Swords and magic, p.1
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       Swords and Magic, p.1

           F. E. Hubert
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Swords and Magic
Swords and Magic

  A short story serial by F.E. Hubert

  Copyright 2016 by F.E. Hubert

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or other characters is purely coincidental.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

  Content

  Title and copyright

  Content

  Sword of the Sands

  Chapter one: The caravan

  Chapter two: Golden dancer

  Chapter three: Tribe rules

  Chapter four: The cave

  Chapter five: The sword

  Book of Magic

  Chapter one: In the dungeon

  Chapter two: The day it started

  Chapter three: New moon

  Chapter four: Spring fest

  Chapter five: Wild magic

  Chapter six: The pit

  Sword in the City

  Chapter one: In the city

  Chapter two: Job for a sword

  Chapter three: All in a night’s work

  Chapter four: On the run

  Chapter five: Getting the box

  Isles of Krake

  Chapter one: Krake

  Chapter two: Kalis and Dun go shopping

  Chapter three: The stronghold

  Chapter four: Dungeons

  Other titles by F.E. Hubert

  Sword of the Sands

  The caravan

  Dry sands surrounded the isle of moist paradise as far as Mufroen’s keen eyes could see. The plains around the oasis the tribe called home this season shimmered in wavering sheets under the pre-noon sun. The high desert was home to none but the tribes who had learned to survive her fickle ways. Those that wandered into her sandy stretches unprepared, were soon overcome by the mind-boiling heat of the baking days, or the biting cold that followed when the sun hid from the night.

  In his shelter, Mufroen lay waiting for the hottest hours of the day to arrive. During midday the entire camp would be at rest and under cover from the white heat of the sun. All but Mufroen and Lillin, the drover’s daughter. She was destined to join the chief’s, his father’s, harem as his however manieth wife in a matter of weeks, making it all the more important that their recent affair stay hidden. He closed his eyes to spend the time until they would meet in slumber.

  The sound of loud voices woke him. Startled, he was upright and outside the makeshift shelter of cloth before he was more than half awake. The sun told him he hadn’t slept long, but being pulled from his dream made him feel like he had. Rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand, he crouched behind a sandy ledge and watched the spectacle below. Another caravan had arrived, as many more would in the coming days in order to attend the quadrennial meeting of the clans. But no tribesman was likely to arrive at the shelter of the grove so close to the sun’s peak, and as Mufroen looked at the carts riding in from under the shading of his hand, he realized it was not a tribe caravan.

  Under the shelter of the grove’s greenery and trees he could easily approach the open space left between the communal tents without being seen. The new arrivals halted their wagons in front of the large tent the men used for their meetings. The sounds of the men greeting drifted through the shade under ballroom ceiling of the canopy. Mufroen moved from rope cover to rope cover, until he found a spot under one of their own carts that provided shelter and a good view of the new arrivals. The man shaking hands with the chief and the other members of the council of Elders was large, but his fat and muscle had turned to flab by recent dehydration and hunger. He wore colourful tunics and shawls over a pair of long breeches, stuffed into tight ankle boots of orange leather. The harsh sun was already eating into the brightness of the colours, giving them a sad, faded look. More so on the upper side, than where the fabrics were shielded from the glare by the shadows of his arms and legs. Mufroen gave a sharp snort of disdain, no tribesman would ever wear delicate fabrics like those outside the shelter of his tent. A merchant then. The patterned tapestries the women weaved in their tents were much sought after. The thought of the profit they could bring, tempted many a wetlander to try his luck in the waste the tribes called home. From the look of what Mufroen gathered was their leader, they were lucky to have made it this far.

  Lillin was waiting for him at his own shelter. She assured him continually that she would get away without suspicion, no matter where she was found, as long as she was found alone. And yet, every time they met, she seemed more restless. As he stepped up to the ridge, he saw her pacing up and down the dell, her long robes dancing up at every turn. He almost stepped back down, but she saw him.

  “Where were you?” She said in a tone that made him wince. She clasped her arms around his neck.

  “Can’t be too careful,” He said with an edge of challenge, pulling her arms to loosen her embrace. “Besides, a caravan just pulled in. At midday.” She was already pulling him down into the hollow hidden by overhanging rock, but now she stopped her efforts in a show of annoyance.

  “It’s blasphemy, that’s what it is!” Her hands slid down her sides until they reached the hollows above her hips. There they stayed to accent her angry tone. “A carnival during the clan meeting. It’s unheard that strangers would be here during so important a time. And no decent carnival, they call themselves a dancing troupe.” She stamped her foot on the sand in anger.

  Mufroen realized that the fact that there were dancers was the real cause for her frustration. He wondered how she even managed to find this out, before coming to meet him here. The talk in the women’s quarters must have been quite something to make her hurry. To his exasperation, Lillin’s moods and opinions eddied in an incomprehensible flow, steered by the whims of her many sisters, aunts and nieces. Catching his expression, she drew in breath like a summer gale.

  “I forbid you to go there!” He raised one of his dark, slender eyebrows and frowned at her. Something had her flustered. He was just about to point out that he was not yet allowed in the men’s tent, and therefore unable to attend any show there might be, dancers, or no dancers, when she continued.

  “I’m going to have your baby - ” His surprised laugh cut her off. She was not much shorter than he was and she drew every inch of herself up in righteous anger.

  “You’ll have to marry me now, so you’d better do as I say. If you don’t want to end your life on the rack.”

  He looked at her with his mouth still open, and just before a sharp retort passed his lips, his brain intervened. She was right. If the Elders found out now, there’d be only two ways this could play out. She’d accuse him, and he would find himself stretched on a sun-exposed rack one morning soon, or she would confess complicity, forcing him to marry her. Or go on the rack, if he refused. No matter both their father’s wishes and the inevitable outrage of the tribe, he would be stuck with her.

  He’d pursued her with a passion, but that had not lasted long after their first few meetings. He had been relieved that in a few weeks she’d be safely locked away in his father’s harem. With a numb smile he caressed her cheek.

  “I guess you know best, lover.”

  She looked at him with a distrustful frown, but now that he’d agreed her handholds for berating him were slim and she was quite intelligent enough to realize that it would not do to push him too far. For now she held a l
eash on him, but the danger to herself was not to be discarded.

  She did not look forward to spending her fruitful years under the thumb of Mufroen’s old and dried-up father, but it was certainly preferable to exile and almost certain death out in the desert. The only way she could avoid both would be through Mufroen’s protection. If she could arrange to be married to him, she’d be his first wife, and since the chances were good that he’d rise to chief when his old man passed, that would be a position of considerable power. She looked over to the man-boy next to her in the sand and smiled. The chances were very good indeed.

  Under the long sunrobes of thick, dark blue fabric, hid a powerful body. His short, wiry figure was packed with flat muscles that moved with a dancer’s grace and the speed of a snake. His skills with the bellied longsword and traditional two-swords were unrivalled, much to the frustration of quite a number of the Elders. If he had a mind to, he could challenge his father for leadership of the tribe, right then and there.

  Despite what Mufroen’s quick disinterest might suggest, Lillin had the astounding beauty of a teen tribeswoman. In a few years she would wilt and shrivel before her time and beyond her years, like they all did, but for now she was a spring leaf. Her long, dark hair, mostly hidden by long scarves and the obligatory virgin’s turban, fell around her face and down her back like a silken river. Eyes of almond spoke of a lust for life that is given to few, and thick, dark lashes created the illusion of depth
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