More Devil and nuns in the comics `Convent Of Hell` photo samples here!
To the reader:
This is the second tale of Mink the Warrior and her Lord, Jolly the Wizard, following ‘There is Only You’. The two stories were originally part of the the same, long tale, but I decided it was better to split them in two.
I would like to thank everyone who read the first tale, and in particular to those of you who sent me some sort of feedback. I wish there were more like you! I promise to reply to everyone this time as well.
— Several Demonstrations are Made —
“It’s dawn, my Lord!”, Mink’s voice coming from the big room down below woke me up. I was still weak, but managed to get out of bed, and clambered towards the ladder. I could smell kippers, bacon and fried eggs, and a put a foot tentatively on the ladder.
“Let me help you down, Sir! You are not well!”, said her voice.
“I can manage”, I replied stubbornly. My name is Jolly, Jolly Cobbler. I am a wizard, formally of the order of the White Mages, and wizards have a reputation for being incredibly stubborn.
“Fine, Sir! But you will slip and fall, and I won’t catch you!”, the voice chided.
I slipped, I fell, but she caught me. There are few women who can catch a tall man falling through a hole in the ceiling, but Mink Southwind was one of them. As a member of the race of Warriors who live in the far south, she was stronger than a bear and faster and more fierce than a wild cat. Her looks betrayed her, as she was a very short woman, I was more than a head taller, with a friendly smile and a happy face. Her eyes were either black or brown depending on her mood and the light, and her nose was extraordinarily cute. Only her rather short hair hinted that she might not be what she appeared to be.
Mink put me on a chair, stuck a fork and knife in my hands, and shoved a large plate of Workman’s Breakfast in front of me. Then she sat on the floor beside my chair, and waited for me to begin eating. I motioned her to go sit on a chair, by she just shook her head. I shrugged, and tucked into my food.
“I meet this girl when I go out to look about in the early dawn, Sir”, she began to tell her story while I ate, “And she says: ‘Are you with Mr. Cobbler?’ And I reply ‘Do you mean my Lord, the mighty White Wizard?’, because I remember you telling me your father was a cobbler. And what does she say to that Sir? She laughs and says ‘Oh my, girl! What story has he told you to get you to share his bed up in that tower of his? Mr. Cobbler is no wizard, he is just an apothecary or some-such’”, she made a nasty imitation of the girl’s voice.
“You should be proud of me, Sir, because I do not harm her in any way. I just smile my sweetest smile and say: ‘Mr. Cobbler it is, then. Yes, I am with him.’ She asks where you have been these months, and I say you have been to an apothecary in the south. She asks what you did there, and I say that you made coughing potions, and she stops asking about your travels, Sir. She wants to know if Mr. Cobbler wants breakfast this early, or if you will have it at noon when, she says and smiles, ‘Mr. Cobbler usually gets up’. I say that ‘Yes, Mr. Cobbler and I will have breakfast at dawn’, then I thank her, and we smile at each other, and I go out and kick a hole in a barrel.”
She scowled as she said the last. Then she grinned at me. “If you should ever flirt with her, then I will not only be jealous, but also come to worry about your head being three legged, as we say.”
I did not know whether to laugh or cry. I did not want anyone to know that I was a wizard, preferring to keep to my anonymity, but it seems that no harm was done, except to my reputation. Mink would have taken it hard on herself, had she known that my honor among the staff would drop sharply as the story of my alleged lying about my profession to trick a girl home with me, began to spread.
“Was it a short girl, only slightly taller than yourself. Long, curly fair hair and a big nose? Almost a woman, but still only a girl?” Mink nodded.
“That would be Ruichen, the second oldest daughter of the house. She is arrogant, vain and a frightful gossip, but there is no evil in her, and she is an excellent cook. It’s better to have her looking down her nose at Mr. Cobbler than grovel before the Sir Wizard. Still, excellent cook!” I finished my breakfast with a sigh. It had been delicious, and now I was ready to take on the world.
Mink fetched the second plate of breakfast, and knelt beside me while holding the plate balanced on the fingertips of both hands. I smiled and began to feed her. Mink always ate a lot for a woman her size, no wonder with all the energy she spent during a day. She now insisted on being hand fed when we were alone, even though I would forget about the routine as often as not. But it was a touching ritual all the same, and I would caress her hair and face with one hand, while I fed her with the other.
“My Lord”, she said when she had emptied the plate, “your hand is greasy. Won’t you clean yourself with my hair?”
“What?”, I replied, raising an eyebrow “But your hair looks very nice and shiny today. I think you must have washed all the salt out of it this morning?”
“I have, Sir! And I can easily wash it again, if you choose to wipe your hand on it…” She was insistent, and her eyes betrayed a strong desire for me to grant her this rather absurd request.
After thinking about it for a few seconds, I understood why she had asked, and ruffled her hair with my clean hand. “Maybe some other day, when we have more time. But I expect we will have a visitor soon. Fetch some water from the jar in the corner, and wash my hand in that! And be quick!”
She sprang eagerly up and filled a bowl, cleaning my greasy hand finger by finger while she looked blushing up at me.
“It is clean now, Sir”, she said softly, drying it with a napkin and kissing and hugging it, smiling dreamily.
Then there was a knocking on the door.
“Come”, I said after a few short instructions to Mink.
“A Mr. Shoemaker to see Mr. Cobbler” It was another of the maids.
“Send Mr. Shoemaker up”, I said, “and bring us some light refreshments”. I threw her a coin, she snatched it, curtsied and left.
The man the staff at the Oaken House knew as Mr. Shoemaker was a rather short and thin man in his early forties. He had the brown skin and fair hair common to the people of Arminger and the Near North, and wore a coat such as a well-to-do craftsman would would. His face made him look like a rat, but a rat which smiled a lot and had a fine sense of humor – a rat it was easy to like.
“Jolly! Finally home, at last! How are you?” He took my hand and greeted me heartily.
“I am fine, Feathyl. How are things with you and your family?”, I answered in the same tone.
Then he saw Mink, standing respectfully at a distance, and I chuckled to myself as I observed his face. At first he probably saw a small boy with longish hair, dressed in old seaman’s garments, looking like a street urchin from South Seaside. Then he noticed that he was facing a woman. His eyes narrowed in wonder and concentration. Ruichen had most likely gleefully assumed that Mink was someone I had ‘found floating in the harbor’ as respectable people said. He, on the other hand, was a bit more wary of drawing any conclusion.
“Feathyl, this is Mink Southwind, my wife. Mink, this is Lord Feathyl of Firmarsh, my closest friend and benefactor.” They were both properly astonished by my words, and I chuckled some more to myself. Neither showed it too openly, however. One of them was a wily old man, master of keeping his composure, the other impressed me daily with her hidden talents.
Feathyl said he was enchanted to see Mink, and she in turn was so happy to meet him, and then we sat down at the table and began talking. I noticed that my friend was anxious to ask me questions, but as the two of us were not alone he kept the conversation to innocent topics such as how the journey had been.
“And I am astonished to see that my friend has found such a lovely wife.”, he said, smiling at Mink.
“Yes, Lord Feathyl”, she laughed, “that has astonished others as well”, she said, looking at me.
“Mink Southwind?”, he asked. “That must be a Tellish name, yet you speak and dress like the daughter of one of our esteemed sea captains. Where did my friend manage to find you? And call me Feathyl, please.”
“I come from a place not far from Jellub”, Mink said in Tellish, “and I travelled with my Lord on the ship the Good Fortune. I learnt to speak Armingese at sea, and it has left its traces”. She was a wonderful teller of partial truths, my dear Mink.
The two of them talked freely for a while, about the northwards journey. Mink did not mention the attack by the ghost ship, and he seemed to accept her story that she had been a deck hand. I stayed silent for the most part, as they seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Feathyl took on a friendly, paternal role, and she was polite and charmed him utterly. But he seemed to get more and more anxious to speak what was on his mind, and, when fruit, cheese and wine had been brought by a maid, finally turned to me.
“Can I have a word or two with you in private, friend?”, he asked.
“You can talk freely in front of Mink”, I replied innocently.
“Did you bring anything with you from the south”, he asked, a bit cautiously.
“Yes, I brought her”, I smiled.
“Are you telling me that I had to beg the other members of the Union for money, for a considerable amount of money, for you to purchase every magical artifact in the city, leave your duties here for months on some scheme they had very little faith in, and you come back with just a wife?” He spoke slowly, yet clearly. “I am very fond of you my friend, and your wife is very beautiful and charming, but this is a grave situation, and I think you ought to take it far more seriously.”
“Have you become a fool while you were away?”, he ended angrily, when I just smiled, enjoying my little joke.
Mink reacted instantly. She stood up, and gripped Feathyl’s right wrist with her left, pinning his palm to he table, forcing him to spread his fingers. Then she, while looking my friend in the eyes, grabbed a fruit knife and rammed it deep into the table, right between his thumb and index finger. She grabbed another knife, and, still not looking at what she was doing, rammed it between his index and middle finger. Twice more she did this, and then she released Feathyl, and sat down at her chair again.
There was hardly time to react, the whole episode had lasted for only a few heartbeats. When it was over Feathyl and I just gaped at each other, and then at Mink. She just smiled sweetly.
“Y-You are a Warrior!?”, Feathyl asked in disbelief.
“Indeed”, she replied, “My Lord is no fool, and he fulfilled his mission”
“She is a Warrior?”, Feathyl turned to me, slowly moving his hands away from the four knives.
“Of course not”, I replied, having calmed down a bit. “She was just lucky with those knives, four times in a row.”
“You have married a Warrior?”
“How in all the circles of the world did you do that?”
“Captured her, tamed her, fell in love with her. How else?”
He lifted his eyebrow in that ‘stop messing with me, son’ way, and I relented and started telling him the entire story. The thing that seemed to impress him the most was the tale of how Mink had turned the battle against the ghost ship, and how she had fought down the demon captain. When I had finished the tale, he sat silent for a while.
“Well”, he finally said. “You do manage to surprise me, my friend. But to tell you the truth I did not rightly know what I expected. Still you will find it hard to convince others that this sweet, young woman is a Warrior. And, and it seems absurd to say it when I now see her, some will claim that she is the property of those who paid for her, and not, I’m afraid, someone you are free to make your wife.” He spread his hands and smiled apologetically.
“What do you mean? Their property?”, my voice was harsh and angry.
“They paid a large amount of money for her. They might feel they have a right to her.”
“You, Lord Feathyl, contributed the largest share. What right do you feel you have to her?”
“Do you want my honest answer?”
“Then I feel I have no right to her. But, I will feel bitter, I admit, if you now abandon the cause to settle down with her and become a respectable couple.”
“I am free to abandon the cause at any time, and no one is going to stop me taking my wife with me.”
“I won’t stop you. But I have a feeling you are not planning to do so.” Feathyl smiled wryly at me.
“No, I am not. But Mink is my wife and partner. She works for me, and I work to fight the Other Side, and that is what they have paid for. Nothing else!” I shouted. I was angry, I really was.
“Do you still trust me, Jolly?”, asked Feathyl, putting a hand on my arm to calm me down.
“Yes”, I answered. “Yes, I do.”
“Then let me handle the politics of the situation, as always before. If you feel I am unable to handle it well enough, then take your wife and go wherever you want, with my blessing.”
I laughed, then. “Yes, by the pits. Just keep me away from the meetings and the arguments and the petty squabbles and compromises. Think it out with that cunning mind of yours, and tell me our next move!”
“As a matter of fact, I think I know what to do”, said Feathyl. “Let’s head up to the Fortress, and discuss it on the way. I will get us a cab, while you get ready. I hope you are not angry still, young Lady?”, he bowed to Mink, who had sat quietly while we talked, getting a bit upset at my fury.
“No, Lord Feathyl, I am not. And I apologize for my treatment of you, but I just wanted to defend my Lord’s honor”, she said, giving him a charming little smile.
“Ah”, he said and smiled back at her. “Jolly is an old friend of mine, and I tend to speak my mind to him when I need to. No dishonor intended. But I see I have to be more careful from now on”, he winked and went out the door.
“You did manage to impress old Feathyl, Mink!”, I said, washing my face to clear my head, still weary from the last weeks.
“Your wife, Sir?”, came her voice from behind me.
“Convinced him, too. He did not require further demonstration from you to be convinced of your race. Well done, Mink!”
“Your wife, Sir?”
“Ah, you noticed that?”
“I did, Sir. I don’t seem to remember you proposing to me, Sir.”
“There has never been a proposal, Mink.”
“Ah, that’s why I didn’t remember it, Sir. Silly me. And our wedding, Sir? Was a magnificent, Sir?”
“There was no wedding either, Mink.”
“No wedding, Sir?! Fantastic! I hear they are such boring occasions, for the bride in particular. Thank you, Sir!”
I finished my washing and turned around to face her. The water would probably freeze from the cold sarcasm in her voice anyway. She was standing looking angrily at me, her hands on her hips.
“Why do you care, Mink? I thought your people didn’t have weddings and marriages. I am surprised you even knew this much about such things?”
“Someone has been telling me stories, Sir. Tales about those brave princes and princesses, fighting dragons and demons, and then getting married in the end. But that will of course never happen to me, Sir!”
“Really, Mink…”, I began.
“Don’t Mink me, my Lord, It’s Mrs. Cobbler, the apothecary’s wife, to you!”, she swept past me out of the room. Well, real or imagined, this was just one more of my horrible slights that she would continue to pull out of her sleeve in arguments to come. She could be as insulted as she pretended to be, or she could be the opposite, happy to be made my wife without me even asking or warning her. And from what I had experienced from her lately, the latter seemed quite plausible.
Why had I said it? Well, I could not tell Feathyl or any other the truth, that she belonged to me as completely as she did and thus needed to be mine alone. So I had chosen to tell a lie instead to explain why, and now that lie had become a truth as well. Jolly Cobbler, a married man, who would have believed it?
The ox-driven cab took us slowly toward Prince’s Road and the Hills. I was happy even so, as I did not feel in any condition to walk. I sat mostly quiet while Feathyl and Mink spoke. My little pet was now sweet as sugar, and my friend seemed to forget all about the incident with the knives, so charmed was he.
“You see, my dear Mink. One of the chief members of the Union is Captain Warth, a military man and the commander of the Red Legion. It is my thought that if you manage to impress him suitably, then your credibility as a Warrior will be unquestionable, and your Lord will receive a lot of honor for bringing you up here.”
“I will do my best, Lord Feathyl. But who are the Red Legion?”
“It’s just Feathyl to my friends, remember?. The city has several armed bodies of men. There are the City Guard, which tries to make sure the streets are safe to walk and suchlike. Then there are the Prince’s Guard. They protect important government functions, and fight riots, they are more of the military persuasion. Do not confuse them with the far smaller and far better Prince’s Bodyguard, which solely exist to protect his Highness’s life. The Red Legion, however, is something as unusual as a body of men who have war as their profession. I guess they are like your people?”
“No no, we only fight when me must. Usually only when there is a great grievance between two tribes that cannot be settled any other way. Otherwise we just like to live and work and love, like other people.”
“My apologies again, my dear! I must have been misled by rumor. Well, the Red Legion is a group of more than a hundred battle hardened men, and the color they refer to in the name is of course taken after the color of blood”
I snorted loudly.
“Your Lord does not care much for them, but he has found them useful from time to time. Captain Warth is a firm supporter of our cause, and the Legion is often dispatched to fight the Other Side, when the Prince allows them.”
“What is this ‘Other Side’ that my Lord and now you keep talking about?”
“They like to call themselves the ‘Cabal of Archmages’, but, as you can tell by your Lord’s continued snorting, some of us refuse them that honor.”
“They are wizards?”, Mink was fascinated by his tale. This must seem like the beginning of a true fairy tale.
“It started with some wizards. You see, my dear, when certain very powerful wizards grow old they refuse to meet their deaths. So they make nefarious deals with creatures of the pits in return for eternal life. Never mind that their association with demons turn them into living nightmares. They are alive and they are mighty, and that is all that matters to them.”
“Please go on, Lord Feathyl!”, Mink exclaimed.
“You are not scared, Mink?”, he smiled.
“Should I be?”, she laughed.
“Yes”, I said quietly.
“Never mind him”, continued Feathyl, “he is always this cheery. Their problem is that their foul masters demand something in return. Gold and jewels, yes, but other things as well. Let’s just say that human sacrifice is one of them, and not the worst.”
“H-Human sacrifice?”, Mink didn’t or wouldn’t, understand.
“I was working as a white mage at the Hospital here in Arminger a few years ago”, I butted it. “One day the city was shaken by a scandal. The mightiest and richest merchant in the city was found to be an ancient wizard, long thought dead. He was slain, and then the Prince called upon us White Mages to go to his mansion. We soon discovered why. The ones that were butchered at that black altar in the great hall, far beneath the earth, were the lucky ones. I spoke my mind to the Knight who had led the charge at the mansion then, didn’t I?”