The following is an excerpt from A Merchant’s Tale: Second Tale in the Matter of Manred. If you enjoy it, please consider joining the mailing list. You’ll receive a special Sneak Peek PDF of A Merchant’s Tale direct to your inbox and become eligible for lots of other free content direct from the workshop of a working professional writer. Sign up now and you’ll also receive a free copy of Hedge King in Winter: First Tale in the Matter of Manred in a special Subscriber’s Only Edition PDF. Sign up today!
By then we’d passed beyond the outskirts of Gormlyn thorp. As we approached the fork ahead, we came upon a commotion. One man stood on the back of an uncovered wagon nearby, calling for order. Three tough-looking fellows stood in front of him with swords drawn. Behind him stood a woman armed with a spear and a sword. Two crowds of angry men were shouting at the men with the wagon.
“What now is this?”
Adarc looked up at me with a frown. “I’m not sure.” Then he pointed a finger at me. “But you stay with our wagon. Fratjan?”
He used the word for “understand” in my own tongue. I agreed that I did.
He answered me in kind. “I’m not sure, Master. Them men on the wagon, they must be high-class. Those weapons ain’t cheap.” He waved to the others. “That lot seem like farmers to me. But I can’t make out what the hub-bub is. I don’t speak the language as good as you, Master.” Then he pointed behind the wagon. “And that there’s a woman.” He whistled low. “Something sexy about a woman with a spear, I reckon.”
“Indeed.” I wasn’t agreeing with him so much as sinking into thought. This would be just another delay on our road to Trígrianna. I jumped down from the wagon seat and walked toward the crowd.
Adarc was talking with the man on the wagon and the woman beside it. His man Corvac stayed near his side. The crowd was still shouting, mostly at each other, and in an incomprehensible dialect or two.
I took up the local tongue again. “What here is going on? Adarc, what is the delay?”
Adarc turned with surprise and anger on his face. “I told you to stay with the—!”
A clod of dirt arced up from the crowd toward the wagon. I pointed at it. The man on the wagon turned.
The clod hit him square in the face.
Arms wind-milling, he teetered back over the wagon’s side-board. A shout went up from the crowd.
Corvac grabbed Adarc by the shoulder. “To the wagon! Now!”
More clods of dirt arose from the crowd. Men raised sticks. The shouting grew to a fevered pitch.
Rough hands seized me. It was Jôkull. “Now, Master!” He pulled me toward the wagon. Clods of dirt pelted at us.
Corvac called the sea-wolf to him. “You! Jôkull!” He had his own shield and spear held to the ready.
Jôkull nodded. “Get back to the wagon, Master.” He pushed me ahead, took the spiked club from his belt and hefted his shield.
The drover on the wagon seat slapped the oxen into motion. Adarc grabbed my arm. “Come. Now.”
A clod of dirt struck me in the head. Those savages dared!
A merchant’s caravan is rough company, and the port of Difelin was a mean and brutish place. So I’d been in no few brawls in my life. And I’d never before stood down from an insult to my honor. Enough was enough, I thought. I hurled insults at the crowd as I loosed the broadsword from my own belt.
“No!” Adarc’s warning did not stop me. I shrugged off his restraining hand.
The crowd surged forward. The three men in front of their wagon tried to stave the mob back with their spears. Clubs, sickles, and knives emerged from the mob. They turned on each other.
“Where is the varlet that threw this?” I wiped mud from my face and charged swinging into the mob.
Clubs, elbows, knees, fists, and sticks battered against the tunic of stern Aukrian leather and padding I wore beneath my winter coat. My blade sliced just as many hands, arms, and legs. Their owners howled into retreat.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from the second exciting story in the Matter of Manred, A Merchant’s Tale. Corentin, a young foreign trader of the House Pelan arrives in the uncertain lands of Droma, tasked to deliver a mysterious chest to a far-away sage in a remote corner of the kingdom. Accompanied by his mercenary bodyguard, Yôkull, a young local priest called Adarc, and the native scout Corvac, he sets out on a journey that will change his life forever.
If you enjoy this content, please sign up for the mailing list:
You’ll receive access to free eBook content, daily writing prompts, and a monthly newsletter from the studio of a working writer and professional publisher.