Friday, October 07, 2011

#FridayFlash: What Is Due

I injured my knee mid-week, and it wouldn’t let me write. This is an excerpt from a longer short story, which also features one of the two main characters from Chasing a Rainbow The Crossover. I guess I need to get crackin’ and finish that story so I can share it with you.



What Is Due

The trap was laid, and Lodrán calmed his breathing. Damned-fool Easterners, he thought, never cheat a man in his own home. But they were making enough noise to draw attention to themselves; stomping and chattering preceded them up the stone-lined corridors. As a practitioner of the Silent Art, especially one who earned his pay in the ancient warrens beneath Ak’koyr, Lodrán knew the value of quiet.

“You are paying weregild for our brothers, Edrac?” were the first clear words Lodrán heard as they approached. Edrac’s hired swords had lost nearly half their number to the rouvanth who guarded what Edrac sought, and they carried their fallen comrades homeward. Torchlight flickered; Lodrán could now see his hands but the rope that made his trap was invisible. He backed down the side passage a little farther.

“It wasn’t I who killed them,” Edrac replied. “But to keep the peace — shall we say, ten gold octagons for each?”

“Seems fair,” one of the swordswomen said. “If you pay us,” another growled.

“Everyone will be paid,” Edrac sighed. “We cut out the locksmith, after all. Extra for all of us.” The torchlight shone down the corridor where Lodrán squatted, a shadow among shadows. “Speaking of the locksmith, I expected him by now.”

“Maybe something ate him,” one of the men chortled. Several others laughed, as the last torch passed the opening. Lodrán scuttled to the intersection, staying to the shadows.

“Hey, how much longer?” one of them complained. “I never knew Tisiph was so heavy...” Now Lodrán was behind them. He picked up each end of the rope and stood in the center of the hallway.

Now. He snapped both ends of the rope, hard. One, two, three, pull!

“Hey!” “Look out!” “What—” CRASH! Lodrán pulled harder, then dropped the rope and dived back into the side passage. His imagination described what he could not see: the swords leading the way had their feet pulled backwards. They fell kicking, unbalancing those behind them. These dropped their fallen comrades and fell back themselves, in a chain reaction.

“Lodrán!” Edrac snapped, clambering over his hirelings. “You should have stayed where you were, you fool.” The mage wore a cruel smile, squinting down the side passage, looking for Lodrán. “Where are you, you son of a whore? It doesn’t matter, we’ll see you,” and began a spell.

Lodrán reacted quickly. The safehouse master had only one thing to say about fighting a mage: a knife or spear will stop any spell, if you throw fast enough. Lodrán was fast. His knife hissed, and Edrac cried out, clutching his thigh and moaning.

“I only want what is due me,” Lodrán said to the wall, making his voice echo down both sides of the corridor. “Throw it down here and go your way.”

A crossbow quarrel hissed by and clattered down the hall past Lodrán. “What stops us from coming for you now?” one of the swordsmen growled.

“Nightwalk is my home,” Lodrán replied, “Follow me and you’ll die. You might find me, but thirst will find you. Care to try?”

No reply. Edrac gasped and spat. “Help me up, damn you,” he groaned.

“Don’t try another spell,” Lodrán warned. “You won’t survive it.”

Edrac smiled, though he must be hurting — Lodrán’s knife had pierced his thigh, far too close to the most vital spot of all. “No, no more spells. Consed, put twenty gold octagons and that ring in a sack. Yes, that ring. Now throw it down there.” The sack clinked on the floor, close to Lodrán. “So everything is as it was agreed upon?”

Lodrán snatched up the sack, squeezing it to keep the octagons from clinking and giving away his position. He reached into the bag and touched the ring, not daring to take it out and possibly having it glint in the dim torchlight. He felt a gaudy piece of jewelry intended to distract from the true treasure, a scroll that tingled his hands before he passed it to Edrac. “Yes,” he said quickly, and pocketed his pay.

“Good,” Edrac purred, then spat again. “Now you have your due. How will you spend it?”

“Eh?” Lodrán kept his responses short, seeing two of the swords step into the corridor, raising torches. He squinted to keep his eyes from giving him away.

“We’ll wait here for you — after all, we’re between you and the way out, hey? Sooner or later, something will flush you out. We won’t have to chase you anywhere.”

Lodrán sighed. The two swords started down the hall, but a word from Edrac stopped them. They settled down to wait, weapons ready, while another tended Edrac’s wound.

About fifteen minutes into the vigil, the swords’ patience ran dry and they ventured down the passageway. They found a chalk drawing of a Hand, one outstretched finger pointing down the passage. “The Hand that Points the Way!” Edrac hissed. “He has another way out! After him!” He wove a spell that lightened their load and they moved swiftly. Farther along, another Hand pointed the way, and another.

They raced through the switchbacking passageways until, stiff and sore from the effects of Edrac’s spell, they came to a door. This door was marked with a Hand showing a different finger outstretched; none of them needed Edrac to explain this particular rune. They opened the door — and blinked as the daylight of Sunside filtered down a stairway. At the top, a lone figure looked down and then was gone.

14 comments:

  1. It sounds very interesting! I love sword and sorcery. I am thinking this could be much longer than a long short story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. An intriguing combat. I like that the non-magical one (well except for the invisibility) was quick on his toes to wound the mage. A fun world.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey all, and thanks!

    Sonia, there's a whole novel I wrote in college and somehow managed to hang onto all these years. It's pretty cheesy though.

    Aidan, he was invisible only because he kept to the shadows. It *is* a fun world.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the names you give to your characters. They evoke a world so different form ours (well, mine at least).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm with Scribbler. They are wacky Fantasy names.

    What happened to your knee, Mr. FAR?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Howdy guys!

    Scribbler, it is a very different world. As I mentioned in passing in last week's story, it's a world poor in iron and other metals, for starters (although you might not realize that from this story). A plague that destroyed the advanced culture of the Ancients echoes through history…

    John, I put all of my over 200lbs weight on that knee. That wouldn't have been a problem, except it was on a register grate. Think 2000psi being applied to a tiny spot on the ol' kneecap. It's getting better this morning, but I didn't feel like doing much of anything from Wed. on. You may have noticed my relative absence on Twitter too…

    ReplyDelete
  7. I too like sorcery, magic and battles - this probably could be developed into a novella maybe.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh yeah, pure D&D'ness in a jar. I've said it before: I love sword and sorcery romps which are completely unashamed to be nothing other than what they are ...namely cheesy fun! Hope your knee heals soon ...

    ReplyDelete
  9. This was fun! And you definitely get a sense of a wider world. =)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Morning!

    Helen, it's the last part of a longer short story, about 2700 words in toto. I don't know if it would make a novella.

    Jason, cheesy fun is right! That's probably why S&S has been done to death & people are still writing it — it's just fun.

    John, thanks — there are other stories in this world, but this was the one I could easily cut to flash size.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is very good! I, too, like the names! I'd like to read more about Lodran!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Owww a nice bit of action/adventure/sorcery - some great descriptiosn too and I too love the names you used here - great work Mr Far

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd certainly love to see this expanded - there's plenty of scope, and you've built an interesting world.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Happy Monday(?)!

    Xanto, I have one or two other short stories, plus a not-really-long novel, in this world. I mostly wrote this in college, so it'll need some cleaning up. This particular story was the cleanest of the bunch & it still needed some work.

    Thanks, Brainhaze — there's some good mindless fun in these, for sure. Glad you like the names… kind of interesting how people are calling that out.

    Icy, thanks much… I wanted to do something beyond the formula S&S, even 25 years ago.

    I might open a separate blog for these stories, like Monica Marler did with Thoki and Lor, so I can just queue things up and let 'em go. Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome, and they don't have to be complimentary. I delete spam on sight, but that's pretty much it for moderation. Long off-topic rants or unconstructive flamage are also candidates for deletion but I haven’t seen any of that so far.

I have comment moderation on for posts over a week old, but that’s so I’ll see them.

Include your Twitter handle if you want a shout-out.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...