Previous chapter: Chapter 3
Chapter 4 (Begging and threatening)
With the mayor’s mansion across the street, I took a deep breath and backed into the blacksmiths’ shop behind me.
Chimes on the door rang, announcing my presence. The smell of wood smoke, metal shavings and steak hung heavy in the air. Ah, the refreshing scent of a forge reinvigorated my courage, but it didn’t wash the sour taste of bile from my mouth.
Just making this request to the mayor could get me arrested. And if I was reported to the Regime, I’d surely be executed.
It was worth it, though. I’d put my life on the line for Igu four days out of five. Just like she’d do for me. I’d probably even do it all five days despite the commandments to rest on your soul’s day.
Pictures of weapons, jewelry and other works of art hung around the room, all masterpieces created by the Yaye Brothers. The small counter in front of the door, which led to the workshop, held a cash register, just for show, and a stack of books, each with countless designs that I’d combed through for ages.
I cupped my hands over my mouth. “Uncles!”
Someone grunted in the back before the creaking sound of old hinges announced the eldest, and smallest, of my three uncles. Like me but half the scale, Uncle Weron Yaye had a broad chest and more muscles than hair. Well, our hair was dispersed differently. I had hair on my head. My eldest uncle didn’t wear a shirt despite working at the forge. He was fire forger after all.
I bowed before setting the case with my soul crystal in it on the counter.
“Nephew?” Weron asked.
“Remember the design I gave you before?” I nudged the soul crystal forward. “With all my savings?”
Weron sighed. “You know your mother doesn’t want us making a weapon for you. Like some type of gladiator.”
“Tell her it’s for working in the mine.”
“At the proportions you gave us?”
“You could wield it without a soul crystal forged into it, and I’m twice as big as you.”
“And despite my age, I could still bend you over my knee and make you squeal.”
I swallowed. Uncle was right. I may be strong, but working the forge was far different than working in the mine. Especially since he had full control over his soul crystal. “Sorry. I just mean that I’m an adult now. I should be able to make my own decisions.”
“Your mother will always be your mother. Be happy she’s still around.”
“I guess. It’s just, well, I need this hammer within the next few hours.”
Arching and eyebrow, Weron stepped around the corner and placed a hand on my shoulder. “What happened?”
“No. My friend, but nonetheless, she is dying. And I. I. I don’t know if anyone will do anything to save her.”
“So, you plan to save her yourself?”
I shook my head. “That would be impossible, but I won’t let any group leave without me.” I swallowed, starting to feel sick to my stomach. Uncle Weron had always helped me out. He had always helped me. And of everyone, he was the only one, besides Mother, who I never wished to disappoint. “Please.”
“Duty, huh?” Weron nodded. “Go do whatever you’re antsy to do, and when you come back, your hammer will be done..”
Antsy? I looked down and just then noticed my foot was tapping. I forced it to stop before lunging forward and wrapping my uncle in a hug. “You won’t regret this.”
“I’d better not. Especially since the utility of a ring is better, even for fighters.” He was right about the ring, but gladiators needed the extra power of a weapon. Not the utility.
So, without responding, I turned and bolted from the blacksmiths’ shop and across the street, slipping past the Mayor’s guards before they realized I had even approached. Raised voices shouted for me to stop, but I just ignored them and continued into the mayor’s mansion.
Up two flights of stairs. Potted plant knocked over in my haste to slow whoever was chasing me. Through a pair of double doors.
I slammed the doors behind me, panting. Drool dribbled onto my chin, but my arms wouldn’t move; they just stayed planted to my knees.
Across the office, the mayor put his pen down and stood up behind his desk. All and all, he was only a mining pick shorter than me, but he was the skinny type. None of that really mattered as long as he wore the bracelet with his wind soul crystal in it. The extra speed it granted him on top of his specialties with binding would be all he needed to defend himself. Especially since his guards were incompetent.
“Mayor. Mayor.” I took a deep breath and held it to steady myself then stood up straight. “Please. I need—”
The door slammed open behind me with the force granted by fire and threw me to my face onto the carpeted floor halfway across the office. The crack of impact only then registered in my senses, and a burning pain rolled down my spine.
Gritting my teeth, I held in the howl of agony. Rage powered my muscles, and I shot back to my feet. That bastard would pay. I clenched my fist and froze in place as a white hot short sword seared into the flesh of my neck.
“Move,” the mayor’s chief guard, Yalrein, said with his hoarse voice, “and I’ll take your head clean from your shoulders, boy.”
The burning heat of his sword against my flesh made the room blur. The stench of roasting rat hit my nose and reminded me that I hadn’t taken a bath in a few days. Maybe more since my cooking flesh carried that odor.
“Put your weapon down, Yalrein.” The mayor’s melodious voice relaxed the tension in my body. He didn’t have the natural speaking abilities of a psychic, but he came close.
“Put it down.”
Yalrein gulped before the searing pressure lessened on my neck.
I stumbled to the side and placed my hand over the hot pain in my neck. I wanted to turn around and punch Yalrein in the face. To knock him onto his smug butt—ass. I was an adult now. I could use swear words. Though, I shouldn’t say them aloud.
Within the blink of an eye, the mayor stood in front of me, not two feet away. “What do you need? Mati was it?”
“Tima, sir. And my friend is dying.”
The mayor groaned. “Not this again.”
I blinked and cocked my head to the side. “Huh?”
“Aiga asks something of me that isn’t possible. Any men sent after the Fevered Five would be marked as terrorists themselves, and the city guard would deal with them and the Fevered Five accordingly. And even if they didn’t, the Regime’s agents would report that we’re harboring terrorists, and we would pay the price.”
“But.” I shook my head. My throat felt dry, and not because of the heat of Yalrein’s blade. “Please. Sir. Igu. She’ll die if a water healer can’t come.”
“Sorry, boy.” The mayor shook his head, and his words sounded pained. “I can’t risk the lives of everyone for that of one girl.”
Next: Chapter 5