(I will warn you that this piece was written EXTREMELY quickly and will have a LOT of problems. For sure!)
Dane spun around to find himself face to face with Sergeant Koth,” oh, hey sir!” he said, nervously slipping the ancient, rusted dagger he held back into its sheath under is coat.
The towering, armoured guard scowled down at him,” you seen a guy go by this way? About yeah big,”he held his hand up to about his own chin,” black hair?”
Dane shrugged, trying to keep casual,” no, why do you want him?”
Koth ran a finger through his thick black hair and looked up and down the crowded street, his face was hard.” He stole something. If you see him he'll be wearing a shirt with a red sword on the back. Call me if you do.”
Dane nodded easily, leaning against the adobe wall of one of the houses lining the street,” sure.” he said, trying not to think about the shirt with the red sword painted on it that he'd thrown into a garbage bin a few moments ago.
Koth nodded absent mindedly one more time before pacing back up the street toward his post. He wasn't too interested in catching this 'thief', Dane, because he was then there'd have been nothing to stop him. He'd have just used a tracking stone and caught him in a moment.
That was why Koth was one of the few castle guards that Dane liked at all. He didn't like the law. When the guards in the castle went on one of their sprees to get things they 'needed' from the people, Koth usually hung back, and when things were 'stolen' back, he didn't make much effort to retrieve them.
But it was also the reason he stayed were he was, at his lonely guard post, day in and day out, week after week, year after – Dane cut his mind away from Koth, time to get moving!
Turning around, he slipped into the thick, mid-day market crowd, and wove his way through it, on his way back to his house. Well, his stepfather's shop really, but it was where Dane stayed.
As he entered the tiny, but clean, candle-shop he instantly caught sight of his step-father, Paine Telyx, sitting sleepily on his stool behind the counter, reading the morning paper. Slowly Paine raised his eyes to Dane and smiled slightly, tiredly,” morning Dane,” he said evenly.
Dane glanced at his stepfather's rumpled clothes and disarrayed hair, knowing he'd probably spent the night in the store or the work-shop,” morning,” he said, pressing the dagger firmly to his side and walking up to the door that opened to the part of the shop where Paine (with Dane's help) made the candles that he sold in the store.
He was just stepping through the doorway, his heart flooding with relief, when his stepfather's voice stopped him dead,” Dane.”
Gritting his teeth he turned back into the store,” yeah?” he asked.
Paine's hard black eyes bore into Dane, the only life in his wrinkled, tired face.” Your mother's been worried about you,” he said,” coming home late, or not at all, as you have been these days. I respect that you're almost a man, and that you need your freedom, but please, try to at least keep her appeased in some way.”
Dane nodded, he'd talk to her,” okay.” Again he turned to go.
“Oh, and Dane,” rolling his eyes he once again turned back to Paine,” Winson sent me five kegs of Bull Wax this morning, if you could get me some blanks ready I'd be much obliged.” Winson was Paine's brother, the producer of the waxes that Dane cut out into blanks, and that Paine carved into intricate candles, inlaying them, painting them, and forming them into fantastic shapes that were the source of the family's money.
Dane nodded once again, and then finally made his escape into the back of the store. Here the room was larger . . . well, it really wasn't a room, more like a two walled, high-roofed garage, but there was lots of space.
Picking his way through heaps of wax, shavings, and tools, he went over to the back of the room. Walking up to a certain huge clump of rough bee's wax which was heaped up against the northern wall, he glanced around, making sure the coast was clear, and then slipping the dagger out from under his coat, examined it's slightly rusted blade and stone pommel for a moment, before slipping it into a hole behind the wax where he kept the odds and ends he didn't want the army taking.
That dagger was the only thing he held in remembrance of his REAL mother. Years ago she had died and given Dane to her brother, Paine, and his wife, whom Dane now knew as his stepfather and mother. They were good people, and truthfully speaking, Dane was quite happy with his life.
But he still wished his mother had left him something more. A memory of her face? His father's name? A few coins? Anything.
Dane started violently and looked around for the source of the voice. Standing a few feet away was the last person he'd expected to run into that day: Varien, his cousin, Winson's only son,” oh, hey Varien.” he said, keeping his voice even and wiping his hands off on his coat,” what are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at work?”
Varien raised a dark eyebrow and grinned, his gentle face playful as ever,” aren't YOU supposed to be working, not digging around in the bee's wax?”
Dane rolled his eyes, and running his hands through his long brown hair, he headed for the five keg-sized blocks of Bull-wax lying on Dane's side of the workshop, opposite his step-father's table, littered with delicate tools.
Varien shrugged and followed him,” okay, the truth is, Ike,” the ropemaker down at the docks who employed Varien,” has a grandmother he never told me about who happened to go ill and die yesterday! What with the new war-ship in the harbour there are so many sailor's going around he's not sure I can hold the fort alone! So, no work today.”
Dane nodded absently to Varien, then carefully ran his hands along the edges of one of the incredibly dense kegs of Bull-wax. It was high quality, expensive wax. He felt a surge of pride at the thought of Paine trusting him with it's use.
“Varien,” he said suddenly, looking up at the thin, black haired boy -only a couple years younger than he himself,” do you need something here?”
Varien shrugged,” I thought I might be able to give you a hand with your work . . . ?”
Dane nodded,” good,” and then heaved the first keg of wax up onto the heavy table he did his main slicing work.
“What do you want me to do?” Varien asked.
“Well,” Dane smiled to himself,” you could start by getting the fireplace going.”
Varien frowned,” but it's roasting hot in here already!”
Dane gave him a mock glare,” Bull wax is as hard as wood. You can't cut it with a saw or it'll crack, you can't use pipe or it'll shatter, and you can't slice it normally or it'll split! I need to heat up this!” reaching over he picked up a long, thin-bladed knife.
Varien nodded,” okay,” and then trotting over to the fireplace set in the wall a few feet away, began to get a fire going.
“So,” Dane said, picking up a brush and scrubbing the block of wax, cleaning it,” a new war-ship in port?”
Varien nodded, grunting as he stocked the fire,” yeah, The Naurstone. I talked with Ike, about her this morning and he said she's a big one if he ever saw one!” Ike had once served in the Senetran Navy,” Said she's probably got at least fifty stonebearers on-board, about a hundred and fifty normal soldiers, and then about four hundred sailors!”
Dane frowned,” why'd she be here though? If we need a garrison then they can march over from Fort Kurpak. Anyway, isn't Starmound's port just for harvesters and hunters? Of course, besides The Gray Heart.” The Gray Heart was the fort and surrounding city's defending battleship.
Varien nodded, taking the knife from Dane and laying the blade in the flames,” I don't know, and neither does Ike. But she's not a re-vamped harvester, like Gray Heart, she's a real port-made war-ship. From what I heard there's some kind of dignitary on board who's visiting the maurman, but Ike said never to believe sailor gossip.”
Dane nodded, taking the heated knife from Varien and beginning to cut up the wax into perfectly shaped blanks.” Well, if it's anything important then I guess we'll learn about it this afternoon once some real information's gotten around and replaced the gossip. Who knows? She might just be dropping by on patrol duty!”
Varien looked at him curiously, leaning against the wall. Slowly his gaze drifted to the flames flickering in the old brick fireplace,” Dane,” he said softly,” what would happen if I got recruited?”
Dane kept working, concentrating on what he was doing,” Varien,” he said,” we pay our taxes, we bear the burden of war. We support it as we can and must. I don't think they'll have a recruiting spree any time soon.”
“That's exactly it,” Varien said,” it's been years since the last recruiting. It's high time we had another one!”
Dane sighed,” I hate war,” he muttered. He hated the way that the government took what it wanted from the people whenever it wanted to, he hated it how they taxed them, he hated it how that after almost two hundred years, nothing in this war had changed. Dernland was still there.