I have as a New Year’s goal of publishing some short stories on my blog on a monthly basis. I spent January and the first bit of February writing outlines and some prose. Unfortunately, my perfectionism has taken over and made it hard for me to actually publish the prose. So I’m just gonna bite the bullet and start publishing things, regardless of quality.
Here are the Rules:
- I must write 365 words (or more) a day. Practice makes perfect!
- No editing any of these short stories until the year is over- and this includes simple stuff like spelling mistakes. It’s okay to write bad stuff!
- I must publish everything I write for this project, and I cannot take it down afterwards. .
Day 1- Feb 13 2021
For a moment the pirate queen looked shocked, then she bared her demonic fangs, laughing.
“You do realize I’m going to eat my hostages if I don’t get my way, right?”
“I do. Send my squire over. The king will miss me- his champion- more than he will miss his own son. Besides, I would make a better meal than that scrawny boy ever would.”
“It’s a deal,” the pirate queen said, smiling wickedly. She used her sword to cut Nerikare’s ankle-ties, pulled him to his feet and shoved him towards the gang plank. “Go on, your master is trading his life for yours.”
“What are you doing?!” Neri shouted at me as I willingly took his place. “You’re going to die!”
“If that’s what the gods call on me to do,” I said, suppressing my nerves. I gave my squire a determined look. “Don’t be so reckless in the future, boy, because you won’t have me to bail you out.”
“Wait!” He shouted as he was shoved off the ship, and I was shoved roughly onto it.
“Tie him up, search him for weapons and take him below deck with the rest of the slaves,” Madame Prince ordered of her minions. “Heave-ho, boys! This port has gotten wise to us, and if we linger we’re libel to get caught! Set the sails and weave the winds! We’re sailing the starry seas tonight!”
The rigging groaned as sailors cooperated to set us abroad, while I was bundled bellow decks by two demonic sailors. They took me to the hold of the ship- which was filled with all the free men and women of Nern who’d been taken as slaves in recent days. They chained me to the wall, one slave amongst many.
Once I was safely secured, they started searching me for hidden weapons.
“Leave it,” the lazier of the two minions searching me said. “He’s a Paladin. Paladins are too honorable to carry hidden blades. C’mon, the Lady needs us on deck. If we don’t get out of here soon, we’re dead.”
They left then- and it was only tied me up next to Lord Josefus, who was chained to the wall with cold iron and silver.
Day 0 – Feb 12 2021
The Case of the Missing Slaves
“On the count of three, we break down the door,” I told my squire. “One, two, three!”
We slammed open the door of the criminal safehouse, and were greeted by the scent of human feces and decay. We’d arrived too late.
“We found the hostages,” I said, taking in the human wreckage which surrounded us. I raised a perfume-soaked handkerchief to my nose. “The criminals must have gotten word we were coming and fled, but only after… this.”
“Gods forfend!” Nerikare said, dropping to kneel next to one of the desiccated corpses. “Who could do such a thing? These were women and children!”
“You tell me. This is demon-work,” I told my squire. I used my sheathed sword to nudge the characteristic bite-marks on the exposed flesh of the desiccated corpses. “They’ve been fed upon, and recently. It can’t have been in more than just the last ten minutes.”
“They went… that way…” One of the not-quite-dead victims whispered, and she pointed to the rear of the building. Her hand fell to the ground again shortly after, drained of energy.
“Nerikare, begin the hunt,” I ordered my squire. “This might be a trap. Don’t get yourself killed.”
“On it, sir,” he answered, drawing his sword. He sprinted out the back door of the safehouse, disappearing into the cramped city streets beyond.
“Are you okay?” I asked the dying woman, knelt next to her. I spoke into my speaking-stone. “The situation is under control. We have a survivor. Send a physic.”
I grabbed my water flask and poured a trickle of rose-scented holy water down her throat. I used a little of the water, along with my golden cape, to wipe the blood and grime off her face. My stomach dropped when I recognized her; my initial assumption had been that she was an old woman, but upon closer inspection she was a teenager who had most of the fluid sucked out of her body by a demon.
“Miss Amberflax! I’m so sorry!”
“Paladin Quentus… you came…” she whispered, her hand sliding into mine. She tried to smile, but her flesh was so drained that she couldn’t stretch her cheek muscles. “Thank… you… I knew I was right… to hold out hope…”
Henriette Amberflax was a maid who worked for Lord Remus, the Duchy’s Lord-Constable. Henriette had gone missing when criminals had raided the Lord-Constable’s home, along with most of the Lord-Constable’s family and staff. The criminal syndicate staged the attack to disrupt the Constabulary’s investigation into their slaving ring by attacking the Lord-Constable directly; in failing to kill him, they’d only encouraged him to hunt them all the harder, leading to our raid upon this safehouse.
“Please hold on, we have help coming,” I pleaded with her. “Can you tell me anything about the people who held you captive?”
“I saw their faces… The Optimate Syndicate is led by was Lord Josefus… and Lady Prince…”
“You need to hold on. We have no evidence it was them if you die,” I told her, dripping a little more water down her throat. “Cultivate your strength. You need to survive.”
“I’ll try,” she whispered to me. “But Quintus… they took the Lady of the House and the children with them… they still have hostages…”
“That’s great news!” I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I froze, remembering that I sent Nerikare alone after them. Nerikare, who is not known for preventing civilian casualties. “Oh dear…”
Constables poured into the room, swords drawn and ready for action.
“Lieutenant Serena! Keep this woman alive at all cost!” I shouted to the leading constable even as I got up and ran. “Your job depends on it! We need her at the trial!”
“Yes sir!” Serena shouted to my fleeing back.
I sprinted into the night, my chitin-plate armor clanking loud, fumbling for one of my many talisman necklaces. I put a whistle-necklace up to my lips and blew. A horse whinnied in answer, and two pairs of massive wings descended from the sky before me.
“Agapios, fly! Time is short, and lives are in the balance!” I shouted to my pegasus, jumping on his back. The pegasus whinnied again and took off, two sets of wings flapping, even before I secured myself down into the saddle. We rose into the dark above the sleep-conquered cityscape of Nern. I raised my speaking-stone to my ear and asked, “Nerikare, where are you?!”
“I caught their scent! They’re heading to the southern port!” He answered, speaking through the stone. I could barely hear him over the sound of wind. “They’re in a fast moving carriage pulled by griffons, but I’m catching up with them!”
“We have confirmation that Lady and her children are in that carriage! DO NOT destroy the carriage! I repeat, DO NOT destroy the carriage!”
I didn’t get a response, for the line had gone dead. Instead, I saw a corona of fire bloom several dozen blocks south of me.
“Nerikare! No!” I bellowed into the night, but I was too far away to be heard. I pulled on my pegasus’ reigns, aiming towards the lighthouse at the southern end of the island. I kicked my noble steed with as much vigor as I dared, and clung tightly as it rocketed forward into the blustery night. As I flew, I prayed to the gods that the hostages still lived.
Henriette had given us the key to the puzzle: Lord Josefus and Lady Prince were the missing links between the smash-and-grab slavers who terrorized Low Town for months, and the aristocrats to whom the slaves were sold. If we captured them, we could both dig up the slaving Syndicate from it’s roots and track down all the enslaved people and rescue them- if we captured them alive, that is.
There was another explosion of fire ahead of me, and I heard the sound of gryphons screaming in pain. In the light of the arcane fire, I saw a gryphon-pulled carriage crash down to the island below. I am not normally one to indulge in foul-mouthed invectives, however in that moment I indulged in some chastising the impatience of aristocratic squires.
“HQ! Our target has gone to ground!” I shouted into my speaking stone, even as I angled Agapios towards the location of the burning wreck. “I repeat, the target has gone to ground!”
“Where?” The Lord-Constable’s voice shouted back to me through the stone. “We’ll get you backup!”
“Somewhere in the ____ Greenway! I don’t know where exactly, look for smoke and fire!” I shouted back.
“FIRE? My family is in that carriage!” He bellowed back at me. “What in the Hells is going on down there?!”
I hung up, because answering that question was way above my paygrade.
Agapios dropped me off a half block away from the burning wreckage of the carriage, next to Nerikare’ gryphon mount, Intef. I sprinted to catch up to the small-scale battle, raising my magical barriers to approach. Nerikarewas fighting off three masked men at once, wielding his drawn sword in one hand while he had a steel hand-fan in the other. He was fighting on the defensive, but he fought well; whenever he parried an enemy sword with his sword, he’d riposte using his hand fan to blow flames in the chests of his enemies. The Syndicate’s swordsmen didn’t stand a chance.
“STOP!” I screamed at Nerikare, even as he incinerated our potential suspects. I arrived, too late to save any of his opponents. “WE NEED WITNESSES!”
“WITNESSES?! THEY’RE TRYING TO KILL ME!” He shouted back at me, even as he stepped on the charred corpse of his final opponent to get the leverage needed to unsheathe his sword from the man’s ribcage. He took a deep, calming breath. “This is war, Quintus. There is no time for following the rules.”
“That’s Master Quintus to you!” I shouted back at him, frustrated with my pupil. “Will you never learn?”
“Aren’t you going to thank me for doing your job for you?” He asked, cleaning the blood and char off his blade before returning it to it’s proper sheath. “I caught the criminals.”
“Lady Remus was on that carriage, you idiot. If by some miracle she and her children still live, it is by luck and not competence on your part,” I snapped at him. “I’m demoting you back to apprentice because of this screw up.”
In the light of the burning carriage, I saw him blanch.
“She’s alive?” He ran to the carriage, tore open it’s doors, ignoring the flames. “There are no bodies inside, I didn’t kill her in the battle just now. She must have escaped.”
“I don’t see Josefus or Prince either,” I said, peeling the masks off the dead swordsmen he’d just defeated in combat. All three were obviously demons- each had the characteristic bloated-tick look of demons who’d recently fed deeply upon human victims. “They must have escaped with the hostages, but where could they go? You’re the aristocrat, Nerikare. Do they have a safehouse in this district they could run to?”
“Last year Josefus invited all the noblemen in town to his pleasure barque, for a little bloodwine and titillation. Father dragged me along when he went. My money’s on them retreating there,” Nerikare said, and whistled for his gryphon. “No time to talk! They could sail away on the barque and escape!”
“Think first, act later!” I shouted after him, but he ignored me. I pulled out my speaking-stone and made a call before I called Agapios.
The pleasure barque wasn’t very far away; I imagine the gryphon-pulled carriage had been retreating to it. The barque was four stories tall, made of worked godswood. The rigging was crawling with sailors, demons, and demonic sailors as we approached- who were busily lowering the sails, pulling up the anchor and untying the securing ropes from the shoreside bitts.
“HALT!” Nerikare bellowed as his gryphon mount dive-bombed the demons crawling on the deck of the sailing boat. “YOU ARE ARRESTED IN THE NAME OF THE KING OF NERN!”
“Wait, no!” I shouted at my unwise apprentice, too late. The moment Nerikare and his mount attacked the demons on the deck, the sailors in the rigging cut one of the sails loose. In a swift, coordinated motion, the sailors worked together to collapse the heavy, fire-proof canvas sail over Nerikare, trapping him and his gryphon both. I pulled back from the boat, getting to a safe distance. “Damn it, boy!”
Now that the situation was under control, Madam Prince strutted onto the deck, sword in hand. She walked over to the struggling form of gryphon and boy, and with one quick cutlass strike reduced it to just boy. She pressed her blade against Nerikare’s neck, making him go motionless. Her demons took that opportunity to strip him of weapons and bind his hands and feet.
“Master Quintus!” Lady Prince shouted, turning to face me. “It seems I have taken your squire as a guest. We will be leaving the port now, and you will not be stopping me.”
I curled my hands around my reins, furious.
“I know you have a speaking stone. Get me in contact with the boy’s father,” the Lady demanded. “I want our good king to know I have his son hostage. I expect his navy will not follow us when we leave port. We’ll discuss a ransom when we’re safely out of here.”
I grabbed my speaking stone, and made the call to the King.
“Quintus? This better be good,” Imhotep’s voice answered through the speaking stone’s harmonic crystal. “You interrupted me mid meal.”
“Your son and I tracked down the Syndicate. It’s Lady Prince and Lord Josefus,” I told my employer. “The good news is that we have them cornered. They’re in Lord Josefus’ pleasure barque. The bad news is that Nerikare was taken hostage. The Syndicate demands that you let the pleasure barque out of the port.”
“Quintus, here are your orders: stall for as long as you can. I’m sending my navy around to catch them the moment they leave port,” he told me, then he said to someone in the room with him, “____, deploy my Fangs. I want the navy ready to intercept Josefus’ boat when it leaves Nern.”
“But sir-! They threatened to kill your son if you send the navy after them!” I protested into the line.
“So what if they kill him? I have other sons,” my king said indifferently. “The Syndicate stole blood and souls from me, Quintus. Blood and souls; the currency of kingdoms. I cannot let this stand, or else others will think me weak. You will obey me, or you will die.”
The king hung up. I stared at the resonance crystal in the stone, stunned.
“Well?” The pirate queen asked, her sword pressing against my squire’s neck. “I’m waiting!”
I thought fast, and came to a conclusion.
“Let me take his place!” I shouted to Lady Prince. I landed Agapios and dismounted.
“You what?” She called back, baffled, as I took off my sword and dropped it to the ground.
“Trade me for my squire,” I shouted back, sloughing off my plate armor and dropping my trinkets and tools of battle. “The king is fine with you killing his son. Take me instead.”