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Tunus and Nalin

Author: 
Lukahn (Jason Andersen)
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
119

The Innocence of Childhood

The children played in their father's fields, trying to find one another, laughing all the while. Their days were still carefree, for the time had not yet come for the harvest, and there was not much to do until the corn had ripened. But the stalks were taller than the children, and the field made a good place to hide. They played into the day, and only when their stomachs began to rumble with hunger did they notice just how late it had become. The days were long in the hotter part of the year, and they knew that their mother should have already called them for supper. Fearing that they had missed mother's call, and, even worse, dinner itself, they sprinted towards the small shack that they called home. As they exited out of the cornfields, they could see no signs of their father, who had been fixing the plow. Not even old Boli, their plow mule, was in sight. Usually he didn't wander from the plush grasses that surrounded their homestead. Nalin turned to her little brother Tunus as they ran. Although he was nearly her size, she was two years older than him.

"Do you think that they have already eaten?"

"No way. They wouldn't start without trying to find us first," replied Tunus, although Nalin could detect the skepticism in his voice.

Running into the house, they were both startled to see the table empty. As they looked around the kitchen, they saw that dinner still sat on the table, awaiting to be cooked. Fear struck their hearts as they called out for their parents. Cruel silence answered them. Taking Tunus by the hand, Nalin stepped farther into the darkening house, the light of the sunset making the shadows in the house frightfully deep. Looking around the interior wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house, she gasped as she saw signs of a struggle. Squeezing her brother's hand, she walked farther into the main room. The front door was open, and the door at the top of the loft ladder had been physically smashed in. As she began to reach for the ladder, Tunus broke from her, running out the front door.

"Father! Father!" he cried.

Nalin looked to where Tunus was running. Lying in the dirt in the front of the house was their father. A large pool of drying blood encircled him. His axe was buried in his back. Leaving Tunus in the front yard, Nalin ran back into the house, desperately calling for their mother. She bolted up the ladder. As she looked around the small loft that was their sleeping room, she could see her mother's legs sticking out from the other side of her parent's straw mattress. Her stomach wrenched as she confirmed what she already knew in her heart. There her mother laid, her head barely attached to her body. Her legs looked as if they were broken, and her dress was ripped. It was obvious that they had done more than just kill her mother.

Nalin promptly turned and threw up. She sat upon the floor and wept. She did not stop for a long while, when she heard Tunus coming up the ladder. As she wiped the tears from her eyes, she noticed a small blood trail that led from the loft to where her mother laid. She bent over, fury filling her mind, as she noticed that the trail led back out as well. This trail had to be from the wretch who did this. She also saw the blood was the same color as her mother's. She did not know if there were other humanoids that had the same type of blood as humans, but she did know that most humanoids had different blood colors. So humans had attacked and killed her parents.

"Nalin?"

Yes, Tunus?" "What are we going to do?"

For the first time in her life, she had no answers for her younger brother.

Hard Lessons of Survival

The carefree days of their childhood were over. Nalin and Tunis buried their parents behind their homestead. Unable to fix the smashed doors, they knew it was not safe to stay there. They gathered the belongings they had, taking anything that they could sell, and set off for the nearby city of Kolyen. Here Nalin hoped that she could find a job and a place to stay. She would try getting work at the stables first, as both of them could work there, and hopefully stay in the loft.

As they set out, bags slung over their shoulders like looters, Nalin looked back at her home. Except for the missing front door, it looked like any other homestead along the river.

Her father was, had been, one of the few farmers around Kolyen. Most people worked in the forests, harvesting lumber, or in the city itself, which was a major junction for trade within the County. She looked at the small field that held the ripening corn. Her heart broke at the thought that all of the hard work put into planting the field, how it would all go to waste. They could not harvest it alone, especially without their mule, Boli, pulling the cart. Perhaps she could meet a kind person and sell them the land and property, before the agents of the Duke confiscated it. Nalin turned her back and accepted her fate. No longer was she a child, but an adult, and she must act as one. She knew what she had to do. She took Tunus' hand and walked to the road that would take them to Kolyen.

It took them many hours to get there, and the city was bustling with the day’s activities when they arrived. The guards at the gates gave them a questioning look, but allowed them to pass. She immediately headed for the stables, for she knew that thieves and rogues were plentiful in the city, and they would just love to snatch both of them up and sell them for slaves. Already she could feel the weight of eyes upon them, and she quickened her step.

The stable hand looked up from his work when they came in.

"What can I do for you children?" he asked, looking back towards the horse he was shoeing.

"We are looking for work, kind sir," replied Nalin in her best imitation of a grown voice.

"Orphans are you?"

Nalin was taken aback. Did they look that miserable?

"No matter. I am sorry child, but I already employ all the help I need."

"Please sir. We only need a place to stay and food. We have worked with animals all of our lives. We will work hard for you."

The stable hand paused, considering. He abruptly came to a decision.

"Very well. Set your things over there, you can take them up to the loft tonight. For now, I need all of these horses brushed down and their stalls cleaned. Can you do that?"

"Yes sir!" she exclaimed, dropping her bag and heading for the stables.

Tunis, showing less enthusiasm, followed her lead. Tears were beginning to show up in his eyes again, as he was coming to realize just how much their lives had changed. Suddenly, Nalin stopped. She looked at the mule that was in the first stable. It was Boli.

"Where did you get this mule?" she asked slowly.

"That old thing? Belongs to the rug maker. Just brought him in. You'll probably have to take a lot of time brushing him out, he looks pretty ragged."

Nalin fumed, but said nothing. All she could think of was going to find the rug maker, and finding out from where or whom he had gotten Boli. Suddenly, her life took on meaning again. Here was a lead to the revenge that she sought. And soon she would go and track down her parent’s killers. For now, she got to work. But the thought lingered with her, even into sleep that night.

The Rug Maker

Nalin waited several days until she feigned sickness. Once everyone had gone down to work, she slipped out of the loft window, walked across the roof, and jumped into the pile of hay waiting on the carts outside. She quickly darted up the block. She had spoken to some of the other children that worked in the stables, and had found out how to get to the rug maker's shop. As she rounded a corner, she heard someone calling her name. She ducked into an ally, thinking that the stable master had seen her leaving. As she hid behind a stack of crates, she peeked back to the street. She was shocked to see Tunis come into the ally.

"Nalin?" he called.

"Where are you?" As she was about to stand, a man in a hooded cape suddenly came into the ally.

Tunis had no time to hide.

"Well, what have we here?" said the man menacingly.

Nalin noticed a deep scar running across his face.

"Fresh meat for the slave market!"

He reached out and grabbed Tunis, who twisted and tried to get away. The man moved with the swiftness of a serpent's strike. Tunis pulled and tried to run back into the street. Nalin saw her opportunity as the rogue's back was turned. She picked up a large cobblestone, and stepped from her hiding place. Luckily, Tunis was too afraid to notice her until she had the rock swung way behind her.

The man saw Tunis looking past him and he realized someone was behind him. He turned and tried to duck away, but Nalin caught him right in the side of the face. There was an audible crack and the man fell, blood pouring from his mouth. Nalin quickly searched him, finding a small dagger, a money pouch, and a small sword. She ignored the sword, as she could not conceal it very easily. She took the dagger and the pouch. Scanning the pouch contents, she saw some gems flash up at her. Thinking quickly, she picked the cobblestone back up and, going back to her hiding place, she replaced the stone with the small pouch beneath it.

Concealing the dagger under her clothes, she grabbed Tunis by the hand and ran back into the street, where they quickly immersed themselves in the crowd.

As they walked, Tunis explained that he had thought that she wasn't really sick, so he had waited to see what she would do. When he saw her leave, he quickly left the stables, following her. He assured her that the stable master didn’t see him.

Although she was angry with him, she was also comforted to know that he was here, and that she wouldn't have to go and confront the rug maker alone. Soon they stood in front of his shop. Nalin took a deep breath, and shook off Tunis' hand when he tried to take hers. She wanted to be able to use the dagger if she needed to. They entered the shop.

The creak of the door announced their presence. Nalin looked around at the walls and floor, covered with rugs. Most depicted images of natural beauty, such as waterfalls and sunsets. The counter spread across the shop, and a tapestry covered what appeared to be a door to a back room, probably where the rug maker kept his materials and loom. As she stood looking around, a man came from behind the tapestry.

"May I help you children?" he inquired.

"Yes. Our father sent us to inquire on the mule that you have at the stables. The stable master said it was yours."

She had thought up the story last night. She didn't want him to know who they were if he was the killer.

"Yes, that's right. I acquired it from a farmer outside of town. Unfortunately, he is not for sale - not cheaply anyway."

Nalin tried to look cool. He had nearly admitted his guilt to her with his first statement! She knew that Father would have never sold Boli. He must have taken him after he murdered them. She got as close as she could, ready to spring at him with the dagger.

"My father will offer a very high price for that mule."

The rug maker's eyes narrowed. Fear gripped Nalin's heart.

"Why? What is so special about that mule? How much is your father willing to pay? Where is your father anyway? No sane man would send his children to bid on an animal."

Realizing that her gig was up, she sprang at him, pulling the dagger from her clothes.

"My father is dead you bastard!" she screamed. "You killed him and my mother!"

She landed on him, stabbing him through his clothing. The rug maker screamed. Blood was beginning to splatter all over her. Suddenly, she felt a strange sensation come over her, and she was frozen. The rug maker pushed her off of him, and she collapsed to the floor, paralyzed. Her mind raced at what could have happened. The rug maker picked up the knife, Nalin could see him bleeding heavily from his chest and neck, and his arms were in tatters. Weakly, he raised the knife to strike her a lethal blow.

"Stop."

A voice made him freeze in place. He looked behind him.

"Master, look at what she has done to me!"

"It is understandable. She is the daughter of a meddling farmer that we took care of a week ago. I am surprised they found us so quickly. His wife didn't tell us there were children. She held out very well under the circumstances. If this girl grows to become anything like her mother, my subjects will be very pleased to have her within our ranks. She already has her mother's look about her. And the boy looks to be strong. He could serve us well. No, we will not kill them. Instead, they will serve us."

Nalin's tears began to flow. She had found her parents murderers. And now she and her brother were their captives.

 

Tunus and Nalin © Lukahn (Jason Andersen)

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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