Chapter 9 Closes and I Win NaNoWriMo!
I came down with a flu/cold thing early Monday morning. It woke me up at 2 in the morning and I knew I was done for. What I didn’t know is if I would be able to pound out the last 1,880 words needed to finish NaNoWriMo. The thought of coming so far and losing on the last day was repulsive to me, so last night I cranked out 800 words and this afternoon, still sicker than the proverbial dog, I crossed the finish line. It feels good, and I have earned the right to display this:
I also managed to finish Chapter 9, and confirmed there will be a Chapter 10, as the story is not yet done. I have the ePub and PDF versions of Chapter 9 available, and without further ado the words that pushed me over the finish line:
Zuhayr stayed a pace or two ahead of Katarina the entire walk to her home, striding with rigid purpose. When they arrived at Katarina’s home Joe expected to see a small crowd arrayed outside, either protesting or keeping watch. Instead there was no one loitering about, not even the guard who had carried Ignatius from the entrance. Joe was about to ask Katarina if she were certain Ignatius was even inside when he was shocked to see Zuhayr open her front door and walk in, as if he owned the place. Katarina, showing no signs this bothered her, calmly followed Zuhayr into her abode, Joe in toe.
They found Zuhayr standing in her foyer, looking around puzzled. “Well, where is he?” he demanded. “I assumed he would be here, or did you lead me on a wild goose chase?”
“You were the one doing the leading,” Joe said.
Zuhayr glared at Joe with impatient malice and lifted his hand about to scold Joe when Katarina replied, “He is through here.” She walked beyond the staircase, then took and abrupt left turn and disappeared from sight. Joe hurried to follow after her, not wishing to be left alone in a room with the blue man. Behind the staircase he found a spacious suite of rooms, decorated in a subdued yet tasteful victorian style, complete with a parlor, a bathroom, and a generously sized bedroom. The guard was standing in the parlor, outside the door to the bedroom. His bearing and general air of alertness gave Joe the feeling that should anything go even slightly wrong Ignatius would be dispatched without thought. Joe spied Katarina in the bedroom standing next to the bed, upon which the prone figure of lay, still, unmoving, and barely breathing.
Zuhayr strode in calmly and without a sense of urgency. Joe didn’t like his attitude. He understood why he harbored hatred in his soul, but he gathered that Zuhayr had never met Ignatius personally, otherwise he would know him to be a good man fighting for the right things, and truly remorseful for the harm Sikander has done to people. Zuhayr didn’t even acknowledge the guard standing by the door, which Joe thought odd considering the fuss he made earlier, and strode right past him into the bedroom.
He stood at the foot of the bed and surveyed the motionless form of Ignatius with distaste. “So this is the man who caused all that trouble,” he stated.
“I won’t be baited into another argument with you Zuhayr. Do what I brought you here to do,” Katarina told him.
“You don’t need me,” Zuhayr sneered, “you need a mortician.”
Joe, who had moved into the room, standing just inside the door, interjected, “He’s not dead. He’s still breathing. Look.”
Zuhayr grunted, begrudgingly agreeing that Ignatius was in fact still alive. “I don’t see what I can do here,” he said lackadaisically. “It looks to me like you need a healer.”
“I thought you were a healer,” Joe blurted out.
Zuhayr barked out a laugh, “In all my life I’ve never been confused with a healer before.”
“If you aren’t a healer then what are you?” Joe demanded.
Zuhayr turned to face Joe. “Have you ever been to the circus?”
“Yeah, sure,” Joe said dismissively.
“And have you seen the side shows?”
“What, you mean like the strong man and the bearded lady?” Joe asked, wondering where this was going.
“The very same.”
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Joe asked impatiently.
“I am a geek.”
Joe looked at him absolutely confused. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Zuhayr furrowed his brows, “Exactly everything.”
“How does your affinity for computers, or comic books, or circuses for that matter have to do with this?”
“What are you talking about?”
Katarina, catching on, stepped in, “He means, Joseph, that he can eat anything.”
Joe looked at Zuhayr questioningly. “What does that have to do with being a geek?”
“A geek,” Zuhayr responded condescendingly, “is someone who can and does eat anything.”
Comprehension struck Joe. “Oh, like that guy in the circus who eats nails and bees and stuff.”
Zuhayr nodded. “Precisely.”
Joe furrowed his brow. “So what does that have to do with this?” A look of worry passed across his face, “You aren’t going to eat Ignatius are you?”
“Don’t be absurd,” Zuhayr chided.
“Then what exactly are you able to do for him?” Joe practically demanded.
“When I say I can eat anything, I mean absolutely anything. It’s not a figure of speech.”
Joe looked puzzled. “I don’t see how that will help us here.”
“Neither do I,” Zuhayr added, looking at Katarina. “He does not look as if he needs my help.”
“Come closer and inspect for yourself,” Katarina offered. “I’m sure you’ll notice it right away.”
Zuhayr simply leaned over Ignatius’s still form and took a breath, then righted himself immediately. “Ah. I see what you mean.” Katarina smiled. “It would appear a certain giant is out running amok again,” he paused. “As I recall they have been feuding for quite some time. How certain are you that Sikander is behind this?”
“Bob, the giant that did this to Ignatius, is also trying to kill me, and has been since I first arrived here,” Joe testily informed Zuhayr.
Zuhayr eyed Joe, plainly curious. “Why would Bob want to kill you I wonder?” he said to himself. “He’s not the sort to attack without reason or cause.”
“We don’t know how, but it is related. Ignatius only got hurt because he was protecting me. Had Ignatius not been there Bob and his merry band of live action role players would still have attacked me.”
Zuhayr addressed Katarina, “I’ll help, but you will still need a healer.”
“His physical wounds are minor,” Katarina said. “Once you are finished we’ll see that he gets medical attention Topside.”
“I didn’t mean for him,” Zuhayr nodded toward the bed. “I meant for the kid here. He’s got a gimpy leg.”
“It’s just a sprain,” Joe protested. “I’ll be fine.”
“Suit yourself. I thought you were being chased and hounded. Maybe I was wrong,” Zuhayr said, shrugging. “In any case I’ll need some room to work, if you would be so kind as to wait outside the room I’ll get started,” he said with politeness.
Katarina and Joe exited the room while Zuhayr poked and prodded at Ignatius’s body. Katarina led Joe to a small sofa and made him sit down. “We should get a look at that,” she told him. “I want to make sure it’s just a sprain.”
“I’ll be fine,” Joe insisted. “It’s feeling better already,” he said with a wince as he tapped his foot on the ground. “See?”
“Right. Off with the shoe. At least let me put some ice on it and wrap it up in a bandage.” Joe began to protest. “I won’t take no for an answer. Either you take your shoe off or I will do it for you. Choose.”
Wincing Joe took of his shoe to reveal a red and swollen ankle. He sucked in a breath when Katarina touched it. “Let me get some ice,” she said getting up to leave. “I don’t have to tell you to stay put do I?”
“No, mother,” Joe said playfully.
Katarina shot him a glance and left the rooms. Joe turned his attention to the bedroom where Zuhayr had carefully removed Ignatius’s coat and shirt and was now methodically working over his chest alternating from smelling, to gently squeezing. He continued doing, across all of Ignatius’s chest and down his arms. Finally satisfied with his explorations he lifted Ignatius’s arm up to his mouth. Joe stifled a cry of alarm as Zuhayr wrapped his lips around Ignatius’s elbow and began to suck with great force. He paused for a breath then sucked at his elbow again, finally laying it down on the bed. He then quickly shuffled over to the other side of the bed and repeated the strange ritual again on the other elbow. Then to Joe’s amazement, and near horror, he leaned over the bed, bared his teeth, and rested his ear on Ignatius’s breast. Nodding to himself he stood up, walked back around to the other side of the bed, and leaning in, hovered over Ignatius’s rib cage, and sucked in three deep breaths of air.
“There. ’Tis done,” he announced, standing tall. He turned and looked to Joe, “He’l live,” he said spitefully.
Katarina returned with a bag of ice, and ignoring Zuhayr placed it on Joe’s ankle and began wrapping it with a bandage. “You are done, then?” Katarina asked Zuhayr, not taking her eyes off of Joe’s ankle.
“Yes,” he said joining them in the sitting room.
“You got it all?” she questioned, looking up at him with frightful authority.
Zuhayr nodded solemnly, “I know better than to cross you.” He started leaving the room, “Since I am done here,” he began.
“We have further need of you,” Katarina called out quietly.
“It’s just a sprain, really,” Joe said, suddenly afraid she was going to have Zuhayr suck the life out of his foot.
Katarina smiled at Joe reassuringly. She called out to Zuhayr, “I know you noticed other scents on Ignatius,” she said.
Zuhayr turned and regarded Katarina coolly. “He still bears the stench of his so-called former master,” he sneered. “He’s just as dirty today as he was back then.”
“What you noticed were two of many pieces of an active binding.”
Zuhayr looked mildly impressed. “I never thought he had it in him to work with such skill,” he said.
“They aren’t his,” Joe protested.
“And what would you know of such matters?” Zuhayr asked snidely.
“I know enough to know and realize Ignatius was as in the dark about them as we were, and that he was surprised to find them.”
“You do know he is a skilled liar, yes?”
“This wasn’t some role he was playing. He practically died trying to save me,” Joe practically yelled.
“I can confirm the binding is not Ignatius’s doing,” Katarina said softly, bringing the heated debate to a close.
Zuhayr grunted. “What is it you want from me? You know eating bindings is a risky affair.”
“We found, and confirmed, there are many parts to this binding,” Katarina explained. “Unfortunately we were ambushed before we could find it locus.”
Zuhayr sighed, “And you want me to help you find it.”
Katarina nodded. “I know you have resources.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Zuhayr said defiantly.
“You may think you act without my knowledge, but you are mistaken.” Zuhayr began to protest, but Katarina cut him off, “Regardless there are two things I need from you. First we must locate the locus of this binding. If at all possible I would prefer if we could find all pieces of it and unravel the binding, but failing that I will need to you eat the binding.”
Zuhayr narrowed his eyes. “You ask a great deal. What is in it for me?”
“You can brag you got the better of Sikander,” Joe chimed in with sass, earning him a glares from both Katarina and Zuhayr.
“I can grant you no more than my goodwill at this time,” Katarina said quietly.
Zuhayr snorted. “I’ve worked for less, but what you ask of me will take time. Time I do not wish to spare. You will have to do better than that.”
“There is naught else I can offer,” Katarina said with firmness.
“You haven’t even told me who this kid is that Sikander is interested in him, nor why I should care to help him,” Zuhayr responded.
Katarina sighed. “Sikander thinks Joe is Helmut.”
Zuhayr’s eyes widened with surprise. He stared at Joe with renewed interest. “I’ll help,” he said in a hoarse whisper.