There are fates worse than death…
Welcome to the serialisation of Accidental Immortal. Chapters will be published four times a week so the serialisation will be completed at (roughly) the same time as on Wattpad, if not a little sooner!
If you would like to start from the beginning, please head over to chapter one. There is also a contents list at the bottom of each post.
Chapter 27 – sEARCH
Arkan reached the Contee ball to find Lynsey had already gone. He scanned the crowd for her unusual blond hair. Where was she? He spotted the king in the distance with his attendants but didn’t cross the floor to join him. One of the King’s guards was handing him his cape. Good, he was planning to leave.
Arkan kept to the opposite side of the room, making sure there were dancers between him and the king’s entourage at all times. He had a feeling that something wasn’t right when he first stepped into the ballroom and he trusted his gut instinct enough to not risk talking to the king until he knew why he felt like he did. Usually, men flocked around Lynsey and her companion like flies to a yelk but there were no clusters of men and nearby disgruntled ladies. She was notable by their absence.
He moved from room to room, chatting to a lady here and a gentleman there. If the king didn’t suspect anything he had to keep up pretences. He fared no better upstairs. The muscles in his face and belly tightened. He was beginning to feel jumpy. No one was willing to tell him what happened. He knew she was coming tonight and not even Luna would arrive this late. He couldn’t even find the servants he kept on his payroll. A shiver of uncertainty swept through him. The king couldn’t know about all his informants. They were either avoiding him or worse. He didn’t want to think about that fate. Spying on the king was treason.
Then he spied Jarek hovering near a doorway. He beckoned the man with his finger. The man blinked and hurried forward, picking up a jug and a glass from a nearby table as he bypassed courtiers with ease.
“Do you know where Lady Walker is?” Arkan was careful to keep his voice light. The man’s bearing showed he was nervous.
Jarek began to pour into the glass. “She was taken by the King’s guards, Sir.”
“How long ago?”
“More than a half hour. Is there anything else?” He offered the glass.
Arkan burned to ask more questions but he didn’t want to delay the man any more than he should. There were already a few curious glances directed their way.
“Do you know where they took her?”
“I’m sorry Sir, I heard nothing from them that would give her location away.” Arkan inwardly seethed but he knew Jarek would tell him if he knew anything. He took the glass and waved the back of his other hand as if the man was of no consequence to him. Jarek nodded, relaxing his shoulders as he walked backwards a couple of feet before turning to take his place again.
Arkan took a draught from the glass and sauntered to the window. He leant against the ledge, letting the cool breeze ruffle his fringe. The sound of shorn hooves on pebbles drew his attention down and he gripped the stone hard as he recognised who was there. In the courtyard, the king was stepping into a small carriage. It was only large enough to carry one occupant. There were a couple of shouts and the horses began to trot away from the house with the guards running alongside. These were the elite guards he noted. Their black uniforms resembled his own. He shivered and took another sip of his wine. They were the only men that Arkan was wary of. He had been bested many times in mock combat by one of their guard when training. In the darkness, when wearing black, they were practically invisible. The only warning of their arrival were the whites of their eyes.
Arkan tore his gaze from the empty courtyard. Lynsey wasn’t here and she wasn’t with the king.
Arkan put his glass down with regret. It was a good vintage but he needed to clear his thoughts. He ran down and around to the back of the building where his horse was waiting, still saddled from his arrival. He stopped between the horse and the wall and pounded his fists on the stone in frustration. They must have taken her to the Temple. It was the only place they would go but there were far too many guards to deal with on his own. He hissed and threw back his head as his knuckles sent shooting pain to his brain in revenge for their beating. He gritted his teeth and sucked his hand. He needed to find Luna.
He re-entered the palace but again no one knew or would admit where she was. Jarek was nowhere to be found either. Probably the wisest course of action mused Arkan. Lady Khaen gave him a small wave by the buffet table and he smiled back.
“My lady, you look beautiful as always.” She giggled as he knew she would.
“Thank you Arkan. Are you looking for Luna? She left moments after the king. But,” She moved closer letting him get a good look down her low cut bodice. “I am still here.”
If he had not met Lynsey, he would have been tempted. Her skin reminded him of the best dark chocolate. Her hazel eyes promised him anything he wanted – all he had to do was ask. But she was of the Contee family and if he had learnt anything from his youth, it was not to mess with one of the most powerful families in the land.
He bowed to thank her and kissed her hand lingering for a moment. Her perfume was heady.
“My lady, I am on the King’s business this night. I would give a ransom to spend time with you, but I must go.”
She narrowed her eyes. Had she noticed him avoiding the king earlier? Arkan straightened letting her hand fall from his.
“Another time, my lady?”
She nodded and he relaxed. That was close. That would be all he needed, to insult a Contee. He bowed again and rushed off.
An uncomfortable idea crept into his thoughts as he rounded a corner. Had Luna had something to do with Lynsey’s kidnapping as well? He ran back to his horse and jumped on her, wheeling her around in the direction of Luna’s house, He sped down the road as if a horde of devils were after him.
He pulled on the reins at the entrance to Luna’s driveway. His horse whinnied but acquiesced, bending down to eat some fresh grass growing against the gate.
The moonlight was bright and he could see the house clearly from his vantage point but there were no lights in the house. He sat on the horse and contemplated the dark building. It wasn’t just that there were no lights in the reception or bedrooms but there wasn’t illumination in any of the rooms. Not even the servants’ quarters. The uncomfortable thought resurfaced. Was she part of the new alliance? Who else was? Could he trust anyone? One man could not go against the King, Baserius and the closed ranks of the nobility. He thought he could count her as his friend. He felt betrayed. Still, he knew it wasn’t her fault – that she couldn’t have done anything else if asked by the king. She had taken a risk helping as much as she had. She held her power at the aegis of the king. If she went against him then she would lose her position and possibly money judging by her husband’s business. He berated himself, he had been foolish to trust her. He knew her circumstances, her capabilities. He had known them before he had contrived to meet her. She was one of the strongest women in all of Ghinari but even she had to bend her principles in the face of survival. She was gone, there was nothing he could do about that now. He needed a drink.
Arkan made his way to the Dragon Arms. It was a small inn with a clientele that didn’t ask questions as long as you didn’t ask them first. Turning his jacket inside out to look scruffier and kicking loose mud off his shoes on the front step he regarded the tap room with caution. It was full of the usual suspects. Perfect, he thought with an inward smile. No one would bother him here. He slunk down, altering his posture to bend into a stoop and drew his hood over his head. He moved through the crowd, affecting the clumsy walk of someone who had already imbibed too much. He strode with an aggression he didn’t feel but needed to display. The music was loud and jarring but strangely soothed his nerves. Seeing a target, he barged into the arm of a young man he judged to be about twenty, half-way between a boy and a man. He fingered the tip of a knife up his sleeve even though he knew he would not need it. The youth dropped his drink on his companion who squealed as the red liquid ran down her pale yellow skirts. A woman of substance, Arkan thought, surprised to see the quality of her dress and nobility of the woman’s accent as she yelled at the boy. He must be trying to impress his new girl. Was it a bet? Arkan looked again at the rich cut of the young man’s cloth. He should not have brought her here. No matter how much he wagered. A cleaning bill was he least of his worries if he interacted with the wrong people here. He was doing the idiot a favour. The boy turned ready to throw a punch but Arkan was ready with a snarl, using all the pent up emotions he had been holding back over the last few days. The boy pulled back his arm. Just try, Arkan thought, daring him with his eyes. The youth hesitated, looked from him to his companions for moment and then apologised. Maybe the boy would reach twenty one after all. Arkan growled at his circle of friends daring anyone else to intervene. There must have been something in his expression because they didn’t.
He moved past and selected a table where he could sit with his back to the wall. He leant against the cool stone letting the open fire heat his bones from the front. He half opened an eye-lid.
“Ale!” He shouted at a passing wench, closing his eye again. Wench. What a horrible word. Before tonight he would have thought nothing of using it, he mused darkly. One chit of a girl and he was questioning everything. Nothing seemed solid. The ancient rivalry between king and brotherhood was over. Luna had disappeared and the woman he loved captured and maybe killed. He jerked cutting his fingertip on the blade he was playing with. Did he love her? He sucked his finger out of habit. He rolled the idea around in his brain. Could he love someone he had only known for a few days? She was attractive but so had so many women he had bedded over the years and he had never even remotely felt the emotion he did for this girl.
The serving woman came over and planted a flagon on the table with a bang and waited patiently for him to notice. He let her wait for a moment, savouring her annoyance, knowing she was waiting for a tip. He opened an eye and looked blearily at her before handed over a coin. She sneered at it but took it anyway sashaying over to a man with richer clothes and a looser purse.
Arkan took a swig and pictured Lynsey as he had last seen her. Her long blond hair flowing down her back. Her dress hinting at the delights under it. His pleasure at her touch still taunted him and the pain when she broke away. Gods, he wanted to protect her.
Three flagons later and he was slowly falling into the numb state he craved. He barely registered when some brothers walked in but the level of sound in the room dropped. Arkan raised his head from his arms looking for the source. He noted one of the brothers was talking to the man he barged into earlier. He was offering work for an expedition. Did they not see the boy’s clothing? He had no need for money and while an adventure would impress the girl, if he left, another would take his place over the months when he was gone.
Why not? He thought in a drunken stupor. Maybe he needed a career change. It’s not like he changed anything when he did kill anyone. If he removed a criminal another took his place and that was if the man or woman was bad. The soft hand of guilt was massaging his conscience. How many of those he had killed were just obstacles in the king’s path?
He’d never thought about it before. Training will do that for you, he thought darkly. When had he ever had the time to think it through? You like the luxury of the job the small voice of his conscience informed him. It wasn’t that but no one had ever told him to think differently before Lynsey. He’d always taken what he wanted when he wanted. That is what everyone did if they could. It wasn’t wrong. Then why did he want to protect her so badly?
The brothers had also come to the wrong place, Arkan thought with humour. No one here would lift a finger for an honest day’s wage and less than that was what they were offering. The honour of Sekhmet was worth Jack shit here.
About to ask for another flagon of ale, Arkan paused. Lynsey was gone, the king had to know he was the one that rescued her the other night and if he didn’t Luna would probably tell him. He needed to get out of town. Maybe this was the answer. Get a guard’s job for a couple of months and then come back when everything had blown over. He had enough money that he could buy a parcel of land out in the country and no one would come looking for him. Lynsey was gone and there was nothing he could do about it but make sure he didn’t suffer the same fate but he did need to disappear for a while just in case. He put his flagon down and stood up almost toppling as the waves of drink rose to his head.
He stumbled out of the inn with the door slamming behind him. A brother straggling behind the others ahead turned at the noise. Arkan raised his hand in a half salute.
“I’ll take your money.” He slurred.
The other brothers turned, looking disgusted at his state but the closest, moved nearer wincing at the smell of ale on Arkan’s breath.
“He’s a drunk.” One of the brothers whispered.
I can hear you, Arkan thought, thinking better of saying it out loud.
“We don’t have a choice.” Another hissed. “We have hardly any volunteers. Do you want to tell Baserius?”
The man curled his lip at the picture Arkan made before him. Arkan held his breath. Would they take him? Did he really care? Before he had a chance to think any more on the subject, the first replied to him.
“Sekhmet thanks you.” He said striding forward and placing a pin on Arkan’s shirt “Be at the city gates by dawn. We leave at sunrise.”
“Absolutely, count me in.” He saluted again.
Arkan looked down at the pin on his front. It bore the figure of a woman with a lion’s face. He heard the brother walk away in the direction of another tavern.
He traced the lion’s mane surrounding the face with his finger. He may as well make his way there now. There was nowhere for him to go here. Home was not safe and he had everything he needed to survive. A blade or two and his wits. Arkan followed the brothers from a distance, keeping to the shadows out of habit. They went from inn to inn but only seemed to manage to get one maybe two recruits at each place. It was a poor showing and it showed how the Temple’s influence had deteriorated over the years.
Once they had enough men, they returned to the temple and he saw the recruiters help their brethren to put together the caravan for the trip ahead. He lounged in the doorway of the inn down the street. His hood was still up and he played with his blade in his hand as he watched. He was beginning to sober up and was starting to feel the shadow of a headache forming.
When they left the building he followed them to the city gates where they began loading the yelks with the provisions they brought from the temple.
There were about fifteen yelks and a few were already loaded up. He could offer to help with the rest he thought, but no, he hadn’t been hired for that. Between two yelks he spied a cloth hammock which was strapped around each yelk’s belly. It was filled with cloth and looked very inviting, the luxuries that some in the brotherhood could not do without. Stifling a yawn Arkan climbed up and snuggled between bags of bedding. Perfect and he wouldn’t even be forgotten. Thrilled with his cleverness he fell asleep with a smile on his lips.
Chapter 1 - Duat Chapter 2 - London - Present Day Chapter 3 – Lynsey on Duat Chapter 4 - Nomads Chapter 5 - Scorpion Chapter 6 - The Dragon Temple Chapter 7 - Assassin Chapter 8 - The Luscious Luna Chapter 9 - Arkan Blade Chapter 10 - Kidnapped Chapter 11 - Rescue Chapter 12 - Modesty Chapter 13 - Banquet Chapter 14 - Arkan Chapter 15 - Dancing with the King Chapter 16 - Dragon Brotherhood Chapter 17 - Pico Chapter 18 – The Dragon Chapter 19 – Settling Down Chapter 20 – Danger Revealed Chapter 21 – Betrayal Chapter 22 - A Meeting of Minds Chapter 23 = Invisibility Chapter 24 - Desert Chapter 25 - Escape Chapter 26 - Gathering