Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Stone Sky teaser

Just a first-draft bit of one of the two novels I currently have underway. It's a fantasy piece, but not the standard sort. No dragons, unicorns or zombies. This is copyright Michael Lane 2013.

Verrin sat on the stone bench outside the Westarch barracks and watched three casteless youths beating an older scavenger with silent, bloody-minded attention.

The trio were doing a job of it. Two held the target’s arms, while the third, a sallow-faced dwarf with a short, forked blonde beard, hammered at the victim’s face with a fist slick with blood. They’d run him down in the street, sandals clattering, just as Verrin had gotten comfortable.

The barracks’ iron gate squealed open and Verrin glanced to his left. Another dwarf, clad in mail identical to his, took a few steps into the street and stopped, staring at the fight.

"Kolosh," Verrin called. The newcomer glanced over, offering a sketchy salute and walking over to take a seat on the bench.

"Sergeant Verrin. You off duty?"

Verrin winced as the bloodied dwarf’s head rocked back and a pink bubble of mucus and blood popped in the pulped mess that had been his nose.

"I was. Now I have these idiots," Verrin sighed, rising and tugging at the broad belt that encircled his waist. He laid a hand on the hilt of the short, broad-bladed sword that hung there. He drew it and handed it hilt-first to Kolosh.

"Hang onto that for a minute."

"Right." Amusement colored Kol’s voice. Verrin knew the other guards thought he was a soft touch, always worried about disorder and crime among the lowest classes; a group usually ignored by anyone with a family name. They were right. Verrin didn’t like bullies, no matter who the target was. It was a handicap for a guardsman, but also a silent point of pride for the young dwarf.

He strolled toward the fight, eyeing the three speculatively. All were clad in the ragged leather smocks common among the casteless, and the three doing the beating all wore necklaces threaded with knucklebones; showing membership in one of the houseless gangs that substituted for clans among the lowest orders. The victim didn’t seem to be wearing any such mark of allegiance. Verrin wondered if he were a solo.

The two holders were too busy keeping a grip on the struggling victim to notice the arrival of a mail-clad guardsman behind the one doing the punching. Verrin grabbed his arm when he drew back for another blow and the ganger spun, his eyes wide, blood dotting his face and flecking the gold of his beard.

"Mahran’s teats, I will kill your ass if you touch me again," he began, before noting the House Narrel badge affixed to the breast of Verrin’s mail shirt.

"No, you won’t," Verrin said patiently. Up close the ganger smelled of badly cured leather, old alcohol and Jhik root. His eyes were heavily bloodshot, a hallmark of root-chewers. The root made dumb people dumber, Verrin had always found. The ganger was no exception. Wound up and half-stoned on Jhik and blood, he decided arguing was a good play.