Legal Theft: Women like her

Silas was rarely awake in time to see the sun come up, let alone up, dressed, and walking outside in the crisp last moments of darkness. Maybe she was good for him.The cold stung his nose. He rubbed it as she emerged from the cafe. “Are you really up this early every day?” He asked.

She nodded and passed him a paper cup. It warmed his hands as they crossed the empty intersection into the expansive park. She breathed in the coffee smell before taking a small sip. “Just normally in running shoes.”

He let his surprise show. “Dedicated. You didn’t strike me as the type.” That’s why he liked this. He didn’t have to worry about offending her. Far away from the complicated morass of high society and the spoiled girls there he could just say what he wanted to.

She smiled, dark chocolate eyes warm and bright when she looked at him. “I’m not. My roommate is. I’m only in shape by association.” She said and Silas nodded. That made sense. She was thin, toned but without the mass of a woman who spent too much time in a gym. That was good, too much muscle often ruined otherwise attractive women.

“I’m surprised you have a roommate. Young working woman like yourself.” With what he’d just paid she could easily have a nice uptown apartment to herself. He wondered if she was lying, if she had a boyfriend. He wrapped an arm around her waist and tugged her closer. She leaned into his pull, if his possessiveness bothered her she was smart enough to hide it.

“I like being around people, always have. It works out for both of us.” She said.

He followed her gaze to the horizon where the sun was finally making its appearance. He didn’t have to be at the office for hours. “Come back with me. Stay another night” He turned her so they faced each other. With her heels she was an inch or so taller than him. He would have to speak to her about that. “You can stay at the hotel today and I’ll bring you to the gala tonight.” He bestowed the offer with a squeeze of his hands. An event like the Donovon Gala would be the chance of a lifetime for a woman in her position. He smiled, waiting for her grateful yes.

Her dark eyes softened. “That sounds wonderful, but I have to go.”

“What?” Silas’ smile held. She was playing coy. Women like her lived for these moments.

But she still leaned back from him, sliding a little from his grasp. “I have plans tonight, but perhaps another time? You have my number.” She kissed him, lips brushing against his cheek before she stepped away.

He didn’t have time to demand an explanation or to call her an ungrateful whore. She was already walking away, more quickly than he thought she could in those heels. But then, she probably had practice. He felt his mouth twist, she was in no position to refuse him after how much of a gentlemen he’d been, especially to someone like her. He turned back to his hotel with hard steps. Idiot girl, he would have treated her well.

Not that anyone’s surprised, but I am a thief. This line was stolen from Apprentice, Never Master. Check out the rest of the heist here.

FlashFiction: Oddities in the Air

The night wind livened the warm air of the dance hall. Those within glared at the offending cold as it ruffled jeweled skirts and embroidered coats.

Theo watched the curtain’s swell and the shiver move across the floor. Someone cleared their throat. He had been in the middle of a sentence when he’d trailed off. Theo smiled in apology and ducked from the conversation as gracefully as allowed. The departure earned him veiled glances, which he was accustomed to. The older generations would content themselves with looks. Whispers behind hands and fans would come from those his own age. Theodore was an Ashlock, the ancient name synonymous with flawless breeding, unspeakable wealth, vast holdings and a strong penchant for eccentricity.

But there was a reason for that. Theo managed to get out one of the many glass doors before the servants shut them against the growing gale. The gardens flower bed’s, impeccably trimmed before the party, now strewn across the marbled walkways, crunched under his shoes. Air whistled in his ears and Theo grinned. He didn’t mind the conversation of his peers but this…. he liked stories. And the winds always had the best ones.

Legal Theft: Dependence

He knew, all things considered, she didn’t need him. If one day he happened to slip too far away, she would survive and carry on, which in his mind, was a good thing. There was no reason to take it personally. She wasn’t the needing sort. In fact, he mused, she took pains to need as little as possible, and was internally very proud of it.

Anyway he’d always figured it would be better to be wanted, even if it didn’t bind the way dependence tended to. Being dependent definitely wasn’t her thing, where he and it were old friends. But then, he was working on that.

“I think that is it.” She closed the trunk of the car and turned to him. This close to being free and she was already gone. Twitchy fingers and far off eyes made that plain. He’d always been able to read her far better than she could him.

“Stay away from paramilitary transnational crime syndicates this time. Or don’t. You have weird ideas about vacations.” He told her dryly.

His sister pulled him into a tight hug, which he returned. “Uh huh.” He could sense her roll her eyes. “I’ll call.”

He nodded as they pulled away from each other, swallowing a jab about the alarmist yet absolutely uninformative voicemails she was fond of leaving. He didn’t like goodbyes, they made him want to act like a jerk. “I’ll find my way to Cairo eventually, if you’re still there we’ll catch up.”

Her turn to nod. Apparently they were both bad at this. Big surprise there.

One last hug before she ducked into the car. And then the car was pulling away. Then it was gone. He sighed and walked back inside. She may not need him, but she did need this. He knew that too.

I stole the first line from Bek’s “Wants and Needs. Go check out them and all the other thieves here

 

Searching Part 5

So continues the closest thing I’ve got to a serial. The previous chapters can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

Her boot slid down the loose wooden slate. She let herself slide, leaning over the edge of the rooftop, fingers curled around a chimney pipe.

If anyone noticed the girl hanging over the dockside market street, half poised and eyes set on the coastline, they didn’t bother themselves about it. Westport was a trade hub, plenty of odd people passing through. It was better to just let them do so, better for everyone that way.

From her precarious vantage point Ferra counted ships. Six months ago she’d not been able to tell a sloop from a snow. Now she could list off the dozens of vessels that made their way in and out of the port.

She craned her body, squinting into the bright noon and the sparkling flat of the sea. This ritual was as part of her day as the unending search for food and her nightly lessons with Ghost. Half a year she’d waited for Aren’s ship, she’d wait dozens more but she sure as hell wasn’t going to miss it when it did finally cross back into the harbor.

Seven new vessels. She could name their build but her eyes were for their colors. Two red for the Vrack Empire, one pale blue with lavender from the Gurish fleet. Those were easy. The mishmash of shades and symbols the pirates used were harder. Daggers, bones, hanged men….she’d seen so many.

An hourglass, white against a black field. Ferra blinked. The thing snapped in the wind like an animal caught in a trap.

It was here. She wanted to spring into the street and chase it down. Her muscles begged for it. But tearing her eyes from its colors for even a minute, lest it slip away again, was harder than it should have been.

That ship had taken Aren. It was the closest she’d been to finding her wayward cousin and best friend since she left home. Ferra took a breath drinking in the sight of the ship instead. Being rash got you killed here, she’d been lucky enough to find Ghost before her blind search ended that way. She had a little while to plan, the hourglass ship had just come in. Plenty of time to get close and find Aren.

Her six months in Westport had taught her more than the times bakers left bread unattended. A valuable bit of knowledge to be sure, she was alive because of it. But her talents had always rested in the sword still slung across her back. And now she knew no one ever looked up.

If Aren wasn’t on that ship, if they’d done something with him, they wouldn’t see her coming.

Legal Theft: Silence and Preparation

I stole the first line for this from More Than 1/2 Mad for the Legal Theft project? prompt? exercise? Whatever. Here it is. 

“When charging into dangerous situations you can either be fast and silent or fast and prepared.” He told her, voice low and thick. She leaned towards the words, forearms on the table between them. “Haste is a necessity in my line of work, so one must pick between the other two.”

She didn’t need to ask what he did for a living. The sword slung over his chair shone with care and his coat was oiled and fine. He smelled earthy from horses and road dirt. Moreover the inn was tense; the staff watched the men and their swords from the corners of their eyes. “So what do you choose then?”

He smiled at her. “Bring me another drink and I’ll tell you.”

She obeyed and settled back across from him, expectant.

“Silent. Your enemies must never know where you wait.” He took the ale. “I have been to this inn many times, but this is the first visit I’ve seen you. Does your father really mistrust me so much?” His eyes flicked to the innkeep, scowling from across the bar. His eyes were alive when they turned back to hers.

Her cheeks colored and she looked away, a smile playing on her own lips nonetheless. “You make a living taking what belongs to others, can you fault him?”

“No I cannot, especially with such a bright and beautiful daughter. But perhaps we’ve spoken too much, I don’t wish to bring you trouble.” His tone sobered, turning soft.

“Wouldn’t you?” One of her fine brows arched, matching the quirk of her lips.

“Perhaps I lied. But I’ve told you, my life is full of dangerous situations; whether I intend it or not, I would only bring you trouble.” He leaned back with a sigh, adjusting the cloth around his neck. “There is a price on my head, and your father already dislikes my men, perhaps almost as much as our little conversations.”

She shrugged, throwing a defiant look towards the man behind the bar. The innkeeper stiffened and a shiver went through the room, a few of the highwaymen’s’ hands going to their well-kept swords.

Nothing came of it. The innkeeper deflated and the swordsmen went back to their drinks, dice and cards. This was not the first silent contest he’d lost to the thieves.

“I am more capable than he knows, I can make my own decisions and take matters into my own hands.” She said softly. “That’s what I’m doing.”

“Those are strong words. Do they have action behind them?” The highwayman asked, he weighed her as one would heft a purse, determining the metal of the coins within.

She nodded. “Take me away from here.”

“Tonight?” He smirked, as if it was a joke. It wasn’t, there was nothing frivolous or merry in her voice.

“He won’t suffer you long, or the company we keep.” She shrugged again. “I can be patient, it is your profession that requires haste.”

His smile grew, enjoying her quickness. “Tonight then.”

*****

The moon was high when she crept silent and quick from her window. He waited across the bridge, horse saddled and ready to ride with an extra passenger. They met with a deep kiss, hands curled through his hair and around her waist.

“This is a dangerous life I have, oh innkeeper’s daughter.” He climbed atop the saddle first, pulling her behind him. “My men wait to the south. You are ready to join them?”

“Yes.” She set her chin on his shoulder, pressing herself to his back. “Take the east road, the king’s men patrol the south way.”

“I have never seen them.” He said but turned the horse hard to the east, galloping away from the inn and its dark windows. They rode along the wide path, its way marred with the many passes of wagons and travelers. She leaned against him all the while. He enjoyed the hands about his waist and the warmth at his back.

The trees were thick and the road weaved, hiding the way from them. The jingle of bridle and the stamp of horse sounded before he saw them. “My men.” He explained to her and felt her nod against his shoulder. They slowed to a walk and turned the bend.

Moonlight shone off the knight’s helms. It dimmed the faces of the men who wore them. Next to the shining armor their swords were dark and dull, freshly bloodied. They closed around the highway man’s horse.

The cold threat of a blade pressed itself to the highwayman’s back. “His men?” She asked the knights over his shoulder.

The lead knight jutted his chin towards the tree line where bodies lay piled. “They won’t bother your inn any longer miss.”

The highwayman swore and she pressed her knife harder to his back. “And him?” She asked, ignoring the slurs the highwayman turned on her. “This one has come back with different band of thieves and thugs before.”

“He’s never been caught before. Always slipped away.” The knight moved over and dragged the highwayman down from the saddle. A quick strike from the mailed fist and the highwayman slumped, unconscious. “But we were prepared this time, thank you for that.” He passed her a thick purse. “The bounty.”

She smiled at the knight. “I should get back to the inn, but come in some time. “ The innkeeper’s daughter turned the highwayman’s horse and left the clearing before any of the king’s men said anything more.

Flash Fiction: Monoliths

They marched into the city at sunrise. Iven never saw the characteristic pastels of the dawn, the dust from their attack hung in the air creating monsters of the ruined buildings.  Everything was grey.

Occasionally a man would make a low joke accompanied by a hum of a laugh. A spark in the mire he hoped would take. It never did, the generous would turn a smile but most ignored the noise, peering instead at the monoliths around them. They were too large, Iven thought, and kept his eyes to the rubble at his feet.

The men marched through what had once been a city with men like them inside of it. Iven didn’t think of those men, he thought of his stomach and that his feet hurt.

The grey air around them darkened and the men pulled themselves together for the night. They huddled and ate around a fire. The bright flames made the dust shine like glass in the air between them.

With the ruins cradling them, the men began to fall asleep. All but Ivan who kept his eyes closed, pretending to sleep. But he dreamt against the dark of his eyelids, wondering what happened outside of them.

Iven watched the monoliths move about on reaching and knobbed legs, bent like a bird’s.  He watched metal and fire tear through the bodies of the men like him. He watched the monoliths watch as their men died and new men marched into their places and slept.

The morning came with less dust. The grey powder settling in the night and now rising in clouds as they walked over the ground. Iven could see the monoliths better now if he looked up at them. He didn’t. Iven kept his gaze to the rubble and the dust.

Stronger Than We Look.

If he survived this, Fen was going to kill him. The treasure hunter had business in the states that he couldn’t follow. Unfortunately for both of them, murder charges had a habit of sticking around. There were risks, and then there were massive bouts of stupidity that would screw over people he cared about. He’d moved past that point in his life…mostly.

His haphazard descent sent earth skittering down the rough slope. With a short hop he landed in the dry canal, almost denting his forehead on the low ceiling. Far away from the surface and the crowds there he was willing to risk light. With a quick twitch of his fingers the air rippled. Glowing motes fanned across the broken floor. Soon the passageway basked in dim gold, hidden pitfalls and collapsed walls losing their danger in the light.

Now that he could see he started down the ever descending tunnel. The temperature equalized as the air stilled. A few places in the long forgotten tunnel gave him difficulty, small cave ins and rubble that would take strength and patience to move. He didn’t have spades of either. Getting around them took some improvisation; nothing that running around with Fen hadn’t prepared him for.

Still when his shoe scrapped over the telltale flagstones he breathed a small release of relief. Starving lost beneath the city was not the way he wanted to go. And now he knew this was the place. He ran fingertips over the walls.  The carved indentations were clear and deliberate. It was writing, scripture of some sort if the images carved alongside were any indication.

The script didn’t keep his attention long. In the center of the small room a raised platform was set waist height in stone. It was rough, the same whorls and knot like writing covering its edges. He could see these clearer as dark residue stained the indents. Maybe it was a good thing Fen wasn’t here. The altar was old, but he could guess its use. Small chips marred the stone towards the center with more of the dark stones.

He only had a few more moments to inspect the grisly altar. Sharp footsteps echoed down the narrow tunnels. Whoever they were, they didn’t care about being found. That meant they were either stupid, careless or powerful enough that it didn’t matter. He ducked through a crumbled wall and nestled himself into a quick hiding spot, drawing the motes back into his hand.

*******

The only thing keeping her partially conscious was the fierce grip on her upper arms. She didn’t know where they were taking her, only that the floor was rough and that her feet and knees were probably a bloody mess. She could feel the dull sting down her bare legs, but whatever they’d given her curbed pain as well as the other senses.

The voices at her sides were indistinct but familiar. She knew them, but her mind refused to focus on how. A shiver moved up her spine. She was cold, the kind that settled deep in one’s body and worked its way out. Finally they stopped, leaving her hanging limp between them. Someone pushed her head backwards, letting it loll. A sharp finger pulled her eyelid back.

“If she cannot survive the first dose…” Someone said. They sounded bored.

“The strength of the body means little.” The second voice was closer. She could feel it cool against her sweat soaked skin.

“I suppose. We will see.” The first said unconvinced. “We are here at least. It’s unbecoming having to drag her.” Despite the complaint neither seemed to strain as they hauled her forward and up. Her feet left the ground and a moment later her back hit stone. She must have cried out as someone crooned gently, shushing her.

The beginnings of vision began to return slowly. Above her one of them held the torch, the other pale in the dark with a knife. The blade flashed. She winced but no more pain bloomed through the haze in her head.  Instead a drop of warm liquid hit her lip. The next dribble choked her. She coughed, lifting a hand but it was shoved to her side as more of the cloying copper taste was forced through her lips. Something stopped them and the two paused.

She wasn’t cold anymore, a growing warmth spread in her chest even as she gulped air.

A whispered command, “find it” and the one with the torch left, moving like a prowling cat. A moment later something beyond the altar caught the pale one’s attention. Cold eyes flicked to her, and then turned away, a light sliver into the dark. Alone, she closed her eyes trying to breathe through the fire moving in her veins.

“Come on.” Another voice. She opened her eyes with a start. The words were different from the others, lower, male and at her ear. Feather light fingers touched her arm. “They wont be gone long.” She thought to argue with him. The assumptions in that statement were problematic at least. But her tongue and throat refused to work even if her mind was slowly reclaiming its functions.

“I think I know the way out.” He drew her up, a hunched narrow shoulder under her own with an arm supporting her back. This stranger was not as strong as them, but she didn’t need to be carried anymore.

“This isn’t a good idea.” She whispered as they stumbled towards the tunnel.

****

The girl half hanging off his arm was not heavy. Petite didn’t cover it, she was sickly thin. That was a good thing though, he didn’t have the build for carrying damsels to safety, nor the desire to do so really.

But between her light frame and the danger buzzing in his veins like a drug, they managed a good pace.

That was until the unmistakable crunch of footsteps sounded ahead of them. The girl froze, but she didn’t flinch back or cower. She wasn’t scared, he realized.”Exactly what is going on?” He whispered, taking a step back himself.

The girl didn’t answer, gaze still drugged and unfocused. The light of a torch was upon them before he could drag her into hiding. The woman holding the torch smiled slow as she moved forward, gait smooth and sure. He wondered how much she needed that light.

“I am curious what you intend to accomplish.” The voice came from behind him. He twisted as best he could. The other one, pale in the dark, blocked the way back. The self-inflicted wound along her forearm still dripped red onto the ground. Despite her words there was no curiosity in her pointed face. “Stealing a goddess from her own temple.”

That would be quite a feat. But the girl looked anything but divine half hanging off his arm,wheezing and barely able to stand. “Your goddess seems a little unwell.” He said, maneuvering to face the one apparently in charge,

“We are stronger than we look.” The woman said.

He frowned at the ‘we’ but didn’t manage to voice the question. Iron fingers closed around the back of his neck. A quick yank and his face met wall. Cold pain spread over his skull. The woman with the torch yanked him back and drove him into the stone again. She dropped him unceremoniously to the ground.

Crumpled on the tunnel floor he conceded that yes, they seemed to be much stronger than they looked. The girl picked herself from the floor, swaying but standing. She looked at him, eyes finally focused even as his vision blackened. She might have said something but the others drew her back towards the temple leaving him to lose consciousness in the dark.