Never Goes Smooth (Part 2 of 4 of a Wendig Challenge)

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Fiction
Tags: , , , , , ,

Okay, so last week I wrote Part I of what is supposed to be a four part story. and this week I pick someone elses’ and write a Part 2 (or what I like to refer to as the soggy middle). I went with Probably Falses’ start (which was untitled), and continue it below. For what it’s worth, as I write this, my Part I is, sadly, unclaimed.

Never Smooth

“Who else was up there, Deran?” Bec asked, her lips drawn in a thin line.

“Not now, Bec,” Deran’s face paled and he slumped to one knee. “Is there another way out?”

Pela moved to the window and drew back the heavy drapes. Pushing open the window, she pushed a rope ladder out where it clattered against the side of the building.

“In case of emergency,” she replied to Bec’s raised eyebrow.

“Bec, you go first,” Deran said. “Then the whore. Gyrt, you follow, and I’ll bring up the rear.”

“Deran, are you-” Gyrt began.

“Not the time for questions.” Deran barked.

“Right.”

Bec stuck her sword in her belt and descended with cat like agility, the hard soles of her boots finding the cobblestones. She immediately drew her sword and took stock of her surroundings. Pela’s window opened onto an alley, and one that backed the kitchens from the ripe smell of it. From the acrid stench undercutting the garbage, it saw use as a latrine as well. The alley was empty, which was the first good news she’d had and it almost made up for the smell

Bec grabbed the ladder with her free hand, wishing the courtesan would move faster, and wondering just what level of shit Pillar had dumped them in. Hearing shouting from above, she tightened her grip and stepped back under the awning, hoping it would keep anyone on the roof from seeing her, and more importantly, keep them from sticking an arrow in her.

Pela descended with less grace than Bec would have reckoned, and moved away as Gyrt dropped like a stone from the window. He wasn’t so much using the ladder as he’d grabbed the ropes in his gloved hands and was bouncing off the side of the brothel as he descended.

Gyrt flashed a grin at Bec after he landed. Something about danger always made him happy. “Nothing to it,” he said. Bec looked up and grabbed Gyrt by the arm, tugging on him. She might as well have been tugging on a statue for as much give as Gyrt had on him, but it did make him look up in time to jump to one side. Deran hit the ground with a bone shattering crash, his limbs twisted unnaturally, and his eyes unseeing.

“We need to go now,” Bec hissed through her teeth, her heart racing.

“Which way?” Gyrt asked, buckler and broad axe ready once again.

“I need to see Arric. Now.” Her gaze locked on Deran, Pela’s voice contained a core of steel that wouldn’t be denied.

“Have a better idea?” Bec asked, directing her question to Gyrt.

“Nope.”

The three headed down the alley, hugging the edge of the building as much as they could. Bec cringed at how loud their footsteps were, but they were swords-for-hire, not footpads. Gyrt led them down the alley, dark save for the light coming from the lanterns lining the main streets.

Two cloaked figures stepped forward from the shadows. “That’s far enough. Hand over the whore and this doesn’t have to get any uglier than it already has.” Light gleamed off the blades in their hands.

Bec saw light play over Gyrt’s bald pate as he shook his head. “Can’t do that. Already took the commission. Won’t look good if we just back away. So, piss off.”  Bec tried to swallow, but found her mouth too dry. They weren’t getting paid enough coin for this, and she had to wonder why Gyrt had to pick now to take a moral stand.

The two figures stepped closer. Bec tried to remember the lessons Pillar tried to bestow on her, guards and parries, angles of attack and footwork. All of it disappeared as the men attacked. She parried desperately, the blade awkward in her hand. She managed to keep the edge of the opponent’s weapon away, but she was caught wrong-footed and couldn’t counter. She backed up, her heel finding the wooden base of the brothel. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Pela draw a knife from somewhere. She was certainly wearing enough layers to keep a blade concealed somewhere.

Her attacker came in again, and she slipped to one side, nearly sliding on the filth in the alley. She lunged at the same time, her arm held straight out.

“Oh.” The swordsman looked down to where the blade had pierced him, punching through the boiled leather cuirass he wore. “Fuck.” He tried a halfhearted swipe with his blade, but Bec avoided it as he pulled her blade free.

“Done?” Gyrt asked. His head had been cut and blood dripped down one side of his face, but he grinned at her. “Can’t see what all the fuss was about.”

“You’re bleeding Gyrt.”

“Huh? Oh, just  scrape. Hey, wait a minute.” Bending down, he grabbed the cloak of one of the attackers and pulled it off with a sharp yank. “What the fuck is going on here, Bec?” In his hand, he held a brooch like the one he and Bec wore, but with a different device, that of a crow’s head. “We’re up against the Slayers?”

Pela’s eyes grew wide at the sight. “We need to leave now.”

Gyrt and Bec looked at each other, then back at Pela. “We need some answers.”

Pela started walking toward the main street without them. “Do you want to discuss this while the hangman tightens the noose, or can we go somewhere a little safer, preferably somewhere your employers and guildmasters wouldn’t know to find you? At this point, I don’t know who I can trust, but you two at least aren’t trying to kill me.”

“Yeah, I know a place,” Gyrt said. “Let’s go.” Pulling up the hood on his cloak and concealing his axe and buckler underneath, he led them deeper into the city, toward the Canopies.

Bec swallowed hard, her hands slick with sweat. Why couldn’t jobs ever go smooth?

Bec swallowed hard, her hands slick with sweat. Why couldn’t jobs ever go smooth?

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Comments
  1. Simon B. says:

    I must protest – your middle is anything but soggy! I’m still grinning several minutes after reading your continuation. I love it.

    You’ve taken the spirit of my beginning and made it all your own, adding plenty of intrigue without slowing down the pace (quite the opposite). I think this is a great point for someone else to pick up the story and carry on and I can’t wait to see where we end up.

    I’ve written my own part two, which I’ll post once I’m done tightening it (I’m hoping to find it useful to see how the end results differ in the hands of different writers) and whilst you’ve taken the story in quite a different direction to mine it’s heartening to see that your Gyrt and my Gyrt are very much the same guy deep down!

    Thanks so much for continuing the story; in no small way you’ve rather made my day.

    • Hey there Simon,

      I’m delighted that you enjoyed it. It can be a little weird dipping into someone else’s story and taking over, as you probably know well. My main goal was to drive the action forward, leave some mysteries to be solved, and hopefully add a hook for the next writer to grab on. Out of curiosity, have you read the Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch? Your setting and characters are highly reminiscent of that particular set of books.

      -Matt

  2. Simon B. says:

    Hi Matt,

    I have read the Gentleman Bastards novels, yes – that’s quite a compliment, so thank you.

    I grew up reading Pratchett and the like, but writers like Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Peter V. Brett are the reason I picked up a pen again.

    Here’s hoping your Part I gets picked up in the next couple of days – if it doesn’t, I’ll see if I can lend a hand somewhere. I have plenty of ideas…

    Simon

  3. […] Smooth, a low-fantasy low-life adventure story.  It was started by Probably False, continued by Matthew Gomez, the penultimate piece was penned by Pikabot / Peter MacDonald, and then I added my two cents.  If […]

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