52 Saturdays of a first draft in public continues…
Hook and Fish
The gambling floor of The Crescent Moon at mid-day was quiet. Tattooed and pierced men swept and polished to reset the broad gambling room to its pristine condition before the coming night’s indulgences. Sharna was full of breakfast and rested, but she didn’t feel ready. A Yellow Mage and a thief were maybe enough to grow the Stalks and steal the treasure, but they were going to need a ship with a crew who wouldn’t talk. That’s why they needed Birdie. And, Sharna was going to have to make the deal.
The sharp-faced woman was counting marks in a caged room. She grunted a low note of acknowledgment when Sharna was ushered in, and gestured at the empty chair to the left of her desk with a nod. Her fingers didn’t stop counting, and her lips moved in silent tally.
The plush chair was lower than Sharna expected, and she sank into it with a startled gasp.
“Let me get the bill.” Birdie thumbed through the corners of a stack of papers and extracted an almost transparent sheet near the top.
Sharna tried to remember what Jackie had told her.
Chin up, but not too far. Slow and steady breathing. Believe what you are saying, and she will too.
She lowered her shoulders and lifted her chin. A long, slow pull of air in through her nose and out her mouth in a silent shush. “We have something worth more than my seal.”
Birdie’s eyes narrowed slightly, revealing the fine lines at their edges.
Don’t rush. You are telling a story, there’s no hurry.
“But, we’ll get more out of it if we bring you in as a partner.”
She’s already curious about why we’re hunted. She knows a profitable game when she sees one.
Sharna looked around the office in a show of assessment. The oil paintings on the far wall were likely originals. The rugs were rich golds and reds, the color of wealth. Every detail from the hand-carved desk to the inks in the flight of bottles was a song of coins.
“This is nice, but we can get you better.” She looked Birdie right in the eye. “Much better.”
The silence stretched, and Sharna kept her gaze level.
Don’t look away first. You must show her you are in control.
Sweat slid from between Sharna’s shoulder blades and tickled as it meandered down to her waist. She clenched her teeth against the urge to wiggle. Birdie sucked her teeth and frowned.
“How much better?”
A knot of tension in Sharna’s gut loosened, and she remembered to breathe.
If she asks, she’s in. From there, it’s about finding the right numbers.
Sharna allowed herself a small smile and lifted her left hand from her lap. She uncurled her fist to display one of the Stalks. Its flesh was warm from being held, and the iridescent husk shimmered in the bright light.
“Beyond this world.”
(Thanks for stopping by to read! Hey, if you missed it, I did a fun post with a guest yesterday about writing endings.)