Mick's Rejects

The fiction no one wanted


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 13

Tonunda waited as the rat gave directions. Right and left didn’t exist in its vocabulary. As Tonunda listened, to “where one can smell warm grain” or where the road slopes away, he had to orientate himself. When the rat finished speaking it paused a moment longer at Tonunda’s feet.

May I leave now?

No, there is one other thing you must do. 

What? said the rat exasperatedly.

Get as many of your brethren as you can to meet me by the end of the street. 

The rat hovered indecisively.

You know what will happen if you do not tell them warned Tonunda.

I will do as you say the rat said en route for the shadows by the wall.

The boy looked expectantly. Tonunda gestured for the youth to follow him. Together, they trotted down the stairs and jogged up to the end of the street. Rats had already gathered in various groups in the gutters and more emerged from the drains, steadily making a broader expanse in front of them.

Tonunda broke into a run, soon fuming that the boy trailed behind. He waited at every turn in the poorer quarter for him to catch up, before tearing off again. Their journey came to a halt, a mere third of a turn of the glass. Tonunda stopped them in the shadows of a shop entrance. Further down the broad thoroughfare, they saw the doors of a large building clearly illumined by flaming braziers. In a broad arc above the doors, fanned the words, Children of Enlightenment. 

In front, two guards stood at their post, wearing the white robes of their faith. They wore pointed helms with leaf armour at the sides. The rest of the helmets formed a metal mask for the wearers. On their hips, they wore garishly broad curved slashing swords, obviously from a foreign land that Tonunda could not identify.

He clasped the boy’s shoulder.

Go to the palace and bring with you the Blue River Guardsmen. 

The boy looked confused.

Tonunda aimed an open hand in the direction of the palace.

“To the palace?” the boy queried.

He nodded; now for the difficult part. Tonunda gestured to bring something.

“Bring,” the boy confirmed.

Then slowly and elaborately, Tonunda traced a single word on the cobbled stones with his finger.

“Kija,” the boy blurted.

Tonunda clamped his upper arms and nodded.

“I want to be here when…”

Tonunda vehemently thrust a finger in the direction of the palace.

Looking back they way they came, the boy’s eyes widened in horror. The street moved. Wall to wall, a brown tide of rats covered the road, making its way toward them.

Tonunda slapped his upper arm.

They will not harm you. Go!

He nodded in the direction of the brown horde for emphasis. Reluctantly, the boy turned and walked back. His steps slowed as he met with the first of the rodents, then breathed easier as they parted around him. When he rounded the corner, Tonunda broke from the shadows with an army of rats as escort.

Chapter 1


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 12

And why should I help you? said the rat.

Tonunda thrust the rat in the cat’s direction, and held the rodent at arm’s length. The cat hissed, moving closer on its haunches.

Enough; I will do it! the rat squeaked.

Tonunda pulled the rat back, narrowly avoiding a swipe of the cat’s claws.

How can I find a human female in so large a place? said the rat. They are all the same to us. 

Tonunda scanned the floor. His gaze fell on a meagre pile of possessions. With his free hand, he extracted a yellow ribbon and held it up for the boy to see. He then pointed the same hand at Dekra’s name on the wall.

“Aye, that is Dekra’s.”

Tonunda held the ribbon to the rat’s nose.

This one is easy to find said Tonunda. That is her scent; take that with you. You can also tell her by sight. She will be in one of the many houses that wears white. 

The human female wears white too?

Aye, but she is different. Her eyes are narrower than those of other men, and… she is smaller.

What is to stop me from running off once you release me? posed the rat.

Tonunda grinned. I already have your scent. If I do not hear from you by dawn… He growled and snapped at the tiny head. Then I will seek you out myself and eat you.

I will do as you ask the rat squeaked.

Satisfied, Tonunda placed the rat on the floor and stood between it and the cat as it made its escape. He crouched by the fire again to warm himself. Conscious of an eerie silence, he turned.

The boy stared at him, open mouthed.

“You spoke to that rat?”

It sounded like a question, but his stare belied his words as a statement.

Tonunda nodded, his secret now discovered.

“Then the legends are true. You are Tonunda the Savage; king of Nusalle.”

To hell with legends and kings! We are friends.

He attempted to emphasise the statement with a stern look. Unfortunately, it lacked the desired affect, as the boy’s expression hadn’t changed.

“Then did he tell you anything?”

Tonunda shook his head.

“What do we do now?”

He scribed a new word on the floor. Wait. 

“Wait!” erupted the boy. “Is that all…?”

Tonunda snapped his head aside, growling so savagely that the boy took a backward step. His anger spent, he regarded the youth a moment more then thrust his stick at the word, before angrily throwing it on the floor.

They waited as Tonunda demanded, but in total silence. He felt uncomfortable as the boy seemed agitated from minute to passing minute. A little over an hour elapsed when he smelt the familiar odour of the rat before it emerged from the shadows. The boy watched hopefully as the rodent crossed the floor to stop by Tonunda’s feet.

You have news? said Tonunda.

The one you seek was easy to find. Go to the end of the street and turn in the direction of the sun rise. 

Chapter 1


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 11

The boy sighed. “Not that any of this matters any more. The last time I sat in the holding cells one of the priests came to visit me with a message.”

Tonunda shrugged.

“He said that “Dekra had been moved from the local temple to another.”  Any day now, she is to be wed to this high priest fool, whoever he is. The worst of it is, I do not know where they have taken her.”

From what Tonunda heard of the youth’s account, Dekra may have been drugged. It would account for her sudden change in loyalties and her blissful state.

He slapped a hand down on the boy’s shoulder and gripped firmly, staring hard into his eyes.

I will find Dekra for you, but if she remains with the temple of her own free will, then there is nothing I can do. If she is drugged or manipulated as I suspect, then nothing short of the unknown god’s hand will stop me from bringing her home. 

“Thank you,” said the boy, picking Tonunda up in a literally crushing embrace.

He withstood the constrictive grip as long as he could, sure that his ribs would soon pop as the boy wept his gratitude. All at once, he placed Tonunda on the floor.

“What do we do now?”

The question threw Tonunda momentarily. One should ask around the city, but he knew few people and he had little time. Better to ask beasts. That would give him a multitude of eyes and ears around the city. He could ask the dogs, but men and dogs were mortal enemies. His pack would roam the streets picking up Dekra’s trail, only to have crowds either hurl stones or end their lives with steel weapons.

He looked out of the window to see a bird flutter to a halt, perching on the underside of a building’s eaves. It cooed a few times.

Not pigeons. 

Unlike the birds of his mountain, he couldn’t communicate with them as their minds seemed virtually devoid of thought.

A grin curled his lips at the sound of shuffling. in the shadows by the far wall, he could make out three variations in shade.

The rats could do it. 

They had an even keener sense of smell than dogs.

His grin fell as a tabby cat hunched further back from the shadows. Tonunda sprang forward, bringing his hand down on the nape of a rat’s neck, pinning it to the floor. The cat flattened its ears, growling indignantly. With a growl to cower the bravest of beasts, Tonunda answered and snapped his jaws at the feline. It hissed, backing off out of arm’s distance, giving off a low unholy rowl.

Pinching the rat by the neck, Tonunda raised it to face him. It swiveled its head from side to side with open mouth, but wasn’t able to bite Tonunda’s fingers.

Tonunda squeaked. I am Tonunda, king of the man – pack. 

Let me go.

Not yet. First you must do something for me. I want you to pass the word among your rat brethren to find a human female.

Chapter 1


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 10

“She was so small and fine boned, like a bird. That is what Dekra means in the Yactanese tongue. She was beautiful and clever.” The boy laughed. “She spoke enough for me too and had a heart bigger than both of us.”

Tonunda listened on to the description and eccentricities of the girl. Anyone else would have been bored with the infinite detail, but he only heard one singular recurring statement; this boy loved her.

“And then they took her!” the boy said angrily, interrupting his thoughts.

Tonunda shot him a quizzical look.

“Do you know of the Children of Enlightenment?”

He had to admit he hadn’t. Nusallean law permitted religious freedom. New temples of every belief seemed to spring up everyday.

With the pursing of his lips, Tonunda raised his upturned palms.

“Priests and priestesses came, ringing bells and chanting through the streets. I was with them for awhile too. They seek out the bedraggled people of the city. They offered us food and rooms to stay in, continually telling us “they loved us.” But they had some morality that demanded we be separated. I of course, wanted to leave, but Dekra…”

He shrugged, lowering his head and wiping his eyes before going on.

“She wanted to stay on. That hurt so much, my friend. I would have thought she loved me enough for us to stay together.”

I am sorry. 

Tonunda grabbed a charred stick from the fire and began to scribe unwelcome words on the floor.

Her – choi…

“No!” erupted the boy, swatting the stick from his hand. “She is held against her will.”

Tonunda contemplated the outburst. He was dubious. No doubt the boy refused to accept the facts.

Footsteps faint; two of them on stone, arose in his hearing. Two people trod at an easy pace in conversation with each other.

The city watch. 

Tonunda ran to the window for confirmation. Two watchmen with cudgels hanging from their belts trod the street at an easy pace. He beckoned. When the boy joined him, Tonunda pointed at the watchmen.

“The city watch?! They were no help. They only said it was ‘her choice too.”‘

Tonunda gripped the youth’s upper arms and stared deeply into his eyes.

How can you know she is held against her will?

He dropped his hands as the boy sighed.

“Three weeks ago, she chanted in the streets too, wearing the white robes of a priestess. She looked at me and smiled, but I only saw a stranger in her vacant eyes.”

Vacant? 

Tonunda rushed back to the fire and scribed again, this time on the wall.

Dekra – different? 

“Aye, her words were slower and she seemed happy in such a way that I found disturbing.”

Tonunda nodded in empathy.

“That is not the worst of it. She told me that she is promised to the grand high priest. That she actually looked forward to being one of his brides.”

One?

“I have approached the temple twice to look for her, and both times the city watch have arrested me. If I go there once more, they will imprison me.”

Chapter 1


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 9

They hovered in stalemate a moment, before the youth threw Tonunda across the floor. Tonunda slid then rolled. He bounded from the wall, catching hold of one of the rafters and launched himself with knife held high.

The boy stared at him impassively, without raising his hands. Not that he would have killed the youth, Tonunda only held onto the knife for his own protection. He crouched, trying to gauge the boy’s expression.

“Go on,” the boy whispered. “Slay me. What is life without Dekra?”

His face shifted, suddenly becoming a mask of misery, then like a cracking dam, tears freely flowed.

“Go on!”

Tonunda frowned, vehemently throwing the knife aside, much to the boy’s dismay. He still never raised a hand as Tonunda took two steps closer then slipped his arms around the youth, holding him tightly. The shoulders above him shuddered and limbs encircled him as the boy began to weep like a small child. In this manner, they held each other for several minutes, then when the boy’s pain subsided, Tonunda gently patted his back for them to part.

The youth wiped his tears away on the back of his hand.

Tonuda barked twice. Tell me of Dekra. 

A look of bemusement came from the youth. After a few unsuccessful gestures, Tonunda took a charred stick from the fire and began to scribe on the floor.

Tell – me – all – about – Dekra. 

Revelation filled the boy’s eyes.

“You are not mad!”

Tonunda grinned with the shake of his head.

“Who are you?”

He didn’t want to mention his name or the fact that he was the king. An inroad had been made into the boy’s trust. If he knew the truth, then he might treat him differently, perhaps close off his heart altogether.

Friend Tonunda scribed on the floor.

The boy opened his mouth about to speak as Tonunda gestured hurriedly to rekindle the fire. With a nod, the youth pulled a rafter from the rubble as Tonunda crouched on all fours and blew into the smouldering remains. Once its embers glowed, he picked up fallen shingles, broke them into slivers, then arranged them on top. He watched with some interest to see if the boy would snap the rafter in his hands. Instead, the youth swung it full into the stone wall, breaking the roofing beam. Still connected at an acute angle, the boy snapped it in two then tossed them into the growing blaze.

As he warmed himself by the fire’s edge, Tonunda barked, sounding little more than a grunt.

Tell me of Dekra. 

The boy looked confused. “Do you want me to speak of Dekra?”

Tonunda nodded.

“Many disliked her because she looked malformed. But she was not,” he added hurriedly.

No response came from Tonunda. He merely waited for the boy to go on.

“Her eyes were narrow because her mother came from Yactan. Do you know where that is?”

Tonunda nodded. His tutors informed him of a land far across the ocean with squat people who stare out of slits for eyes.

Chapter 1


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 8

The youth wrenched himself free and swept Tonunda across his face with his open hand.

“I said away with you!”

He sounded angry, yet his tone, slightly broken.

Tonunda landed heavily on his back, caving a crater into the shingles. He grunted with the pain as he rolled from the indentation and stretched, giving off painful cracks.

Only a backhander? 

He had wrestled beasts as powerful before, but this boy appeared no older than his middle teens. Tonunda sprang lithely around the youth as he would when attacking a larger animal, yapping persistently.

Get away from the edge!

“I am warning you, demented one, to leave me alone.”

He reached for Tonunda twice. With deft twists of his body, the king eluded the boy and struck with two uppercuts. The boy’s head didn’t shift with the blows, nor did he show any signs of discomfort. Tonunda’s hands however, were badly jarred from striking his iron jaw.

“I only wished to be left alone, but I will throw you from the roof too,” he said, taking a step closer, away from the edge.

Tonunda suppressed a grin. He would do whatever it took to preserve the boy’s life. He dropped to all fours, growling, with head lowered, bobbing aside swiftly as the boy swiped again.

“I will kill you!” he shouted.

Baring all his teeth, Tonunda gave off a gurgling growl.

You will have to catch me to do so. Come away from the edge, boy.

Tonunda stayed just out of reach to keep his interest. He widened his eyes and feigned stumbling backwards, then sprung aside to his feet as the boy’s hand descended. It struck, shattering a hole in the shingles, as Tonunda skipped from his arm, delivering a savage knee.

The boy’s head shot back. He lost his footing momentarily, sliding backward a handspan, before glaring. Suddenly he scrabbled quickly after Tonunda, easily backing away from him up the roof’s incline. Tonunda backed into the chimney, then slipped around it as a fist meant for his head, shot out, shattering away chips from its edge. Every time the boy tried to round the chimney after him, Tonunda merely skipped one step back, eluding him.

“Do you think you are safe there!” the boy bellowed.

Tonunda watched two hands appear on either side of the brick stack. They tensed, then the chimney began to rock, minutely at first, then a crack appeared along its base. The boy wrenched the chimney aside, breaking it free, then did the unthinkable… in his shuddering grasp, he slowly raised it above his head.

Tonunda gaped. By the unknown god. 

Gritting his teeth, the youth hurled the chimney. Tonunda rolled aside to his feet as the chimney crashed through the roof. The roof itself, imploded between them, then broadened before either one of them could move. Tonunda collapsed through the debris, landing on top of the boy who had landed on his back.

Coughing, Tonunda pushed himself to his knees, noting a glint in the moonlight. Amidst the broken bricks, he could see a dagger on the floor. The boy’s iron hand clamped hold of his throat. Simultaneously, Tonunda snatched up the dagger and pressed the tip at the side of the boy’s neck, growling at him with all teeth bared.

Chapter 1


Leave a comment

ADOPTED AS SONS – Chapter 1 – part 7

The boy stepped from the hearth and vaulted, catching hold of the rafters, before lifting himself through the gap. Air seemed colder up on the roof, but then he expected that. He rounded a brick chimney, taking a few steps toward the edge. As he stared up, he felt more alone than ever, just him and the many stars in the heavens.

His attention turned to the street four stories below. Where only hours earlier it thrived with its denizens, it now lay vacant, giving him a sense of tranquility. He could have stared at the cobbled street for hours.

No! he scolded himself.

If he took time to savour the moment, he might never jump.

***

Tonunda’s skin burned with the descending chill. It exhilarated him as he ran along the roofs, eating up the miles across the city. Shingles, dead slabs of timber, felt good beneath his feet. His lungs expanded to nearly overflowing with every stride as he savoured his freedom.

He stopped every now and again by a smoking chimney to remove part of the chill. In those few precious moments each time, he learned so much more about his people than he would have from diplomatic visits. Scents came to him of cooking food. More savoury meals seemed to come from the more opulent houses. He also listened to snippets of conversations from the households. Families, whether rich or poorer, shared conversations of little import, such as he did with Andessa.

It is love they share, not the meal. 

Only people who love others care to listen to trivialities. He ran to the edge of a high building, then stopped, panting at the edge. He could never leap the gap over the lane separating him from the next building. Diving, he caught hold of a clothesline spanning across the street, and dangled awkwardly, before hooking his legs over. Progressing slowly, he shimmied his way over to the next building. He clambered on top, brushing a shingle on the way, then snorted. Tonunda was brought up as a dog, not a cat. If he had, he would have climbed and ran without hindrance by any obstacle.

A glance down informed him he had kicked the shingle of a bath house. It rocked slightly on its iron hooks. He detected movement further along the cobbled lane. A selskirt walked alone, whilst a person lay huddled asleep in an alcove.

It pained him to see people still living in poverty in his city. He turned from the street, determined to do something to alleviate the situation on the morrow. Jogging up the gentle slope, a chimney bobbed into view, and a young man? He didn’t expect someone else up here.

The youth shuffled closer to the edge, looking over.

Tonunda barked. Stop!

“Go away stranger,” the youth warned.

His voice sounded younger than he looked.

Gritting his teeth, Tonunda broke into a sprint and halted just short of the boy. He gripped his arm and tried to lead him from the edge.

Chapter 1

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116 other followers