Seventh Son: Chapter 12

Caleb rolled over, groaning as the morning sunlight struck him full in the face.

It’d been hours past midnight by the time he’d finally got to bed – he’d meant to go sooner, but there’d been planning, and singing, and then Talan had brought out a small keg of something which smelled very strongly of apples and tasted like nothing he’d ever encountered before, and there’d been more singing, and drinking, and dancing, and after that everything had got a little bit blurry.

He’d obviously found his way to some sort of bed, though, given he was currently lying on a very comfortable pile of furs inside a tent. He wasn’t entirely sure whose tent, mind, though the shock of red hair visible at one end of the lump of snoring blankets he seemed to be sharing the space with implied that it probably belonged to one of the twins.

He rubbed his eyes, sitting up and biting back a curse as the pain in his ribs reestablished itself with a vengeance. He’d gone to sleep wearing the binding-shirt Talan had lent him, and while he wasn’t about to take it off any time soon, he had to admit that it hadn’t exactly done wonderful things for his bruised side. Working out somewhere to sleep which wasn’t shared with anyone else in the company was rapidly becoming a priority.

Speaking of sharing…

He looked across at the snoring heap, trying to make a guess as to which of the twins it was – and finding this exercise suddenly rendered completely unnecessary as Kala poked her head round the open flap of the tent door, grinning widely.

“Mornin’, sleepyhead. My brother’s snoring wake you up?”

He’d not exchanged more than a few words with the female thief since he’d joined the company, but her smile and apparently genuine good cheer were almost infectious, and he couldn’t help but feel somewhat at ease around her. “I think it was the sun more than anything.” And then, as a sudden panicked thought took hold of him, “They’re not waiting for us, are they?”

Kala shook her head. “Don’t fret. We’re taking the day to set things to rights here before we move on – that and recoverin’ from last night.” She leaned forward, reached out and – to Caleb’s surprise – poked him gently in the nose. “You’re a more than fair singer, you know that?”

He cringed. He’d been trying not to sing – while he could pull his speaking voice down to a passable tenor, he wasn’t entirely sure he could do the same with his singing voice – but the drink and the fire had gone to his head, and they’d been singing songs he knew, and he’d forgotten that he wasn’t just an ordinary boy and…

But if Kala had noticed anything out of the ordinary, she wasn’t commenting on it. “What was that last one you sang? The one about the lady and the travellers?”

“Fair Aveline?” It was an old song, and an older story – the nobly born lady who left her high tower and her arranged marriage for the travelling bard and her rag-tag band of troupers – but it was one of the better arrangements of it, and a popular late-night song in the tavern in the village.

“That’s the one.” She rubbed the tip of one pointed ear, looking away slightly. “You should sing that more often. ‘s a good song.”

“I’ll remember that.” There was something she wasn’t saying, but he didn’t know her nearly well enough yet to ask. Instead, he found his gaze drawn to her fingers and, specifically, to the strange metal jewellery she wore on them.

He’d noticed the jewellery on both Kala and Alak’s hands before – strange not-quite rings around the joints of all four fingers and the thumb on each hand, made of dark metal with no shine on it – but he’d not been in the position to be able to focus on it properly before. Now, with her crouching within an arm’s length of him, he found that he couldn’t take his eyes off it.

Unsurprisingly, she noticed him staring. She raised her right hand, wiggling her fingers at him. “Like ’em?”

“What are they?” Blunter than he should have phrased it, perhaps, but this was Kala. If anyone in the company wasn’t going to take offense at bluntness, it was probably her.

She laughed, and stuck her tongue out at him. “Guess.”

“Er…” He had no idea. But she seemed to want him to make at least one wrong guess before she’d tell him, so he decided he might as well play along. “They’re a religious thing?”

“Nice, but no. Try again.”

“They’re magical?”

“I wish!” She wiggled her fingers again. “Give up?”


“They’re splints.”

He blinked. “How does that work?” The jewellery didn’t seem to be immobilising the twins’ fingers in any way, and quite apart from that they didn’t seem to have been injured.

“Like this.” She pulled the not-rings off the forefinger of her right hand and, before Caleb could stop her, pressed her fingertip hard against her left palm, pushing the finger back far further than it should have been able to bend with no visible sign of discomfort.

Caleb winced, and looked away. “Um.”

Even without looking at her face, he could tell she was laughing at him. “Me and Alak, we were born with joints that bend in ways they ain’t supposed to. Really useful for getting into places, and out of handcuffs, but it means dislocating your fingers if you wave your hands too much and dropping your hip out of its socket if you get up too fast.”

“But doesn’t it… hurt?”

“When they go out? Aye, like nothing else. Doesn’t hurt when they bend weird, though.” There was a brief pause, then she continued: “Alright, you can look again now.”

He did so, feeling somewhat embarrassed at having looked away in the first place. “So the splints stop you dislocating your fingers?”

“That’s the idea. Dana made ’em for us.” She grinned at his expression. “Doesn’t look the type to do delicate work, does she?”

“I wasn’t going to say it!”

“Didn’t need to.” She sat down, starting to pull off one of her boots as she did so. “She makes jewellery and all.”

He wasn’t entirely sure what he was supposed to say to that, so he stayed silent as Kala finished pulling off her boot (revealing a slim metal-and-leather brace around her ankle) and weighed it in her hand thoughtfully – before throwing it with a worrying amount of force towards the snoring lump of blankets.

“Oi!” The snoring lump twitched, and a hand shot out of it, catching the boot mid-flight and sending it flying back towards its owner. Alak sat bolt upright, hair sticking up on end, and pulled a face at his sister. “No fair throwing things at me when I’m asleep.”

“Can’t be asleep if you’re talking to me, moss-for-brains.”

“Says you.”

“Says me. And you’re having a conversation, so you’re not asleep, so you’re fair game.”

The boot went winging back across the tent and Caleb, fully aware from growing up alongside six brothers that this wasn’t likely to de-escalate any time soon, decided to take his chance and escape while the going was good.


Copyright © 2018 by Finn McLellan.  All rights reserved.

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