A Deal, A Death, A Demon’s Quest
(From Of Thieves and Murderers)
“Yeh Taruyeh Shiraíl Secha Shiraíl’ei.” (*11)
“The secrets you give will give you away.”
An edict had been issued by the time of this portion of Holknar’s account by the very same which was to bring Othor Valkyr to captivity: an edict which stated that any who should hear of the man or of his goings would be rewarded greatly if they should so choose to come forward with any information that they might possess. It also stated, on the opposite side of the dread token, that any caught with knowledge pertaining to this Henar would be put to death by the old ways (*12).
Of fear for death, or Of hope for reward, the knowledge I seek will be brought unto me. Thought he as he signed his name onto the parchment and pressed his insignia into the wax which bound the same to be opened in the streets and to be read upon each and every street corner. I will find him. I will find him, and I will end him. He will pay for the costs forced upon me. The debt will be settled, and his blood will run from my blade.
He, Holknar, did not, however, expect the information to come from such a source as it did.
“My lord!” came a shout from outside the door of Lord Holknar’s throne room, but our Henar could not be bothered at the moment for thoughts of murder plagued his mind as never before they had. He was consumed with one thought or another of his doing away with Valkyr when came another cry,
“My lord,” It was Grimjorn, the First-Guard of the Jolr, “There is come now information of the thief into your court. Will you receive it?”
“If there is one who will tell me of him who I have set upon, why would you question the sending of the same into this, my throne room? Have not I waited upon this for the days unto now? If they will say of him anything, send them in! Send them in!”
“Who then is this that is come before me to deliver the man into my hands? What might I call his name?”
“Her name, sire.” The voice was no man, at all. “And, you might call my name Bashala, for so am I called by all the pious who know my profession (*13).” She looked down as Grimjorn followed in behind her.
“Well then, Bashala, with what news do you come into my presence?”
She remained silent.
“You do come here with some news of Othor, do you not? For, if not, I am able to make sure you die before you have taken your next step. So then, with what news do you come?”
“I was promised payment. This shall be discussed before any talk of your Othor.”
“Aha! A clever girl. What do you say, Grimjorn? Shall we talk of payment before services are offered? Shall a buyer go to market and purchase wares without having seen the merchandise he has bought?”
“No, sir. I believe not.” said Grimjorn with a somewhat sorrowful look in the direction of Bashala.
Bashala, though, was no fool. She had lived a life which called for a quick tongue and a quicker wit in matters of finances. She returned, “But, the wares I sell are of expectation, not simply of swift purchase. Surely you have paid sailors with the expectation of their return - a return with greater wealth than that with which they had been sent. How then can you speak of a market, when a voyage is what you are set upon?”
“Why, Grimjorn, I think she has beaten me at my own game. What a sharp wit! What a mind she has for such things! Well, certainly. Payment must be afforded you for such information. Such payment as is not easily dispensed. I will grant you one wish. Whatever you desire will be yours - but only one thing might you ask of me. You also shall never return for anything more save you are needed again, though that is unlikely. Is all of this understood?”
“Then, with this as my promise, continue in the telling of your news. What know you of Othor Valkyr?”
“First, your highness, his name is not Othor Valkyr. It is El Sha’akor. He is the leader of a band of thieves called Ye Poshteru Lishti. He came to me two nights previous to the robbing of your house. He visited my Bashol. He told me of his plot after he had had his way with me and after he had had much strong drink. He said nothing else, but that he would do this thing. I told no one because no one is exactly who would believe a Bashala. Furthermore, the walls of Vilknirr had never been breached. I had not expected his plan to work. But, it did, and now I come to you with the news. Grant me now, I pray you, the gift which you promised to grant me.”
“What shall I give to you? What is your request”
“Freedom, sire. I was born in a bashol. I was raised a Bashala. I was brought up in a world I hated, a world which thought to bring me under a brutal subjection, a world which forced a twisted man into my bed each night. My soul was stolen before I knew what it was. I want to be free of that world. I want never to be forced again to violate the spirit I hold so dear, having it forced out of sight long enough for one monster or another to feel more like a man! Grant me freedom. This is my petition.”
“You... You who denied me the knowledge of a plot which would ravage this sacred hall with devastation, you who gave yourself to the man who now runs with all I knew to some far off land... You have come now with nothing to say but that he is not who I thought he was, ask for freedom? I knew before you said it that he was not who I thought. This fact was born witness by the very occurrence which brought you to my hall.” Holknar stepped closer to Bashala as she recoiled slightly with a grimace. “Yet, still, I did promise to grant you this one thing.” At a word from his mouth, a word she did not understand, Bashala was hurled by some force into Holknar’s arms. “How can freedom be granted to one who has lived so long in captivity? Would not it be better to let the same rest in the captivity of her youth for fear she would not function well under such pressures as the bonds of freedom?” Bashala struggled for a moment to be free from he which held her now, another man who sought her restraint. She was soon brought by his force to submit. “Yet, still, I am forced by bond of oath to grant it you. But, freedom is not that hard a thing. It can soon be found by all who wish it for themselves.”
With his next movement, Holknar took Bashala by the chin and crown. One swift motion loosed the bones of her neck from their connection to her head. Her lifeless body fell on the floor in front of Holknar.
“Yes, freedom is not that hard a thing. Do you not agree, Grimjorn?”.