*Magnify*
    June     ►
SMTWTFS
      
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
Archive RSS
SPONSORED LINKS
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/wexian
Rated: 13+ · Book · Sci-fi · #2305100
Just a little sneak peek into coming work "Queen of Ravens" working title.
"And Anāru lifted his eyes to the lands, and the lands raised themselves to Anāru"
~Hymn to the Anāru, Temple of the Thorn

"At dawn we awaken from death, only too long for its embrace come evening"
~ Naxian Codex



Chapter One:

Brothers of the Raven


The steady drip was annoying Gar. Much like most of the rundown buildings along the river’s edge, the guttering along his chosen alley needed some serious repair. The persistent rain from an hour earlier had turned into a dense mist, providing him with the cover he desired. But that drip! The constant tapping sound it provided on the rotting rain barrels and cobles was forcing him to strain his hearing and masking the sounds of the city beyond the alley entrance. Not that many would be out this time of night, but there was work to do and his guild fee was due again. A little murder and a touch of robbery should see that minor issue put to rest.

Not that he actually enjoyed killing, if he was honest with himself. The fact was, he did not really mind it either. Honestly, it made robbing just that bit more convenient. Grab them from behind, a quick slip of the knife from ear to ear and hold a hand over their mouth until they stop kicking. Then, well, you had plenty of time to pick through pockets and no witness left to run to the watch was simply a bonus. Tonight, Gar lurked among the barrels and refuses at the entrance to an ally. Which one in the maze of streets by the docks? He was not sure. It stank of piss, dead things and rotting cabbage. Why do they always smell of cabbage? he thought absently. It did not really matter, they all did, and besides, it masked his own fragrance.

Pressed against a wall hidden by the gloom, it was the perfect hiding spot. It could not have been more perfect for a robbery. With the mist drifting in off the river Sil to soften the edges, dampen the sound and lengthen the shadows, it just made it all the better. The night had provided little chance to earn his living, Gar lamented. His stomach was empty and growling, which went a long way to explain his less than usual caution. With a little start at the telltale click of boots on worn cobles, and a sigh of relief, he snapped to full attention. Instincts drawn of a lifetime in the slums of Shăr shifting between fight and flight.

Hands pressed against the damp alley wall, knife at the ready, he sat poised on the balls of his feet, muscles tensing. Straining against the milky light of the hazy street, he watched a man a little over average height materialized from the mist. He had an unremarkable face except for maybe the scar that ran from just under his right eye to his lower jaw. A heavy grey woollen cloak worn to beat back the winter damp, covered short-cropped dark hair, ‘Good, I need a new cloak,’ Gar chuckled to himself.

Gripping his Knife Gar counted the heartbeats as the man walked past. Taking a deep breath, he lunged for his latest victim. That is where it all suddenly went terribly wrong; Gar felt a very sharp sensation in his guts before he hit the ground with an explosion of air. Panicked thoughts swarmed in his head as the last thing he would ever see arrived in the shape of a very long knife slammed into his throat with a crunch and wet smack.

The man stepped back, looking around the street for more assailants. Upon seeing no immediate danger, he cursed.'Shăr, what a shit hole,' Kallus muttered as he shook his head.

Crouching, he cleaned the blood from his dagger on the thief’s cooling corpse with a sigh of disgust. Poor fool was probably expecting a drunken sailor or a merchant, not a war hardened veteran. Kallus gave the rag-clad cutpurses a crooked smile before tossing a small copper coin onto the former thief’s chest. 'Ormü owns you all,' he whispered as he stood and continued his journey toward the river.
Sometime later, found him standing outside a tavern warm light spilling onto the foggy street through cloudy windows. Above the door hung a crude sign of a woman leaning on a keg tankard in hand. The drunken wench, it read, just one of a dozen or more run-down taverns and alehouses along the wharf district with equally predictable names and equally awful ale. It was filled for, what it was worth, with local fishermen playing dice. Pipe smoke drifted heavy in the room, much like the river mist outside, and the air tasted like the inside of a mouldy boot. At the bar, a short bald piggy-eyed fellow sporting an apron that at one time may have been white occupied himself cleaning a non-to clean mug with a cloth in no better condition than his apron. The man eyed Kallus as he entered the common room, looking for the entire world like a hermit crab that had lost its shell.’“I only got ale, ain’t got no wine; it be two coppers, its young, and no food at this hour. Drink it or not, you pay or be gone,’ the man barked in that predictable dockside pathos common to all wharf side taverns and bars. Kallus stared hard at the tavern keep until the man began looking rather nervous.
'I would have expected a tavern to serve wine, but ale it is then.' He said, breaking the tension with a smile that never touched his blue eyes and radiated all the warmth of a winter river.
Chuckling to himself, Kallus found a seat in the back corner, where he could watch the tavern door and as many of the occupants as possible. A short time later, the Tavern Keep dumped an earthen mug containing a suspicious oily liquid on his table. Kallus shook his head, eyeing the Ale slowly coming to rest in the dirty mug. Bestowing the tavern owner with another icy look and he tossed two coppers on the greasy table which the man quickly scooped up and scuttled off with.
Kallus sat observing the patrons for some time before the common room door opened and a slim form in a heavy hooded cloak entered the tavern. Two much larger men, not doing a particularly good job at hiding the fact they were armed to the teeth, followed the hooded stranger. Chăñ slave soldiers, Kallus noted. Impressive to look at, and a truly expensive purchase at the south gate market, but generally not very bright. His client had the coin, it would seem.

Scanning the common room, the trio picked their way through the tables of drunken and dicing patrons to him. ‘You are known as Kallus?’ Asked a soft, melodious voice with just the smallest hint of a southern Shărrian accent. ‘My master has a task for you.’ The young woman sat, placing her hands on the table. Kallus caught just the edge of a gold band around her delicate right wrist. A female house slave and an expensive one, no doubt, so the client is a cast noble. Typical, the Shăr aristocrats would never demean themselves to come to a place like this, nor in fact risk it. ‘What sort of task?’ he asked in a level voice, studying the two guards who simply ignored him. The slave gave him a half smile, obviously noting his appraisal of the two Chăñ men. ‘My master bids you to obtain certain items is all. The compensation will be more than adequate, I am told.’

‘Hey you three!’ shouted the landlord, his voice rousing a few of his sleepy patrons from their half slumber. ‘We got only ale at this hour. There be no wine, no food, and ye be paying or be gone. I’ll have no lechers staying in here to get out of the fog!’ The woman turned and whispered something to one of her guards, who shrugged and tossed a small coin bag to the landlord. The man’s eyes widened when he looked inside. With a startled look and a surprised smile, he scuttled off to fetch mugs, clutching the tiny bag tightly. Turning her attention back to Kallus the young woman spoke with slightly amused tone to her voice, 'Back to business?' He could not help but smile. The woman was calm, confident, and utterly sure she would be obeyed without question. No, not your typical slave girl at all. She would fetch an astonishingly high price at the south market, which narrowed the list of potential clients down considerably.

The slave was certainly young, the face inside the hood delicate and beautiful, Kallus noted as he observed her. The blue eyes, however, were hard; they had seen much it would seem in her short years. Kallus let the silence draw out a little longer before he answered the young slave. It paid to be careful in Shăr you could get tangled in some nasty shit dealing with cast nobles if you were unwary.
‘Burglary is it?’ He sighed and shook his head. ‘If we like the conditions, then we will obtain the items your master seeks, but I have a few, as I said, conditions that must be met.’ She eyed him as the landlord scuttled up with three mugs and just as quickly scuttled away. The hooded woman ignored the ale, her eyes fixed on Kallus expression devoid of emotion. He had seen this before with slaves. They learned to bury their emotions for simple survival. ‘Conditions were expected from one such as yourself.’ She finally said, ‘the guild stressed you would be careful and discreet.’ The young slave slipped a wax sealed slip of parchment over the table to him. ‘You will be at this address the first hour after the middle day tomorrow, and we shall discuss conditions in more?’ she paused and smiled. It was cold and never touched her eyes. ‘Ah, pleasant surroundings.’

With a sharp nod of her head, she stood and left the table; the two guards in comical union sniffed the ale, grimaced and left the mugs to follow their charge. Leaning back against his chair, Kallus sighed. Another noble feud? It did not really matter, the caste elite played their games and if you were careful, you profited off those games. The problem here was obvious to him; this would be no simple burglary, for if it were, the guild would have passed it off to the thieves.
‘Gods Kallus, could this look any more like a setup?’ A sharp faced man with long sandy blond hair loosely tied sat at his table. Promptly picking up one of the mugs, he quickly drank the oily contents. ‘Wexian, how can you drink that cat piss?’ an amused smile cracking Kallus’s stony features. ‘Well,’ Wexian retorted. ‘I open my mouth and swallow. You can’t taste it if you don’t stop.’ Gracing the man with a chuckle, Kallus sniffed his own mug and put it back down. ‘You old friend are a brave man,’ he said, pushing the mug aside. ‘But to answer your question, I don’t like it either.’ Kallus paused and shook his head. ‘Meeting here in a wharf side tavern? Not the best place to keep a secret, but maybe a second meeting in this case makes more sense?’
‘Maybe?’ Wexian said, grabbing another mug. ‘Look, Rhard gave us nothing to go on Kall and add the fact it is us and not some footpad being called up has me nervous.’ He put the second mug on the table and reached for the third. ‘Looks like caste nobles if that slave girl and her designer guards are any measure.’ Wexian pointed a finger at Kallus as he spoke further. ‘Which means double the money and more than double the problems.’ Wexian looked hard at Kallus, all mirth gone from his face, pointing at the slip of paper. ‘So, are you going to open that?’

Kallus eyed the parchment on the table before picking it up and cracking the plain red wax seal. His eyes widened just slightly when he read the address. ‘Pleasant surroundings indeed.’ He said, tossing it to Wexian, who smiled just a little when he read it. ‘You want me to follow them, I gather.’ It was not a question Wexian would do exactly that, and Kallus could count on it. ‘Follow them for sure; get as much information as you can before dawn.’ The sandy-haired man nodded. ‘Rhard is not trustworthy Kall, we both know that. But he would be cutting his own throat if he crossed us, and the guild would flay him alive if we did not slit his throat first.’Kallus made a disgusted sound as he sighed. ‘True, but you know the game.’ The sandy haired man nodded a smile again on his face as he left.

Kallus had known Wexian since they were both children. In Wexian’s own words, he was the best thief Kallus knew. Handy with a knife, the sharp faced man could creep up on a cat. But most of all, Wex, the shorter of Wexian, and the name he preferred. Was one of only a handful of men he trusted even if he were a thief and a cutthroat. They may as well have been brothers; hell, they could be for all they knew. Growing up in a Naxian slum, it did not really matter only the strong and nimble survived to be adults. And besides, most street urchins were the sons and daughters of nameless whores, anyway. Kallus chuckled to himself; ‘I am getting too old for this’ as he got up to leave. The landlord watched him as started for the exit and the less chewy air of the dockside road. Kallus smiled, tossing the man a silver coin as he passed the bar. ‘Put it back in your vats! That ale is still fermenting, and on your life, do not serve that swill to the night’s watch. They would likely hang you from your own door sign.’
November 16, 2023 at 1:32pm
November 16, 2023 at 1:32pm
#1059585
Well the good news is I will be getting back into the in a few weeks. Book two is underway so I think it is time I really reworked this rough draft of book one.

*Smile*
October 16, 2023 at 12:15am
October 16, 2023 at 12:15am
#1057477
So where are we at with the Raven Queen... well I have finished the first draft more or less and now begins the marathon effort of editing this monster... 198,000 words will take me more than a day or three but hang in there and it will be done but not until after NaNo at this stage.

The Never-Verse is taking all my focus right now.
October 9, 2023 at 12:13am
October 9, 2023 at 12:13am
#1057025
Not much to report this week, the main draft is very close to finished but I am struggling with finishing off a few lose ends... Also spent most of my time working on the Prep for NaNo.


Anyway, I will have more up here soon *Smile*
October 2, 2023 at 5:20am
October 2, 2023 at 5:20am
#1056546
Just finishing off the final battle which has taken me a while to write and that will be it... over and done and time to edit.

September 30, 2023 at 12:28am
September 30, 2023 at 12:28am
#1056425
Sometime later, found him standing outside a tavern warm light spilling onto the foggy street through cloudy windows. Above the door hung a crude sign of a woman leaning on a keg tankard in hand. The drunken wench it read, just one of a dozen or more run-down taverns and alehouses along the wharf district with equally predictable names and equally awful ale. It was filled for what it was worth with local fishermen playing dice. Pipe smoke drifted heavy in the room much like the river mist outside and the air tasted like the inside of a moldy boot. At the bar, a short bald piggy-eyed fellow sporting an apron that at one time may have been white occupied himself cleaning a non-to clean mug with a cloth in no better condition than his apron. The man eyed Kallus as he entered the common room, looking for the entire world like a hermit crab that had lost its shell.

"I only got ale, ain’t got no wine; it be two coppers, its young, and no food at this hour, drink it or not, you pay or be gone," the man barked in that predictable dockside pathos common to all wharf side taverns and bars. Kallus stared hard at the tavern keep until the man began looking rather nervous.

"I would have expected a tavern to serve wine, but ale it is then," he said breaking the tension with a smile that never touched his blue eyes and radiated all the warmth of a winter river.
Chuckling to himself Kallus found a seat in the back corner where he could watch the tavern door and as many of the occupants as possible. A short time later, the Tavern Keep dumped an earthen mug containing a suspicious oily liquid on his table. Kallus shook his head eyeing the Ale slowly coming to rest in the dirty mug. Bestowing the tavern owner with another icy look and he tossed two coppers on the greasy table which the man quickly scooped up and scuttled off with.

Kallus sat observing the patrons for some time before the common room door opened and a slim form in a heavy hooded cloak entered the tavern. Two much larger men not doing a very good job at hiding the fact they were armed to the teeth followed the hooded stranger. Chăñ slave soldiers Kallus noted. Impressive to look at and a truly expensive purchase at the south gate market, but generally not very bright. His client had the coin it would seem.

Scanning the common room, the trio picked their way through the tables of drunken and dicing patrons to him. "You are known as Kallus?” A soft melodious voice with just the smallest hint of a southern Shărrian accent asked. "My master has a job for you," the young woman sat placing her hands on the table. Kallus caught just the hint of a gold band around her delicate right wrist, ‘a female house slave and an expensive one no doubt so the client was a cast noble.’

Typical, the Shăr aristocrats would never demean themselves to come to a place like this, nor in fact risk it."What sort of job?" he asked in a level voice studying the two guards who simply ignored him. The slave gave him a half smile obviously noting his appraisal of the two Chăñ men, "My master bids you obtain certain items is all, and the compensation will be more than adequate I am told."

5 Entries · *Magnify*
Page of 1 · 10 per page   < >

© Copyright 2023 StoneHeart (UN: wexian at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
StoneHeart has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/wexian