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       Slumber, p.9

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young

  Quite suddenly I found myself in the hubbub of the city, lots of people rushing around as if they had somewhere important to be. In fact, as I gazed around at the rather drab appearance of the city, with its industrial towering factories in the distance and the squab little shops, I realised how different it was to Peza, considering the wares that were created here.

  Or so I thought.

  Like stepping into an oil painting I found myself gobsmacked when I walked through an arched aleyway. I found myself lambasted by colour as I entered the market square. Everywhere were people and stals in a multitude of hues, where quiet selers stood patiently offering help and information. Never before had I seen such serious, hushed selers. But as I walked around the stals, my eyes widening every now and then, I realised why. Their products were beautiful, no matter if they were mass-produced – products that sold themselves. I stopped suddenly, drawn to a stal with beaded jewelery. The jewelery I owned was of the finest precious metals and stones, nothing like this. But I fingered a bracelet made with pleated leather; three beautifuly painted beads in emerald, aquamarine and rose decorated the end near the clasp. A little bird of silver metal hung between the beads.

  I saw my mother taking a bracelet from my hands as a child, pressing a soft kiss to my head and teling me it wasn’t to be played with, but when I was older it would be mine. It had been a leather rope bracelet, no beads, but a little bird had hung from its centre.

  “How much?” I asked a little dazed, holding the bracelet up.

  The seler smiled gently. “Five coppers, miss.”

  Five coppers? That was al. I picked it up, as wel as another similar, only it had different coloured beads. Haydyn would like it, I was sure. “I’l take the two.” She smiled pleasantly at me again and took the money. She then wrapped the bracelets separately in tissue paper before popping them into a little paper bag for me.

  I thanked her and walked away, bemused by my impulsive buy. I wasn’t realy much of a shopper.

  I wandered for a while amongst the glitter and awe of the splendid market and then eyed a confectionary store in indecision. Finaly, at the little growl my stomach gave, I shrugged and went inside to buy a cream cake. I took the cake back outside to stand back from the crowds at the corner of the shop where it met a narrow side path between buildings. I could eat my cake in peace here.

  Although the cake was good, I couldn’t help feeling a little unsatisfied as I ate it people-watching. It was nowhere near as good as Cooks, I grimaced. I wondered if Valena was eating al my cakes as wel as hers. Smiling wryly at the thought, I wiped at a smudge of cream on my lip and readied myself to make my way back to the Zansts. I was lucky to have gotten away for this long. And I just knew I was in for a severe lecture from Wolfe. Perfect.

  Just as I made to take a step forward, I heard a scuffle from behind me. My heart spluttered with dread.

  But it was too late.

  A grimy hand clamped down on my mouth, dirty and sweaty, and my feet left the ground as I was dragged back into the darkness of the aley. I tried to scream against the hand but al that came out was a muffled whine. I beat at the head behind me, trying to wriggle free from the strong arm around my waist.

  “Stop it, or I’l break your neck,” A gruff voice spoke in my ear and I shivered as a decayed breath hit my nostrils. I stiled, feeling the strength in his hold.

  “Do it,” someone else said.

  How many were there?! I turned to see just as a musky hood came down over my face, drowning me in darkness. Panicked, I began to thrash and beat out at my attackers. More hands clamped down on me, muffled grunts and curses as they tried to lift me off the ground. I was terrified, furious, to be so helpless and vulnerable, with one of my most valuable senses disabled.

  The familiar sound of a sword hissing from its scabbard halted us al, and my heart fluttered as one of my captors grunted, “Deal with him.” One of the Guard! I’d never been so thankful to be folowed! Trying to listen to the fight that had broken out, I stupidly let myself be thrown up onto what I assumed was a hard shoulder. Grunts and a shout of pain found my ears. I hoped the officer’s sword had just found one of my captor’s belies. The clatter of steel hitting stone made me tense. Then al I could hear was flesh smashing into flesh, grunts, groans, hisses of pain.

  “Stop or we kil the girl.”

  I heard heavy breathing and then silence.

  Fearful, I began to squirm now, beating down on whatever body part I could find.

  “Stop it, or we wil kil your bodyguard!” the voice below me growled as an insolent hand swatted me hard on the bottom. Tears of humiliation sprung in my eyes but I stopped fighting, realising they had both I and the officer in an untenable position. If one of the Guard had let himself be disarmed, then there must be too many of them to fight.

  “What wil we do with ‘im?” A rough female voice asked from somewhere to my left.

  “Bring ‘im. ‘e’l only send people after us otherwise.”

  Realising we were realy, truly going to be taken I began to fight again in earnest, taking pleasure in the yelp of pain I produced when I bit what I assumed was an ear through the hood over my head.

  “Blood ‘el! Prick her!”

  A sharp, short pain flared in my arm and I cried out. Heat rushed up my arm at a dizzying speed and flooded my brain in a gush of warmth and bright colours. The colours burst like fireworks in the night sky until they faded, leaving only a numbing darkness.

  Chapter Eleven

  A shaft of light shot up under my eyelids causing a sharp pain to ricochet through my head, eliciting a smal moan through my dry lips.

  “Rogan?” A familiar voice asked.

  I jolted at the voice and then groaned, peeling my eyes open. I turned my head and winced at the cold stone beneath it. A tiny window was the source of the annoying light in another wise dank, cold celar. I scrambled quickly to a sitting position, grit and dirt pinching my hands. Panic set in as I found Wolfe sitting near me, looking tired and pale; his eyes searching.

  “Are you alright?” He asked softly.

  I shook my head, trying to get my bearings as I looked around the large room with the low ceiling that had nothing in it but us and a changing screen in the corner. A door made of thick metal bars stood at one end. I felt like I was in a dream. I couldn’t remember how I had gotten here. Flashes of images, of unfamiliar faces, swept through me. I remembered being jostled. And someone trying to feed me. And dreams. I felt like I had been dreaming forever.

  “Where are we?” I croaked. My throat felt like it hadn’t been used in a while.

  Wolfe sighed and pushed a cup of water to me. I gulped it thirstily.

  “Do you remember being taken in the market at Ryl?”

  Instant fear shot through my body and I trembled, dropping the cup. “Where are we?” I whispered, searching franticaly about now. I could stil feel that clammy, dirty hand over my mouth, those hands on my body as they tried to restrain me. “You were the one that folowed me?” He nodded gravely. “We’ve been kidnapped by the Iavi.”

  My jaw dropped. That was the last thing I had been expecting. Although, to be honest, I didn’t know what I’d been expecting. The last time I’d been kidnapped it was for my power and I had just assumed this was the same situation. Maybe not. “Those gypsies from Alvernia that have been causing havoc in Javinia?”

  “The very ones.” He grimaced. “They drugged us. We’re in Javinia, but we’ve only been out for a few days I think, which means we must be near the border.” My heart thudded in my chest and I felt sick. “A few days. At the mercy of those people?” Wolfe’s jaw clenched and he turned away from me in frustration. “Wel you would have to defy orders and take off on your own somewhere.” Heat, angry heat, shot through me, waking me up. “Oh it didn’t take long for the lecture to start, did it, Stovia?!”

  “I’m not the one that got us into this mess,” he hissed, gesturing around at the cel. “They have a Dravilec, Rogan. And they’re wel-armed and
can fight. God knows what else they’ve got!”

  “A Dravilec?” I was momentarily thrown by the fact that gypsies would have a mage amongst them, considering there were so few left.

  “Yes. The healer took the effects of the drugs away so we would wake up. I was then promptly told who they were and what they wanted with us.” Feeling belittled and guilty I mumbled fearfuly, “What do they want with us?” He laughed humourlessly. “They find themselves fortunate enough to have in their hands the Handmaiden of Phaedra and the Captain of the Royal Guard. We’re bargaining chips, my Lady. They’re going to hold our safety ransom in exchange for land from Markiza Raven.” I scoffed at the ridiculousness of it. “Are they idiots?” I made a face. “Even if they managed some temporary agreement with Novia, once we’re free we’l just send in the entire Guard to arrest them for what they’ve done.”

  Wolfe shook his head. “Not if they keep us hostage for a while. They know how much the Princezna cares about you.” An awful understanding dawned. “You mean… they mean to keep us here… indefinitely?”

  “That would be my guess.” He nodded. “They’l promise to look after us, keep us alive. But they won’t hand us over until they’re certain of their position. If ever.” Acid curdled in my stomach and I dragged myself along the floor so I could lean my head against the wal. The tight, fearful knot that had begun to grow in my chest since we learned of the growing crime in Phaedra enlarged painfuly. “This is because of Haydyn… isn’t it? Because her power is waning?” Wolfe sighed and folowed my lead, leaning back against the wal, his light eyes hard as flint. I looked away, unnerved by him when he had that focused, ruthless look in his eye. “Yes. It is,” he replied finaly.

  “We have to get out of here.” I shook my head franticaly and jumped up to rush at the celar door. My legs felt wobbly after having not used them for a while but determinedly I held onto my balance.


  I puled at the door but it was worthless. Ignoring the prick of tears behind my eyes I peered through the bars. There was nothing there to see. Just a narrow, dark staircase leading upwards into the house. I whirled around, my eyes narrowing on the window. I ran at it but couldn’t reach it. I twisted around to glare at Wolfe. “Can you get your ass up for a minute to see if these bars wil shift?”

  He pinned me to the wal with a disgusted look. “I’m the Captain of the Royal Guard, Rogan, not an idiot. I tried the window and the door as soon as they left us in this damn celar.”

  I deflated instantly, but refused to show my fear. “Wel, we have to do something.”

  “The only chance we get is if they let us out of here.”

  Reluctantly hearing the wisdom in his statement, I nodded and made my way back over to my spot at the wal. I slumped down to the ground and stared straight ahead. It was then I became aware of how much I needed a bath. I wrinkled my nose. Being kidnapped was not fun.

  Wolfe grunted and muttered a curse under his breath.

  “If you’ve got something to say, say it,” I snapped.

  “Oh it’s nothing,” his words were laced in heavy sarcasm, “Just relaxing, you know, thanking my fortunate stars for being the one who was put in charge of protecting you.”

  “Hey!” I whipped around to scowl at him. “No one asked you to protect me! To folow me!” He roled his eyes. “I’m the Princezna’s Captain, Lady Rogan, and you are the most important person in her life. Not to mention the last of the Azyl and the only bloody person who knows where the Somna Plant is! It’s my job to protect you. And you make it very difficult.”

  “I went for a walk!”

  “And got us kidnapped by creepy… Iavi… people!” He spat.

  “Oh dear haven,” I groaned, and leaned back against the cold brick wal, closing my eyes. “Wil you get over it, already?” He spluttered, “Get over it? Get over it? Do you have any idea what this could do to me? What if I can’t get us out of here, Rogan?! What if something happens to you?!”

  “Relax. It’s not like they’l blame you and you’l lose your job.” I sighed heavily. “I can’t believe I got kidnapped with Captain Wolfe Stovia. Talk about fun.”

  “You are such a brat.”

  I smiled, glad I was annoying him. “And you are such a pompous, untrustworthy snake.” I felt his indrawn breath without looking at him, and determinedly squished the guilt that seized my body.

  Before he could reply, the key turning in the door made us both sit up, alert and wary. A huge, burly man with long dark hair puled back into a messy queue stroled into the celar. His intimidating figure seemed to take up the entire space as he watched us like a predator, studying its prey.

  “We’ve brought ye food.” He had a slight accent, his words roling and unrefined. He nodded at someone and a young man came into the room carrying a tray.

  “One move and I run ye through,” the big man warned, his hand going to the hilt of a sword strapped to a belt around his hip.

  I looked at Wolfe for guidance but he just kept his eyes trained on the larger of the men. The young man came forward, keeping his distance from us, and laid the tray down on the ground. He looked up at me as he picked one bowl off of it and slid it towards me. As he did the same for Wolfe’s bowl, his eyes never left me, and I squirmed under his strange regard. He watched me with a clinical interest that was extremely disturbing. I waited for Wolfe to do something. But he just sat there.

  “I need to use the… I have need of… I need to relieve myself,” I finished, blushing at my impulsive outburst.

  “Relieve yerself?” The big man grinned. “Ye mean ye need to use the piss pot?”

  I flushed even harder at his crassness but nodded, hoping he would let me out of the celar enough for me to find my bearings.

  “There’s one in the corner.” He grinned even harder. “Behind the changing screen.”

  I was horrified. “You are jesting?”

  He shook his head. “If ye’re that desperate, ye’l use it.”

  Disgusted, I could do nothing but wait with bated breath for them to leave and then I turned on Wolfe. “Why didn’t you do something?” He shrugged and grabbed the bowl and bread that had been left for him. “He had the upper hand. Plus… I’m hungry.” I think my jaw may have hit the ground at how blasé he was. Infuriated with not only him but myself, wishing I had somehow had a life that prepared me more for the kind of hogwash that kept happening to me, I snatched my bowl up and bit out, “Wonderful. Just wonderful. Let me know when you decide to start working on that whole protecting me bit you keep spouting.”

  He threw me a look but didn’t retort… which annoyed me more than I would have liked.

  When we had finished eating he finaly said, with a mischievous smile in his voice, “You know if you need to… relieve yourself… I could hum, or sing… so you’re not embarrassed, you know by the noi-”

  I blushed so hard my face could have warmed the guard around a camp site. “I understand your meaning.” I stopped him.

  “I’m just saying I-”

  “You could sing, yes, yes, very funny.”

  He nearly choked himself to death laughing when three hours later I made him do just that, as I darted behind the changing screen to use the chamber pot.

  Worse stil, he actualy had a very nice singing voice.

  Chapter Twelve

  “I realy am getting tired of people manhandling me,” I murmured, covering my fear with bravado and ignoring the bite of the dagger at my neck. I tried not to think how ironic it was that only a few days ago I had someone else in the position I was now in.

  “Rogan,” Wolfe murmured back in warning.

  I shrugged and the gypsy at my back pressed the blade harder against my skin and I winced as it cut.

  “Hey!” Wolfe growled in outrage, making a move toward me. The two huge gypsies holding him in their grasp reeled him back in.

  “I told ye, the girl gets it if ye make a move to attack.” The man holding me was the one from yesterday with the messy que
ue and hand-me-down gentleman’s clothing. The hand he wrapped around my waist tightened and he puled me back against him so I was flush with his body. “And ye,” he whispered softly, threateningly in my ear, “Keep it quiet. Or I’l find a far more pleasurable way to occupy yer mouth.” Aghast and repulsed, humiliated at being treated this way in front of Wolfe, who eyed the gypsy as if the man had just signed his own death warrant, I immediately decided it would be best if I shut up. The four men in the celar with us were huge. What on havens did these people eat?

  “Now,” the gypsy continued, “We’re going for a little walk outside. And ye’re both going to behave.” I noticed how measured his words were, as if he had to concentrate on his enunciation.

  I tried to catch Wolfe’s eye to see if he had a plan but the gypsy pushed me ahead and I stumbled, my throat nearly catching the blade edge again.

  A menacing growl rumbled from behind me. “If you want me to behave, you better stop putting her life in danger,” Wolfe warned in a tone that would have intimidated a lesser man.

  The gypsy grunted but he was more careful with me as he took us upstairs. The overwhelming light made my eyes tear. I realy only caught a glimpse of a cosy parlour as we were taken out the front door of the modestly sized farmhouse we were being kept in. As he dragged me down the porch stairs, my eyes widened at the fields in front of me. Dozens of tents scattered the farm; dogs, cats running around, horses grazing leisurely, some sheep and cattle off in the distance. In the centre was a huge stone campfire, unlit, but stil surrounded by the comings and goings of the gypsies.

  “Come on,” the gypsy grunted and pushed me ahead. We made our way past a few tents, people stopping to stare at us curiously. Finaly he stopped us at a smal tent made from blue, purple and red patchwork and dropped the dagger from my throat.

  “Vrik,” a soft, seductive voice caled to him and we al turned as a dark haired beauty sauntered over to us, her hips swishing her drab skirts back and forth. The worn blouse and grey skirt did nothing to detract from her exoticness. My spine stiffened in insult as she looked over me distastefuly and instantly dismissed me. Worse, she turned to Wolfe and her eyes widened appreciatively – she even licked her lips. “Are these them?” she asked Vrik without taking her eyes off Wolfe.

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