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The Adventures of Calan Stonebridge Part Three

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by , 10-06-2012 at 10:02 AM (1260 Views)
Here is part three of the text-only version of The Adventures of Calan Stonebridge.

Calan Stonebridge could not remember a time when he had been more sore. He had spent the last few hours huddled under a foul smelling tarp in the back of a stolen grave diggers wagon. The rough planks of the floor of the wagon had dug into his flesh and the hard ride had given him bruises he was sure would never heal. The roads outside of Riverhewn had been hard packed due to a lack of rain and he swore the driver of the wagon had hit every bump and rut. Finally the wagon had come to a halt. He could hear the sound of rushing water and the rough voices of the driver and the other man. He poked his head out from under the tarp and saw that they had stopped next to a roughly built shack on the banks of the Fler river. Calan knew that this river fowed from the far north of the kingdom and emptied into the mighty Lake Quag to the South. Calan heard a third voice and saw a large man dressed in a dirty tunic and torn trousers exit the shack. He was about to lift his head further when the three men moved to stand next to the wagon. Calan fought mightily against his fear and curled back into the painful ball praying that the men did not discover him....

Calan Stonebridge released his held breath in a gasp. The men had decided to go into the shack for a drink before unloading the wagon. He had almost been caught and the gods only knew what these men would have dome to him. He slid over the side of the wagon and onto the ground. He could see the Fler River to one side of him and the rough shack to the other. The road was a narrow track here hard packed due to a lack of rain. He crouched low and moved off to kneel beside another wagon that was parked next to the shack. This wagon appeared equipped for a long road journey as it had stout springs on each axle. Calan could hear the men laughing in the shack and dared move closer for a look. He realized that he was very hungry and the sound of meat cooking was wafting up from somewhere inside the shack. He knew he had to eat, he also knew that he could not be caught. For a moment he was afraid he would starve to death before he saw the completion of this adventure. He shook that fear aside and gathered his courage. He moved quietly to a door in the back of the shack praying furiously that no one saw him...

Calan Stonebridge huddled in the shadow of a large tree and devoured a large hunk of bread he had taken from the inside of the shack. He watched and listened as the men loaded large boxes onto the wagon. The horses were fed from feed bags but Calan could tell they were not happy with being left harnessed to to the wagon. He strained to see what was in the boxes but couldn't. Gathering all of his courage he crept to the front of the shack and flattened himself against the rough timber wall. The men were grunting and swearing under the weight of the boxes. One of them spoke "Damn bit of smarts burying these like that." The other men grunted their agreement. The man who lived in the shack chuckled" The tax man don't come around often but it wouldn't do for him to find crates and crates of these weapons now would it?" Calan nearly jumped. "Weapons" he said to himself. What could these men be doing with them all? Calan was sure that their purpose was not an honorable one. He knew he had to be on that wagon when it left. He knew he couldn't hide in the back as the men had filled it to capacity. He crept under the wagon and saw an empty space just under the center spar. He wiggled into position and prayed the journey wouldn't be very long....

Calan Stonebridge wondered how much pain the human body could endure before it simply quit. He had spent the last unknown amount of hours cramped into an uncomfortable shape clinging to the bottom of a wagon as it sped along a rough dirt track. The sun had begun to set as finally the wagon groaned to a halt. He fell with ah grunt to the hard earth and scurried behind a small building. He had no idea where he was. He could see that he was in the center of what must have been a small town. There were people moving about and he could smell meat cooking. The wagon's drivers stepped off of the wagon and made a great show of stretching. After tying the horses to a post they entered a squat stone and timber building with a sign that read" The Axe & Stump" Calan knew with a name like that the building had to be a tavern. He moved cautiously across the street and took a up a position on the side of the building facing away from the street. He craned his neck and peered into a dirty window....

Calan Stonebridge had practically grown up in a tavern. He and his mother had lived and worked in one in the city of Riverhewn. While The Stabbed Soldier was a rough and seedy place it was a palace compared to the Axe & Stump. Calan peered through the window in disbelief. The common row was filled with drunken men sitting at long rough hewn tables. Although the sun had barely begun it's descent through the sky these men were already very drunk. Tired looking serving girls navigated between the tables fighting off the rough advances of the patrons as often as serving drinks. Calan spotted a vicious fight going on in one corner of the room. The entire place was lit by torches it seemed and they let off a hellish glow that did little to brighten the mood of this dark place. Calan spotted the wagon drivers sitting at one of the long tables in what appeared to be a intense conversation with two other men. After a while the group rose and moved towards the back of the tavern. Calan followed moving along the outside of the tavern which he discovered was very large. He flattened himself up against the back wall and looked through a partially open door. What he saw both fascinated and sickened him. In the center of the large shadow filled room sat an octagon made from giant wooden beams. Tall thin logs had been affixed to form a grid around it's outside. on these hung more torches that lit the scene with an almost evil glow. In the center of the structure two men were fighting. Calan had seen men fight before of course but never like this. The ferocity and brutality of the fight terrified him. These men were trying to kill each other. Around the outside of the octagon a crowd had formed cheering and booing and betting. The room was dark except for the octagon and the air was heavy with the smell of unwashed bodies and split liquor. There was a great cheer from the crowd and Calan watched as one of the men landed a brutal blow on the other. The struck man fell like a tree in the forest and laid still. The other man raised his hands in victory and let out a massive roar. Tavern workers entered the octagon and dragged the lifeless body of the loser away. Fresh dirt was sprinkled over the blood stains and two more men readied themselves to enter the pit. Calan was about to turn away when a strong hand clamped down on his shoulder and a voice rough with drink said " Now what do we have here?....."

Calan Stonebridge nearly fainted as he was roughly pulled to a standing position. The man that had grabbed him was tall and muscular. Calan struggled out of instinct knowing that he had no hope of escaping this brute. "Put me down !" he tried to shout but fear made his words come out in a squeak. The large man laughed and began to carry Calan towards the open door. Calan tried again in vain to wriggle free and was delivered a cuff on the face for his trouble. He was carried past the fighting pit where two more men had taken their place for the entertainment of the wildly cheering crowd. Calan screamed for help but either the people in the crowd could not hear him or merely didn't care. The large man stopped in front of a large heavy door. He reached for a iron key and unlocked the door shoving it open with a grunt. He then tossed Calan inside. Calan hit the hard dirt floor with a rush of escaping breath. As the giant man was closing the door, Calan heard him say: " Make a crown or two from him...Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll live long enough to be profitable" With that the massive door was slammed shut and Calan found himself in the darkness once more....

Clan Stonebridge sat still for a moment and let his eyes adjust to the gloom. He had seen two bodies lying on the dirt floor as he was being tossed into the room. He could hear labored breathing from one and a soft moan from the other. He was relieved to find that neither were dead. He had had quite enough of dead bodies for one lifetime. He sat in the cell and pondered what the large man had said "Live long enough to be profitable?" Were the mans words. What did that mean? Calan puzzled over it for a few more minutes until the answer hit him like lightning. SLAVERS ! He had heard rumors in the dock ward of Riverhewn that there were still groups of people that made money by kidnapping and selling human beings. It was highly illegal and worth the instant death penalty if one was caught. Most times the rumors spoke of people spirited away aboard ships fast departing from Riverhewn Harbor to lands far away from the justice of the king. To know that it was happening in the kingdom shocked Calan. What was even more shocking was that now he would find out if these rumors were true first hand. He prayed that he would live to find out.....

Updated 10-30-2012 at 03:44 PM by jtougas

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