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part two

The Tavern on The Peaks, Shaman

“Remind me again…” Tristan muttered as they wandered through the market place side-by side, “why I had to buy the parrot?”

Thoth fixed him with a look which said ‘oh Tris, isn’t it obvious?’ It wasn’t obvious at all. The traders in the market were often selling exotic birds, and Thoth had multiple parrots in the castle already. The bird had been sold to them in a brass cage, but Thoth had quickly discarded it, all the while chatting away to the parrot in a series of squawks. It was now riding along on Thoth’s shoulder and seemed to be scowling at every person they passed.

“The man in the stall was doing everything wrong,” Thoth explained brightly. “Parrots have complex dietary needs; they need a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Strongclaw was only being offered bread and mouldy seed, that’s why he’s not feeling very well.”

Tristan smothered a laugh.“So I bought a sick parrot? Even better.” Thoth, predictably, missed the sarcasm and simply nodded, apparently satisfied that Tristan fully understood the situation. Tristan shook his head and kept walking. He glanced towards the harbour where his father’s ship, Igraine, was being unloaded. It seemed they had another couple of hours to kill.

“Do you mind if we get a drink?” Tristan asked Thoth, ignoring the parrot’s renewed glare. “It won’t be like last time, I promise. I’ll just have the one.” He adjusted their course towards the tavern. Thoth raised no objection and followed after him.

“Did you know,” his friend said, “that on Earth, one person dies as a result of alcohol every ten seconds?”

“I did not know that,” Tristan replied, pushing open the door with his shoulder, “but I will certainly bear it in mind in future.”

The tavern was busy. Patrons lined the bar, and most of the tables had someone sitting at them already. Tristan scanned the room.

“There!” he said, pointing to a spare table in the corner. They navigated their way through the crowd and settled themselves in the mismatched chairs. Thoth’s, they discovered, was significantly higher than Tristan’s, which had threatened to swallow him whole as soon as he’d sat down. For what was probably the first time in their friendship, Tristan found himself having to look up to make eye contact with Thoth.

“Would you like anything?” Tristan asked, rummaging in the pouch on his belt for some loose coins. “Beer? Water? Juice?” Thoth turned and squawked at the parrot again.

“Water for us, thanks.” Life was bizarre.

“Easy,” Tristan grinned, “I’ll be right back. Try not to get into any trouble.” Leaving Thoth with his parrot, Tristan edged back through the crowd to the bar. He leaned against the counter top and clinked the coins against each other. The sound soon attracted the barkeeper's attention. “A pint and an ice water, please friend.” He said, sliding the correct number of coins along the bar. The man nodded and scurried back to the pump.

Tristan turned his back on the bar and surveyed the rest of the room. Thoth was chatting away to the parrot again, and a young couple were enjoying a meal in the stall beside him. The shadier figures had gravitated to the edge of the room, including a group of men in cloaks. He was sizing them up when he made eye contact with a man sitting in amongst them. The stranger’s golden eyes seemed to be boring into him. He quirked an eyebrow in response. The man smiled.

“There y’are, mate,” the barkeeper said, placing two tankards down on the counter top. Tristan turned around, with a practiced smile of his own and offered his thanks.

He navigated his way back across the floor and threw himself down on the bench beside Thoth, taking care to keep his head a good distance from the parrot’s beak. Tristan slid the tankard of water along the table, and it came to a rest directly in front of Thoth.

“Don’t drink it all at once.”

Tristan lounged in his seat and took a swig from his cup. When he placed it back down on the tabletop he frowned. Thoth was staring down at his water with a puzzled expression.

"Everything okay?"

"It's just odd," Thoth replied with a frown, "my magic doesn't work."

"Oh. That's not good." Tristan glanced around the room again. The stranger with the golden eyes was still there, but he was deep in conversation with his cloaked companions.

Thoth didn't seem worried; he looked more like he'd just been presented with a vexing puzzle.

"Maybe it's got something to do with the new guy?" Thoth suggested, as the parrot hopped down off his shoulder onto the table top.

"New guy?" Tristan asked, looking around again for some kind of clue.

"Oh, just the guys who have tried to kidnap me half a dozen times. They've got a new friend, over there in the corner." Tristan followed Thoth's gaze to the cloaked men and sighed. He put his head in his hands and rubbed at his face. Give me strength.

"Thoth...why didn't you say something when we first came in?" he asked.

"...Why would I?"

Tristan sighed, trying his best to be patient, "because we walked into a room full of religious nutters who want to kidnap you, that's why!"

"Yeah, but...” Thoth looked nonplussed, “I’m with you.”

"...But if you’d told me, I’d have been able to keep an eye on them!" he pressed. “You know, in case they suddenly decided that today’s the day!” Thoth looked as though that had never occurred to him before. "We could have left...?" Tristan suggested, his head back in his hands.

"Yeah, but you wanted a drink..."

"Priorities, Thoth!" The prince drained his tankard and placed it back down on the table. He glanced at the men in the corner and then back at his friend.

“We’re going to leave.” Tristan told him, pulling his dagger from its sheath on his belt and passing it under the table to Thoth. "Keep it hidden,” he hissed, “if someone grabs you, stab them somewhere it will hurt, okay?"

Thoth frowned at him. “Okay.” They stood and edged around the table. Tristan walked behind Thoth, putting himself between his friend and his would-be kidnappers. He glanced back over his shoulder but then men seemed absorbed in each other’s company. Thoth’s hand closed around the door handle and he pulled the door ajar.

“See you around, kid!” a laughing voice called from the other side of the room.

“Keep going,” Tristan urged, resting his hand on Thoth’s shoulder. The sound of chairs being pushed back across a stone floor echoed behind them. Thoth had managed to open the door completely and they stared out into the sunlight.

“What are you waiting for?” Tristan hissed over the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Barrier spell of some kind,” Thoth replied, his voice a little higher than usual, “we’re stuck.”

Tristan swore.

One of the figures swept a hood back, revealing a woman who looked to be about mid-forties, with short black hair and a captivating stare. She had the bearing of an aristocrat and a very small, smug smile tugging at the corners of her lips, like a cat who had just cornered its prey. Although he knew he’d never seen her before in his life, for some reason she looked familiar to Tristan. At his side, Thoth backed up. The blood had drained from his face and his brown eyes dropped to the floor in an uncharacteristic show of submission. Or fear.

“D - d- you...” he stuttered out. Definitely fear.

Tristan pulled Thoth away from the blocked door and, keeping his friend behind him, manoeuvred them both back towards the centre of the room. There was no sense in getting cornered. There was a back door, a door to the upstairs rooms, three windows; Tristan took account of the position of each. The upstairs windows might be their best bet. Tristan doubted the Aurans knew this particular tavern as well as he did.

“You okay?” Tristan asked Thoth with some concern. He’d expected his friend to put up a fight when he’d first tried to push him.

“Mhm,” Thoth mumbled. Tristan turned to glance at him. He was chewing his lips and wouldn’t meet Tristan’s eye. They really were in trouble, then.

“I know we’re spectacular company, guys,” Tristan grinned, throwing out his hands, “but really, when you’ve got to resort to capturing people to talk to, it just starts to get a bit sad.”

“Why don’t we all take a deep breath?” The woman’s smile widened a little. Her voice was calm, soft, mesmerising. She spoke with ice and a little hint of condescension. “Nobody’s capturing anybody. Prince Tristan, isn’t it? Why don’t you take a seat?”

Tristan barely noticed it at first as a light fog descended over his thoughts. Someone pushed a picture of a chair to the forefront of his mind and it hovered there for a moment, crushing everything else. Then something else kicked in. A single thought of Mallos nudging the chair to one side, allowing Tristan’s conscious mind to push its way through again. Hypnotism. He realised where he remembered her from; he’d seen her face before, in a picture conjured up by his grandfather in his father’s office. Lady Dahshoor, Second Prophet of Aura. Tristan smiled, imagining Mallos kicking the chair to one side.

“Honestly, my lady,” he replied, “I’m quite alright where I am.” He glanced over his shoulder at Thoth again to check he hadn’t been forced into a chair. “I’m curious though, what do you usually call it when you trap two people in a building against their will?”

“Against their will?” She arched a dark eyebrow and glanced over Tristan’s shoulder. “You’re not here against your will, are you, Thoth? You’d like to sit and chat and drink, wouldn’t you? After all, that’s why the two of you came in here.”

Thoth sat down promptly on the bench behind him. Lady Dahshoor had a point; there was cold beer behind the bar and… Thoth’s parrot fluttered from its place on their abandoned table onto the nearest windowsill. No. Tristan had come in for a drink and company, Thoth had come because he’d asked him to.

“Neat trick.” Tristan said, grabbing the front of Thoth’s shirt and dragging him back to his feet. He took them another couple of paces to the left. The entire room had fallen silent as the other patrons realised that something was happening. “However, I think you might just have forgotten who my grandfather is.”

“Ahh, but your grandfather isn’t here, is he?” Lady Dahshoor made a little show of looking around the room and gave a mock sigh. “Perhaps you’d better just leave, Tristan. Off you pop. Goodbye.”

It was getting late. The ship would be leaving soon and if he wasn’t on it he wouldn’t get back to the castle before nightfall. Then he’d have a lot of explaining to do. Mallos would probably be at the castle too. Lady Dahshoor was right, he certainly wasn’t in the tavern. Tristan decided to go and find him and set off towards the door.

Why was he walking so slowly? He was definitely moving, and the door was getting closer but it wasn’t doing it very quickly. As he finally reached the doorway, Tristan found himself growing increasingly aware of his grandfather’s sun pendant pressing against his sternum. Interesting. He paused and stepped cautiously over the threshold. Whatever barrier Thoth had encountered was gone.


Tristan turned back into the room. Lady Dahshoor had her hand on Thoth’s shoulder, and the man with the golden eyes lounged against the back doorway, a smirk on his face. Tristan found his hand wandering towards his belt. His dagger was gone. He’d given it to Thoth, hadn’t he? He still had his knife though. He usually carried it around for more mundane tasks like slicing apples or cutting meat, but it was sharp enough. In one fluid movement Tristan pulled it free and threw it across the room. Step three to resisting hypnosis: initiate a brawl.

The knife thudded into the tavern’s wooden wall, blade first. All of the heads in the room turned towards the doorway. Tristan put his thumb and finger into his mouth, whistled twice and then drew his sword. As he marched back into the room with a face like thunder, Celidon appeared in the doorway, his teeth drawn back in a ferocious snarl.

Written by Merlin and Aspelta

    • part three -
    • part four -
    • part five -
    • part six -
    • part seven -
    • part eight -
    • part nine -

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