For those who don’t know, November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s an average of 1667 words per day.
I’ve chosen to write my fantasy caper novel. I don’t have a title just yet, but I do have a character. A doozy of a character. You’ll meet him right away.
This is gonna be a mean one, folks. Bloody as hell. Don’t get attached to anybody.
And here we go.
When Roake broke the Fat Man’s third finger, the Fat Man started writing. The gag in the Fat Man’s mouth stifled the scream, just in case someone was listening, but in this part of the City, nobody follows the sound of a scream. Especially after the church bells toll thirteen.
The Fat Man was tied down to his heavy chair. His left hand had three broken fingers. His right hand held a quill. The right was working furiously, writing an answer to Roake’s question.
woman mask, is what the words said.
Roake nodded. “Tell me about the mask,” he told the Fat Man, his hands on the Fat Man’s fourth finger.
With his forearm tied to the chair, his wrist and fingers worked fast. The room was dim enough to draw deep shadows over Roake’s face, showing many scars, but his eyes seemed darker than the shadows.
rich nob, the words told him.
“Describe the mask,” Roake said, his hands tightening on the Fat Man’s fourth finger. The Fat Man’s hand plunged the quill into a nearby inkwell and he started writing again, his words distorted by spilled ink.
Roake nodded. He knew that mask. At least she was that sloppy. So much of this had been neat and clean. Roake never saw the twist.
“How much did she pay you?” Roake asked.
Roake leaned in close to the Fat Man’s ear. “Who else knows you sent me?” he asked.
The Fat Man looked up at him, his eyes red and ragged. He shook his head.
Roake nodded. Then, with his hands twisting, he broke the Fat Man’s neck. The Fat Man’s body fell forward in the chair, his arms still tied tight. Roake took the parchment, inkwell and quill. He had to take those with him. No telling what secrets the Black Guard could pull from them. He put them in a leather bag and then began looking around the room.
He found a box of small black cigars and matches. He lit one of the cigars and kept looking. The coins he found, he put in his pocket. The scrolls were useless to him so he did not touch them. Never can tell what kind of traps a sorcerer puts on his private possessions.
After a few minutes of searching, Roake went back to the body. He went through the pockets, found a few things he wanted, then set the corpse’s head down on the table. He untied the ropes and put the Fat Man’s hands in a sleeping position.
Roake found a bottle of wine and a cast iron pot. He filled the pot with water and set it on the hook hanging in the fireplace. When the water began to boil, he put the wine bottle in the water. Then, with his cigar in hand, he sat at the table and waited for the corpse’s lover to return.
After a few hours, the door opened. A slender man stepped through it, his cloak wet from the rain. He shook the rain off his cloak and set it at the door. Then, he moved toward the fire, seeing the boiling water and the wine bottle. It wasn’t until Roake was already behind him that he saw the corpse at the table. He tried to say something, but his voice just made a sound like a kicked cat.
Roake knocked the thin man down and he hit the floor hard. Then, he sat on the thin man’s back, grabbing his left and right arm, lifting them high above the thin man’s back. He heard a crunch from the thin man’s shoulders and the man tried to scream, but he kept making that little sound he made before.
Finally, Roake leaned down, keeping the man’s hands behind his back, and he said, “Alver, where’s Symon?”
Alver didn’t say anything in any language Roake knew, so he used his free hand to slam Alver’s face into the wooden floor. He did this two more times. Then, he lifted Alver’s head by his hair and saw the thin man’s nose and lips were broken. He asked again. “Where’s Symon?”
“I dunna know!” Alver said through his broken lips. “I swear to Thallia, I dunna know!”
Roake slammed Alver’s face against the floorboards a few more times, but Alver kept swearing to Thallia that he didn’t know. Roake leaned over, still on Alver’s back, and got the hot pot from the fire. A few moments later, steam was rising from Alver’s blistered back, but the thin man still swore he didn’t know the answer to Roake’s question.
Roake pulled the thin man up to his feet and dragged him to the other side of the room. The side of the room with the table and the corpse. He showed the corpse to Alver and the thin man began to moan.
“It was a coin toss,” Roake told him. “I was waiting for one of you to get home first. If it was him, that would be fine because he knew who I was. You have no idea who I am. You’ve never seen my face, never heard my name. If it was you who came home first, I would have killed you and used your corpse to make him talk.”
“You killed him,” was all Alver could say. “You killed him.”
“No,” Roake told him. “He killed himself. The moment he sold me out.”
“I dinna!” Alver said. “I dinna sell you out!”
“I know that,” Roake said. “That’s why you’re still alive.” He sat Alver down at the table, still behind him. “Now,” He said. “Now tell me where Symon is.”
Alver shook his head. “I dunna know. By all I hold holy, I swear I dunna know.” He started crying again. Then, he said, “I still hanna seen your face.”
Roake nodded. “And you don’t know my name, do you?”
Alver shook his head again. “No, I dunna know.”
Roake stood silent behind the thin man. Killing him meant bad luck. Keeping him alive meant he could talk. Even with the little he knew, Alver could still talk, and as far as the street was concerned, Roake was a dead man.
It’s bad luck killing a sorcerer. Roake had a choice. Bad luck or staying a ghost.
Roake chose the latter.
Moving through the city streets, the thin man’s cloak around his shoulders, the night and hood covered his features well. Roake was moving quickly, down back alleys the watch never came close to. They knew better. Even armed with ball and shot, even armored with iron, they knew better. A few of the major avenues he had to time just right. Nobody could see his face. Not until he got to Vincenzi.
But Vincenzi was still a long way down the plan. He needed more coin. What he got from the Fat Man and Alver wouldn’t cover what he needed from Vincenzi. He needed more coin, but he’d have to be clever about getting it. He couldn’t show his face which put a lot of methods out of play. He needed a score that would keep his face away from anyone who would recognize him. Kneeling quietly next to a sleeping man who stunk of cheep beer and urine, watching a guard move by with his ball and shot, he made a decision.
His left arm went between the guard’s left arm and his body, writhed up and his left hand grabbed the guard behind the neck. At the same time, his right arm grabbed the guard’s right arm and squeezed. He pulled hard, thrusting the guard down to the ground, his face slamming into the cobblestones. Then, the knife. It was over that fast.
He dragged the guard deeper into the back alleys, then stripped the guard down. He picked a big man, but the guard was not big enough. Roake’s shoulders were too wide, his hands too big. The gloves and boots barely fit him and the chain mail shirt was tight against his chest. It would have to do. Roake counted on darkness and laziness to be his ally. He put his own clothes on the guard and threw him into a dark alley. Then, he moved out into the street, moving as naturally as tight boots would allow.
He moved quickly to the section of the city he knew would give him what he wanted. He waited until he saw what he needed, then he moved. Sitting outside the Red Stallion Tavern, he saw a man and a woman in long cloaks laughing and stumbling over each other. Their cloaks were old but their boots were new. Their collars and sleeves were clean. Slummers.
This would have to be quick. They have a coach around the corner waiting to pick them up at the first signal. He stepped up fast, as fast as tight boots would allow.
“Night pass,” he said.
The two stopped and looked at him. The woman’s eyes bulged and the man’s jaw dropped.
“Night pass,” he said again.
Neither of them said a word. Roake put his hand on the musket.
“Night pass,” he said a third time.
The woman started crying. “I told you!” she yelled at the man. “I told you!”
The man raised his hand. “Look here,” he started, but Roake already had him on the cold cobblestones before the man could say anything else. He moved fast, his fist slamming into the man’s jaw, knocking him flat.
“Night pass,” he said again, the menace in his voice growing.
“Just give him your purse!” she shouted at the man. “Just give it to him!”
The man under Roake did not struggle, only whimpered a few words about his coin purse. Roake did a quick search, found what he was looking for and put the man back on his feet. Then, he walked off into the alleyways, leaving the two of them behind, the man dodging the woman’s weak and drunken blows and curses.
Roake was busy most of the night. He almost had all the coin he needed. One more. He stopped at his fifth tavern and waited. After a few minutes, he saw what he was waiting for. A man and a woman again, stumbling through their drunken stupor, laughing and acting too friendly to be married.
The same approach. Stepping out of the shadows, he came up behind them, then in a dark voice said, “Evening pass.”
The couple turned. The man laughed when he saw Roake. The woman was not laughing, her eyes shining in the dim light. She was a lot less drunk than the man. A lot less drunk than she was a moment ago. Roake got a better look at her and he knew what he had. He stumbled on one of Talia’s. This could get complicated.
“Night pass,” he said again.
The woman reached into her cloak and removed a piece of paper, wax sealed. The man was still laughing. Roake looked at the sealed parchment, looked at the seal. He was right. The seal was from the
“Is there a problem?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No, ma’am. No problem.”
“Good.” She raised her hand and he heard a carriage. He missed his first catch. He wouldn’t have many more of these.
The carriage stopped and Roake stepped back. “Have a good night,” he said in his best friendly voice, which is to say, not friendly at all.
She didn’t say a word, just ushered the laughing man into the carriage, watching Roake the entire time. He stepped back into the dim light of the alleyway as best he could, but he knew she saw him. Saw his face, and there was recognition in those eyes.