The Unseeing Eyes
Book I, Chapter 7
The bearded older man peered carefully around the corner. Three guards, first on them bearing a lantern, jogged down the street. They stopped for a while at the point where the street forked into two, seemed to argue about something or other for a while, and disappeared down the left alley. When the light of their lantern faded into the distance, the bearded man disappeared to the shadows behind him and a moment later he and Bhollom dragged Neej-Nash across the street into the opposite alley.
The saurian was still struggling to draw breath and her legs felt like jelly whenever Bhollom and the other man let go of their hold on her. But at least she had managed to pull herself together enough to get some bearing of where she was being taken. Although the feeling was barely noticeable by now, Neej-Nash could sense one of the magical signs she had placed the day before when she and Bhollom had first made their way to the Serpent and the Skewer.
The bearded man and Bhollom set Neej-Nash against the wall and she slumped down to the pavement. The bearded man watched her chest heave noticeably even under her loose robes. He scratched his beard thoughtfully.
“This is taking too long,” he said to Bhollom, “We need to get you two off the streets before they empty the whole Tower of guards to look for you.”
Bhollom knelt down next to Neej-Nash and turned her head to face him. Her clouded eyeballs turned sluggishly towards Bhollom and almost seemed to search for his face before they began darting back and forth as usual. Bhollom felt the saurian’s warm breath on him in the chilly night air. He shuddered and thanked all the gods he could think of that Neej-Nash had fixed his foot before they took off. It would’ve been impossible to carry the saurian around if he wasn’t able to walk properly.
“Where are your friends?” Bhollom asked, “I thought they were supposed to catch up to you.”
He gently set Neej-Nash’s head against the stone wall behind her and turned to the bearded man.
“Beats me,” the man said and shrugged, “Mayhaps they got delayed. They’ll turn up at the inn once they realize we’ve left.”
Bhollom chewed on his lips and glanced down to Neej-Nash.
“It’d be easier to carry her if we had an extra pair of arms,” he muttered.
Bhollom was trying his hardest, but the hunger churning in his stomach and Neej-Nash’s weight were starting to take a toll on him. The fact that even standing on the tip of his toes Bhollom was barely tall enough to reach the man’s or Neej-Nash’s chest didn’t make the ordeal any easier, either.
“Aye, true,” the man said, “but at least we’re not too far from the Skewer anymore. But we have to get moving, we can’t keep stopping this often. She’ll just have to take it.”
The man grabbed one of Neej-Nash’s limp arms and threw it over his shoulder. He glanced at Bhollom, who sighed and did the same with her other arm. The man smiled at the stub.
“Heave ho!” he whispered. Bhollom rolled his eyes.
Together, the two men pulled the floppy saurian off the ground and let her rest against their shoulders. Granted, most her weight was on the bearded man as he was twice as tall as Bhollom, but he wrapped his arms around Neej-Nash’s waist, keeping her from falling over to his side. Slowly, they began to trudge down the alley.
“So what’s the story with you two?” the bearded man asked in a hushed voice and raised his eyebrow, “Are you a couple or something?”
Neej-Nash let out a muffled hiss and Bhollom glared at the man from under her arm.
“She’s blind, not deaf, you know,” he grumbled. “Also, she’s a reptile.”
The man chuckled uneasily as he realized he may have crossed a line. He patted Bhollom on the shoulder as a gesture of peace.
“I’ll take that as a no,” he said.
Bhollom grunted as Neej-Nash began to slide down on top of him.
“She’s paying me to take her to Kobresia,” he said as he pushed her back up, “She’s my employer.”
“Kobresia, eh? Been there a couple of times. A real nice city, at least back then. What are you heading there for?” the man asked, chatting as they ran across another street.
“Can we… Go over this… Later?” Bhollom managed to groan between pained gasps. Carrying Neej-Nash was getting harder and harder, and Bhollom realized the breaks they took had been as much for him as they had been for her.
The man nodded, and the trio went the rest of the way in silence, broken only by Neej-Nash’s mumbled groans and Bhollom’s wheezing. Occasionally they pressed into dark corners or gateways to avoid the increasing number of guard patrols. Despite Bhollom constantly assuring himself that the next patrol would surely spot them, before too long the Serpent and the Skewer stood in front of them with the welcoming glow of a fireplace beaming out of its windows. After making sure no guards were in sight, the bearded man ran to the door, knocked on it six times, and rushed back across to street to help Bhollom carry Neej-Nash over.
Whiskers locked the door behind them as the three burst into the inn. The bearded man and Bhollom set Neej-Nash lying down on one the several long benches that littered the floor. She managed to whisper a quiet “thanks you” as Bhollom let go of her arm. He found a ghost of a smile creep to his lips, but just as soon his legs gave up and Bhollom flopped down to the floor like a wet noodle.
From the corner of his eye Bhollom watched Whiskers, who was standing further away from them, engaged in a hushed conversation with the bearded man. The panting stub pushed himself up from the floor and slowly shuffled to the two men.
“…never showed up. I hope they’ll get here soon,” the bearded man said as he finished the story of their escape. Whiskers preened his mustache and began to say something, but Bhollom’s arrival interrupted him. He dropped down to his knees to face the stub and grabbed him by his shoulders.
“By the gods, boy! Tell me you didn’t do it!”
The expression on Whiskers’ face was new to Bhollom. From his nose down he looked as if he was about to break down and bawl like a child, but his eyes burned with an unbridled fury.
“Of course not, Whiskers,” Bhollom said. He felt a heavy sadness settle on his heart all of a sudden. “Do you even have to ask?”
Whiskers’ lower lip trembled and he wrapped his arms around Bhollom, engulfing him into a tight embrace.
“Of course not, my dear boy,” he whispered. Whiskers let go of Bhollom and laid his hands back on his shoulders. He was smiling, but his eyes were noticeably wet.
“I just had to hear it from your own mouth. Forgive me.”
Bhollom smiled back at his old, mustached friend and squeezed his arm.
“There’s nothing to forgive, Whiskers. If anything, I should be apologizing.”
Whiskers rose back up to his feet and patted Bhollom on his head.
The bearded man stepped forward and extended his hand to Bhollom. He also has a wide smile on his tanned face
“Wasn’t time for introductions earlier, but now seems like a good moment for that,” he said, “Patryk Lisko, at your service.”
Bhollom shook the man’s hand. His grip reminded Bhollom of the time years ago when his hand got caught between two cargo crates.
“It’s good to meet you, Patryk. I’m Mohlbad Bhollom, though I figure you already knew that.”
“Aye! Used to be a mate on one of your father’s ships.”
Bhollom’s hand was finally released from Patryk’s death-grip. He rubbed his numb fingers and glanced up to Whiskers.
“Thank you for helping us out of the cell, both of you,” Bhollom said, “But would you mind explaining why you wanted to break us out? Not that I would have preferred facing the judges, but I’m sure you’re aware that this doesn’t exactly make me and Neej-Nash seem more innocent.”
“I couldn’t have in good conscience have let you in there,” Whiskers said, rubbing the back of his head, “I’ve heard few good things about the judges, and…”
Whiskers suddenly seemed uncomfortable.
“…Well, I heard a rumor that you would not be facing the fairest trial.”
“Rumor? From who?” Bhollom asked.
Whiskers’ uneasiness made him feel twice as uncomfortable. The old man tried to offer him an assuring smile.
“It should be reliable. I couldn’t take the chances, master Bhollom,” he said, “I hope you understand, that I’d rather see you on the run than executed for nothing.”
Bhollom nodded slowly and let his eyes sink back to the floor. When he put it like that, Bhollom assumed Whiskers was right. He touched his neck. Bhollom wasn’t quite ready to part with his head just yet.
Five booming knocks came from the inn door. Whiskers shushed for Bhollom and Patryk to keep quiet as he went and unlocked the door. He opened the door a crack, peered out, and flung the door open as a tall and skinny man and a fat stub burst in. Patryk stepped forward to face them.
“What happened? Where were you?” he demanded angrily.
“I might as well ask you!” the skinny man, his skin the same color as Patryk’s, barked back, “What did you do? It’s like they’ve put the whole Tower Guard to the streets!”
“Which they probably have,” the orange-haired fat stub added before noticing Bhollom peeking out at them from behind Patryk’s back. A wide smile spread over his face, and he marched to Bhollom and shook his hand furiously.
“Master Mohlbad! Bleeding good to see you healthy and safe!”
The skinny man shoved the other stub away and grabbed Bhollom hand in his place. Despite his wiry frame his grip was just as tight as Patryk’s.
“Indeed it is, master Mohlbad. And allow me to apologize for being so late to meet you!”
Bhollom wrestled his hand free and, again rubbing his fingers, turned to Patryk.
“I assume these are the friends you mentioned?”
“Quite so,” Patryk said and laid his hands on the two other men’s shoulders, “The stub is called Flim and the idiot is my younger brother Urban.”
Bhollom nodded to the two as feeling began to return to his hand.
“Right then,” Whiskers said as he joined the ring, “Now that we’re all here, we can start figuring out how to get master Mohlbad and his friend out of the city before sunrise.”
Patryk sighed deeply.
“I think that might have to wait, Mr. Deepwater,” he said and turned to look at Neej-Nash. She was still sprawled on the bench, but her groans were getting more audible and her tongue had begun to flick out of her mouth again.
“She did some magic trick and made a hole in the guard house wall. She-“
“So that’s what did it!” Urban shouted, “A mighty hole it was too, like a bull went through it!”
Patryk slapped Urban on the back of his head.
“Don’t interrupt! Anyway, it was hard enough to get her here. I wouldn’t expect her to make it even to the city walls, let alone over them.”
The four looked over their shoulders to Bhollom for confirmation. He nodded quickly.
“Patryk’s right,” he said, “She’s in no condition to move.”
Whiskers twirled his mustache around his finger, musing on the unexpected turn of events.
“This complicates things,” he muttered. “We have to take you somewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if the guards came looking for you here.”
“Can’t we just lock them in one of the guest rooms?” Flim asked.
“And I assume you’re going to stop them from breaking down the door if they damn well feel like it?” Urban asked with sarcasm in his voice. Flim glared at the gaunt man, but didn’t protest. He had a point.
“Well surely there’s somewhere where we can store them for a day or-“
“That’s it!” Whiskers shouted in a booming voice that caused Neej-Nash to flinch on her bench. He turned to Bhollom with a triumphant smile. Confused, Bhollom settled for blinking at him.
“The storage house! You organized it, there should be room for you two to hunker down in there, eh?”
Bhollom’s eyes widened.
“Yes! I mean, I suppose.”
Whiskers was nodding enthusiastically.
“No, no, that’s it! It might be a bit chilly, but take some blankets from the guest rooms with you. There’s food in there, cheese and such you can eat cold, and plenty to drink. It’s perfect!” he explained. The other three men looked at each other and nodded approvingly.
“I suppose so,” Bhollom repeated, “But how will we get there? Urban said there were guards everywhere.”
Whiskers gestured towards the kitchen in the back of the inn.
“Take the back streets! Urban and Patryk can carry Nejjish-“
“Neej-Nash,” Bhollom corrected.
“Yes, her. Flim will help you take the blankets. I’ll stay here and let our guest know where you’ve gone.”
Bhollom raised his eyebrows at Whiskers.
“Guest? What guest?”
“You’ll see. And then, tomorrow night, we’ll help you sneak out of the city if Neej-Nash is back on her feet,” Whiskers said.
Bhollom thought about the proposal. The idea of being a fugitive still didn’t sit quite right with him, but perhaps Whiskers was right and trying to stand up to the local justice system would be a futile effort. Eventually he sighed and nodded in agreement.
“That sounds like plan.”
Whiskers clapped his hands.
“Excellent! Patryk, Urban, you get the lady. Flim, go grab some blankets from the common room.”
The men rushed into motion. Bhollom followed Patryk and Urban who marched over to Neej-Nash and grabbed her arms. Bhollom noticed she tried to resist but couldn’t find the strength to struggle properly. He climbed onto the bench in front of her and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Neej-Nash, it’s Bhollom. Don’t worry, they’re friends. They’re taking us to a safe place.”
Neej-Nash turned her face towards Bhollom’s voice.
“Rags, head hurts,” she said in a quiet voice.
“Yeah, it probably does. You can rest when we get there.”
Reluctantly, Neej-Nash relaxed and allowed the two men to prop her up between them and carry her out through the back door. The two stubs followed them with armfuls of blankets.
The route they took to the storage house was the longer way, but the dark back streets had few guard patrols and, with their heaviest burden steadily supported by Patryk and Urban, they made good time. Soon enough they emerged to the familiar small square. Flim dumped the blankets he was carrying on Bhollom and dug out the key Whiskers has trusted into his care. He got up to the door, but just as he fit the key into the lock, the door was pushed open from the inside. Bhollom felt his blood freeze as out from the store house into the pale moonlight stepped the guard captain.