The slaver was a stealthy man. He knew ways of getting in and out of cities without being seen. Now, he had to bypass the war torn front gates of Yndarr in order to get in. perhaps the wharfs would be his best bet. He stood upon the docks beyond the capitol, pulling his dinghy from under the pier. His charge lay sleeping in a basket just a few feet away on the shore.
No one knew either of them were there. They were alone in the darkness. The old man pulled the dinghy around to the side of the pier and onto the shore. He loaded the basket and its contents in the boat, then climbed in after. This was it. He untied the boat and pushed them, silently, from the bank and began paddling the boat out toward the middle of the river. He had to be careful of the eddies that often appeared there, since they could do as much damage to small boats as whirlpools could do to ships at sea.
He allowed a smile of irony to play upon his weathered lips. He was getting too old for this. He usually hated when parents sold their babies into bondage, but this was no ordinary case. The woman had given him strict instructions, and he knew the bard quite well. He had no idea how the baby and the bard were linked, but he would carry out the woman’s wishes.
Once in the middle of the river, he allowed the current to pull the dinghy toward the south. It was going to be a long ride. He was glad that he had stocked the boat with a little food, but knew that he would have to paddle back to the bank in order to obtain milk for the baby. He would also have to change the swaddling from time to time and clean his charge.
“The gods be damned,” he whispered in oath, “once this run is through, I am going to stop the trade.”
He knew better, though. He had grown rich from the trade. It was all he knew. If he were to stop, he would simply waste away.
Besides. There was no one else to take his place. Slavers were unpopular folk, mostly hated but a necessary evil in the eyes of most. Not many people wanted the job of buying and selling slaves. Even fewer desired to go and pick up the unwanted children and babies from parents too drugged out of their minds on lotus to care. It sickened him to do so, but sometimes, slavery was better than life at home.
He looked around. Darkness kept them hidden. His charge was unusually quiet. Not like most babies. It was eerie, the quietness.
Niobe busied herself detailing her next move. She wanted to leave the city without being observed, but knew that her brother would try to spy upon her. being the sister of the emperor was not as wonderful as the common folk believed. Unwanted advances. Unneeded interference.
Sometimes she wished that she was just another commoner. No title. No expectations. No imperial responsibilities.
Too sore to get up and pack her belongings, she remained in her bed. Giving birth had taken everything out of her. Usually strong, she was now too weak to get up. Normally full of energy, she was now tired. All she wanted at the moment was a little rest.
But she was afraid to close her eyes. Kyrzhad would be coming to see her soon. If she were to fall asleep now, he would most likely take advantage of her in her weakened state. For his evil, he was thrice damned. She was sure of it.
But, then, so was she. She had done many vile deeds in the name of being an imperial heir. She’d committed orgies with many suitors, then had them all impaled and burned to bury her secrets. She had married to remove herself from her brother’s list of playthings, not out of love for Hadrax. Who could love the vile creature known by that name?
He was cruel. Far more cruel than she’s ever been. He felt no remorse. He was a murderer who killed without reason. She had killed to hide things, events.
But Hadrax was pure evil. He was ambitious, ruthless, and deadly. She only hoped that her brother knew that. If not, the four lands were in deep trouble…as was their emperor.
She had lied when she told her brother that Hadrax was unquestioning in his loyalty. Hadrax didn’t know the meaning of loyalty. Hadrax only knew what lust was. Lust for power. Lust for fame. Sexual lust.
There was no love in the man. Only lust. He had proved it in his reply to her when she had told him of her pregnancy. It was why she had toyed with the thought of suicide.
Selfishly, Kyrzhad had granted her a divorce. He had thought that she would remain in the capitol so he could use her as he did his concubines. But her decision to exile herself to Yndarr had stopped him from any thought of following through with his designs. It had told him that she was not going to remain for his pleasures.
Still, that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t try to take advantage if she fell asleep. He had no morals. He respected no boundaries. He respected the wishes of no one.
The slaver pulled the dinghy onto the western shore of the Big Muddy. He needed to find a farmer or herder with cattle or goats. His charge needed to eat. Both also needed to sleep.
They were far enough away from any cities not to draw attention to themselves. There was no threat of being discovered now. They were safe enough to make camp.
He pulled the boat up the bank to keep it from floating away. He didn’t relish the idea of walking the rest of the way to Yndarr. Especially not when a boat would get them there faster. Besides. It was hard to tell where exactly they were in the inky darkness.
There was too much danger of floating past their destination in the dark. Daylight was better, and cities were scarce in between the capitol and Yndarr. Those that were would only see the interlopers as a fisherman and his boat. And the slaver would make sure to look the part, casting a net as if he were trying for fish.
At the moment, though, he needed to feed the baby. Afterward, he would clean the child and change the swaddling. When he was through, they would both enjoy some much needed sleep. He smiled to himself.
Tomorrow, they would reach Yndarr. Tomorrow, he would meet with the bard and deliver the child. Tomorrow, he could give his old friend the message. Yes, tomorrow would be a better day.