Spears of light stabbed through the slats in the cart, playing over Akheel’s muscles and manacles. He rolled his fingers through it, knowing it would be far less pleasant when striking his bare flesh outside. Who knew what these dogs had planned for him, or how long he would have to wait for death.
The cart jerked to a stop. His senses were assaulted immediately. Bright light, as he had guessed, but also a stench of offal in the street. There was a barking to the loud talk of his captors, which ceased for a moment when he emerged. Someone shouted. “When’d these tanned bastards get so big? Is Goliath still running around the Holy Land, having his way with their women?” Akheel did not understand the words, but he knew the laughter after was directed at him.
The greatest defiance he could devise was to stick out his chin and stare straight forward. Never as he was guided through the muddy street did his gaze meet those of the tormentors jeering at him. Surely his destination was the executioner’s block, punishment for putting a sword to so many of the enemy’s soldiers when they invaded Akheel’s homeland.
That knowledge made the decision easier when a man stood in Akheel’s path and spit in his face. Lifting the massive iron chain that dragged him forward, Akheel wrapped it around the dog’s neck and squeezed until blood poured out of his eyes. No need to speak the language to understand the screams that came next.
Men rushed at him with spears and straight swords. A single voice rang out, and they ceased. In strange, leather armor, a man with the posture of a prince but the scars of a warrior approached Akheel, grinning. “Exactly the sort of chap we need. Just look at you. You have all the skills you need to fight tyranny when you see it. Wonderful.”
The strange man barked at the others, and guards came and unchained Akheel, one having to climb a horse to unlock the yoke around his neck. The strange man clapped Akheel on the arm. “Tell me, my new, brown friend – what do you know about dragon-hunting?”