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Battle Seer

Chapter 16: The Hunt for Romen Garrenson
part 1

by Julian Lawler

Table of Contents
Chapter 15 appeared
in issue 137.

The rain came down in torrents, pounding the streets of Nomen. The streets were dark at this time of night. The smell of dust and dirt turning to mud filled the air. Ian Dihn watched the sheets of rain that came down upon his city from the doorway of a tall four-story building, his dark eyes gazing out into the empty street. His hair was matted against his face and his clothes were drenched.

He pulled out his dagger from its sheath at his thigh and turned to face the dark hall that led to the cellar. In his other hand, he held a rapier, its silver hand guard glistening with tiny droplets. Lightning flashed outside, temporarily illuminating the small corridor for an instant. Ian’s keen senses caught the only other man that had accompanied him into the building.

“Where are the others?” asked the shorter man with a slight accent as the Lord of Nomen came to stand silently at his back. Jarren Arruso was two feet smaller than Ian. He wore a dark tunic with pockets sewn all along the edges.

“They surround the edifice as we speak, Jarren,” replied Ian calmly. He silently stepped around the shorter man and took the lead. “We will get Romen Garrenson at last. He has eluded us for so three days now. If your information is right and from a dependable source, he will be in my clutches this night.”

Jarren Aruso sniffed derisively. “My information is correct. It took me fifty marks just to get the address. That’s not including all the money I spent getting to the damn informant who had it. So you know my information is correct.”

The taller man looked thoughtful in the darkness. “It better be.”

Ian adjusted his grip on his weapons and took tentative steps towards the stairs. “We are about to enter the lion’s den, so be quiet. Remember, Romen Garrenson is a Rune Man. He has blood magic and he knows how to use it well. Once we reach the bottom of the stairs...”

Ian halted his speech as thunder rolled overhead. Proof once again that the storm was finally ebbing away. Thank the light, he thought. The city of Nomen had been pounded by rain for the last two days. The thunderstorm had come over the city suddenly, blanketing everything with a thick fog. The rain had been a blessing at first, but too much of it had quickly become a curse. After a full night of unceasing rain, the thunderstorm had turned into a bane for many people in the city. People had been too afraid to come out of their homes for the last two days.

The rain brought things, too. Ian knew full well the terrors that could come with the clouds. The Nations knew full well the tales and stories of raindogs. The Lord of Nomen turned around and looked over the head of Jarren. Outside, the rain continued. Lightning flashed again.

He started counting the seconds until the next thunder came again. At least no raindogs had been reported in Nomen, yet. He thought of Palance. The Prince of Acrene Tarrynth continued to fail to appear. The authorities of Nomen were in an uproar, including himself and Father Rayul.

For a passing moment, Clavar Rakensoft flittered across his thoughts. He felt a great pang of regret there, a hollow empty feeling that he couldn’t fill since the death of the lightbearer. He shook the hollowness away.

Already news had been sent to Geamehn. As long as anyone knew, Palance was missing. A group of armed soldiers, including the rest of the Iinnin Lodar, had already left to Ramendae to find their beloved leader. Ian didn’t think Alias Demondread would like what was happening. Ian didn’t like it. Their prince, his long-time friend, was gone and the possibilities for his absence were endless.

Right after Palance had left Nomen, Ian set out to find Romen Garrenson. He and twenty other of his men set out combing the streets that first day. After their search turned up empty, Ian sent Jarren Arusio to seek the Rune Man out. The short man was an informant expert, well known in the seedier parts of Nomen. Two days of patience and dishing out money had finally brought them here to a four-story haven for the poorer folks of the city. There was a dank smell of wetness and the corridors that made the skeleton of the building sweated with beads of water. The humidity was almost unbearable in here.

Thunder rolled across the sky again, sending a slight tremble across the earth.

Ian Dihn stood quietly in the corridor. Jarren Arusio moved forward silent as a cat in an alley. By all reports, the Rune Man made his home in the basement of this establishment. The Lord of Nomen couldn’t thank his luck enough. The basement was a perfect hideout. With the power the Rune Man had displayed, he could bring down the entire building around them with all the tenants trapped inside.

Ian moved behind his informer. The little man crept along, masking his steps with the falling rain, thunder, and lightning. Ian didn’t have the skill to do the same. Lightning flashed against both his blades and he turned slightly to mask them from the dim light coming from without. Gripping both weapons tightly, he stepped across the corridor as thunder rolled. He was trying to follow his informant’s example.

Jarren Arusio signaled down the hall. There were steps going down just a little up ahead. The Lord of Nomen inhaled deeply. He needed to steady his nerves. He hadn’t fought in over two years. Being the lord often did that to a man. Escorts, guards, and assassins always around usually kept combat from reaching him. He wasn’t without his training, though. He was the most excellent fighter in Nomen. No one could outdo him in a match. He was one of the few who had mastered fighting with two weapons. He had tried teaching it to Palance, once. That seemed so far away now.

Ian took off his wide-brimmed hat and flung it out the front door. That was his signal to his men to begin their evacuation of the building. They were to count to two hundred. They should reach the number right as he and Jarren barged through the Rune Man’s door. All hell would break loose, then, he was sure.

Steeling himself, he took a few long strides towards the stairs as thunder rumbled again outside.

Jarren Arusio followed quietly behind him, passing doors and halls with ease. His footsteps were that of a ghost’s and Ian could barely make out the man in the near darkness.

“The thunder is pausing longer by a second each time,” whispered the informant.

Ian nodded. He quickly moved to the stairs and looked down. The stairs were made of rickety wood. Most of the steps were splintering he noted. It was a dark descent and at the end stood a door faintly outlined by a light within.

Thunder rolled and Ian took a step.

Again, and again and he descended. Jarren took up the rear, not needing the masking of the thunder.

By the time they reached the bottom, Ian was sweating. He held his weapons in check. He reached the door as planned. His men still had thirty seconds before they stormed the building.

He put his fingertips against the door. It was warm to the touch. He looked to his side. Jarren was kneeling beside him inspecting the lock to the door. Ian waited for the informant to look up expectantly. Jarren looked up at him and signaled that he was ready. The Lord of Nomen took a deep breath. It was now or never.

He nodded.

Jarren went to work immediately. As silent as a ghost, the informant reached into one of his many pouches and pulled out a pair of lock picks. They were long and slender and very illegal to have in the streets of Nomen. Peering into the door’s keyhole, he slid them in soundlessly. And waited.

Ian counted. He was waiting for one last thing to happen...

Then came the roar of his men as they cried out their official authority to evacuate the building. It was quickly masked by a loud rumbling thunder.

Ian turned to face the door. Simultaneously, he kicked it open as Jarren’s picks turned in the lock with a deafening snap. The door flew open as light spilled into the stairway.

Ian didn’t wait or hesitate for one moment. He dropped and rolled into the room. He came up in a flash of whirling blades as he spun around and went to the room’s far wall. He was surprised, indeed.

Proceed to the conclusion of chapter 16...

Copyright © 2005 by Julian Lawler

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