The last light of the day disappeared below the tree line behind the castle as the six watchers looked for their way into the fortress, Tito had been sent to eat and then sleep, he would stay in the cave until he was asked to join them.

The castle was surrounded by a wide moat and, as the last rays disappeared, the draw bridge was raised and the portcullis was closed, Sergei stood on the highest point to look down at their chosen target, the gate wall was patrolled by four soldiers, the other three walls had only two soldiers on each wall, they would walk from one end to the other and pass in the middle, that way the whole length of the wall was under their eyes, open flame torches were evenly spaced along the parapets but there were still small shadows between each torche.

The moat was more than fifteen feet wide, to Sergei’s men it was little more than a jump, the stone walls went upwards for over forty feet, in front of the wall, between the moat and the wall was a narrow strip of grass no more than three feet wide, it was plenty of width for the men to land on, the scaling of the wall was also of little problem for men with their abilities.

The small group settled down to wait for the midnight bell, it was at that time that it would be best to move, the guards would be feeling comfortable and a little sleepy, Sergei set out the plan of attack, he and Paulek, along with three of the newly arrived captains men, would take the east wall, Lanslo, Hawk and three more of the captains men, would take the west wall, Jorge and Pavlik along with the last four newcomers, would take the south wall, the north wall or gate wall, would be taken by them all after the others were cleared, they would have to be very quiet until they had the four walls under control.

Once the walls were secure, they would leave two men at the gate and enter the keep, Sergei stressed that the Baron and his Lordship were to be taken alive, any soldiers who openly surrendered were to be left alive but detained in a secure area, any who tried to resist were to be put to death immediately, Sergei also checked to see if all his men were well fed, if any needed extra blood for injuries or strength they had his full authority to take what they needed from the soldiers who resisted.

As the middle hour neared, Sergei, Lanslo and Jorge, along with the ten men of the captains guard, took the packs they had carried and opened them, Sergei looked at the three boys and smiled as he took black clothing from the packs, there were three smaller sets for the boys, after removing their boots, everyone got changed, the trousers were narrow at the ankle and they were tied tightly to their calves with black thongs, the smocks had a hood sewn to them and these covered the head and face of the men, they were also given a pair of soft black leather gloves that had the fingers cut short, Sergei then set about showing the three boys how to fix their swords over their shoulders so they would not knock any of the stones on the wall as they climbed, with minutes to spare, everyone was ready for the attack.

Quickly everyone moved out towards the castle that towered over the surrounding lands and looked like a large black mountain, Paulek felt every blade of grass as he moved quickly at Sergei’s side, the other three men close behind, once at the moat, it took little effort for them all to jump the wide divide, landing silently on the grass near the wall.

Paulek looked up at the towering stone wall, he knew he could easily scale the bare stones after all the training he had been given by Jorge, it was just a matter of letting his feet and hands find their own hold and his new found strength would soon pull him up the wall.

Everything went as planned until they were all hanging close to the top of the parapet, their fingers and toes holding onto impossibly small niches and cracks, they waited patiently for the two guards on their side to come together at the centre just as the others were, they would have to take them out before they could utter a sound or be seen by the other three walls.

Finally the time came, with the smoothness of practice, Sergei and the other three went over the parapet, Paulek was only a second behind but, as he landed silently on the parapet, he saw by quickly glancing around, that all three walls were now filled only with their friends, the six guards lay in dark pools of blood at their feet, not a sound had been heard, next they began to make their way towards the front north wall, the four guards there had not heard a thing and were casually walking back And forth on their respective beats, their heads almost down as they partially slept while patrolling, they felt safe as the castle had never been under attack in all the years that they could remember and the night patrol was something they felt was not needed but was only out of habit.

The attack when it came caught them totally by surprise, it seemed to their human sight, that the very shadows moved in on them, it was the last thing they saw before they joined the others of the night watch in a pool of blood on the parapet, Sergei told two men to stay over the gate, the rest would make for the barracks while he, Paulek and Hawk went for the Baron and Jorge, Lanslo and Pavlik went after his Lordship, they envisioned little problem with His Lordship but the Baron was one of them and that could well be another story.

The Captain led his men towards the barracks, they were no more than dark shadows in the night, Sergei took his two boys towards the central keep where he was sure that both His Lordship and the Baron would be housed, once inside they would be able to soon tell who was sleeping where, from the narrow window slits in the keep, they could all see that many torches still sent out their light, perhaps the men inside were still up and around, the Baron would certainly be as he was, like them, a night person.

As they neared the doorway, the six saw that there were also guards at the door, keeping to the shadows, they closed in on the unsuspecting guards, from inside the keep they could now hear the sounds of music and laughter, it seemed the Lord and his Baron were making a night of it, “all the better” thought Sergei.

As Paulek stood in the shadows with the others, he became aware of a strong heady smell in the air, it was as he caught the smell that his sharp hearing also picked up the rhythmic slapping of flesh on flesh, suddenly a picture of his little brother came into his mind as being the one that was the recipient, his blood flared with anger and his eyes flashed red as he took a step towards the sound of sexual activity, he was pulled up short as Sergei grasped his arm in a tight grip and then whispered in his ear.

“Shh, not yet, if you move now you’ll give us away too soon, be calm, you don’t know if it’s your brother or not, just wait, it’ll only be another minute.”

Paulek tried to struggle but Sergei’s strength was too much, slowly he settled back into the shadows, if it was his brother then there would be blood to pay for what they had or were doing too him.

In the guard room beside the keep door, the Captain continued his pounding of the young boy leaning over the table, he was small and young and the Captain took great delight in working him hard, the boys small hands were grasping the other side of the table as the captain held him by his slim hips with his large hands, his hips were now speeding up as the Captain felt the rising of his man juices, then, lifting those small thin hips high so the boys feet were off the floor, the Captain rammed himself fully home in the tight hot hole, the grunt and cry of pain from the boy coincided with the first spurt of hot man juice.

The Captain was fully intent only on his own pleasure, had he been able to see the look on the boys face he would have taken more care of the young boy, but that was not his way, it was all to rare that he was able to get such fresh meat to play with instead of the sloppy old harlots in the castle.

The boy dare not look around as he knew his eyes were still red and his small fangs were still projecting from his mouth, he also knew he was stronger and faster than the human Captain but, if he did anything or said anything, then the Baron would make him pay in ways that even for his kind, would be painful, the boy dropped his head and tried to wait for the Captain to pull out of his abused body.

In the shadows, the six heard the loud shout of the man inside the office, it was time to move, he would be more interested in his own feelings too take much notice of what was going on outside, of the six guards at the gate, only one saw them coming but, by then it was already too late, the fast moving shadows left only bleeding bodies behind, Paulek looked at Sergei as though asking for his permission, at a nod, Paulek was through the door of the guard office like a wrath, his speed took him to the middle of the room in one fast step.

Paulek looked at the small tableau before him, bent over the single table was a very young boy, no older than his brother, the boys bottom was red and his hips showed the harsh red imprints of a mans hands, his legs were shaking and his small boy hole was dripping white liquid, beside him stood a large man in the uniform of the castle guards, he was still fully clothed and only his trousers were open at the front with his ample manhood slowly deflating as Paulek watched him.

The captain turned in time to see another young boy enter the guard office, this one was a little older than the one he had just conquered but delectable none the less, if he still had the strength he would take this one as well, as this thought went through his mind he suddenly saw the sword in the boys hand, next he noticed the boys strange eyes, they were red and filled with hate, the captain laughed and quickly drew his own large sword, there was no way this little boy would challenge him.

The Captain moved fast and sliced at the boy before him, too late, he realised he had missed, as impossible as it sounded, the boy was not in front of him anymore but standing just out of reach to one side, the Captain spun around, sweeping his sharp blade at the smaller target, again the boy was not there, as a last resort he yelled loudly for his guards to come to him, at the sound of the Captains voice, the small boy smiled and then moved in.

The Captain was stunned as he faced the boy, within seconds he was sweating heavily as he tried to defend himself against the onslaught of the boys sword, at times the Captain was sure the boy was wielding two swords at the same time, the boy was fast, very fast, cuts and gashes began to appear on the Captains body and he could do little to stop it, suddenly the boy stopped and stepped back to survey his handy work, the arms, legs and torso of the Captain were covered in thin light cuts, blood was oozing slowly from them all as Paulek decided he had had enough of the man, with an almost casual flick of his blade, he disarmed the Captain, Paulek then turned to the boy by the table.

“Do you need to feed?”

The naked boy smiled as he had already recognised one of his own in the first few seconds of the fight although fight was not the right word, Paulek had made it more of a lesson with the Captain coming out last, the boy nodded and Paulek smiled at him as he said.

“He’s all yours, I have other things too do, by the way, do you know a boy who looks much like me but younger, his name’s Milac, he’s my brother?”

The boy looked up from where he straddled the chest of the dying Captain, the blood from the neck of the Captain dripping from his small fangs, the boy nodded and then turned back to his meal of blood while Paulek waited patiently for him to finish, he sensed behind him his two brothers, Hawk and Pavlik, Paulek turned to them.

“Let him finish his meal, he’s earned it, I want to ask him about my brother, can you leave me here with him until he’s finished, I’ll bring him with me when I know what’s happened to Milac.”

The other two nodded and left to report to Sergei as he and the other two waited outside the guard office, Sergei had watched Paulek’s performance from the open doorway, he was well satisfied the boy could look after himself in the human world, he turned to the others and gave the signal to proceed through the door of the keep, the five of them could well look after anything inside, Sergei would have little trouble with the Baron , he had well over two hundred years on the Baron and all of it spent in the service of one King or another as they came to the throne.

As Sergei readied to enter the keep, he heard a sound behind him, looking over his shoulder he saw the eight others join his small band, only two had remained on the main gate to watch over the castle, nodding at the captain of the eight men, he pushed open the large wooden doors and strode into the middle of the large hall, there were about fifty people all celebrating, most were already drunk on wine and mead, the Baron along with Lord Rancovich sat at the head of a long table at the top of the hall, behind the Baron stood a number of very young boys, Sergei quickly saw they were all of the blood drinkers line, quickly he scanned the boys in the hope of seeing one that resembled Paulek in appearance, none did, the boys brother was not among the others, Sergei strode to the centre of the hall with his men close behind.

Sergei took his sash of blue and gold from his shirt and laid it across his shoulders before calling out loud enough for all to hear.

“I am Commander Sergei of the Kings Marshals, Baron Whalacek, Lord Rancovich, you are commanded to appear before the Kings court, failure to do so will result in your arrest, step forward and be chained.”

Sergei was well aware it was not going to be that easy but he had to say the words to make his small invasion legal under the law, the Baron was the first to move, and move fast he did, those remaining troops that were spread around the hall took up their arms and rushed the small group in the centre of the hall, Lord Rancovich drew his own sword to defend himself although he had no idea what he was up against, after watching the first few blows he decided that discretion was the better part of valour and tried to withdraw from the hall via a secret passage, he was not fast enough, two of the men from the hall quickly appeared from nowhere and barred his path, one reaching out casually and plucking the sword from his hand.

Apart from Sergei and the Baron, the fight was short and deadly, of the some twenty soldiers in the hall, only one was fast enough to raise his hands in surrender, the others lay in their own blood, all the visitors were pushing back against the wall in fear as they tried to stay out of harms way, the loud clashing of steel on steel filled the now silent hall as Sergei and the baron fought it out in the middle of the hall.

It was Jorge who decided that it had gone far enough, with all the speed available to him, he slid up behind the Baron and grasped the mans sword hand, quickly Sergei laid his own blade at the neck of the Baron.

“Chain them both.”

Lanslo appeared with a set of heavy chains and manacled both men quickly, the look on the face of the Baron was terrible to behold, Sergei and the others could see that the Baron was holding back his fangs only by the strength of his will, it was at this point that Paulek came into the hall with the small boy, seeing the baron in chains, the boys smiled, he would be free at last, he quickly ran over to the other boys where they stood behind the table still.

Sergei took over.

“Everyone clear the hall except for the Barons boys and my own men, all of you go to your homes, there will be an announcement tomorrow, now, GO.”

There was a mad rush to escape the terror they had just witnessed, even the large doors being now both open were not wide enough for them all to leave as fast as they wanted too, Sergei waited patiently for the hall to clear, when everyone was gone he turned back to his two captives.

“As you have both defied the Kings laws, I, as the Kings Marshal do hereby place sentence on you, Lord Rancovich, you will remain in this castle but under guard, all your titles, lands and property will revert to the King, you will sit in court under supervision of a Kings man and then be detained in the rooms selected for you until you are needed once again.”

Sergei turned to Jorge.

“Find a suitable room for him, make sure he was no weapons available, the castle staff are to be cleared at all times before entering his rooms, take him away.”

Jorge grasped the chains on the Lords wrists and led him from the hall along with two more men; they would stay at the door of the Lords room as guards.

“Baron, for you, there is another fate but, first I want to know what you have done with my boy’s brother Milac?”

“Which boy and who’s Milac, I know no one by that name.”

“Liar, I can smell the lie on you, Paulek, come here and stand before the Baron.”

Paulek went where he was asked to, he looked up at the Baron with hate in his eyes, at first glance at Paulek and it was easy to see the Baron knew who Milac was, their looks were so close to each other it would be hard to miss them as brothers, the small start on the face of the Baron was enough for Sergei.

“Yes, you know the boy, now, where is he Baron?”

“I sold him more than one week ago, I don’t know where he is now.”

Turning to the captain of the ten men that had come to help, Sergei gave orders.

“Captain, take three men and go to the Barons keep, take charge of it, you and your men are now the keepers of all his lands and titles along with all and any servants in the keep, I’ll send your other men along as soon as we have settled everything here.”

The Captain smiled and saluted Sergei, he was overjoyed at the prospect of now being his own man under the Kings law and, while it was most welcome it was also completely unexpected, for such a reward he instantly became Sergei’s man for all his long life, Sergei turned back to the Baron.

“There is only one punishment for you Baron, your boys will come under my protection, you however, will greet the sunrise tomorrow it is only fitting for what you have done over the years, Lanslo, take the Baron and chain him outside the gate of the castle, stay with him until the first rays of the sun then leave him there.”

Lanslo took the chained wrists of the Baron and led him away with a smile on his face, he well knew what the Baron would go through as the sun rose in the morning, it was only a pity he could not stay up long enough to see it played out, this was the worst punishment that could happen to one who drank blood, his death would be as slow as the sun rise, Lanslo placed the Baron against the wall outside the gate and chained him tightly so he could have as little movement as possible, the suns rays would slowly move up the Barons legs as it rose, the Barons head would be the last to have the sun hit it, by one hour after the sun rise he would be nothing but burnt bones, Lanslo left instructions to the two guards on the wall to keep all humans away from the gate until the sentence had been carried out.

Back in the hall, Sergei looked at the young boys left behind by the Baron, the youngest was no more than nine years, the oldest about fourteen, they all stood patiently awaiting their fate, they had little else they could do now that the Baron was finished, they would have no protector to look after them, it could be a dangerous world for young blood drinkers without an older one to care for them.

Sergei could almost read their thoughts by the looks of fear on their faces as he looked them over.

“Don’t worry boys, you are now under my protection, you will stay here with myself and my men, we will give you training in weapons and other things, you will not ever have to have your bodies sold again unless it’s what you want to do, if you all come over here, I will feed you my blood and you will be part of our family.”

After each and every boy had drunk Sergei’s blood, he turned to Lanslo.

“Tomorrow night I want you to leave for the capital, you should be able to make it in two nights, get to Chancellor Hagar, tell him what we’ve done here and ask for the Kings recommendation as to the fate of Lord Rancovich, then return with his decision.”

Lanslo nodded and looked around the large hall, they now had to find some men to keep them safe during the daylight hours, Tito alone would not be able to tend to them all, they needed more help, mentioning this to Sergei made the Marshal Commander put his thinking cap on.

“Were there any soldiers that surrendered, if so what are they like?”

“Yes, we have about ten that lay down their arms, they all look young, I think they are only new conscripts, they had very little idea of how to use their weapons, do you want to see them?”

“Yes, bring them all in; see if we can’t make them work for us during the day.”

Sergei took the central seat at the head of the long table where earlier Lord Rancovich and the Baron had been feasting, shortly after, Lanslo pushed ten young men into the hall, they had been disarmed and looked about themselves with fear in their eyes, they had seen how easily the whole army of Lord Rancovich had been defeated by no less than a handful of men in black.

Sergei looked over the young men, most were not yet out of their late teens, one looked to be just into full manhood, Sergei directed his questions to the older youth.

“What’s your name boy?” Sergei purposely sounded gruff and annoyed.

“Ahm, ah, Wassan, my Lord Marshal.”

“How long were you in service to his Lordship?”

“Just this month past, as were we all Lord Marshal.”

“Why were you conscripted to this castle?”

“We are not conscripts, Lord Marshal, we volunteered, we wanted to learn the trade of a soldier, it is our hope to go up the ranks and eventually earn a place before we are too old.”

“Very good, I will give you one option, I need some men to guard the gates during the daylight hours, the night guard will be done by my own men, the position of day guard is open if you want to take it, if you do then you will swear fealty to me and the King, each morning I will leave orders for you with my servants, in the early evenings all your men will assemble at the gate of the keep once the night guard has taken up its duties, you will receive two hours arms instruction from my weapons officer, those of you whom wish to accept, step forward, those who think they can not do their duty may leave now.”

Sergei watched as, with a little hesitation, all ten of the youths stepped forward and went to one knee, Sergei stood up and looked the youths over, he could see that they seemed earnest just untrained, he now had the job of swearing them in to the Kings name, once that was completed, he told Lanslo to return their weapons.

“You men are now tasked with an important job, this castle is now under the laws of the King, you need an officer of the day, which will be Wassan, Wassan you are hereby promoted to the rank of sergeant of the guard, each morning you will report here and receive your orders from one of my servants, remember, the boy will be speaking for me so obey his every word, now off to the barracks, you have only four hours to sunrise, it’s then you will take over the gate and the parapets, for now it will be long and hard work until I can bring in more men to assist you.”

In unison, the ten youths stood and left the hall in good order, Sergei watched them trying to march in step as they left, he could see there was still a bit of training to do with his new men/boys, Jorge would soon take care of that, Sergei looked over at a very disconsolate Paulek as the boy sat in one of the chairs in front of the table.

“What’s wrong Paulek?”

“My brother, I have to find him, it can’t end like this, I have to go after him.”

“I know you do Paulek, but where do you start, you heard the Baron, he sold him, he could be anywhere.”

“The Baron has too know who he sold him to, if I can get the mans name I can go after him.”

“What, on your own, Paulek, you have hardly got used to your new life style, there are others like us out there and they are not all friendly, I don’t think you would stand much of a chance alone, even with little Tito along, you would still be in danger.”

“He won’t be alone Sergei.” Pavlik’s voice interjected.

“What, are you thinking of going along Pavlik?”

“Both Hawk and I are, he’s our friend, if he needs us then we will go with him but, enough talking, we have to get the mans name from the Baron before the sun rises and that’s in a little over an hour.”

“Very good then, if you can get the mans name before the sun does it’s work on the Baron, I will let you leave to find Paulek’s brother, but, remember, you are all part of my family now, you have to promise to return before you do anything else once you have found the boy.”

Paulek looked at his two friends and received their nods.

“We promise to return Sergei, besides where else do we have to go, once I have found Milac we will come back.”

“That’s good enough for me, ok you three, go ask your questions, oh, and don’t worry about the Barons sensibilities, do whatever you have to, to get that name, even lie if it will do any good, remember, you have little time, now go.”

The three boys ran from the hall and headed for the gate where the Baron lay chained to the wall, a very satisfied looking Jorge stood over him with a smile on his face, Jorge turned as the sound of the running boys came to his ears.

“Well you three look in a hurry, what’s happened?”

“Nothing yet.” Paulek replied, “But we have the permission of Sergei to find some answers from the Baron before the sun rises.”

“Ah I see, well that could be difficult, he has little else to lose and he knows it, getting answers from him might be harder than you think.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.” Pavlik said.

“What do you mean Pavlik?” Jorge asked.

“What gives more pain to the likes of us yet will never kill us?”

“That’s easy, silver of course, we all know that.”

Pavlik lay a small blanket on the ground and then tipped out everything he was carrying in the small bag on his shoulder and looked at the Baron’s face, he could see the fear rising in the mans body but, also a certain amount of defiance, like Jorge, he recognised that he had little too lose, he was dead anyhow once the sun rose.

With a callousness that belied his youth, Pavlik pulled his dagger and cut the clothes from the Baron, taking little heed if the dagger went too deep, within seconds the baron was naked as the day he had been born, placing a leather glove on one hand, Pavlik took up a pair of silver tongs, like all the silver pieces, it had come from the table of Lord Rancovich.

Pavlik placed the tongs onto the nipple of the Baron and let the pain begin, he left the tongs long enough for the Barons skin to start to smoke, as yet he had not asked a single question, slowly the nipple burnt until the tongs were then a small way into the very chest of the Baron, his loud screams from the pain could be heard in the cold night air.

All of them knew that a silver burn would continue to pain the person for a long time and would not heal like normal, the Baron would not be alive long enough for them to do so, Pavlik changed to the other nipple with the same result, the smell of burning flesh filled their nostrils as the Baron continued to scream out his pain.

Next, Pavlik used one of the table knives to slowly run down the length of the Barons abdomen, leaving a long burning wound right to the very edge of the Barons very flaccid manhood, the screams increased and still there had been no questions, finally, with his other gloved hand, Pavlik took hold of the Baron’s heavy testicles.

“Well Baron, guess what I’m going to take next if you don’t answer Paulek’s questions?”

The Baron looked down through his pain at what Pavlik was holding in his hand, he was going to die this morning anyhow but did he want to have the long drawn out pain until that happened.

“What do I get out of it, you have to make me an offer of something if you want my co-operation, it’s only fair?”

“If you co-operate and answer all of Paulek’s questions, I will talk to Sergei and ask him to consider releasing you, if not then I will just continue with the silver until the sun rises, I’m sure you can understand how that will feel too you, your last minutes on this world with only pain to die with, at least this way there is hope for you.”

“Alright, what do you want to know?”

“Who did you sell my brother to?”

The Baron looked at the young faces before him and then at the impassive face of Jorge, a quick thought went through his mind, ‘could he chance a lie to these young boys’ somehow he didn’t think so, if he told them all he knew there was a good chance he could escape his fate and live to fight another day, the Baron made up his mind.

“He is a trader from the south, he liked the look of the boy, he took him away four days ago.”

“Does he travel with guards?”

“Of course, he’s a trader; he has to protect his caravan.”

“How many guards?”

“More than two score, he is a very big trader.”

“What’s his name?”

“Ben Al Kamir, he is from the south lands, he trades in spices and fine silks.”

Pavlik looked at Paulek.

“Is that all you need Paulek?”

“Yes, that’s enough, we can find him now.”

“Good, let’s go back to the hall and get ready, we can leave tomorrow night, Tito should be back by now so he can ready the packs while we sleep.”

The three boys turned away from the burnt Baron, as they were about to move, the Baron called out.

“What about me, you promised to get me free.”

Pavlik turned back and went to stand over the man, picking up the small blanket of silverware, Pavlik smiled and then tipped the remains of the silver into the Baron’s lap.

“I lied, have fun Baron.”

Pavlik turned away from the screams coming from the now smoking groin of the Baron, Jorge stood unmoving over the man as he writhed in agony, the three boys disappeared into the last light of the night, the first faint tendrils of daylight began to show over the far off hills as the Baron continued to scream and his groin continued to smoke as his manhood withered away under the silverware, Jorge finally left as the light of the sun grew to powerful for him, as he walked away the sounds of the Barons screams grew fainter.

The three boys returned to the hall just in time to see one of the guards carrying a sleeping Tito in his arms, their possessions slung over the mans shoulders, he placed Tito on one of the long couches and then gave Sergei a small bow and went back to join his friend on the gate, it was now close to dawn.

Paulek woke Tito from his slumber, Sergei set about telling Tito that they would soon be joined by his own two Roma boys, in the mean time Tito should tell the new youths how to set the guard for the day when the rest of them would be in their sleep, Tito listened carefully and then smiled his understanding after looking to Paulek for conformation.

It was not long after that all the drinkers had to leave for their sleep cycle, Tito sat in the big hall alone, there was no shortage of food so he began to fill his stomach with what lay on the tables, as the first servants appeared to clear away the mess of the previous night, they were shocked to see the small boy eating at the table, as they were about to ask him what he was doing, the newly promoted Wassan entered, he took one look at Tito and assumed he was the servant of the Lord Marshal, with little ceremony, Wassan approached Tito and asked him what were the orders of the Lord Marshal, seeing this, the other servants turned away and kept their peace as Tito repeated Sergei’s orders for the guards duties.

All the men rose the next night just as the last daylight colours left the sky, the keep was back in order and everything had been cleaned and readied for the new Master of the Castle, the Lord Marshal as they now knew him.

Sergei settled back in a chair and sent the two men left by the Captain to relieve the day guards and tell them to report to Jorge for training in the courtyard of the keep, Lanslo left at a run to carry the report to the Kings Chancellor and the three boys checked their small packs for everything they would need for the tracking of Paulek’s brother, Tito, although a little tired, had managed to get a few hours snoozing during the afternoon, he also had his pack ready, the three boys decided that they would carry Tito if needed so they could make up some distance on the trader, they left the castle soon after full dark, Paulek carrying Tito’s pack and Pavlik with the Roma boy on his shoulders, they set a very fast pace into the night.

Two hours before dawn, the boys saw the Baron’s keep in the distance, they increased the pace and the ground flew past under their silent steps, Tito was now fast asleep on Pavlik’s shoulders, the rhythmic flow of the boys fast moving steps had sent him into dream land, as they neared the keep, the boys heard the call of the Captains guard high up on the parapet.

“Who comes?”

“Sergei’s boys, Pavlik, Paulek and Hawk, can we enter?”

Immediately the gates opened and the guard smiled at the three boys not at first noticing the small figure on Pavlik’s shoulder, when he did see the boy, he only raised one eyebrow and smiled as the boys walked past him.

“The Captain is in the great hall, he will see to your rooms for the day.”

The boys walked to the open door of the hall and saw the captain sitting casually in a chair, beside him was a young boy with a smile on his face, it was evident he was one of those left by the Baron as his small needle sharp fangs were still showing.

“Ah, Sergei’s special boys, welcome to my keep, what are you doing so far from the Marshals side?”

“We’re on a quest to get my brother back from a trader that the Baron sold him to.” Paulek replied.

“I see, well lets get you some rooms for the day, do you need to feed, I have some of the Barons old hands in the dungeon?”

“Not yet, perhaps tomorrow, we may need some for our journey.”

“Good, well let’s get you settled, this is Marko, Marko, take our guests to the upper rooms then you can go to yours, the sun will be up soon and, you can ask Silvio if he would like to join me in my room for the day.” The captain was smiling as the small boy laughed and signalled for the three boys to follow him up the stairs.

“Are you truly Milac’s brother?” Marko asked Paulek.

“Yes, did you know him?”

“Oh yes, he gave the Baron a lot of trouble, that’s why he was sold to the trader, that trader is a very bad man, he likes to hurt boys, he is also one of us and he is very strong, you will have to be very careful.”

“Do you know which way he was going?”

“He left here heading to the west, he trades all over the country, they say he is from the far southern lands, he wears very strange clothes, like a woman’s dress and a funny cloth on his head all the time, a very bad man, your brother is in very real danger with him.”

“Thank you Marko, how far do you think he will be from here?”

“Well he left about four days ago now, but his men and caravan are not like us so they have probably only gone about forty miles, maybe a little more although I do know he travels at night as well, unlike other caravans, that’s how he is able to do more trading than other caravans, he can get there earlier than others.”

“Thank you again Marko, now let’s get some rest and we will see you tonight when the sun has sunk.”

Marko smiled and turned towards his own room on another level of the keep, the three boys looked about them, the room was large and well kept, as they began to sort out their beds, Tito awoke and stretched his cramped limbs, with a smile he leapt up and went to make sure the long slit windows were well covered for his Master, he then began to gather the boys black clothes, he would have them clean and ready for the boys by nightfall, the boys retired to their respective beds, Pavlik and Hawk, as usual, sharing the same one.



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