This is something I have not done in a while – an excerpt from my current novel! Feedback is always welcomed
A small rodent skittered through a pile of fallen branches and leaves, barely disturbing the towering figure above it. It whipped round a tree and vanished, almost as fast as it had appeared, and left the shadowy form to its sorrows.
Kelken wiped his face and cursed himself under his breath. He hadn’t felt like this for a long time, not since his last time in Traseken. Being there had brought it all back – his wife, his oath, his service, his friends, his decision to leave – and it had been the key to a treasure chest of bottled feelings that shot through his mind, body and soul like a thousand arrows and tearing him to pieces.
He had failed. He had given up the oath and failed. The first step outside of Traseken all those years ago had been what sealed his life into the routine of drink, battle and repression. The thoughts of his wife came back to him, thoughts of a young-faced Breena looking at him as he left on a search that took up years of his life. He remembered her tearful face as he had to say goodbye to her, the way she had scratched him when she had grabbed him in a desperate attempt to make him stay, and the feeling of regret he had to live with for the rest of his life. It was the one thing he had regretted most of all.
Kelken flicked a leaf from its branch and watched it swivel to the floor like a windmill. He lifted his head as he heard the leaves behind him crunch and shift along the floor. He didn’t care who it was, he stayed where he was and leaned against the tree next to him.
‘I thought I said to Breena I wanted to be left alone,’ he voiced out loud to whoever it was behind him.
San Kiln’s rhythmic purr quivered the night air. ‘I thought we might chat, you know, discuss things.’
‘Chat? Get bent, fur face.’
‘Now that’s no way to speak to a friend, is it?’
‘Friend?’ Kelken turned his head. ‘We are here due to your darling wife blackmailing me and my daughter… this doesn’t make us fucking friends.’
San Kiln stroked his whiskers, trying to adjust his natural night vision to see Kelken’s expression. ‘This has grown to more than a trivial job you were given… this is something all three of us, now four, have been destined to do together.’
‘You believe in that destiny shit, eh? All a load of nonsense to me.’
‘I’d like to think that we’re designed for greater things other than our own self-bestowed destinies.’
Kelken laughed scornfully. ‘Rather an outdated romantic concept ain’t it?’
‘It helps me at night.’
‘Huh… what have you got to lose sleep over?’ he sneered.
San Kiln shifted his weight onto his left leg. ‘Enough, Kelken, enough.’
‘Well? Come on… I’ve got all night.’
‘Why would you be interested in my problems?’ he purred.
‘Might help me forget mine for a while.’ Kelken looked at San Kiln in the strained light and twitched the side of his mouth into a small smile.
‘That’s as may be but I’d rather not.’
Kelken stiffened upright and grumbled something. ‘Then bugger off if you’re not going to talk.’
There was a sudden change in San Kiln’s manner. ‘Have you always been this hostile?’ There was a rising gradient of anger in his deep voice.
He was met with a silent wall.
‘My wife left me years ago and left me to look after our son on my own.’
‘Pakros didn’t seem absent to me.’
‘She’s my second wife. My first one ran out on me many years back. We’d had a son together – Tino.’
There was a slight lift in Kelken’s voice. ‘What’s he like?’
‘He’s a good lad… lives over in Pillin these days last I knew.’
‘You don’t have much contact with him?’
‘Not really. He went his own way once he had grown old enough. Got his own little empire of taverns in Pillin so I believe; about three or four of them.’
‘Very nice.’ Kelken sniffed. ‘When did you last speak to him?’
San Kiln’s purr halted and he let out a long, thoughtful breath. ‘Seven, maybe eight years ago… even then it wasn’t exactly on the best of terms.’
‘I… kind of raised a sore point about his mother. He always thought highly of her regardless of her leaving us both in the dark. I was bad mouthing her and he went on the defensive… it got out of hand and he ordered me to leave and go back home.’
‘Must’ve been hard.’
‘It bloody was; heartbreaking to be honest,’ San Kiln replied, more calmly. ‘It wasn’t long after that that I met Pakros.’
‘How did you two meet anyway?’ Kelken asked softly.
‘A pretty unimpressive story to be honest, Kelken,’ he chuckled. ‘I was in a crowd that was watching her deliver a rather good speech in Yingtzo about distributing wealth to the poorest people in a bid to get them out of poverty. She’s keen on equality, you see. But anyway, I remember I was near the front of the crowd and she picked a few of us out to come up and talk to her after the speech. She was under the impression I was a Yingtzo inhabitant so you can imagine her awkwardness when I told her I was a visitor from Preull. She offered to have me over for dinner as a way of saying sorry for wasting my time and involving me in domestic matters… it went from there as you can imagine.’
‘You’re right… quite unimpressive.’
They both laughed.
‘This is a lot bigger than you and me, Kelken.’ San Kiln became much more solemn, his voice turning into a harsh whisper. ‘Franlet had a look at the rest of the book…’
Kelken sighed. ‘And? What did she find?’
‘Nothing good.’ San Kiln rubbed his chin.
‘What does that mean exactly?’
He paused before purring again, this time intermittently. ‘It affects everyone in Salarias… shall we leave it at that?’
‘That’s a bit vague.’
‘Maybe you should speak to your records keeper about it…’