Find Chapter 1 here
Chapter 2 is here
Chapter 3 is here
Chapter 4 is here
Chapter 5 is here
Chapter 6 is here
Chapter 7 is here.
Chapter 8: here
Chapter 9: here
Chapter 10: here
Chapter 11 (R-Rated) here
Chapter 12: here
Chapter 13: here
You can skip Chapter 11 without losing the plot.
They stood, staring at the door, exchanging nervous quips and trying to look brave. They had drilled for this. They had been trained for this — Sefton knew he had, at least — since they could hold a weapon, trained, and drilled, and then told over and over again why they would not fight.
It was different, knowing there was an actual fight coming, than all the training in the world.
Sefton tried to count his heartbeats, but they were moving too fast and told him nothing of time’s passing. He remembered an old rowing song, something he’d heard the fishers use when hauling in big catches, and tried to match their slow but intent cadance.
“One circles round town, one paces round town,
one skips her way down, she dances on down.
Two answer the call, two dance to the call.,
two hop to the sound and they bow to the sound.”
Ba— bah-bump-ba-bump, it went, the two-beat quicker and stronger. Jaco joined in on the three verse, and by the four verse Sefton’s heart rate had calmed.
“Five council the fools, five make up the rules.
Five stand ‘gainst…”
The door opened with a terrifyingly quiet sschtkt and a bandit sneered at them. He was wearing chains, Sefton noticed, first, ridiculously, almost before the curved blade he was threatening them with: bangles with three links dangling from each one, like he was someone’s honored husband, like he was flouting the rules, the reason they wore such things.
Standing in a robe and his new wife’s chains, Sefton found that infuriated him. He sneered back at the bandit.
“House-men,” the bandit drawled. “Surrender now and you can live.”
Jaco hummed the beat, ba-bah-bump-ba-bump, and Sefton nodded. He shifted back a half-step, as if scared, and to the left, giving Jaco more room, giving himself more room to swing his blade.
“Five stand ‘gainst the ghouls five carve out our rules,” he sang, chanted, really, and swung his weapon against the bandit.
Jaco carried on the song in a breathy chant as he attacked first the lead bandit, and then the next one through the door. There were only three of them. What did it mean, that there were only three? What did it mean that they were there at all, that they’d opened the door to the nursery?
Sefton didn’t care — did care, but couldn’t afford to care right now. He landing his war-hammer in a crushing blow against the man’s neck, placed a foot on the man’s chest and shoved his backwards into his friend.
“Flee now,” he panted at the survivors, “and you can live.”
The men stared at Sefton and Jaco. “You’re supposed to be fluffy little house-boys. You’re supposed to be in chains!” complained the one in front of Sefton. They looked freaked out. They had looked freaked out since Sefton had started singing.
“You’re supposed to be in chains, too,” Sefton pointed out. Who was this guy, to act like Sefton was breaking the rules? “You’re supposed to be tied down to a home, too. It’s in the rules, in the charter.”
“The rules are for weaklings and eggshells. They’re for prey. We’re not prey.”
“And yet,” Jaco pointed out, “you’re wearing chains. All three of you are wearing some woman’s bracelets. Are you brother-husbands? Where is your wife?”
“Dead,” he sneered. “The rules are shit. But you, you’re good little husbands. You should be following the rules. You should be weaklings, tied up and helpless, ripe for the picking. Then you could come with us. Then you could be Changed by the Shining One.”
Sefton found himself grinning. It wasn’t a nice expression, but it was a fun one. “You obviously didn’t read the whole charter.”
“I don’t think he read any of it,” Jaco opined.
“You may be right. But he definitely didn’t read the part explaining why the chains.“
“Maybe we should put some chains on him and explain it.”
“On both of them.” The second remaining bandit had been backing up slowly, trying to escape without being noticed; when Sefton said that, he bolted for the door. Sefton laughed.
“So it’s you and us,” Jaco grinned. “Why don’t we show you what the chains are for?”
“You’re house-boys,” the bandit complained. “Locked into your nursery with the children for protection.”
“Oh, yes.” Sefton took a step forward, his weapon dangling in a position designed to look casual. “How did you get into the nursery without blasting the door?”
“I don’t have to tell you anything!”
“…yet,” Jaco added ominously. The bandit cringed.
“How did you get into the nursery?” Sefton repeated. He let his weapon swing slowly. “I think you’d better tell us than our lady…”
That was, of course, assuming their lady wife was still alive. Sefton didn’t want to think too hard about that. He might not know Tasiya very well, but he knew what happened to widowed husbands. It made his glare at the bandit a little more intense than it might have been otherwise.
The bandit took a couple steps backwards. “You’re not going to chase me. . Not and risk leaving the nursery unguarded.”
Jaco sheathed his knife and grabbed his hooked stick with a movement so quick and smooth he had to have practiced it. “Don’t have to.” He dropped the hook low, caught it on the bandit’s ankle, and pulled the man off his feet. “Now, talk.”
“Or what?” The man wheezed it out as he struggled to regain his breath, but with the pointed end of Jaco’s hook against his stomach, he showed no signs of standing up. “You have egglings in there. You can’t leave them, and you’re not going to torture me in front of them.”
“Hothyan,” Jaco called, without taking his eyes off the bandit. “Sir, you wear chains, but you don’t know the first thing about the chained men. You have tattoos of the sea-farers on your collarbone,” he moved his hook to casually pull aside the man’s shirt, leaving a thin line of blood and showing the tattoos he was referring, “but you don’t fight like a sailor. What are you?”
The bandit paled as Hothyan ran up, holding two of his own weapons. Jaco took a step forward, his hook slowly moving back to the man’s stomach. “Hothyan, do you remember what I showed you? About the best way to flay a man?”
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