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Author Topic: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread  (Read 12192 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« on: March 01, 2015, 08:48:58 PM »


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 a special place in our heart.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. Must be about one or more rouges.
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 before.
7. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
8. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
9. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys next to the 'youtube' symbol:

Entry will close April 1st 2015 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
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Offline JMack

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2015, 03:22:34 PM »
I'm first again this month, but after promising this, I had to get it out there.
So here you have it: "One Rogue, Four Women and Escape on a Bicycle"
Coming in at a trim (for me) 1,485 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
         Jack laughed and spread his arms wide. “I swear, it’s true! Four of them at once!” Catcalls and cries of “Liar!” greeted this declaration. Someone threw a fig. The rogue jumped up on the table, setting the chandelier swinging and flinging hot wax on his audience. “You think this couldn’t handle it?” he shouted, grabbing his codpiece to great laughter and guffaws. “My brave soldier here could find the one virgin in a king’s harem with the lights out and my hands tied.”
   “I think your brave soldier couldn’t find the piss pot with the light on and your fly open!” yelled someone from the balcony.
   “I’ll tell you what really happened,” called a new voice, one with feminine tones and a cultured accent. It was lost in the commotion like a flower in a garbage heap until the speaker raised her voice with a righteous cry. “I’ll tell you what really happened!” And the whole room held its breath.

   I’ll tell you what really happened. I was handing around tea for the Delacroix sisters - delightful cucumber sandwiches and good Darjeeling - and they, good souls, were enlightening me about society in my new city; when one of them, Mary, I think, whispered “And then there’s Jack.” Jack Stinson, a rake if I’d ever heard of one, had arrived some months earlier and begun a circuit of the eligible maidens and even the ineligible matrons. He was a fine shot and an honest card player so the men welcomed him. As for we women, I suspect we are all susceptible to strong shoulders and a talented tongue.
   The bell rang and another recent acquaintance appeared. It was not more than three minutes before the poor thing was in tears and weeping on my shoulder. We had the truth out of her, and a great determination filled my soul. Jack Stinson must get what he deserved, or in this case, reap what he had sown.
   I know a little magic. Not your parlor trick, sleight-of-hand frivolity, but a true thing handed down from a branch of my family that once owned plantations on exotic Jamerica. The first order of business was to discover how widely the rogue had spread his affections. I set the calling cards of all the women with whom I’d had intercourse in a circle around a delicate glass bottle, and pushed it into a lazy spin. The four of us held our breaths as the bottle stopped first at one name and then another to expostulations of “She would!” and “I never!” and even “I didn’t think she had it in her”, which made me laugh but caused our poor betrayed one to dissolve in tears again. When the bottle pointed at the senior Miss Delacroix, her younger sister’s mouth twisted as though she’d eaten an unripe persimmon, and when it next pointed to the younger sister, things threatened to storm and thunder right there in my sitting room. However, it was soon evident that the bottle would stop at every one of the twenty-three lady’s cards and we four subsided into a simmering, amazed silence. Then we set our plans.
   I made it known I would appreciate an invitation to Lady Baldwin’s soiree, and I know she was thrilled for me to attend. Jack was there, and came to me like a bee to the finest orchid in the garden. I have to admit pleasure at being the envy of every female eye in the room. I should not have been surprised that Jack was the finest dancer I had ever partnered, or that his conversation was in decidedly good taste. But I was unprepared for the originality of his ideas or the effect of his flattery upon me. We set an assignation for the next day, Herod’s Hotel, noon.
   He arrived in a sweat-stained suit and straw hat, saying he had been experimenting with a velocipede and offering to take me riding with him. I think he was taking my measure. Had I been at leisure to enjoy his company, I might have risen to the bait.
   We had a private room in the restaurant. Not even for this noble cause could I afford to risk my reputation by taking a suite upstairs. We dined - a delicious rump roast and breasts of the finest fowl. As the dessert was served, I at last turned the conversation to magic, explaining that I had gypsy blood and could bring him into contact with the Other World.
   “That would be most rare”, said he, and we began. I set the empty bottle of Tolkane ’54 on its side, and began to spin it lazily.
   “Jack, I have come for you,” said a bodyless voice. “You have betrayed and dishonored me.” I attest that Mary’s imitation of a spirit was so much like the real thing that even I shrank.
   “Who is it?” cried Jack, his eyes wide.
   “One who loved you when alive,” the elder Miss Delacroix continued. “But Lucifer has set me loose on you, Jack.”
   “No!” he cried, “Whichever you are, I swear your death was not on me.”
   But now a second voice called out, and I summoned a mist to swirl through the room. “Jack!” it screamed. The younger Miss Delacroix could certainly have taken lessons from her sister, for I couldn’t believe her to be a spirit for one moment. But Jack was growing more agitated. “Jack! You deceiver. How could you leave me for her!”
   It was terrible acting, but Jack was up from his chair, and pacing around the chamber like a man possessed.
   Now the third voice sounded, and I swear that the very hair on my neck stood on end, so authentic was it in its pain and loss. “Jack,” it whispered. “I loved you, Jack. But you took from me what can never be returned.”
   Jack sputtered in surprise, stopping his pacing and gripping the back of his chair. “Angelica?” he asked hesitantly. “If you’re looking for the pearls, I can explain that -“
   “NO!” screamed our poor sister, “NO!” A cold wind started to whip through the room. “It’s too late, Jack! I told you I would, and I’ve gone and done it!”
   At this, my companions threw open the doors of the room and stood revealed in white robes, holding flaming torches. “We have come for you!” they cried, and Jack, brave Jack, threw himself on my breast, crying “Save me!” then ran screaming from the room. We hunted him then through the hotel, for the staff - well-paid for this adventure - made certain of the front door.
   Suddenly, our man burst from a maid’s closet, dressed in a woman’s sleeping gown, robe and blond wig, pursued by Angelica as though the hounds of hell were at his heals. He hurled himself wildly against the plate glass window of the hotel, shattering it into a thousand pieces and finally rolling into the gutter. The four of us were hard on him, and we chased the rogue into the street. His two-wheeled contraption was there, and he threw himself upon the seat. Then leaning over the steering bars, he pushed desperately with his feet to build up speed. His robe was flapping in the wind behind him as he cycled away, and we truly thought we’d seen the utter end of Jack Stinson.
   We stood in the street, our clothes in disarray, our chests heaving, and smiles of triumph on our faces. (Though poor Angelica was still looking positively ghostly.) Then I raised my hand to straighten my hair and discovered that the scoundrel had stolen my earrings, my necklace and even a small gold ring I wore on my left pinky.
   This wasn’t the story I told the crowd, of course.

   “Please, for the love of God and the saints, have mercy on a fallen woman!” she cried. “This black villain must do as he promised and marry me, or I shall be ruined!”
   At this, the audience turned a bleak though bleary eye on Jack, and some of the more drunk of the jury began to scale the table to seize him. A cry rose up to bring a rope. The rogue ran the length of the table toward his accuser, dodging glasses and tankards with nimble feet, and he might have reached her had not a drunken crone thrown a beer bottle and knocked him off his aim. He ended up face-first in the bosom of the bar maid, who pushed him off with a practiced hand and sent him sprawling to the ground in front of the woman he’d so deeply wronged.
   “I want my jewels back, Jack,” she hissed.
   Jack smiled wickedly and launched himself back onto the table. “That’s not what really happened!” he yelled over the chaos.

   Friends – Let me tell you what really happened.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2015, 02:01:51 AM by Jmacyk »
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Offline SJBudd

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2015, 07:17:28 PM »
Here's my attempt - Loose fingers and looser morals (1273 words) :)

Spoiler for Hiden:
He knew he had to stop. He was good at what he did, damn it, he was the best. But that was precisely why it was going to get him killed. Ross walked alone despite the festivities. It was past midnight, the debauchery around him told him so. The dirty cobbled streets were a mess of celebrations, empty bottles and fallen drunks. He smiled with satisfaction as he walked. It had been a bumper harvest for Torr. They had gone all out.

For a charming gentlemanly pickpocket such as himself, tonight had been a very busy and fruitful evening. He had robbed until all his pockets, even the hidden ones in his long coat, had been filled. Ross had robbed until he could squander no more. Even his hat was stuffed with jewels. He should have stopped hours ago but there was need within. If he was caught now he’d hang before sunrise.

He calculated what he had pilfered that night. Was it 20 or 23 gold rings that jangled on his person? Not to mention the various gold and silver pocket watches that gleamed even in the dark. He grinned upon remembering just how many wallets he had snuck away. And of course the precious gemstones and the jewellery he’d slipped from ladies necks.

Ross lit a cigarette already missing Torr’s generous taverns he’d spent his evening in. He would not need to work for many years if he chose, he knew too well it wasn’t financial gain that bound him to trickery and theft. He knew he would come back for Yule. He was careful, he never went on these rampages in his home town where his lucky lady dwelled, a day’s ride away.

He sighed, the night was done. He was all alone in Torr. At least his children, all sired with different women would be ecstatic with what his hoard would bring. It was not easy being an honest womaniser for after the deed came babes, and they could be expensive. Still he loved them, a few even showed promise in their father’s line of work. He would train them when he found himself less busy.

“Clear off!” Growled an inebriated angry landlord.

A buxom young woman was thrown roughly from the packed out tavern and fell heavily on Ross almost knocking him over. She was blind drunk. Ross smiled.

“Oh excuse me Sir,” She slurred, her face was pretty but that was not where he looked. As I said, he did already have a woman. She, unfortunately was far away and even if she were near she would no doubt be fast asleep and Ross was not ready to sleep away this pleasant night.

“It’s no trouble at all being bothered by such a beautiful maiden as you,” he grinned as he slowly raised his hat to her careful not to let out his newly acquired jewels. She took his arm and smiled before stumbling to the floor unapologetically. Her curls fell around her face and she looked up helpless with big green eyes.

Perfect, he thought.

“I insist on making sure you get home safely and without trouble to yourself.”  This would be too easy he thought, she would be an easy mark to charm, already filled to the brim with rum and laughter.

“Why thank you kind sir. You’re a true gent, and there’s not many of you around. I think I may have drunk too much tonight.” She rubbed her head and allowed him to pull her up.

“Haven’t we all?” He grinned placing his arm tightly around her shoulders and guiding her not to where she lived but to an out of the way backstreet inn he knew where no questions would be asked.

“It’s a very special night tonight.” She purred and to his great relief did not seem to notice that the inn was not her home. Fortunately it was not until the door to his room was locked and she was sprawled upon his bed that she realised she was in his room and not hers.

“Oh I see,” She murmured quietly as she stroked the sheets, “Order some blackberry wine won’t you, it’s my favourite.”

Ross did as he was asked and poured her a generous amount, “You must have some too, I insist upon it,” she said.

“It’s not to my taste, but if you do insist…” He raised his eyebrow as he poured for himself. She beckoned him to lie beside her. How could he resist?

“You must always drink blackberry wine at Lammas,” She explained, he noted she smelt of delicate sandalwood and flowers.

“Lammas?” He couldn’t believe his luck, the wine was expensive but strong, and he wanted her as drunk as possible.

“Lammas is the old name for the harvest festival,” She took out a corn dolly from her ample cleavage and handed it to him. “Now it is the Goddess who presides, the Great Lord has been cut down with the corn where he withers and dies.” By now Ross was only half listening, it turned out she was a lunatic, but what a chest she owned.

“Oh dear,” He uttered as he topped up her glass.

“But don’t worry,” She exclaimed, “He will be reborn from the reap of the harvest.” She kissed his cheek, “You can keep that dolly until spring.”

Ross concluded that this woman was quite mad and only vaguely listened when she began to tell him about a magical picnic she had attended earlier in the day. She was very beautiful but soon he grew bored with talking and began to yawn. He was more tired than he realised…

Scarlett saw him fall asleep but carried on with her rambling until she was sure the powder she’d slipped in his drink had taken its full effect. She sat up and jumped off the bed, sobriety and sanity suddenly restored. Quietly she cleared her throat and finished the last of her drink. She looked for the cork and resealed the half full bottle for later.

Looking back at her new friend she saw with pleasure the bulge in his trousers and with a small dagger concealed upon her she slit his pockets and marvelled at what came tumbling out. She held out her bag and filled it with gold, rubies, watches and chains that were hidden upon him. She even took back her beloved corn dolly.

Under the soft lamp light he slept peacefully with even breath she was glad to note. Scarlett stroked his soft face and kissed him upon his cheek, she was truly sorry to go for he was a marvel to look upon.

“You’ve been had Sweetheart.”

The innkeeper asked no questions as she made her way downstairs to the bar, he did not comment on her sudden restoration to a sober switched on woman fully in command.

She took out a few penny coins from her bag and slid them across the bar towards the inn keeper.

“These coins are to pay for that poor man’s room for the night,” She turned to leave but sighed wistfully and dug once again and took out a few more, “And this is for a hearty breakfast for him tomorrow.”

The innkeeper raised his eyebrows glad that she had not killed her mark, “That’s very generous of you Scarlett.”

“Well I do believe when he wakes up tomorrow he’ll be feeling very sorry for himself,” From her bodice she pulled out a magnificent gentleman’s gold ring and placed in the inn keeper’s hand.

“You’ve done me proud, sweet daughter of mine” He grinned.

 

 


Offline Raptori

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2015, 08:24:37 PM »
Sorry, Kid. (538 words)

Spoiler for Sorry, Kid.:
“Sorry, kid. I don’t do charity.”

The kid sighed and stared at the floor, a forlorn look on his face.

“Come on, don’t look like that. This life… it’s not one big adventure. It’s not what you’d think. I’m always on the run. Can’t stay in one place too long—it gets messy real fast. No friends, no connections, nothing really. It’s not for everyone.”

The kid scratched at the floor, refusing to meet the man’s eyes.

“Sure, if you can bear the downsides it’s a good life. The thrill of the con. The rush you get when the law is chasing you down. The satisfaction when it all goes to plan.” The man shook his head. “But it’s not something you should wish for. You’re young, free, you can go ahead and take whatever path you want. I’m telling you, kid, you shouldn’t come with me. You shouldn’t choose the life of the outlaw. Not if you can help it.”

The kid glanced up at the man through his eyelashes.

“You should stay here. Live the life of luxury. Sure, it’ll probably kill you some day, but why not enjoy it while it lasts?” The man leaned on the wall and looked around, taking in the scenery.

A vast mountain range rose on the horizon, its majesty half-hidden in the haze of distance. The farmhouse stood on a small hill, a high point near the edge of a plateau. The plain spread out before them, reaching almost as far as the eye could see—a patchwork of farms, forests, and grasslands, punctuated here and there by lakes and the occasional river. The summer breeze made the forests shiver as deer weaved in and out of the tree line. Goats and sheep flocked in the fields, and birds wheeled high above.

“You won’t find another place like this if you walk for a hundred years.” The man sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’m almost tempted to settle down here myself. It’s one hell of a view.”

The kid sat down and sighed again.

“I still have to go. It’s not the place for me.” He hesitated. “Don’t feel bad about it, okay kid? It’s not that I don’t like you. I just… can’t take hangers-on. It’s for the best. You’d tire of the road, always being on your guard, never knowing where your next meal would come from. Wondering when you’re gonna slip up and get caught.”

The kid looked up at him, eyes reproachful.

“You’re just not gonna give up, are you?” A wry smile passed across the man’s face. “Look, the biggest problem is that you’d just get in the way. You can’t help. I’d have to train you. And that’d take months. It’d take time, which is a luxury I don’t have enough of as it is.”

The kid moved forwards and took hold of the man’s sleeve.

The man glared and tugged his arm away from the kid. “Fine. I won’t stop you. But don’t go around telling anyone that I’m your pal, or we’re gonna have some problems. Got it?”

He stalked off, shaking his head in disbelief. The goat watched him leave, scratched an itch, and sauntered towards the open gate.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 09:36:44 PM by Raptori »
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Offline Giddler

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2015, 10:47:50 AM »
Hi everyone, here's mine for this month. Sadly, I had to cut the bicycle from the final draft as it was starting to take over the story. I guess time will tell if I was right to do so!

Heroes in the Shadow 1483 words


Spoiler for Hiden:
A fellow Bligh had once met in an opium den had quoted the assassin, Hassan-I-Sabbah, to him: ‘Nothing is real; everything is permitted.’ Clearly he never tested the theory by trying to squeeze into a incredibly flimsy pine cupboard, Bligh reflected, hooking a fingernail on the door and pulling it shut.

The timbre of the footsteps changed as they rounded the corner, heading ever-closer towards Bligh’s hiding place. The owner of the footsteps was trying to be stealthy, but failing. Bligh reached into his coat for a weapon, wincing as his elbow bumped into the panel.

The footfalls stopped.

Bligh tensed, every muscle trembling. The smell of wood dust was near-overpowering; he could taste rank spit in his mouth. He adjusted his grip on his cosh.

On the count of three, he thought. One-

He flinched as the door was yanked open and a powerful light shone into his eyes. Blinded, he made a feeble swing at his assailant, tripping over his own legs as he tried to scramble out of his bolt-hole. He tumbled onto the floor into the foetal position, waiting for the crunching impact of boot and leather cudgel into his head and back. The pause lengthened.

“You alright down there, Mr Bligh?”

Bligh looked up in annoyance at the silhouette looming behind the glare.

“Get that bloody light out of my face,” he snapped.

“Sorry,” Stubb pulled the shutter down on the dark lantern, plunging the corridor into gloom. “I wondered where you’d gotten to.”

“Never mind that. What are you doing, clomping about, lighting up the building? Do you even know the meaning of the word ‘subterfuge’?”

“No,” replied Stubb with complete honesty.

Bligh glared at him scathingly and stood up, retrieving his greasy bowler hat from the floor. “Did you see the guard?” he asked.

Stubb patted the blackjack hanging from his belt with a knowing wink that looked anything but. Bligh turned on his heels, motioning for Stubb to follow, cursing under his breath the circumstances which necessitated having Stubb for a business partner. It had been tough, adjusting to the challenges of the new industrial age, and the grave-robbing trade had been hit harder than most.

It used to be so simple. You’d dig a body up, replace the grave soil so no-one was any the wiser, and sell the cadaver to the highest-bidding surgeon, biologist or pet food manufacturer. Granted, it had gotten a bit competitive a few decades ago, with many of the resurrection men resorting to murder in an attempt to provide the supply for the demand, but surely that was how an economy was meant to work?

But laws had changed, and the demand had dried up. Most of the grave robbers went on to other work, and the talent pool had shrunk considerably. Nowadays, a gangling oaf like Stubb was the best that Bligh could hope for. And finding corpses required increasingly creative thinking, hence their location.

The corridor ended into the main hall of the College of Medicine, a huge rotunda set about with pillars and statues of venerable physicians. A vast chandelier dominated the room, its lights extinguished. They tiptoed through the oppressive gloom of the balcony floor towards the Office of Anatomical Studies. Bligh knelt down in front of the door to pick the lock.

“Mr Bligh?” whispered Stubb.

“What?” Bligh grimaced around the spare pick held between his teeth.

“I still don’t understand why we’re here.”

Bligh arched an eyebrow. “What part don’t you understand?”

Stubb’s eyes rolled into the top right corner of their sockets, as they always did when he was thinking too hard.

“We’re here to steal a body, right? Because we can’t get one anywhere else?”

Bligh nodded impatiently as he fiddled with the lock. “Not one that’s in good condition, no, and our client is paying particularly well for that detail.”

Stubb’s mouth worked like a dying fish for a moment as words queued up behind it to be blurted out.

“I thought you said the client was a lecturer here?”

Bligh nodded. “In this department, in fact.”

“So we’re basically stealing one of his own corpses?”

Bligh fumbled the pick with a muffled curse and turned to Stubb. “We’re professionals, Stubb. We cannot simply tell an employer ‘No, sir, we can’t get you a cadaver, there’s a shortage on’. This is just a temporary measure to keep our reputation intact, and reputation is everything in this business. Now shut up and let me concentrate. This lock’s being a bastard.”

All was silent for a few minutes, bar the scratching of Bligh’s lock picks.

“I wonder if one of those keys I took off the guard would work,” Stubb wondered aloud.

Once Bligh had stopped swearing, he took the keys from Stubb and tried them one by one in the lock. A waft of astringent stung their nostrils as they entered the laboratory. They moved along the aisle between benches towards the cold storage at the back of the office. Stubb wrenched the handle open and they looked in.

The store was empty. Wicked looking hooks gleamed along the empty rails. Bligh stood stock still, a thunderous expression on his face.

“Right, then,” he muttered. “Come on, Stubb.”

“Are we going?” asked Stubb, like a disappointed child.

“Of course we’re going!” snapped Bligh. “It’s empty. There’s nothing to take.”

“What about that one?” Stubb pointed over Bligh’s shoulder.

Slumped at one of the desks was the body of a man in a teacher’s gown and mortar-board. Bligh had missed it on the way in due to the fact that the mortar-board, and the head it was perched on, were lying on the table next to the body in a pool of congealed gore.

Not in perfect condition, thought Bligh, but hopefully good enough. His mood brightened considerably.

“Well spotted, Stubb. Now, pick up the gentleman and let’s be on our way.” He stuffed the head into an old onion sack and Stubb hoisted the body onto his shoulders.

They made their way back to the ground floor window they had entered by. Stubb was unusually quiet which, although refreshing, was rarely a good sign.

“Something on your mind, lad?” asked Bligh.

Stubb shrugged. “It doesn’t seem right,” he muttered. “They’ve got so much stuff and we’ve got nothing. I never had chandeliers or chairs. My parents and me, we shared a single bed until I was seventeen.”

Bligh quashed the many, many questions prompted by this statement. He turned to Stubb and put a hand on his arm.

“Now listen to me, Josiah Stubb. You’re a good lad. If you apply yourself, you’ll go far.” Stubb straightened proudly underneath the dead academic hefted over his shoulders.

“But you need to have a good think about where your life is going,” Bligh continued. “What are we, Stubb?”

“Grave robbers.”

“No, that’s what we do. What we are, Stubb, is heroes.”

Seeing Stubb’s habitual look of confusion grow more pronounced, Bligh elaborated.

“People in this city work their shifts, pay their taxes, worship at the nearest church and get their opinions from whichever newspaper they think relates to them the most. They live their lives according to the dictates of lawyers and gentry who wouldn’t piss on them if they were aflame. Not us though, Stubb. We are the last of the truly free; we who live on the edge and move in the shadows.”

Bligh pointed out of the window to the row of fine houses across the street.

“Every one of those folk laying a-bed right now are dreaming of swapping places with us. For all their money and finery, they’ve no spark, Stubb, no danger, no reason to live. I for one, wouldn’t give up this life for all the silver cutlery and porcelain bidets in the world!”

Stubb beamed proudly. “I never thought of it like that. I’m a hero, Mr Bligh!” He puffed his chest out.

“That you are, lad.”

The two men manhandled the body out of the window.

“What do you think happened to him?” asked Stubb, gesturing with a jerk of his chin.

“I find it rarely pays to speculate in such matters,” replied Bligh. “Suffice it to say that, as long as our employer-” He tailed off uneasily as a thought occurred, and pulled open the sack.

“Oh bloody hell!” he hissed.

“What’s wrong?”

Bligh held the head up by an ear. “It’s the client! I thought I recognized him. He must have fell foul of one of those heated academic disputes!”

“What are we going to do now?” asked Stubb despondently.

Bligh thought for a moment. “I suppose we could pretend we kidnapped him and ransom him back to his family in pieces.”

Stubb nodded happily as the two men continued through the murky streets.

“It’s nice being a hero, Mr Bligh.”

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2015, 10:43:02 PM »
Don't mind me. "Open and Shut" at 1425 words, not including the title.

Spoiler for Open and Shut:
Open and Shut

The morning was like any other, cold and wet and foggy. You got used to the weather, living in Gwyrdion for who knows how long. But that didn’t really matter. Victor Duthie woke up every sunrise with a creak in his neck and an ache in all his joints. Only remedy was a cup of coffee before he set off and the of course rounds he would make as the gas lamps flickered off.

   Birds were chirping. The cobbles were soaked. People weren’t awake yet, and that was fine by him. He liked it like no other place, even if the city set a creak in his step and a chatter box on his left called Remy. But then, partners were partners. You would’ve thought he’d tune out the noise of his coworkers discoveries, especially before the sun had really woken up, but time does not heal all wounds. One idiot punk could cut your ear off and you’d still hear out of it, damn the Almighty.

   Anyway, the duo’s walk had been unquestioned for most of the early hours. Y’know, the usual affair of two constables shuffling down one well-to-do neighborhood, gossiping about the town and waving at a few smile-stretching owners. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to worry, not until old Miss Mack huffed over to the sidewalk, blouse shaking and hair curled to a dishevel.

   “What seems to be the matt—“

   “I saw a thief!” she shrieked, higher pitch than the robins singing in the trees.

   Victor cocked his head and grabbed her round the shoulders. “You saw what, mam? Calm down please, it’s okay.”

   “A thief,” she said, eyes wide open, staring into his. “Vaulted over Miss Gavin’s wall and into her backyard.” Remy glanced at his partner and followed up the woman with a grin.

   “Miss, where’s your glasses?”

   She shook her head. “My what?”

   Victor shook his, and turned her around. “Go back home, Miss. Everything’s all right.”

   “But I know what I saw!”

   “Of course,” the constable patted her along. “Of course.” It might be ravings of a blind old bat, but eh, it was a slow day. “You go round the back,” he whispered to Remy as he led her away. “Just in case.”

   The young man chuckled. “Just in case.”



   Now this was the heist he’d been waiting for. The one to set him free. Set him on a boat and out of here, yes sir. All it would take was a quick window sweep and off from Gwyrdion he’d be. No looking back now, the young man chided as he shimmied over the wall. Time to clear the head and get to work.

   It didn’t take him long to climb up the banister to the second-story balcony, scan the grounds and give up any worry. The house was quiet. Practically deserted. O’Malley had been right; this was the perfect place to wipe away his debt.

   The windows were unlocked, thank the Almighty, because why would they need to be? Crime was a fantasy in these streets, and our little thief Tobie was romanticizing it today with his grand excursion. He slipped inside and waltzed to the jewelry table, wood strung with fine drapery and obnoxious rings. Emeralds and rubies and pearls flaunted the dresser for any time the woman of the house entered, but perhaps that was a bad thing.

   Tobie scooped them up into his coat pockets, crammed all that he could fit, and wondered for a second if he could nab some more. It wouldn’t hurt, not in these halls of illustrious paintings and bronze-encrusted busts. All was silent, too much of a hush, so he pulled out his knife to make room and went out toward the hallway. His veins were on fire with excitement, something no number of jobs makes you get over.

   Still nothing.

   The worth of the place was grotesque, even to him. Draped in muted noises, Tobie tip-toed to the winding staircase and peered over the side. Gawked at rich velvet. Stared down on the Jadiian rugs underneath silk sofas, and muttered curses at the family. He could pull off millions of sweeps, much more than he could count, and never reach this kind of wealth. Not under O’Malley’s thumb at least.

   But it was that urge to knock them down that willed him forward, down, down, down to the bottom rung of that empty mansion. He saw only fruits and a pup sleeping beside the dining room bowl, and felt a fear creep up in his stomach. Maybe best to leave before the dog alerted somebody. Let’s snatch that silver pistol above the fireplace and be gone, hope to hope the world stays still. And as if his dreams had become reality, a knock on the door broke him from his mullings. The dog’s eyes jerked open and out came that yelp, that terrible alert.

   “Miss, are you home? Constabulary here.” The voice was deep and probing. Almost unconcerned if you were looking. “We heard reports of a thief in the backyard.”  Tobie’s heart leapt just as he bounded to the back door; most people would freeze, however, he had learned long ago that was wrong. That’s what got you killed in the back alleys. But he faced an even worse predicament as the exit opened for him.

   Out strode Miss Gavin in her garden attire, brow furrowed in sweat and mouth puckered from work. How he had missed her he knew not, but instinct would not allow him to miss this time.

   Muscle memory is a strange affliction. Spend enough afternoons with your younger cousins, beating them with your punches, and you start to think you’re tough. You get rough holding a knife and think you know what the world expects. But nobody knows how they’re going to react in a crisis, not really. Not without enough practice. Problem was, Tobie had had a little too much. What should’ve been a cut and dry operation turned out to be anything but.

   The knife went for arm’s length and that just happened to be her throat. Blood sprayed the sweet mahogany, and he could only stand there as she reached for his comfort. She fell to the floor. None came. Job didn’t pay that much, and quite frankly, he didn’t know what to do. Hadn’t seen death before, because that wasn’t true. Only in the big bad stories and the prison folk did people fall, and he sure as hell fell that day. Tobie let her lay there, hold the tiles down as he reeled and wished to move.

   Funny how your life can change at the flick of wrist, quite literally. No seventeen year old wants to be a killer, but life laughs at the paths we choose when we’re ignorant children.



   Victor pushed open the unlocked door and saw the youngster standing there, head down, knife on the ground by a puddle of blood. Oh how big it was and growing. The constable drew his pistol and bit his jaw. “Hands in the air, mate.”

   The boy did not listen. Bolted in fact, and Victor missed thank the Almighty. Say what you will, but another murder might’ve been too much for the town. Victor chased him to the edge of the wall, huffing and puffing. Saw him jump into the unsuspecting hands of Remy, or we could pray so. Good job, he thought, but that was fleeting. Sunlight was peeking out as he pocketed his pistol and heard the racket, stared at the poppies getting ready for winter. Too bad they wouldn’t last without a caretaker.

   He went back to the woman, hoping in some vain attempt the pool wasn’t too big. Maybe it was a face wound. Maybe he could still save her. They tended to be pretty gruesome, right? And one summer with a physician had taught him something, surely? He knelt down to make sure. Just double check for the report, he said. Just so he wouldn’t second guess himself tomorrow.

   It wasn’t.

   It never is. Remy entered from the front, our offender handcuffed and cuffed across the head. He had a little dribble of blood on the temple, and Victor made a small mumble about irony to his friend. Some sentence lost to the wind. Made his smile wither pretty quickly, quick as she was dead.

   It was an open and shut case, Victor understood, staring into those wide eyed tears. Burglary gone wrong and all that nonsense. But then, sometimes those’re the worst investigations to get.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2015, 10:52:48 PM by Doctor Chill »
“It’s a dangerous thing, pretense. A man ought to know who he is, even if he isn’t proud to be it.” - Tomorrow the Killing, Daniel Polansky

Offline TOMunro

Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2015, 01:15:38 AM »
This is a bit grimdark, but I have a character who is a rogue with a big part in my trilogy, so this month's competition gave me a chance to flesh out a passing reference in the third book into a prequel short story.

find me on twitter @TOMunro

1500 words excluding title.


Trust a Thief


Spoiler for Hiden:
   Kaylan missed his pipe but, in the absence of a portion of nagan weed, whittling was the next best thing to settle the mind and steady the hands.  The thin blade of his knife of last resort twisted and turned at his bidding, scoring out flakes of wood with the same precision he once spun the tumblers of the finest locks in Undersalve. He’d been working on the piece on and off for days.  The shape had been buried in the broken branch, but he’d seen it nonetheless. Now his careful knife work had stripped away all extraneous material to expose the crescent within, fashioning an exact copy in wood of the golden symbol his lady wore.

He lifted the piece to his lips and blew softly, scattering the last shavings which veiled the perfection of his carving.  A sob from the campsite caught his ear and he looked down from his treetop vantage point at their diminished company.

It had never been a large band, but the remnants, survivors really, sat grim with fatigue around the embers of the fire.   There were too many empty bedrolls, even allowing for those that had fallen in the battle.  The fog which had saved them from utter destruction must also have misled many on the way home. Kaylan threaded the finished crescent on a strip of leather and slung it around his neck.  More like the missing had chosen to get lost, to slip away from the string of patriotic disasters.  The brave were dead.  The wise had fled.  What did that make the rest of them? What did that make him?

He sighed.  He’d died a long time ago, or would have but for the lady’s intervention.  His life before had hardly been honourable, numberless temples denuded of their sacred treasures by his particular talents; the second life she’d granted him he held in trust for her alone.

A movement drew his eye, the waft of a branch, then another disturbed by the careless passage of a dark figure.   Kaylan frowned.  The chief was on the move and someone would soon feel the edge of his tongue.   The thief slipped from his perch, shinning down the rough bark surface with as much alacrity as he had once scaled smooth stone.     

He trod lightly across the forest floor, alert to the other man’s heavy footfall, so that it was the chief who started in surprise when they came face to face at the bend in the path.

“What are you doing, creeping about like that?” He had put his armour back on, the black helm and chainmail vest of a rich lord, not a forest bandit.  Aye, that was the nub of it, a polished warrior ill-suited by training or temperament for the changed military realities, forever picking battles he could not win.  Why did the lady not challenge his strategy?

“I was looking for my lady, chief.”

“She’s sleeping,” he snapped.

Kaylan nodded.  “She has earned it, chief.  She was much drained with healing the wounded while you were resting.”

The implicit rebuke drew a scowl and a snarl.  “I’ve told you before, thief.  I am not your chief.  My name is Albrecht, Lord Albrecht.”

Kaylan smiled.  “Titles have somewhat lost their meaning, chief, save only my Lady Niarmit’s, Princess of Undersalve, heir to Matteus.”

Albrecht leant in breathing heady fumes in Kaylan’s face.  Where had he found the wine? “Matteus was a fool, you are a thief, and Niarmit is my lady, not yours.”     

Kaylan clenched his fists, held his breath and said nothing for a long ten seconds.  Albrecht swayed unsteadily and then stormed away down the path.  The thief exhaled his own anger and hurried along the path to the cave which Albrecht had claimed for himself and the lady. He tried to unremember the sight he had seen beneath the cheek plates of Albrecht’s helm.  The ends of four long scratches gouged by fine finger nails.

“My lady?”

It was dark in the cave.  His boot crunched on broken glass and twisted metal from a lantern.

“Kaylan, is that you?”  Her voice was muffled as though through a mouthful of cotton.

“Yes, my lady.”

“Stop, don’t come any closer.”   There was a shrill edge of panic that became a coughing fit.

“What has he done, my lady?”

“It was my fault,” she said.  “It must have been.  He takes these reverses so hard.”

“It could never have been your fault, my lady.”  Shapes were emerging from the darkness, she was crouched in the corner by the rough bed of furs and cloaks.  Her form was indistinct, but pale stretches of skin showed where there should have been clothing. A length of thigh, white arms folded across her chest.  Her face obscured by unkempt hair or marks of another kind.   “What has he done, my lady?”  The words fell with leaden weight between them.

“My fault, all my fault.”

He stood, head shaking, bruising his palms with his fingertips.  “I’ll get someone,” he said thickly though he could not think who.  Old Meg would have been the obvious choice, but he’d last seen her vomiting blood with an orcish halberd in her belly.  There were few enough women in their band of outlaws.

“No-one, Kaylan.  No-one must know.  I don’t want anyone to know.” 

He didn’t trust himself to speak.  Her stumbling voice filled the darkness.

“Give me a moment.  A moment to rest and then with The Goddess’s grace I can heal …  the marks, they’ll be gone. No-one will know.”

“It can’t be borne, my lady.”

“Kaylan.” She was pleading with him.  “Let me handle this my way, let me handle him.” 

The silence stretched like a taut wineskin.  “Please,” she urged.

“My lady,” he said stiffly ducking out of the cave.

***

She found him walking back from the pool, his shirt over his arm as he let the sun dry his wiry torso.  The dark marks on her pale face had been all but erased by a few hours rest and the grace of The Goddess.  Only the shadow of a bruise remained along her jaw.  The wounds to her spirit were visible still, in her nervous twitch at a flight of birds, in the brittle fragility of her query. “Where have you been, Kaylan?”

“Washing off the stink of battle, my lady.”

“You picked a fine time for a bath, Kaylan.”  Her eyes darted left and right, suspicious of the very trees.   “I need your help.”

“Always, my lady.”

“I need to find him.  Just you and me.  I want to tell him, this thing, it’s not how it’s going to be.  I’m going to make things different, better.  Starting with Lord Albrecht.” 

He nodded and took a firm step towards her.  She flinched at his approach and the anguish must have plain on his face for she gave a hasty apology.  “I’m sorry, this thing… Albrecht.  I’m not myself.”

“You will be, my lady.”

“He told the others he was going orc hunting, on his own.  Can you track him?  I want this done tonight.  He has to understand, he can’t…”

“We’ll find him, my lady.”

***

It had taken less than an hour.  Niarmit leaned against a tree trunk retching.  “By The Goddess,” she said.  “What have they done to him?”

Kaylan surveyed the red ruin of Lord Albrecht with impassive detachment. “They call it the blood eagle, my lady.  Pulling the lungs out while the man still lives.”

She puked again, staining the bark with the yellow scum of an empty stomach.  Kaylan turned.  “You shouldn’t see this, my lady.  You don’t need to.”

“I had to, but by Saint Morwena, this is cruel even for orcs.  What is that they shoved in his mouth?”

“Don’t look, my lady.”

Too late. She leaned in and then another paroxysm of heaving shook her at the reality of Albrecht’s brutal humiliation.  “You should go, my lady.  I’ll take care of him.”

She straightened.  “No, we were close.  He cared for me once, in his own way.  I’ll do this.”  She leant, eyes averted and seized a bloody arm to pull at the body.

Kaylan knelt beside her to lend his aid.  “Over there,” she said.  “We’ll build a pile of rocks over him.”

The body slid and squelched from the sodden earth where it had fallen.  “What’s that?” Her gaze, avoiding the bloody catastrophe of the corpse, snagged on a shape that had lain beneath Albrecht. 

They froze a moment, both seeing the carved wooden crescent on its broken lanyard, its intricate relief stained with blood.  Then Kaylan snatched it up and slipped it into its pocket while Niarmit looked at him open mouthed.

“It was orcs did this, my lady,” he told her.   “Albrecht went looking for them, and they found him and now you can move on.”

She nodded slowly, though he was not sure how much of his statement she was agreeing with, nor did he intend ever asking. 

Offline Nora

  • Dropped in from another planet avec son sourire provocateur - et Hades and Writing Contest Regular
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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2015, 09:56:19 AM »
Alright, I tried, and pulled this out of my skull today, it's set up in the same world as my main story, except this happens in Europe.

1498 words without a title.

The name of a God

Spoiler for Hiden:
Hades didn't know how he felt about the sight in front of him.
His life had led him to some of the most desolate places on the continent, and he had learnt to appreciate dreariness in a landscape. If you kept morals out, anything could become beautiful.
But the ruin of a city's Plant was something else. The vitreous building, still majestic despite its downfall, was marked by soot. Massive metal beams and towering shards of molten materials stabbed the ground around its broken frame. Fire had killed that Plant.

Nothing spoke of slow and painful death like the carcass of a Plant. It meant no filtered water, no recycled earth. No uncontaminated food.
Despite his twisted tastes, Hades couldn't find it in him to appreciate the view.
Instead he shouldered his bag and went in search of a lookout, internally seething against his employer. It wasn't an assassin they should have sent out here but a recovery crew. The life of his target most certainly wasn't worth more than the smallest piece that could be salvaged from the Plant.
His employer must be ill informed. The town had been doomed years ago in that fire.

He stayed in his lookout for two days before he spotted his first sign of human life. Gray shadow on grayer background. Proof people were still surviving.
He sat in his concrete lair, charging his gun, screwing his silencer on. Maybe after all his target was alive.
When he saw a second human in the distance, he took to the streets.

For several hours he walked in expanding circles, hugging shadows, progressing through debris.
The kid reached him before Hades could sense him. Instant brownie points earned.
This respect was all that saved the child from getting his head blasted, as Hades stood, gripping his pack, grimly staring at the sheepish youth holding on to the other end of it.
Hades shook the straps violently, jolting the kid off against the pile of trash sheltering them. However the kid stood his ground, cooly assessing the older man.

"Are you a Rogue?" the child asked, eyes suddenly sparkling.
"Why? Are you a Rogue killer?" Hades scowled. The kid only groaned, turning his attention back to the pack.
Hades had seen rogue killers younger than this kid. Considering that the ones who could claim the kill had first dibs on the rogue's belongings, people got motivated. In such ruined cities all thieves or scavengers, even simple shady strangers, would fall under the Rogue denomination.
Of course Hades fell into other categories as well.
Spy, thief, murderer. Gun for hire.
Hopelessly for the locals, he would probably prove too hard a kill even if the entire town set after him.
"You've gotta be one though no?" The kid went on, "Not like people come to visit here no more."
"Your English is dreadful." Hades replied. The kid shrugged, unconcerned.

The sound of upset rubble clicked in the air and in an instant the kid fell forward, arms bent, fingers splayed to smoothly catch his weight. He landed soundlessly next to Hades, who had  spontaneously crouched, palming his gun under his coat. He was impressed by the kid's reflexes.
"Smart brat" he whispered.
"Them dumb ones don't grow old."
Hades waited, scanning the ruined street and staying stone-still, even after a scrawny fox dashed away, offering a possible explanation for the noise that had startled them. One didn't survive by being dismissive.
As they finally relaxed, Hades made up his mind.
"What's your name kid?"
"Aki. What's yours?"
"Hades"
Aki frowned, his little dirty nose creasing in concentration. "Heard it before I think but... never met you"
Hades laughed at that. "You probably heard it in old stories."
"Stories about you?"
"No. A very long time ago, some people believed in a God called Hades. They left many stories about their gods."
The kid gaped, his jaw falling open in complete amazement. "You've got a god's name?! Dust me!" he was so enthusiastic that Hades resolved to keep the nature of his namesake's godly business to himself. No need to dampen the mood.
"Aki, sorry to cut the fun but I've been traveling for days to get here. I've got a message for the town's Master Engineer. I didn't know the Plant had died. Is he still alive?" Aki nodded.
"Could you take me to him?" Hades asked.
The child stood up and dusted his thick gloves on his hips.
"Canna do that if you're a Rogue."
"I'm no Rogue."
The kid shrugged again. Obviously the gesture was some local equivalent for "I don't care what you say".
Hades opened his pack with a sigh and made a show of digging through his belongings under the suddenly burning gaze of the youth. He felt bad. Why bother with this kid? Hades had never had to invent a cover story before. Why talk to the rare people who got in his way when he could simply kill them?
But if the kid led him to the Master Engineer, he'd speed Hades' work by days... And betray his Master.
Anyway he wasn't lying was he? He was a traveler. He had a message to deliver.
Bullet message between the eyes.

"Here, that's from Beiry. A shell, the home of a creature that lives in the sea. That's dried fruit paste. They make it in Sakarof, ten days walk West of here. It's sweet. And that's my old mister, you could plug it on your mask. It vibrates when the levels get too high. You pick. I give you the one you want to bring me to your Master Engineer."
It was an easy bargain. The kid was quick in making decisions and wisely chose the mister over the rest.
Aki might look twelve, but Hades suspected him to be older. The scraggy body poking under the layers of protective clothing spoke of years with too little food.
He glanced down at his own chest, peeking under his combi at jutting ribs. He looked almost as malnourished as the child. That's what you got for spending weeks walking through the zone on stupid contracts.

Aki proved to be intense company. He needed frequent breaks and paced their movements in order to always rest in a shelter he was familiar with. He would then indulge in a stream of breathless chatter.
He explained how the ruins of the town were mapped, took them to the water works, pointed at shelters, led the way to the cemetery field and cross-questioned Hades about the ways of other town-people, and if any around had pretty girls. He told him everything he remembered about the day their own Plant burnt.
He was all around the single most bubbly, optimistic, good humored zone dweller Hades had ever met. It baffled him.
"You're a very trustful brat to tell a stranger all this."
"It's my mom's doin' you know? It's how she saved the town too, when the Plant died on us."
"What do you mean?"
"You know of Master no? She's no leader, weird specialty too. Old tech, she used to study. When the Plant died, everyone was just feeling like it should be someone's fault, so they got after her."
"Your Master Engineer is a woman?" Aki nodded. Hades was surprised, but waved at Aki to continue.
"Like I said, my mom always went 'Aki, there is no trustin' no one these days, so you'll have to make a choice each time, and start trusting. Better live with treason than never trustin' no one'. That's what she went yelling at people who were after the Master, too. And she did good on that. None of us would be living but for the Master." Hades' curiosity was definitely piqued.

Aki had led them towards the edge of the town, walking along the hazy border between concrete and wilderness. He finally went up a slope, creeping to the top and hid behind a boulder, pointing down around it.

For the second time that week, Hades didn't know how to feel about the sight in front of him.
Aki sniggered. Underground buildings poked out of the earth, next to three long, half buried glasshouses, complete with lead sheeting. A century old model. People where going around, caring for plants grown on aeroponic beds.
"Dust me to Hell" Hades muttered, "your Master specialized in 21st century tech?"
Aki nodded vigorously. "We're still twenty-two people, eight years after. She's teaching us good."

The Master, easily identifiable by her combi, appeared by a glasshouse, patiently showing another woman how to coil a water cable.
And here he had come, to this impossible, hidden little village of hope, the god of Death he was, to put a bullet in that woman's head, crop it off and carry it to a ruthless employer.
One bullet, twenty-two deaths.
Hades felt sick. Dust it all! He turned to Aki, yanking him close.
"Kid, in that cemetery, didn't you say you buried someone recently?"
« Last Edit: March 23, 2015, 09:18:19 AM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline RussetDivinity

Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2015, 01:25:21 AM »
Possibly not as rogue-heavy as some of the other entries, but here's mine. "Night Hide My Face" at 968 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Mina was a vision in gold and lace, in satin and pearls. Her body seemed to glow in the candlelight, and as she turned before her silver mirror, she thought that almost anyone would fall in love simply by looking at her. She had achieved what every girl would dream of, and that was why she had to leave.
   
She had meant to leave months ago, to slip out the window and vanish into the night when no one would notice. She would disguise herself as a man and become some renowned hero, or perhaps a thief known for slinking through the shadows. The only reason she had allowed herself to linger in her father’s palace as time went on was Prince Tristan.
   
Prince Tristan of some northern kingdom so small her father would never have allowed him to woo her if he hadn’t been desperate. Prince Tristan of the crooked smile and the red hair and the freckled nose that burned too easily in their hot sun. Prince Tristan who was so small and slight the ladies at court all assumed he had been sickly as a child, or that he was half-shadow and didn’t belong in their mortal world. Mina hadn’t thought he was anything special, but something about him had tempted her to stay, first another few days, then another few weeks, and then before she knew it the wedding had been planned and there was no chance for her to escape, not without practice slipping through shadows.
   
She had already sent her maids away, so there was no one to see her sink onto her bed and bury her face in her hands. She couldn’t marry Tristan. He was gentle, and sweet, and the sort of good that made her almost wish the stolen kisses she’d had with other men could make her feel anything. He didn’t deserve to be trapped in a marriage with her, and she certainly didn’t deserve to be trapped in a marriage with anyone she didn’t love.
   
The door to her room opened, and she sprang to her feet, ready to berate whoever was interrupting her, but it was only Tristan, slipping in with that nervous, crooked smile on his face.
   
“You shouldn’t be up here,” she said, looking away. “It’s bad luck to see me before the wedding.”
   
“There’s something I have to tell you,” he said, and his voice was so serious that Mina couldn’t help turning to look into his eyes. “I hope you won’t think too differently of me – but I’d understand if you did – and I want you to know that I love you, truly, but I can’t marry you.”
   
He spoke so quickly and anxiously, so unlike his normal unflappable calm, that Mina didn’t have a chance to open her mouth and reply.
   
“When I came here, I planned on marrying you, but only for your money. After all, who hasn’t heard of Princess Mina and her vast store of wealth? I wanted to inherit all of it and live a life of luxury while you ruled. You’re clever enough to, and I would just have to look official. I thought it would be fair for both of us. I didn’t realize I would fall in love with you, and now I can’t lie to you any longer.
   
“Because I have lied to you. I’m from the north, but I’m no prince. I’m a thief. A rather renowned thief, actually, and this would have been the perfect crime. I never would have had to steal again, except for the fun of it.”
   
Mina felt her cheeks growing hot with anger, and when Tristan paused for breath, she decided she couldn’t stay silent any longer. “How dare you?” she whispered, and Tristan flinched as though she had struck him. “Did you really think you would be able to get away with this? Don’t bother answering; you obviously did. Why shouldn’t I have you thrown in prison right now?”
   
Tristan swallowed nervously and undid the first button on his shirt. “Because there’s one other lie I told you.”
   
He unbuttoned his shirt, and as Mina’s eyes followed his fingers, her cheeks grew warmer, but for a very different reason. When the shirt was completely undone and Tristan’s chest was bared, Mina returned her gaze to the thief’s eyes.
   
“I understand if you think of me differently,” Tristan said, the crooked smile returning to her face, “but I hope you know that my love for you was as pure and true as any man’s could have been.”
   
Still blushing, Mina asked, “What will you do now?”
   
“I suppose I’ll leave,” Tristan said, buttoning her shirt again. “I know the guards’ rotations, so I can slip out to the docks, and there’s a barge carrying spices that’s due to leave. I can smuggle myself in and be safely away by dawn.” She sighed and looked over Mina slowly, as though trying to hold on to every detail. “I hope you have better luck than I have.”
   
Just as Tristan was starting to leave, Mina ran to her side, grabbed her hand, and kissed her. “Take me with you,” she said as Tristan stared in wonder. “Disguise me as a boy and let me travel with you.”
   
“It will be dangerous,” Tristan said. “The life of a rogue isn’t always easy.”

“I don’t care,” Mina insisted. “As long as I’m with you, I’ll face whatever dangers I must.” She was exaggerating, but at that moment, she truly meant it, with the sort of heartfelt passion she had always dreamed of knowing.

Tristan laughed aloud then and kissed the corner of her mouth. “It seems I’m a more successful thief than I thought,” she said. “I came for the princess’s wealth, but I was able to steal her heart.”

Offline wakarimasen

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2015, 07:51:55 PM »
Here we are then. First time I've done something like this. I found it kinda hard to stay in the limit (but it came out at 1483 words)

Going Down
@badDayHappenin

Spoiler for Hiden:
His knees were killing him. Not that he had asked for much more than a spirited hobble from them, but it seemed any request was a demand too far for his failing joints. He wheezed away, looking around the concourse for a hiding place. There were plenty of people about, but the way they parted around him left little chance of using them as cover. To his left was a glass fronted shop, the latest styles flickering across mannequins that posed in aspirational scenes. One moment they laughed heartily, back slapping paragons of sporting bonhomme. The next they sat swaddled in chunky exploring gear, eyes narrowed in an attempt to convey the brooding depths of their non-existent souls. Arty slipped past the shifting diorama and looked for where the forest of clothes racks was thickest.
 
A young man, almost a mannequin made flesh, was turning about in a suit as his equally attractive girlfriend pronounced judgement on it. The pair noticed Arty at the same time and their smiles fell. He was used to the reaction now; sometimes it even gave him a perverse pleasure. Today though he felt like hissing at them, but there was no need to scare them off. The couple feigned interest in another area of the shop and wandered away, suit tags dangling from the boy.
 
His heart, already pounding in his sparrow chest, jolted when someone behind spoke to him. He jerked round, but it was just a shop assistant, her arms folded defensively in front of her.
"Can I help you with something, sir?" The way she pronounced the sir made it clear that she meant anything but respect.
She was a beautiful girl, Arty decided. Not the indetikit beauty so sickeningly common up in the spires, but a carefully crafted one. Her features had been laid out by someone with excellent taste. Her mouth was a little too wide, her cheekbones higher than was fashionable. Whoever her parents were they had known their stuff. He flashed his smile at her on reflex.
"Oh, you could help me with so many things."
Her long nose wrinkled in distaste. He caught a glimpse of his weathered face in the mirror behind her, saw that his once roguish grin was now just thin lips stretched back across yellow teeth. It made him wrinkle his nose as well then frown. He held up his liver spotted hands.
"No. Nothing. I'm fine, thank you."
The assistant looked doubtful but beyond her Arty saw something else in the mirror. Two cops jogged past the front of store, one hand on their sticks to steady them. They had not even glanced into the shop. His eye flicked back to the girl.
"In fact. I was just leaving."
She nodded, but did not move. Probably thinks I'm going to steal some of this multimart rubbish, Arty thought, she hasn't even noticed I'm wearing thousand dollar shoes, the pretty little philistine.
He turned away, his heart still trying to find its resting rate, and shuffled back out of the shop. He went the direction the two cops had come from, turning the corner he had fled around when they had spotted him. The nearest D-train terminal was only a few hundred yards up the next concourse, which is why he had been coming this way in the first place. It seemed to take an age for him to reach the doors. When he did so without shouts of accusation from behind, he felt a surge of familiar excitement. He might actually get away with this.
 
He reached out with a shaking hand to hit the down button, the same shaking hand that had failed him not an hour ago. The same shaking hand that had set off an alarm which would never have been a danger before. A precision tool which had become a feeble, loose cudgel. He cursed its quivers and his frustration turned to delight when the capsule appeared almost at once. At last, he thought, some good fortune.
 
He stepped inside, the only occupant of the diamond fronted elevator. There had been others waiting, but this was the express unit to the base. The locals liked to call it "The Drain". Until recently Arty had too. Now he found himself waiting for the doors to close, keen to find his way back to ground level. He turned his back on the view and looked down the concourse, willing the doors to shut.
"C'mon. C'mon.” He muttered. The gleaming metal was not to be rushed however, waiting in case some other rubbish needed flushing from the affluent shopping arcade. Ahead, rising on their toes to survey the crowd, Arty saw the two cops come back onto his thoroughfare.
"Close, you bastards. Close." He swore at the doors. As if they had heard him they began to hiss together. At the last second Arty thought one of the men might have looked his way, but his eyes, like everything else, were not what they were and he could not be certain.
 
The elevator began to drop smoothly away and he turned to gaze out of the window. The underside of the bottom tier, all pipes and blocks, shaded the D-train from the weak sunlight. In the distance the spindly mushrooms of the other three towers rose out of the ramshackle sprawl. Appropriate shapes really, Arty considered, mushrooms do well growing out of shit too.

Under their transparent domes he could make out tiered gardens like the ones rising above him. Their colours were diffused by distance and the thin atmosphere, but he knew there was every hue of bright flower amongst verdant greens. He could almost taste the clean, thick air of his old hunting grounds. He lifted his satchel free over his head, his shoulders complaining, and flipped it open. Inside was his ticket back. He lifted the cylinder of metal slats out and smiled at its ancient grooved surface. He would return to defraud, debauch and deflower the brainless rich again. He was certain of it. This was not the end for him. The elevator jerked to a halt. The doors began to open without warning. Shit, he thought, this is the end for me.
 
A female cop stood waiting in a residential corridor outside, one hand up at her ear.
"Yep, got him now, thanks. I'll check it out and get back to you."
She stepped in to the elevator, her eyes immediately on Arty's prize. She took the artefact without resistance and jabbed a probe id stick into his neck. He felt the tell-tale burn of his skin cells being scraped away and the machine bleeped. She looked at the display.
"Arthur Schivare." His name was a statement, not a question. She examined his other details. "26?" His age at least got a reaction from her. "Two counts theft, one count embezzlement. They stuck 15 years on your clock for each one."
She looked him up and down, shaking her head. Arty looked around her and thought about running. The thought was enough to make his knees hurt again.
"Why the hell would you keep at it?" She asked. He was surprised to look into her face and find her in earnest.
"You try looking like this. Nobody hires an ex-con. Even in the geri-clubs I have to sit down, the real old timers can tell from how I move otherwise and they steer clear too. That was my only way out." He pointed at what she held. "It's a wheel from the Sojourner rover."
"I know that." She hefted it in her hand. "The museum on the top deck is going ape shit."
He started to become acutely aware that she had not gone straight back to her com-link.
"I've got a bunch of neo-earth nutjobs lined up to pay me a small fortune. Enough to get me back to how I should be." He gestured with one crook knuckled finger at the id stick's screen.
The cop looked at his grinning, aquiline face on the screen then back to the decrepit one before her. She sucked in one cheek.
"How much is a small fortune then?"
The old squirming excitement began to twist Arty's mouth into a smile.
"More than I could spend on my own." He waggled his unruly eyebrows.
The cop stared at the wheel for another few seconds, biting her lip. Then she sighed and reached for her earpiece. Arty's mouth fell.
"Base. Two seventeen here. I checked your man in the drain. Nothing doing, just some geri from the ground on a sightseeing tour.... sure... will do. Good luck anyway."
Her hand dropped down and her smile mirrored Arty's as she hit the elevator button without looking.
"Going down?" She held the wheel back out to him.
"Not on these knees." Arty smirked and turned back to enjoy their descent, physical and moral.

Offline Elfy

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2015, 12:41:22 AM »
The hardest part about this was deciding what sort of rogue to write about: a lover, a gambler, a thief, a killer, etc... In the end I did pick one and the result is an 814 word (a new record in brevity for me!) story called Your Money or Your Life. Twitter handle is @ChrisElfy. Hope you enjoy.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Your Money or Your Life

“Your money or your life!” the demand thundered over the birdsong. The raucous laughter of a kookaburra perched in the branches of the old gum tree underlined the bushranger’s challenge. The tree hung over the rutted and well travelled dirt road out of the Ballarat diggings to the city of Melbourne, with its banks and trading houses.

Bridles jingled and strained axles complained, as the carriage driver reined in, to bring his vehicle to a halt in front of the mounted figure in the middle of the road.

He was small for a bushranger, although he bore the requisite bushy red beard, and he held the pistol in his hand like he knew how to use it. The bright green mask, and the horse he sat astride, identified him as the notorious Captain Fortune, a bushranger who had been plaguing the roads out of the diggings for some time now.

Despite the presence of the weapon, it was always the horse that drew people’s attention. Tall and rangy, it was bone white, it had rolling red eyes, and even though it was summer, and the sun beat down, making the road ahead shimmer, steam seemed to come from the creature’s nostrils, as it snorted and danced restlessly across the dirt track.

An irritated and insistent rapping came from inside the carriage, and very soon a florid, sweating face, surrounded by an impressive set of white whiskers appeared out the window, and barked, “See here, driver! What the deuce is going on? Get this carriage moving again, now! I have urgent business in Melbourne.”

Fortune’s eyes twinkled behind his mask. He patted the horse and nudged it towards the occupant of the carriage. “Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!” the bushranger greeted the red faced businessman in an unmistakably Irish accent. “I’ll be havin’ that cane o’ yers fer starters. Nice shiny gold top it’s got.” And he snatched the expensive walking stick from out of the shocked man’s pudgy hand. “Now, your money or your life,” he said still in the same avuncular, conversational tone, and he placed the barrel of his gun under the man’s nose.

‘Ladies,” Fortune said, tipping his hat at the two women in the carriage, as the man divested himself of all his valuables, and dropped them in a bag that the bushranger held out. The horse turned it’s head towards the driver and snorted warningly. Fortune swung the revolver around lazily. “Now, ye don’t want to be a hero, son,” he advised. “Ye’ve already got five holes in yer head. I wouldn’t want to add another one.”

The man gulped and his hand strayed from the rifle he had been reaching for, back to the reins.

“That’s a good boy,” Fortune crooned. “I am sorry ladies, but I’ll need yer jewelry as well. Nothin’ personal, ye understand, it’s just how we bushrangers work.”

The iron haired matron in the carriage pressed back against the leather interior, and her mouth opened and closed, but she did as she was bid. The other occupant, a young woman with a peaches and cream complexion, and hair the colour of the gold that the miners all broke their backs searching for, seemed almost amused by the robbery. She smiled as she removed her jewelry, and dropped it into the waiting sack.

Fortune’s eyes challenged her. “I may have to steal a kiss as well,” he said, before standing up in his stirrups, leaning forward and kissing the blonde lady on the lips. She fell back on the seat, tongue licking the just kissed lips, nose twitching at the smell of tobacco and sweat, the feel of the bushranger’s red whiskers still tickling her soft cheek. “I can die a happy man, lass,” Fortune said, turning his mount back to the front of the carriage.

The driver sweated, and gulped as the bushranger looked up at him. “The gold,’ Fortune said in a flat voice, his eyes hard behind their mask.

“Ggold,” the man repeated, a bead of sweat sliding out from beneath his cap, and cutting a clear channel down one dusty cheek.

Fortune sighed. “I know ye’ve got it, so why don’t ye save us all some time and bother, and simply hand it over, then ye can be on yer way.”

                                                        ****

“Ye know, Phantom,” Liam O’Shaughnessy said, as he swung down out of the saddle, and began to unload the horse. “This bush ranging gets easier and easier each an’ every time I do it. A man could get to like this life.”

Although at a height 3 feet, five inches, an enviably luxurious fiery beard, and an Irish brogue so thick you could cut it, Liam O’Shaughnessy matched the descriptions victims had given of Captain Fortune, not a person in the diggings ever suspected him. Leprechauns just didn’t do that sort of thing.



Offline Mikaela A. Ingram

Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2015, 03:20:32 AM »
Well, here's my entry  :D
Loyalty is risky business, but then there are siblings.
(A quaint 906 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
The cool stone room was quiet. The only source of light came from a single candle that sat in a candle-holder on a small wooden table in the middle of the room. By that table sitting in a wooden chair and in quite an uncomfortable-looking position, was a guard.

In a cell in the back of the room, a young woman pressed herself up against the bars and focused on the guard. She brushed a strand of ebony hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear, before her pale lips parted and a melody escape them. She sang softly, crooning out a gentle lullaby.

The guard’s head began to nod, for the hour was late, and the young woman didn’t stop singing in hopes that she would be able to get him to succumb to sleep. The guard was stubborn, and she watched as he would nod and almost drop off, but then his head would jerk up with a snort. He slapped himself, and then went back to fighting off the clutches of fatigue.

The young woman didn’t let up until she saw the guard’s chin dropped to his chest. She held very still, and slowly looked over in a corner where the light from the candle didn’t reach. After she had stared at the corner for a short while before a figure silently slipped from the shadows and strode quietly across the room to the cell door.

As the figure passed by the table, for a brief moment the light from the candle lit up his profile and revealed a pair of serious golden eyes under a deep, black hood. The young woman watched as the man examined the lock, looking up at him with matching golden eyes filled with relief. She smiled softly as he looked away from the lock and looked over at the sleeping guard.

Quieter than a feather touching the floor, the man strode over to the guard and eyed the keys hanging on his belt. The young woman watched his every move, and the man never took his eyes off of the guard’s face as he reached down and wrapped his fingers around the clump of keys. Now knowing that the keys would not make noise when he picked up the ring, he carefully hooked a finger around the key-ring and lifted it gently off of the hook attached to the guard’s belt.

Padding back to the cell door, he went through the keys until he found the correct one and slid it into the lock. When he turned the key, the click of the lock being pulled was so loud that both the man and the young woman froze in place. The man whipped his head around and looked over at the guard, holding his breath as he did so. The guard snorted, and shifted slightly in his seat, but then settled back into sleep.

The man waited a few more moments before he swung the door open and took the young woman’s pale outstretched hand. He helped her to her feet and then pulled her behind him as he crossed the room to the door across from the cell. They stepped out into the hall, and as they began to run down the hall and towards the large window at the other end, the young woman noted that several guards lay scattered about, unconscious.

“You did quite well, Sonata,” the man told the young woman as they reached the window.

Sonata smiled thinly as she pulled her thin black cloak tighter around her shoulders. “Thank you, Ashe,” she returned as the man crouched low, preparing to carry her on his back. “Your shadow-blending has gotten better.” She gathered her ragged skirt up before she grasped his shoulders and wrapped her thin legs around his middle. She wrapped her arms over his shoulders and leaned her head forward over his right shoulder.

Ashe hummed in response to her compliment as he straightened and stepped onto the wide stone windowsill. They looked out at the moonlit countryside, and Ashe looked off in the direction of the rogue encampment. The camp would have to be moved after this, in order to get it farther away from enemy territory where it was more secure. It was because of the lord of this castle, who raided the encampment a fortnight before, that Sonata had been captured and locked up, and they needed to put as much space between them and this castle as they could. The unjust…just couldn’t keep having their way.

“I am fortunate to have you as my brother,” Sonata whispered in his ear.

Ashe leapt from the window with a merry laugh. “And I am fortunate to have you as my sister,” he retorted as they fell.
 
They landed in an old tree that grew up beside the castle, and in moments, the man had scaled it to the ground. He took off running across the fields, going as fast as he could go with his sister on his back.

Behind them, a clamour rose from within the castle as the guard of Sonata’s cell awoke and realized that the cell door was wide open and the prisoner was gone. And as he patted himself down, trying to find the key-ring that hung on his belt, he realized that his personal pouch of coins was missing, having been pilfered by Ashe on his way out the door.

Offline TravisGGAnderson

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2015, 02:03:31 AM »
Word count: 1484
twitter: https://twitter.com/tgganderson
Enjoy!

Spoiler for Hiden:
Uninvited Guest by Travis Anderson

Shadows can hide many things. A drunkard goes unnoticed for days in a lightless alley. Trinkets and baubles are lost for years in the cracks and crevices never grazed by eye or sunlight. Night shields lovers and lunatics alike in its gossamer veil; prying curios left to wonder what exactly may be taking place a mere foot away. Are those the sighs of passion or moans of the nearly dead? Most will never know, not until the sun’s wandering glare passes overhead. Toskr always found darkened corners to be his favorite ink wells, so much easier to hear what others had to say. These two guards for instance…

“You’re tellin’ me a rat-pincher was found creepin’ through our Lord’s halls and instead of choppin’ his ‘ead off, we threw ‘im in one’a the cages?” The assassin never had appreciated that moniker very much, but it was hard to argue against. The tunnels had little else in the way of food; what else were he and his fellows to eat? Once his work was done tonight, though, they would feast on cave boar and sweet, succulent mushrooms. Listening in the dark, Toskr ruminated on new titles he could place upon these dwarves when everything had changed.

“It was Dolgrim’s orders,” said the fire-bearded guard checking over his cards. “What else was I supposed to do?” His flaxen haired companion shook his head and tossed a trio of glinting silver coins into the middle of the round table. “Besides, the little bugger said if he wasn’t given an audience with the Lord, he’d shatter his jewels and toss his head down the stronghold steps, crown and all.”

The blonde dwarf’s shocked expression drew a toothy grin from the rogue, a silent chuckle pulsing in his throat. He hadn’t noticed his free hand rimming the pommel of his deepcast blade, but at the mention of the soon to be beheaded king, Toskr felt invigorated at its touch. His other hand twirled Skelly between his calloused fingers – a gnarled lockpick of his own design – and he waited to hear the shocked man’s response. Gold clinked onto the table and cards were flipped.

“You ‘ave got ta be feckin’ jokin’ me?”

The ginger dwarf shrugged, wrapped greedy fingers around the smile stack, and pulled it towards himself. “What can I say, Norz. You’re shit at cards.”

Norz bolted up from his chair and slammed a fist down on the table, chair screeching across the ground like a newborn banshee. Toskr nearly bit through a bat-skin glove to keep from laughing at the stout guard’s loss of composure. Mighty and disciplined warriors those dwarves. He’d take a legion of gas-chuckers and spider-riders any day over these…rock munchers? Mud children? Nah, too simple.

“This ain’t about the damnable pot, Lorsk. The little pus-shit threatened to kill the King. Our King! Why in the bloody Hellmouth didn’t Dol chop the goblin’s head off and pitch it down an ore shaft?”

Toskr had wondered that himself. He knew it was a gamble sneaking into the stronghold, one goblin against an army of Ironguard, Mugbreakers, and enough rowdy soldiers to take down a cave mongrel faster than a freshly opened keg. Getting inside was the easy part. Small and slight, goblin’s had multiple advantages over their stout and stocky enemies. Their ability to hide nearly anywhere second only to their uncanny predilection for making themselves scarce. It was a trait they exploited often enough during tunnel skirmishes, but few took the time to master the skill as Toskr had. They often preferred overwhelming their foes with fire, hatchets, and incoherent screams. To each there own, he supposed.

After breaching the king’s home it was a simple matter of getting caught. The difficult part was doing so while keeping his skull un-splattered against the marble floor. They had found him in the kitchens not too long past his unseen entrance, hands overflowing with cheese-stuffed duck and jelly tarts. Captain Dolgirm, unsurprisingly unhappy, wore an expression of utter confusion that quickly cracked and gave way to murderous rage. Before he reached for his silver rune axe, Toskr made mention of decapitating his beloved king if he was refused to speak with him. If not for the ludicrous nature of his introduction, he was certain the dwarf captain would have severed his neck right then and there. As it stood, he finished a pleasantly bitter tankard of ale right before being escorted to a spacious cell in the prisons below. For a week he sat, whistling and humming and waiting. Now, he watched two dwarves ignore precious gold atop a table littered with coins, relaxing until he began his work.

Lorsk cocked an eyebrow, head tilted. “First off, sit your arse back down and deal out a new hand.” Norz glared at his companion, but sat, reluctantly. Lorsk continued over the sound of shuffling cards. “Second, calm your bloody self. If you get any more worked up I’m going to have to assume you’re one of the King’s new pebble-lickers.”

Norz made to rise again. “Don’t make me tell ya twice, or do you want to be pullin’ cage cleanin’ duty for the next month?” Toskr watched the two bulky men stare each other down, light and dark holding in a stalemate above glittering silver and gold. He wondered if he’d see some bloodshed before starting his work. It would save him some trouble, certainly. Sadly, Nors yielded and dealt out the cards.

The burly guard palmed his new hand and snorted. “Good. Now what in the Devil’s Forge are you getting’ all riled up about? It’s just one slippery gobber looking for some grub.”

“Then why in the name of the Sacred Smiths wasn’t it skewered on the spot?” Norz spat.

Rolling his eyes, Lorsk threw down two tatter edged cards and palmed two more. “I already told ya, he threatened to cut off the king’s head if he didn’t get to speak to him. Captain thought it’d give the man a good laugh to hear what the cave-rat had to say before smashin’ its head in himself.” He chucked three gold pieces into the centre of the table. “Check.”

Nors shook his head, braided locks rustling in consternation as he threw gold in to match his companion. “I’m tellin’ you, that little bastard’s trouble. Never heard of a gobber sneakin’ into the king’s feckin’ stronghold before.” He laid his cards down face-up. “Knights carrying maidens.”

A snake of a smile slithered across Lorsk’s face as he turned his cards over, Norz’s curse echoing in the guard room. “Those poor knights never stood a chance against a dragon flight, my friend.” He swept his winnings over to his side of the table, chuckling. “If it’s any consolation, old Ladbin arrived this morning, so you can spend less time worrying about that nearly dead filth and more time learning to stop being shit at cards.”

At the mention of the king, Toskr placed Skelly back into his ragged trousers and grabbed a handful of pocket magics. The powders were hard to come by, but corpses raised alarms where slumbering guards raised ire. He stepped out of the shadows, the two dwarves in a clattering tangle around the card table, and cleared his throat. His other hand rested on the pommel of his dagger, still sheathed.

“Evenin’ gents,” he said, the high-pitched greeting slicing even his pointed ears. “I’d ask fer directions to the king, but I think I already know where to find ‘im. Thanks for the chuckles, though.”

Confusion quickly turned to fury on the dwarves’ faces, both reaching for the sharpened axes at their belts. Toskr hurled purple mist at the guardsmen and remained where he stood, a wide, toothless smile stretching across his face. Lorsk fell where he stood, sleep unavoidable as the powder washed over him, but Norz moved two lethargic steps toward his prey before the mixture did its work, forcing him into the land of dreams. Only when they fell to the floor, eyelids shuttered, did Toskr draw his blade.

He showed his teeth than, yellow and sharp as the point of his dagger. “Fancy a shave, boys?”

Toskr left the box of a room a few moments later to wander the corridors in search of his target, coin purse fatter from the taking. He kept his right hand gripped firmly on the knife, but stroked the coarse hair of the two newly collected beards with his left. They sat in his belt now, the tips collecting dust and grime from the stronghold floor. He hoped they would bring inspiration for a new slur, something he could triumphantly whisper into the king’s ear before slitting the man’s throat. All he could think of were the same words that played in his mind every time he dealt with these bastard children of the earth.

Stupid dwarves, he thought, grinning. Stupid, stupid dwarves.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2015, 03:09:54 AM by TravisGGAnderson »
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2015, 09:48:25 PM »
Finally got around to finishing this, just in time for the deadline. It's distinctly lacking in bicycles though.

Anyway, coming in at 1499 words, here's The 7 Tenets of Rogueishness.

Spoiler for Hiden:
“So what are the 7 Tenets, anyway?”

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

“The 7 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 7 of them.”

“I’d guessed that much.”

Darin sighed.

“If you really must know, they’re seven guidelines for rogues to follow” he explained. “They separate the lovable scoundrels from the common cutthroats. Originally they were called the 7 Tenets of Rogueishness but it got shortened because everyone kept mocking the word ‘rogueishness’.

“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.” Yura nodded. “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.” Darin nodded. “Now Tenet 3 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!” Kere felt a hankerchief press 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 what had occurred.

“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.” Yura said. “That paralysing potion isn’t cheap.”

“Tenet 5, kid.” Darin shrugged. “Don’t unnecessarily harm women or children.”

“What happened to Tenet 4?”

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

Yura sighed and helped dump Kere behind a bin. “5 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 4.”

“You never told me Tenet 4.”

“Remember Tenet 3?”

“Always have a plan.”

“Well, Tenet 4 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 nodded. He 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 6.”

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



An hour later and 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 stiffening up. 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.” Yura said. “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 4. 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 7. Never trust anyone.”
5 Times Winner of the Forum Writing Contest who Totally Hasn't Let it All go to his Head.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Also, <Insert GOD EMPEROR OF THE WRITING CONTEST joke here>

Offline Carter

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Re: [Mar 2015] - Rogues - Submission Thread
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2015, 09:54:19 PM »
Here's mine for the month, coming in at 1498 words including title.  There is some mild and brief language. 

Spoiler for Hiden:
A Quiet Night at the Empty Barrels

Palos propped up the bar in the same place he had occupied for the past two weeks.  Sprawled on his stool, languishing in the depths of his seventh tankard of the day, the habitual drivel spewed from his lips.

“It should be me getting married.”

Outwardly, Matthau did not care how much the lout drank, how loud he got, how obnoxiously repetitive he was becoming.  Despite his destitute, decrepit appearance, the man’s sovereigns still glinted even in the gloom of the Empty Barrels.  With lank, greasy hair, heavy circles under his dull green eyes and a pervading reek of vomit and alcohol, he had never seemed the type to have any money to spend.  Yet Palos had paid upfront for Matthau’s best room for the whole month along with the promise of copious patronage and more to follow so he kept his opinions quiet. 

Today Palos’ audience was a solitary, foolish young pickpocket flush with the success of stealing a handful of clinks from some poor sod.  Already Matthau’s remaining regulars had shuffled away before Palos could begin in earnest.  He just wished he had the same luxury. 

“Why?”

Matthau bit bark a retort and braced himself.  At first he had not cared if Palos talked all evening.  To begin with his mad rants had even proven amusing and almost lucrative.  But as the nights went on, the tale had grown stale and had started to drive away business.  A few more days like this and he would have to change the name of the place to just the Empty Barrel and lose his reputation of being able to read a crowd and sell out by the end of the day. 

“We were adventurers.  Lord Aralus and I.  Before all this.”

Arms waving effusively, Palos sloshed ale onto the perpetually sodden straw carpeting the floor around him.  Too full and cheap wine and cheaper beer, the boy looked rapt. 

“Twins too.  Two sides of the same . . . the same coin!”

The groan escaped before Matthau could stop it.  The only resemblance between this pathetic drunk and the confident, cultured Lord Aralus, soon to be the Count of Five Rivers, lay in the genitalia.  Palos just glared at him, tankard thrust forward.

And perhaps the eyes, he thought as he refilled the mug from the half-empty barrel.  And still the first one at that. 

“What happened?”

“It was the last Count who hired us.  No!  The Countess’ uncle.  Her uncle, yes.  The Count had just died, hadn’t he?  She’d gone missing.  Kidnapped.  Kidnapped and forced into marrying some wizened duke or other.  We were promised riches!  Glory!  But the bastard betrayed me.  Now all I got is rags and piss-poor ale.”

At the rear of the tavern another customer slunk away.  True, the man was new, had only ordered a couple of quarts over a couple of consecutive nights, but Matthau could hardly be particular any more.  If it weren’t for the coin, the temptation to kick Palos into the street would have been unbearable.  Instead he just had the fantasy to sustain him.
 
“But if you’re brothers, why not go see him?  Even if he betrayed you once, surely Lord Aralus will help you now?”

“Because if they’re related, I’m the bloody Queen!”

Palos ignored the shout from the back of the tavern.

“I did.  The moment I heard about the wedding, I came straight here.  But he won’t see me.  He’s too busy for his brother.  Thinks I’ll go away if he ignores me.  But he owes me.  You see it, don’t you?  He owes me.”

*

By the end of the night only Palos remained and the day’s second barrel was barely finished.  A poor day’s business and Matthau still had the customary task of shifting Palos up the stairs to enjoy.  At least the nonsense had ceased, the man’s eyes wide and staring, his mouth hanging agape and blessedly silent.  Even the young cutpurse had finally grown tired of the ludicrous stories of hidden vaults and haunted forests and been driven out into the darkness. 

“Do I have to drag you off again?” he said, putting as much venom into the question as he dared. 

“Count to fifty, follow me up to my room and listen.  You might learn something.”

Matthau started.  Gone was the drunkard.  Each word was carefully enunciated with none of the weary slurs that had coloured Palos’ every syllable.  As he straightened, Matthau saw a gleam deep within his eyes.  It altered the whole complexion of his face, drawing away some of the haggard lines and he started to wonder. 

Without waiting for any acknowledgement, Palos glided to his feet and walked away.  No staggering, no stumbling, he merely left. 

His mind worked frantically, searching for some sign, anything he might have missed.  Normally he boasted he could spot a drunk at a hundred paces, or hear a liar in the midst of a screaming mob.  He prided himself of seeing inside someone in an instant.  He relied on it.  Yet somehow he had been duped.  Curiosity and annoyance scratched at him with questioning claws.
 
How long had it been?  He hadn’t been counting.  Cursing under his breath, he all but ran for the stairs, taking them three at a time until he reached Palos’ door.  He pressed his ear against the rough wood.

“ . . . spotted your spy.  I’d never have thought you’d resort to hiring an amateur.”

Even muffled he recognised Palos’ new voice.  But who was in there with him?  No other guests were staying tonight, all the other customers were long gone and this was the securest room in the damned place.  No windows, one door and one key.  And a barkeep whose reputation spoke for itself.  No disreputables ever escaped his discerning eyes. 

“What do you want?”

The voice was smooth and educated.  Matthau’s mind leapt to a conclusion inconceivable mere minutes before.
 
“You owe me, brother.”

Lord Aralus gave a hard bark of laughter.

“Jealous?  You had the choice, Palos.  You made it so live with it.  If you’ve spent all your wealth, that’s your problem and none of mine.”

“You tricked me.  She should be mine.  You stole my choice and stole her.  You know she – ”

“She saw the truth of you when you chose gold over her.  Anything you think she might have felt disappeared after that.  And besides, this should all be mine by right.  I am the eldest after all.”

“Only by the width of a womb.”

“Even so.”

“And I know you tricked her too.  You must have done.  Agnesa deserves her own choice, not your twisting truths.”

Lord Aralus sighed. 

“I came here as you wanted.  I talked as you wanted but I see you can’t be spoken to.  As usual.  Now, are you going to leave quietly or am I going to have to teach you another lesson?”

For a moment there was nothing.  Matthau’s knees ached and his ear itched.  His sluggish brain was still trying to extract sense from the conversation when the unmistakeable sounds of a struggle erupted.  Wood scraped.  The wet thud of flesh on flesh.  A few ragged gasps.  And the sudden pounding of his heartbeat in his ears as silence fell.

Something was dragged along the floor, the vibrations shuddering up his legs and then quiet.  Someone shuffled inside, careful and unhurried.  He strained to hear as time dragged by.  The door was wrenched open and he pitched forward, unable to do anything to disguise his eavesdropping.  He blinked at the leather shoes before his eyes and stared up at the silken, white hose and shimmering doublet hemmed in gold thread.  Each finger of the man’s hands was adorned with a silver ring that flickered in the corridor’s faint candlelight.  Stern eyes glowered down at him. 

“You might want to clean up the mess.”

“Of course, my lord,” he said, moving to survey the grim scene.
 
Palos lay spread-eagled on the bed.  A smear along the floorboards marked his passage.  Blood was rapidly soaking the sheets and the air hung thick with the stench of it.  It made him want to gag. 

Without another word, Lord Aralus left. 

Matthau got straight to his task.  If word ever spread about what had happened in this room, he would be ruined.  He would never be able to rent it out again.  Not to any of his regulars anyway. 

And if he noticed that Palos’ body lacked some of its ordinary grime and had gained a few marks around the fingers where rings might once have rested, who was he to argue?  And if there happened to be a bag or two of sovereigns secreted around the room, who was he to say to whom they belonged?  Certainly the dead had no further use of them and Lord Aralus had laid no claim.

Like a lord, a barkeep understood the value of silence.