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.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Flash Fiction # 289 -- Honor Among Thieves/2

I was looking back over some older flash fictions and found one -- Honor Among Thieves (#164) that I had clearly had trouble with because it took an odd twist and had an ending that made no sense.  So here is more of the story.  I am going to try and work out something reasonable for the story.

"You think you've done better than Old Salem, boy?"

I had not expected to find someone in the hall of the mansion.  The only person I trusted, Darkin, was out on a job and wouldn't be back until dawn.  I'd only meant to step out of my suite to grab a late night bite to eat while I went over the ledgers.  Being the head of the city's Thieve's Guild was a lot more paperwork and a lot less glamor than most people would think.

I didn't let any surprise show, though.  In fact, I had expected to see Kimlin anyway -- just not right here and now.

Kimlin had set me up to be killed by Old Salem, the former leader of the Thieve's Guild.  However, Old Salem had been hanged, and I survived.  I had, eventually, convinced the rest of the membership that when Old Salem shouted my name before he died, he'd been naming me as his heir, not as the person who betrayed him.

Which, in fact, I had not.

Kimlin, a scraggly man who looked twice his age, was my prime suspect for that job.  Kimlin had been trying to get me killed for a while, though I hadn't put it together.  I wasn't sure if Old Salem had been caught in the net instead or if he'd been another target.

Looking at Kimlin, I had the feeling maybe we'd all been targets.  Madness raged in in his gray eyes.  His hand that held the knife shifted back and forth as though battered by a wind.  He stank of cheap wine.

I took him seriously.  I'd seen people make that kind of stupid mistake before.  Besides, I knew he hated wine.

So I played the game, too.  I 'incautiously' backed away, half slipping on the rug.  Kimlin grinned like a maniac and lunged at me, but I'd been ready for that move.  A flick of my wrist and I had a blade in hand and neatly sliced deep into his arm.

He howled and backed up, blood splattering everything, including me.  His howl was a mistake, though.  I did have guards in the building.  I even mostly trusted them, but I would rather not have put that to the test in this situation. 

I heard the guards rushing up the stairs and just from the way Kimlin grinned, I knew I had to do something drastic.  I moved as though I intended to back up again, but this time I turned it into a move forward, my right foot aiming at his knee and my knife --

His knife connected first with a slash straight down my right shoulder.  Then he did something odd.  He backed up and grinned again.

"My work here is done."


Kimlin darted down the hall.  I turned and went back to my private rooms, slamming the door closed even before the guards arrived.

I didn't try to stop the bleeding.  That might help flush out the poison.  I had to get somewhere.  Fast.

I had found the secret way out of the room long before Old Salem died.  I hadn't used it until now.  The stairs seemed too steep, but I rushed down them, trying not to bang into a wall and draw attention.  Down and down -- I wasn't entirely certain where it came out.

I heard a couple shouts behind the walls, but I couldn't make out the words.  My head pounded, probably from the blood loss.  I paused long enough to take off my vest and shove it against the wound, doing my best to ignore the pain.

The stairs went below the building.  A magical sphere lit a corridor.  I grabbed it -- a fortune in magic, I thought -- and headed out under the street and for some distance on.  Maybe my curiosity kept me going.  I wanted to know where I would come out.

A few steps up -- I went down on my knees half way and then pressed on again.  Up.  The door was worked stone.  I had to put all my weight on it, and then I tumbled out into the mud, and the door snapped shut.

Water flowed over my legs.

Burn's Creek?  Could I be that lucky?

I stayed where I was for a while, fighting against unconsciousness.  The cut was not so deep that I was going to bleed to death anytime soon, but it hurt, and I feared I felt some of the effects of the poison, too.  I needed calm now to get the rest of the way.

But I also needed to move before morning.  By nature, I had always been a night person, and that had helped me with my career as a thief.  I called on those skills that I hadn't used much since I took over as leader of the Thieve's Guild.  In some ways, the thrill of it helped drive me on.  I got up the creek's bank, found a pond to clean some of the mud off, and then made my way into Low Town, an area where I would not look out of place with my dirty clothes and my drunken gait.

Not far to my destination.

I hadn't thought much about Kimlin since the attack, but I was wary as usual, and that saved me.  Kimlin had gotten out of the house (another reason not to trust the guards -- besides, how had he gotten in?), and despite his own wound, he'd made it here ahead of me.  Of course, he'd guessed where I was going.

I hunkered down in an alley three blocks away and watched as Kimlin paced outside Lady Yeti's door.  He had a confrontation with one person while I watched, and it was plain he had no intention of letting anyone inside.

I was starting to have trouble breathing.  I didn't have time to waste.

Lucky for me, I knew Lady Yeti better than Kimlin.  I knew the back door.  I only had to get there.
(To Be Continued)

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Flash Fiction # 288 -- Aged (Drabble)

I brushed against the old woman and shrieked in dismay, seeing her long gray hair and craggy face.  Her spider-like fingers caught my arm to keep her balance, and I jerked away.

"Cover yourself!" I shouted.

She flaunted the rule of decency; those of us who would be young forever did not want to see death.

"You think you are one of the blessed?" she asked.  "Your end of time will come."

I didn't believe her, but words haunted me. I dyed my hair every week and covered new lines on my face with makeup.  

I would live forever.