This is the fifth preview for the Farewell, Something Lovely short story collection that I will soon be Kickstarting. You can find “the Spear” here, “Flotsam Jewel” here, “For Simple Coin” here, and “Of Shadows and Flutes” here.
A POUND OF DEAD FLESH
A smile spread across Drust’s face, showing his chipped teeth. “And there’s Aidan, the man who’ll make us rich.”
“The man who’ll steal our purses, more like,” Brude said, glancing at his companion.
Though they both looked the part of soldiers, Drust also fit the role of thug pretty well. Shaved head, thick neck, brawny arms, and tattoos – he carried the marks of both veteran and cut-throat. Granted, Brude knew he had enough scars of his own, including a prominent one on his chin, but he prayed to the spirits of decorum no person would mistake him for a common criminal.
Still, on the fringes of the Aeolean Empire, the distance from soldier to criminal wasn’t far. Brude feared he was about to measure it exactly.
He had never trusted Aidan, even when they had marched together in the legions. Aidan had a smile like a slit throat and eyes like the jewels in a state statue – shining but ultimately lifeless. For some reason Brude had not unearthed, Drust had confidence in Aidan.
“Ah, my old comrades.” Aidan sat down at their table. “You look well.” He helped himself to their jug of wine, not even bothering to use a cup. “I’ve heard you need work.”
“That would be because Drust told you,” Brude said.
Aidan’s smile did not slacken. “That’s it exactly. And I have just the job for two smart old soldiers like you.”
“Who do you want killed?” Drust asked.
Brude turned to glare at his friend. He would have preferred Drust had joked, but seeing the look on his face, Brude figured he hadn’t. Aidan’s laughter, though, had a nervous edge. That made Brude silently thank Drust for his comment.
“Nothing like that, no killings at all.” Aidan leaned close. “Listen, I got men in my purse but I don’t trust them. I got this package I need delivered to Torgdunum. A guy named Feradac Aindrei of the Fifth Quarter.”
Brude spat off to the side. “Feradac’s a whore-spawned priest. He’s the damned High Exalted of the Cult of Pluto.”