, my companion novella for The Rogue King Saga, is finally finished! Huzzah! Just in time for me to get some edits in before Nano arrives and, at 29,000 words,
over its original targeted estimate.
Although, knowing me, it’ll likely gain another thousand during edits and critiques, if not more. I’m just glad it didn’t turn out big enough to become a novel. I could’ve done it so easily, showing scenes already written in The Rogue King Saga through their eyes, but no. This has always been intended as an extra. No rehashing of old scenes via another point of view.
Sunlight streamed through the gaps in the canvas. Far from a sleek beam, the light came in haphazardly as the caravan bumped and slithered its way over the sand. Laccindy glared blearily at the fingers of light. What was the time?
She stretched and yawned, taking in a lungful of hot, dry air. The dustiness within the caravan tickled her nose and a fit of sneezing soon banished all traces of drowsiness. Smacking her lips, she made her way over the bundles of cloth and tightly wrapped food. Her father would have a waterskin at his side.
Tucking the canvas flap back, Laccindy brushed the long straggles of hair from her face. She stared out at the bright yellow desert ahead of them, bringing an arm up to shield her eyes from the glare. How did the suns manage to shine so much brighter out here than back home?
At the front of the caravan, her father sat hunched over in the driver’s seat, the reins lax in his hands. He twitched as she clambered over the planking to flop next to him, pushing back the russet hair tangling around his ears. The sunlight glittered upon his earrings. “You should stay inside, sharra. It’s not safe.”
She snorted and rolled her eyes. Nowhere was considered safe ever since they’d left Catsckin, be it the weeks travelling aboard the cargo ships, or the journey along the main trade route and the short time spent in Maxia City. “You worry too much, papa.” It wouldn’t be worth Lady Perjarno’s time or coin to chase them beyond the Maxian border.
Squinting, she surveyed the surrounding desert. The ruddy bulk of Rogue Rise sat on the horizon. Hazy from dust and distance. Nothing moved out on the sand. Just us.
Her father smiled down at her, warping the pale brown spots around his eyes. “I’m your father, ‘Cin. Worrying comes with the territory and Rogues are not something to be made light of.” He fingered the hunting knife at his side. “Dealing with her thugs would be easy compared to them.”
And yet we run. The noblewoman had taken everything from them. Except me. That’s why they ran. Her father would prefer to face the Rogues than hand Laccindy over to Perjarno. He may think the woman’s hired muscle easy now they were beyond their reach, but that hadn’t stopped her father from stealing a cart in the middle of the night just to escape them.
Laccindy return to examining the sands. Had it really been just a few months ago? It felt like years. Now here they were, with two caravans of cheap cargo, searching for a future and carrying so little of their past. None of which would be able to remind her of what she once had.
This was all her mother’s fault. Why did she have to go and die? Perjarno wouldn’t be after Laccindy if her mother still lived. They could be back home. Sniffing, she blinked away her tears. She would still have a home.
“Hey.” Her father cupped her chin and tipped her head up. “Mama wouldn’t want us to cry, now would she, sharra?”
She sniffed again and, unable to halt the smile forming on her lips, shook her head. She’d been her father’s ‘precious’ for as long as she could recall, whereas her mother hated people being the slightest bit sentimental. If her father had fallen instead, Laccindy had no doubts her mother wouldn’t cry over it. Neither in private nor in public.
Her father stiffened, his gaze focusing on somewhere beyond her. “Get back inside.”
Laccindy didn’t waste time in arguing or searching for whatever her father had spotted. She already knew the answer. Rogues. But her father swore they were safe. Had somehow ensured the caravans wouldn’t be a target.
She’d heard tales about the dangers of the desert, of the Rogues. Even in Catsckin, where meeting one would require sailing from Jepol then trekking across half the Zan continent, the bitter stories of a Rogue attack was ever prevalent. In the absence of Shadow Speakers, of dark borns, of true monsters, the Rogues became the new source of terror.
Did the Rogues themselves care? Of course not. They revelled in their title.
To a passing caravan, they were every fear rolled into one. Looting? A given choice in the harsh clime. Arson? A personal option, but why leave the spoils for another? And death? Everyone agreed it was death that the Rogues excelled at. Fast or slow, torturous or painless … rumour said they could do them all.
The canvas ripped open. Her father barrelled into the confines, crushing the parcels in his wake, his large ears flattened against his head and his azure eyes impossibly wide. “Run!”
Laccindy tore out the back of the caravan. Her pounding heart driving her on, she ran blindly into the desert. Something grabbed her tail. She stumbled and slammed face first into the sands.
Hands grabbed her legs, hauling her towards her doom. Screaming, she fought their grip, scrabbling for purchase and finding none. They had her! The Rogues had her! She was going to die!
“Get away from my daughter!”
Laccindy managed to roll over in time to see her father, his hunting knife glittering wickedly in the sunlight, slam into the Rogue. They tumbled across the dune in a ball of snarls and roars. Blood splattered across the sand and, as the sand settled, her father stooped to wipe his knife clean on the raptereon’s hide.
Behind him, the caravans burned. This had not been a lone Rogue.
“Go!” Her father pointed off into the desert. His head snapped to face where more Rogues were coming, his claws extending. “Hurry, ‘Cin. Hide yourself!”
Laccindy raced across the dunes to throw herself into the soft sand pooling at its base. Behind her came the snarls of people fighting. The smell of burning cloth reached her nose and in the distance, she caught the crackle of flames. She lay huddled in a hollow, the sand slithering down the slope to coat her hide, tiny stinging grains of it burrowing into her wound.
Then there was silence. A horrible, numbing calm. She knew. Without moving, without lifting her head to see, she knew the horrid truth.
She was alone.