A note from CM Georgiev

Chapter three update done and dusted!

Poster in hand, Vivienne strode up to the barkeeper. She slapped the vellum down, getting his attention. He set down the flagon he had been polishing, stooping low to look Vivienne in the eye.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I want to take this bounty. What do I need to do?”
The barkeep threw his head back, a guffaw reverberating around the common room, drawing the eyes of many patrons. He wiped his eyes exaggeratedly.
“You want to go after the Southern Road Brigands?? You have less sense than many a man here.” He gestured to the common room and a few flagons went up in agreement.
Vivienne fixed him with a steely stare.
He gulped under the visual assault. Feeling itchy, as if she could parse his deepest thoughts.
“Alright alright, the leader has in his slimy possession a very specific silver and ruby dagger. Wrest that from him and I’ll believe you slew him. Tell you what? If YOU of all people can kill him, I’ll make it 325 Eporan Crowns, hows that?”
“That’s a deal.” Vivienne stuck her hand out in an awkward gesture. The barkeep shook it vigorously.
“If you die, we aren’t responsible, you understand?”
“Yes, I do.”
Vivienne sat back down at their table and ate quickly, filled with dread and excitement. Twelve men to track down and kill in reparation for their many ill-fated deeds. She took Vicious upstairs and prepared to leave. Belting on the sword and securing the stake in its little holster.
“You will stay here. If you need something, you will find Addie. Vee, what are you doing?”
She looked behind to see Vicious pulling on her coat and belting on her little dagger.
“No! No no no, you can’t come with me. These are terrible men, murderers and thieves.”
Vicious just glared and tugged at her belt, checking its tightness.
“You’re coming if I like it or not, aren’t you?” Vivienne sighed, the resigned look on the girl’s face telling her “Yes, yes I am”.
“If you get one scratch...”
Vicious simply waved a hand dismissively.
They walked the smooth cobblestones back to the edge of the forest, not knowing where they should be going.
Alright, let’s see how well I can actually sense.
Vivienne stood, taking in all the Darachen, the ancient trees, the musk coming from the soil and moss, and the trilling of a hundred birds. A few minutes of repose gave her a vague sense of direction, deep within the darkest part of the forest.
Of course they would hole up in the dankest part of the forest.
They moved silently, stopping every so often to sample the air. The smells grew stronger and congealed until Vivienne and Vicious found the encampment. It was a mishmash of drab tents, crates and casks of ill-gotten goods, and the stink of stale ale.
Vivienne motioned for Vicious to hold a position in the bushes.
“Wait here.” She mouthed, hoping the girl would listen. She sat for a moment formulating how she would attract the attention of the entire company.
I need to get this done quickly.
Vivienne removed the sword and placed it on the ground. She smudged dirt along her face and neck, and used her fingers to tangle her own hair. In an afterthought, she took the coin purse and tied it to the belt loop at her hip.
With an affected gait, she stumbled out of the brush some 30 feet away from Vicious, moaning and clutching her side. “Help me, please, I’ve been attacked!!” she cried, groaning and slumping over onto the ground, her coin purse jingling at her hip.
As she hoped, the men ran out and crowded around her, only nine from her vantage point on the mossy forest floor. A wiry man with a silver and red dagger at his belt swaggered forward, his hand reaching for the coin purse on her belt.
“Easy pickens boys! Edmund, get some ropes, we can sell her to Sedrad.”
Vivienne grasped the man’s outstretched arm. “Easy indeed”.
With silent concentration, Vivienne pushed the sanctifying light from her body, searching for the stink of the nine murderers in her midst.
The cries grew to a deafening crescendo before falling silent. She sat up from the ground, now covered in ash, surveying the eight piles surrounding her. She stood to dust the corpse ash off her robes.
Staggering back, a sudden weariness sapped the life from Vivienne's bones. Breathing ragged, she clutched at her chest, a sickening tightness taking hold. Gingerly, she sat back down, bringing her some peace from the fading sensation. The glint of silver and red at her thigh reminding her of the bounty.
The dagger was exquisite, covered in silver leaves and filigree, a smaller version of the sword she now had. “A matching set perhaps?” She said. The origin of the blades a tantalizing mystery.
There are still three more.
She breathed deep of the camp’s air, finding the pungent scent of fear. Stalking through the tents and canopies, Vivienne finally found someone, a young boy, who couldn’t have been over sixteen tied to a tent post. His eyes wide with surprise, the smell of urine overtaking the air.
“You, where are the other three men, do you know?”
He shook his head vigorously, blonde curls bouncing.
“Peter’s brother took two men out to look for easy marks on the road days ago and they never came back. He’s been in a right rage for days...”
Vivienne looked at the boy’s face, the black eye and bruised cheek.
The men that ambushed Vicious and I.
“How do you know that? Why are you even here?”
The boy slumped. “I thought I was grown and thought I could be a bounty hunter. They used me as a camp slave for...I don’t know, I lost track after a month.”
Vivienne knelt behind the boy, cutting his ropes. He had a familiarity to him she just couldn’t place.
“You’re from Caerncana?”
He nodded again, rubbing his wrists.
“Alright, we will take you back with us. You can help people get their goods back.”
Vivienne led the boy to where Vicious was still hiding. “Alright Vee, let’s go. We have to take...what’s your name?”
“Roland, Miss.”
“Roland, back with us. He’s an innocent. Stop playing with your dagger.”
Vee pouted and put the little knife away.
“You’d have to be much bigger before you get to help on any of these hunts. I need you to be safe, for my sanity.”
Addie stood beside Rognan’s Reliquary’s well worn door, a lit pipe dangling from her mouth as she looked up and down the road, worry darkening her face. With a clatter, the pipe hit the cobbles, scattering tobacco embers on the ground.
She fell to her knees, a great keening rending the night air. Roland broke away from Vivienne, his weakened state all but forgotten. “Mama!! Oh mama!!” He skidded to the ground, ripping up his knees to cradle Addie. They sat together, rocking back and forth, crying and blubbering.
As Vivienne and Vicious grew close, Addie dragged herself and her boy up and flew at them. Dragging the pair into a deep hug, her thanks nearly drowned by her hiccuping sobs. Wiping her face and holding Roland close, Addie barely skipped another beat.
“You’re safe! Oh bless! When Argus told me you’d scarpered off to the Darachen for that bounty, I was sure you were as good as dead! But to bring my dear son back from the dead! I just, I-”
Vivienne smiled, putting a hand on Addie’s shoulder. “I’m no necromancer. The Southern Road Brigands have had him, but that is his story to tell.”
The barkeep had a slight smirk about him as the four filed into the common room. A look of awe swiftly replaced it, as he recognized Roland.
“Roland!! Hey! Roland is alive!” A rallying, deafening cry rang out through the common room as the Caerncana locals in the room saw the boy.
Addie bustled him off upstairs, and Vivienne sat herself at the bar to speak with Argus.
She pulled the dagger from the scabbard on her back and slid it onto the counter. Vicious clambered onto the stool next to Vivienne, a toothy smile on her face.
“I would like a drink, and the money you owe me please.”
Argus’ jaw flopped open, as though no longer connected to his skull.
He hustled about pouring a pint and a glass of goats’ milk for Vicious.
“You killed them! Truly, I thought we’d never see you two again! Here, compliments of the monastery, they said keep that dagger too if you came back with it.” He slid a bulging leather pouch across the counter.
Vivienne took twenty-five coins from the large pouch and placed them in her own thin purse. The rest of the sack she tied to her belt, its weight more than she had expected.
They stayed at the bar for a good long while, Vivienne chatting with Argus, Vicious listening closely and sipping on her warm milk.
Addie returned from the upstairs, her eyes puffy and red but an enormous smile on her face. Just about tackling Vivienne, she squealed in happiness.
“My boy! My Son! Oh my dear, we thought he was dead more than a year ago! We searched for months in that damned forest and never found even a hint! You do not know how much joy you have brought me this day.”
Vivienne hugged her back, enjoying the human contact. “Addie, why was he out there playing at being a bounty hunter?”
Addie wiped at her leaking eyes again. “His father died a few years back, and I came to work here. He saw the bounty price and thought if he could turn it in we wouldn’t have to worry so much, and, well, you know the rest...”
Vivienne untied the pouch from her belt and pressed it into Addie’s hands.
“You have been kind to us. Tell Roland how brave he was, and that he needs more time to grow.”
Addie stared at her hand. “I- noooo I can’t take this!”
“You can, and you will. He spent over a year in that camp as a slave. He deserves the spoils he was looking for.”
Addie cried anew, crushing Vivienne with another hug.
“With this, Roland and I can take up the farm again. It will keep us in crops and food for more than a year! To go back home seems like a dream. Thank you, Saint Florence.”
Vivienne choked slightly, not knowing quite what to do, but furiously stifling the rising fire in her veins.
“It’s alright, I won’t tell anyone, though usually the fugitives we harbor here aren’t so well known. I have discreetly gotten you some dried goods put in the room, I imagine you’ll be off in the morning, but in a few months, if you find yourselves in south eastern Feichin, come find us at Tarya Farm, we’ll have a bed for you.”
“Thank you, Addie.”
Chirps and the song of bluebirds greeted Vivienne from her slumber. The pair slipped out of the sleepy inn early in the morning. The fewer eyes, the better. Vivienne left a coin on the counter for the map they had found behind the bar.
I hope they have more than one.
The continent of Etiofath was vast, much larger than Vivienne had ever dreamed, but their vague destination, mostly distance from Adalsindis, lay to the north in Feichin. They trudged through the day until a sleepy twilight had fallen over the trees, quieting the world.
“We should stop for the night Vee.”
The two prowled around off the road until Vicious let out a whistle, signaling a spot where they could sleep. In one pack Vivienne found the flint and steel. The roaring fire fed them warmth, and the security of warding from the predators of the Darachen and their very large teeth.
Vivienne had laid herself down by the fire with Vicious nearby when an out-of-place sound brought her to alertness. Hoof beats came and went along the road some good distance away, the jingling of horse harnesses a jarring sound in the night air.
A long period of stillness brought Vivienne’s tensed muscles back to a relaxed state. Though they still ached from the last few days, she felt lighter than she had in years.
When the fire died down, Vivienne got up to put a couple of drier logs onto the embers, stoking it back to life. She was bent over, poking at the pit with a branch, when Vicious growled, pointing to a dark copse behind them.
Vivienne barely breathed before a sinewy pair of arms pulled her in, the chest behind solid as a wall. Cold steel pressed against her exposed throat, arms pulled behind her back at an awkward, painful angle.
“Come quietly, Saint Florence.” The deep voice said, rattling Vivienne to the very core of her being.
A note from CM Georgiev

My updates are now on Thursdays, hopefully with some surprise Monday updates as well!

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About the author

CM Georgiev

  • Montana, USA

Bio: I've dreamed of writing Fantasy novels since I read the first Eragon novel at 12. 16 years later I am making that happen!

I write from a semi-rural homestead in Montana. My desk always has at least one of my pets under it vying for the prime seat of being on my feet.

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