Nerit struggled under the weight of the huge timber. Sweat poured off the young bandit as he dragged what had been the rafter of a grain storehouse along the dusty road. The ropey muscles of his arms bulged and throbbed in protest at the crushing burden. With every step, Nerit had to fight to keep his feet. He kept his eyes doggedly fixed on the line of fortifications that he and his fellow bandits were erecting against the encroaching king’s army. Focusing on his goal lent strength to his arms and stiffness to his back.
Then, Nerit’s foot stepped badly on a stone. Ankle askew, knee weak, he fell to the ground, the massive timber set to crush him. Nerit braced for the blow.
It never came.
Opening his eyes, Nerit saw Kehnan holding the huge plank of wood, his massive arms easily cradling the bulk of it. “Careful there, friend,” said Kehnan. “You should aim to die fighting your enemies, not caught crushed by a tool you thought you could handle but proved too powerful.”
Nerit scowled at Kehnan’s bemused smile. He pulled himself to his feet, the maggot tattoo beneath his left eye compressed in disgust. “I am not your friend. The queen let you live, and so I too will spare you. The queen says you will fight by our side, and so I shall let it be. But the moment the queen tires of indulging you, I will plant one of my arrows through your heart.”
Kehnan laughed. “You are young and you wear your passion on your face as plainly as that tattoo. Now that you have told me that you are my enemy, I will never show my back to you. You would do well to hide your true intentions behind a smile of friendliness. Perhaps offer me some wine to dull my skills.”
Nerit had regained his feet and seized the huge timber back from the taller man. In sullen silence, he resumed dragging the beam. Kehnan came up behind him and lifted the tail end of the beam out of the dirt with ease. “Just because you think me an enemy, Nerit, doesn’t mean I can’t be of value to you. I suspect you are as unpracticed at the ways of love as you are the ways of deception. Allow me to school you in the best ways to a woman’s heart. Or, at least, to her bed….”
Kehnan’s booming laughter echoed throughout the gap between the hills as Nerit walked on, his face burning with shame.
— — —
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Wayfarings of Sabit: Betrayal is copyright (c) 2017 by Michael S. Miller. All rights reserved. New chapters post every Thursday. You can support this and other stories on Patreon, https://patreon.com/michaelsmiller, or at http://ipressgames.com/fiction/.