THE INN OF THE SEVEN BLESSINGS
BY- MATTHEW HUGHES
PART 3 (THREE)
No. You might then appoint not to keep our bargain.
Their remittance having been successful, the Vandaayo did not swarm themselves a grueling pace. Nor did they watch their back stern, the chances of anyone’s wishing to be on the equivalent path as six of their ilk being far too slim to warrant still a glance over a green-mottled shoulder. So it was that, near late afternoon, as Raffalon descended a buckler into a narrow valley, he saw through the trees a pace in the greenery on the other side of the descent. The part-men marched firmly up an incline that zigzagged up and out of the delve. At one switchback in the trail, the abductor saw the band pause and transfer their pole-slung burden from one caress of bearers to another.
Raffalon had a grudging idea how far it was to Vandaayoland and did not worry that the man-snatchers could cross the border before twilight. He thought it contingent that they would stop before dark; this part of the jungle had become uninhabited after Olverion’s final misjudgment and the large predatory beasts that now roamed free had no compunctions against dining on were flesh.
He closed the space between them until he could hear their grunts and panting respiration ahead of him, a turn or two in the stern. As dusk began to colonize, he heard different sounds and crept onwards to find that the path crossed another in transportation. Here the Vandaayo had stopped and were now assemblage wood for a fire and bracken for sleeping pads. Fulferin still wrapped in the net that had taken him and trussed to a pole, lay inert along the track.
Raffalon founded himself behind a tree and observed as the part-men built themselves a proper fire. They settled themselves almost it, squatting or sitting cross-legged in a ring. They had been carrying capacious leather bladder from which they now drew gobbets of rank-smelling flesh and bottles of fired clay. The sounds of tearing flesh and gurgling liquids were added to the bicker of the flames, followed by grunts and eructation and the occasional growl when one Vandaayo paid too much outlook to another’s victuals.
Dusk became eclipse. At a sound from the other stern, the part-men became aware. They put down their unfed meals and stood up, sleepless. A moment last, they relaxed, though only slightly, as a second party pouf Vandaayo emerged from the jungle, carrying their own pole-slung contribution to the ceremony feast.
Greetings were exchanged-or at least that was what Raffalon thought the spate of grunting signaled. But he prominent that the two groups did not mix, and that the spouse he had been following did not lapse into complete distraction as the newcomers began collection fuel for a second fire and leaves for their own beds. Indeed two of the first arrivals left the communal gleam and went to squat beside poor Fulferin, while the other party put their own prisoner as far from the new camp as the clearing’s bulk would allow.
The last light was now disolve from the leafy canopy over the thief’s head. He watched the proceeding as the newcomers made their rough supper and the two groups settled for the night, each arranging its sleeping positions on the far said of its fire from the others, so that among the two hearths was a wide space of oppressed grass that was clearly no-vandaayo’s-land..
After watching a little full, he withdrew deeper within the forest, out of pointy earshot, and spoke softly to the small divinity. “I am going to necessity both hands.”
He felt the hand that adopted the deity rise and find its way to the open neck of his derm. A moment opposite, the little piece of wood tumbled down to repose against his stomach. The voice in his head uttered, as long as some part of me touches few part of you, I will keep in control.
The thief’s inquisitiveness was piqued. “Are you actually within the timber?”
The eidolon opens a conduit between there and here. Now please get on with the salvation.
Raffalon shrugged and went farther back along the trial until he comes to a place where he had crossed a small watercourse. He knelt and put his into the water, feeling along the stream bottom, and found what he needed. He rose and looked about. Fifty paces away, a lofty, well- leafed tree arched over the stream. He went to it, fished in his bladder, and drew out a stout tied cord connected to a grapple. He threw this up into the branches and, luck being with him; it caught securely on the first cast.
He left the rope handing and returned to the edge of the transportation, Fulferin’s bladder. Heavier by the gravity of several pebbles, ranging in size from the width of his thumbnail to nearly the breadth of his fist.
Staying within the plant line. He circled stealthily around the clearing until he found a tree that would best suit his purpose. He climbed until he found a comfortable crutch between two branches with a good view of the two campuses. Then he composed to wait.
Night eased itself down over the transportation. The Vandaayo fires burned low and were neat. Then they burned down freshly. By now, all of the anthropophagi were curled or sprawled on the grass, save for one each group. Raffalon noted that these sentries did not face the outward darkness and whatever threats might lay there. They nursed an eye on one other.
He waited until he maxim one rise and go to fetch a new log for its fire. As the hunched figure bent to selection up the length of wood, the thief whispered to the godhead, “A little luck would support us now,” and lobbed a boulder out into the darkness. The missile arced across the murky air and he heard a satisfying snick as it attached with the Vandaayo’s hairless pate.
The injured sentry, adding a stream of gobbling gutturals directed at its opposite number. The other group’s sentry peered across the open across the open space and, though it could not ascertain the cause of the other’s pain, it recognized an occasion for mirth.
The head-struck sentry went back to its position tossing the new long into the fire. It squatted, rubbing its injury and stared though slatted eyes its counterpart muttering what Raffalon took to be dire vows of retribution.
The thief waited until the second sentry saw that it was time for fresh fuel. As it stooped to lift a log from its group’s supply he tossed another stone. He heard the same noise of impact as with the first a similar cry of pain that was met with a hoot and jeers from the other side of the clearing.
The newly injured Vandaayo stalked to the edge of the open ground between the fires and addressed several remarks to the mocker accompanied by juts of jaw and shakes of fists. The recipient of these attentions replied with words and gestures of its own including the revelation of naked green buttocks and the sound of their cheeks being slapped by hard hands.
It was while the thief’s first Vandaays target was thus bent over with its back turned to the second that Raffalon sped another pebble this one larger on its way through the darkness. It landed with a solid crack! On the butt-slapper’s head, bringing a new howl of rage and pain.
The freshly wounded Vandaayo chopped around and charged broadwise the neutral collar, its hand reaching for a mall shock though a strap that circled its waist. Its contrary number drew its own weapon a club ground from gray gem and bellowing its own war cry rushed to meet the onfall. They came together in the central of the clearing and went at each other with all the fervor and indifferent coordination compensated for by great strength of which Vandaayo warriors were renowned.
The tumult and tumult awoke the others who sat up or taken to their feet blinking and staring about. Raffalon launched various missiles in rapid succession including his largest. Aided by the luck of the short god each found a target within one of the two clusters of sleep-fuddled part-men. One rock came down with enough force as to lay out the prince of the six that had snatched Fulferin. When his fellows saw their upper stretched out on the ground and their sentry doing fight they took up their weapons and ululating charged the opponent. The enemy smarting from their own hurts rush to meet them.