The Unseeing Eyes
Book I, Chapter 9
Neej-Nash was restless. She had lost track of time since she had first woken up feeling like herself again in the small storage room. The only thing she really remembered from the time they had broken out of jail was the guard captain talking to Bhollom and someone else about something or other. After she had come to, Bhollom had explained the captain was actually helping them clear their name. Despite Neej-Nash’s objections, Bhollom had insisted it was the only way.
Naaj-Nash sat alone, leaning against a barrel and ripping small pieces of what she assumed to be some kind of dried meat. Bhollom had gone out on some business or other. Neej-Nash couldn’t remember what he had left to do, as her tantrum on not being allowed go with Bhollom had blocked his explanation from her memory. She swallowed another piece of the meat and grumbled to herself. Even if she was bored to death, at least she didn’t have to go hungry.
Movement around the storage room’s single small and smudgy window peaked Neej-Nash’s attention. Her tongue darted out of her mouth and she groaned in slight disappointment.
Just a rat.
Neej-Nash leaned her head back and rested it against the barrel. She sighed deep. Not that she wanted to be found out, but at least a city guard peeking in through the window would have brought some excitement to the tedium. Neej-Nash wasn’t even sure how many days she had spent just sitting in the room since she had regained her full consciousness. At least Bhollom got to go outside every once in a while, but Neej-Nash apparently would immediately alert anyone looking for them.
Neej-Nash picked up a small box lying on the floor next to her. One of Whiskers’ friends, the tall and skinny one had brought her something he had called “playing cards” when they had come to get Bhollom. She ran her fingers across the coarse, thick paper of the box and, upon figuring out how, opened it.
Out of the box poured several small pieces of paper, thinner than the box’s material. Neej-Nash turned the paper slips around in her hands. The skinny man, whose name she couldn’t remember to save her life, had been very excited about giving them to her, but Neej-Nash failed to see the fascination in the cards. Annoyed, she hissed quietly. If only see could see if the cards had some kind of pictures or even writing on them, maybe she could’ve figured out how she was supposed to play with them. Granted, she couldn’t read the soft-skins’ small squiggly writing too well, but she would’ve welcomed anything to distract herself with.
She heard shuffling from outside the storage room’s door and soon whoever was outside knocked on the door five times. Bhollom stepped into the dimly lit room and found Neej-Nash leaning against a barrel of ale with her eyes closed, flinging playing cards across the room one by one.
“I brought food,” Bhollom said and set a small basket covered with a plain brown cloth on a crate. He pulled off the cloak he had gotten into wearing outside. It was drizzling and Bhollom hung the cloak to dry on a hook on the wall before turning to Neej-Nash.
“How do you feel?”
The saurian opened her eyes a crack and Bhollom could’ve sworn he saw hazy pupils turn towards him. Neej-Nash threw one of the cards towards Bhollom and snapped her jaws.
“Where Rags go?” she asked, her voice tense.
Bhollom picked up the basket. He pulled off the cloth and set the basket on the floor next to Neej-Nash.
“I went to the inn to see Whiskers and the others. He sent a little something for you,” he said.
Neej-Nash flicked her tongue. The smell of freshly baked bread was wafting up from the basket, along with that of the things the soft-skins called cheese. She felt a slight stab of hunger, but fought off the urge to attack the basket. Instead, she snorted and pushed the food away.
“This no hungry.”
Bhollom raised his eyebrows.
“Really? That’s not like you.”
Neej-Nash’s frills stiffened slightly and turned redder in color.
“This just eat,” she snapped and pointed at the hunk of dried meat.
Bhollom glanced at a torn, half-eaten leather boot lying on the floor. He sighed and knelt down next to Neej-Nash.
“What is it?” he asked, “Are you angry at me?”
Her now bright orange frills spread wide open. Neej-Nash growled as she swirled around and grabbed Bhollom by his shirt.
“This angry!” she screeched, “This bored! This alone! Rags goes out! Rags does what Rags wants! This wants to go but Rags says no! This breaks wall and helps Rags out and Rags leave this all alone! Rags…”
“Neej-Nash, I can’t understand you!”
Neej-Nash snapped out of her enraged tirade. She realized that she had switched to yelling at Bhollom in her own native tongue at some point during her rant. Slowly, she blinked her eyes and, receiving no better picture of the room, she flicked her tongue. She found herself on all fours. The food basket’s contents were strewn across the floor. Bhollom was crawling away from between her arms.
Bhollom scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could. He didn’t want to stay on the floor or turn his back to the furious saurian. His heart was beating faster than he ever before, and years later he would recall the moment as one of the many when he was certain he was going to die.
“Alright,” he said and raised his hands, “Alright. Let’s just… Let’s calm down.”
Neej-Nash licked her lips and peevishly sat down. Her frills loosened up slightly and their coloring got less vibrant.
“You’re angry, you made that clear,” Bhollom said, “but hear me out, will you?”
She flicked her frills slightly.
“Good,” Bhollom said. He was trying to get his pulse under control.
“I get it. You’re angry. But please, lower your voice. We have to keep quiet,” Bhollom said.
Neej-Nash flared her frills again and flashed her teeth.
“Keeps quiet! This keeps quiet!” she hissed. But instead of lunging at Bhollom again, her face sunk down and her frills glued themselves to her neck. “This just keeps quiet. Is all this does.”
Bhollom couldn’t help but feel sorry for Neej-Nash. While he knew the saurian was just as intelligent and sentient as anyone, whenever she reacted like this she reminded Bhollom of a puppy that had just been kicked. He sighed and knelt down in front of Neej-Nash. He tried setting his hand on her shoulder, but she jerked away from him.
“I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do,” Bhollom said, “I need to go out to plan things through with Whiskers and the others. I want to take you with me, but I can’t! Everyone knows the guards are looking for a saurian and as far as I know, you’re the only one in the city!”
Neej-Nash glared at Bhollom.
“Rags goes out if Rags need to, this no care,” she said, “but Rags stay too long! Stay for days!”
“Neej-Nash, we got here yesterday morning.”
“This feels it more long!”
The two stared at each other for a long time in silence. Bhollom blinked first. He sighed and sat down on the cold stone floor.
“I’m sorry I’m leaving you alone in here,” he said, “It must get boring. But just hang in there, please?”
Bhollom looked up at Neej-Nash and offered her a conciliatory smile. She never saw it.
“Rags plan a lot,” Neej-Nash huffed, “Rags plan too much. This says these just get out of city!”
“And I’ve told you we can’t just get out of the city, the guards have blocked every single way out! They’re not even letting any ships leave!”
“So what Rags plan then? Let guard man take these away?” Neej-Nash ask, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Bhollom his choler rise and stabbed his finger towards Neej-Nash.
“He’s not taking anyone away, he’s helping us! All we need to do is get that letter for him and he’ll guarantee us safe exit!”
“Sure he do,” Neej-Nash hissed, “How Rags trust guard man? Rags stupid.”
“Well I don’t see you coming up with better plans!” Bhollom bellowed.
“This has plan! These get out of city!”
“And I’m telling you we can’t-“
Five knocks sounded from the door, interrupting the argument. Before either Bhollom or Neej-Nash managed to rush to the door, it creaked open and Patryk’s beaded face peeped in.
“Everything all right in here?” he asked.
Bhollom did not have time to answer as the Kheret the guard captain pushed in through the door. He glanced at Bhollom and Neej-Nash, who was just getting up from messy floor, and a derisive smirk crawled to his lips.
“I am sorry, did we interrupt a domestic argument?”
Bhollom grit his teeth as he fought the impulse to throw some snide remark back at Kheret.
“What do you want?” he settled on grunting.
The captain huffed at Bhollom.
“Watch your tone with me, stub,” he said, “In fact, watch your voices in general. I could hear all the way across the square.”
Bhollom glared at the captain. He squeezed his eyes shut for a second and sighed deep.
“What do you want?” he repeated, only in a more amicable tone.
Kheret smirked again.
“The time is here, stub. We put the plan into action.”