I didn’t, of course. But a new child in the house does cut into writing time something fierce.
But that isn’t why you are reading this. Here is another excerpt from “Redeemer”:
It wasn’t ending like this. It couldn’t. She was still out there. They had to get to her. What was Bes thinking? What was Mel’k thinking? No, Nusiki thought, this wasn’t going to happen.
But it was. Bes, Mel’k, even Prince Urukh – albeit grudgingly – all agreed to leave in the morning for Nun-Ki. For home. Exactly where Nusiki wanted to be, but not without Emyni. Not without her father. This wasn’t the plan.
“That’s okay,” he whispered as he adjusted the pack on his back. “It’s just fine. They can do whatever they want. I’m goin’ after her.”
He looked over his shoulder at the inn. Despite the lights in some windows, it seemed eerie and deserted to him. He was making his choice. Leaving behind the protection of his new friends in favor of an uncertain future.
What did it matter, really? His whole life had been day after day of uncertain future – with no real goal. At least this time he had a goal. To find Emyni, to talk to her, and to bring her home.
Fifteen minutes of walking brought the boy to his first obstacle. The gates to Adummatu were closed for the night. A smaller sally port, to the side of the gate, was open and guarded. People walked out but the boy didn’t see anyone walking in. With all the rules in the city it was no doubt illegal for people to enter it after dark unless they had some sort of special permission.
He sidled to the edge of the torchlight and sat in the shadows of a nearby stable. The smell of mouldering straw, animal sweat, and horse dung hung in the air.
“Ya used t’be better than this, ‘Siki,” he softly chided. Nusiki often argued with himself under his breath when he was on the prowl. “Ya shoulda had a plan before ya ever came here.”
Of course, he argued back, he didn’t know they shut the gates after dark. Then again, he should have found out. But he wasn’t thinking about sneaking in after dark – not really – because then he didn’t know they were leaving. He thought he had a few more days at least to try to get to Emyni.
He could wait until the morning. Roll up in the straw in the stable and sleep through the night. Except they might come looking for him. Or he might be discovered by a guard. And it would be harder for him to get to Emyni in the daytime. No, night was mother of the thief – she wrapped him in dark blankets and kept him hidden from the dangers of the world. It had to be tonight, or it wouldn’t happen at all.
In the stable behind him a horse snorted and stamped its hooves. Half of a plan formed in his mind. He didn’t like it, but it was better than what he had.
The gate of the stable was facing the city wall, and in the light of the torches. Nusiki hugged the shadows until they met the light, and waited. And watched. When the guards had their attention away, just for a split second, he slithered around the corner and darted over the gate. His foot caught on the edge and he fell into a pile of straw. A derisive snort drew his attention to the horse standing over him. She nickered, sniffed at him, and then stared curiously.
“Sorry,” he whispered. “Didn’t mean for that t’happen.”
Nusiki looked back to the guards. It didn’t seem they saw him go in. Now, for the hard part. The latch was on the outside. He had to stay low, to stay out of sight, while reaching through the slats of the gate and unlatch it blind. This required he kneel on the ground, his shoulder against the gate, while he stretched to force both arms through and twist them up to reach the latch.
The latch was simple – lift up and push out and it would open. Simple, that is, if you happened to be standing on the outside of the stable. Nusiki’s shoulders began to scream in protest as he twisted and pushed and pulled. His back cramped up and his foot twisted awkwardly. He grunted and cursed under his breath.
A dull scrape and sudden release of pressure signaled his success. He managed to catch himself before he tumbled out as the gate swung open to escape his weight. He ducked back into the shadows inside and looked out. The guards still hadn’t noticed.
The horse who greeted his entrance remained unconcerned about the gate. She flicked her tail and looked at him. The other horse, however, she took a tentative step towards freedom.
Nusiki grimaced and slipped behind the horses. Painfully aware of the large, powerful, hind legs only inches away from him, he screwed up his courage and slapped both horses on their haunches.
A hoof kicked up, missing his head by nothing more than a hair, and sent fragments of brick spraying through the small stable. The second horse was already running outside. Nusiki’s new friend followed after, tossing her mane in the wind and snorting loudly.
He melted into the darkest corner of the stable and watched the guards react. A short cry of surprise was closely followed by both men taking off in pursuit of the fleeing mounts.
A deep breath, a quick prayer to whatever God would listen, and into the light and straight for the open sally port he ran. He dared not look over his shoulder in search of witness or pursuit.
– – – – –
The little thief’s ruse and flight did not go unnoticed. A pair of eyes, gleaming white against the darkness, watched from a short distance away.
What was that idiot doing? And why did she think it was any of her business? She should go back to the inn and tell Bes or Mel’k – or the Prince. Instead, and against her better judgment, she started, questioned herself again, and then bolted across the lit expanse between the shadows she hid in and the unguarded sally port.
He didn’t even look back, she noticed. Some thief. Didn’t even know she was following him. She was raised in a house of nobility, not under the city, and she was outwitting the thief.
She did look back, and saw no sign of pursuit. Before she even exhaled, Datena crossed the threshold and was in the city proper.
A hooded and cloaked form detached itself from the inner wall and followed.