Finding the Oracle of Truth
« Chapter 1 »
The Marcos De`vain brothers were a merciless bunch of criminals who so far had evaded capture, but Kameko had other plans, trouble was, her plans did not quite go as expected. A point proven, when the eldest of the brothers knocked her bo-staff out of her hand and landed her a kick straight in the stomach. Winded Kameko doubled over and fell to her knees. She’d been tracking the brothers for days but someone had tipped them off and instead of catching them off guard, they’d turned the tables on her a set a little ambush of their own.
Dodging another attack by jumping to her feet, Kameko cursed. She was now angry, and it did not pay to anger her as the eldest brother found out when he tried to kick her again. Grabbing his foot as it contacted her chest, she twisted it hard. There was a loud crack as her attacker’s ankle snapped. When he fell to the ground in agony, she reached for her bo-staff but another brother kicked it out of her reach.
“Kill her!” The injured brother ordered. Narrowing their eyes, they gave chase.
Spinning on her heels, Kameko ran toward a barn, leapt onto a stack of barrels, jumped up and grabbed hold of the pitched rooftop. Glancing down as she hauled herself up, she saw two of the brothers nipping at her heels. Grabbing the rooftop, they hauled themselves up to join her.
“Ready to give in and come in peacefully?” Kameko asked but the look in their eyes told her they had no intention of surrendering.
From below, she heard another brother instructing, “Christo wants the girl alive!”
When the brothers on the roof attacked with drawn swords, Kameko drew two of her bo-shurikens from her belt and with both hands, she threw them simultaneously. The two brothers halted as the bo-shurikens struck them in their chests, dropping to their knees they cursed before keeling over dead.
Convinced that their brothers had Kameko trapped four remaining brothers shouted, “Do you have her yet?”
Stepping to the edge of the rooftop, Kameko quipped, “Sorry to disappoint you boys, but I’m still here. Now, are you going to come quietly or do you want to do this the hard way?”
The oldest brother was still writhing on the ground. Growling, he ordered, “Bring the witch to me!”
The three brothers ran around the barn each climbing up at a different point. Well, they figured Kameko could not attack them all at once so odds were that at least one of them would reach her.
Turning, Kameko faced the sides and back of the barn so she could see where the brothers would surface. In each hand, she held a bo-shuriken. She would take two of them out at least. When the three brothers hauled themselves up onto the roof Kameko braced herself.
Seeing their brothers lying dead on the rooftop sent them into a blind rage, but as before, Kameko took two of them out before they could reach her, the third however got close enough to draw his sword and attack.
Dodging his blade Kameko drew her sword and sliced it across his arm sending him stumbling backward. Glaring at the open wound, he warned, “I don’t care what Christo wants, I will kill you slowly witch!”
Kameko knew she had to take advantage but before she could do so, the eldest brother threw a small boulder at her and as it struck her above the right eye, she fell dazed onto one knee.
Kameko heard laughter as blood from the gash now blurred her vision. All she could see was her attacker raising his sword above her head.
When she tried to stand, she heard his elder brother yell, “Kill her. Kill her now!”
His brother didn’t hesitate but as his blade descended, she saw his blurred silhouette arch backward as he dropped to his knees.
Below, she heard the last of the brother’s cry, “No!”
Staggering to her feet, Kameko wavered on the edge of the rooftop. Still with blurred vision, she saw a man running toward the eldest brother. At first, she thought it was another attacker but the figure suddenly struck the man knocking him out cold. Turning, he then glanced up at her. Kameko’s legs gave way and the last thing she remembered was the man running toward the barn.
When Kameko awoke, she was lying on the ground with the man staring down at her. “Kameko, are you all right?”
Recognising the voice, Kameko complained, “Do I look all right?”
“No, you look terrible, but I need you to get on your horse so I can take you home.”
“But I don’t have a…” were Kameko’s last words before she passed out again.
When Kameko awoke, she was lying in a bed in a log cabin. When she lifted her head off the pillow, she felt a searing pain shoot through her temple. Cursing, she lowered it back onto the pillow.
“Stay right where you are and do not get out of bed, least not yet. You have a deep gash to your forehead and I want Benic to take look at it before you move,” Blaine, one of three Palaso Warriors ordered.
“There’s no need to fuss over me, I’ll be fine,” Kameko chided.
Pacing back and forth at the bottom of the bed, Blaine wagged a finger, scolding, “I cannot believe you accepted the bounty for those insane brothers. I warned you they would not come quietly. So how in the name of all the kingdoms did you think you could bring in six of them on your own?”
Kameko lifted her head off the pillow. “I took five of them out didn’t I?” When a stabbing pain shot through her temple, she lowered it with a muttered curse.
Halting at the foot of the bed, Blaine argued, “But it only takes one to seal your fate Tethys, you of all people should know that.”
“Fine, so one of them got lucky. I’m still here aren’t I? Anyway, I would have still brought him in,” Kameko bragged.
“Brought him in?” Blaine quizzed. “How exactly? If I hadn’t been there to catch you you would have broken your damn neck when you fell off that roof!”
“Trust me, I’m tougher than I look. I have a hard head, I would have survived.”
“But your neck wouldn’t have been so tough when the last of the brothers slit your throat while you lay on the ground unconscious.”
“Damn it Palaso I would have woken up long before then,” Kameko cursed.
When Blaine’s oldest brother Benic charged up the stairs, he glared down at Kameko, scolding, “Do you have a death wish Tethys?”
“No, and don’t shout, my head hurts.”
Benic sat on the edge of her bed and frowned. “Then let me take a look at it for you.”
Kameko winced when Benic moved her hair to one side. “Ouch, that hurts!”
Turning, Benic instructed, “Blaine, ask Brin to bring me some warm water and some clean cloths.”
When Blaine did as asked, Benic raised a dark brow. “So what made you think you could bring in six brothers, alone?”
“I’m not stupid,” Kameko declared. “I only needed one of them to claim a bounty, the rest I could pick off one by one.”
“Novel plan of attack Tethys, if it had worked, which it didn’t.”
“It would have if I could have taken them by surprise but someone got to them first. So what happened to the brother I left alive?”
“Blaine handed him in at the castle for you,” and all too familiar voice growled. It was Valcat, high-ranking officer to the army of Caddoan, and he did not look happy.
When Benic rose to his feet, he clasped Valcat’s arm, greeting, “Good to see you Valcat. How goes things at the castle?”
“They were going just fine until Blaine brought one of the Marcos De`vain brothers in and told me what happened to Kameko.”
“I know, she was lucky that Blaine showed up to save her.”
“So I hear,” Valcat said with a look that warned Kameko she was in big trouble.
Kameko cursed Blaine’s loose tongue as Brin placed a bowl of warm water and clean cloths on a bedside table.
Sitting on the bed again, Benic dabbed a wet cloth on her wound for the blood had now dried and was sticking to her hair.
Swatting Benic’s hand away, Kameko winced. “Ouch!”
“Hey, the wound has to be cleaned so do not move and let me tend to it,” Benic scolded.
Stepping closer, Valcat leaned down to take a better look. Shaking his head, he remarked, “That’s a deep cut, it will need stitches.”
“What? No, it will be fine,” Kameko argued.
“He’s right, unless you want to get an infection,” Benic warned.
“Well Tethys, do you?” Benic asked.
“Of course not damn it.”
“Then let me do my job and stop complaining.”
Smiling, Blaine handed Benic a needle and thread.
With a warning look, Kameko snapped, “Traitor!”
While being stitched, Kameko could see that Valcat was champing at the bit to tell her just what an idiot she’d been.
Taking the bowl of water, Benic headed for the stairs, advising, “Do not let her get out of that bed. If she moves she will no doubt pass out and ruin all my good work.”
Valcat narrowed his eyes. “Oh, trust me, she’s going nowhere.”
Here comes the lecture, Kameko mused. She wasn’t wrong.
“I want the name of the man who offered you the bounty for the De`vain brothers?”
“I didn’t ask him his name,” Kameko fibbed. It was a lie but she could tell what Valcat was thinking.
“You never take a bounty on without first checking out the details, so try again?”
Kameko knew full well that Valcat would stand there until the sun set and rose again waiting for an honest answer. Cursing, she confessed, “Joel, and before you say anything he warned me not to go after the brothers alone.”
“I don’t care what he told you,” Valcat chided, his tone alone warned her that Joel had better leave town for a week or three.
Kameko resolved to ask Blaine to warn Joel that Valcat was on the warpath.
Agitated, Valcat paced the room. “Six brothers damn it! You took on six bandits and thought to win, how?”
“I wouldn’t have taken the job if I’d thought I couldn’t do it,” Kameko chided defensively.
“Even a skilled and seasoned Calliston Warrior would not have gone on that job alone.”
“Well I got a lot closer to catching them than any of you ever have, so I guess my skills are not so bad after all.”
“So good in fact Blaine had to rescue you or you would now be dead!”
“I’m not deaf,” Kameko snapped as Valcat’s booming voice shattered the peace in her head.
“No but you have selective hearing when it comes to warnings. I presume your informant warned you about the brothers?”
“Yes, like I already told you, Joel cautioned me to wait until the brothers had split up, but I didn’t have the time to go chasing them around in pairs, anyway, the deadline for the bounty was almost up so I had to move fast.”
“Even Blaine, Benic and Brin had the good sense to come to the castle and warn us that the brothers were back in the area. Why didn’t you?”
“Because Nengar would have ordered me to hand the bounty over to you and Cugar.”
“Exactly! So instead of seeing sense, you thought you’d risk your life by charging straight into an ambush because that made more sense than waiting for a group of Calliston’s to arrest them.”
Feeling her aching wound, Kameko winced. “Not in so many words.”
“Then how many words would you use to describe how stupid you’ve been?”
“Fine, so I admit it, maybe six bandits were a few too many for me to arrest alone,” Kameko conceded. “Which reminds me, I did all the work, so I still want the money.”
“You’re lying there with a two-inch gash to your thick skull and all you can think about is the money?”
“Well I didn’t plan on doing it for free,” Kameko chided.
Valcat shook his head. “Luckily for you Blaine handed the only surviving brother in to the castle and registered his arrest in your name. So yes, you will get paid.”
“Then I owe him a big thank you.”
“You owe him more than that Tethys. You owe him your life!”
“It’s okay,” Blaine said from behind Valcat, “she owes me nothing.”
“No, Valcat is right,” Kameko said to Valcat’s surprise. “You saved my life and for that I thank you.”
“Well I tried to warn you but as usual you didn’t listen,” Blaine blurted.
Valcat frowned. “So Blaine knew you were interested in the bounty and cautioned you against it?”
Kameko hoped that Blaine would not let that little morsel of information out of the bag. “I asked him about the brothers and he warned me not to get involved. I guess I didn’t listen.”
When Valcat glanced at Blaine he looked sheepish, explaining, “She’s right, but something in my gut told me that contrary to all the warnings she would accept the bounty on the brothers anyway. So when Benic told me he’d spoken to Joel I went looking for her. The rest is history.”
“And you didn’t think to tell me this back at the castle?”
“I was kind of hoping I was wrong and until I found out for sure I thought it best not to cause panic over it.”
Valcat knew Blaine was only looking out for Kameko, and in truth, he was glad he had, if he had not she would now be dead.
“It’s not Blaine’s fault,” Kameko defended on his behalf. “I take full responsibility for what happened, it’s no one’s fault but my own.”
Nodding at the gesture, Blaine replied, “In future, avoid tracking groups of criminals. I have brothers to watch my back for me, you have no one.”
Valcat mused that that wasn’t entirely true, he watched her back wherever possible, she just didn’t know it.
“Well I apologise if my actions involved you, I did not intend to get anyone into trouble,” Kameko confessed. “I should not have gone alone.”
“No, you should not have gone at all,” Valcat scolded.
Irritated by his tone, Kameko defended, “It’s my job. How else do you expect me to catch criminals?”
“I don’t, I expect you to leave it up to Calliston’s.”
Blaine could see Kameko was building up for a full-blown argument and stepping between them, he suggested, “I think Kameko should rest awhile. Maybe we could talk while we wait downstairs.”
Conceding, Valcat turned to Kameko, warning, “This conversation is not over,” and with that, he headed downstairs to speak with the brothers.
“Thanks,” Kameko said as Blaine turned to follow.
“Valcat has ordered that you stay here for a few days. If not, he’s threatened to take you to the castle to keep an eye on you there.”
“Are you kidding me?” Kameko exclaimed.
“No, Valcat never jokes, well, rarely.”
Kameko dropped her head back onto the pillow, chiding, “I swear I have to get my own cabin.”
“Don’t worry, if you’re looking for a place of your own I might just be able to help you. But for now, just do as you are told and rest that thick skull of yours otherwise Valcat will have my hide.”
Smiling, Kameko closed her eyes, tired, she fell asleep.
Kameko was a former Red Griffin Warrior from the Kingdom of Tethys. She had recently left the temple to become a bounty tracker. She lived where her work took her, which was mainly in the Kingdom of Oberon, a kingdom that bordered her own. Its army ruled Oberon, an elite force of Calliston Warriors who lived in a huge castle in the centre of Oberon’s main capital, Caddoan.
Nengar was the General and leader of the Calliston army, he was a fair but firm leader and anyone who opposed the laws in Oberon soon felt his wrath. His warriors excelled in the art of combat and their notoriety even extended into neighbouring kingdoms.
Kameko was also a highly trained warrior who favoured a bo-staff and bo-shurikens to a sword. She could wield a sword with deadly accuracy when needed but her bo-staff was her signature weapon. At the Red Griffin Temple, she had risen through the ranks to the highest level, but it had not come easy to her.
There had been those who opposed her status simply because she was a female warrior. Things had not improved when she left to become a bounty tracker because Oberon did not recognise female warriors any more than Tethys Warriors did. In fact, Oberon tolerated female warriors even less. This did not deter nor stop Kameko from doing her job and doing it well, much to some people’s annoyance.
The only people who appeared to admire her fighting skills were three brothers, Benic, Brin and Blaine; all were from the Kingdom of Palaso. They were also bounty trackers but in their kingdom, females were as likely to be warriors as the men were, so to them, seeing a woman fight was natural. The three brothers also had a younger sister called, Auzara whom Kameko had never met, but had heard stories about through Blaine.
Auzara was the only female warrior who Nengar tolerated because she had once saved his life. He had even bestowed on her the colours of his army as a tribute. This had annoyed some of his high-ranking warriors, namely Cugar and Valcat.
Through a series of events, Kameko had crossed swords with Cugar and Valcat, and although Valcat pretended an indifference to her, he secretly favoured the feisty warrior from Tethys. Cugar only had eyes for Blaine’s sister Auzara, but like Kameko and Valcat, they had a stormy relationship because Auzara refused to put away her swords, for like most Palaso women, she was comfortable wearing them and even more adept at using them, much to Cugar’s frustration.
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