The Unseeing Eyes
Book I, Chapter 10
The sun had already set by the time Bhollom and Neej-Nash reached the foot of the Mayor’s Tower. The massive construct, built out of large limestone blocks each elaborately carved with the swirling plant patterns so loved by elven mages, stretched up into the dark blue sky where single stars had begun to twinkle behind wispy clouds. The walls were dotted by small windows, some of them dark but in some the glow of a fireplace or lantern flickered. On the top of the tower Bhollom could barely see the blue light of its famous signal flame.
Bhollom breathed on his hands and rubbed them together. While it was still late summer, the air had already started to get uncomfortably chilly at night, especially with the cold wind blowing in from the sea. Still, he welcomed the darkness descending around them. Attempting to sneak Neej-Nash through the city’s back streets in daylight without being seen would have been difficult even without her being still upset with Bhollom and doing exactly the opposite of whatever he told her to do. Only Kheret’s threats of new imprisonment and Patryk’s sheer strength had probably managed to keep the saurian from taking off.
Bhollom glanced at his companion, who was walking at his side. She had pulled her robes as tightly around her as she could and was rubbing her hands on her arms for more warmth, but Neej-Nash still shivered. She had never liked cold, and the humid air did not make the situation any more comfortable for her.
“Are you cold?” Bhollom asked and prepared to offer Neej-Nash his cloak, but the saurian’s angry hiss and glare in his general direction stayed Bhollom’s hands. Fine, he thought. He had gone through all this trouble to arrange for food and shelter for them, not to mention working on the plan to clear them of the murder charges. If Neej-Nash was going to act this ungrateful, she might just as well stay cold.
The group, led by Kheret, arrived to a small wooden door embedded to the tower’s gigantic foundations. Kheret took off his bull-faced helmet and approached the door. He delivered a complex series of knocks on the door, which was promptly flung open. Outside stepped two guardsmen, both carrying a long spear and a wide tower shield and clad in armor more elaborately decorated than that of those who had arrested Bhollom and Neej-Nash earlier and were now hunting for them on the streets. Thought their faces were partly obscured by their high helmets, the guards were both obviously elves. They were almost a good head taller than Kheret, who already seemed like a giant to Bhollom. At the sight of the two guards, Bhollom and Neej-Nash instinctively took a step back and moved closer to each other. Kheret sneered at their reaction.
“At ease, fugitives,” he said, “they are with me.”
Bhollom and Neej-Nash relaxed. Both turned their faces to each other and quickly stepped away to make more room as Bhollom crossed his arms and Neej-Nash hissed quietly. Both were supposed to be mad at the other, after all.
Kheret snorted derisively at the strange duo. He looked at his guards and pushed out his chest. Although he would never admit it, Kheret couldn’t miss this chance to show off his priced troops.
“They both belong to the High Guard,” he said, ignoring Bhollom and Neej-Nash who were glaring at each other, “You rarely see them outside the tower unless in the most grave circumstances.”
He turned to his escorts with a gloating grin on his face.
“They are an elite force, each man hand-picked by me, tasked primarily with protecting the Mayor-Mage,” he declared.
Neej-Nash flicked her tongue, trying to make sense of the two new people in front of her. She had earlier been baffled by the sheer scale of the Mayor’s Tower and hadn’t made a full effort to make clear of her surroundings.
“If big men guard mayor man, why mayor man dead?” she asked.
Kheret’s grin and the guard’s stoic expressions were quickly replaced with something between a frown and barely suppressed anger. Bhollom quickly stepped between Neej-Nash and the three guardsmen.
“That aside, these are your men, right?” he asked, “That means we, as in Neej-Nash and I, we can trust them, right?”
Kheret had reached for his sword’s hilt, but he let go at Bhollom’s words and resumed his earlier gloating.
“You can not, stub, but I can,” he said and glanced at the guards over his shoulder, “They have sworn loyalty to the captain of the guard, not the Mayor’s office.”
Kheret turned his attention back to Bhollom and bent down to face the stub.
“As long as you two do exactly what I tell you, you will not have to worry about them.”
Without waiting for Bhollom’s reply, Kheret spun around and marched in through the door, gesturing for the rest of the group to follow. Neej-Nash, Bhollom, and Patryk went in, trailed by the two huge guardsmen.
The corridor leading into the tower was narrow and its stone walls surprisingly roughly built. Lanterns and oil lamps rested on small shelves built into the walls, bathing the passage in a gloomy dim light. Bhollom swallowed loudly and thanked all his gods that he had company. It’s not that he believed in ghosts, but the corridor made his imagination run wild.
“Must be some kind of servants’ entrance,” Patryk mumbled to himself.
“Indeed,” Kheret yelled back from the front. Bhollom noted the guard captain’s incredibly keen hearing.
“And I hope you appreciate all the trouble I went through to ensure it would be empty at this time,” he continued, throwing a smirk back over his shoulder, “If anyone were to see us, I would have no choice but to lock you up.”
Neej-Nash grit her teeth. She had no love to waste on the smug guard captain, and his constant derisive comments and reminders of her and Bhollom being fugitives ground all the wrong gears in Neej-Nash’s mind. They certainly didn’t do wonders for her already low appreciation towards his trustworthiness. She was about to say something to get back at the bastard of an elf, but her thoughts were interrupted when she felt someone touch her left hand.
It was Bhollom.
“Please don’t,” he whispered as quietly as he could, “Trust me if not him.”
Neej-Nash stared vacantly into the veil of blindness pulled over her yes before snapping her teeth at Bhollom and jerking her hand away. The saurian grumbled to herself for while, but at least she didn’t yell anything at the guard captain.
Kheret lead Bhollom, Neej-Nash, and Patryk into a small square room. In the middle of the room stood a round table and two padded wooden chairs. One of the chairs had a pile of clothes on it. A small fireplace crackled in one of the corners. The room had no windows.
“Here is where you and I will talk through exactly what you will be doing, stub,” Kheret said before turning to Neej-Nash and Patryk.
“But before that, here is the part of the plan that concerns your friends.”
The two guards grabbed Patryk and Neej-Nash by their arms, much to their surprise.
“You will be locked into one of the upper-level holding cells,” he declared, “You will be presented to the guards as having been caught by my men.”
“What?” Patryk yelled, “Why?”
The guard captain smirked once again.
“As insurance, so the stub does what he is supposed to do,” he said, “But I understand it was the lizard who broke you out of your earlier cell. She will be doing that again.”
Neej-Nash let out an animalistic screech and tried to lunge at Kheret. Bhollom braced himself for carnage, but the guard holding Neej-Nash quickly dropped his spear and sprang into action. He kicked Neej-Nash off her feet with a well-aimed sweep of his left leg and pinned her to the floor, bending one of her arms behind her back. Neej-Nash spat and struggled but found the guard overwhelmingly stronger than she was.
“Stop!” Bhollom yelled and rushed towards the guard, “Don’t hurt her!”
In one swooping motion Kheret pulled his sword and cut Bhollom off from Neej-Nash.
“You have no choice,” he said with the everlasting smirk of supremacy on his face, “The guards at all doors have been instructed to check all the possessions of everyone entering or leaving the tower. You will never get out with the letter unless you make your own door!”
“You’re insane!” Patryk yelled, “Just tell your men to let us through! Not even that, why do we need to take the letter out? We’ll just give to you here!”
The guard grinned at Patryk.
“I will not be caught dead associating with fugitives stealing the vice-Mayor’s property in the tower itself. I am already taking a bigger personal than I want by letting you in here.”
Neej-Nash attempted to smash her other elbow to the face of the guard holding her down, but he effortlessly caught her strike and wrestled her other arm behind her back too.
“Rags!” she yelled, “Guard man sets trap! This says so!”
Kheret scrunched his nose in disgust and set the tip of his sword against Neej-Nash’s head. Bhollom tried to pull him away, but the captain shoved him against the table. Patryk tried to break free as well, but found his arm bent behind him like Neej-Nash.
“Calm yourself, lizard,” Kheret spat, “I knew you would prove difficult. Your kind always does.”
Neej-Nash would have liked nothing more than to feel the captain’s skull crack under the swing of her tail, but the feeling of a sharp piece of metal digging through the scales was making a very convincing argument towards not trying to make her dream reality just now. Reluctantly, she lied down on the cold stone floor, spitting curses at all elves in her native tongue.
“There we go,” Kheret said, “Now that you are listening, listen well. Once the stub gets the letter, my men will ‘arrest’ him and put him into your cell. You will then do whatever it is you do and bring down the wall.”
The captain turned to Bhollom, sneering as always.
“You escape, give me the letter, I guarantee you free passage through city gates.”
He spun towards Patryk and pointed his sword at him.
“And you, sailor! You will make sure the saurian stays under control in the dungeon.”
Patryk huffed defiantly.
“And how does the captain suggest I do that? She could break me in half if she wanted to,” he said and tried to flash an amicable smile at Neej-Nash before realizing she couldn’t see it.
“That does not concern me,” Kheret said, “If you want my suggestions, let her do that if it keeps her tame. Take them!”
The guard pinning Neej-Nash down pulled her up from the floor. She hissed in pain as her arms bent back further than they were meant. Before she was shoved out of the door, she threw a furious glare where she thought Bhollom was standing and flared her frills wide.
“This trust Rags!”
The wooden door slammed shut, before Bhollom could respond. The room was filled with silence, broken only by crackling of the fireplace.
Outraged, Bhollom spun around to face the guard captain.
“You…! That was not necessary!” he screamed.
Kheret’s grin revealed his teeth for the first time. Bhollom took a step back at the sight of his sharpened denture.
“I disagree. I was worried you would run away and abandon your friends. Now I know you will not.”
He gestured towards the chair with the pile of clothes on it.