Middles are hard for me to write because I’ve placed all (or most) of the questions in front of the reader, and now I have to start answering them!
Right? Raise your hand if writing middles makes you wobbly and break out in a rash.
It makes me think of Candy Land. You know, the game with colored cards and Gramma Nutt and Queen Frostine? Those little side avenues you can take to whisk ahead of your toddler opponents are great when you are ruthless and focused on the end, yes? But in a story, they have potential to become enormous diversions where you spend the afternoon taking tea with Lord Licorice instead of triumphantly crossing that finish line.
So, that’s where I am in my 52 Saturdays process. What side avenues will be the most effective at entertainment, but still lead to the final chapter and resolution? Until then, here’s where we are and you can catch up with any chapter you’ve missed here.
The Crescent Moon
The suite they were given had a rose-colored bed and brass trimmings polished so nicely Sharna was afraid to touch anything. Hugo, the bouncer, got them settled and then excused himself to his duties.
“Jackie?” She lifted the thief’s head gently and held the Roe wine to her lips. “You need to try and drink this. With each movement, Jackie grimaced and moaned. Sharna wished she knew enough magic to take away some of the woman’s pain, but she was afraid to mess with Biology. The wine would have to be enough. It was one thing to mess up a rodent in the lab, quite another to accidentally rearrange your friend.
After Jackie drank more than half the wine, Sharna soaked strips of cloth in hot water and wrapped them as tightly as she could around Jackie’s bruising chest and back. She probably had broken ribs. After a night of sleep, she’d have to walk and cough through the pain to avoid lung death.
Sharna ate the bread and finished the rest of the wine. She was ravenous, but also nauseated. Hugo had been accommodating, but Sharna knew there’d be a reckoning when she had no Mage seal to present for payment. Maybe she could claim they’d been ambushed and her seal stolen? No one ambushes actual Mages, she scolded herself. Her brain kept trying to relive the fight and the horrible moment when the wood slid into the man’s gut. She’d angled up. She’d meant to kill. She wanted to cry, but no tears would come. Her stomach gurgled, and the wine overcame all her troubles. She dozed.
Jackie woke to a sharp-nose framed by gold piercings. She jerked in surprise and then
hissed with the pain that shot through her chest.
“Oh, good. You’re awake.” The nose pulled back to show a petite face with a half-moon tattooed on one side and gold studs in reflection on the other. The woman’s hair was pinned up into an elaborate crest of curls. “I’m Birdie. Hugo said you were banged up pretty badly, but you seem alright. Other than some sticks and stones, eh?” She lightly touched Jackie’s wrist and side.
“Your friend?” She indicated Sharna sleeping with her mouth half-open and her legs askew.
Jackie nodded, not trusting her voice. There were two empty glasses of wine on the ornate nightstand, a clue as to why she felt desiccated.
“You’ll be thirsty, I’d imagine. Shall I fetch you some water?”
Jackie tried her voice, “Yes. Please.” It came out papery, and she winced as she pulled herself higher in the bed. She couldn’t use her left arm, and her right side ached like a black tooth. The previous night’s memories came back to her in a rush. They’d killed a man.
Birdie fussed with a pitcher from a tray on…was that a bar? Where were they? She took in the shining brass and old wood furnishings. There was a courier kit on a carved desk, original Owdoun paintings on two of the walls, and a crystal chandelier. Shelves in the corner held hardbound books and a two-bell clock. Somewhere more than a handful of marks will cover, she thought. Sharna remained asleep, breathing deeply.
“Here you go. Do you need me to help?” Birdie waved a hand at Jackie’s bruised body.
The water was cool and cleared Jackie’s mind. What was the game here? Birdie’s clothes were bespoke, and her shoes could have been designed by the Doe Mothers themselves. She had all her teeth, and they gleamed. No way out, but through, thought Jackie.
“Your hospitality is welcomed.” Her tongue stuck to her lips. She took another sip of water. “Where are we again?”
Birdie smirked. “The Crescent Moon, where marks move and luck lives. I’m betting on you being the luck side of that coin.”
Old habits die hard. Jackie calculated and jumped. “We’re the marks side for the right partner.” She shifted her leg closer to the Mage and tried to nudge her awake without being seen.
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