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fantasy novel chapter 28
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Warning: this novel is intended for an adult audience. It contains violence and vulgar language and, additionally, contains at least a little sexual content.

THE WORDSMITHS AND THE WARGUILD by Hugh Cook - Chapter 28

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Chapter 28

        Togura Poulaan, alive and still kicking, floated into the sunlight on the southern side of the castle. He dragged himself ashore and collapsed at someone's feet. Someone's boot nudged him, so he raised himself to a sitting position and looked around.
        A fierce young man in wildskin clothes was standing over him. Another man similarly dressed was wading in the river in pursuit of something bobbing away downstream.
        "Togura," said Togura, pointing at himself.
        "Kogo," said the stranger, slapping his heart.
        "Do you speak Galish, Kogo?" asked Togura.
        Koko didn't.
        Kogo's friend came wading out of the river, bearing his trophy, which was the casked which could only be unlocked by a Word. Togura, after plunging through darkness into the river, had forgotten all about it.
        "Togura," said Togura, slapping his heart - he was learning fast.
        "Satari," said the stranger, introducing himself. "Seki Natabari Satari."
        "Do you speak Galish?"
        Satari didn't.
        "Another dormant bunch of ignorant savages," said Togura, who felt that life would be a lot simpler if everyone had the decency to learn some Galish.
        Satari, failing to open the enchanted casket he had retrieved from the river, passed it to Kogo, who tried to pry it open with a knife, then passed it to Togura.
        "Sholabarakosh," said Togura, eager to appease the strangers who, he strongly suspected, regarded themselves as his captors.
        The casket opened. He took out the triple-harp, played a few notes to demonstrate its use, then offered it to the two men. They laughed uproariously, and, with air-slapping gestures, declined.
        "I'm not a trained musician," said Togura, offended, thinking they mocked his failure to produce a melody.
        Still, he was glad that they made it clear he was to keep the triple-harp. He was still thinking of the money it would bring in Selzirk. One of the men scouted away, and before long returned with the rest of the savages. The savages now totalled up to six. The newcomers insisted on hearing Togura play the triple-harp, which he did, provoking copious laughter.
        "I still don't see what's funny," said Togura. "I can't be that bad."
        The language barrier prevented anyone from enlightening him. Before he had left Sung, he had known, for as long as he could remember, that Galish was spoken everywhere by everyone; it was the universal trading language, the lingua franca of all the world. He had done a lot of unlearning since then.
        "When I get back to Sung," said Togura, "I'll teach them a thing or two."
        His optimism surprised him. But then, the savages, with their easy laughter, seemed friendly enough.
        There was still plenty of daylight, but the savages were in no hurry to go anywhere. They camped by the castle that night; Togura, gaining confidence with the triple-harp, played to them by firelight. The next day, slowed by Togura's sprained ankle, they tramped downriver; toward evening, they reached a large encampment on the edge of rough, rolling lowlands. At this larger camp, there were horses.
        As there were no women or children, Togura guessed that the savages were still a long way from home. Without surprise, he found himself put to work gathering firewood, gutting fish, skinning animals, stretching hides to dry, gathering particular types of bark for a use which could not be explained to him, and cooking food. He was also called upon ot play music every evening, and to cut hair. He doubted his own competence as a barber, but nobody objected to the rough and ready hairshaves he managed with a sharpened knife; nobody even laughed.
        After a number of days - it could have been as many as twenty, though he could not say, for he soon lost count - they broke camp and moved south on horseback with loads of meat and skins.
        Riding south, the savages became tense. They travelled with scouts ahead and a rearguard behind, posted sentries at night and kept their weapons at the ready. Twice they encountered the tracks of other riders, which occasioned excited, animated discussion, and led to increased vigilance. Togura did not have to be psychic to realise that they were riding through enemy territory.
        At last they saw a stockade ahead, and, raising whoops and cheers, they charged. Togura at first thought he had been caught up in an episode of tribal warfare, but the gates of the stockade swung open, the citizens within greeted them rapturously, and he realised that this, for the savages, was home.
        Very shortly, as he became acquainted with that home, he began to realise the big mistake he had made - and the nature of his present predicament.


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The text on this page is part of the fantasy novel The Wordsmith and the Warguild by Hugh Cook, which, when published in North America in 1988, was divided into two separate volumes, The Questing Hero and The Hero's Return. This text can be read for free online. However, the text is copyright - all rights reserved. For permission to use this text or any portion of it contact Hugh Cook.

The Wordsmiths and the Warguild was first published in 1987. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1998, 2004, 2006 Hugh Cook.


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