Excerpt from Chapter 1 of “Whispers of the Dragon”
“Maxmillian Rottweiler! You big miscreant! Get back here and face your fate!”
Max laughed and ducked behind the shipping crates. Toryo snickered and punched his beefy arm. “You’re just too darn recognizable, Max! And slow, too! Don’t let them catch us! Sir James will be beside himself!”
“This wasn’t my fault!” the burly young man protested. “You got me into this! As usual!”
The smaller fellow grinned mischievously. “Well, I can’t help myself! When someone that full of hot air keeps blowing his own horn, I just have to prick him a little! Wouldn’t want him to get all puffed up and explode from the pressure, would you?”
“No, of course not! But did you have to dump the whole barrel of molasses over him?”
Toryo shrugged with an ear-to-ear grin. The clattering footsteps of Master Blodsoe’s warehouse guards grew closer. He whispered, “Come on, let’s get out of here!”
Max shook his head and followed the smaller young man out through the space between the closely piled crates of the merchant lord’s warehouse. A puff of exasperation escaped his lips. As usual, Tory had picked an escape route that was too tight a squeeze for Max’s broad shoulders. With a thump, one of the loosely stacked boxes toppled from its place and fell to the wooden floor.
“There they are! Get them!”
“Come on, Max! Follow me!” Toryo urged him. The smaller lad ducked beneath an overhanging pile of textiles—long silk bolts wrapped with waxed paper—and dodged to the next aisle over. He was headed toward the street window through which they had entered at the start of their escapade.
“By the Light, Tory!” Max hissed at his friend as he squirmed through the narrow opening. “Wait for me!”
The guards, three of them, judging by the sounds of their armored boots and their grunts of exertion, clattered around the corner, swords drawn. The tall, thin one shouted and waved his weapon toward the fleeing young men, “There’s Rottweiler! Cut him off at the exit!”
Toryo was already scaling the pallet of crates that led to the window. He looked back over his shoulder at Max and rolled his eyes. “Come on, Max! They’ll catch us!”
Max broke free of the silks, toppling a few bolts from the pile. He leaped over a crate and turned the corner, a few steps from the pallet of goods Toryo had mounted. One of the guards skidded around the corner, only two swords’ lengths away. Max gulped.
“Halt, you ruffian!”
Max looked up. Toryo was ready to leap through the opened window, looking down at him with an anxious, impatient expression. Max looked back at the guard and gritted his teeth. With an effort, he vaulted up the boxes to the first tier.
Two more guards clattered around the corner from Max’s other side. The first swung at his legs with the flat of the blade. “I said halt!”
Max jumped over the weapon and scrambled up to the second tier. One more, and he could escape with Tory. His friend was still waiting anxiously. In his haste, Max knocked over yet another box. It fell on the guard’s shoulder and slammed against his head, toppling him back against another crate. His sword slipped from his grasp, slicing open a gash in his leg as the box crashed upon him. The guard lost his balance and fell to the floor.
Max pulled himself up to the top of the pile, but saw the man groaning on the warehouse floor. He was bleeding and hurt. One of the guards started climbing the pile after him. The other let out an exclamation and rushed to the wounded man’s aid.
“Crap!” Toryo spat, seeing the situation escalate. He made a half-hearted move toward the big open window.
Max stopped and looked down. His sandy blond brows tightened and his lips pursed. He shook his head and began climbing back down the pile of crates.
“Max!” his companion hissed.
“I have to help him,” Max told Toryo. He picked his way as quickly and carefully as he could manage with his big frame down to the floor. The pursuing guard hesitated and frowned indecisively. Max called out, “I can help him! Let me get down to where he is!”
With a thump, Max jumped the last few feet to the floor.
“He’s out cold, damn you!” growled the guard tending to his fellow. “And stabbed with his own sword!”
“I know. I’m sorry. But I can help him. Let me in there.” Max had the look of one who had made up his mind, and would let nothing get in his way. He nudged the guard aside and knelt by the wounded man. He took a breath and rubbed his hands together. Then, he held them out over the leg wound.
Golden light emanated from his hands. It poured into the wounded guard’s body. The gash ceased bleeding and closed up as if a month of healing had passed. Max moved his hands to the man’s head and torso and kept the light flowing. It took very little time at all before the healing was complete.
Max let the light go and sat back on his heels. The guard stirred and propped himself up on his elbows. He groaned, “Ugh. Thank you, Max. But you’re still in big trouble.”
“I know.” He helped the man to his feet with a sigh of resignation. “Again.”