Hey everybody. So, I’ve been working on a short story lately, and have hit a roadblock. I am utterly incapable of writing my current project as a short story. I was going to write it as a series of short stories that would be a precursor to the trilogy that I have been working on for years now. And, in all honesty, I was hoping to sell them to a publisher separately as a means to make some money doing what I love, while I work on my main project.
However, after a good deal of feedback from some of my friends, I now feel that I would be better off just writing it as a stand alone novel of its own. Let me just say, this is actually kind of tormenting for me, considering that I have spent as long as I have working on my trilogy, only to put it on hiatus, so that I can write another novel. And man, did I need that money!
Anyways… thought I’d let you guys take a peak at it. It’s going under the working title “Prisoner of Death” right now, but I also received some feedback about that, too, so we’ll see how long until I change it.
The night was one of obscurity. The sky, overcast, was a shroud that would keep the secrets of the stars and moon hidden from any spies and thieves. Therefore, it had been no great surprise to anybody that the torches, dancing in tune with the rhythm of the night’s wind, had been set ablaze much earlier in the evening than usual.
The well packed snow, blotting out the cobblestone street, lent its deceptively yielding body to a nearby guard whose steady pace contradicted the torches’ liberal dance. He kept his march slow and steady, so as not to disturb the citizens who had just settled in for their late night stroll through the realm of the Dreamer, but each step rang out clear enough to the mass of swirling shadows watching from the corner of a nearby rooftop.
After the guard had passed, the shadows silently slid across the snow covered roof, until they were about ten paces away from the roof’s edge. Pausing for only a breath, they swam up and out of the roof, coalescing into the featureless shape of a man, and just as quickly the darkness was replaced by color and tone until the shadows were gone and a swordsman wearing robes the color of stone was left in their wake. While his face remained hidden within the confines of his cowl, the wind sent a gentle zephyr across the area, blowing the robes out around the swordsman’s legs and waist revealing a set of blackened leather armor. A dagger and a longsword, each as simple in design as they were, undoubtedly, sharp, were strapped to the man’s left hip.
He slid his feet, toes first, into the snow with each step. Despite the swordsman’s brisk pace, the effect was nothing more than the sound of a whisper on the wind compared to the tromping of the guard’s footsteps that still reached the swordsman’s ears from further down the street. With movements as flowing and graceful as a piece of silk caught in the wind, he took the last few steps until he reached the edge of the roof.
Never slowing, the man leapt from the roof out over the open street. As he flew through the open air, his form melted into that of a shadow again until it landed on an opposing roof in a mass of shadows that surely would have splashed had it been but mere water. However, within a second of landing the man surged back up out of the shadows and continued his brisk walk across the roof to a nearby set of stairs that led down to the alley below. He paused briefly at the top step to take notice of a movement that turned out to be nothing more than the rummaging of a stray cat.
At the bottom step he turned his hooded head, first left then right, and found the alley empty of any other human presence. He walked down the alley with ghostly silence, until he found the door he was looking for.
He closed his eyes, placed an ear to the door and listened for several moments, but the only sound that he could discern were those of the tromping guard making his next pass back out on the main street. Satisfied that all was in place, he opened the door quietly and stole away inside.
* * *
Tima the cat had made her way down the stairs as the man had left the stairway. She was so hungry and had not found any edible scraps in any of the nearby trash bins. This man smelled decent enough, not like the mean man that threw a horde of food out each night, only to scream and kick at Tima and the other strays that came by for a decent meal. She stopped on the last step and watched him walk down the alley, searching for something. He finally came to a stop in front of a door, Tima instantly recognized as her friends door.
This man must be nice if he had come to visit her friend. Kind and warm, her friend always left some food outside the door for the local strays. Tima knew this and usually stayed nearby in hopes of being the first to get some, even though she had not seen her friend in some time. She held still for several moments until the man went inside and she quickly pranced her way down the stairs. She crept into the recess of the doorway across the alley from her friend’s home, waiting hopefully for someone to bring out some food.
Tima was just about to crouch down and relax while she waited, when a scent reached her sensitive nose. This was a scent that always put Tima on alert. It was the scent of blood. Creeping back further into the recessed doorway she cautiously sniffed the air, trying to figure out where it was coming from. After a few seconds, she started to sneak out to try and follow the scent, when the door opened as the man stepped out, and the smell of blood washed over Tima, invading her senses. Screeching in fear and panic, she bolted down the alley to the open street.
* * *
The man, limply holding his now blood covered sword in his right hand, emerged from the small flat without bothering to check for anybody around him, and barely taking notice of the stray that screeched its way down the alley. His hood had fallen down during his time in the flat, revealing black hair, pulled back in a ponytail, adorning a gaunt face with glazed-over blue-gray eyes. He wasn’t unattractive; it was more that his countenance was that of a man who had equal parts bloodshed and hardship.
His eyes reflected the distance that separated the man’s thoughts from his surroundings, yet it was with uncaring grace that he pulled a piece of paper from inside his robes and swiped it across the flats of his blade in one pass, before folding the paper in half then quarters with only his left hand, his fingers moving as nimbly as one of the decorative paper artists that could be seen folding different shapes and designs for the parties of the local nobility. As he finished the final crease, he threw the paper up into the air, and as if it passed through an invisible brazier it burned away leaving only the faintest wisps of smoke to be blown away by zephyr agents of the wind.
“Who’s down there?” a voice called from back out on the main street. It was the guard coming to check out the alley after the stray cat came bolting out startling him out of his determined march. But the alley was empty aside from a few quiet shadows.
Copyright 2011 Justin Beeman