Greetings from Spokane, Washington – the site of the first FanNexus convention. Even though I’m in a different city, gleaning tidbits from authors and artists, playing Katamari Damacy, and generally goofing off, I didn’t forget Storytime!
I’m also reading Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig, and want to highly recommend it to you. I’m loving all the advice and the hilarious way it’s presented. If you like his blog, you’ll love the book.
If you need to catch up on the serial, all the links can be found at Saturday Storytime. (I have GOT to come up with a better name for this draft, people!)
A Busy Place
The hallway was dark, and Jackie stumbled on the stairs. Without words, Sharna steadied her as they navigated the rotten wood and empty foyer. With her arm around the thief’s narrow waist, she felt her trembling.
The Fone-smoking woman was absent, and Sharna hoped she’d stepped out rather than having been helped out by their attacker. They’d need to find a new place to stay…hide, really. The Stalks were still in her pocket, and she again considered taking them to the Mansion. Was Jackie right? Would they throw her in The Barrows? Or would they offer them safety and a reward? There was no way to tell without trying it, and the stakes were too high if she got it wrong. The thief could have abandoned her, but she’d stayed and fought. Of course, I wouldn’t be in danger if I’d chosen a different companion, she thought. She frowned. That wasn’t true. Sharna knew she wouldn’t have lasted a night in the real world without help.
The night air was thick at ground level. The streets were still crowded but now the people were engaged in pleasure, not business. Although, for some it was clearly both. A half-naked woman painted silver was dancing with a Medlarian cobra wrapped around her thighs. She grinned at the two of them. Her teeth were filed to sharp little triangles. She laughed when Sharna blinked and side-stepped, making Jackie rouse and cough.
“Get us somewhere busy,” she whispered through clenched teeth.
Sharna followed the current of the crowd. People brushed her pockets, touched her hair, and called out invitations, obscenities, and suggestions she’d prefer not to consider. By the time she reached a doorway spilling light, music, and bodies, she was furious with exhaustion and fear. A man dressed in a tight suit of black and gold stepped in her path. Tiny silver ball piercings ran in a crescent from the corner of his lip to his left eye.
“Four marks.” He flashed bruised knuckles before opening his hand.
Sharna stopped short, and Jackie cried out in pain. “Please, I’m sorry. I don’t have marks, but my friend’s hurt. We just need somewhere to sit.”
His crescent flexed with his frown. “No marks, no entry, honey. Move along.”
“But…” she tried to protest as he gently moved her out of the path of the door. Jackie fell to one knee, and people turned to stare.
“Damn it! Let us in!” A wave of fury crested with her words, and the pierced man stepped clear of the doorway so fast he stumbled on his boots.
“Mage, forgive me. I didn’t know! Let me find you a table.” He swept Sharna and Jackie inside the noisy gambling house. The room was large enough Sharna couldn’t see all of it. Music wove between the sounds of dice thrown, bets yelled, and people applauding winners and laughing at losers. Tables of seated card players lined the left wall while revelers lined the right. He led them to a round table occupied by three boys who looked like it had been a month since they’d eaten. Their teeth were too large for their emaciated faces, and their knuckles were tight under grayish skin. They were in the end stages of Fone addiction, and Sharna’s heart broke a bit at their empty eyes.
“Clear out. Table’s needed.” Their escort jerked a thumb over his shoulder.
The boys were too far gone to argue, and Sharna squashed the urge to change her mind. Jackie’s trembling had stopped. She was leaning heavily and barely awake. They needed a place where they could blend in and lie low. She kept her mouth shut and her eyes averted as the boys wandered away.
The man wiped the table with his dark sleeve and held a chair steady while she helped Jackie to sit. “It ain’t my business, but your friend looks like she could use a bed.”
Sharna smiled tightly at him. “It’s been a long night.” Should she ask for his help? What if there was a reward posted and he recognized them?
“Birdie rents rooms, Mage. Shall I go tell her one is needed?”
Sharna controlled the urge to laugh. She’d never get used to people bowing and scraping at her. She was glad she’d taken off her Yellow robe. Without it, no one knew her true ability.
“That would be fine, thank you.” She stood straight and added. “And I’ll need hot water and bandages, two glasses of Roe wine, and your best bread.”
He nodded once and stalked off to do her bidding.
(See you next Saturday.)
Hey. I’m still on the hunt for an artist TO PAY for some awesome sketches of Jackie and Sharna doing their thing. If you know someone, please recommend!