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Luck Among Servants



A fantasy short story



C.M. Simpson


I’d always considered myself one of the lucky ones, lucky that the slavers had taken me and left my family, lucky to have found a master as kind as the one I had, just… lucky, so, when my master asked me to ride one of the many-legged spurline on an early morning errand, I considered myself lucky to have the honour. I never thought what it might be like when my luck ran out, and my master wasn’t around to intervene…



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Smashwords Edition

C.M. Simpson Publishing

Copyright © May 19, 2017 C.M. Simpson

Cover Art—monster © Junichi Shimazaki at Dreamstime

Cover Photography—Magical Forest © H33bogi at Dreamstime

Cover Photography—Beauty in medieval dress © Darja Vorontsova at Dreamstime

Cover Design © April 7, 2017, C.M. Simpson

All rights reserved.






Dedication



This is for all those who believed in me enough that, eventually, I had the courage to believe in myself, and who taught me that the only way to make the impossible possible is get to making it happen.


Thank you.






Contents



Luck Among Servants

About C.M. Simpson

More Work by C. M. Simpson





Luck Among Servants



Started on July 22, 2015, as the sixteenth story of the 2015 Story Match Challenge, this piece wasn’t finished until October 2, 2016. The randomly rolled title was ‘Luck’ and ‘Among Servants’, and it ended up being a fantasy tale, with a slightly dark edge.



Some say that to be a servant, you have to be unlucky in the first place. I would say that only holds true if you are a slave, and even then there is the master to consider. In a household such as mine, I’d argue that the one you serve is the deciding factor on your prospects, but I could be wrong. I chose to be a servant rather than a master, a slave—according to some—over being free. And I have very few regrets.

But that is enough of this journal. The master calls and it is time to serve.

And with that, I sealed my diary with a spell, and locked it away in the compartment my master had commissioned on pretence it was for himself. Glancing out into the corridor, I saw it was barely light, and knew the day was going to be a long one. I debated a quick wash, but the child who’d been sent to fetch me, was hopping from one foot to the other, while trying for a look of calm patience. She’d have been funny, if it wasn’t for the urgency in her eyes. I pulled on clean robes and reached for my sandals, instead.

“The master says you’ll need leggings and boots.”

Startled, I glanced up and saw the girl was in earnest. Taking my boots, I opened a drawer, pulling out the pair of socks and the trous the master had ordered.

“Is there anything else?” I asked.

She shuffled, looking uncomfortable, and staring at her feet, while I pulled on trousers and socks.

“You’re not allowed to say?”

I watched as the tips of her ears went pink, and then hurried to get my boots on my feet. Reaching for my travel pouch, a belt and a heavy outer robe, I noted the faint slump of her shoulders as she relaxed, heard the barely audible sigh of relief.

“Have I forgotten anything?” I asked, and watched as she glanced surreptitiously at the hidden drawer, before blushing again. Odd that the master had shared our secret with her.

I took my diary, feeling a strange sense of foreboding deep in my gut. It began as a ripple, and then unfurled like a slow blooming flower. When I had stowed the diary in the travel pouch, the girl turned away, and led me down the corridor.

She did not take me to the master’s quarters as I expected, but straight to the courtyard where there was a multi-legged spurline waiting. I risked a glance at the master’s windows, on the other side of the yard, and caught a brief shift in the drapes, saw the master’s silhouette, one hand raised in farewell.

I did not like spurline, and the girl was clearly nervous, for she stopped in the doorway and waved me towards the beast with an impatient flick of her wrist. I risked one more glance at the master’s window, but the drapes had fallen, and there was nothing to see.

“Where am I to go?” I asked, and she gave a heavy sigh, and pointed to the man standing by the reptile’s head. “He’ll tell me?”

She nodded, and stepped back to let me pass. As soon as I was over the threshold, she closed the door, letting it push me the rest of the way into the courtyard.

I didn’t bother stopping to scold her. Everything so far hinted at haste and secrecy. The note the spurline’s groom handed me was brief, and to the point.

Kaskadir, it said. The blue tree by the lagoon.

Anyone else reading that would have thought the master meant a tree by a lake in the Kaskadir Forest, but I knew he meant the Blue Tree Inn which stands beside a duck pond in Kaskadir village. We had joked about it when we visited, but it was odd he didn’t name it. Odder still that he had not given me instructions on what to do when I arrived.

I turned to the groom, intending to ask him for further instructions, but he took me by the arm and manhandled me towards the saddle.

“Hey!” I shouted, and he picked me up, and dumped me in the saddle, making the spurline hiss with irritation. “Hey! You have some explaining to do!”

I shouted it as loudly as I could, and he gave me a smile and a wink almost too fast to see—and then he pushed the reins into my hands, before slapping the spurline, hard, on the neck. It reared with a ferocious snarl, and would have lashed out at him with its foreclaws had I not jerked the reins, forcing it to come around or lose balance.

I heard the groom cry out, but I had no time to stop; I could see the ridges behind the spurline’s jaws starting to fan upwards, and knew I had very little time to get the creature back under control and moving, before it could kill the handler. I did not know what had made him take such a risk, but it meant the master’s business was urgent indeed.

I could feel the weight of the message bag strap that he’d slipped over my head in our tussle. It pulled at my neck, and I was very glad he’d thought to stuff the bag down the front of my tunic and out of sight. Whatever was in it was as important as his life—and not just in the opinion of my master, but in the opinion of the groom as well, because no one treated a spurline as he had, unless they were suicidal; the reptiles were not forgiving.

Keeping the reins tight, I managed to get the beast turned and pointed towards the gates. As if by signal, they swung wide, both inner and outer gates, another indication of my mission’s urgency, since one was meant to bar entry until the other was closed—and especially at night. I urged the beast towards them, praying the groom would do nothing more to attract its attention.

The spurline tilted its head in his direction as it ran, but didn’t try to double back. My guess was that its handler was lying flat on the ground and pretending to be dead. I prayed he wasn’t truly so, for such foolhardy courage might be needed—and such loyalty. No man braves a spurline’s wrath for someone to whom he’s not loyal, and I did not want my master to lose a man he might need for his protection.

I hurried the spurline into the night, remembering why I loved them as much as I loathed them—their speed. The master kept a small clutch for messengers, but he rarely asked his messengers to dare the spurlines’ wrath. I crouched low in the saddle and guided the creature out onto the road. Once we were on the right path, I urged it to go even faster.


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