Chapter One Continued
Up near the top of the mountain in the safety of his encampment. Brief finishes gnawing the last of the flesh from the rabbit he killed. He then tosses the bones into the fire so as not to attract any wolves. His horse, Barnicle, calmly grazes on the short moist grass that has been exposed from the heat of the fire. Confident that he is still being followed by the two men from the previous night he decides it is time that he climb to the top of the fallen trees to look and see if he can find any sign that they are still on his trail. As he reaches the top of the debris he is greeted with a blast of wind, and the cold night air causes him to shiver. He looks for a place that is out of the wind, but with a good view of the landscape below him. As he struggles to see through the dense fog below he remembers the telescope that Mohab gave to him over ten years ago. Mohab was the Mariner who dealt in trade from India to Japan and China. Besides that he is the man that helped him escape form Emperor Kang when he killed the Emperor’s son, but that is a story for another time.
Brief lifts the small silver tube to his eye and tries again to see if he can locate any sign of the men who are following him. Just as he suspected he can see the faint amber glow of a camp fire as it twinkles like a star amid the dark and foggy night. Holding a fix on the position of the light he lowers the scope from his eye but now he can see nothing. Unsure of what he has seen he once again lifts the scope back into place against his eye. Like a beacon he quickly locates the tiny speck of light he saw just moments before. He estimates that the men are about a half a day’s ride behind him. There is no time for him to back track and insure their numbers, but Brief knows that he must prepare a welcome for whom ever is out there.
With an angered force he slides the small telescope together and places it back into his pocket as he rises to his feet. After taking one last look down the mountain he turns and leaps the four or five meters off the pile of trees back to the ground within his encampment. The sound made from his landing startles Barnicle and the horse begins to whinny and pound his hooves in a show of defense. Brief approaches Barnicle and in a soft low voice he tries to calm the animal. “Easy boy, it is only I, no need to be frightened.” He pauses for a moment and strokes the animals’ neck before saying. “Well Barnicle it seems we will have visitors joining us for lunch tomorrow my friend. You must rest, as well as, should I, we both must rise very early to prepare a proper greeting for our guest.” Brief reaches up slowly with one hand and begins to stroke the horses muzzle while offering more stalks of sugarcane with his other. The horse happily and greedily accepts the offering of affection. Sensing that Barnicle is feeling calm and safe again he returns to the warmth of the campfire.
Meanwhile, down at the camp below Ivan and Tolcan finish off some of the dried meat that they acquired before leaving town the night before. Ivan stands and stretches and looks over at Tolcan and in a matter of fact way he asks, “So Tolcan what if this guy truly is worth fifty gold talons or more and we do kill him should we even let Warlock know?” there is a brief silence before Tolcan answers. “So you wants us to just kill this guy and take his head all the way to the Emperor. Well how the hell can we do that when we have just a hand full of silver between the two of us?” Tolcan replies in the most sarcastic voice he can muster. Ivan smiles at the big man’s ignorance and confidently snaps back at him. “No you fool, you’re missing the big picture. If this guy truly is the man they know as BushGod then we can ask practically anything for his head even a hundred gold talons, and besides he has that horse it’s got to be worth at the least ten gold talons alone. That’s enough to get us anywhere in this world. Just think about it you big ox and you see I know all we have to do is kill him and get all that gold ourselves.” Tolcan contemplates what Ivan said and after several seconds of thought he responds, “Yeah, let’s do it your way.” “Great” Ivan says. “Then let’s get some sleep so that we can pick that mother fuckers trail up again tomorrow.”
Back at Brief’s camp he is slowly nodding off to sleep and the only thing on his mind is Trish. It has been almost three years since he last saw her. He wonders if she even knows that it is his fault that her village was attacked and pillaged just a few weeks ago. He always thought that if he stayed as far from her as possible that she would surely be safe, but now what kind of horrors is she enduring at the hands of the Cossacks. As he imagines the type of pain and grief she is suffering from the constant raping and beatings she must endure makes his stomach turn. His only wish is that he will arrive in time to find her still alive and mentally worth saving.
Suddenly, like the tide of the ocean rushing in the memories of the times the two of them shared together begin to haunt him. The soft touch of her lips against his own and the warmth of her body against his almost brings a tear to his eye. Feeling the panic and hate beginning to well up inside him he starts thinking and talking out loud and begins screaming to the heavens above, “Oh God how can you spare such a man as I am Only to bring such pain to another? Is it because she found me worth saving once? Is this her payment for saving the life of a man who has only known hate all his life? Is that the reason you are content on destroying the innocent soul of a woman who has shown only love and kindness to those around her?” Like a mad man Brief leaps to his feet and draws his sword and begins flailing it wildly at the heavens shouting, “Answer me God why don’t you answer me!!??” Suddenly he stops, frozen in place as if he had become a statue, he stands there silently. His weapon still held high towards the heavens as if he had just driven his sword right through the heart of a star. He remains standing there with all his senses poised to detect any movement or sound of any kind, but there is no voice from the great beyond, no bright flash of light, nor did the earth begin to tremble beneath his feet. There was nothing from the Gods at all except silence. Brief lowers his sword and returns it to the thick leather sheath on his back.
Physically exhausted now he lowers himself back down on the blanket he uses to cover Barnacles’ back and lays his head upon his saddle. His face is still filled with discus as he turns and looks into the now dwindling camp fire. Then in a very soft but angry voice he mumbles the words, “I have no God.” Now he begins feeling the effects of the long journey through the woods and up the mountain as it begins to take its’ toll on his body and he quickly falls asleep. However, while the body rest, the mind is still awake, because a man like him can never really sleep. The mind stays awake to insure that the heart will still beat, and that the lungs will still draw air. So with the many things the mind must do, how does it find the time to play and bring us those dreams that are filled with so much happiness?
Catch more on Chapter One