Thursday, March 15, 2018

Flash Fiction #294: Honor Among Thieves/7


No one moved except that I turned to Darkin and gave a little shrug. This was far more than I had expected.  I had the feeling that maybe Lady Yeti had used me to get here and face Kimlin.

No, not Kimlin. She wanted something far more powerful, and I really didn't want to be here when --

Kimlin gave a frantic look to the orcs, but they were backing away.  Lady Yeti took another step closer, and I decided it was probably safest to remain close to her.  Darkin moved with me, but he didn't look happy.

"Shadow demons do not belong in this world," Lady Yeti said.  "Not the demons who can do real harm.  It has been using you, Kimlin.  You know it."

Kimlin nodded agreement, but then he smiled.  "But it also gave me what I wanted.  The Demon isn't interested in ruling the humans, you know.  They will be in my care."

"What about the Guild," I asked.

He laughed.  "Why would I need the Thieves' Guild when everything is mine?"

I oped others heard that one, though I supposed they already knew that Kimlin was more trouble than they'd thought.

Why wasn't Yeti doing anything?

Oh, I knew the answer.  She was waiting for some one -- some thing -- to arrive.  I had the feeling that once that happened, the rest of us wouldn't matter much at all.  I started looking for the best way out, which unfortunately was the other side of Kimlin.  That wouldn't have been much of a problem except for the orcs who had backed up, but not left.

I put a hand on Darkin's shoulder and gave him a nod as though I knew what I was doing.  I can't say he looked relieved, but that might have been because he knew me so well.

Something began to change.  I a tingle and then realized that everything seemed to be going darker -- at least until Lady Yeti's fire and chain blazed brighter.

A shape stood behind Kimlin that hadn't been there before.  Tall, dark -- not a shadow as I would have expected it to be.  This one had form and a face.

"No one told me about you," the demon said.  I couldn't tell a gender if such things had them.

"No one knew," Yeti answered.

"Had you not already come so fully weaponed, we might have made some deal.  Kimlin got me into this realm, but he has not been the best help since then."

I smirked.  Unintentional, but the change drew the Shadow Demon's attention, which I really didn't want.

"I thought you were dead," the thing said.  Not words I liked to hear since they clearly indicated that it knew me.

"Go back to your realm, demon," Lady Yeti said.  Her voice did not betray any emotion.  She might have been talking to a robin sitting on her windowsill.  "You don't really want to face me, do you?"
"I have committed a great deal to this enterprise."

Lady Yeti gave a little flick of her wrist, and the chain and fire symbol moved from the air to the ground and spread out between the two groups.

Kimlin stepped back. The orcs retreated behind the Shadow Demon.  I decided to brave it out and stay with Lady Yeti.  I had the feeling I couldn't get away fast enough, and one step back was not going to help.

I felt bad about Darkin, though -- until I actually looked at him.  He wasn't nearly as upset as I would have expected.  In fact, he appeared far more intrigued than me --

Things happened fast.

Darkness rolled across the room like a wave of ink.  I grabbed hold of Darkin just before the darkness took away all light -- but worse, all air as well.  I had thought it only a shadow, but we were suffocating --

Light sprang up and shoved the black away, at least by a few feet.  Lady Yeti had found us.  I did not expect her bright grin.

"This is going to be more fun than I expected," she said.

"You -- crazy," I replied, still gasping for breath.  Darkin made a sound of warning.  Yeah, maybe I didn't want to annoy the woman who was keeping us alive.

She only laughed, though, and sent a wave of light out through the ink.  The darkness fizzled and smoked with a bit of an acidic scent.  I tried not to breathe too much of it in.  Lady Yeti had already turned back to fight the Shadow Demon, and I wasn't certain what Darkin, and I should do --

Until I saw Kimlin and the orcs trying to get away through a side door.  I nodded that way and Darkin agreed.  We slid along the wall, remaining within Lady Yeti's cleared area.  She and the Demon Lord appeared to be exchanging insults now.  I had the odd impression of enemies who rather enjoyed the occasional bout with each other.

But where did that leave the rest of us?

Kimlin and his companions were something we could at least face, if not defeat.  I'd never fought an orc, but I would rather face it than the Shadow Demon.

We didn't throw ourselves into the room.  The dining hall, which had lots of furniture --

Something huge broke.  I had the feeling the orcs didn't much like the table. That annoyed me.  The thing had been ancient and stolen from a prince's castle -- not exactly an easy feat.  Those orcs were destroying our heritage and history.

I snarled and raced into the room.

Darkin shouted a curse of his own and followed me.  I'm not sure why he joined me in my insanity, except that it was still probably better than facing the darkness on the other side of the door.

The orcs had broken the table in two and tore off two legs, holding them ready to attack.  Kimlin cowered behind them.

And behind him stood another dozen of the guild.

Well, damn.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Flash Fiction # 293: Honor Among Thieves/6

Heading into the building the same way  I had escaped was foolhardy. Some might even have considered it downright stupid.  Kimlin would have set up traps.

Darkin and I had been eluding traps all our lives, and Kimlin was never good at setting them.

We only found one, just a few steps from the door to the room where I had escaped.  I had the distinct impression Kimlin had never dared go farther on the stairs.

"I'd feared he might have someone helping him with these," I said as I lifted the wire from an obvious explosive.  Darkin took the device apart.  You never knew when you might need a few of these things.  "Maybe even his Shadow Demon --"

"No," Lady Yeti said.  "A Shadow Demon doesn't have much of a solid form.  He might understand about killing someone like the mayor, but setting traps would not be in his mindset."

"It also means he's not won over any member of the Guild who could do this for him," Darkin pointed out.
"Or he doesn't trust anyone else with the knowledge of this secret passage," I pointed out.  "We can't count on him having driven away anyone."

"I don't know.  After today, I'm willing to bet that Kimlin has fewer people today."  Darkin reached over and caught my arm when I started to slip on one of the steps.  "Sinton?"

"He's still not fully recovered," Lady Yeti warned from behind us.  "But we dared not wait any longer.  The Shadow Demon is aware.  He will only grow stronger."

Darkin nodded, made sure I was steady, and then we moved on to the door.  There was a trap on it as well, but as quickly put aside.

We stepped into the room.  Dusty.  Dark.  I knew my way around without any light.  I had no trouble reaching the door, and I waited there, ear to the crack.  The other two remained silent.

"No one else is on this floor," I said.  Then I rethought that line.  "Well, no human."

"I do not sense anything close," Lady Yeti said.  She created a small blue light that barely lit the area around her and Darkin.  He looked startled, but then gave a nod of appreciation.  "There is a sense of powers below, but that might be residual from the Shadow Demon."

"Good."  I had stayed by the door, giving the room one quick look.  There wasn't much out of place, but it was evident that Kimlin had gone through all the drawers and cupboards.  Well, except for my special secret ones.  Did the fool really think that someone who spent his life as a thief was going to leave anything of value where it could be easily found?

The more I thought about Kimlin, the more I realized that he had never really taken to the life he'd chosen.  Or maybe he had been aiming at something else all along?

Not that it mattered to me.  I just liked to have a good idea of what I faced.  We were not going to spend much more time here in the room.  I wasn't really ready for this fight, but I knew we wouldn't have a better chance.  I had to trust that Lady Yeti and Darkin were not going to get killed here with me.

So we went out of the room and headed down the stairs.

Yeah, that drew a stir from those below.  I heard our names running like a wind through the building.

Then Kimlin appeared, and he was not alone.

I noted a couple interesting things as he opened the guarded door to the right.  First was that he was not alone, but he didn't have humans with him.  Half a dozen magical creatures came out of the room at his back, including two orcs, two goblins, and two Shadow Demons.

The second thing I realized as the three of us took a step backward was that I could not see a single member of the guild who was not equally shocked by Kimlin's companions.


"You stepped over the line today, Kimlin," I said as I took another step down, forcing myself to stay steady.  "And then I learned who is really behind your rise in power.  Where is the Shadow Demon who has med you his pet?"

Kimlin gave an inarticulate shout and a wave of his hand.  His companions started forward, but Lady Yeti came to my side and lifted her hand.  The little blue light she had been carrying grew in size and brightness, and she whispered a few words in a language I didn't understand.  Even the sound of those words made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

The creatures who understood what she said took it far worse.  The orcs appeared to be caught between screaming in fear or attacking without mercy.  The smaller things had backed away, though, and Kimlin didn't look happy about losing his companions.

"Shall I finish?" Yeti suddenly spoke. She had a deceptively sweet voice and smile.  "One more line and I send everyone before me to Elvern's Hell."

I took a quick step backward, just to be safe.

"You wouldn't," Kimlin said and suddenly sounded far too assured.  "I know how magic works.  If you opened a gate to Elvern's Hell or any other realm you would owe the soul of that realm a debt, and it would not be an easy price."

"Would I?" she said.  Her fingers spread out and she made a small circle in the air.  Or perhaps it is Elvron who owes me the debt."

A symbol formed before her and one even I could interpret.  The flames of Elvern's Hell, but encircled by the symbol that hung on Lady Yeti's door that I had always taken to be something like a daisy chain.

It was a very different sort of chain, and she was far more powerful than I could have imagined.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Flash Fiction # 292: Honor Among Thieves/5

Knowing what we faced was not only unstable Kimlin but also a Shadow Demon with plans for humanity made this trouble a bit more than my revenge.

The truth was that I didn't care if I took over the Thieves Guild again.  I'd done it the first time so that the others didn't kill me.  If someone else wanted to take over, I don't think I would have fought hard, as long as it wasn't Kimlin and his dark companion.

Or someone just as bad.

Yeti taught me about the demons we would face and the allies that they might have brought along.  She also introduced me to some of our partners.  I'd never thought to find myself so so caught up in magic.  This was not the path I'd taken in life.

Then, unexpectedly, Yeti came into the room on a late afternoon and told me we would be making our move that night.

"Tonight," I repeated as though I didn't quite understand the word.

"Kimlin's shadow demon has left the realm," she reported and was already grabbing a few things from the wall. She threw me a jacket.  "We won't have a better chance -- unless you want to give up this quest?"

She stopped and looked at me as she said those words.  I could see no judgment either way in her face.

"We go," I said and stood.  I pulled on the jacket.

Yeti grinned brightly.  I'd made the right choice.  Besides, I was curious to see if some of the things Yeti had been teaching me would work.  Not magic -- well, not much -- but work with potions and powders.  I thought Kimlin would be surprised.

Providing we could get to him.  Just because he didn't have his Shadow Demon with him didn't mean he was without protection.  I counted fifteen guards around the mansion and on the roof, and from the shadows that moved against the windows, I suspected at least that many inside as well.

The streets were uncommonly quiet tonight, and the guards out in large numbers, though none around the mansion.  I didn't like the feel of it, and Yeti looked much the same.

More guards took up positions outside the building.

"Paranoid, isn't he?" Yeti asked.  We stood a block away, invisible at the moment.  That was handy -- but I did not ask her to teach me.  Besides, she'd already pointed out that my reserve of magic was not very much.  I wasn't meant to use magic.  I didn't mind.  Magic has uses, but there are so many traps set for it that a thief is better off just doing the work the old-fashioned way.

"So, you don't think he found the exit out of the room?" I said softly.  "I would have thought Kimlin would have torn the room apart looking for it."

"From what I heard, he sealed the room off and moved into a more secure part of the house," she said.  "One where he can escape more easily."

"Bottom floor," I said and began looking the building over a little more carefully.  "That makes sense.  He also doesn't realize that the hidden staircase has doors at other places."

"Dangerous going that way," she said, but already began backing away, a hand on my arm.  "But less so than trying to get in through the guards, I think.  At the very least, we can find the opening that leads from the stream to the building and see if we think it has been used."

It had been in use, but whatever animal had spread those gnarled bones about gave a low rumble of a growl when they neared.

"This could be a problem," I said and took a step back --

"Sinton!" a voice shouted from inside the cave, echoing too loudly. 

Damn!  For all the care we'd taken, we had set off some trap after all.  I half turned to Yeti to warn her away --

And a body collided with mine.  We both went down.

"I thought you were dead!"

I was on my back, winded, and staring into a shadowed face -- but one I knew too well.

"Darkin," I said and shoved him off.  "You scared the hell out of me!"

We both stood and embraced like brothers.  Yeti looked pleased.  So was I.

"I camped out here hoping you would show up," Darkin said.  He kicked aside some bones and led us inside.  "When you didn't, I couldn't find a good reason to move on, especially since King Kimlin has had everyone out looking for me.  I thought about trying your place, Lady Yeti, but I didn't want to draw anyone to you."

"I wish you had sent word somehow," I said.  "I tried to believe that you were not dead, but...."

"The same with me," I said.

We went into the cave.  Darkin had created a remarkably nice little room back from the opening.  Yeti filled him in on everything that had happened while I sat down and rested for a bit.  No, I was not fully recovered yet, and Darkin obviously knew it from the frown he gave me.

"Tonight then," he said when she finished.  "I'm not happy with the idea of Shadow Demons on either side, but I'm willing to go along with it.  This does explain about Kimlin.  You might have missed it, but a few hours ago he killed the mayor."

"What?" we chorused.

"Yes.  Went to the speech the man was giving and walked up and shoved a knife into his heart.  The guards began fighting each other, and he just walked away."

"And then his Shadow Demon left to go home so that he could recover strength," Yeti said with a nod.  "Well, this is going to play hell with the city.  The sooner we get Kimlin out of the way, the faster we can repair the mess he created."

"Then let's go," Darkin said. 

Off to save the world....

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Flash Fiction #291: Honor Among Thieves/4

Finding Darkin proved impossible, especially since I couldn't go looking for him.   Yeti carefully made inquiries, mostly using magical beings.  The guild didn't deal with them.

Darklin had been seen two days after Kimlin took over the guild and then disappeared. I tried not to believe that was a bad sign about his survival.  Darklin was smart.  He'd get out of sight.

The problem was that he didn't know I was still alive.  He might leave the city and try his luck elsewhere.  Or he might decide to take out Kimlin, and without knowing the things Lady Yeti and I had lately learned.  Kimlin did have someone more important backing and directing him.

And that person was not human.

"Shadow demons are hard to track," Yeti said as she put a bowl of stew in front of me.  My mouth watered, but I waited for her to sit down before I began to eat.  "Most of them are not all that bright, but a few have been around for hundreds of years and picked up information."

She settled in the chair across from me, bowed her head for a moment, and then spread her hands over the food in a blessing.  I didn't know what deity she served, but I respected her beliefs, especially since they'd had more than a little power to keep me alive.

My hand still trembled when I held the spoon, but not so much as it had the day before.  I was growing stronger, and I did my best to fight back the surliness that had started to take hold as I found myself not quite ready to go out to face the world, but too well to sit placidly in the sunlight from a window and contemplate the dust motes.

Yeti did keep me informed of what was going on, though.  That not only helped keep me entertained but also gave me all the information I needed to consider before I made any move. 

After hearing some of the things she had to say about what Kimlin had been doing, I thought maybe the dust motes weren't so bad after all.  Today, I could tell, was going to be one of those days.

"You're sure of what he's dealing with?" I asked after a couple bites of the stew.

"I've had it confirmed by two other shadow demons," she admitted and smiled when I gave her a sharp look.  "They're not happy about what is going on.  Kimlin's Shadow has plans for more than the thieves guild -- more than just humanity, in fact."

"I don't like the sound of that," I said, as though it would change anything."

"No one -- No THING that has caught any hint of what's going on is not happy," she said.  She took three quick bites and then looked up at me.  "Many of the others are looking to you and me to do something."

"They know I'm here," I said and felt dread I had not totally expected.

"Some do.  You know there is magic here, and that means certain powers and beings have free access to my place.  Word was bound to spread, but it has not to the human population.  That's a true sign of how worried everyone is, Sinton.  They are not selling the information for any sort of gift that would give them more power in this world."

"Can we count them as allies, then?" I asked.  I needed to know what might help, especially since there was still no sign of Darkin."

"Some," she said.  "Many, even.  The problem is that if we go that way, then we are bound to have trouble with many of the humans who might work with us."

"True."  I ate more of the food in silence, and so did she.  We had no easy answers.  The sunset was on the horizon, and I had to go somewhere that my shadow would not show in a window.  I disliked having my movement limited, but I would not risk Yeti's safety any more than I already did just by being here.  We were already seventeen days into my death.  I stayed out of the way while she took care of her business.  The rest of the time she seemed to not mind having company, especially after I started recovering and she didn't need to hover over me all the time.

"We don't have a lot of choices in this," I said as I helped clean up after the meal.  "We could go to the authorities or to the temple, but neither you nor I have the kind of standing with those two groups that would win us their favor."

"True," she admitted.  I sat by the wall and kept my voice to a near whisper while she sorted herbs on the table.  "And by the time we convinced them of the truth, all hope of surprise would be gone."

I grimly agreed.  I also had to make a decision.  If we moved forward with her odd allies, then there was no way I could go back to running the guild.  They would never trust that I was acting on my own again, especially if we unveiled what Kimlin had been doing.

I could not get to enough humans to take on Kimlin, either.  I didn't even know who I could trust in the guild except for Darkin -- and where was he?  Dead?  I didn't like to think so.

"We'll have to go with your people," I said and committed myself to a totally unknown future.  "It's either that or walk away.  I don't like to think about how things would go if no one else steps up to take Kimlin on."

"Yes," Yeti agreed.  While this would affect her somewhat, it would not change her life, though.  Everyone already knew she dealt in magic.


"I suggest you stay out of this as much as possible," I said.

She smiled brightly, and I knew those words were wasted.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Flash Fiction 290: Honor Among Thieves/3

Kimlin knew where I'd head since I had been poisoned. He waited there for me.  I hoped he wasn't trying to be discreet because he was a disgrace to the Thieves Guild.

Not that I intended for him to stay a member for much longer.

I hadn't taken in much of the poison, and I wondered if I would survive without help.  That wasn't the kind of gamble I liked to practice.  I headed in the opposite direction of Lady Yeti's place.  My head pounded worse, and I could no longer use my right arm -- so yeah, time to get help.

The alley I wanted held an odor so rank that most people avoided it.  The smell was one of Yeti's potions and once a couple yards into the area, it disappeared.  At what looked like the end of the alley I had to push aside a part of a wooden wall and slide between two buildings.  Tight fit.  I suspected Kimlin couldn't have made it.

I pulled the wood back -- and then rested.  Not my idea, but suddenly everything went black, and in one heartbeat I thought I would die.  Just die.
I came back awake with a start.  A hand rested on my shoulder, long fingers curling so tight I thought they were claws digging into my skin.  I reached awkwardly for my knife --

"I sensed someone coming through here and waited," Lady Yeti whispered in my ear.  I stopped reaching for the weapon.  "And with Kimlin prowling outside my home, I suspected it would be one of the Guild.  Not you, though, Sinton."

"Poison," I whispered.

"I gathered that.  Lean on me."

Lady Yeti might intend to help me or to kill me.  I couldn't know, but she was still the only help I could reach.  I leaned on her.

I tried to keep track of what she did; that was just habit for me, though.  I didn't try too hard....

I awoke in a bed in Lady Yeti's house.  I had been here before, though not in such a dangerous situation. Light streamed through the cracks between heavy curtains; I had survived the night.

I couldn't breathe very well.  I tried to sit up and failed to even lift my head.  Panic swept through me, and my body twitched.  I fought for control and tried to sit up again.

I ended up rolling off the bed and hitting the floor.  Hard.

Lady Yeti came into the room, knelt beside me and bowed so that she almost rested her head on the floor to look him in the face.

"Happy now, are you?"  she asked.

"I -- I can't say that I am," I admitted.  "But I did move."


I didn't argue.  I was able to help when she got me back up into bed which made me feel much better.  Lady Yeti looked pleased.

"Since I wasn't certain you'd wake at all, I'm not going to lecture you on moving too soon," she said as she twitched back a corner of the curtain, letting in more light.  "Don't worry.  Kimlin and his people stopped watching my place yesterday."

"Yesterday?" I said, startled.  "How long?"

"Three days," she replied.  I saw her frown as she pushed back strands of her wild, golden hair.

"Well damn," I said.  "That's going to be a problem at the guild.  But thank you."

"And that, Sinton,  is why I take the time to bother with you," she replied. "You do your best not to be rude.  That really does mean a lot, Sinton."

"All rude does is create more enemies," I said.  "I save it for those I really don't want to deal with again.  I'm afraid, Lady, that I didn't think about payment when I left the guild house.  After this long, I'm not sure I'll be able to go back to my old life.  I will pay you as soon as I can, though."

She nodded and didn't look at all bothered, even though three days of magical care and potions must have run up quite a bill.

"You want to pay me back?" she said and leaned closer until I stared into her light gray eyes.  I felt a chill because I could see the magic there that I tried my best to ignore at other times.  "You get better, Sinton. Then you get that stupid bastard Kimlin out of control of the guild.  He is going to ruin things for everyone on the underside of the law if he isn't stopped."

"Kimlin is in charge?" I said, startled.  "Already?"

"I don't know all the facts," she said as she helped me sit up.  I was surprised she knew any -- but it pointed to the guild not being as discreet as it should be.  Not a surprise if Kimlin had taken over.  "I heard that he took the leadership in the evening after you disappeared.  Rumor says that he did so with the help of outsiders."

"Ah.  Well.  That maybe makes sense.  Otherwise, I'd have to believe that everyone went stupid and we try to weed that out before it's a problem.  Has Kimlin said anything about what happened to me?  Do you know?"

"Yes," she said.  I could tell from her frown this was not going to be good.  "Kimlin says he caught you making a deal with a Captain of the Guard to turn in certain guild members for the rewards.  He says he killed you both and the bodies fell into the river.  The body of the captain has been recovered, along with a partial list of names and locations.  I suspect your 'body' will turn up later.  Or, if you show up, he'll point out the wound and say you somehow survived."

"Yeah, someone is helping Kimlin," I said and shook my head in disbelief.  "He isn't bright enough to pull together something this complex.  I'm going to have a hard time getting back into power.  I need Darkin."

I hoped he had survived.