|Photo by Juliane Liebermann at Unsplash|
But he was wrong.
The things they say about Krevbornites in his home country--that they are cowards raised on soft bread dipped in milk--prove not be to true. The men and women gathered in the inn don't respond well to threats, and they've seen worse than than the paltry little dance of magic he can command on a whim. The beat the blood mage bloody, giving him the kind of thrashing he thought he had left behind when he deserted the Empire's army.
He is thrown out of the inn, face first, into a puddle of mud. It rains, icy and bitter, but he barely notices. Khamad has had worse days.
Consciousness comes and goes, but Khamad becomes aware that a woman is staring down at him from her one good eye as she sits atop a horse. The woman is slight; underneath the bulk of her oilskin coat, she is dressed in finery that is ill-suited to the Frontier. Her clothes, though, are boyish rather than feminine. A rakish hat kept the water off her hair. She wore an eye patch, and a rapier was slung at her belt. In her gloved hand she held the reins of a second horse.
"I will help you fight your secret war," she said.
Khamad picked himself up and mounted the second horse. They rode.
The woman's name, or so she claimed, was Sable. As they camped in a cave, Khamad tried to explain himself. About his brother, a fellow blood mage from Ustalecht, who had discovered magic potent enough to destroy Krevborna. About how he had seen enough devastation. About how even though his people would dearly love to have Krevborna ravaged, swept clean, made fit to join the Empire, he could not allow it to happen. Not even in the land of his enemies. He was sick of blood.
Sable snorted. "There's more blood yet to come. Rivers of it, miles of it."
How could she know? She had dreamed of it. Dreams that worried her to the quick, made her abandon a life of debauchery and leisure to seek out a lone blood mage from Ustalecht in the exact place her dream had told her he would be. They got roaringly drunk.
Drunk enough not to hear the approach of bandits until it was too late. Too late for the bandits, that is. The rapier Sable wore was not for show; when it was in her hand, all frivolity disappeared and was replaced with an enthusiastic blood lust. Khamad did not limit himself to pretty magical tricks; the bandit faced fire and lightning.
The bodies were duly looted. The bandits' wagon was duly looted, but the greatest treasure they were carrying was an abductee--a swordsman named Casimir who had been waylaid days before. Casimir was given his freedom and agreed to travel with them until they reached the next civilized town or village.
Both Khamad and Sable grinned. It would be a long time until they hit a place that could rightfully be called civilized.