Lords of Freedom is an exciting new novel including adventure, realistic action, surprising insights, and a touch of romance. Enjoy a new chapter every week. Prior chapters can be found here.
Lords of Freedom—Chapter 13—Return 1
Xan and Sheba left the Hall of Truth, passed through the flickering tunnel, and emerged into the cavern with the glowing water. Finding the gold deposit in the white rock wall did not take long, and Xan used a handpick from his pack to break out small chunks of gold.
When the pack was full, he left the pick by the gold vein and boarded the waiting boat. As they sailed back across the lake, Sheba crouched in the bow while Xan busied himself with his long knife and staff. Locking the long knife to the end of the staff made a spear similar to the one he’d crafted before. This one, though was much better, of course, since the tree branch had been ungainly in comparison to the staff.
Xan and Sheba knew they might need the spear, and both scanned the passing water intently as they moved along. There was no sign of any serpent though, and at the far dock they stepped off the boat and headed back up the incline.
At the stone door, Xan knocked three times, and the stone wavered to transparency. They stepped through it, climbed through the narrow fissure, and carefully worked their way back through the thorn bush.
The waters of the spring were as cold, clear, and refreshing as before. Reclining by the pool, Xan said, “Last time we were here I was afraid of you, Sheba. I had no idea who you were and was afraid of you.
Sheba flattened her ears and swatted at his leg.
“Ok,” he laughed. “Maybe even then, by that time, I knew you were something more than a frightful beast, but I had no idea…”
You hid your fear well, and though I was not afraid of you, I was wary. That changed when you pried the boar tusk from my shoulder.
Xan shook his head, recalling the trepidation he’d felt then, certain she could take his arm off, if not his head, yet unable to sit idly by while she suffered. “The trust we share now is one of the best things in my life.”
Before we joined up in this canyon, I did not believe such a bond was possible.
“We both had to have faith to make it happen.”
Leaning against her warm flank, Xan laid a hand on her head. “Faith is being willing to step into the light beyond hope, as you and I have.”
After filling their containers with healing water from the spring Xan looked again at the sun stream picture as they passed between the red and white cliffs.
There were no signs of boar or large black and yellow snakes, and eventually, they emerged from the mouth of the canyon near the curious circle of rocks; the rocks he’d seen in his dream that marked the canyon’s hidden entrance.
As instructed by Thoth, they headed due east, bound for the coast where Thalick lay. After the final meeting in the Hall Of Truth, just outside the doors, Solomon had explained that Thalick was a bustling hub of commerce where ships from far shores docked to buy and sell.
The ugly underbelly of Thalick was its slave market, operated by a band of ruthless pirates, led by a man called Shark. People from various cities in Cavalon fell prey to this enterprise, handed off from prisons or abducted by lurking rogues, to be marched across the desert or plain into Thalick.
There were hideaways in the port city, where captives were held, to be sold first to Shark and then sailed off on one of his ships to be sold again to distant countries where slavery was a way of life. It was big business, and although Cavalon as a whole did not allow human bondage, the black market thrived.
Xan had asked why King Zortiger didn’t put an end to it. He ruled from the capital city of Cavalon, but his reach was long and firm. Take the uprising in Sagal, for instance: the king had crushed the rebellion post haste, with overwhelming force. Xan’s best friend, Cheston, had perished in the king’s ranks during one of those battles.
Solomon was grim as he explained that King Zortiger could crush the slave trade, and send Shark and his pirate band running, yet he did not. Why? Because Shark got rid of anyone who troubled the king as both of them traded life for gold. Therefore, the king turned a blind eye to the goings on in Thalick.
Mulling this over, as he and Sheba walked, Xan said aloud: “We have our work cut out for us, that much is sure. Solomon said the mayor of Thalick, a man by the name of O’Rok, is a good man. He’s fair and just, which is why Thalick thrives the way it does. He’s tried to get rid of the pirates, but they’re too established and don’t care a lick for the rule of law. He’s the man we’ll start with, and work from there.”
Sheba growled in agreement, low in her throat.
“We’ll be on the road for four days, I’d guess,” Xan continued, squinting up at the noonday sun. “Once we free the slaves and send the pirates packing, we’ll establish a select group as Guardians of Freedom, on land and sea. Then we’ll return to the sacred spring, report to the Lords, and receive final instructions for continuing our mission.
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