Sariah’s Story chapter 13

The silence after that exchange dragged on for a while as the three people focused on different parts of the room waiting till emotional echoes died away.  Sariah fiddled with a hat that had the trademark purple along the wide asymmetrical brim.  Asopt took out a set of prayer beads and began running through them.  Kegan collected the empty brandy glasses and put them and the brandy away.  After that Kegan turned back to the other two and decided to break the silence.  “Sariah we might have a problem.”

This caused both Asopt and Sariah to laugh, breaking the tension even more.  “You think so Kegan?” she asked.

“The person who hired those thugs was Duchess Lyda,” Kegan said.

“Really?” asked Sariah.  She turned to Asopt.  “Are you sure?”

Asopt nodded.  “I was there when she hired out some of Gordo’s thugs to take care of a couple of easy targets,” he said.

“She was wrong about that,” Sariah said.

“Wait, I thought you said the ones killed were Warbashes’ goons,” Kegan said.

“Exactly!  Gordo’s thugs killed Warbashes’ thugs.  The Duchess was brilliant,” Asopt said.

Sariah groaned.  “Okay, she wasn’t wrong about that, and here I was hoping,” she said.

“What were you hoping?” Asopt asked.

“Oh nothing,” Sariah replied, “I was just hoping the Duchess might have grown senile.”

“Do you know the Lyda?” asked Kegan.

“A long time ago,” Sariah said.

“I wonder why she would test you like that.” Asopt said.

Sariah placed the hat she had been playing with low on her face, covering most of it from the guys in the room.  “I don’t have a clue.  I’m surprised she even remembers me. ”

Asopt perked up.  “I can ask around to find out,” he said.  “I have people close to her that I can collect favors from.”

Sariah stood up quickly causing the hat to fall to the floor.  “Sorry about that,” she said to Kegan.  Sariah picked it back up.  “No, don’t do that.  We have a much more important fish to gut.  We need to remove Duke Hurris from his ability to breath in a way that does not scream murder.”

“I think I better get out the brandy again,” muttered Kegan.  “The king wants his own cousin murdered?”

“At least Kilncare does,” said Sariah, “and he has both the authority and pays the bills.”

“I don’t like it Sariah.  It smells like a bad glordo carcass,” Kegan said.

“For once Kegan and I agree.  Kilncare doesn’t want it to look like an assassination, but what about a different form of murder?” asked Asopt.

Sariah shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He definitely said no murder.  He wanted an accident.”

“I hate it when people try to tell you how to do your job,” Kegan said.

“You do it all the time,” Sariah replied while she gestured at the hats scattered around the shop.

“You have that all wrong,” Kegan said.  “I talk my customers into what I know is best for them.”

“So in other words you charm them into getting your way,” Sariah said.

“No!  Don’t go there again Sariah.  Now you’re being mean,” Kegan said.

“Never?” Sariah asked.

“Fine, once in a great while, but they are foolish not to listen to my advice,” Kegan replied.

“Exactly.  That’s why we need to do it Kilncare’s way.  Asopt, can you get a map of Hurris’ estate and any schedules of people who work there?” asked Sariah.

“That is quite achievable.  Do you have a plan?” asked Asopt.

Sariah shook her head.  “How can there be a plan?  This is going to be an accidental death.”

Complimentary Sisters

I find it interesting how I react to my children when they are in public.  Growing up going to school you learn social norms that help society move along its merry way.  My kids are homeschooled and some of those norms are not infused into their daily behavior.  Now before you scream they need socialization I want to ask you a question.  When was the last time you were complimented by a total stranger, and they mean it?

My kids make it a habit of not only saying hello to most people they meet, or just walk by, they also try to give a compliment to the person they are talking to.  The compliment might be about the clothes the person is wearing or the way their hair looks.  People seem to be taken aback when this happens, but they soon recover since the comment was given by an innocent child who doesn’t have an alternative motive behind the use of flattery.  My kids honestly want you to feel happy.

Initially I would be embarrassed that they would do this.  People just don’t compliment others out of the blue, well except when it comes to children.  What would happen if we were allowed to honestly give a compliment to a person we know, much less one that we have just met?  In my job as a professor I would be worried that I would face harassment if I complimented a female student on her hair.  For that matter I could see it happening with a male student as well with the same exact hair compliment.  I would complain that we have lost a little bit as a society because of this.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand how it could be perverted, and has been for a large number of years.  I am just saddened that we have allowed the poison to kill what could be such an uplifting.

While I try to point out to my children what is socially good behavior, this little bastion of good will I will not dissuade.  It reminds me of what could be, and maybe will be with the help of more innocence and good will.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 12

Sariah sat down heavily on a chair in the back room of the Purple Feather.  Kegan and Asopt had just beaten her back to the shop. She took the glass of brandy being offered by Kegan.  She sipped it as Kegan and Asopt told her of their adventures this morning.  “All that to steal money that you gave to your boss to pay a debt from a baker?” she asked.

Asopt smiled.  “Isn’t it brilliant?” he asked.

“Bloody crazy,” muttered Kegan.  “Still, I understand why.”

Sariah looked back and forth at the two men.   Asopt interpreted her unsaid question.  “Simple really,” he said.  “Now the baker owes me something big.  When I call in the favor he will do it.  Much better than beating the man for just a small bit of money.”

As Sariah drank her brandy in contemplation Kegan continued.  “But what if the man doesn’t do your request?”

Asopt shrugged.  “Then he gets the beating he deserves,” Asopt said.

“How is that different then you beating him for the money owed to Gordo?” asked Kegan.

“Simple,” said Asopt, “if he doesn’t do my favor he is taking from me.  That becomes personal.  The other is strictly business.”

Sariah finished her brandy.  “How often does it get personal?” she asked.

“About once in twenty.  It has gotten better once rumor spread that I mean what I say,” said Asopt.

Kegan saw that Sariah had finished her glass and went to refill it.  She waved away another shot of the brandy.  “I need to be able to think,” she said.

Asopt shot his glass right back.  That made Kegan cough in disbelief.  “Man, that stuff is too expensive to do that,” Kegan said.

Asopt waved Kegan to fill his glass again.  “Did you buy it from Old Man Jankins over on Minor Street?” Asopt asked.  When Kegan didn’t pour, Asopt grabbed the bottle and did it himself.

“Wait.  How did you?” asked Kegan.

“It isn’t magically aged.  He buys good stuff and then cuts it a bit of malmoth ichor.  It gives it that extra kick,” Asopt said.

Kegan’s eyes bulged out.  He looked at his glass a second time then poured it on the floor.  “That bastard of a sandshark.  I am going to make sure he gets a piece of my mind.”

Asopt started laughing so hard he almost dropped his drink.  Sariah finally figured it out and joined in.  Kegan started to get mad.  “What’s so funny with you two?  Enjoying a guy when he’s been taken?” Kegan asked.

Sariah nodded through the tears.  “Especially when you poured it out.”

Kegan looked back at Asopt.  “Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I’ll have another bottle sent over.  Jankins owes me a favor or two,” Asopt said.

Kegan looked like he was about to have an aneurism, but then watched Sariah laugh an honest laugh and his anger evaporated.  He refilled his glass and lifted it to Sariah.  “For coming home and beginning life anew,” he said.

Asopt echoed him, “Agreed.”

Sariah shook her hand.  “Sorry boys.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this woman is working solo.  I have too much invested in this to worry about the two of you,” she said.  Kegan and Asopt looked ready to protest, but Sariah tried to cut it off.  “There is a reason I’m my own fixer.  Tomais ended up not being, well he.”

“I am not Tomais,” said Kegan.  “Besides, you need a wee bit of the magical on your jobs, and I am half a wee, so that is better than nothing.”

“And you owe me this Sariah,” said Asopt.

Sariah looked at Asopt with a bit of scorn.  “I owe you?” she asked.  “I didn’t want to even find you.  If Kegan hadn’t opened his big mouth you wouldn’t even be here.”

Asopt turned to Kegan.  “She’s still sore I broke up with her,” he said.

Kegan for the second time that day spilled his brandy.  “Really?” Kegan asked.

Sariah interrupted Kegan with a fierce stare.  “No, not really,” she said.  “It was just something that sometimes happens between master and apprentice.”  She snapped back to Asopt.  “You stopped your training.  I stopped the other.”

Asopt smiled, but a lot of the humor had evaporated out of it.  “I think you have that backwards my Sariah,” Asopt said.  “After kicking me out you poofed and left me to my own wilds.”

Sariah sat quiet staring at Asopt.  Asopt returned her glare with a hint of contempt thrown in.  Kegan broke the awkward silence.  “Anyone want more brandy?”

“You would have never made it,” Sariah said, ignoring Kegan.

Asopt nodded.  “You are right.  I do not have the ruthlessness that you obviously do,” Asopt said.  Sariah’s eyes closed to slits, but that didn’t stop Asopt from continuing.  “But I did learn, and learn well.  That’s why you need me.  You may not need a fixer, but I have one thing that Tomais did that you can’t replace.  I have connections.”

“Connections?” Sariah asked.

“Favors my dear Sariah, favors,” Asopt said.  “The question is are you willing to deal with the devil you know, or find a devil that you don’t?”

Sariah smiled her hard smile.  “That is what you should be asking Asopt.”

Five girls, five lessons

I am the father of five daughters, four of which are under the age of eight.  I have learned many lessons from each and every one of my children.  Now I realize not everyone has been blessed as I am with a multitude of children, so I have decided to record a top five list of lessons learned so those of you looking to have children can be prepared, and those of you that have children can laugh and nod your heads.

Lesson #1:  Nothing will strike fear in your heart than when you see your baby concentrate then the fountain erupts.  I purposely left this more to imagination, because it can rain and pour out of every orifice, sometimes all at once.  It escalates when done in public, especially when you have forgotten the quintessential backup outfit.  Or even better, it happens when you have already called in the relief outfit.  How do you protect the car seat?  What about the stroller?  Do you have enough baby wipes to handle it all?  I promise you, it can wake you up from a dead sleep dripping in sweat when you have that nightmare.  Oh, and you will have that nightmare.

Lesson #2:  You will hear that one child is hard, two children even harder, but three is easier, and four is even easier, unless there are multiples.  Okay, this is mostly true, but there will be days where this rule is a BIG FAT LIE.  There are times when all four explode at once, and with only two adults possible in the mix there is no way to deal with all the fires at once.  You might have to put one in a room and let them scream while dealing with another, while allowing the third to just go outside, and have the fourth getting a snack to keep them quiet.  And if that works, you are a ROCK STAR.  Most of the time you will be found in a fetal position waiting for the crying/yelling/craziness to stop.  Like I said, this will not happen often, but be prepared for when it does and try to have a plan in case, like a favorite video or ice cream.  It will not make you less a parent, and it will help with your coping skills.

Lesson #3:  Each child is a wonderful, complex, maddening puzzle.  The best part of all of this, they will know how to game you, get away with things, before you figure out how to game them, get them to do what you want them to do.  In the beginning you are the master of your domain.  They cannot lie well.  They are eager to please you.  They listen to what you say.  Then on day two they unlearn all of that.  Oh and now they have figured out your buttons, all of them.  I try to get my six year old not to hit her sister.  I have tried showing her proper ways to handle her anger.  I have talked about her triggers.  I have gotten her to self-identify what is causing her to get angry.  I have tried swatting.  Now I have a girl how when she hurts her sister has a story to tell, most of the time the truth, and tells me what triggers it and what she should have done to stop it.  Notice I did not once say she didn’t hurt her sister.  She is just better at knowing the why, the how, and what should be done next time.  Like I said, she knows all my buttons.

Lesson #4:  Adding a baby to the fix is giving permission to your other children to treat her as 1) a puppy, 2) a doll, and 3) a mostly deaf and mostly blind person moving into your house.  The amount of time patting her on the head, moving her arms every which way, and singing which sounds like screaming at her while pushing toys and any other object within arm’s reach into her face amazes me.  I feel sorry for the little one as she must be overstimulated by the cacophony.  The good thing is the baby has a great self-defense mechanism, the shriek.  This will cause the other children to run off looking for a bomb shelter since the London blitz must have been resurrected in my house.  This gets the added bonus of a parent flying in for a rescue of the infant, much to the detriment of getting things like laundry or food preparation done.

Lesson #5:  This one is specific to my circumstance of having girls.  I didn’t think of the notion that ‘unless you see it yourself it cannot really exist’ was so important in my girls’ lives.  I have to accept things sight unseen with respect to my job as a physicist, but that does not come naturally to my girls.  I could talk about the why question, but I have a different concern here.  I always tell my daughters that they can do whatever they want, except easily peeing standing up and probably playing linebacker in the NFL.  They always agreed with me and seemed to accept this at face value.  Then one night, while watching TV we saw a woman in a profession.  I wish I had written this down sooner to remember exactly what it was.  It really isn’t too important, but what my oldest said next saddened me a bit and made me understand a bit more being a privileged white male in society.  She turned to me and said, “Daddy, girls can be X?”  I told her yes, of course and I reiterated my quote about peeing and linebackers.  She nodded, but I could see that seeing it on TV allowed that one possibility to be more real than just dad’s platitudes.  It made me more aware of what having role models in the world’s workplaces really means.

Do you have more wisdom to share?  Leave me a blurb in the comments.  Together we can help the next generation of parents, or at least maybe curb population growth.

100 Days

Is humanity inherently evil?  That is a loaded question for sure, but something I thought about today when I saw a blog post about the 100 day anniversary of the abduction of the school girls from Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria.  Their cause has been blunted by the news cycle and the attention span of a public that sees a new tragedy daily.  I shudder to think of what these girls have gone through, and still face, and it  leaves me wanting to either scream or take all my girls up in a big hug then lock them in a room.  Why do we do things like this to each other?  Why can’t we respect individual differences, may they be in race, religion, sex, or ideals?

That is one of the problems of course.  The people who abducted those girls do not see themselves as monsters.  They have a way of justifying what they have done.  I will not speculate motive, other than the obvious of wanting the girls under their control, but whatever the motivation they see at as doing “right” on some level.  Because of this, why do I have the right to condemn them for following their differences in ideals?  The answer I hope is obvious.  They are imposing their ideals in such a way that it takes away other’s rights to the same.

This is especially true when it comes to kids.  These girls have done nothing wrong.  They wanted an education and a chance to make something of their journey through this world.  They ended up being easy targets.  We as a world community are accessories to the crime.  We will send troops in for regime change and to restore governments, but why not for restoring humanity?  The group holding the girls have a “justification”, but do we for our lack or response?  Maybe there are teams on the ground that I do not know about, looking for the girls.  Maybe one day soon we will find out about the heroes that went quietly about their job while the world cried out why nothing more is being done.  I can only pray for that.

Going back to my original question, are we inherently evil?  I would like to answer we are not.  I would like to say that the evilness is just seeing the world through distorted lenses, and that maybe the “bad people” can wake up one day and find their humane compassion restored.  Days like today, though, I find it hard.  Instead of doing something about the missing girls, we will to them slowly decay into history.  The additional tragedy of this situation is that I am sure that if we had used ten percent of the intelligence used to stomp out terrorism on this problem, we could have accomplished something meaningful, like the restoration of the young ladies’ freedom.  That would have struck a blow against evil and showed our true humanity.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 11

Sariah looked at the note again to verify she had the right place.  It wasn’t too hard to find The Lazy Wench, but Sariah couldn’t fathom who would want to meet her in such a place.  The note had been tucked among her weapons when she had retrieved them from the closet after her meeting with Kilncare.  The note had asked her to come here around noon to discuss old and new business.  Sariah didn’t recognize the handwriting, but if the person who wrote the note could get it smuggled into the king’s back door they must be a power in the area and that meant Sariah needed to keep this meeting.

As she entered The Lazy Wench she immediately looked around the room to see who might have been the author.  The room was pretty empty because of the time of day, but a few women and a couple of men were still lounging about looking for work.  This was the type of place that you could rent a room, or more, for an hour.  Definitely not a place where a big mover and shaker would be usually found, but that made it even more ideal.

The woman behind the small bar looked up from his tidying to see Sariah.  “What are you up for my dear?” she asked.  “There are more guys in the kitchen working.  Or would you rather-“

Sariah held up her hand to cut the woman off.  “I’m here to meet someone.”

The woman shrugged her shoulders.  “They’re upstairs.  Second door on the left.”

Sariah nodded to the woman and headed up the stairs.  At the top there was a man dressed in casual clothes, but he was anything but casual.  He screamed danger, and Sariah respected that screaming.  He looked hard at Sariah, noting her weapons that he could see, as well as a couple of places where she had hidden ones.  Sariah’s opinion of the man increased.  He was definitely military, or fresh out of an elite group.  “You’re late,” he said as he stepped aside.

This took Sariah by surprise.  She was certain that the man would want her disarmed.  What was going on?  She tried to keep her concern off her face as she walked up to the door.  She paused with her hand on the door knob.  “King’s corp?” Sariah asked.

“The Black Fist,” he replied.

The Black Fist were an elite group of almost fanatics who were used in truly desperate battle situations.  They almost always completed their objectives, but they always needed fresh recruits to refill their ranks.  This man would not think twice about sacrificing himself, as long as the objective is met.  This man must have served the six years and gotten out, both extremely rare in such an intense and deadly unit.

Sariah flashed him a smile.  “You coming in?” she asked.

“I don’t do three ways,” he responded.  “Either go in or leave.”

Sariah was even more confused, which wasn’t good going into a blind meeting.  She tried to center herself and prepare for what was behind the door.  She turned the handle, and moved with her enhanced speed into the room, closing the door on the ex-Black Fist, hopefully starling him with quickness.  Then again, he was Black Fist, so probably not.

For the second time that day she was surprised at what she saw when she entered the room.  There, naked in the large bed was a woman she didn’t think she would ever see again.  “My dear,” the woman said.  “You look as beautiful as the last time I saw you.  Motherhood suits you.”

That last line hurt more than Sariah thought it would.  “Duchess Lyda, you look different from last time,” Sariah said.

“I hope that is for the better,” Lyda said.  “I would hate to think that all these beauty treatments I’ve been using have gone for naught.”

Sariah picked up the dress the duchess must have been wearing and tossed it to Lyda.  “You were dressed last time, Lyda.  I would prefer you resume that,” Sariah said.

Lyda laughed and threw the dress onto the floor on the side of the bed away from Sariah.  “Don’t be a prude, Sariah,” Lyda said.  “I was so happy to hear you were back in the city.  I almost couldn’t believe you were back.  Actually, I didn’t believe you were back.  When I was told you were here I knew I had to arrange something special.”  She waved her hands to encompass the room.  “So what do you think?”

“Lyda, please,” Sariah said.

Lyda grew serious.  “Why are you back my dear?”

Sariah walked over to the only chair in the room and sat down.  “I was asked to do one last job.  I found out I missed the work.”

Lyda patter the bed.  “Don’t sit over there.  Come here next to me.  We have so much to catch up on,” Lyda said.

Sariah crossed her arms.  “What is there to catch up on?”

Lyda rolled forward on the bed, laying on her chest.  She dropped her voice.  “Remember how we discussed a path for me to step to the head of the succession line?” Lyda asked.

“That was talk for younger, more foolish days,” Sariah said.

Lyda smiled.  “You are right of course.”  Lyda blew her a kiss.

Sariah stood up.  “If that’s all you wanted I think I will leave,” Sariah said.  “I have work to do.”  She moved towards the door.

Lyda whispered, “I know who the Keeper of Shadows is.”

Sariah stopped in her tracks.  “What do you want?” she asked.

Lyda sat up, all business now.  “Finish your job for Kilncare.  Then you can help me kill the Keeper.  I’ll take over the role and you will become my instrument.  It will be like our dreams, Sariah.  Or at least like your dreams,” Lyda said.  She put back on her mischievous smile.  “We can do my dreams if you would just come sit next to me.”

Sariah continued to the door and then stopped.  She laid her forehead on the door.  “Are you sure you know?” Sariah whispered.  “Once we start down that path there is no turning back.”

“Finish your job then come back to me, Sariah.  You’ll see.  It can be like old times,” Lyda said.  “Oh, and send in Geraud.”

Sariah turned toward Lyda.  “Really?”

Lyda laid back and spread her limbs.  “I paid for this room for two hours.  I want to get my money’s worth.”

Sariah smirked.  “Two hours?  You think he will last that long?” Sariah asked.

Lyda laughed, her eyes glittering slightly mad.  “He is Black Fist.  They always complete their mission, or die trying.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 10

Horses were a rare commodity in Ferngreen.  There just wasn’t that much space for a horse to work in.  Donkeys and ithacs, large domesticated flightless birds, were used for most cargo transport around the city.  The only places you found horses were the king’s stables and around the single racetrack within the city limits.  The track was home to various forms of racing such as dog and turtle as well as the only sanctioned spot for other types of betting establishments.  It made the district that contained it loud, noisy, and a bit on the smelly side.  This did not act as a deterrent to the people who were looking for games of chance and so the place was crowded all day and night.

Kegan stepped in something and made a disgusted face.  “Why am I doing this again?” he asked.

Asopt either ignored the question, or decided that he didn’t have a good question to give in return.  Kegan tried to fling the excrement off his boot and onto Asopt.  Asopt didn’t notice since he kept looking around like he was trying to find someone.  Suddenly his face lit up and he was off at almost a running pace.  Of course it was a running pace Kegan with his shorter legs which made him even more disgusted.  “Why are you moving so fast?” he asked.

Asopt suddenly stopped and Kegan almost ran into him.  “I needed to see where that stable hand went,” Asopt said.  “Some days he plays cards, other days he partakes in more base needs.  I needed to know which it was today to know how much time we had.”

“And the verdict?” asked Kegan.

Asopt grinned at Kegan.  “Luckily for us he went to play cards.  That should give us plenty of time.  Oh, and since we are going to the stables, watch where you step.”

Kegan punched Asopt’s arm causing Asopt to giggle as he started off.

The stables were inside a large fence with a single gate entrance.  That gate was manned by two hulking brutes with arms crossed.  As Asopt and Kegan approached the gate the two men moved closer to each other, cutting off the entrance. “Where do you think you two are going?” asked the guard to the left.

Asopt smiled as charmingly as he could.  “My good sir, I am here to inspect Mr. Peepers before I place my bet on today’s race.”

The guard didn’t seem impressed.  “Only owners and people who work here are allowed past that gate,” he said.  “So keep moving.  You can see your Mr. Peepers when he is on the way to the gate like everyone else.”

Asopt looked at Keegan.  “Can you reason with these gentlemen?” Asopt asked.

“Really?” Kegan replied.  “You brought me for this?”

Asopt smiled.  “I would have used a different means, but here you are and you need something from me.”

The talking guard spoke up.  “Hey, I told you to move it.  Now get going or else I’ll move you for you.”

Kegan scowled at Asopt.  “I hate you,” Kegan said.  Kegan then turned to the guards.  “My apologies for my friend here, he is very rude, crude, and overall a bad man.”

The two guards zoned in on Kegan and began to nod in agreement.  Kegan continued.  “I would appreciate it though if you could let us in there for a look around.  It would be a huge help.”

The guard who didn’t talk opened the gate and moved out of the way.  The other guard, while nodding, wasn’t ready to give up yet.  “Maybe I should escort you to make sure you don’t get into any trouble,” he said.

Kegan shook his head and twinkled his eyes more.  “No cares my friend.  We wouldn’t want to impose.  Here.”  Kegan produced two small pieces of paper with the name of his shop and its location on it.  “Take this and bring it buy sometime and I will make sure you have a better hat to stand in the sun with.”

The two guards took the papers and the talking guard moved out of the way.  Kegan tipped his hat to the two men.  “Have a nice day,” Kegan said.

After they passed out of earshot of the guards, Asopt grabbed Kegan by the arm and spun Kegan around.  “Do you really hate me?” Asopt asked.

“What?” said Kegan.

“You told me you hated me, then said bad things about me to the guards.  That was hurtful,” Asopt said.

Kegan felt his jaw drop.  “You really want me to answer that?”

Asopt was silent.

Kegan continued.  “Fine!  I don’t hate you.  I hate you used me to charm those guards into doing something that will probably get them fired depending on what other shenanigans you have us do.  I do think you can be crude and rude, and if the situation is right a bad man.  That being said, I am with you aren’t I?”

Asopt thought for a minute.  “You didn’t need to use hateful words while performing your magic.”

Kegan sighed.  “Let’s keep moving, shall we?”  Asopt nodded and headed off reading signs posted on each grouping of stalls.  Kegan fell into step and continued.  “I need to use some truth to make the spell work.  That’s why the fae are so good at lying.  They mix in just enough truth to help you believe.  Would you rather me tell them we are here to fix a race?”

Asopt stopped and pointed to a sign marking Stable 4.  “There we go.  Oh, and we are not fixing a race.”  Asopt took off at that fast walk again.

Kegan hurried to catch up.  “Why are we going to see a racing horse if we are not going to fix a race?”

They entered the building.  A couple of grooms looked at them funny, and Asopt yelled at them, “Get out.  This is a robbery.”

The grooms looked at each other then back at Asopt and Kegan.  Kegan groaned and whipped out his wand.  “Sorry guys, but enjoy your rest.”  With that a blue haze billowed out of the wand, enveloping the grooms and putting them to sleep.

“Great.  How am I supposed to explain this to the city guard?” asked Kegan.

“Nobody will say anything,” replied Asopt as he began peering into the stalls.  “They won’t want to make themselves look like a fool.”

But I thought we were robbing a horse?” asked Kegan.

“Nope, said Asopt, open an empty stall.  He cleared out the hay from one side and poked around with a short metal post he pulled out of his sleeve.  Suddenly there was a soft click and one of the boards came loose.  Inside was a large amount of coins and a few gems.  Asopt grabbed a bunch of the coins and a couple of gems then closed the board back up.

“What was that?” asked Kegan.

“There is a jockey who takes bribes to fix races,” Asopt said.  “This is his stash.”

“What a dumb place to keep them.”

“Dumb?” Asopt asked.  “Behind a locked gate with guards and hidden in shite?”

“Okay, maybe not,” Kegan said.

As they headed out of the stable Asopt stopped suddenly.  “Duchess Lyda,” he said.

That caused Kegan to stop and stare at Asopt.  “Why?”

“That’s who put you to the test,” Asopt said.

Kegan groaned.  “Of course.  That is definitely trouble.”

That’s not deep, bro!

I took the family swimming in the river with a family friend today.  While it was an enjoyable experience for all involved I think (the four month old is a hard read at this point), I did have one gripe.  First I want to say I recognize we are in the early stages of a drought.  This is evident with the amount of time I have had running and biking under the burning orb above.  I also realize that the beaches up here have equipment of a certain size, and that changing that equipment is not an option considering tax budgets and the economy.  All that being said, I was able to walk out to the farthest line allowed, i.e. what was supposed to be the deepest part, and the water was not much above my belly button.  My eight year old was able to join me out there.  I am not a tall man.  If I had wanted to swim I would have been able to barely do so.  This is not unique at the beach we were at today.  I have seen it at numerous ones around here and I wonder if this was a conscious decision to make it harder for people to drown.  Now I am all for not drowning.  I had an incident as a youth that still haunts me to this day.  Still, when I go out to the deep end, I want to be over my head.  The only way I could get cool was to sit on the mud/sand.  While that still was fun as I was able to play with my three kids that were in the water with me, it was not what I wanted for the whole time.  Can we bring back the deep end, please, before I go off my deep end?

Sariah’s Story Chapter 9

Sariah was handed off to two guards that wore masks.  They had the same single hand crossbows with the green tipped darts always pointed in her direction.  Normally this would have annoyed her enough that she would have done something about it, but she was voluntarily there.  She didn’t need to cause a scene yet.  That could wait till later.

They brought her to a large room with a seat well lit in the middle.  The seat was bolted to the floor and had manacles attached to the arms.  The rest of the room was in shadows, and those shadows seemed to move and wave like shadow flames.

One of her escorts gestured with his non cross bow hand for her to go to the seat.  Sariah laughed at him.  “If you think I am going to handle any more of this farce, you must be kidding me,” Sariah said.  The guards took a step back, keeping their crossbows trained on her.  “Tomias Trevorine told me all about your magic and mirror game.  Drop the act if you have work for me.”  Nothing happened except for both guards taking another step back and looking even more nervous.  Sariah started to ease into a more offensive stance, but tried not to give the guards any hint on what she was about to do.

Out of the darkness from the front of the room a voice spoke.  “Sariah, don’t do that.  I pay these men too much money for you to put them out of work.”  Two hand claps punctuated his words.  The shadow flames flared bright, then disappeared leaving the room fully lit.  The bald man who had spoken wore a dark blue robe and a large gemstone ring on each finger.  He looked to the two guards.  “You two can wait in the hallway till we’re done.”

“Sir, she is not secure,” said one of the guards.

“And you are not supposed to speak in her presence,” rebuked the bald man.  “Now go, or else I will escort your remains out of here myself.”

The two guards ran from the room.  The bald man turned back to Sariah and smiled.  That smile reminded Sariah what a fly must see from the spider as the spider sat down to dine.  “Tomias was never supposed to tell of what happened here.” continued the blue robbed man.

“Tomais wasn’t supposed to tell about a lot of things, but yet here we are,” Sariah said.

The blue robbed man nodded.  “Very true.  I am-“

“Master Kilncare,” Sariah finished.  “the left hand man behind the king.  The only other person beside the Keeper of Shadows that has the authority to assassinate without the king’s blessing.”

Kilncare’s smile slipped off his face.  His eyes narrowed and he began to play with his left index ring.  “Tomais will need to be talked to.”

“I don’t know how well he will listen,” Sariah replied.  She walked over to the chair and stood behind it.  “I am here to see if you need my expertise.  I’ve decided to come out of retirement. ”

“Asturtino will be disappointed with that decision.  I heard he had provided you with a very healthy retirement incentive,” Kilncare said.

Sariah felt the desire to draw her not present sword.  “What can I say, I burned through it too quickly.  If you don’t have any work I can go somewhere else.”

Kilncare put his hand to his chin and just stared at Sariah.  She thought she should probably feel nervous, but instead she was growing angry.  She looked at how many steps it would take to reach the man and break his neck.  Would he have time to react?

“Will you just stop that?” asked Kilncare.  “If you tense anymore we are both going to do something stupid and whomever is still living will regret it for the rest of their days.”

Sariah laughed and felt the tension ease a bit.  “Fair enough.  So do you have work?” she asked.

“Of course I have work,” said Kilncare.  “The question is are you up to it.  You haven’t actively worked for five years.  You came here yourself without a fixer.  If you flop there will be too many tracks pointing back at the king.”

Sariah decided to take a chance.  She said, “You know I am still the best.  Look at those thugs you sent to test me last night.”

Now it was Kilncare’s turn to laugh.  “Thugs?  I didn’t send any thugs,” he said.

Sariah grimaced.  “Okay, so that wasn’t you,” she said.

“So you survived a couple of cutpurses who mistakenly thought you were an easy mark.  Is this the proof you give me that you still can do the job?” Kilncare asked.

“It was seven of them,” she lied, “and that’s not my proof.”  Sariah stood up straight and crossed her arms.

Kilncare looked impressed for a second, then annoyed.  “Okay, so what is it then?”

“King Westion’s Red Knight General,” she said softly, but fiercely.

Kilncare looked intrigued.  “That was you?” he asked.  Sariah didn’t say a word but held his eyes with hers.  Kilncare looked away first.  “I need Duke Hurris to have an accident.  The pay will be standard and paid upon hearing of his untimely, but not murdered, demise.”

Sariah felt like she was slapped in the face.  “Standard and paid after the job is done,” she said.  She moved around the chair so fast that Kilncare didn’t have time to move.  She sat down and leaned forward.  Her eyes almost seemed to glow.  “You hire me to kill your very own king’s cousin and tell me to do it like a common thieftaker?” she asked.  “Maybe I will take a chance on being stupid.”

Kilncare slowly lifted his hands in surrender.  “Take it or leave it Sariah.  You do this job and we can go back to the relationship we had when Tomias was your handler.  I don’t know if you really pulled off the Red Knight General.  All I have is your word, and that is not the same as Tomias’”

Sariah moved so fast again she was back standing behind the chair before Kilncare could barely blink.  “I can tell you that my word is better than Tomais’.  I’ll do your job, but I warn you, do not try to double cross me.  The last man to do so died screaming.”

Kilncare clapped his hands and disappeared in the shadow flames.  “Don’t make threats you cannot make true,” he said.  Sariah smiled and flicked something.  Kilncare doubled over as one of the manacles from the chair in the center of the room hit him in the chest.

“That could have been your throat,” Sariah said.  “I’ll just let myself out.”

Wanted: Super Villians

What does it take to be a super villain?  We love them so much in our books and movies.  The thought of a single person trying to rule the world, or better yet, destroy all of humanity makes us happy.  Okay, maybe not the actual prospect of it happening, but the idea that our villain is so ambitious that they have plans that cross the border to insanity puts us on edge.  We don’t want to see she/he succeed, but we want them to be competent enoughto almost pull it off.  Our good person usually has problems like alcoholism, or the lack of self-confidence, or needs to find a good sexual match.  Not much on a global scale, don’t you think?  We root for them to become a better person, oh and figure out the tragic flaw our magnificent villain has and exploit it to save the day.  Which is more important I ask?  The heroic figure on their journey is a human interest story, but I think deep down we have this fascination about who the villain really is.  What makes them tick?  How did they get to where they are?  Do they see their own fatal flaw, but ignore it?  Or do they see it, but hope to hide it, even in plain sight.  Why do they want to do what they do?  If a story answers these questions, then I am hooked.  The heroine/hero can continue their struggles and overcome the personal struggle along the way, but I want to make sure the villain figure they are going against makes sense and seems almost more a tragically gone wrong figure.  Without that, the hero/heroine is just going up against the boogey monster, and that is the stuff for fairy tales.