Thoughts are welcome as I am always interested in what others think of my original works.
The stench of rotten fish, sweat, mildewed wood and the ocean rose up from the black waters ofthe harbor in a visible mist that hung over the free trade city of Wickend adding to the already strong reek of human filth and cheap ale. The setting sun, unable to pierce the vile mist, washed over the crumbling buildings that lined the twisting streets of the Old District. From open doors and windows came the sounds of life, true life, of men laughing and boasting, of women flirting and dealing in their trades. To an outsider, the Old District appeared to be chaos and madness, to the denizens of the place it was another night.
Through the rotten mists and darkness, an outsider named Dalarcites came. Though much of hisbody was hidden by a long woolen cloak edged in golden design it was obvious by his long, hawkish
nose and his golden skin that he was a Robathen; a race of priests and scholars. He was far from the
villas and mansions of the Walled Mount, far from guards paid to care and streets of well-maintained cobblestone. With the harried pace of a frightened rat, the Robathen moved through the twilight darkened streets of the Old District. His watery eyes wide in fear and darted around at every sound as clutched and fidgeted with the two ornate daggers sheathed under his cloak. He was scared but, like all men of the Walled Mount, he was arrogant and believed that his power and money would protect him against the trails of the Old District.
As if summoned by Dalarcites' arrogant thoughts a man, of the large and bullish build of the Numbar, slid from a shadow-hidden alley. The Robathen gripped his daggers tighter, his knuckleswhite and hot with pain as the decorated hilts bit and tore his soft palms, and attempted to move past the large man. The Numbar smiled and pounced on the Dalarcites, the Numbar's bullish build
hiding a catlike grace and speed. Large hands groped for the Robathen’s dark woolen cloak, found
easy purchase in the billowing cloth and threw the Robathen roughly against a wall. A startled
squeal escaped the Robathen and from the other side of the wall, he could the rough merry-making of the sailors and vagabonds of the Old District. He was going to die, Dalacrites thought. And as life flickered out of him he would hear the mocking laughter of the Old District.
“Wa – Wait!” He screamed. “Don’t kill me, please! I don’t carry much and – and I can give you ajob a well paying one.” Tears streaked down his hot cheeks as he pleaded with the Numbar. “I
swear by the golden hand of Suzil that I do not lie! I have … I am looking for a thief!”
Hot rotten breath washed over Dalarcites' pleading face. He choked at the smell and quiveredvisibly as the Numbar leaned closer to him and whispered. “Tell me soft man in your pretty little
cloak, why I should lower myself to working for a dickless Robathen like yourself?” The Numbar’s
voice, as heavily accented as it was, oozed with malice and hatred. The wayward Robathen trembled and lipped silent prayers to his far off gods and prepared to meet his ancestors in the summer fields of the afterlife. “Especially,” continued the Numbar, “when what your cloak alone will buy me ale and women for a week.” The stench of the Numbar’s breath grew and Delarcites felt himself grow dizzy from the stench. The tight grip that kept him pinned suddenly became slack and weak and after a moment the Robathen heard his assailant fall heavily to the ground.
Opening his eyes Delarcites saw a small girl garbed in the aba of the desert dwelling Quetarens before him. Her long black garment flowed and whipped in the slight breeze as her deep brown eyes surveyed the Robathen. "The Old District is not a place for those who have no stomach to fight." The girl whispered in an exotic musical tenor. She turned away from the Robathen and started to walk away. “If you wish to secure the services of a thief, follow me.” She called back to him.
In days long past, when Wickend was a gleaming jewel on the coast of the God Rend, a home oftraders, artists, philosophers, and the ideas of kingless lands and freedom; the building that would
become known in later, darker, times as The Broken Donkey, was the office of the largest import
merchant in the city. Now, though, generations after the building was first erected it stood like a
badly aged old man. The walls were cracked, patched over countless times with everything from
wood to shit; the roof was now nothing more than mouse-ridden and mold encrusted hay that let
more of the elements in then it kept at bay. Tables of shoddily nailed driftwood littered the main
room. Light, what little there was, came from a single chandelier made of ship rigging and an old
wagon wheel, hung low over the tables, swaying in the feted breeze that came through windows that were little more than holes in the tavern’s walls. The chandelier's light created deep, shadows, that gave the illusion that ghosts and wraiths drank and fought alongside thief and vagabond.
Women, wearing little more than thin linen slips, slid through the crowded tavern with a graceoften only seen in the great cats of the north, and like the cats of those cold mountains, they hunted their prey with a dangerous beauty that would put even the most careful man on edge. Men from all the nations of the known world occupied the room, laughing, drinking, boasting of great deeds, of past wars, and of the mind numbing pleasures that they could offer to the huntresses of the tavern.
The Quetaren girl moved through the entryway of the Broken Donkey. The Robathen, who hadstayed close to the girl until this point, came to a stop his eyes growing wide at the scene before him. He lowered his hand to his dagger, afraid that the girl had tricked him. The girl, however, did not seem to notice the Robathen as she twisted and dodged her way to a dark corner of the bar.
A great dark hand, the size of a man's head, gripped the Robathen's shoulder and flung him further into the tavern. Dalarcites stumbled into the tavern, and unable to control his flight found himself colliding with one of the scantily clad huntresses in the midst of her work. Together the two fell to the ground, and even through the laughter and the flirting, the boasting and ding of mugs on tables, the sound of a spilling coin purse was heard by all. The Robathen was still dazed from the push and did not notice the small tight circle forming around him as the girl, for on closer inspection she could be no older than fourteen, untangled her limbs from his and stumbled back to her feet. The Robathen started to stand, grimacing as various bruises and scrapes he suffered during his journey through the Old District rebelled against him in sudden scratchy fire. As he stumbled to his feet large meaty hands engulfed his arms and with painful tightness brought him up to the tips of his sandals. He had just enough time to regain the entirety of his senses to be aware of somethingmoving towards him fast. Pain flared from his face as a many ringed fist slammed against his cheek,
a moment later another fist drove him from his feet as it impacted with his soft belly.
“Try to steal from me, you Robathen cunt!” Spit the man who had been flirting with the girl Dalarcites collided into. “Think you Mount bastards can come down here and steal from us?!” Another fist connected with his face; a strange, sickly ringing filled his ears, drowning out the cheersnd laughter that assaulted him from the gathered crowd.
The ringing in his ears was so loud, the pain in his body so sharp, that it took him a long time torealize that the beating had stopped, that the cheers and laughter from the gathered mass of thieves and vagabonds had ceased. He opened his swollen eyes, whimpering a little as salty blood dripped into them and burned. The crowd in front of him was parting, allowing the Quetaren girl to move past them.
“Tell me,” she spoke, her voice soft and singing, lovingly caressing words foreign to the tongues ofthe Quetarens. “Are all men of Numbar as addle brained as you?”
The Numbar, the second that night to attempt to kill Dalarcites, sprang forward to grab the small
Quetaren. The girl slid backwards with cat like agility and was suddenly standing next to Dalarcites,her dagger against the throat of one of the men holding him. “Any person with sight can see,” the
Quetaren continued, “that it was yon whore, and not this man, who was freeing you of your coin.”
She laughed, a sound born of crystals and light. “I am sure if every man, and woman, whom the girl
flirted with tonight checked themselves they’d notice that they too were lighter than when they
The Robathen felt himself falling to the dirty floor as the men who held him, paranoid from longyears of working their dark trades, followed the Quetaren’s advice. The silence created by the small
girl’s appearance vanished, replaced by the gasps and curses of the collected tavern patrons.
Attention turned away from the soft Robathen to the young whore who had robbed them. The small Quetaren girl lifted the Dalarcites' limply hanging arm, an arm that felt numb and heavy to its owner, and led him to the dark corner of the tavern.
“Tell me, Robathen,” The Quetaren whispered as she sat. “Who are you and wha tjob is so important you would risk yourself in the Old District?”
“I am Dalarcites, an importer of … exotic wares.” He looked away from the beautiful eyed Quetaren for a moment and once more took in his dim and dank surroundings. “I heard from one of the men I deal with that the best thieves in Wickend can be found in the Old District.” He sighed as he looked up back at the Quetaren, the hopelessness on his face clear even through it ruin, “but so far all I have found is thugs and brutes.”
The girl nodded. “Your friend would be right,” she said, a touch of pride in her musical voice. “The best thieves do frequent the Old District, but they are not easy to find. Why have you come, Dalarcites, to secure the services of a thief?
Dalarcites looked at his savior with pleading eyes. “Something valuable to my family was lost tome in a rigged game of chance.” He started his voice growing hard. “It was an ancient coin of black
metal, like nothing seen the Western Kingdoms, and nearly cold to the touch. The coin had brought
luck to my family for ages, and now ...” he looked down, his face darkening in shame. “I have lost
three ships full of cargo to storms since the coin was taken, and those that do make it to harbor …” he trailed off lost in violent memories of his recent black luck. After a long moment, he spoke again, his voice far more steady than even he would have given himself credit. “I can pay enough gold so that whoever this thief may be he can have his own villa behind the walls of the Mount.”
The Quetaren girl looked at him, brown eyes smiling out at him from under her veiled face.“What need do I, one who comes and goes from the Mount as she pleases, in that much coin? In the
kind of imprisonment?” She stood, and despite her diminutive height, she appeared larger than
before, something more akin to the stalkers of the jungles then to the desert rats her mysterious people were commonly compared to. “My price,” she spoke at length, “Will be generous, but not as steep as some here would charge you.”
“How will I know you have done it?” He asked suddenly. “How can I be sure you won’t just promise me and leave?”
The gaze she gave him was hard and piercing, stripping away at him like the sand winds of herlegendary home. “Remember me Robathen. Remember me and know that Arame of Quetar always
keeps her word.” She moved away with a silken fluidity. “And you will know the deed is done
when I stand next to your bed, the coin in my hand.”