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Eyes of Gaal — a fantasy short story


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Eyes of Gaal
A god's eyes hold a god's power


Can you steal from a god?
A witch and a thief tempt fate when they seek a god’s power.
It was neither the tang of sea nor the rancidness of rotting fish, garbage and offal that roused me from my doze. Nor was it the creaking of ships at berth, the loading and off-loading of cargo, nor the movement and cries of men. No, it was none of the everyday stench and noise about the quay of Portside, that festering pustule that marks the fair cheek of uVaal, the Splendid City. It was the clinking of coin into my bowl. I raised my head.

“Tell me a story,” the stranger said. “They say that you know of the Eyes of Gaal.”

"Only thieves seek the Eyes of Gaal and their fate. Sit, and listen.”

It was the night of Full Sail, the month of the Squid, when the danger of Typhoon had passed. Revelers filled the streets of Ospraa By The Sea, the only city of the Isle of Mûta, whose name means death. . . .

Excerpt from Niingaal's Amulet: Return of Kaaleel included.

He came in his loaded cart to her small village every spring. Snow lay still on peaks and in shadowed places, streams rushed with cold, clear water and the hills were greening and it was time for the flocks and herds with their newborns to migrate to higher pasture.

To the simple rural villagers, he was many things: healer to animal and human; consignor of wool and hide, sheep and cattle and aged cheeses destined for lowland cities; and bringer of goods and news. The villagers called him Tinker Daalrü, but to the child Kaaleel, he was always The Trickster.

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The Thief

It was the night of Full Sail, the month of the Squid, when the danger of Typhoon had passed. Revelers filled the streets of Ospraa By The Sea, the only city of the Isle of Mûta, whose name means death. Brilliant ribbons and banners bedecked the ships and boats that rocked calmly in sheltered Ospraa Bay and streamed from every tower and building. It had been a bad year—six typhoons scoured Mûta—and the people celebrated survival. The followers of TaMer, the Great Fish, packed the square before the temple of their god.

Tikk slid easily through the press and when he emerged the pockets of his cloak were heavier than when he entered. He slipped down an alley to a less crowded street and zigzagged his way to a tavern in the eastern quarter. Even here a crowd toasted the full moon and the blessings of TaMer, but Tikk found a quiet nook where—with a cool cup of quash—he could inspect his catch.

Five soft leather pouches, heavy with coin, the drawstrings neatly cut, lay upon the table; a sixth, lighter, smaller, of a velvety black cloth, Tikk held in his hand. He could feel three round objects within the bag and was ready to open it when he noticed the change that came over the crowd. The tavern door had opened and closed and, like ripples on water, the room had quieted.

Tikk leaned out but couldn’t see what caused the stillness. Then the people blocking his view moved aside as a lone woman came toward him.

It was strange for a woman to walk the night streets of Ospraa alone, especially in this quarter, unless she be a harlot or priest of TaMer. More strange if she dared, as this one did, to wear her wealth openly—the gold clasp that held close her cape of the same velvety cloth as the bag Tikk held. She stood a moment, looking down at him, then slid onto the bench opposite as the celebration noises resumed.

Two things about the woman captured Tikk’s notice: the cat’s-eye chalcedony that throbbed with an inner light on a cord about her throat, and her emerald eyes. Eyes of the deepest, clearest green and sparkle of only the finest first water stones.

“You have taken what is mine. Return it.”

Her voice had the smooth fullness of a lush wine with an underlying bite that commanded respect; a wine Tikk never tasted but longed to try. He had no doubt what she wanted and wondered how she had followed him, though he failed to ask. Mesmerized, he gave her the bag. The throbbing gray eye of banded quartz at her throat dulled, yet her emerald eyes continued to gleam.

“You are a bold thief who steals from the supplicants of TaMer upon his very doorstep; takes from his lips the food meant to feed his pleasure. Are you so bold as to risk the sharp teeth of a god’s wrath?”

Tikk fingered the bags of coin on the table, answered with a bravado he barely felt. “These are like the crumbs from a crusty loaf that fall in the lap or on the table; hardly noticed and meant to be swept away.”

The woman took Tikk’s cup of quash and leaned back. She studied him as she sipped. Looked deeply into his dark eyes that reflected the candlelight like polished onyx. The quiet between them drowned out the din of the tavern. She leaned forward and pressed the cup to his lips.

“Would you glean another god’s leavings?”

Before Tikk could answer, she spoke again.

“Where do you live? Take me there.”