Enjoy this 3 minute read from Chapter 1 of my next epic fantasy release, The Veridian Wars.
“Don’t like it.” Mal joined them, sidling up like a conspirator, glancing nervously around.
“Really?” Larzus said, with a wink at Grigor.
Another rise of nausea threatened to unleash in Grigor’s throat. Perhaps he should expel the contents of his stomach on Mal’s short head. It’d give him something to complain about.
“I’ve been thinking,” Mal carried on, ignorant of his companion’s sarcasm. “‘Bout why they chose us.”
“Go on, then.” Larzus gave Grigor a conspiring half smile before turning to Mal and saying, “We’re only halfway across this freezing puddle. Tell us your thoughts, Weasel. Entertain us. With any luck you’ll stop me from thinking about how bloody cold it is.”
Grigor closed his eye a moment and clutched his stomach.
Mal looked between them, his mouth as always hanging open. “We’re expendable. That’s what,” he said in hushed tones. “Mark my words, this is the last ferry any of us will see.”
“That’ll make Tiny here happy,” Larzus said, slapping Grigor on the back with a chuckle. “Make him the happiest man alive, I reckon, if he never saw no ferry again.”
Mal stared. “Don’t believe me, huh?”
Grigor groaned. Mal offended easily. It was draining.
The short man licked his open lips, making him sputter and spit, and danced on his toes as he jabbed a pointed finger at Larzus. “Don’t believe me, huh? Well you don’t know half of nuthin.”
“Enlighten me,” Larzus said, the sardonic tone thick as oil.
Mal jabbed his pointed finger toward the stern. “Torus and Brutus were infantry soldiers under Anus.”
Larzus chuckled. Referring to Captain Arenas in such base terms never got tired, it seemed.
“You know that?”
Larzus straightened his shoulders, affecting a serious expression. “You don’t say? I see your point. We’re doomed!”
The sarcasm was so thick now even Mal could detect it, and he sputtered rapid-fire. “Torus and Brutus were found smuggling. Captain Anus was profiting by accepting bribes and not reporting them.”
“Smuggling what?” Larzus asked.
“Veridian. What else? They were stationed at the East Mines before they closed and were on their way to the Capital to await court martial when this expedition came up and Anus was directed to captain it.”
Larzus’s smirk faded. “Go on.”
Not needing any encouragement Mal continued, “Rathaquar is a refugee who fled from trouble in Tarzique. He jumped sides and signed up as a soldier of the Realm when he made it to the Capital.”
Larzus scoffed at this. “And how does that make him expendable?”
“No family. No friends. No one will question his absence. Vicon,” Mal lowered his voice and pointed at the thin man, the leader of this expedition, who danced nervously on his feet on the opposite side of the bow from them, staring earnestly ahead. “He was sat in the Capital dungeons awaiting trial and—”
“Yes, yes,” Larzus said. “You’ve told us all about him a score of times.”
According to Mal, Vicon was something of a famed criminal, probably an undertrader, and some mysterious personage of power had arranged for his release from the infamous Capital dungeon. Could be possible. The Capital dungeon was full of criminals awaiting trial, and most of them died waiting. Mal’s knowledge did not extend to Vicon’s alleged crime, but Grigor was willing to bet his right eye he knew it. The quickness of Vicon’s movements and speech, the contrast in his mood from desolate and overly fatigued to upbeat and animated, and the darkness of his eyes at times, all pointed to the one conclusion. Vicon was an eater. That lie about the so-called amberstone in his ear confirmed it. Grigor could smell the veridian’s stench, not as strong as other samples, but there nonetheless.
“What about you, Mal?” Larzus asked. “How are you expendable?”
Grigor watched the short man with interest for a change. The nausea was settled for the moment, perhaps Mal’s prattle was a distraction after all.
Mal looked down at his feet and Grigor sensed an air of shame. “I… Well … I keep getting transferred.”
Larzus let out a loud laugh. “Oh, there’s a surprise. No commander wants you hey, Mal? Can’t think why.”
The Veridian Wars is a standalone epic fantasy novel and is now available for preorder. Get 10% off when using the coupon code: VERIDIAN
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