Preview: Flotsam Jewel

Art by by Paul Slinger, Design by Rob WakefieldThis is the second preview for the Farewell, Something Lovely short story collection that I will soon be Kickstarting. You can find the first, “the Spear,” here.

FLOTSAM JEWEL

The building’s undulations lulled Calum into a semi-trance. He sat in a chair on the roof of the Golden Boar, a gambling hall that masqueraded as a brothel, booted feet resting on the ledge. Like every other structure in Flotsam, the Boar floated in what had once been a harbor, outside the walls of Hadrapole.

Heavy footfalls echoing up the staircase broke into Calum’s thoughts. He put his hand on the dagger he hid in his boot, the only weapon he carried that day. Who would have business so early at the dive in which he had diced?

Cresting the stairs, Mandas the Grunt — a good head taller than Calum and hairy like a bear — sniffed and grimaced. “What the Twelve Hells are you smoking, Calum?”

If the man hadn’t worked for the Blackhands, one of the city’s two criminal gangs—collectively known as the Night Guilds — Calum would have offered a rude reply. The Grunt’s odor cut through the stink of smoke and Calum’s rolled — a thin cigar concocted from his own collection of herbs. While he had muscle and grit, the Grunt lacked even a wisp of independent thought. He could’ve been a thug or a doorpost, and fate had made him a thug.

“Just trying to clear my head, Mandas.” Calum couldn’t risk calling him the Grunt. With no standing in either of the Night Guilds, Calum had no connections or friends to protect him, even against a pitifully connected walking tree trunk like the Grunt.

“Clearing your head, is it?” Without waiting for an invitation, Mandas sat at Calum’s table. “What’s to clear?”

Calum showed Mandas his dice before sliding them into their padded pouch. “Been dicing and drinking.”

He didn’t add that he had been losing. The night’s gambling had left him considering filching a purse to cover his losses that night. His dice had offered no help.

Lucky dragon bone my ass.

“So you need work?” The smile on Mandas’ face made Calum worry. It looked too much like a leer.

Calum scratched at his stubbled cheek. Mandas wasn’t his friend. The Blackhands certainly weren’t his friends. Why hire him? “What are you offering?”

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