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Monthly Short Story Winner: The Seven Tenets of Roguishness

Each month in our forum we run a short story contest. The winning stories are then posted here on our main site. If you are interested in entering our contest this month, you can do so here.

Thief by namesjames

Rogues. Most of us have a soft spot for them. But why? Because they steal from the rich and give the poor? (They are poor.) Because they solve problems with cunning and not brute force? Because they are as acrobatic as we want to be? Because they always have a cool line to say, even in the most dire situations? Because they are on half our book covers despite being creatures of shadow? Because their love interest always falls for the airheaded warrior and not for them? Or… all of the above?

This month I want you to write a story about one or more rogues. Have them plan a heist, lose at cards in a shady tavern, win a knife fight, rob a tyrant or seduce a rich man’s daughter (or son). Let them do what rouges do best: Earn a special place in our heart.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. Must be about one or more rogues.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
6. Your entry can’t be published somewhere else.

March’s winning story was by Malcolm Pope and is “The Seven Tenets of Roguishness”. Congrats on your win, Malcolm!

You can find all our entries here. You can also get updates on our monthly contests on Twitter by following @ffwritingcomp.

And now on with the story!

– – –

“The Seven Tenets of Roguishness”
by Malcolm Pope (Rukaio_Alter)

“So what are the Seven Tenets, anyway?”

Darin lowered his spyglass and turned to his apprentice. “What?”

“The Seven Tenets.” Yura sat by the door, fiddling absentmindedly with a switchknife. “You keep mentioning them, but I don’t think you’ve ever actually explained them to me.”

“Hmm. I guess not.” Darin raised his spyglass again and peered out the window.

Yura waited for his mentor to continue. He didn’t.

“So what are they?”

“They’re a bunch of tenets.” Darin said, helpfully. “And there are seven of them.”

“I’d guessed that much.”

Darin sighed. “If you really must know, they’re seven guidelines for rogues to follow. They separate the lovable scoundrels from the common cutthroats. Originally they were called the Seven Tenets of Roguishness but it got shortened because everyone kept mocking the word ‘roguishness’.

“I was going to say,” Yura smirked slightly, “I’m pretty sure that’s not a real word. Also, since when have you been described as ‘lovable’?”

A low chuckle erupted from the older man’s lips. “Hey, I’m plenty lovable, kid. I’ve done things with women that would make a contortionist jealous.”

“Sure you have. Anyway, can you name me one of the Tenets?”

Darin blinked. “You’d rather talk about those stuffy rules than my sexual escapades?”

“Good goddess, yes.” Yura shuddered. “I do not want the thought of you having sex swimming around in my head while we’re doing this.”

Darin gave an embarrassed cough. “Sure, whatever. Now, the first tenet is simple and important. Do not follow any tenet if doing so puts your life or prize at risk.”

“Makes sense. Nobody would follow them otherwise. That’s a good first rule. What’s the second?”

“Always have a good line at the ready.”

“…Not quite as impressive.”

“It’s a matter of appearances.” Darin said. “If you break into a house, murder the guards and steal anything not nailed down, you get labelled as a brutal thug. But if you leave with a one-liner and a twinkling smile, suddenly you become a charming gentleman thief.”

“Even though I know donkeys more gentlemanly than you.”

“Exactly. Now Tenet Three is another obvious one: Always have a plan.” He suddenly spied something in his eyeglass. “Speaking of, I think it’s time to put ours into motion…”

* * *

Kere unbolted the backdoor and heaved the bucket of scraps behind her. She looked at the largely edible food and sighed. Duke Weston was wasteful enough on a normal day, but when he was throwing a party… This bucket alone could probably feed a family for a week. And now it would feed the worms. Unless she did something about it.

Kere glanced from side to side. Then she rounded a corner to where a small crowd of beggars waited. Most were children whose eyes lit up at the sight of her.

She smiled. “Extra today.”

As the beggars greedily fell upon the scraps, Kere turned to leave. Her presence would soon be missed at the manor.

“Excuse me miss?” a reedy voice said behind her. “I want to give you my thanks.”

“It’s nothi-mmph!”

A handkerchief pressed firmly against her mouth. Hands grabbed her and an overpowering sweet smell dulled her senses. She struggled for a few seconds before going limp in Darin’s arms as he dragged her body around the corner. The beggars didn’t notice.

“This stuff is delicious,” Yura said, chewing on one of the leftovers. “How can people throw good food out?”

“It’s easy to waste when you have too much,” Darin said, stripping off his beggars robes to reveal the immaculate servant’s outfit beneath. “That’s why we’re here, to alleviate that problem.”

“Whatever. Seriously, try these pastries,” Yura said, offering the bread to his mentor. “They’re fantastic.”

“You know I don’t eat on the job.” Darin sighed. Then he paused. “Put it in my bag. I’ll eat it once we’re done. Now help me hide this servant girl.”

“I don’t get why we just can’t slit her throat and be done with it. That paralysing potion isn’t cheap.”

“Tenet Five, kid.” Darin shrugged. “Don’t unnecessarily harm women or children.”

“What happened to Tenet Four?”

“I’ll tell you it later. Now give me a hand.”

Yura sighed and helped dump Kere behind a bin. “Five is stupid. Women and children can be just as dangerous as men. Like Countess Jessica.”

Darin visibly flinched. “Please don’t use the J-word around me.”

Yura couldn’t hide his grin. “Sorry. Forgot you two had a history.”

Darin scowled. “Jessica’s not a woman anyway. She’s a demon in human skin.”

“Was that what you told her when you were dating?” Yura chuckled. “No wonder she tried to decapitate you.”

“Can we stop talking about that bitch now?” Darin neatened up his servants outfit. “I’d be perfectly happy never seeing her again.”

* * *

“I can’t believe Jessica was at the party!” Darin desperately slammed the door behind him and began making a makeshift barricade. The shout of guards could be heard getting closer. “Shouldn’t she be eating puppies somewhere?”

“What do we do?” Panic had set in on Yura’s face. “Every guard in the manor is going to be knocking on that door in a second! If you give back the Amber Ruby-”

“Our prize?” Darin smirked. He jogged to the other end of the room where a large portrait of Duke Weston hung. “You’re forgetting Tenet Four.”

“You never told me Tenet Four.”

“Remember Tenet Three?”

“Always have a plan.”

“Well, Tenet Four is always be prepared for that plan to go to shit. There’s a reason we ran in here after Jessica spotted us.”

Ignoring the guards banging at the door, Darin tore down the picture frame. Behind it, at the very top of the wall, was a small window.

Yura’s jaw dropped. “I’ll never doubt you again.”

Darin grinned. “Liar. Now, give me a leg up.”

“Got it.” Yura helped the older man up and through the narrow window. “Okay, now you pull me through.”

Darin looked at Yura. Then he looked to the door, where the guards had nearly broken the door down. There wasn’t time for both to escape.

“Sorry kid.” He shrugged. “No need for two to be caught when one will suffice. That’s Tenet Six.”

And with that, he took off running down the street, Yura’s screams ringing in his ears.

* * *

An hour later Darin was back at one of his hideouts, the only one Yura didn’t know of. It was a shame about the kid. Darin had liked him. Maybe he’d go into town the next day and tip his hat at the head on display. He probably wouldn’t. Darin knew that for all the posturing about rogues being gentlemen, they were still as every bit as heartless as any other criminal.

But enough reminiscing. It was time to admire his prize.

Darin opened his pouch and fished out a huge, glimmering ruby. It was the prize of Duke Weston’s collection and worth a small castle to the right buyer. Darin stared at the ruby for a few minutes, enraptured by its beauty, before noticing something else in his pouch.

It was a small pastry.

“I suppose this will do as a makeshift toast,” Darin said, taking a bite of the surprisingly sweet bread. “To your memory, Yura.”

That was when Darin felt his arm stiffen. Within seconds, his body had gone completely limp and it was all the rogue could do to stay sitting up.

“About time,” a voice said. “I thought you’d never eat that damn thing.”

Barely able to turn his head, Darin saw Yura walking towards him, a grin plastered across his face.

“Paralysing potion’s a bitch, isn’t it?” Yura said. “Good thing you don’t eat during a job. Speaking of, I’ll be taking that.”

He snatched the ruby from Darin’s palm, the older man helpless to stop him.

“I’ll admit, you impressed me with that window trick. Jessica too. I was working with her all along, you know. The original plan was for her to catch us at the party. She’d curry favour with Weston and get to kill you, before vouching for me. Although that last bit happened anyway. The pastry was just my own little Tenet Four. But now, we’ll just get credit for retrieving Weston’s ruby instead.” He paused. “Or at least, we would if I hadn’t received a much better offer for the ruby from a Duke Alegard. Enough to buy my own castle. I don’t think Jessica will be too angry though. Before I left, I slipped her a note telling her about you and ‘the only hideout I don’t know about’. Her men should probably be here within the hour. I don’t envy your fate. You wouldn’t envy mine.”

Beneath his paralysed face, Darin shot Yura a hateful glare. The younger rogue smiled.

“Don’t get angry at me, Darin. You’re the one who forgot Tenet Seven: Never trust anyone.”

– – –

Congratulations again to our winner Malcolm Pope! If you would like to enter this month’s short story contest, you can find more information in our forum. Happy Writing!

Title image by namesjames.

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2 Comments

  1. This is fantastic! Great narrative voice, brilliant dialogue, and on the whole a very entertaining story. Well done! 😀

  2. Avatar Billy says:

    Loved this!
    Could one of the mods please add in a “***” where it cuts from Kere’s perspective back to Yura’s?
    The shift in viewpoint almost caused an aneurysm.

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