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Malachi & Madrighan: A Tale of Two Brothers

~1~

“I’m hungry.”

Malachi sighed, but didn’t look up from his sword. He continued to sharpen the blade slowly, moving the stone down the blade again and again. His younger brother, Madrighan, paced back and forth in the little space between the cots they slept on, the table where they took their meals, and the chairs near the little hearth where they warmed themselves at night. Altogether it took his brother five paces before he had to turn around and start over. Malachi grew tired of counting the footsteps and so concentrated on his sword.

“I said that I’m hungry.”

Malachi sighed again before looking up. His brother had paused in his pacing and stood across the table from him, dark eyes glittering in the light of the candle sitting in a holder at the center of the table. He’d purchased a clip from one of the local merchants which kept his long, dark hair pulled back and away from his face, almost forming a top not like those they’d seen far to the south. Other than that, he looked the same as always; leather britches and vest, the latter over a dark red shirt they’d bought from a traveling merchant they met in Braddakee – neither was sure what it was made from but it was cool enough and didn’t tear easily and it didn’t scratch like wool. Malachi wore its twin in beep blue. Two leather straps crisscrossed his chest, a half dozen throwing knives in each and the hilt of a sword stuck out above his right shoulder. Knee-high boots with twin daggers hidden within along with another dagger at his side was all you could see at first glance.

Malachi knew there were four other weapons hidden on his brothers person. He never liked to be unprepared should a fight break out.

“Patience, brother. Dinner will be here shortly.”

“Mutton,” Madrighan spat, again he began to pace. “They will bring mutton.”

“There is nothing wrong with mutton, brother.”

“Nothing wrong with it?! It’s horrible! I hate mutton. I hate it!”

“Meat is meat, brother. Especially these days.”

“Yes, meat is meat, but mutton is mutton.”

The door creaked and in walked Hadrien, a covered basket crooked in his arm and a small smile on his lips. Malachi didn’t care much for the little man with his greasy hair and beady eyes, always squinting. It reminded him of a rodent. He hated rodents. They had to -eat- rodents once. Horrible week, that was.

“Dinner, my Lords.”

“I’ve told you a hundred times, Hadrien, we are not ‘lords’,” Malachi said as the basket thumped onto the table. Madrighan wasted no time in pulling back the cover, a simple tablecloth from the local inn. Instantly, his brother’s mood lightened.

“Chicken!” He tore into a leg, still warm and a bit greasy as it dripped from his fingers.

“Yes, my L-ah, good friends. It was noted that my L-ah, friend Madrighan had grown tired of Mutton so we thought that a change-“

“Mrmgbha!”

“I think you did well, Hadrien.” The little man smiled and bowed.

“If I may inquire?”

“What now, Hadrien?” Malachi asked as he dug a wing out of the basket. It was good, much better than the mutton.

“Well, I don’t like to pry, my Lords, but, ah, well, we were, that is the Council, you see-“

“Spit it out man!” Madrighan bellowed before taking out another piece of chicken and tearing into it.

Hadrien paled, shrinking back from the larger man. “Yes, my Lord. The council wishes to know how much longer my Lords will be staying? The men who had invaded our town, enslaved us, forced us to work in the mines – they are dead by your hands and we have paid you what was agreed upon, yet, you … linger…?”

Malachi spat out a bone. This little man made him so angry he wanted to spit fire, not chicken bones. He and his brother had risked their lives to free these people and for what? Fifty gold marks and a week of rest with meals and full privileges at the inn and this guard house as shelter and they were trying to get out of paying their debt?

“Look little man,” he said, slowly pushing himself up from the table, fists firmly planted before him. “We agreed to free your people and you agreed to give us food and shelter for a week.”

“Yes, my Lord, we did.”

“And now you try to welsh?”

“No, my Lord.”

“Then I am confused, Hadrien.”

“We agreed to give you a week of food and shelter-“

“Yes-“

“-and it’s been ten days.”

“Oh.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

“Well. On the road again, eh brother?” Malachi asked as they walked their horses down the slippery slope. Madrighan looked about as sour as a lemon, face all scrunched up.

“Yes.”

“Still, we’ve fifty gold between us. That should last many a night! We’ll not be sleeping on the ground for quite a while.”

“Hmph.”

Malachi rolled his eyes. “What is it, brother?”

“Where do we go now, tell me that? We’ve been banished from Adria. It’s the headsman’s noose if we set foot in Qwordra. The yellow men of Zhang will skin us if we show up there after what you did to that Princess of theirs - we’re running out of -world- brother!”

“Then we shall have to find a new one,” Malachi said with a laugh.

“A new one? Malachi? Malachi!”

 

~2~

 

Malachi sighed as he took his seat on the cold ground next to the fire. A bug buzzed at his ear and he slapped it away. Madrighan lounged on his side, picking at bits of dried grass and tossing them to the flames. Occasionally, he would swat at a bug or smash one as it landed on his skin.

"You cannot sleep in an Inn of there is no Inn to sleep in, brother," Madrighan had said as they setup camp for the night.

"The map showed a town here," Malachi said for the fourth time since stopping for the night. Another bug buzzed by his ear and he felt it land on his neck. He slapped it dead and wiped the remains on his knee.

"No doubt it did, brother," Madrighan replied once again. "But I don't see a town here. Are you sure you are reading it right?" Another bug dead on Madrighan's arm.

"Brother, it's a map! There aren't any other ways to read it except rightly!"

Madrighan didn't say anything, but his face looked curiously jovial in the firelight, causing Malachi to scowl, cupping his chin and staring at the flames. Then he felt something bite his cheek and he slapped it dead.

"Tell me about this new world, brother," Madrighan asked again, bits of grass slowly making their way into the fire. Bugs hovered above it as if they were considering which brother to approach next.

Malachi brightened immediately, bugs forgotten for the moment.

"Well, brother, if we have used up this one, I suggest we find another."

Malachi smiled broadly while Madrighan took his turn at scowling. Something buzzed his ear again, but did not land that he knew of.

"New worlds are not found every day, brother! If they were, people would be talking about them all the time!"

"Ah, but you see - I mean a new world to us! A new land!! Somewhere we have never been before, and so where they do not know us or have wanted posters up."

Madrighan nodded thoughtfully at that. Then he frowned, "But how does one -find- a new land, brother?" Madrighan swatted at something hovering near his nose that looked like a fly but was much larger.

"Maps, brother!" Malachi announced triumphantly as he held out the map they had been following. Rolling it out, he turned it over and held the back where Madrighan could see the logo and name imprinted there:

Wuptley's Maps
Purveyors to Explorers and Adventurers
Maps of All Lands (even Qwostlias)
Port Caspain, RD
Rutherby X. Wuptley esq.

"I say we travel to Port Caspian and take a look at the maps this Wuptley fellow has and pick a new world to explore!"

Malachi was grinning ear to ear. It was a good plan, one of his best, really. After all, what could possibly go wrong with it? Find a map, pick a map, follow the map and leave the past behind them!

"Brother..." Madrighan said slowly...

"What? You can't possibly find anything wrong with this plan - it's a -good- plan!"

"Right..."

"It's a map! We just get a map and follow it. New world!"

"Uh-huh...."

"No more wanted posters or hangmen's noose, no more skinning or running or fretting..."

"I know..."

"Then what is it? What? What could you possibly see wrong with this plan?"

"Is that the same map maker what made a map says there's a town here?"

Malachi looked at the swamp around them, heard the buzzing of the mosquitoes and other insects coming to eat him in his sleep, and scowled deeply at his brother.

~3~

Port Caspian lies on the southern most tip of Aliam which borders Adria and Zelth and is the home of port for over a thousand ships making their way North to Qwordra, and southeast to Zhang. Nestled in a natural bay off the Alyryth Sea, Caspian shows as diverse a population as any might see in this part of the world.

The tall, fair haired men of Djork and Qwordra, with their shallow boats and broad steel, can be seen laughing and drinking with the dark skinned peoples of Sadree to the South, or the yellow men from Zhang, Zhee and Mngoll to the East.

A dozen races of all size, color and manner of speech might share a common room and a pint of ale while their ships, nearly as diverse in size, color and range as their owners themselves, shared berth space in the waters of the bay. From the Galleon's from the West with their tall masts, sometimes numbering five or more, to the Longships from the North with thier single mast and bank of oars to the Fleut's with their great big sails on three masts - all shared the bay just as their owners shared the inns, stores and common rooms of Port Caspian.

The open sea was an entirely different story.

The city itself had grown out from the bay, and fortifications had grown with it. Great watchtowers sat on either side of the mouth of the bay, linked by a defense chain resting on the bottom of the harbor and controlled by a massive winch system inside those towers. A stark gray wall, with towers every hundred paces or so and crenellations all along the top, ringed the city on land. Four gates allowed passage inside, each guarded by the City Guard in their burnished plate, plume topped caps and while and blue cloaks.

It was to one of these gates that Malachi and Madrighan made their way...

~*~*~*~

"What if they have posters?" Madrighan asked for the tenth time.

"They won't," Malachi answered immediately. "We're hardly known here, brother."

"They trade with Adria, brother," Madrighan said sourly.

They were riding slowly and approaching the line of travelers and merchants with their carts looking to Enter Port Caspian, so Malachi waved his brother to silence. Madrighan tightened his hands on the reins and checked that his sword would clear the scabbard unhindered should they need it, even though Malachi really didn't think they would have any wanted posters here - Adria's reach had grown, but not yet that far. Still, he checked his sword as well.

The City Guard was stopping peasants, but letting Merchant's and their guards through with just a wave, which gave Malachi an idea. Kicking his horse forward, he healed a Merchant's wagon - a Merchant who had no guards that he could see. Motioning to Madrighan, his brother spurred his mount forward to ride beside him, face questioning but going blank at a look from Malachi. If they played it right...

As the Guards waved the Merchant through, Malachi kept riding as if he belonged there. The Guards didn't even blink, and neither did Malachi, who waited a few blocks before veering off down a side street, Madrighan in tow.

"Brother..." Madrighan began, but Malachi was already laughing.

"Onwards to Wuptley's!" he said while laughing. Madrighan only shook his head.

Wuptley's Maps was located in what looked like a broken down tower from what used to be the cities outer defenses, perhaps a hundred years ago or so. Malachi knew that the city had just kept expanding, and walls were torn down and rebuilt further out, until they stood where they did now. This could very well be one of the old towers.

It had a proper cone top now, which probably covered the old battlements, all done in pale red tiles and the steps leading up to the little door looked like they'd seen better days, showing their age through all the cracks crisscrossing them and the little bits of weeds sticking up in some spots. Still, there was a sign hanging that showed a map of the world, and the words: "Wuptley's Maps: Purveyors to Adventurers!" on it in gold letters. Well, more yellow really.

Malachi and Madrighan tied their horses to the post out front, and took the five or six steps up to the little door. Seeing a bell string, Malachi gave it a tug and heard something inside snap and fall with a jingle and a clang, the string coming off in his hand. Quickly dropping it, he knocked instead. After a moment or two, he knocked again.

"Maybe there's no one here, brother," Madrighan offered.

Pointing to the sun above, "It's the middle of the day! Of course someone is here."

He tried the latch and it gave easily, so he pushed his way inside.

The oval room was filled with shelves all along the walls. The shelves had square boxes arranged on them, and in each box, dozens of rolled parchments. A stairway led up to the right and passed through the ceiling, which Malachi thought had been added recently, probably to add rooms that would not be present in an old guard tower. The middle of the room had tables and directly across from where they stood, a counter with a candelabra on it, six candles burning dimly.

Before they could say a word, a small, balding man with eyes four times as large as they should be, stood up from behind the counter and screeched.

"NO REFUNDS! GO AWAY! I HAVE A SWORD!" That last was squeaked so high Malachi actually winced but no more so than when the little man with the giant eyes produced sed sword and proceeded to swing it around his head madly.

"What? We are not looking for a refund. We want to buy a map," he said in as congenial a voice as he could manage.

"What?" the man said, his massive eyes blinking. As he lowered the sword, Malachi noticed that there was something on his face, surrounding his eyes and making them bigger somehow. He couldn't look away. "Oh! Well..." The sword disappeared and the man smiled broadly, blinking again and again as he came around the counter with his arms wide open. "Wuptley's has the finest maps in all the world My Lords."

"...what is on your eyes man?!" Madrighan burst out before Malachi could ask the question properly.

Blinking again, the man reached up and touched the contraption, then smiled again as he removed them. "Spectacles," he announced proudly. "Chap up ta the Row makes em special. Helps me see all I need ta see at my age. Take a look, but be careful they are not inexpensive."

Malachi nodded as he took up the spectacles and looked through them. Everything became larger but also blurry. His own eyes hurt immediately, so he pulled them away. Madrighan seemed to have a similar experience.

"Not everyone sees the same," the little man was saying as he replaced the spectacles on his face. "You young Lords probably won't need anything like these here for many, many more years."

"We aren't-" Madrighan began but Malachi cut him off, "We're looking for a map!"

"Well, you have come to the right place My Lords! Finest mapmaker in all the lands. What did you have in mind?"

As Malachi tried to think of the best way to explain exactly what it was they wanted, Madrighan kicked something to his left and asked, "What's this?"

Blinking madly, the little man scurried over to pick up a chest and set it on the table. "You've a good eye, My Lord. That is an artifact from the fabled land of Meameakopoulea. Unfortunately, no one has ever been able to open it in such a way that wouldn't damage the contents..."

Madrighan nodded, running his fingers over the surface idly while Malachi attempted to get the little man back on track. "We need a map of-"

A loud -click-, followed by another and another, announced the opening of the chest. The little man stared even wider eyed than before, if that was possible, while Madrighan raised the lid.

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