Empire Road – Part 33

Upper Market

The Upper Market stinks. When we got inside they had everything we could possibly want and Boss bought us all hot meat pies and wine. It felt amazing to eat and drink when we were so hungry. Alexis stayed with the pole cart the whole time to make sure no one went poking around under there and found the body. All of my questions about where all of the outerwall people had gone to were answered as we approached the market. In their hundreds they were there, along with all manner of refugees from Schmidt and some from Pan too. It seems that anybody that wasn’t consumed by the onslaught of the various waves of dead at the different cities made their way here. The man with the quern stone was here as well. As soon as we entered Ben got drunk and then snored loudly, slumped against a wall in the hotel’s main bar room. May began flopping all over Jeremy next to the fireplace. He let his guard down a little and smiled from time to time. She was laughing and whispering in his ear. Boss looked happy. But then I realised I hadn’t seen the brothers since we got there.

I went over to Boss and grabbed his shirt sleeve.

“Boss – I haven’t seen the brothers all night.” He looked at me and his face became stern and serious again instantly. He looked about the room then back at me. “Thanks for the heads up. Can you go and tell Alexis they’re missing, and to keep an eye out for them? If he sees them, tell him to tell them I have pay for all you lot and that I want to give them theirs.” He smiled. “I don’t by the way, but if you see them, just tell them I do.”

The night was really cold now. Bitter in fact. Alexis had a thick, black woollen cloak on that made him hard to see in the dark. He normally keeps his beard trim but he hadn’t cut it for a week or more and it was now thick and bushy, which made him a bit harder to see in the dark.

“Hey,” I said to get his attention. He smiled. He’d seen me well before I realised. “Boss told me to tell you that the brothers are missing, and that if you see them to tell them that Boss has their pay.” He smiled and just said; “Will do.”

I went back into the hotel and saw Boss talking with two men. May was asleep with her head on Jeremy’s lap, but with her head and shoulders under his cloak. Must have been trying to block out the light and sound or something. She probably couldn’t get comfortable because she kept moving her head about trying to get comfortable or something. He was leaning back on the wall next to the fireplace. It was calm and quiet for a change. I settled down on a bench near the fire, but on the other side to Jeremy. I put my head down for a moment and closed my eyes. I didn’t remember falling asleep, but I blinked and it was morning in what seemed like a split second. I opened my eyes and sat up. My ribs hurt from the hard wooden bench. I was the first to wake. Boss only let me have one cup of wine, but they all had a lot. I guess they were still sleeping it off.

Suddenly the two, large, double doors to the room burst open and in walked a dozen men, all dressed in battle gear and all holding swords. There were ten people sleeping in the main room of the hotel and we all sprang to life in response. Boss got to his feet in an instant. I jumped when the doors burst open. I got to my feet as quickly as I could and turned to see the men who were now standing right in the middle of the room. They were all older looking men, most with beards. But at their back, almost hiding, were the brothers, Passalus and Acmon. Boss looked at them and his eyes narrowed. He reached down to take out his sword, but his face suddenly changed. None of our weapons were with us. I had kept one of the old swords beside me when I went to sleep that night, and Boss had one of the new ones. Jeremy’s sword was gone too.

“You would be variously known as the man who owns the Circus of Wonderment, I presume?” The man at the front of the group said in a stern voice to Boss.

“Yes. I am. What of it?”

“You probably already know this,” the bearded man said, as he used the opportunity to show off to his comrades a little. His voice became a little playful in a smug in an arrogant way. “There are bounties on you in both New Rome and Jessop, and a bounty in Haji for the body that we understand you have with you.”

Again, Boss showed them none of his cards. He just stood and watched as they outlined the situation for us. “So,” said the man, “First things first. Where’s Towers’ body?’’

Boss looked over at Jeremy and then at Ben. When I’d seen the wagon with the body loaded onto it the night before, the wagon couldn’t have been more obvious. It was parked right next to the big, public trough in the main square within yelling distance to where we were. It even had Circus written on it. Boss still said nothing, but instead he stared at the men.

Finally the leader of the bearded men broke the tense silence, as he lowered his head and snarled, “The body! Where is it!?”

“I have no bloody idea what body you’re talking about!?” Boss yelled back. “As for there being a bounty on us, how could that be when we were just helped past the wastelands where Schmidt used to be BY the Haji army?”

“Well then, that changes things!” The man said with a new look of surprise on his face. “But if the Haji army are friendly with you, then I’m sure that the Jessop army will pay me for your head anyway! But either way, you’re all worth rewards to me! Now TELL ME WHERE THE BODY IS!!” he bellowed.

Suddenly, as a tense silence crackled, a strange presence became observed. A small girl was now standing in the room. She had seemingly come in behind the men and found her way to the side near me. She was standing near the gap between Boss and the man with the sword. All attention fell to her. Then a small boy walked casually along the other side of the room, stopping at the gap between Boss and the men on the opposite side.

“These children with you?” he snapped at Boss.

Boss’ eyes widened to show a seriousness as he shook his head, “I swear, I’ve never seen either of them in my life.” As Boss finished speaking there came a loud whistle from outside. The men all turned their heads toward the door to see what it was. As they did, the girl caught something that was thrown in to her from the doorway. It hit her chest as it was thrown quite hard. She caught it, and then threw it as hard as she could to the boy, who caught it and then as quickly as he could, he threw it back out the doorway. The motion of catch and throw was so fast no one had a chance to do anything other than just watch as it happened. The object they were throwing looked like a horse shoe and it had a rope tied to it. As the girl threw it to the boy, it sent the rope between Boss and the men. As the boy threw the horseshoe back out the door it sent the rope with it, lassoing the men. With perfect timing, as the horse shoe was thrown back out the door, and the men became aware of the rope, Alexis, who had whistled in the first place, hooked the shoe onto the same rope and then slapped the horse on its ass. The men were all instantly jerked toward the doorway by the rope, pulling them all into one great heap on top of one another as the Clydesdale horse from our pole cart galloped into the main square of the market. Boss, Ben and Jeremy ran after them, grabbing two of the swords that had fallen from the men’s hands while Ben grabbed one from the hand of a man who looked quite badly hurt. One of the men had only been bowled over, and he got to his feet. He had his sword drawn and Alexis stared him down. He was closer to the doorway than we were and he ran.

“I believe that’s our cue?” Boss said, grabbing his bag from the floor where he’d slept.

“I can’t leave without my sword,” Jeremy said in alarm. Panetians are meant to protect and cherish the sword they get in the Patrio. While his wasn’t a typical Rapier it was still Pan in its design so he would treat it the same way.

“Neither can I,” May added.

One of the men was coming too. Alexis grabbed him by the scruff and slapped him across the face.

“Where did you put our swords?!”

“Behind the bar.” The man murmured. “You’ll all hang for this.”

“Yeah – that’s what they keep telling us,” Alexis replied as he threw the man back to the ground. The man fell backward against another of them and they all started moving. Boss pulled back one of their hoods. It was Passalus. Not far away was Acmon. Alexis looked at Boss.

“Bring them,” Boss said. I could tell by the look on his face that he was very angry with them.

Published by RoyMaloy

To keep one of my agents happy I've started a blog... yup. It will mostly be a combination of stories I've written, stories that *actually* happened to me and stories I *want* to happen. Please susbcribe to my blog. and remember - if you read it and you enjoy it, please remember to share the link!

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