The orange light of the campfire glinted off the spear tips thrust in our faces. I held my hands up to show I posed no threat.
“We are arrows in the dark,” Pelban said. I saw him hold up his silver pin from the corner of my eye. The sharp metal point inches from my forehead persuaded me from fumbling for my own pin. Pelban’s guard grunted his acknowledgment of the passphrase and spears were lowered. We climbed to our feet and followed the two men into the camp.
The guards deposited us at the central campfire then returned to their posts. A pair of outlaws walking past hailed Pelban and he rose to join them. I took a seat by the fire and glanced about the camp. People huddled around a couple satellite fires, while others stood in tight groups conversing. Three canvas tents, one by each fire, were the only standing structures. The front flap of the tent by the central campfire flipped back and the aylar who spoke at the induction ceremony stepped out. I watched him as he gazed over the camp, his head nodding on occasion as though he were noting someone’s presence. When our eyes met, I did not turn away, and he smiled, but continued his sweep. Then, once finished, he looked back at me, strode to the fire, and sat down across from me.
We stared at each other for several moments, taking the other’s measure. The fire gave a ruddy cast to his features, which were dominated by the mass of dark, wiry hair that covered his face and head. He wore a simple, knee-length linen shift, belted at his waist. I told myself I would let him be the first to speak, the first to signal an end to our little confrontation, but I could feel questions welling up inside me. Pelban came to my rescue as he took a seat beside me and drew the man’s attention.
“Sahllos, I am glad to see you escaped.”
“Yes. I continue to serve at Jord’s pleasure as long as he has a use for me.” He eyes strayed back to me. Pelban did not miss the gesture.
“This is my brother, Keldon.”
I frowned at the statement. How did he know who I was? The idea that Pelban may have spoken about me in detail without my knowledge, or that this group had been prying into my life unsettled me. I looked at Pelban, and discovered a combination of guilt and anticipation in his face. What had he told them?
“You are wondering how I know,” Sahllos said. I fixed the aylar with my sternest glare.
“Do not blame your brother,” Sahllos chuckled. “He has done his best to respect your privacy in the face of my demands. And I have not sought out on my own more than he was willing to give.”
My anger surrendered to my curiousity. “That does not explain your interest in me.”
“Oh, I am not interested in you, Keldon Ironbiter. Jord is.”