25 January, 2012

Short story sample: Chalice and Knives

Here's the first section of my next short story: Chalice and Knives, concerning the deeds of a thief in a desert city.


Sendi flashed her teeth at the fat old swindler. “I gave you my word, didn’t I?”

The fat man, whose name was Jerez, did not return the smile. He spat into the dust of the tavern. “That for your word,” he said. “I am interested only in the clinking of gold, not the sound made by the flapping of gums. I get you into the palace, and you bring me the Magister’s golden chalice. The gold I get for it, we split, seventy-thirty.”

Sendi would have thrown her cup in his face if there wasn’t so much gold at stake. Instead she swigged what was left of the wine and rapped the empty cup on the edge of the table to get a serving wench’s attention. “It should be seventy-thirty my way if I’m the one breaking into the palace. You get to sit in here and twiddle your thumbs. Nobody’s going to be trying to put a sword in your gut.”

“Other thieves I can find,” Jerez said, leaning forward as far as his chins would let him. “But without my help, no thief will find entry into the palace.” He twiddled an odd little coin in his fingers. It reflected light bright as day, which could only be the work of magic, in this dank tavern in the middle of the night. It could just be a cantrip, a little enchantment to make it glow brightly... or it could be something more arcane. Sendi itched to stab the fat scoundrel and take it, but if it was some kind of ward...

“Fine. Sixty-forty. And that’s my final offer. You won’t find better, not from anyone who has a chance of pulling this off.” She held her cup out as a sullen serving wench sloshed wine into it, and flipped a copper up at the girl for her trouble.

“You are a scoundrel and would beggar me!” Jerez wailed. “I would accept sixty-forty, my way. It is quite generous.”

“My tight little arse it’s generous,” Sendi said. She jabbed a finger at Jerez, making the man jerk back. His sweat-stained silks seemed ready to burst. Maybe he’d stolen them from a smaller man. “Fifty-fifty. Final, final offer. Take it or we’ll see whether you bleed pork fat.” One of her daggers appeared in her palm, and she twirled it with a flourish, then stabbed it into the table. She held out the hand to Jerez. “I always keep my word.”

Jerez let his thick fingers brush hers lightly. “Fine, then. You have your deal, though may Ahman curse you unto all the generations of your children for your impudence and insolence.” He heaved himself to his feet. “You will find the lower riverside door of the palace unlocked for exactly one minute, as the twilight bell tolls tomorrow night. And you will need this.” He flipped the coin to her. Sendi caught it and was startled by its warmth. It felt as if it had been sitting in the sun for several minutes.

She looked up to send him off with one final insult, but the fat man had disappeared through a curtain already. Sendi pocketed the coin and took some time finishing her wine. It would not do to be seen leaving this dive too soon after Jerez. Many eyes watched in the night, here in Talsalam.


  1. The classic "dim tavern deal"... nicely done. The hook is set. Will there be more?

  2. The story's actually already complete; I'm just trying to decide what to do with it. I might put it up on Amazon as I did with The Demons of Lashtë, or I might just put it up for free here. Decisions, decisions...