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Author Topic: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread  (Read 12385 times)

Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2015, 05:04:54 PM »
I know it's late and don't expect it to count, but the title of this competition sparked some creativity in me. So here's my entry at 1085 words. It's a bit rushed, so not as crisp as I'd like, but hopefully it should be readable before people pass on to April's round. Enjoy!

The Payment

Spoiler for Hiden:
He checked his pocket watch. It was getting late. The sun was only half down, but the alley was already clothed in shadow. This was the place—he was sure of it... But nobody was here.
He sighed. He knew that asshole Hamad wasn't good for his word. An easy job... hah! Just go in, help the guy out, and get paid. “Who's the guy?” he'd asked. Oh, he doesn't go by names.
He sighed again. He was smarter than this; he should have heard the warning bells then and there.
Once more he checked the time. Tick-tock... Tick-tock... Tick—
“Where's Hamad?”
He jumped and turned to face the owner of the ancient voice. The silhouette of a man materialised from the darkness, his body coiled in a black garment, as though he wore the very shadows that had born him. The glint of a glass eye flashed beneath his cowl. “I asked you a question,” the contact said, his fingers stiff as though long past rigor-mortis.
“Hamad sent me to help you.”
“He did, did he...? So you've brought my payment?”
“Like hell I have. I'm here to help you get it. This is a job, right?”
“Job...? A job? I wanted him to pay me what I'm owed, not send me a wet behind the ears pup to potty train.”
“I'll have you know I'm a grade-A grifter.” He lifted the watch up by its chain and gave it a yank so that it swung like a pendulum. “And this sparkling beauty here was picked from the pocket of a preacher while his flock watched on.”
“Huh...? So you think you're the best?”
“I know I'm the best. And the best are busy men, so why don't you tell me how much Hamad owes you and just how we're gonna get it, eh?”
The contact floated up to him and nodded towards the other side of the street where a merchant was selling fruit at a makeshift stall. “You see that boy over yonder? He sells his families fruit until the wee hours of the morning. Likes to catch the drunken crowds leaving the bar up the road. Makes a tidy profit, I'd say. Keeps it in a pouch hidden under the hay of his cart back there. It should be enough to settle up.”
“So we're gonna steal it?”
“You are going to steal it. I'll be watching from here.”
He smirked. “And what's in this for me?”
“I'll take what I'm owed and you can have the rest.” The glass eye shone back at him. “I'll even throw in a lesson in the art of the backstab.”
“No offence, old man, but there ain't nothing you can teach me I don't already know.”
“We'll see. Now run along and get me my payment.”
“Watch and learn,” he said as he shuffled past him and out the alley.

***
The town bell tolled eight as he stepped onto the pebbled streets. He put on a drunken swagger as he cased the target. The cart was beside a small path between the buildings that was blocked off by a fence. The boy manning the stall noticed him. “Interest ya in a piece o' fruit, govenor?”
Dumb twat crept to mind. This was almost too easy.
“Fruit!?” he slurred in a hoarse voice. “Why... what a fan— What a fan— What a fantabulous idea. Hit me up!”
He wobbled over and pulled some coins from his pocket, making sure to spill a couple on the floor in good performance. The boy picked them up, slyly pocketing a shilling for his own as he did. Clever twat replaced the previous thought.
He chose an apple worth five shillings and paid for it with a gold guinea. The boy returned ten shillings change—five shillings short of what it should have been. Proper twat was now his new title.
He continued his unstable stroll down the street while keeping an eye on the cart to see exactly where the boy stashed his ill gotten gains—halfway down on the left hand side. So on he headed, round the corner, and another soon after to go back the other way, scanning the splits between the buildings until he saw the familiar fence. There he patiently he waited for the next exchange, all the while stretching his fingers on the wood like a cat clawing a couch.
“Interest ya in a piece o' fruit, madam?”
And just like a cat he was over the fence and touching silently down on the other side. He reached into the hay and immediately found the pouch, as though his hand and it were destined to be together. Oh my, was it heavy. He had half a mind to take it all and leave. Then again, some things were worth more than mere coin, such as the look on an old fool's grizzled face when he's been shown up by the new generation.
Returning to the alley, he entered it with a swank stride and tossed the pouch at his contact's feet. “Told you I was the best,” he had to quip.
The man sneered as he picked it up to count the contents. Piece... by piece... the coins disappeared into the shadowy folds of his garment.
“Do take your time, old man,” he said, removing the pocket watch with a sigh. “Some of us have many years still left on our lives... though I'd like to get home before daybreak if it's all the same to you.”
The counting stopped; the glass eye twinkled. “Hamad is on his way to collect you.”
Before he knew it the contact was stood in front of him. The half-empty pouch pressed into his chest along with a piece of paper folded into a small square. “What's this?” he asked.
“The lesson I promised you.”
Intrigued, he pocketed the watch and pouch and unfolded the paper to read the message aloud:
“The next time you fuck with me Hamad this will be you...
"What do you mean this will—”
His voice ceased to function as cold metal slid into his kidney. A chill rippled down his neck as the glint of glass crept up in the corner of his eye. The pouch and watch rose up before him, each caught between stiff fingers. “So you're the best, huh? Didn't anybody ever teach you... there's no honour among thieves.”
« Last Edit: March 31, 2015, 07:00:44 PM by D_Bates »
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #16 on: March 31, 2015, 08:20:15 PM »
I finally got it down to 1500 (including the title).

Spoiler for Hiden:
You call this a hanging!

Clouds hung low over a small hamlet a few miles south of the city of Auror as a cortège inched along its main road towards gallows on the south side, near a forest. A man in an ornate breastplate and a scarlet cloak lead the group, and following him there were four watchmen, a hangman, and, in the middle of them, a hooded man in black clothes with chains running from the irons on his wrists to the ones on his ankles.

When they reached their destination, some townsfolk had already gathered there. The man in lead of the procession paid no heed to the crowd and merely got up on the low gallows with the hangman and the criminal. He lifted a parchment up in front of his face and read from it.

“People of this town”, he announced with a thundering voice. “As a watch official and judge appointed by the throne, and as a warcryer blessed by the Five, I sentence this man, Drostan of Troutstead, to die by hanging for crimes committed in and around the city of Auror.” The warcryer paused for a moment to see the crowd’s reaction. But as he glanced past his parchment, his eyes widened and jaw dropped. “Where is everybody?” he asked, his voice now muffled.

Normally so rare an event as a hanging brought together dozens of people even in small towns such as this, but now only six spectators were looking up to the scaffold. At the back there was a man in fine velvet clothes –a nobleman no doubt– sitting in a chair between two bodyguards. He held his nose high and didn’t speak although the warcryer’s eyes sought an answer from him first. The three people closer to the gallows –a scruffy old man wearing a leather apron, a young red haired woman with brown stains on her dress, and a small boy in tattered shorts, holding a copper coin he had begged from the nobleman earlier– stood silent even though the judge turned his gaze on them.

“Well?” the warcryer asked.

“It’s market day, m’lord” the woman said and curtseyed in an awkward fashion.

The warcryer briefly covered his nose when the woman moved, for the stains on her clothes were, by the smell, clearly of the once digested food kind. “I’m no lord, miss”, he spoke. “Where is the marketplace?”

“In Auror, m’lo... mister judge sir.”

The judge placed his palm over his face and sighed. “Let’s just go on without anyone else then.”

“Are those them fancy shackles? With locks and a key?” the man in the leather apron asked suddenly.

“What difference does that make?”

“I was a smitty until recently. Those things are really hard to make. Very expensive. You better not lose the key. You have it, right?”

“That is none of your concern!” the indignant warcryer shouted.

But the ex-blacksmith insisted. “Do you have it?”

“Yes! I have the bloody key!” the judge raged with confidence in his voice. And still, his hand wandered to his pocket to make sure the key was there.

The old man moved towards the judge and gestured him to lean closer. “I need work. Could make you more of those shackles. For dirty-cheap even”, he whispered.

The warcryer pushed the man back, next to the redhead. “Stand back! Let’s just get on with this!”

The hangman removed the criminal’s hood and put the noose over his head, covering old rope burns on the man’s neck. “Do I get a last wish?” Drostan asked serenely even as the hangman moved to the latch holding the hatch under his feet.

The judge sighed. “Fine.”

“I’d like to be held by a woman one last time.”

The men turned their eyes to the only woman present. The redhead winced. “What! Me?” she asked. Drostan nodded.

“You should know, miss, that just the other night this man broke into a nobleman’s home, assaulted her wife, and killed two guards”, the warcryer said.

“Oh, did he?” the woman asked, scowling at Drostan.

“My home, my wife, and my guards!” the nobleman shouted. “Hang him already!”

“The woman, if you can call that thing a woman, assaulted me”, Drostan professed quickly. “She mistook me for her paramour, and before I could even react, she had dragged me into a bedchamber. And the guards died stumbling down the stairs as they chased me.”

“You slept with her?!” the redhead bellowed.

“NO! I didn’t!”

The woman winced again, turning her head away.

“Don’t do this! Don’t deny a dying man his last wish!” Drostan pleaded, his voice trembling now. “Please! I didn’t do it!”

The warcryer eyed the frightened criminal, seemingly puzzled by the change in his demeanour. But then he merely shook his head and sighed again. “Just hug him, miss, if that’s so important to him?”

“Fine” the woman sniffed, climbing to the gallows.

“Thank you, darling”, Drostan breathed a sigh of relief as the stinky redhead put her arms around him. Then she slapped him on the face and walked back down.

“Now we hang him” the judge rejoiced.

“But mister I’ll be lost without my daddy”, the boy sniffled.

“What!” the warcryer asked, turning to Drostan. “Is this your son?”

Drostan shrugged his shoulders.

“Oh for Five’s sake. You don’t care what happens to your son?” the judge marvelled.

“What can I do about it? You’re hanging me!”

“All right!” the judge yielded. “There are perfectly nice orphanages in Auror.”

“Nice? Really, sir?” the woman wondered. “They are as shitty as the pigsty I work at.”

“Yeah!” the old man concurred. “And besides, the fellow said he didn’t kill the guards. He’s hanged for fondling someone’s wife?”

“He has done plenty of thieving and killing in the past. He even slipped from hangman’s noose two years ago”, the warcryer claimed. “I gave him a chance to choose banishment to the Northern Desert, but he insisted not to be exiled there. Therefore, he dies.”

“Not much of a choice”, the old-timer murmured.

“Is there a problem? Would you have me state every crime he has committed?”

“That’d be nice. Many great stories, I bet.”

“I like stories!” the little boy exclaimed, smiling now.

“Well, I won’t do that. I’m not here to amuse you”, the judge said.

“Come on. That might ease the little orphan’s pain”, the old man suggested.

“Enough!” the nobleman screamed, jumping up from his chair. “You call this a hanging! A real hanging would have a mob spitting at the criminal and shouting curses till his body stops twitching! Instead, here we have some peasant and the high, mighty warcryer bickering, a whiny child begging for money and stories, and a woman stinking of pig shit! There aren’t even rotten vegetables to throw at the crook!”

After the nobleman had said that, he picked up a small stone and flung it towards the gallows. It missed Drostan and hit the warcryer’s head. A scuffle ensued on the road between the so called crowd and the warcryer, accompanied by his men. After it was resolved, the only thing on the gallows were the fancy shackles, locks open, dangling from the noose.


***


After a while, Drostan emerged from the forest onto a small clearing with a stream flowing through. As he took his first steps towards the stream a red headed woman threw a faeces stained dress on his face and kicked him in the groin.

“Do that again, and I’ll cut it off!” she threatened and walked away to a trail leading south.

“I didn’t...” Drostan started but the woman clearly didn’t care. “Love you too, honey!” he puffed after her.

A little boy walked to Drostan’s side, tossing a copper coin. “What gives?” he asked as Drostan was doubled over.

“I never understand why your mother is so angry at me.”

“Old Eban says, it’s because you put your pick into every lock you see”, the boy said casually. “I don’t really understand that.”

“That’s good”, Drostan said, glaring at the now not that scruffy old-timer who was sitting by the stream, smiling. “Well, I’m clad to be alive but sad we didn’t get any loot”, he continued to talk to the boy.

“I got my copper!”

Drostan snatched the tossed coin from mid-air. “You mean MY copper”, he teased the boy but then gave back the coin. “Go after your mother.”

Eban got up and joined Drostan as the boy went ahead. “We didn’t leave you hanging this time”, he smiled.

“Thank you for getting the key”, Drostan said. “I was scared that Bel wouldn’t give it to me, though.”

“My girl is fiery and you’re an idiot. But she still loves you”, Eban said.

“Yeah”, Drostan said and smiled. “But what was the deal with that nobleman?”

Eban shook his head. “Don’t know, don’t care. He did half of our work, and that’s all fine with me.”

They laughed and ambled to the trail leading south.

Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.

Offline C R Alexander

Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #17 on: March 31, 2015, 09:53:03 PM »
Only found this post recently, so my apologies for the last minute entry.  You can find me on twitter here: @C_R_Alexander   Word count is 1496 not including title.  Hope you all enjoy.

The Botched Job

Spoiler for Hiden:

   “Stay with us, Thar.”  I squeezed his arm.  My hand came away red, warm, and sticky.  He sprawled on the carriage floor wide eyed, holding his stomach.  His white shirt was soaked with red, which seeped between his fingers and trickled down his side.  It had already begun pooling around his body.  “Can't these damn horses go any faster?”  I shouted at Rowan. 
   “Sure, I can go faster.”  He narrowed his eyes as he turned and met my gaze.  “Won't be able to keep steady though.  Want me to kill him?”
   “We need the healer.  Now!  He's losing a lot of blood here.”  I said through gritted teeth. 
   “I thought this was supposed to be easy money.”  Rowan shouted after several moments of silence.  “You said this guy was harmless.  Next thing I know he's swinging a knife around.”  Rowan shook his head as he urged the horses on.
   “This guy is half elf.”  I stared at him with my mouth agape.  “You insulted him, so he got excited.  You know their kind.  If Thar didn't step in it'd be you who got a knife in the gut, so treat him with a little respect.  I'd start by caring about whether or not he makes it.”  Rowan glanced back at me again and opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but clamped it shut wordlessly.
   Couple misses, but one good shot.
   “I care...just didn't realize elves were so damn proud.”  Rowan shook his head as he muttered.
   Thar started to struggle for breath.  His face twisted with pain and he started to moan.
     “Almost there.”  Rowan glanced back.  “He still with us?”
   I nodded.  My lips sore from being pressed together.  “Barely.” 
   When we arrived I leaped out of the carriage down into the muck below.  My boots squelched and twisted as I rushed to the old wooden door.  I hammered on it with the palm of my hand until I heard movement within.
   “This isn't some witch doctor, is it?”  Rowan called from the carriage.
   “Witch doctor?”  I turned my head to look at him sideways. 
   “You know, not some old nut with a wand...or something?  He's an actual doctor, right?”
   I shook my head.  “She's a healer.”
   The door swung open suddenly, flooding the outside with light.  A young woman with half moon glasses and a mop of curly brown hair opened the door.  She puffed on her pipe and blinked at me before looking beyond to the carriage.  She paused for a moment, squinted her eyes, and then dropped the pipe in her rush to get to Thar.  Her shoulder bumped into mine as she went by.

                                                                                     
*

   “What happened to him?”  I asked to Rowan as I ran a hand through my thick, curly hair.
   That's a lot of red...
   “Stabbed.”  Rowan said.
   “I can see that much.”  I inspected the wound, then clamped my hand down on it.  “What happened?”  I looked back towards Lorne.
   “Thar was dealing.”  He shrugged.  “It went south.  Honey tongue over here,” Lorne jabbed his thumb at Rowan, “got into a fight over price and the guy pulled a blade.  Thar tried to break it up and ate steel as a thanks.” 
   I nodded silently and reassessed Thar's wound.  “I can't do anything for him here.  You,” I pointed at Lorne, “run inside.  Tell my husband to clear the table.” 
   He nodded and disappeared inside, slamming the door shut behind him.
   “There is,” I coughed awkwardly while I maintained pressure on the wound, “of course, the matter of pay.”  I did my best to look apologetic as I brought it up.  “Lorne can assist,” I nodded toward the house, “I'll cut your rate considering.”
   “Rate?”  Rowan's brow furrowed.  His eyes flicked curiously from Thar over to me.
   “You think you get back alley healing in exchange for nothing? ”  I shifted my weight and felt my foot sink further into muck.
   “I...guess not.”  Rowan blinked.  “How much?”  He eyed me suspiciously.  Looking me up and down as if appraising my skill as a negotiator.  Luckily, most men have no idea how to do this when it comes to women.  “Not a witch doctor...are you?”  His eyes narrowed.
   “Witch doctor wouldn't do much good here.”  I shook my head.  “I apprenticed under a magi.  I know my craft.”  I smiled.  “But the fact remains, Thar's dying.  I could ask for your whole purse.  Are you really willing to say no?  To waste Thar's life haggling?  Try explaining that to Lorne...”  His eyes shifted to the door.  “Unless you want to stick your hand in that wound.”  I raised a brow mockingly. 
   Rowan eyed the wound and quickly looked away. 
   Squeamish?  That's lucky. 
   “Not...particularly.”  He admitted with downcast eyes.
   I grinned.  “Luckily I have a fee structure.  Reduced rate is five coppers.”
   “Seems reasonable.”  Rowan shrugged as he reached into his purse to fish out the coins.
   “...Then add the danger pay.”  I continued.
   “Danger pay?  What are you doing that's so dangerous?  Anyone holding steel to you?”  Rowan's voice was starting to rise, his face flushed.
   “If he gets caught here he's going to the noose.  Who do you suppose will hang beside him?”  Rowan's mouth twisted as he thought about it.  The light in his eyes changed as understanding dawned on him.  “That's right.  Another five coppers for the risk.  Add the standard two silver for good measure.  Three silver in all.”
   “For good measure?  What's that mean?”
   “Means I keeps quiet and only ask two silver for it.”  I fixed Rowan with a stern gaze.
   Rowan glared at me and weighed his coin purse in his hand.  He looked about to say something when Thar started shaking violently.  “Wh-what's happening?”
   “He needs a healer.”  I looked at Thar with wide eyes.  My forehead wrinkled as I raised my eyebrows.  When I made no motion other than to eye the coin purse suggestively Rowan grumbled angrily as he reached into it.  “Fucking angel, aren't you doc.”
   “I can't eat gratitude.”  I grunted as the door opened behind us. 
   “Fiennes!”  I turned to see Lorne hurrying over.  The muck sucked at his boots making him strain with effort..  “All set in here.  He okay to move?”
   Rowan slapped the coins into my hand.  “Grab his feet.”  I grabbed Thar's upper body and we carried him toward the house.
   “Meet me at the safe house tomorrow.  Sun down.”  Rowan called over.  “If I'm not there...leave town.”
   I bumped the door shut as we carried Thar to the dining room.  We lowered Thar to the ground.  “I'm famished.  Got anything?”  He beamed.
   “Help yourself.”  I smiled and gently slapped Thar's face to rouse him.
   
                                                                                     
*
   

   “Sleep herb wearing off Thar?”  Lorne was grinning ear to ear.
   “How did we do?”  I blinked down at the impressive red stain on my shirt.  Looks like I died...
   “Took him for three silvers.”  Fiennes smiled.  “I hope you know you'll need a scar if you expect him to go for the long con.”  She eyed my stomach.  “You had another episode too...”
   “One each?   Not bad.”  I nodded thoughtfully.  “The fits are coming more frequent lately.”  I shrugged, “and as it so happens...”  I lifted my soiled shirt and wiped the fake blood. Right where I was supposed to have been stabbed there was a scar.
   “Nice planning.”  She nodded approvingly though her eyes betrayed her concern, “it's old, but I'm sure you can dress it up to look fresh.” 
   I nodded, my mouth twitched upwards.
   “What'd you give the guy who show-stabbed you?”  Lorne tilted his head.
   I shrugged.  “A few irons.  Had him convinced he was getting the better of me too.”  I chuckled.  “Probably thinks he made out like a bandit.”
   After the long con goes through, Hennen and I will split your shares and he'll be right.  It'll be sad to turn on people I've called friends for years... 
   “Him?”  Lorne laughed.  “Half elf, half idiot.”  He and Fiennes giggled incessantly.
   I flicked my eyes from one to the other and my guilt melt away.
   They've become like a family.  Unfortunately for them, 'like' family isn't enough...not if we're going to buy our sister back from the slavers.
   “To the long con.”  I raised my glass.  Almost there now, Ava.  Everything is in motion.  We all clinked cups and swallowed deep before pouring over the details and final preparations of our long con.
   Of course Hennen and I had ours worked out already. 
   I grinned.  Wine never tasted so good.