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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Outrunning the Storm

Michele Dutcher
A Felony of Birds

Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

Harris Tobias
Time Wars & other SciFi Tales

Gordon Rowlinson

Three Gold Pieces


Brock Noel

Sir Lochlan’s breaths came short and hard as he bent over in the stifling heat that scorched the city streets of Goldenshore.  It had been especially hot this summer on the coast of the southern sea, and today was no different.  His hands were on his knees, watching the sweat drip from the tip of his nose to the cobblestone below.  He grimaced and looked up just in time to see the princess turn the corner to another street.
“Sorcha!” he called out, and started after her again.
He rounded the corner and cursed under his breath, seeing the young princess many paces ahead, dodging between carts and wagons filtering through the street.  His tunic was soaked through, but he continued on, aware of the consequences if she was not returned safely to the castle.  He could see the city folk out of the corner of his eye, laughing and pointing with amused smiles.  It was an utter embarrassment.  Lochlan Mayes, revered knight who had commanded armies in the Great War, chasing a small girl, who at twelve summers was just fast enough to elude his aging strides.  If this was not complete embarrassment, Lochlan was not sure what was.
“Sorcha stop this instant!” he yelled again.  “Your father will hear of this!”
He certainly hoped the king did not hear of this, in truth.  If there was one person in whole kingdom of Andara that Lochlan didn’t want to anger it was King Marcas Goldenshore.  He would have Lochlan’s head if anything ill should befall his only daughter.  _The daughter I was sworn to protect_, he thought as he barreled out into a street crossing.
The whinny of a horse drew his attention away from the princess.  He turned just in time to move so that the rearing mare’s hoof only grazed his shoulder as it kicked out.  He still fell onto the street and tried to push himself up, but the wagon the horse was pulling rolled over his ankle.  It took a moment for the scream to escape his lips after he heard the crunch of his ankle under the weight of the wagon, but when it came out, it was blood curdling.  Without a word of worry the man leading the wagon quickly snapped the reigns and was off again, leaving Lochlan in the street grasping at his already swelling ankle.
“Gods curse you!” he said between gritted teeth and pushed himself to his feet, remembering the princess, but one step later fell again.  Wincing, he dragged himself to the other side of the street, mudding up his finest tunic in the process, and set himself against the _Copper Mug_, a tavern frequented by the nobles of Goldenshore.
“You there!” he called out to a youth walking by.  The boy gave him a dismissive look and kept on his way.  “Stop this instant boy!” Lochlan called.  “In the name of Marcas Goldenshore, your king, you will come here this instant!”
The boy stopped and turned to regard Lochlan, but did not come closer.  The lad couldn’t have seen more than fourteen summers if Lochlan had to guess.  Shoulder length, dark brown hair sprouted from a worn leather cap that looked like it had seen better days.  Yet it was finder still than his tattered tunic.  He looked like a beggar, which was odd to Lochlan, as most beggars didn’t come around the _Copper Mug_. 
“What do you want?” the boy asked impatiently.
“I need your help,” Lochlan replied.
“Can’t say I’m really in the helpin’ mood mister.”
“Your king needs your help boy.”
His light blue eyes narrowed.  “Can’t really say that changes my mind much.”
“Don’t make me call the city watch after you,” Lochlan threatened, wincing again at the pulsing pain in his ankle.
“Escaped the city watch plenty of times.  Go ahead and call ‘em.  Besides, what’s in it for me if I help you?”
_Always the same with beggars_, Lochlan thought as he looked down the street, knowing the princess was getting further away.  He wiped the sweat from his brow.  “One gold piece,” he said after a moment.
“Five,” the boy replied instantly.
“Five golds!” Lochlan stammered.  “You must be mad!  Two golds.  No more.”
“Four golds.”
“Two,” Lochlan reaffirmed sternly.
“For god’s sake boy, I’ll give you two golds and that is all!”
The boy looked Lochlan over for a few moments.  “How do I know you’re good for it?”
Lochlan sighed.  “I’m a knight in the princess’s guard.  My word is my honor.”
“I’ve seen knights lose their honor before, if they had it in the first place.”
“Very well boy.  Three golds.  Three golds if you help me.”
“Swear on your father’s grave,” the boy said.
“My father still lives, but I’ll swear on my mother’s.”
“Say it.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave that I will give you three golds.  But you must help me first.”
“Help you with what?” the boy asked.
“I’m chasing a girl through the city.  She is very important to me and if anything ill should happen to her I’d be in a very uncompromising position.”
“Very bad things would happen to me.”
“And it’s worth three golds to you?”
“Yes.  Now will you help me?”
“Where is this girl?” the boy asked.
“The last I saw she was running down that street,” Lochlan replied pointing.  “She has long blonde hair, comes down to the middle of her back.  She’s wearing a light green dress that matches her eyes.  I need you to find her and bring her back to the castle somehow.  If you have to ask the city watch to pick her up and drag her back, than so be it.  Tell them that Sir Lochlan Mayes has given his permission to do so.  They will help you.”
“I will find this girl for you,” the boy answered confidently.  “Where can I claim my reward?”
“Come back to the _Copper Mug_ when you have safely returned her and I will give you your three golds.  Now be off!  She is running for the city gates, I have no doubt.”
The boy started up the street.  Lochlan watched him go for a moment before he reached down to his ankle.  It was broken, no doubt about that.  He grimaced as he touched it through his boot.  Somehow he was going to have to get back to the castle.  From there he could tell the other men in Sorcha’s guard she had escaped again and set them out to find her.  The young lad wouldn’t be able to bring Sorcha back, he knew that, but at least he might be able to divert her long enough for his men to find her.  It was the only hope he had at the moment.  Lochlan called out to the next wagon that passed.  He would need a ride back to the castle.
Colt looked back at the aging knight as he was touching his wounded ankle.  His brownish-blonde hair and beard were speckled with white.  _Sir Lochlan_, he thought, trying to think back.  He slightly remembered the name from his youth; before he had been put out on the streets.  If truth be told Colt didn’t want to help him.  Not that he had anything against the knight in particular, but the man he worked for was a different story.  He hated King Goldenshore, more than anything, but three golds were three golds, no matter how you went about it, and god knew Colt needed three golds.  And besides, a little adventure never hurt anyone.
He turned his brisk walk into a dead sprint at the thought of the coin.  He would find whoever this girl was and bring her back to the castle, and he’d do so without the help of the City Watch.  _Piss on the City Watch_, he thought, remembering how they had hunted his family.  The sight of the girl in question brought his thoughts back to the adventure at hand.  Long blonde hair, light green dress; it was her, no doubt.  She didn’t seem to be in a hurry, although she was constantly looking over her shoulder.  _This is going to be easier than I thought_, he mused.  He could already feel the gold coins weighing down his pocket. 
He slowed to a trot as he neared the girl.  “Hullo there,” he called out.  “May I have a word?”
“If you can catch me!” she yelled, bolting down the next street.
Colt didn’t smile much these days, but a small smirk grazed his face as he chased after her.  To his delight she was much faster than he would have thought.  His eye never left her as he weaved through the street peddlers and beggars.  Before long they there were in the poorer part of the city.  Colt’s cap flipped back off of his head, but he let it go.  He’d be able to afford nicer once the girl was safely back in the castle.  He diverted his route into a narrow alley that cut diagonally to his right, looking to cut her off, as he saw her turn a corner ahead.  He came to the end of the alley just as she passed him on the main street and turned the corner right behind her.  After a few more strides he dove and tripped her up, sending them both tumbling to the ground.  They sat up at the same time and looked at each other.  For the first time Colt noticed how beautiful she was.
“That was most unkind!” she said, rubbing her elbow.
Colt stood up and shrugged.  “You told me to try and catch you and I did, so now you will come with me.”   He offered his hand, but she refused and stood on her own.
“Come with you where?” she asked, brushing off her dress.
“To the castle.”
“I can’t go there.”
“You can.  I’ve been told so.  We’ll be let in.”
“I can be let in whenever I want,” she said, folding her arms and frowning.
“Not everyone can get past the castle gates, trust me.”
“I live in the castle you dolt.  I _can_ get in.  But I’m _not_ going back.”
“You live in the castle?” he asked, confused.
She rolled her eyes, but Colt started to work it through his head.  Lochlan said he was a knight in the Princess’s Guard.  Who else would he be desperately chasing through the streets?  He thumped himself on the forehead.  He should have known!
“You’re the princess!” he said a little too loudly.
“Shush!” she replied.
Colt looked around and noticed their unpleasant surroundings.
“Hear that Farren?” an older boy said on the other side of the street.  Colt and Sorcha both turned their heads quickly.  The boy’s faded gray tunic hung loose on his skinny frame.  He smiled, showing off his brown teeth.  The fuzzy attempt at a moustache above his lip would have been comical in a different situation.  “We’re in the presence of royalty.”
“Yah I heard it Vardan,” the other youth said.  He was tall and muscular for his age.  “You wantin’ us to wipe yer arse there little princess?”
“Just leave me alone,” the princess said.
“Only one princess I know round there parts,” Vardan said.  “So you must be Sorcha.”
“Ain’t as pretty as she’s made out to be,” Farren put in.  “Though I ain’t gonna mind bein’ her first,” he added, grabbing his crotch and grinning.
“Leave her be,” Colt said levelly.
“Aw, ain’t that sweet,” Vardan replied.  “Her little hero!”
“Stand out of the way little boy,” Farren said dismissively, walking towards Sorcha. 
“I’m not a little boy,” Colt said, stepping between the princess and the stronger, older boy.  Farren went to backhand him, but he ducked and hit Farren where he knew it would hurt the most; between the legs.  Farren cried out in pain and fell to the ground, grabbing his manhood and rolling from side to side.  Colt smirked at the sight, but his triumph was short lived as Vardan struck him in the back of the head, sending him to the ground face first.  He didn’t have time to turn around before Vardan was on top of him.  He grabbed Colt’s hair and lifted his head before smashing his face into the street.  Pain exploded in his nose and tears instantly came to his eyes.  By then Farren was on his feet and delivered a hard kick to Colt’s side, rolling him over onto his back.  Colt looked up at the sky as he tried to catch his breath.  The two older boys stood over him, looking down with mocking grins.
“You won’t be a hero today weakling,” Vardan said before smashing his heel into Colt’s face, knocking the back of his head onto the street.  Colt could vaguely hear the princess’s screams through the ringing in his ears as his world turned black.
A light humming woke him from his painful slumber.  The tune was pleasant enough, but Colt wished it would stop.  The pounding in his head was fierce.  He opened his eyes and squinted.  The sun was still high in the sky.  He let out a moan and rolled over.
“Ah, the mystery boy awakes,” a voice nearby said.
Colt sat up, rubbing the back of his head.  He touched his nose gingerly, but it was enough to make him wince.  He looked over at the source of the humming.  An old man with bright white hair and bushy white eyebrows was bent over a cane only a few paces away.  His hair was tied behind his head and extremely thick, surprising for a man of such age.
“Looks like you’ve had a misfortune,” the old man continued with a smile.
Colt felt the bloody snot draining down his throat and hacked it out onto the street.  “Who are you?” he asked.  “And what do you want?  I’m done giving favors if that’s what you’re looking for.”  _I’ve had enough adventure for one day_, he thought.
“No favors needed young man,” the old man replied.  “My name is Arius.  I happened to come across you lying in the street.  I thought I’d wait until you woke to make sure you were alright.”
“Yes I’m fine.  Now if you’ll leave me alone…”
“I meant no harm lad.  I heard some screams and came as fast as my old legs would carry me.”
“You heard the screams?” Colt asked, looking around.
“I did.”
“Did you see where they took the princess?”
“The princess?” Arius said.  “This is certainly getting interesting.  What were you doing here with the princess?”
“I was charged by Sir Lochlan Mayes to return her to the castle.”
“Were you now?”
“Yes.  And I was about to when two ruffians took her.  I tried to fight them, but wasn’t strong enough,” he said, lowering his head in shame.
“Don’t fret young lad, you may still find her, but not without help.”
“What help can I get?  I’m nobody in this city.  At least not anymore.”
“Sometimes being nobody the best thing.  Trust me in that, young man.”
“If you say so.”
“I do,” Arius replied, smiling wider to show his full set of teeth.  _Certainly an odd fellow_, Colt thought to himself.  Most old men he’d met had few teeth, if any at all.
“And it would be good if you remembered that,” the old man continued.  He looked at Colt for a long time, his crimson eyes thoughtful and piercing at the same time.  “The princess is very important to the future of the kingdom,” the old man finally said.  “Sir Lochlan can’t fathom the burden he has laid upon you.  You will need my help.  It’s imperative that she returns safely to the castle.”
“What help can you offer?” Colt asked skeptically, looking at Arius drooping over his cane.  “We don’t even know where they took her!  She may be dead for all we know.”
“Wait a moment,” the old man said, turning aside.  Colt watched in fascination as a small mouse climbed Arius’s cane, up his arm, and onto his shoulder.  The mouse tweaked and twittered for a moment by Arius’s ear as the old man nodded his head.  He turned to face Colt again. 
“Are you able to walk?” he asked Colt.
“Follow me.”
Colt followed Arius through the city at a surprising pace.  It didn’t appear that Arius needed the help of his cane, although the stick tapped the street with every step.  He had an old woolen cloak wrapped around his body despite the stifling heat, yet the old man wasn’t breaking a sweat.  Colt’s curiosity over him was piqued as he followed.  Yet the princess was on his mind mostly.  He hoped nothing ill had befallen her.  _For my gold’s sake_, he told himself, half believing it. 
The smell of dead fish began to fill his nose.  He looked at his surroundings, which had diminished considerably, a feat considering where they had just come from.  Lost were the timber and stone structures of the inner-city.  Instead, the houses and buildings here looked like they’d blow over at the slightest wind.
“The docks,” Colt said.  “Why are we going to the docks?”
“That’s where your princess is.”
“She’s your princess too,” Colt replied.
“Is she now?” Arius said, smiling wryly.
“How do you know she’s by the docks?”
Arius chuckled.  He stopped a few paces later and pointed.
“She’s in the ship house on the last dock,” he said.  “Be careful Colt.”
“How do you know my name?”
“I know much about this city,” Arius said.  “But that will have to wait for another time.  You need to rescue your princess now.”
“You’re not coming with me?” Colt asked, oddly disappointed.
“No lad, this task is your own.  Besides, what help would an old man like me be?” he said, tapping his cane and smiling.  “Go now.”
Colt nodded and walked cautiously towards the ship house.  The timber structure appeared to be leaning, ready at any moment to fall into the sea below.  He quickened his pace as a muffled scream sounded from within, but slowed as he came to the dock, tip-toeing across the old planks towards the ship house.
“My father will kill you!” he heard within.
“Yer pap ain’t gonna even know where ta look,” he heard in response.  “Take a good look out that window.  Yer by the docks little wench.  King Marcas ain’t been down by these docks his whole life.”
“Ain’t nobody gonna look for you swimmin’ with the fishes,” Colt heard the other say.
He leaned against the building near the slightly opened door.  Sorcha was crying inside.  He peered through the crack in the door.  The dock continued along the left side of the ship house, butting against the wall.  The right side was wide and lofty, completely open to the water below.  No ships were within, although a few row boats hung randomly from the side of the dock.  He saw Farren and Vardan standing near the princess, poking at her with harpoon spears as she was tied to one of the dock posts with rope that coiled around her waist and arms.  She was struggling against it, unable to move.
“Let’s see what ya look like under that dress,” Vardan said, tearing the fabric by her waist with his spear.  She managed to kick his shin and he stepped closer.  He cursed and Farren hit her with the butt-end of his spear, leaving her unconscious.  Her head drooped so that her chin wrested against her chest. 
A rage filled Colt that he hadn’t felt since his parents died.  He grabbed a small forked anchor from the side of the building and threw open the door.  Vardan and Farren turned at the intrusion.
“Lookee here Farren,” Vardan said with a laugh, “the little hero has come back.”
“Ain’t that romantic,” Farren replied.
“Might be he’s willing to die for this little wench.”
“Let’s kill ‘im then,” Farren said.
“Yes, let’s kill ‘im.”
They walked towards Colt, each with a harpoon spear in hand.  Farren reared back and threw his at Colt.  He lunged aside, but lost his footing on the edge of the dock and fell into a small row boat.  He heard them laughing above.  Suddenly a strong hand grabbed the back of his tunic, lifted him out of the boat, and slammed him down onto the dock.
“Let’s cut ‘im up,” Vardan said.
Colt felt another hand grab him, but at that moment he spun around, swinging the anchor he still held wildly.  Vardan’s eyes went wide as two of the anchor prongs pierced his neck.  His eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he let out a low grunt and fell to his knees.  Everything was so silent that Colt heard Vardan’s last breath escape his lips as he fell, face first onto the dock.  His lifeblood began to stain the old wooden planks, dripping through the cracks into the sea below.  Farren and Colt looked at each other, both too surprised to react. 
Finally Farren screamed in rage. “You’ll die you little whelp!”  He picked up Vardan’s spear and swung it at Colt.  He managed to duck under it, but Farren kicked him hard in the stomach, sending him reeling against the wall of the ship house.  Farren’s chest was heaving as he closed on Colt.  “I’m gonna kill you slowly boy.  _Real slow_.  May even keep you alive while I have your little whore.”
Colt rose to his knees and tried to crawl away, but Farren stomped on his back, sending his face into the dock.  Pain reawakened in Colt’s nose.  He rolled over to look at his attacker, but tears blurred his vision again.  Farren put his foot on Colt’s chest, pinned him to the dock, poked the spear on his face and sliced a gash into Colt’s cheek.  Colt cringed and grabbed Farren’s leg, trying to move it, but his hold was too strong.  Blood flowed down his cheek.  He reached up and wiped the tears from his eyes to get a better look at Farren.  He had a wicked smile on his face, as though he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the kingdom at the moment.
“I’m gonna have some fun with you,” Farren said.  “How long have you been waitin’ to get into the princess’s skirt?”  He laughed wildly.  “Waitin’ for so long and now yer gonna see me have ‘er first.  How’s that gonna feel little weakling?  Maybe she’ll moan for me aye?  Maybe she’ll -,”
But those were the last words from his mouth.  A harpoon spear smashed into his face with a sickening crunch sound, piercing the bottom of his nose and splitting his lips, breaking the teeth behind them.  The spear hit him with such force that it lifted him off of the dock and sent him falling into the water below.  Colt heard the splash moments later.
He sat up, hacked more blood onto the dock, and turned around.  Arius was standing in the doorway of the ship house.
“That one should learn to watch his mouth,” the old man said.
“Arius!” Colt yelled.
“A good lesson for you to learn young Colt.  Now let’s untie the princess, eh?”
Colt scrambled to his feet and followed Arius to the princess.  The old man cut her bonds with the finest knife Colt had ever seen and rested her gently on the dock.
“Stay here and watch over her until she wakes.  It shouldn’t be long.”
“You’re not staying?” Colt asked.
“No, she is your responsibility.  Lochlan laid this task onto you lad.  Tell him you did the task on your own, without help.  Your three golds won’t be denied.  It will be our little secret,” he said with a wink and started down the dock again.
“Who are you?” Colt called to him in wonder.
He smiled as he looked back to Colt.  “I’m a friend.  We’ll be seeing each other soon enough.  I have a feeling.”
With that Arius turned and left the ship house with the help of his cane.  His cane taps fading with each passing moment.  By the time Colt could no longer hear them the princess started to wake.
“What happened?” she asked wearily, looking up at Colt.  “How did you get here?  Where are those two?” she said with more strength.  She sat up, looking around frantically.
Colt grasped her shoulders.  “Calm yourself!  They have been dealt with.  Let’s leave this place and get you back to the castle.”
“How did you find me?” she asked as they walked out of the ship house.
“I followed you,” Colt lied.
“I thought they had killed you.”
“Nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises,” he lied, his nose throbbing.
“What took you so long then?  They were toying with me for so long!”
“I’m sorry, I was…delayed.” 
Colt looked for Arius, but saw no sign of the old man. 
“Can you make it back to the castle?” he asked, looking back to Sorcha.
“Yes, and thank you,” she said, grabbing Colt’s hand.  “I owe you for this,” she said.
“You owe me nothing,” he said, remembering the three golds that were promised to him.  The first thing he would buy was a bath.  He cringed at the thought of how he must smell, and in front of a princess no less!
She reached over suddenly and kissed him on the cheek.  He pulled his hand away, scratched the back of his head, unsure of what to do, and smiled sheepishly.
“Who are you?”  Sorcha asked.  “I mean, what is your name?”
“I’m Sorcha.”
“Yes I know,” he replied with a smile.
“What is your family name?” the princess asked.
Colt’s smile faded.  He kept his silence and looked out over the sea.
“Surely you must have family,” she insisted.
Colt turned and looked at her.  “My family is dead,” he replied.
“I’m sorry,” she said after a moment’s silence.  He nodded in response.
“What _was_ your family’s name?” she prodded.
His mouth firmed before he let out a sigh.  “I am of the Raegant family.”
She gasped.  “The Raegant family?  That means…you’re of nobility!  Or were, I mean.  The Raegant’s were nobility here in Goldenshore before -.”  But she faltered, lost for words.
“Before your father labeled them traitors and had them killed,” Colt finished for her.
She bowed her head as they walked in silence through the rest of the city.  Somewhere along the way her hand found his again.  The gates of Castle Goldenshore came into view as day turned to dusk.
“Colt?” Sorcha said, breaking their long silence.
“I am truly sorry for your loss.  I know my father can be a bad man sometimes.”
“I know it’s not of your doing.”
They stood together for a moment outside the castle walls.
“Why did you help me today?” she asked.  “What made you come after me?”
“I was charged by Sir Lochlan to find you and bring you back to the castle.”
“I should have known,” she replied, rolling her eyes.
“Why were you fleeing him?”
“I have friends outside the city walls that I never see anymore.  My father won’t allow it.  He says it’s too soon after the war for me to be outside the castle walls.  But I hate being cooped up in the castle.  It’s fun to get out and run, and even more fun watching Sir Lochlan chase after me.”
Colt smiled. 
“How old are you?” she asked.
“I’ve seen thirteen summers.  You?”
“Twelve.”  She looked down at her soiled dress and brushed some dried mud from it. 
“This dress is ruined.  I must look awful at the moment, pardon my appearance.”
“Nonsense, you look beautiful,” Colt blurted out before he could stop himself, not knowing why he would say such an absurd thing.
She smiled shyly and blushed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, blushing himself.  He wiped his sweaty palms on his tunic.  “I was out of line,” he continued.
“No it’s quite alright.  Will you follow me into the castle?”
“I’d better not,” he replied.  “The king thinks all of my family has been killed.  If he finds out otherwise I’m sure he’ll have my head too.”
“Not if I talk to him,” Sorcha said.
“I’d rather not take any chances.”
“I’ll speak to my uncle Philip for you!  He’ll understand more than my father will.”
“Very well,” he sighed.
“I mean it!  I will!”
“I believe you!  But it’s not necessary, really.”
“I think it is, you deserve better than this,” she replied, touching his tattered tunic.
He scratched his head again.  “Not the finest, I know.”
“Did Lochlan not offer you some sort of reward?”
“He did.”
“And you will not come to claim it?”
Colt thought for a moment.  “You say you’ll talk to your uncle for me?”
“Yes, this very night.”
“And you think he can hold sway over your father.”
“I’m almost sure of it.  My father has far greater problems than you.”
“Let’s hope so.”
“Will you come in to claim your reward then,” she asked again, nodding towards the castle gate.
“I’ve a better idea,” he said, a grin coming to his face.  _Let’s let this adventure continue_, he thought.  After all, what did he have to lose?
Sir Lochlan set his crutch against the wall outside Princess Sorcha’s room.  _Her empty room_, he thought grimly.  He had sent his fellow guardsmen into the city to find her, yet none had returned as of yet.  The city of Goldenshore was the largest in the kingdom and darkness had now taken the land.  He didn’t want to think of the trouble she may be in.  He had let her get away.  After so many times of chasing after and catching her he had finally failed.  He knew his old age would catch up with him sooner or later, but never thought it would be this soon, and to make matters worse his ankle was broken, forcing him to walk about with a crutch.  _Like an invalid_, he thought sourly.
He took his position next to Sorcha’s door and peered down the long hallway that led from her chamber.  At any moment he expected King Marcas to appear from around the corner, demand his daughter, and have his guards behead him on the spot when he discovered she was missing.
Lochlan strained his eyes in the dim torch light, and then they went wide.  His heart skipped a beat.  Someone _was_ coming.  But after a moment noticed it wasn’t the king.  _Too small too be the king_, he thought thankfully.
“Can it be?” he muttered, daring to hope.  “Sorcha!?” he called out, ignoring the pain in his ankle as he limped towards her.  “Sorcha, is that you?”
“Yes Sir Lochlan,” she called.  “It’s me.”
“Dear child it _is_ you!  I’ve been worried to death about you!  Do you realize the agony you have caused me today young lady?”
“I’m sorry Sir Lochlan.  I didn’t mean to be so long.  I won’t ever run off again, I promise.”
“Somehow I don’t believe that.  Which one of my men brought you back?” he said, looking over her shoulder down the hall.  “I shall double his commission!”
“Colt brought me back,” she replied.
“Colt?” he replied, looking back at Sorcha.  “Who in god’s name is Colt?”
“The honorable young man you appointed to bring me back.”
Lochlan’s jaw dropped and his eyes went wide with wonder.  “_He_ brought you back?”
“Yes sir,” she said with a smile.
“God must be looking down on me today,” he muttered.  He looked down the hall again.  “Well, where is he?”
“He didn’t want to come into the castle.”
“He didn’t?” Lochlan asked confused, remembering how adamant the boy had been about his three golds.  “Ah,” he said with a smile, nodding his head.  “Now I remember.  I am to meet him at the _Copper Mug_, aren’t I?”
“No, he said to keep the reward you had offered him and to tell you he received something of much higher value.”
“Did he now?  And what would that be?”
“I gave him three locks of my hair,” she replied, grinning widely.
Lochlan scratched his head.  “Locks of hair you say?”
She nodded. 
“Odd lad, that boy is,” he muttered.
“Anyway, you are relieved Sir Lochlan.  Uncle Philip is coming to my chambers.  I need to discuss something of importance with him.”
“Very well young lady.  You are lucky to be back at the castle.”
“I know.”
She hugged him and walked into her room.  Her golden blonde hair wisped behind her and was the last thing he saw as he grabbed his crutch and headed down the hall.
“Three locks of hair,” he mumbled out loud.  He stopped and furrowed his brow for a moment, Sorcha’s golden hair fresh in his mind, and threw his head back, barking out a relieved laugh.  He shook his head smiling widely.  “Golden blonde hair.” he repeated.  The lad was certainly clever.  “Three gold pieces!  That little whelp _did_ get his three golds.”
Colt was back at the docks, feet dangling over the edge of the moonlit water below, still in his tattered, poor excuse for a tunic.  It was even dirtier than it had been when the day began.  How that was even possible, he had no idea.  He’d lost his cap too, he just remembered.  On any other day it would have been a miserable experience.  On any other day he’d have been furious with himself for passing up a chance for gold.  But not today.  He reached up and held the strand of his hair he had braided the princess’s into.  They stood out nicely against his dark brown locks.  He smiled, trying to think of the last time he had smiled so much in one day.  It had certainly been a long time.  The gold he hadn’t received was far from his mind.  Besides, he had befriended the princess.  If her uncle restored his family name he’d have plenty of opportunity to earn more gold, hopefully spend more time with Sorcha, and certainly find more adventures.  As dawn broke over the sea Colt stood and made his way back into the city, more sure of himself than he had been since he parents died.  A new life waited for him, and he’d be damned if he didn’t get an early start on it.

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2010-02-08 08:42:39
Excellant story. Well developed characters - I hope to read more stories about Colt

2010-01-06 09:37:35
No, sorry, didn't do anything for me - the style is dated and the characters are from a child's story book. Well written but too like ten thousand other fairy tales - which I suppose it is but modern children expect a lot more - like the hideous Harry Potter.

2010-01-05 09:18:43
Excellent adventure! I enjoyed it start to finish.

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