Night's Dagger Ch. 01byGuybrarian©
Well, here we are. This is a bit of a departure from my usual fare of modern supernatural fiction. Instead, this is a bit of a spin of some ideas I've had sitting around. So, please, do enjoy the first chapter of "Night's Dagger," and please leave a review and a comment. It's my bread and butter!
Cedric hadn't been expecting to get tossed into jail when he sat down in the café. It didn't seem like a night to get in trouble with the Moon Lords, but it wasn't something one prepared for. The summer night was especially pleasant, even for a Karitan summer.
His compatriot, Tomas, was late. That wasn't too uncommon. Tomas's job at the docks made him perpetually late. Arguing with captains over tariffs and inspection was by no means a timely thing. Cedric was more than willing to put up with it, considering the connections that Tomas made. As a merchant's son, he had the connections that got him into the more fantastical, expensive parties in the capitol city.
The waitress in the café, a little brunette named Selene, came to the table. "Good evening, Cedric. How's your evening?"
"I can't complain, apart from Tomas's tardiness. But what can I do about that?"
She flashed a little smile to him. "Not a lot. He's got his nice little job with the customs office. It has its downsides."
"That it does. But, it gets me all sorts of nice little perks." Cedric grinned right back.
"And just what do you do, anyways? You appear here at all hours of the day, always with that sword."
"I pick up the odd job, you know." He shrugged. "But my usual one is making sure Tomas goes home to his pretty little wife."
Cedric had started out as a street child, one of the lowest dregs of society in the city of Karita. Born a bastard to a low-class woman, he'd needed to find a place in society. Serving as Tomas's bodyguard and companion worked leagues towards getting him into a place in society where he was able to survive and live in something approaching comfort.
"And what do you know of pretty little wives?" Selene teased him.
"I know little of wives."He remarked. "I'd hate to make a man a cuckold, after all. But I do know a bit about pretty women."
That sent Selene chuckling. "And where'd you pick that one up?"
"A new piece they're showing at the Golden Theater."
"You've been to the Golden Theater?" Envy was in the waitress's voice. "How is it?"
"About as good as people would have you believe." Cedric said. "It's rather funny, though some of it's a bit over my head." He wouldn't lie, he wasn't the most learned man in the city, and the Golden Troupe supposedly had many little jokes for those who knew their history and the Old Language. "Selene, can I grab a cup of tea, like I usually get it? I'm worried I'll be waiting for Tomas for a bit."
"I'll go get some for you, love." She walked away, her hips swishing in her long skirt. Cedric watched for a long moment, his gaze appreciating how she moved. Delicious, absolutely delicious.
She returned with his tea a few minutes later, to which he thanked her and started to sip at the tea. It had been an hour, two cups, and several conversations with Selene later that he started to worry. Tomas wasn't usually this late.
Cedric left a few coppers on the table, and headed out onto the street. Karita was a busy city, even in the night. The stones of the city, mined from the nearby mountains, absorbed the light of the street lamps and casted a glow of their own. It was rare to find a dark street in the capitol of Larena.
Cedric set out in the direction of the docks, maneuvering silently through the crowds. He had been born in these streets. He knew how to walk in them. He looked like any other Karitan. The dark hair and green eyes were a tell of Larenans, but very few apart from Karitans had their tan skin. From the north, near the tropics, Karita was perpetually warm and humid.
He was moving into the Docks when he heard Tomas."Cedric! Ced, I need your help!" He spun around, turning to the source of his friend's voice.
It was a whorehouse. Of course it was. Tomas was standing in the door way, beckoning him with the wave of his hand.
Cedric rushed to his employer. "Tomas, what's going on? I thought we were going to Count-"
"Forget the party." His voice carried a hushed tone when he got close enough. "There's something wrong. Two Moon Lords are in there, roughing up one of Corrine's girls."
"Then why haven't you gotten the constables?" Tomas asked.
"Yes, like I'm going to sic them on their own bosses. I'm not that powerful. Come on, we're going to go be heroes tonight."
Cedric didn't protest. He knew better. Instead, he followed Tomas into the whore house. He rushed forward, and drew his short sword from the scabbard at his side. "Why do I let you drag me into this?" He asked.
"Because I'm that lovable." He shot back.
They headed up the stairs, where the cries of a woman filled the hall. Cedric saw which door was open, and he followed Tomas to it.
The scene inside wasn't a pretty one. The two Moon Lords, identifiable by the red leather gloves covering their hands, were standing over the girl, a young woman with a number of inked markings on her skin. Cedric didn't recognize what they meant, as it was a bit odd.
"Hey," Tomas said. "Unhand her. Just because you paid for the lady doesn't mean that you get to beat her up."
One of the Moon Lords, a tall man with his long hair pulled back in a long tail, spoke. "And you overstep your authority, whelp." He flashed his teeth, showing the bestial fangs that marked his race. "Put away the sword, walk away, and I'll forget I saw you. The whore will enjoy it, I promise." He sneered.
Tomas brought out his dagger, and thrust it towards the two Moon Lords. "Not a chance, man."
The shorter Moon Lord, a man with dyed purple hair, snickered. "Well, looks like we're in for a good little fight before we have our fun." Both of them went for their belt, drawing daggers.
"No fear?" Tomas murmured to his friend. The question was supposed to be echoed with a statement 'no fear,' an old warrior's saying.
However, Cedric said. "If we get out of this, I expect a raise."
Cedric went for the taller Moon Lord. Both flashed with quick strikes, dodging and parrying with their hands as often with the blades. Cedric was no soldier, though the style of knife-fighting that the Moon Lords and other soldiers used was rather common. He'd had to know how to fight to survive on a Karitan street: dirty, rough, and fast.
Blows were traded, more from their fists than their blades. The cling of metal on metal filled the room. The officer pressed the attack, driving Cedric back. While he might've had the longer blade, the Moon Lord had the greater reach. This sent Cedric back into the hall, with each strike drawing closer and closer.
Cedric found himself, eventually, against the wall of the hallway. Now it was close and violent. Cedric tossed a left cross at the Moon Lord, but he blocked it with his knife hand. He took the quick moment he had, and socked Cedric in the gut.
Cedric bowled over, coughing at the blow. He hit the floor, and he resisted the urge to toss up the tea. The Moon Lord kicked at him, repeatedly, as his vision faded. The last thing he remembered hearing was the whistle of a constable.
He awoke to the smell of stale filth and old straw. He'd been here before. He didn't need to open his eyes to know that he was in jail "Hells." Cedric murmured.
A voice, male, and very thin and reedy, said. "Yes, you're close, aren't you? Not many would attack a Moon Lord, particularly a Captain."
Cedric sat up, opening his eyes now. The pain in his stomach was a dull ache now, but it wasn't too bad. He had a faint memory of it hurting much worse, but someone had tended to his wounds. It was more than a prisoner would usually get, he thought to himself.
The man who was standing outside his cell wore black. That, in itself, was telling. He was a Night Lord, the race that made the regents of Larena. "Cedric... Oak, yes? That's what your papers said."
Cedric shrugged. "If that's what they say. I can't read them." Cedric, like many of his status, was illiterate. However, he still had his credential papers. He didn't like his surname. Oak, a bastard name issued by the government.
"Well, Mister Oak...or do you prefer Cedric?"
"Cedric, my lord." He said, remembering how one was supposed to address a Night Lord. The Night Lord was tall, but his black tunic and trousers seemed to hang off of him, like he was ill-nourished. His features were gaunt, angled like a bird of prey.
He nodded once. "Well, Cedric, I am Justice Erenis. I have been assigned to investigate the altercation between you, Tomas Bendric, and Captain Tibben and Sublieutenant Markten. What is your relationship with Mr. Bendric?"
"My employer." Cedric answered. "I'm his bodyguard and companion."
"Your name reveals your bastard status. How did one such as yourself become to be associated with Mr. Bendric?"
"We met in a café, and he had remarked that he had needed a bodyguard who knew the streets. I offered myself, and after a few rounds, and an interview, I had the job. That was two years ago."
"Very well. And, why did you attack the two Moon Lords?"
"They were beating on a whore."
"A whore?" The Justice nodded. "Well, you're truthful about that. Constable Jennick was the first on the scene. He and several others took you, Mr. Bendric, and the Moon Lords into custody."
"All right." Cedric said "Where's this leave me?"
"With you still facing the charge of drawing steel on a Moon Lord. That is not an easily forgivable offense. Even if you were in the right, Cedric, precedent must be kept. The trial, should you choose to contest the charge, would highly rely on if Mr. Bendric would grant you counsel from his purse. You don't seem the type to be able to afford a clerk of the law, much less one of us."
Night Lords were renowned for their expertise in whatever field they entered. It made sense, as they had incredibly long lives, and could devote their vast intelligence to any field. A Night Lord clerk could handle themselves eloquently in trials, but they also cost more than Cedric made in three years as a bodyguard.
"Then if I confess to my crimes?" That thought grated on him. As Cedric saw it, he had done nothing wrong. But, be that as it may, the law was the law.
"You would be punished. For this level of a crime, you would lose your sword hand, but if you were to plead, I would see that the magistrate will grant you a lenient sentence, perhaps military conscription." Erenis flicked his tongue across his pale lips.
"Conscription? For assaulting a Moon Lord?"Cedric didn't see that ending well. The Moon Lords, due to their rather bestial nature, had served as the officer corps of the Larenan army for as long as anyone could remember.They were a tight-knit group, and weren't fond of any who had attacked one of their own.
"Are there any other options? I'd rather not lose a hand, and conscription is a death sentence."
"Well, there is imprisonment, and well..." He flashed a smile. "Cedric, please stand."
He did so. "What's this?" He asked.
The Night Lord gestured him forward, to the bars of the cell. "Look into my eyes."
Cedric did so. They were large, yellow-green eyes. They reminded Cedric of a cat's. The pupils were large, dilated, though he knew that was just the natural state of a night Lord. It was something he'd heard from someone once.
"You will answer me truthfully." He Night Lord said."And without hesitation."
He felt something tugging at him in those words. It was like he was trying to force something out of him. "Very well," Cedric said, despite whatever he felt tugging at him.
"Who was your father?"
"I have no father." He said. "At least, none that I know."
"Have you ever left Karita?" The Night Lord asked.
"And before now, have you ever met a Night Lord?"
"Never." He said. Well, he'd never met one. He'd seen a few at parties, but he'd never actually been introduced to one.
"Thank you. Cedric." And with that, the tugging sensation was gone. "I think you might have some future after all. Conscription or punishment will not be your sentence."
"Then, what will?" Cedric stepped back form the bars, wary of the justice.
"Why," Erenis said. "Service. You best be prepared, Cedric Oak. Your old life will be washed away soon."
Cedric spent the next three days in the cell. He was not allowed visitors, he was told, but even if he was, he doubted any would come see him. Maybe Tomas, though he had a sneaking suspicion that Tomas might see him as a liability. The merchant's son had connections, ones that could get him off the hook, but to waste them on a bodyguard, even him? Cedric didn't think it likely.
He was fed rice and fish in the morning and evening. With Karita on the sea, fish was the primary source of meat. The inner parts of Larena were a big producer of rice, leading to a distinct culinary tradition. Even prisoners were well-fed in Karita, it was said, and he certainly believed it now.
On the third day, a woman came for him.She was a short woman, thin and lithe.She wore trousers, an oddity in itself. But it was her short hair that really made her stand out. It was not often he saw a woman's head without long hair. It was a thing that foreigners did, occasionally, but Karitan women loved their hair.
The woman gestured to one of the guards, who came and unlocked his cell. "Cedric?" She inquired.
"That's me." Cedric nodded. "Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?"
"I am Custodian Gemma.You will come with me."
"Your new life. Come, it's waiting."
Well, here we are, off on a new adventure. Got a comment? An opinion? Feel free to leave a comment. Please read and review, as interest does keep my writing faster. Until next chapter!