“Well so much for that plan.” I muttered to Toby in disgust as two guards lead us out of the drunk tank the next day- for good, if the alarmed expression on Tivoli’s face was any indication.
“No, we just revise it.” Toby said causually. We marched down a series of halls and a descending stairway .
“What about Tivoli?” I asked as we turned another corner, oblivous of the guards overhearing us.
“Screw him.” Toby retorted shortly. Apperently I was distracting him from his minute examination of everything.
We arrived at a formal garden decorated with a profusion of flowers and plants. A fountain gurgled happily somewhere amid carefully cut hedges. In the center was a canopy of white silk shading Gandolph, and a guest lounging on a padded divan of velvet, totally inappropriate in this heat. Good God, I thought, this man had no taste at all.
There were four guards, the two who escorted us and two who came with the trader; a suspicious pair with swarthy complexions and long hair that draped their shoulders. They looked like Scottish pirates in loose white shirts with an open collar and long puffy sleeves. Their tapered edged kilts were trimmed in fringe and they wore soft leather mocassins that reached to their knees. A very large man with bushy sidburns and heavy brows stood behind Gandolph’s seat.
I viewed the other man, obviously his buyer, with contempt, the idea of buying another human being revolted me to no end. He rose and carefully observed us like cattle. I felt naked under his probing gaze as he walked over to get a better look at us and I realized with a shock it was Daedelus. His brow did a tiny jump to convince me I wasn’t seeing things.
It was him and the disguise was pretty good. A white head dress draped over his head and shoulders completely hid his blonde hair. His face was tanned and he wore elaborate cloaks of red and orange brocade over a bright blue silk shirt and a sash the color of a shimmering peacock. The abundance of jewelry he wore not his style at all. An ornate jangling bracelet kept getting caught in his outer robe.
“Well what do you think Kazel?” Gandolph asked eagerly in his thin lisp. Daedelus’ expression was unchanged as he glanced at the Prestige and continued his examination of us.
“The woman has demonstrated exceptional warrior skills and will make good breeding stock.” he went on like a cars salesman. Oh for heavens sake I inwardly groaned at his crude assessement.
“Are you certain these are exotics?” Daedelus asked in a thick accent with rolled r’s and wide vowels.
“Oh please, observe their garb and they were carrying these.” he snapped his fingers and the burly man placed our backpacks on the ground next to Gandolph. Toby’s eyes widen for an instant before resuming his sullen gaze. He looked calm but I knew he was a coiled spring waiting for release. Daedelus gave a snort of disdain, barely interested. Man as a slave trader this guy plays hard to get. Obviously he was working an angle to get the best price. He stood in front of me, looking me up and down.
“You don’t look like you can disarm a man with your bare hands.” he challenged and I took the hint. I gave him my best bitch with PMS stare.
“What’s it to you asshole.” I snapped. Gandolph yelped and leapt to his feet, nearly tangling his legs in his ridiculously fussy robe.
“How dare you speak that way to-” Deadelus cut him off with a raised hand. He smiled, amused at my bravado. Gandolph reluctantly sat down. Deadelus turned his attention to Toby, who he had pointedly ignored. He scanned him up and down critically then reached out with a finger, running it seductively along Toby’s cheek.
I held my breath. Toby has a strong dislike of being touched - especially by men. His machoism makes him overreact to masculine displays of affection. He stood stock still and both men stared at each in silent confrontation. Aburptly Daedelus returned to his seat and I breathed again.
“Before we get to negotiations, allow me to demonstrate the women’s warrior skill.” Gandolph announced enthusiastically and motioned to his hulking bodyguard.
“I don’t have time for this.” Daedelus snapped, trying to hurry the transaction along. Though he remained passive I could sense he was horrified. His hand twitched nervously.
“I insist.” Gandolph said with obvious glee. He wanted a show and wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to see for himself whatever rumors about me were true.
Gandolph ordered our escorts to hold Toby who was ready to go ballistic any second. The guards behind Deadelus cautiously put their hands on their own weapons looking to him for a signal but he did not move. I glanced at Daedelus and there was a flicker of fear in his eyes.
If Gandolph was smart, he wasn’t going to let his merchedise get damamged in front of a potential buyer, this was for show only. Then I rememebered he wasn’t smart. I backed away. “Zoe.” Toby hissed under his breath as he strained against the guards.
“Stay out of this Toby.” I shot him a warning that I meant it. I was not going to get into another brawl in so many days.
The bodyguard drew his short sword out with a scraping sound and stood facing me. He took up an attack stance, feet wide, swaying gently as he held the bayonent length sword. I focused my attention and stood with one foot slightly in front of the other in a relaxed but alert stance. There was noting to do but wait for his attack. He lurched forward with an exploritory stab and I stepped aside smoothly. He poked at me again, grinning maliciously.
It was apparent this guy knew nothing about fighting and was probably a lousy bodyguard. I wasn't worried as the fellow lumbered at me, a smirk on his face. He was so impressed with the task of taking on a small unarmed woman, he grinned like an idiot.
Well let’s get this over with I decided and waited for his next telegraphed move. This time I stayed put as he dove at me with his sword. A split second before the tip reached me I turned aside and took hold of his outstretched hand, catching him by the wrist. I turned him in a half circle then stopped aburptly and folded his hand back on his forearm as I snatched away the sword. The momentum of the throw pitched him into the air as I held onto his wrist. His skull made a firm thunk sound as his head and shoulders connected with the ground and he was knocked out cold. All of this happened in three seconds. I now had the blade in my hand. I walked over and stuck it into the ornate wooden table before the stunned men.
“Very entertaining.” Daedelus broke into a broad smile and applauded. “I’ll take the woman as well.”
“But I thought you were only interested in the man.” Gandolph sputtered. His big show backfired.
“Hey if I go, she goes.” Toby demanded hotly. Daedelus shook his head.
“I am not interested in your wishes. Qadai for what you are asking for the man I will take both” he said with great irritation. There was a strained silence as Gandolph considered the turn of events.
“Oh very well.”he mumbled. He looked as crushed as a child who lost his favorite toy.
Deadelus held a discussion with one of his guards who walked off to return a moment later with a large trunk. It was placed on the low table next to the embedded knife and opened. Small gold bars gleamed in the light. Whatever misgivings Gandolph had a minute ago vanished at the sight of the small treasure.
“So good dealing with you Qadai. We will come again when the portal brings more, yes?” Deadelus babbled cheerfully as he motioned for us to follow him and this entourage. We grabbed our packs as we left.
“Oh yes anytime Kazel.” Gandolph was hardly paying attention.
What a sucker, I was sorry the people of Hiron were stuck with him.