made the decision shortly after leaving the Cat. "I should head to the house. The family keeps to themselves, but they have to have heard about what happened here. Going to get a dressing down for vanishing without a word as it is."
"Least you got someone who cares enough to do it. Catch up with me here tomorrow?"
"Get going then. Think I may take Cammie up on that offer before the three of them head out." She licked her lips and moaned.
Mindblind chuckled, though the thought made blood surge between his legs, and almost caused him to reconsider heading back to the house. As soon as he stepped out onto the landing, he saw Kayleen.
"Hey, Kay. How's Yani?"
"Much better. She doesn't really need me watching over her any longer. I think I'm out of a job."
"I'm not sure, just yet."
"Well, if you need anything, you just come see me."
Kayleen smiled. "Thank you. Madame Yasmine says she's happy to put me up until I decide what I want to do. I might see if they need help at any of the taverns, for now."
"Any of them would probably be glad to have you."
The blonde woman blushed. "Thank you. For that. For everything."
"You did your share, too, Kay."
"I won't keep you. I overheard. I hope all goes well at home."
Mindblind let out a snort, expecting that his mother would alternate between scolding him and hugging him in equal proportion from the moment he walked in the door. "Me too."
A few minutes later, he set foot on the dusty road home. For the first time in a very long time, he was glad for it.
Mindblind stepped into his small room at the back of the house and sighed in relief. As good as it was to see everyone again, there were limits. He was exhausted, overfed, and emotionally overloaded. Tired as he was, he dropped off to sleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
He really should have expected it.
"Nice place," Raven said sarcastically as she climbed into his small bed.
"How'd you get in?" he asked as she sat down next to him, and he tried to gather his senses.
"Are you serious? I could have picked that lock when I was five."
"Give me a break. I'm still asleep," he said when he realized how ridiculous the question was in light of her skills.
He noticed that she wasn't wearing her leather-armored overshirt, or even the masculine style shirt she usually wore under it. Instead, she was wearing a blouse. It was a drab, beige color and had no frills or lace, but it was the first garment he'd ever seen her wear that had been specifically tailored for a woman. The cut served to accentuate her figure — especially her perky breasts.
"Excuses. So, everything go okay with the family?"
"Yeah, even my sisters weren't acting like witches," he said as he sat up.
"What did you tell them?"
"Told Pops most of it. He probably passed along what he thought Mom could handle, later on.. They were gonna find out about Reed at the least, eventually."
Raven nodded, scooted in a little closer and asked, "So, you okay with some company?"
"I'm kind of at a loss," she said, and shrugged. "With those gems, I've got more than enough coin to relax for a while. Yani doesn't really need me. I don't know what to do with myself. What about you?"
"Always wanted to sell my sword, and I've got one worth selling now."
"Gonna hit the road then?"
"Not just yet. Had enough of the road for a little while at least."
She chuckled. "Ain't that the truth."
"I'll get fed up with being cooped up here soon enough. Been eating me for years."
Raven nodded, and then drew in a long, slow, deep breath. She let it out in a burst, and then said, "I want to try something."
She turned toward him, slipping a hand behind his back, and whispered, "This," as she leaned in.
Whether through pure instinct or her example, his lips softened as she pressed hers against them. The kiss was soft — tentative — and he felt her shiver as he slipped an arm around her. The next touch of her lips was longer, and far more sure.
Her lips still brushing his, she said, "That's the first time I've ever kissed anyone with my clothes on. I think I kind of like it."
At a loss for words, still unused to the softer side of the thief, he fortunately wasn't left hanging long. After only a breath or so, she kissed him again, tightening her embrace. He pulled her closer as well, matching her growing passion as he reached up to cup her cheek in his hand.