Friday, June 27, 2014

The Rusty Nail

Aaaaand we're back.  I had a few weeks where things were a bit too busy, then a week where I simply fell off the wagon with my writing.

That being said, I'm back!  Pretty simple premise this week, the challenge was to mash together two fiction genres, I took a look at the list and thought back to this group and decided it would be fun to use them again.  (As always, please read that first if you aren't familiar with this cast...and totally not to boost my page views.)

This is actually the product of two weeks worth of pecking at the keyboard...again, kinda fell out of practice.

The Rusty Nail
The tavern’s sign swung in the rain, water sheeting off the wood.  A cloaked figure ducked inside, shutting the door behind them.
Tossing back the hood revealed a young woman who shook off the rain before making her way through the room.
She wove a quick path between the tables, avoiding the roaring hearth where a few patrons were huddled over their drinks.  She settled into a seat in a shadowed corner where a group of four waited.
A rugged man with the scruff of a beard shadowing his face.  A young woman who sat with a noble posture despite the plain cut of her robes.  A man with his head pillowed in his arms, moaning occasionally.  And a young man leaning back in his chair, tuning the strings of his lute.
“It’s quiet,” Sera said as she took the steaming mug Flynt passed her.  “Not many are out in this rain but everyone is gossiping about the death of the queen, no offence my Lady.”
Queen Valentina, or now simply ‘Tina’, acknowledged Sera’s apology with a nod.  Her golden hair darkened to a dirty brown and tied back in a loose braid doing a great deal to disguise her, she motioned Sera to continue.
“There are no rumors then that we have entered the city?”  She asked.
“No my Lady, but we should be careful,“ Sera said.  "Getting close to Duke Weston will be its own challenge."
"Indeed, you're still rather recognizable Tina," Flynt grinned.  "What do you remember of the Weston’s manor?"
Valentina frowned at Flynt's tone, "Not much of value I fear.  I did not have reason to study his security.  I know the layout of the building, but not much else."
"I can go watch the guards, find out their routine?”  Sera suggested, “It’ll take time but-."
Gibson looked up from the table, "I know their routine."
"How do you know their routine?"  Sera asked.
"I was drinking with them last night," Gibson winced at the light.  "We were playing dice and I got them talking about the manor."
"You're terrible at dice." Sera said.
"Which is exactly why they kept talking, and drinking," Gibson smirked.  "They were complaining about having to take extra shifts, seems the Duke is getting paranoid."
"That'll make sneaking in difficult," Flynt frowned.  "We could try scaling the wall during a shift change.  But with five of us-."
Tristan interrupted with the strum of a low chord, "I believe we're overthinking this."  He turned towards Valentina, "Tell me Majesty, how's your singing voice?"


"This is a terrible plan."  Sera muttered as she crept through the halls of the manor.
"So you've said, repeatedly.  Now be quiet."  Flynt whispered.
They made their way down the halls until they found set of double doors marked with a gold inlay around the frame.
“This is it,” Flynt said as he pulled on the latch but the doors didn’t move.
“Move aside,” Sera tugged a pair of picks from her sleeve.  “Keep an eye out.”
Flynt stepped back to give her space, sweeping his gaze back and forth in the shadowed hallway.  “Make it quick, we’re on a schedule here.” He whispered.
Sera ignored him, twisting the lockpicks around the tumblers until she was met with a satisfying click.  Sliding the doors open she ducked inside, pulling Flynt along behind her.


“Sera and Flynt will sneak in to the manor through the back gardens,” Tristan pointed at the rough sketch Valentina and Sera had produced.  “Lady Valentina and I will provide a distraction here, in the courtyard.  Gibson, once you hear the signal you’ll stage the ‘attack’.”


            Gibson knelt in the shadows of a nearby alley, keeping the manor wall in view as he finished readying his arsenal.
            Tying the last of the sulfur and saltpeter packets to his arrows, he lit a small candle and hid the light behind a barrel, shielding it from the view of any patrolling guards.
            When Queen Valentina’s voice began drifting across the night breeze, Gibson lit the first of the fuses and shot the arrow into the dark sky.
            The bright explosion of color was almost as satisfying as the clamor of alarm bells.


            “Once the Duke thinks he’s under attack he’ll retreat to his chambers.  Gibson will keep the guards busy with more distractions, while you and I sneak away in the confusion.”


            The moment the first arrow detonated in a burst of light that cast the courtyard in sharp relief, Tristan dropped his lute, letting it swing back behind him.  He grabbed Valentina’s hand as the guards all ran to secure the manor gates.
            “Come Majesty, we don’t have much time.”
            Valentina fell into step beside him as they ran to an unmanned doorway.  Ducking inside they found themselves in the servant’s quarters.
            “This way.”  Valentina took the lead, “The kitchen should be down this hall.”
            As they ran down the hall Sera stepped out from behind a corner, “Come on, quick!”


            “Flynt will secure the Duke’s chambers while Sera comes and leads us back.”


            Flynt stood in a corner of the room, hidden behind the door as the Duke stumbled inside.
            “Find them!” He shouted.  “We’re under attack you fools!  Get out there and do your jobs!”
            The portly man slammed the door and turned the lock, as he turned away Flynt slid out from the shadows and grabbed hold of him.  Locking the man’s arms to keep him still and pressing a handkerchief over the Duke’s mouth to keep him silent.
            “Just relax, your Lordship, we’re not going to hurt you.”  Flynt said, turning the man to face the back of the room.
            The not-so-secret servant door slid open, revealing Sera, Tristan and Valentina.  Valentina had donned her crown and looked down her nose at the Duke.
            “Duke Emrys of Westboro, I am disappointed you did not recognize me in the courtyard.”  She settled herself in the chair at the Duke’s desk, lacing her fingers in her lap she leaned forward and said, “I believe we need to have a discussion about your allegiance to the crown.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

FFF - Yet Another Don & John, Now with 100% more magic

Yep, I'm using Don and John again.

This week the Terribleminds challenge was to take two words from the given lists &, using them as the title, write a story from that title.  Last time this challenge came up I wrote a pretty fun western (fun to write at least).  As always with the list challenges I randomly generated a few combinations; Dead Boy's Curse, Scarlett Gunslingers, Amaranthine Promise, Junkie's Breakfast.  All of which had great potential but none of them were really speaking to me.

I saw the potential combo of Unlucky Beetle and the idea of Don suffering from bad luck was too entertaining to pass up.  Also I've been wanting to experiment with adding magic to the 'Baugmann & Baugmann' universe, so I used this as an excuse.  If anyone isn't familiar with the past stories/adventures for Don & John You Should Start Here

I'm going to try to not make every Friday story about these two, but since I'm tentatively using them as the basis of my first novel, expect to see more of them in the future.

B & B – The Unlucky Beetle
            “Have you filed a report yet?”  John asked the museum curator.
            “Yes, the officers have already cleared the scene.”  The man shook his head, “I thought to call you because…”
            Don tuned them out, knowing John would get any pertinent info.  Looking around the remains of the exhibit it was hard to tell what had been damaged during the burglary.
            ‘Rather than what Michael’s tromped over.’ Don thought, nudging some broken glass with his shoe.
            The display case had held an entire collection of antique jewelry, apparently notable because no one had been able to nail down exactly where it had come from.  Now all that was left were shards of glass and crumpled ID placards.
Don noticed a gleam of light coming from the far corner of the display.  Reaching out he picked up a small golden beetle, about the size of his thumb.
            ‘Why leave this behind if they took everything else?’ He wondered.  ‘They couldn’t have missed it, the case was picked clean.’
            Holding it up to the light Don tried to get a closer look but hissed when the figurine cut his finger.
            John looked over as the beetle hit the floor.  “You ok?”
            “Damn thing bit me.” Don said, scratching at his hand.
            “It couldn’t have bitten you it’s…”  John trailed off, staring at Don’s hand.
            They both stared as Don’s scratching revealed a black tattoo of the beetle forming on his skin.

Don's curse filled the office as he leapt from his seat.
John looked up from the couch.  "What's wrong?"
"My damn mug broke,” Don said, shaking spilled coffee from his hands, “that's what’s wrong."
John turned back to his books, "It's just a mug Don."
"I don't care about the stupid mug, I care about the hot coffee all over my pants."  Don said.
"I warned you something like this might happen."  John said.
Don scratched at the beetle mark on the back of his hand. "Tell me you've found a way to fix it?"
Shaking his head John said, "Nothing so far."
"You're the one with magic, can't you just wizard this away?"  Don waved an imaginary wand.
John shook his head, "You know it doesn't work that way.  Besides, I'm an empath.  I need time and resources for spells outside my range."
"So spell this damn thing off my hand."  Don held out the beetle mark.
"I don't think I could.”  John sighed.  “We need to get the brooch back to the collection to get rid of the curse."
Don huffed and grabbed a smoke from his pocket.
"Please don't smoke in here." John said reflexively.
"Oh for-“ Don threw his hands up.  “I'm going for a walk!"
He stormed out of the office slamming the door hard enough that the glass cracked.
"God damn it." John heard Don mutter.
As Don stomped down the hall John heard a crash and a thud followed by a terse "God damn it!"

An hour later Don staggered back into the office holding his hand out looking ready to cut it off.
            “Get.  It.  Off.”  He ground out.
            John took in his partner’s appearance; coat torn, tie missing and pants stained with more than just coffee.  Carefully clearing his throat he spoke.
            “I might have an idea.”  He said.  “But you’re not going to like it.”
            “At this point,” Don said, flopping down at his desk. “I don’t care.”
            “Well,” John pointed at an open page, “I think we can track the magic causing your bad luck back to the source.”
            Don glared at the mark, “The beetle is still at the museum.”
            “That’s just it,” John’s eyes lit up the way they always did when he explained magical theory.  “The beetle isn’t the source.  The curse is designed to punish anyone who removed that item from the collection.  It was probably left behind because the original thieves didn’t want to take the risk.”
            Don rolled his eyes, “I’m going to assume there’s a point here?”
            “The collection is the source of the magic, Don.” John said.
            “So you want to use the curse that’s on my hand-“
            “To track the rest of the collection.  Exactly.”
            “What’s the catch?”
            “There’s a…” John hesitated. “There’s a strong chance that this will make your bad luck worse.”
            “Exactly how much worse?”  Don asked.
            “Your curse will feed off my tracking spell, and the closer we get to the collection the stronger my spell will become.”  John explained.
            “The worse my luck will get.”  Don finished.
            As Don sat considering their options, a sharp creak came from his chair before one of the legs gave out and dumped him on the floor.
            “Ok.” His voice floated out from under his desk. “Let’s do it.”