THE FALCON'S TREASURE, Pt. I (A Relic Hunters Short Story)
"Pirate Skull and Booty" photo courtesy of FreeImages, user Dani Simmonds.
The Falcon's Treasure, Pt. I (A Relic Hunters Short Story)
Falcon’s Lair was busier than Bane had ever remembered it being. “Think we can find a seat?”
Bane glanced down at his friend, Shinjou Masakatsu, more commonly known as Raven. Raven stood several inches shorter than Bane. His shoulder-length, dark, curly hair and nearly black eyes stood in stark contrast to Bane’s long, straight, platinum locks and amber eyes. Raven’s coloring was more bronze while Bane’s was golden. Both had spent numerous hours in the sun, but Raven, being Agrian and of “exotic” descent, tended to darken the longer he remained beneath the Illdirin sun. Bane, on the other hand, would grow more golden because of his mixture of fair Elvin and gold Seraph skin tones. So where Raven could romp about without a shirt or long pants in the summer, Bane tended to wear long sleeved t-shirts and jeans, and on what skin wasn’t covered, he slathered generous amounts of sunscreen to keep the sun from turning him into an embarrassing yellow spectacle.
“We’ll find a seat,” he said, and moved further into the diner. He spotted an empty booth in the back corner and pointed at it. “Over there.”
They made their way over and slid into the bench seats. A few moments later, a waitress came and laid menus down in front of them.
“Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked.
“I’ll take a hot, strong quava. Double cream and sucre,” Raven said. “Bane?”
“Water’s fine for me,” Bane answered.
The waitress left them alone to peruse their menus. She returned a few minutes later, set their drinks in front of them, then took their orders.
“So what’s this job you were telling me about?” Bane asked while they waited for their food to arrive.
“A friend of mine has been studying up on Queen Medi’s Mine. He thinks he knows where it’s at.”
“A friend of yours,” Bane said. He wasn’t impressed.
Raven took a drink of his quava, then leaned forward to speak more quietly. “Yeah, he thinks it’s somewhere near Cahyrst.”
“How could it be near Cahyrst? Queen Medi lived in Tumunzar City.”
“I know, right? But how much diamond mining have we found in the Indun Mountains? She would have had to import diamonds to her kingdom. And we both know Cahyrst had some serious diamond mining going on at that time.”
“True,” Bane said, tapping the table, deep in thought. He looked at his friend. “So your friend wants to hire us to find it?”
“How much is he willing to pay? You gave him a price, right?”
“’Course I did, and he’s willing to pay half a mil. He doesn’t want any special treatment.”
“Good to know,” Bane said, nodding.
The waitress came with their food. She set it down in front of them and asked if they’d like anything else.
Raven lifted his now empty quava cup. “More quava.”
“Sure thing, Hon,” she said. She went to get the pot, returned, and poured him a cup, gave him some more cream and sucre, then left again.
While eating, the friends continued to discuss the current job. After a few minutes, Bane pushed back his empty plate.
“Tell him we’ll take the job,” he said.
“Will do. In the meantime, I’m gonna get some dessert. It’s been a while since I’ve had any chacao cake.”
“Knock yourself—damn!” Bane muttered.
“What?” Raven asked, following his friend’s gaze. “Damn!”
Their rival, Brett Holt, had just entered the diner, and he was headed straight toward them, followed by his cousin, Charlie. Brett wore a cocky grin on his face, and at the sight of him, Bane balled his hands into fists.
“Take it easy, man,” Raven said quietly. “Whatever he says, just let it ride.”
Brett stopped at their table. “Hey, hey, what’s up, guys? Found any good treasure lately?”
“Nothing you’d be interested in,” Raven said, leaning back casually as he glared up at the fellow relic hunter.
Brett wore his denim shirt open at the neck, his skin every bit as bronzed as Raven’s. His smile was easy as he ran a hand through his collar-length brown hair. “Thought maybe you’d found some runes or something—oh, wait, I’ve got those!” Brett laughed at his own joke.
“You’re a disgrace to the business,” Bane muttered. “You give us all a bad name.”
“Now, now.” Brett tsked, waving a finger in the air. He pushed himself into the booth beside Bane. “I only did what I had to. You’d’a done the same. Admit it.”
“We’re not cheaters.” Bane spat, looking his rival straight in the eye.
“I didn’t cheat. I just—cut a few corners. Yeah, that’s it.”
“Do you even know how to find treasure on your own, Holt? Or do you always follow other hunters around, let them find it, then take it for yourself?” Raven asked. “You’re not fooling anyone, you know.”
“Oh, that,” Brett waved Raven’s words away. “That was a one-time deal.”
Brett put a hand over his heart. “I swear it. That was a one-time deal. Either one of you woulda done the same exact thing in my place.”
“No, we wouldn’t.” Bane argued. “You know what your problem is, Holt? All you care about it your own damn self. What’s in it for you. You don’t care about the hard work the rest of us put in. And in the process, you’ve got everyone believing that we’re all a bunch of selfish grave robbers and thieves.”
“Shut up!” Bane and Raven demanded in unison.
“Don’t get mad, guys,” Brett said, flashing a brilliant smile. “Get even. You think I’m a selfish, no good opportunist, then don’t let me get the drop on you next time. Think of me as your own personal trainer. I’m teaching you to think on your feet, to be ready for anything.”
“Oh, boy,” Raven said, rolling his eyes. “Someone’s full of himself.”
“Please,” Brett laughed. “You’re both just jealous because I’m the one who came back with the Kismet Runes.”
Bane glared at him. “The only reason you were the one who came back with them was because you were the one with the damn gun!”
Brett shrugged. “Details. It’s not my fault you weren’t expecting me. You should know by now to always expect me.”
Bane held a finger up in front of Brett’s face. “If you ever do anything like that again, you’ll wish you’d played fair. I’ll make sure of it.”
“And on that note,” Brett said, slipping out of the booth and standing beside Charlie, who’d watched the whole exchange with a worried expression on his face. “It’s time for me to go and let you fume. It’s clear you still can’t admit that I’m better than you, and—”
Bane slid out of the booth and was nearly on top of Brett before Raven knew it. The Agrian jumped up and forced himself between Bane and Brett. “Cool it, both of you.” He pushed Bane back toward the booth. “Sit, Bane.”
“Listen to Raven,” Brett said. “His cool head could keep you out of trouble.”
Raven turned on Brett. “And you, go find your own table. Preferably far away from ours. You come over here again, I’ll shoot you in the knee cap.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” Brett said, sizing him up.
“You want to test that theory?”
They stood staring at each other for several seconds, then Brett let out a breath and took on an air of boredom.
“Oh, very well. Your one track minds are boring me to tears anyway. Come, Charlie. There’s a good seat over by the windows.”
With that, Brett spun on his heel and walked away, seemingly oblivious to the fact that every eye in the diner was upon him at that moment.
Charlie hesitated. He looked as if he wanted to apologize.
“Charlie!” Brett barked.
Charlie ran to catch up to his cousin, his head hung low and his hands jammed into his pockets.
Raven began to slide back into the booth, but Bane put a hand on his arm.
“No, let’s get outta here.”
“But I haven’t had—”
“You can get dessert somewhere else. The longer I have to look at that creep, the more nauseated I’ll get.”
“Fair enough,” Raven said, and he straightened.
Bane left a good tip on the table, then he headed for the register with Raven hot on his heels. A few minutes later, they left and headed for Raven’s truck.
Raven dropped Bane off at their apartment building, then left to run some errands.
Bane went up to his apartment and flopped on the couch.
It took him a few moments to realize that something wasn’t right. He bolted upright and studied his surroundings. The signs were subtle, but they were there. A picture not quite hung right. A lamp shade tilted slightly more than it had been earlier. A drawer not quite shut all the way.
He rose to his feet and moved to the bedroom, careful to make sure that no one was lurking inside waiting for him.
He reached above his writing desk and took down the sword in its sheath that hung there. Quietly, he drew Aithne from its sheath, and moved out into the main room.
His eyes took in everything as he watched for movement. His instincts told him that whoever had been there was long gone, but he wasn’t taking any chances.
He moved into the kitchen and checked the cupboards. No one, not even a faerie or gnome was in there.
Slowly, methodically, he checked every room until he was back in the bedroom. He’d found no one lurking about. Nothing missing.
Suddenly, a thought came to him, and he dove for the desk. He unlocked the bottom drawer and felt around inside. He breathed a sigh of relief as he found what he was looking for, and he took it out. It was an old cigar box that had seen better days, but he held it as if it were a priceless treasure, because to him, it was.
His relief died as quickly as it had come when he realized the box was lighter than usual. Quickly, he opened it and looked inside. His heart nearly stopped. The journal was gone!
This was no ordinary journal. It was one of several journals that had been kept by his oldest and dearest friend, long since departed. Sahmi Zamada, the man the Falcon’s Lair had been named after, had been a legend in his own time. Now, more than a millennium later, he’d become the subject of many myths, songs, books, and even movies. The journal had told some of the stories from his time as captain of the Prospero and Leviathan. And in the man’s own words. That alone made the journal valuable. But to Bane, it had sentimental value of the highest order. It enabled the arael to stay connected to the past, a past he never wanted to forget.
And now his connection to that era was gone.
But who would have taken it? Who would have the guts to break into his apartment?
“Holt, dammit!” Bane muttered. Only Holt would be stupid enough to steal from him.
Bane put his sword away. He took out his hunting knife and strapped it on, then he grabbed his keys and left. He was going to Brett’s house. One way or another, he was going to get that journal back, and when he did, Holt would wish he’d never messed with the arael.
Bane’s anger seethed just beneath the surface, the only sign a clenching of his jaw. Years of experience had taught him to remain cool in these kinds of circumstances. He kept his goal in mind — confront Brett about the theft of his journal, then do what needed to be done.
When he arrived at Brett’s house, there were no vehicles in the driveway, which led him to believe his rival wasn’t home. Still, he went to the door and knocked. When he got no answer, he went around to the back to see if he was in the shed. The man wasn’t anywhere to be found.
Bane picked the lock to the back door and slipped inside, determined to find Sahmi’s journal and take it back. The rooms were large with high ceilings. The furnishings were white and modern, upholstered in charcoal gray fabric or made of solid wood. Oak, by the look of it. A few photos adorned the walls in the bedroom. The other rooms had large, framed artwork to accompany the rest of Brett’s furniture. The subject matter of the artwork didn’t surprise Bane in the least. In one, a man and woman kissing beside a flashy sports car. In another, a beach front bar on a tropical island where the patrons were beautiful and wore little. A brightly lit city at night where everything glittered like gold. It was no secret among relic hunters that Brett Holt was one of the flashier of their kind. These paintings only confirmed what Bane already knew — Brett Holt cared only about great wealth and the lifestyle it offered.
He searched every room with care, putting everything back just as he’d found it. When done, he still hadn’t found the journal.
He thought about sitting and waiting for Brett to show up. He was just about to sit down on the sofa when Brett’s home communication device chirped. When no one answered, there came a beep, then a masculine voice spoke.
“I’ve got you a flight to Gaayabaar. It leaves at six. Call me for the confirmation number before five. Also, as you instructed, I’ve added a surprise for your rivals. You won’t have to worry about them for a while. You should have no problem finding what you’re looking for with them out of the way. Let me know what you find, and I’ll give you an estimate. Otherwise, have a good trip. I’ll talk to you when I talk to you.”
There was a click, a dial tone, then the line went dead.
Bane pulled out his mobile communications device and dialed Raven’s number. His friend didn’t answer, and that gave him a bad feeling.
He exited the back of the house and walked around to where his car was parked by the sidewalk out front. He kept trying to call Raven all the way back to their apartment building, getting no response.
He saw the law enforcers and firefighters before he ever reached the apartment building. People crowded the sidewalks and yards to watch as firefighters went in and out of the building, sometimes bringing people with them. Law enforcers stood talking to various onlookers, no doubt getting their eyewitness accounts — or non-accounts.
Bane got out of his car and started asking around. He ran into Rudy Watts, his upstairs neighbor, and asked him about what was happening.
“Someone set a fire in the basement. It’s out now, but I guess they think someone deliberately set it. They want everyone out so they can search the building. They haven’t said what they’re looking for.”
“Have you seen Raven?” Bane asked.
Rudy nodded. “About ten minutes before everyone got here, I saw him going out the back. He was with a couple of guys.”
“Guys? Can you describe them?”
Rudy thought about it for a moment. “Both about average height and build. One was blond, the other a redhead. Come to think of it, Raven didn’t look very happy at the time.”
“How did he look?”
“If I had to make a guess, he was pissed pretty good.”
“Do you know which way they went?”
“No, sorry. I was in a rush to get out. They’d told me about the fire, and it was pretty heavy on my mind.”
“Of course,” Bane said, understanding. “Thanks for your help.”
“I hope you find him.”
“So do I.”
Bane headed back to his car and climbed in. He wasn’t sure where to take it from here. He had to find Raven, but he also had to find the journal.
He decided to call the League of Sentinels Headquarters. Maybe someone there could do something. He would tell her about the message he’d heard at Brett Holt’s place, though he didn’t know if it would help her. She had fifty sentinels at her disposal. Surely, they could find Raven.
As for Bane, he planned to go to Gaayabaar.
He took out his MCD and called Catin Mondragon, the leader of the Westerview chapter of the League of Sentinels. She answered on the second ring.
“Can you get your people out looking for Raven? He’s missing. I think he’s been abducted.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Someone may have set a fire in the basement here, and Raven was seen leaving with two guys. According to the eye witness, he looked angry.”
“Who set the fire? Is everyone all right?”
“As far as I can tell, no one’s been hurt. Raven’s missing, and I’m pretty sure Brett Holt’s behind this.”
“Brett? Would he do something like that?”
“I have no doubt he would. Someone stole Sahmi’s journal from my apartment. My guess is that Brett hired someone to take it. They were too careless and left clues. What’s more, I went to his house to get it back. He wasn’t there, but while I was looking around, someone called and left a message. Said they got him a ticket to Gaayabaar.”
“So? Lots of people travel. And Gaayabaar — heck, all of Al Shasra is a hot spot for tourism nowadays.”
“You didn’t let me finish,” Bane said, impatient. “The guy on the phone said he’d left a surprise for his rivals, that ‘they wouldn’t be a problem for him for a while’.”
“My guess is it’s Raven and me. Which is why I called you. Raven’s missing. I need you and your people to find him while I go to Gaayabaar and track down Brett.”
“Are you going after Sahmi’s treasure?”
“Looks like I don’t have a choice. If I don’t get to it first, Brett will. I can’t let him have anything of Sahmi’s.”
“I understand. We’ll do everything we can to find Raven, but please, be careful. I don’t trust Brett Holt as far as I can spit.”
“You and me both. I’ll be careful. Just find Raven.”
“Will do. He’s at the top of the list. Don’t worry. We’ll find him.”
Bane felt better about leaving, now that Catin had agreed to make finding Raven a priority. He went home, quickly packed a bag, then went to the airport.