Djinja and the Chalice of Anguish. book 3

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Djinja and the Chalice of Anguish. book 3

Post  Djinja on Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:08 pm

Djinja pushed the knuckle bones away and scooped his winnings across the table and into his hat, the swamp peasants nodding good naturedly as they left the tavern, even poorer than when they had first come in. That left only one other customer in The Pig And Tater, a Troll hunter sitting near the window. Older and stronger than Djinja, he was dressed in simple peasant brown and a large black boar lay at his feet.
As he counted the copper coins Djinja pondered the mystery of females. The last time he was here the landlord's daughter had declared to Djinja her undying love, but this time she wouldn't even look at him.
A hand placed a bone on the table in front of him with a soft click. He looked up and said,
"I'm done with knuckle bones today."
"Not with these bones you aint done! "said the hunter, and lifted his hand to reveal what was unmistakeably a splintered Troll finger bone. Reaching into his belt pouch Djinja withdrew a small cloth bundle and shook out three pieces of finger bone. Poking around he found one of them to match the splintered fragment belonging to the hunter.
"Come!" said the hunter, and he padded silently out of the tavern.

As they left the tavern the hunter tied a wolf mask on his face, leaving his long reddish hair exposed in an untidy queue.
"You work for Vinchaxa!" Djinja exclaimed.
"Don't we all? Put your mask on too. This is business, not a pleasure trip."
"What must we do?" asked Djinja, pulling on his own wolf mask.
"Do you remember as a youth that your father acted as guide to a powerful troll mage?"
"Yes, the mage was seeking rare spider silk. He gave me this dagger"
"He said he was seeking rare spider silk but he was really seeking a place to hide a rare treasure! The dagger was a small part of it, as was the ring he gave to your sister Zaneeta. He stole the Servitors' Patten from the altar of the Temple at Yojumba, and the Great Chalice too. Honoured Servitor Vinchaxa wants it back."
"Who are you?" asked Djinja, "What is your name?"
"My name is Skeen," he replied. "now take me to where you took the mage."

They strode through the swamps for three days, splashing through the mire from one hummock to the next, always heading west into the falling sun. Two well armed Trolls, a warrior and a hunter, they were unlikely to be attacked by any but the strongest of the many strange beasts that dwell in the wetlands.
"The mage searched all over our section of the swamp," said Djinja "but the place he liked best was around the withered iron tree."
"He was looking for a landmark, but in the most remote and dangerous place he could find." replied Skeen "Then he could hide his treasure and find it again."
"I remember he would never let me carry his pack, though I offered to."
"He wouldn't want a thieving peasant boy anywhere near that!" chuckled Skeen.
"What happened to him?" asked Djinja.
"They say he was driven mad by demons." murmured Skeen.

A sudden commotion ahead of them caused them both to ready their weapons and search for the source of trouble. Pushing through a curtain of vines they saw a young Troll girl with a mace fighting off an orange and black spider almost as large as herself. Skeen whistled and the black boar sprang upon the spider with a squeal of ferocious rage. At the moment of impact a feathered shaft and a javelin struck deep into the body of the arachnid, quickly followed by a second arrow, then a third and a final fourth as it rolled itself into a bundle and died.
Skeen lowered his bow and clicked his tongue and the boar immediately returned to it's station behind it's master's heels. Djinja slung his shield again upon his back and sheathed his long wavy blade dagger.

"And who might you be, young colleen? " asked Skeen, as he pulled her to her feet "And why are you alone out here in the swamp?"
"I am called Shu'zan" she replied, "I'm taking this charcoal to our neighbours in payment for a pig." She indicated a sizeable wicker basket lying behind her, shoulder and head straps tangled and half it's contents scattered on the ground.
Djinja and Skeen were both immediately struck by the girl's almost impossible beauty, emerald green eyes and silky hair ; and rather than the usual skinny peasant's body, the poise and grace of an athlete. She was wearing a simple bodice and skirt, the dull earthen colour of which was brightened somewhat by a pattern of blue triangles.
"Can't your father take it to them?" asked Djinja, as he wiped clean the blade of his throwing spear on a tussock, "How far are we from your home?"
"We live half a day to the west, and he must tend the mounds lest they burn too fast and ruin the charcoal."
"We are travelling west," said Skeen. "Deliver your charcoal and we shall accompany you home."
Within two miles they found the neighbour's hut. On stilts and with thatched roofing, it was exactly of the type in which Djinja had been born. They set off into the west again and after a couple of hours uneventful marching set up camp as the sun touched the horizon. The fire was lit and food shared but little was said between them, soon it was dark and they rolled themselves in their cloaks and slept.

They made an early start in the morning and by midday breasted a larger than usual hummock and saw what could only be the withered iron tree half a mile beyond. It was large and pale and it's many branches were bare.
"There won't be another tree like that within a hundred miles." said Djinja, "Let's go down and see what we can find."
They dumped their packs at the base of the tree and Skeen told Shu'zan to make a fire. Whilst she did so the two Trolls poked about at the great roots of the tree with Djinja's spear. Soon enough the probing steel found a leather satchel buried in the loamy soil. Kneeling down to inspect the contents, Skeen lifted out several silver items including goblets and lamps and then a large round dish, and finally a substantial chalice. This last item required two hands to lift and was intricately patterned with finely chiselled work.
"So this is what all the fuss is about!" said Djinja. "Very pretty but I'm not sure it's worth a four day walk in the marsh."

Shu'zan in the meantime had got a fire going, and had half a dozen skewers of meat and herbs cooking there along with a pot of tea ready to drink. They sat and rested and drank tea until the food was ready and then ate with quiet satisfaction, the two comrades very aware now of Shu'zan's almost supernatural beauty. During the days march she had tucked the hem of her long skirt into her belt and her legs were exposed at the front to the thighs. The afternoon was warm and lazy and she rummaged in her basket and found a good sized flask which she passed wordlessly to Skeen. He took a mouthful and found to his pleasure that it was mojo, and of the finest quality. He passed the flask over to Djinja and smiled as he observed the other's pleasurable reaction to it's contents.

The afternoon slipped by and as the light began to fade, Shu'zan knelt to put more wood on the fire. She must have been aware of Djinja's gaze upon her back because she slowly swivelled her chin over her shoulder and made eye contact with him for the first time that day. Lithe as a cat she stood erect, her feet remaining in place, and hummed the first few bars of a drinking song. In response to his boozy grin she hummed a few more bars, flicked her hips and began to slowly dance around the fire. Skeen had gradually slid from the log he had been sitting upon until he was lying along the ground with his head propped up by it, now he cocked his eyebrows at Djinja, pushed out his lower lip and quietly belched.
"This is life!" he muttered.
For the next ten minutes Djinja and his friend the hunter watched as she danced and sang, hypnotised by her unreal loveliness. Djinja too found himself sliding off his log seat until he lay with a propped up head like Skeen. The boar seemed entranced as well and had fallen into the deepest sleep.
Djinja could feel passion and desire arising and thickening in equal proportion, images began to flicker through his mind and the dryness of his throat caused him to swallow. Once again his eyes locked with Shu'zan's exquisite green eyes, and he felt a sudden thrill pulse along his spine and over his shoulders for her eyes were as black and as hard as basalt stones!

He frowned in puzzlement and lifted his head but after an inch the effort was so great that his head bumped back onto the log. She smiled at him, and as her sharp yellow teeth were slowly exposed he attempted to speak, but nothing more than a wheezing rattle would pass his throat. He rolled his head towards Skeen and looked into his eyes but they were half closed and unfocused. Dragging his gaze back to Shu'zan he trembled as he again looked into the core of a Being utterly strange to him. She whispered something which he could not catch and his mouth moved to ask her to repeat herself, when he faintly heard her say the word :
"Beguiled ...."
A deep harsh chuckle emanated from beyond the circle of firelight,
"Beguiled indeed!" said Gand, sliding out of the darkness and into the yellow pool of light.
Another pulse of energy danced along Djinja's spine, he wanted to move but could not, needed to move but could not.
"I can't ....." , he murmured, "I can't....."
"No," whispered Gand, as he raised a stone headed mace, "no.... you can't!"

continued in part 2

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Join date : 2007-12-01
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