No Honor Among Thieves (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: August 25, 2016 in Fantasy, Fiction, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

This week’s challenge– take three sentences from the plethora found here and work them into a story. And so I give you another sword&sorcery tale, though the emphasis most definitely is on the sword and not the sorcery in this piece.

My three sentences:

  1. “Why do we waste our lives on the quarrels of old men?” he asked. – shaks
  2. “The only thing I know is bad men die old.” – jkflickinger
  3. He tried to get up, but her boot pressed his face deeper into the muck.- Matthew @ThewtheSlightly

So thanks to them! I did decide to revisit an old setting, Milieux, which in many ways is my tribute to Lankhmar. Gray and company are new characters, so I’d love to hear if you’d like to see more of them. As always, comments are appreciated.

Gray pulled the hood of her cloak up as the rain started. Fat, cold drops splashed on the cobblestones, turning them slick and treacherous. She’d prefer to be in a nice tavern, close to the fire and on her way to a pleasant, drunk, but instead she was outside, in an alley, in the cold and the rain. It wasn’t like it was a particularly nice part of the city, either. Paint peeled from cracked wood, rotting trash collected in the gutters, and the City Guard was nowhere to be found.

Artair spat a gob of mucus into the gutter. “Fucking rain.” Water dripped off his hawk’s beak of a nose, his eyes narrowed to slits. He’d taken off his spectacles, the water collecting on them making it as hard to see as if he had them off.

Tamara nudged him in the side with her elbow. “Don’t tell me you’re surprised? It’s summer in Milieux, of course it is raining.”

“Doesn’t mean we have to be out here in it,” he grumbled.

“We were given a job to do. This Simeon has been giving him trouble, and we’re going to put a stop to that,” Gray reminded them, keeping her eyes fixed on the street ahead. “Travers told us Barrion trusted us with this, so we need to see it through. We do that, and I’ll buy the first round, all right? Anyway, the rain is driving more people inside. Be thankful for that.”

Artair snorted, shifting his weight from one foot to the next. “Why do we waste out lives on the quarrels of old men?” he asked.

“I don’t see anyone else lining up to offer you work,” Gray rejoined.

Artair grumbled something in reply, but Gray’s attention was on the road. A carriage rolled by, the wheels churning through the deepening water.

“That’s our target,” she hissed. The driver of the carriage hopped down and opened the door on the side opposite from Gray and her crew. They couldn’t see who got out.

“Go, go,” Gray said, sprinting across the slick street, her boots slipping as he ran. She pushed her cloak back, fumbled with her sword.

The carriage concealed her approach, the sound of the rain masking her footsteps. She came around the corner, and skidded to a stop, her feet slipping out from under her on the wet pavement. Four armed men stood above her, each with bared blades, mouths set in grim lines. They had the look of hard men, faces baring scars and the lines of hard living.

“It’s a trap!” she gasped out, fumbling back as the men advanced.

Artair announced his presence with a heavy blow to the back of one of the men’s head as Gray scrambled to her feet. She brought her sword up in a clumsy parry, only to have it knocked to one side by a powerful blow. The man she faced grinned at her, revealing cracked, yellowed teeth.

“Didn’t think we were expecting you, did you?” He attacked again, another heavy downward chop. Gray had her feet this time though, and was anticipating the attack. She sidestepped, the tip of her blade entering the man’s back. She gave it a vindictive twist before spinning away.

She saw Tamara engaged with one of the other men, her twin blades licking out like small strikes of lightning, slicing through leather and skin and leaving streaks of red behind. Artair smashed his cudgel down on the upraised arm set to block it. The sickening crack of bone breaking echoed in the alley.

She didn’t have much time to spare for thoughts of her companions, as the final man drew a short handled axe from under his cloak. He came in with short chopping strikes, his weapon a blur as he attacked. Gray danced away, trying to keep her footing on the rain slick stones. The man pressed his advantage, looking to use his size to his advantage. He curled his thick cloak around his free arm, using it to batter aside her attempted attacks. He aimed a heavy blow at her head, but she stepped to one side, the axe blade biting deep into the wooden beam Gray had felt at her back. Seeing him trying to wrench his weapon free, she took advantage, slicing her blade across the back of his knee. He crumpled with an undignified yell, his leg refusing to bear his weight. She kicked at his leg, sending him sprawling to the ground, straight into a soggy mess of night filth and mud, the axe still buried in the beam. He tried to get up, but her boot pressed his face deeper into the muck.

She paused, looking for companions. She saw Artair pummeling his opponent, his cudgel landing with sickening cracks. Tamara knelt on top of her man, her hands slick with rain and blood, a fierce grin on her face.

“How’d you know?” Gray asked. Her breath came heavy, and her already husky voice sounded strained even to her ears. “How’d you know about the ambush? Where’s Simeon?”

The man spluttered in the dirt. Gray lifted her foot from his face. He got up, slow, using the wooden beam to support his weight. Artair grabbed the axe and pulled it free. He raised an eyebrow at Gray before tucking it into his belt.

“You stupid bitch,” the man spat. “I don’t know anything about no Simeon. All I know is this fat fuck promised good coin to take care of a few troublemakers. His words not mine. And now you’ve gone and killed my mates, ruined my leg.”

Tamara walked over, the rain cleaning her blades of blood. “What fat fuck?” she purred.

The man grimaced. “Why should I be telling you anything?” He gasped as he felt the sharp end of one Tamara’s knives press between his legs.

“Because you want to leave this street a man.”

“And there’s a good possibility we won’t kill you,” Gray offered.

“We won’t?” Artair asked, his nose wrinkling in puzzlement.

“It’s a possibility.”

“Hmpf.”

“Okay. Yes, this guy, works out of The Broken Mare. Find him there most evenings. Offers odd jobs to the boys. Usually nothing untoward. Delivering packages and the like. Well, he says he’s got a different kind of job he wants see done. The kind of job that gets the people doing it the right sort of attention.”

Gray, Tamara, and Artair share a long silent look.

“Travers,” Gray said.

Tamara and Artair nodded.

“So you know this guy?” the man asked.

Gray nodded. “He’s the one that sent us here.” She shook her head, slid her sword into its scabbard. “Get out of here, and go see a physician.” She fished a couple of small silver coins out of her purse and pressed them into his hand.

The man bowed his thanks and hobbled away, cursing and moaning as he went.

“What’d you do that for?” Tamara asked. Artair walked over to the dead, checking to see if they had anything of any value on them.

Gray shrugged. “Way I see it, that poor bastard was used just as much as we were.” She smiled. “Besides, I kind of liked the look of him.”

Tamara blinked. “He was ugly as a gnarled tree. I’ve seen prettier tom cats than that.”

Gray smiled. “That’s what I liked. Anyway, we need to go see Travers.”

Tamara nodded, fingers caressing her knives. “Think Barrion knew what Travers was up to?”

Gray scratched her nose. “Have you ever known Travers to take a shit without asking Barrion first?”

Artair walked over, having finished looting the corpses. “What are you talking about?”

Gray nodded her head in the direction the captive took. “Shitstain told us a fat fuck operating out of The Broken Mare hired them for this job.”

“Travers.” Artair’s mouth twisted like he’d sucked on a lemon soaked in vinegar.

“He could be lying,” Tamara offered, though she didn’t sound convinced.

Gray frowned. “No. Who gave this assignment? Travers.”

Artair scowled. “Thought it came from Barrion, direct.”

“That’s what Travers said,” Gray confirmed. “Never did hear it from the big man himself. That’s not unusual though, is it? But if we really were going after Simeon, you’d think Barrion would take a personal interest.”

“So, what do we do know?” Tamara asked.

Gray smiled. “We go pay Travers a visit.”

#

Travers sat in The Broken Mare, an untouched stein in front of him. He drummed sausage like fingers on the table, mopped his brow every couple of minutes. Every time the door to the tavern opened he looked over, beady eyes narrowed in anticipation. So far it was nothing but disappointment. He wondered if the ambush had failed, wondered if Gray or any of her crew had managed to escape the trap he had set. It wasn’t his fault. Barrion didn’t like how popular Gray was getting with the other members of the gang, didn’t like how successful she’d been.

Earlier that week, sitting in his office over the Tinworker’s Guild, Barrion confessed to Travers that something needed to be done. Travers had suggested a sea voyage, get them out of the city for a time. There were interests in other cities they could look to.

Barrion had wanted a more permanent solution, and because it was members of his own crew, he wanted outside muscle brought in to handle it.

“What if the rest of the crew find out you were behind it?” Travers had asked.

Barrion had smiled. “Let them find out. I didn’t get where I am by playing nicely. The only thing I know is bad men die old. And I plan on dying a very old man, preferably surrounded by some very young women.”

Travers sighed and hefted his bulk up out of the chair. He picked up his cane and made his way out into the air. The rain, thankfully, had ceased, and he walked into the smoke choked air of Milieux. A carriage rumbled by, and he waved it down.

“You for hire?” he called out.

“Aye,” the driver called out. Travers peered at him, but the cloak was pulled low over his face, allowing only a hawk-like nose to protrude out. “Hell of a night to be out for a walk.”

Travers nodded, fumbling in his purse for the money. “Here you are then,” he said. “Going to Coinchanger Lane. You know it?”

The carriage driver bobbed his head, reaching down and taking the offered coins. “In you go.”

Travers leveraged his bulk into the carriage, realizing only after he was inside that it was already occupied.

“Hello, Travers.” Gray’s storm colored eyes sparked with anger. Tamara slid next to him, pressing a blade under his ear. “We need to have a talk.”

“G-gray. I’m s-sorry. It was all B-barrion’s-”

“Shh.” Gray held one long finger up to her lips. She smiled at Travers with the kind of look a cat reserves for a particularly slow and fat mouse. “We all know you don’t do anything without Barrion’s say.” The smile disappeared.

“It wasn’t anything personal,” Travers felt the sweat stinging his eyes. “It was Barrion gave the order. Barrion who wants you dead.”

Gray sighed. “I know, Travers, I know. But this… well this is war now. And in every war there are casualties.”

“What-?”

Travers didn’t finish his thought, Tamara dragging her blade across his throat. She kicked him out of the carriage, leaving him lying, bleeding out near the docks.

“What now?” Tamara asked, cleaning her blade on a bit of cloth.

“Now we go to war,” Gray said, leaning back in the carriage. “It’s time to carve out our own place in this city.”

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Comments
  1. This is great set up for a wider story, well told. Milieux sounds interesting.

    • Yeah, it is one of those settings I keep coming back to. This piece didn’t really get into what makes it unique, but I plan on posting more of Gray and her antics that will highlight that more.

  2. Kaleiyah-P says:

    Well done! I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the setting or the characters, as this is the first time I’m reading a piece of yours. But I can tell it’s quite the world I want to learn more about. The pacing and twists are very addicting.

    Keep it up 🙂

  3. […] is the second part to “No Honor Among Thieves.” Why write these serials? Mainbly its a way to motivate myself, to get me to write something […]

  4. […] one is here. Part two is here. Part three is here. Part four is here. Comments are always […]

  5. […] one is here. Part two is here. Part three is here. Part four is here. Part five is here. Comments are […]

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