She wore red

A story from the world of the Cursed Eight

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

Only a shorter bit of fiction this Friday; I’m traveling, and it’s been complicated getting anything more than 500 words out on a page.

Cheers,

A.G.G

Blood stained the floor.

She didn’t groan. She barely made a sound as she took another laboured breath, fighting against the pain stabbing between her ribs. She tensed her muscles and felt the ropes dig into her ankles and wrists, unbearably rough and tight.

She froze, as above her a door creaked open and heavy footfalls echoed on wooden steps.

“You’ve cost me a great deal of money,” uttered a gentle voice crisply, as its owner stomped heavily into the light of the guttering candles.

He sat down in the chair opposite and extracted an elaborate silver lighter from his vest pocket. With practiced movements he brought its flame to a cigar perched precariously on his thin lips. Then he inhaled, his yellow eyes widening in satisfaction as smoke curled around the long threads of his matted oily hair.

She remained silent, her grey stare boring into his skull.

“It took me a very, very long time to assemble this little operation, and I find I’m really quite vexed to find a little thief such as yourself shaving such a large portion of my profits.”

The toothy smile didn’t waver for even an instant, but she saw the half-troll’s large hands clench involuntarily.

“Now, you may think that the treatment you’ve suffered so far has been unpleasant, but I’m sure my boys can think up some more clever methods of punishment for your misdeeds. A pity though…you might be ruined forever after that…”

He gazed at her pointedly, waiting.

Finally she relented.

“We both know you aren’t going to maim or kill me, Mr. Sharp,” she articulated elegantly, her aristocratic accent cutting the pungent air like a deft sword-thrust.

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, Ms. Von Kairn. You may be fairly certain of my intentions, but I seem to find myself…teetering. I am really quite upset.”

She controlled her body’s impulse to shiver as the vile man licked his green-tinged lips hungrily.

“I won’t play your game, Sharp. If you have a job for me, spit it out. Either that or get on with it and kill me.

The half-troll laughed.

“The infamous Lady Von Kairn! Fearless noblewoman, last remaining member of the Astralia Von Kairns and peerless master-thief…or at least so I was led to believe. I have to admit I found capturing you to be more than a little disappointing. I am now relatively sure that your skills have been considerably exaggerated.”

She grinned, and gave an expert twist, simultaneously freeing both her wrists and ankles. She crossed her legs with a single elegant movement, pretending not to notice Sharp’s stupefied expression.

“You caught me because it was the fastest way to arrange a meeting. And even I know that you blame my last contractor for your financial troubles. The Grosfen Brothers are the true thorn in your side; to a businessman such as yourself, mine is just another service. Correct?”

He scowled.

“Blunt and to the point, just as your fame suggests. How did you know I required your services?”

She leaned forward, massaging her side.

“A friend told me you needed something for your next venture. A substance that is both rare and highly dangerous. A substance that is currently sitting in the Vortian Ambassador’s safe.”

He blinked quickly and then rearranged his features into a forced smile.

“Quite a well-informed friend. You would be willing to take on this job?”

She rolled her eyes.

“I wouldn’t be here if I was uninterested.”-

The story continues in Part II

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