The sound of horse hooves pummelling the hard wet ground resonated against the rock face of the bluff that overlooked a long winding road on the bank’s edge of Fraida.
A man dressed all in black with a long scar on the left side of his face rode with great speed and determination. His wavy, shoulder-length blonde hair jetted back behind him as it flew on the breeze under a large rimmed black hat that had a single grey feather sticking out of it.
A little inn, nestled in amongst large leafy red trees overlooking the ocean bank, came into view as he rounded a corner. He pulled hard on the reins, slowing his horse to a trot as he neared the entrance.
Climbing down from his steed and jumping hard onto the muddied ground, he turned around and gave the horse a hard slap on the backside. The horse whinnied and rode away in the direction they had been heading.
The man in black turned around and sauntered up the wooden steps to the front of the rundown inn, then opening the heavy wooden door he walked inside leaving a careless trail of mud as he trod.
Choosing one of the many empty round tables to sit at, he took his hat off and placed it on the table then removed his long black coat and slung it over the chair in front of him.
Scanning the room for signs of life, he gave a loud impatient cough.
A little balding man in an apron and dark blue shirt appeared from a room just beyond the plain wooden bar.
‘Ahhh Master Nagrin, you’re here at last, we expected you yesterday… did you run into a little trouble?’ the man asked in an joyful manner that made the dark man’s skin crawl.
’No trouble,’ Nagrin spoke in a low disinterested tone, ‘I just had to find myself a horse,’ then he mumbled as he took off his heavy black gloves, ‘then of course I had to lose some troops on my tail.’
‘What was that Master?’
‘Never mind,’ the man in black said with indifference waving his gloves with importance at the man, ‘how are our plans coming together?’
‘Good, good… I managed to get you a carriage as requested. Then there are three hooded wagons and a large open wagon that should be big enough for your purposes…’
‘Excellent, and the trolls?’ Nagrin said with a half smile, sitting down in the wooden chair next to the one holding his coat and kicking his booted feet up onto the table.
‘Oh the trolls were no problem, they are eager to help Moorlan in his cause, they fought for his father, you know.’
‘Yes,’ Nagrin said rubbing his scar with absentness.
‘And I have secured a dozen trolls to go with you in the wagons as henchmen,’ the jolly man stated with emphasis.
‘Good. You have done well.’ Nagrin said, leaning back into his chair. ‘What about the purchasing of new establishments?’
The small man looked a little uneasy. ‘At this stage we have secured two taverns and an inn. I’m afraid people have been none too interested in selling their establishments.’
‘Well I suppose we will just have to start taking the ones we want then,’ Nagrin commented then added with a wry smile, ‘people do make things hard for themselves.’
Nagrin scanned the room of the tired old inn in thought. The walls needed painting, pictures were hung in a haphazard manner around the room and floorboards were lifting up in places.
‘What does a man have to do to be offered a drink?’ he said with scorn.
‘Yes Master…’ the little man said bowing in apology, then clapping his hands together called out toward the bar, ‘Sarvina! A drink for our guest!’
A young woman dashed from the room behind the bar holding a round silver tray with a tankard on it. She swept into the room and set the drink down in front of Nagrin. She gave him a shy smile.
Nagrin watched her in admiration as she floated around the room. Her golden curls that fell just below her chin and her tall sleek body that glowed in a long flowing blue dress added some colour to the drab furnishings.
The balding man sensing Nagrin’s interest attempted to distract his thoughts.
‘Who will Moorlan get to work in these establishments when they are set up?’
‘Slave girls,‘ Nagrin said with a little smirk as he took a sip from the tankard of brew, ‘the finest girls that I can find, only the best for Lord Moorlan.’
‘Of course master, but how do you plan to collect these girls?’ he asked, ‘I mean, they may be unwilling to go with you.’
‘Well of course they will be unwilling. I will be taking them from their homes and families where they are free and have happy lives. No girl in her right mind will want to come but nonetheless I will take whom I please and they will become slaves, owned by Lord Moorlan himself, whether they like it or not… they will have no choice in the matter,’ he replied with a sly snarl, ‘…let them try to make war with me, HA! I would welcome it!’
‘So you will search towns then…?’
‘And fields, and woodland areas and anywhere else I see fit,’ he said eyeing out the young waitress again, ‘…in fact, I have already found my first prospect.’
The man looked in horror at the girl who was busy wiping tables.
‘Master, you can’t be meaning Sarvina!’ he said, clasping and unclasping his hands as he trembled, ‘she is no slave, she is my daughter.’
‘How many father’s do you think will plead to me with that same story? Would you have me take pity on all of them?’
‘No master but… but she is the only child we have left! Her mother and I lost our other children during the great war,’ the little man said backing up against the wall.
‘Are you trying to tell me that the great war was a mistake on the part of King Ravash?’ Nagrin remarked in pointed accusation.
‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no… nothing like that,’
‘Good,’ Nagrin nodded taking another mouthful of brew from the clay tankard, ’grab your things girl, you will be coming with me.’
The girl looked to her father in fear, her eyes pleading with him to save her.
The little man seeing his daughter’s distress gained some courage and stood up straight pointing his chin out.
‘Now, Master I must interject… I have done all that you asked of me, all of it! You promised in return for my obedience that you would leave my property alone and you would let me continue on as before. You cannot take my daughter!’
Nagrin looked at the man with careless nonchalance. Then he seized a small knife that was tucked into a leather holder bound to his thigh and thrust it at the heated little man.
The knife hit between his left side and arm slicing into his dirty blue shirt while securing him to the wall he leaned against. The man shook in fear and the girl let out a silent cry of shock and panic.
Nagrin arose from where he was seated and strode toward the man. Collecting his knife, he swept it up against the man’s neck and held it close while he spoke with a hushed voice into his ear.
‘This is how it’s going to play out… I am going to take your daughter and you are going to go on here in this inn, serving me as I see fit. If you defy me, I will slit your throat here and now, take your daughter AND establishment and leave your wife a widow. What do you say to that little man?’
The man looked up at Nagrin with a pained expression on his face, a single tear falling from his eye.
‘Ye..ssss,’ the man stammered, fearing the knife at his throat.
Nagrin pulled away from the man and slipped his knife back into the leather pouch, ‘girl, get your stuff together, this is your last chance to save your father.’
The man fell to the floor as his legs gave way beneath him. The girl ran to him with concern and tried to help him up.
‘Sarvina, don’t you worry about me… just do what Nagrin tells you and you will be fine… you hear me? No one is going to hurt you if you do what you are told,’ the man said looking her straight in the eyes, ‘now go and get your things.’
The girl looked at her father with sadness and kissed him on the forehead before running out the door.
Nagrin looked at the pathetic man laying on the floor and watched as he raised himself back onto his feet.
‘Your daughter doesn’t talk much does she? A fine quality in a woman…’ he said, drinking the last of the brew left on the table.
‘Master, there is something you must know about Sarvina,’ the man said with sadness, ‘she does not speak, at all.’
Nagrin raised his eyebrows as he put his hands, finger by finger, back into his gloves, ‘like I said… a fine quality.’
‘Master… I tell you this because I don’t wish for you to misunderstand when you speak to her and she does not reply… it will not be because she is defiant but simply because she can’t,’ the little man stated, wringing his hands.
‘Don’t worry, I will take excellent care of her,’ Nagrin responded with a laugh as he placed his hat upon his head and picked up his coat, ‘now, how about you show me where these wagons are.’
The little man bowed his head. He did not feel at all confident that Nagrin would look after his daughter. He sighed in defeat and stated with a simple breath, ‘This way.’