The Sign of the Bronze Hammer
Part Seven – The Empty Field
The moment they had stepped through the gates they came to a sudden stop, for beyond lay merely an empty field, surrounded by the high walls of the compound. There were no buildings or trees, or even grass growing, merely barren ground. Behind them the gates swung shut. Of the slave, no sight could they see.
“What manner of devilry is this?” Peregrine growled, her head never still as it looked around the empty ground. “We came to deliver a package, and there is no place to deliver it to.”
“Most disconcerting,” Blade said by way of agreement. “We are here though, at the place we are to deliver it, so let us leave it and be on our way.”
Peregrine shook her head savagely. “No. We were asked to deliver the package to Habd’al Fezzur, and the Wise Mother will not be satisfied unless we give it to him ourselves. Trust me on this.”
“Then we must solve this riddle before us.”
“Then what do you suggest?” Peregrine asked, setting down the package. “We have an empty field, us and the package, and no sign of the slave.”
Blade tapped a long finger against his pursed lips, looking around the air through part lidded eyes. “I do not know. Yet. Give me a moment to ponder it.”
“You ponder. I will look,” Peregrine told him. Her sword rasped free of its sheath. With caution, yet without fear, she started forward across the open field. She made it no more than a few paces before she stopped, turned about and came back, her face bearing a puzzled, even confused look.
“What is it?” Blade inquired of her.
“What is what?” she asked, the puzzled look growing deeper yet. After a moment, her face grew grim, a deep sense of outrage set upon it. “Play games with me, will you?” she growled, eyes ablaze with outrage. Her knuckles grew white around the hilt of her broadsword. “My mind is my own, and no plaything to be used as if it was one that belonged to a lowlander.”
She turned and plunged forward once more. Her steps faltered again after just a few paces. Gritting her teeth, with veins standing forth at her temples from the effort and her brow slick with sweat, she forced herself onwards, driving against the resistance that clouded her mind. Sheer determination and the fierce sense of self that came from her Aedring heritage was all that kept her going. It appeared as if she was pushing into a fierce gale, each step a slow and laborious effort. Blade watched on, amazed at her efforts, for she should have been driven back.
And the whole of it dissolved before his eyes, a shimmering in the air like a mirage giving way and before him stood no longer the fields empty of anything, but a house and wild gardens, a place of towering trees and clinging growth that struck Blade as far more primal that the park outside the walls of the estate.
Peregrine returned to him, a fierce light in her amber eyes and blood upon her lips from where she had bitten into it in her efforts. Her sword she sheathed before once more picking up the package.
“Come, let us find this Habd’al and give him his package,” she said, and the manner in which she spoke made it sound more like a threat.
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