Somewhat new to Tumblr hi so I have a question
Why can't I like ads
Some of them I think are really good posts
Alucard Emery. Agreed?
I am once again back to contribute memes to the Shades of Magic fandom
Crying over Holland Vosijk hours are 24/7
Finally, a Vicious fic! I have several in the works but this is the first I’ve finished, and unsurprisingly it’s for a Shades of Magic crossover. I’ve been playing around with this concept for a few days and it’s a lot of fun, especially in regard to how I though it might cross over with the Shades of Magic storyline. We don’t quite get there in this fic since it’s basically a prologue, but as a little hint- I’ve been calling this the Victor Dane AU. Questions about this AU are welcome as I continue to flesh it out. Enjoy!
(BTW, the title’s from Metallica’s The Unforgiven II.)
Warnings for hypothermia, mild profanity, and brief allusions to death, murder, and injury!
10 Years Before the Danes’ Ascension to the Maktahn Throne. Merit, North of Makt.
The wind howled outside the gates of Wrighton.
Winter had struck the Northern Kingdoms hard, even harder than usual, bringing with it snow, hail, and a persistent chill that had swept like a wraith throughout the land. It was the first thing Victor noticed as he was shoved to the ground outside the city gates; the wind was howling, drowning out the sounds of the world with its bitter piercing cry. It threw icy flakes like daggers at his eyes, his hair, his skin, striking whatever wasn’t hidden behind cloth, metal, and leather with bracing cold. The air was a blow in itself, stronger even than the hand at his back that had forced him through the streets, from the palace to the outer walls, a warmth that dissipated with a final shove that pushed him into the snowy mud. Victor cursed at the biting wet that soaked eagerly into his pants and sleeves, the cold kissing the skin underneath with all the gentleness of a wolf’s teeth before it was wicked away. The pain flickered at the edges of his magic, taunting, but the power in his veins was still drunk on poison, and he couldn’t summon it to help.
The king cleared his throat, quieting the outrage of the court. Victor raised one brow at the sound, but didn’t look up to meet his gaze, evidently preoccupied with something caught under one of his nails.
“Victor Vale, the crown has sentenced you to exile for the murder of Court Mage Angie Knight and violation of the codes of magic. Do you have anything you wish to address before the throne?”
Victor’s eyes flicked up, a flash of blue lightning before they once again fell to his fingers. He seemed completely unconcerned with the trial, as if it was just another court proceeding that he’d seen a dozen times, not his own crimes being laid bare on the stand. The statement hadn’t rattled him at all, even as the word murder bounced around the room, passed between attendants in whispered breaths. The prince himself, a murderer, and evidently a guiltless one at that.
“It wasn’t a murder.”
The king leaned forward in his seat, eyes narrowed, while the queen barely hid her disgusted expression behind her hand. “A death is a death, Vale. That is the only truth we care about in this throne room.”
The other man could have said many things then, mentioned the bodies the royals had buried themselves, many of which he’d seen himself, but he chose not to. Victor was already bored with the trial, and he had somewhere to be before dark.
“And an accident is an accident, my liege, but we all know you know that too. Magic is magic. Death is death. But unless you intend to bore me to death, I suggest you move on with this.”
“That’s all you have to say before you leave this kingdom? The one you betrayed, the one you failed?”
Hypocrite, Victor thought to himself. “I’ll be back eventually.”
The king sputtered, red as yew berries, before flicking one hand at the guards still lingering along the wall. “Get him out of here.” He muttered, his voice muffled by the gasps and shouts of the audience, all shocked by the audacity of the former prince’s claim. He had to raise his voice to be heard again by the man being dragged out, but Victor still heard him loud and clear. He wanted to remember that voice, those words, if only to punish him for them later.
“You’d better hope not, Vale, or I’ll gut you in this throne room myself.”
Snow crunched beneath the guard’s feet as he wordlessly walked back towards the city. There was no ceremony now, no words of scorn or apology- nothing at all. All of that had been reserved for the court, for the crown’s second recital of his offenses and his own characteristically cold response. Now there was only the shriek of a White world’s winter. For the barest moment, Victor, as he pushed himself shakily to his feet, was thankful that his parents had raided his wardrobe before casting him out. A dark tailcoat fronted by two rows of silver buttons, gray woolen pants, leather boots and leather gloves and a half-cloak the color of old blood; they’d sent a guard to his cell with the change of clothes before his second sentencing, and while they were insufficient to protect him from the cold for long, they’d at least ensure that he wouldn’t immediately succumb before he found who he was looking for.
Not that his parents knew about that part, anyways.
No, the warmth was not a gift, not a final act of love from his parents, Victor thought grimly as the gate behind him slammed shut, his own feet finally shifting into a slow trudge through the snow, away from Wrighton. He didn’t look back. He and his parents had been past the point of niceties for a long time. It was an attempt, likely in vain, to stave off any more embarrassment on their account. They’d sentenced Merit’s prince- their son- to exile, and the last thing they’d wanted was for him to show up to court and be marched through the street in prison clothes. Victor was still a Vale by blood if not by title anymore, and they’d never want to be associated with the man that had first surfaced from the dungeons, gaunt and in desperate need of both a mirror and a haircut. They’d wanted a ceremonial dagger, polished and impractically perfect, but he’d been a knife freshly-used, bloodstained and sharp and chipped in places. Victor wasn’t going to complain about their vanity, though- he would have been a liar if he’d said he hadn’t been relieved at the sight of his old clothes and the prospect of a little self-care. Just a little, to get ready for the crowds. For his parents. For Eli.
And yet, the only one he’d actually wanted to show up hadn’t even bothered.
Crows, Eli was going to suffer someday.
As angry as the thought of his friend made him, he had bigger problems than a self-righteous healer to worry about. Victor pulled up the hood of his cloak and squinted through the snow, his eyes roving for a moment before catching on a dark blurry line a mile or two away, nearly hidden behind the hills and the ice-fogged air. Wrighton sat squarely in a large valley, surrounded on nearly all sides by rolling tundra and the foothills of two mountain ranges that surrounded Merit’s capital like the arms of an embrace. Victor couldn’t see the stony peaks through the blustering wind, but he’d seen them in the summer and knew their direction well enough to orient himself. He wasn’t heading directly for them anyways- the mountain paths would have been locked in this time of year by ice and snow, impassable to all but the wild creatures that stalked among the cliffs. He’d heard that they’d once been open year-round before the Split, guarded by wind, stone, and water mages who’d cleared the trails for travelers on behalf of all the Northern Kingdoms’ rulers, ensuring trade with the South and each other never ceased. But ever since the Red World had thrown up the gates, there hadn’t been enough magic in White to warrant such a luxury.
Victor cursed as his foot caught on some hidden stone, nearly sending him to the ground. There was no time to ruminate on the past failings of the worlds. It would be dark soon, and he couldn’t afford to spend a night exposed. Right now, he could still see the treeline, but in an hour or two that would change, and if he got lost he’d freeze to death before he ever found his way back. Maybe they meant it that way, Victor’s thoughts hissed, somewhat dazed. Maybe they wanted me to freeze.
He wouldn’t- Victor Vale was not a fucking quitter.
Victor set off for the forest, gritting his teeth at the ache that was slowly starting to bleed into his legs. For two years, the bounds of his life had been marked by stone walls four strides apart- three if he was really stepping out- and those limits had worn down his endurance. He’d never been an athlete, but he definitely wasn’t built for plowing through calf-deep snow in the dwindling light of a winter day, especially after imprisonment and a recent poisoning. His magic, which was usually all he needed to quiet any pain, was sloshing around inside him like dregs in a wine glass, muddled by the inky vile liquid that had been forced down his throat before his sentencing- a precaution against his powers. It was a standard part of the procedure that Victor had been made aware of beforehand, but he hadn’t expected it to be so debilitating. His thoughts swam, brittle and faded, held together only by his will and singular goal to reach the trees. The prickling energy that sang beneath his skin like lightning in a bottle was notably absent, the threads of his power unmoored and drifting. His stomach hurt, pounding dully in time with his heart, and there was a thick, gluey taste in his mouth left over from the drug. Between its after effects and the sharp stinging cold that was nipping at his fingertips, Victor was stumbling like a drunkard through the tundra, half-certain that he wasn’t going to make it even as his stubborn will pushed him onward with a wrathful thought for every step.
You will not die, not here, not now. You are going to live. You are going to flood your enemies with the pain of centuries. You will rule your kingdom. You will find Eli. You will, you will, you will…
The sun sank further and further in the sky, marked by the faintest glow of light that managed to break through the snowstorm. Soon, it was perched atop one of the mountain ridges, looking down onto the valley with the dullest interest, evidently unwilling to put more effort into warming the earth than its current meager state. The mountains before it had slowly slipped into view as Victor approached the end of the eastern ridge, near the tip of the valley where the peaks met and fell into nothing. They were pale, less shapes of their own than specters that blocked the light, and he could feel the rising chill as the sun sank behind them. Around him, the tundra dulled, the faint tones of yellow and blue that shined palely in the snow fading into gray, leaving the tundra a plain of ash rather than ice. The sky dimmed until it was a charcoal gray studded with lighter clouds- it wouldn’t grow fully black with all the snow in the air, which trapped the last dregs of light in its mirrored flakes. It, like everything else in White, could only manage a half-hearted attempt.
The trees were close now, only another hill away, so Victor tucked his head down further and pushed, pushed again, willing frozen muscles that were burning with exhaustion to just keep going. His shirt was soaked with melted snow and sweat, the lukewarm water quickly freezing again in a constant cycle that left him shaking and stiff. His fingers had gone past cold into numbness, and he knew he only had a little longer before he’d start to feel warm again- a death knell. For not the first time, he wished he’d been born a fire mage- the element was common and somewhat weakened by the state of the world’s magic, but even a candle’s flame would have been helpful right now. His own threads, strengthened by the rune at his back, couldn’t help him now. Pain couldn’t help him now, not when there was nobody to ruin. And it didn’t even matter what kind of power coursed through his body if there was poison getting in the way.
Victor felt a snarl escape between his teeth as the ground shifted beneath him, the upward ice-slicked plain finally leveling out. The sun was gone, had been for the past several minutes, but the snow and clouds together reflected light, just enough to see by. In the eerily bright half-light of the storm, he could see the ground gradually falling in front of him to merge with a row of snow-dusted pines a few yards away. A faint glow of relief filled Victor’s chest, and he took a precious second to dust the snow off his cloak.
Something wrong stopped him, and his eyes fell to his gloved fingers, noting the quick, stiff jerk of his limbs that drained all of the brief relief away.
His hands weren’t shaking.
A single thought echoed in his head, smoothed out from the rest of the swirling voices. Pure reason, and beneath that, panic.
Victor lunged for the pines as the slick ice slipped beneath his boots, sending him head-over-heels down the slope and into the snow for the second time that day. He shoved himself stiffly to his knees, ignoring the way his fingers refused to curl, the way his mind was rapidly beginning to blur, the way his chest had started to thaw out. He only kept moving, limping into the woods with only a face to drive him on. Everything else- the ice against his skin, his thoughts, the sounds of the taiga- had faded into nothing like the sunlight. That face, that goal. He had to, he needed to find his friend.
The wind was quieter here, blocked by a fortress of branches and piles of snow. Trees soared above him like spearpoints, their needles coated with the same white powder that crunched crisply beneath his boots. It sounded nice, in a way, like the gravel shifting beneath his back when he and Eli used to lie down in the palace gardens, trying to imagine what plants looked like in full bloom. They’d laughed a lot on those days, even more when Angie was around, and crows did he miss both of them right now. His feet slid to a halt as he tried to drag up the memories, quieting the rustling sound beneath near-forgotten conversations. Angie and her laugh, so different from the choked gasp that had been her last breath, and Eli and his smile, so unlike the grimace across his face as he’d drawn back on his bowstring-
His gaze slid around the forest, unable to find anything but the same tall trees, straight as arrows piercing the sky. They reminded Victor of Eli, his best friend and only his best friend and maybe also his enemy, but he was too tired to remember why they’d started hating each other.
Which friend was he looking for again?
Pain suddenly blossomed under his skin, above his heart, in his side, beside his spine, echoes of arrows, harsh against the backdrop of the warming cold. His knees ached terribly, his hair was frozen into spikes, and his entire body felt too cold and too numb and too hot all at once. He wanted to lie down in the snow, like he had before with Eli, and bury himself in it until he was hidden from view. Until there were no arrows, no bodies, just himself and the cold drawing out all of the liquid fire that had curled inside his ribs.
A chuckle rocked Victor’s body, shaking him harder than the missing shivers, and with a final grunt he slid down into the snow, pawing at the clasp of his cloak.
Maybe I am a fire mage, maybe, maybe I…
“Shit, Vic, what are you doing!?”
Footsteps thudded behind him, drawing closer, and somehow between one and the next Victor was sprawled on his back in the white ice, terribly warm and desperately trying to tear off his cloak for a little air. He’d never been so hot in his life, he felt like he was going to melt into a pale puddle right there on the ground, so when someone slid next to him and snatched his hands away from his cloak’s pin, he hissed in rage. “Let g-go!” His voice shuddered terribly- surely from the heat at this point, a far more pressing issue than the stranger. He tried to pull his hands back, but the newcomer’s grip was a vise around each wrist, stronger than the shackles he’d worn a day before, or had it been two?
Crows, it was too hot.
“No, Vic, no, you’re going to freeze if you pull that off! Just calm down, stop fighting, just stop-”
The man overhead was massive and wrapped in a thick fur hood and cloak; he looked more bear than human, but Victor swore he’d heard that voice before somewhere. It wasn’t Eli- he sounded like sugar most of the time, a contrast to the bitterness he hid inside- but it suddenly occurred to him that Eli wasn’t there, he was back in Merit, no doubt savoring Victor’s exile like the smug bastard he was. But if Eli was in Merit, and he’d been looking for a friend, he remembered that much, then who…
“Of course it’s me, you asked me to wait for you!”
All of it came rushing back, the planning, Mitch’s own release a week prior, their time together in the dungeon. Victor remembered Mitch, each thought slowly sharpening the man overhead into focus- tattooed, imposing, and a full head taller than anybody else Victor had ever seen. A man with a body meant for the barracks if there ever was one and a mind far stronger than his muscles. Mitch’s gaze was simultaneously calculating and concerned for Victor’s state. The paler man swallowed down a sudden urge to chide Mitch for the worry. Such care would be a weakness for anyone else, but Mitch was tough enough to handle it and he had been Victor’s ally, and certainly the closest thing he had to a friend- a non-backstabbing, unmalicious one- since they’d met.
Usually, the pair worked well in tandem, two bones in a joint working in unison, but now there was something out-of-sync. Unlike Victor, Mitch was obviously freezing, shivering like a leaf as he struggled to get something soft and fuzzy wrapped around the other man’s narrow shoulders. Meanwhile, Victor was burning up, and, reminded of his state, Victor began to snap at him again, this time with all the force of the domineering personality he’d been known for back home. “Stop it! I-It’s too hot!” He swatted at Mitch’s hands like an angry cat, but between Mitch’s size and his own stiffness, it was like beating a stick against a stone wall- pointless. There was nothing he could do before he was swathed in fur blankets and suspended in the other’s arms.
Victor didn’t let it stop him.
“Mitch, y-y-you absolute g-git, get m-me out of this before I s-stab you with my c-cloak pin.”
Mitch for his part seemed equally undeterred, all of his focus set on marching back the way he came through the woods with Victor in tow. Victor’s blows, if they could even be called blows, couldn’t even catch his attention.
“No Vic, you’ll die if I do that now. You’re freezing to death.”
“N-no I’m not, I’m o-overheating-”
“Vic, I s-swear on every snow-forsaken tree in this forest that you, in fact, are not melting or burning up or whatever else your overdramatic tail has come up with. You are freezing,” He emphasized the last word as he pulled the edge of the blanket higher on Victor’s chest, his own teeth chattering faintly. “End of story, and you know that feeling hot d-during the winter means you’re actually frozen. You know that, so stop wriggling.”
Victor paused, considering, still unconvinced by his own lack of shivers and the fire within his chest. Anyone worth their salt in the North knew the symptoms of cold exposure, but his mind was conveniently refusing to yield most of that information, still focused on the lingering thoughts of fire and confusion from earlier. Considering that he’d had a lapse of clarity so strong he’d thought he still liked Eli a minute ago, he arguably wasn’t in a position to trust his judgment. Another minute passed as he considered whether or not even considering his own mental state qualified as sound logic, before he finally gave up with a huff and settled down, satisfied to at least test Mitch’s theory for curiosity’s sake. It wasn’t like testing theories had ever hurt him before.
“I-if I die, it’s on y-you.”
“Guard’s honor Victor, you are absolutely dying of cold right now.”
Another huff. “You die o-once, y-you’ve died a thou-thousand times.”
“Shut up and warm up. Now.”
An hour or so later, the world was still cloaked in shades of gray, with the dark trees and pale snow standing in stark contrast in the misty air. Victor squinted at it and the few flakes that made it past the foliage through the sparks of a fire, his mind caught somewhere else as he dreamed about the future, shivering all the while.
A few minutes after his discovery, Mitch had arrived at a pre-made camp, the one he’d promised to make and wait at for Victor’s arrival. He’d propped Victor against a tree and they’d gone about the tricky business of warming someone away from the brink of death. Now, Victor was in drier, warmer clothes and in several layers of blankets, and between them and the crackling heat of the flames, he was much warmer. Technically- he still felt like a block of ice.
The plan was to move out at dawn when the weather warmed; Mitch assured him that he’d left everything they’d need to escape Merit in a nearby town, but it was too dark and too cold to try and make it there tonight. Victor had agreed with Mitch’s plan without complaint- he felt much better, especially in terms of his mental function, but he wasn’t going to risk exposure again for the sake of a few saved hours.
“What about Makt?”
Victor shook his head tiredly, trying to will his muscles to still and his teeth to stop chattering. Freezing to death had definitely been unpleasant, but the symptoms of recovery were making it very hard to be grateful for the rescue.
“No, it’s too far away to be worth it, and t-there’s enough unrest there as it is. Too much competition. We’re better suited staying c-c-close to Merit.”
Mitched hummed his acknowledgement, leaning forward to stir the fire’s cinders with a stick. Like Victor, he’d warmed up since reaching the campsite, and was no longer shivering from the cold. He’d taken off his cloak and coat before rolling his sleeves to his elbows, trying to avoid anything igniting as he tended to the fire. Under the fabric, there’d only been skin and ink. There were no spell marks on his arms, no runes or brands, only several dark tattoos curved into different shapes. Victor had noticed in prison- it was one of the first things he’d noticed, something that had clued him in to the fact that Mitch was more than he seemed. He’d had no trace of magic lingering in his wake, never tried summoning a spell as a means of escape or victory in a fight. Mitch didn’t have any magic, and unlike most of the White world, he’d chosen to accept that, refusing to mark his skin with runes or brands that promised a modicum of power. Instead, he’d decorated himself with ink for no more reason than he liked the look, and to Victor, that was a sign of strength. A willingness to work with the cards life dealt you instead of demanding more.
Not that he was going to judge those who did- he had his own rune to bear.
After a few more prods from the stick, a dazzling cloud of sparks rose from the flames with a sharp crack, the fire’s protest to the intrusion, and Victor watched each one rise, trying to find a pattern to the flight of the swirling lights.
“We’ll start at Esquire.”
Mitch’s brows cut sharp arcs across his face, surprise leaking through his voice. “Why there?” Esquire was a city-state that sat just past the mountains and the valley’s end. It was acceptable as any place in the North, but there wasn’t much to distinguish it from anywhere else. Just a large city with its own monarchs and a criminal underbelly that Victor seemingly wanted to burrow into.
Victor met Mitch’s gaze through the haze of the flames, blue eyes bright as the floating cinders. “It’s close and it’s small. When t-the time comes, it will be easy to seize, and t-then we can expand from there. Get more territory, get m-more men, and then… he looked up towards the sky, searching through the darkness that could have been pines or could have been sky, watching as each spark rose until it faded into oblivion. He watched it and imagined the same light disappearing in a pair of warm brown eyes- the same eyes that had flashed with anger as they’d watched three arrows pierce through Victor’s flesh.
He would smother that light.
He would ruin it.
And he would kill Eli Ever if it was the last thing he ever did.
“Then we t-take the throne.”
Because I wanted to and I’m right.
(Disclaimer: All images were found on Google, I don’t claim them at all as my own.)
Everyone at Victor and Eli:
Victor and Sydney:
Victor in general:
Victor, Eli, and Marcella:
Yep... they’re a mess.
A Royal Affair, a short story of Rhy and Alucard part 1
if i could have one magical item it would absolutely be kell’s coat
> 𝘢 𝘥𝘢𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘤
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘢 - to grow
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘱𝘺𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘢 - to burn
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘦 - to light
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘦 - to open
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘢𝘴𝘦 - to dispel
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘳𝘪 - to heal
• 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘢𝘳𝘴 - to travel
I love in fantasy novels where a character is adamant that they are NOT a pirate, they are a PRIVATEER >:( because like. between those two I think pirate is the more honorable profession
kell: looks like we can't manipulate mansplain malewife our way out of this one
lila, cackling: manslaughter it is
army crawling my way back down the adsom pipeline. wish me luck
@fantasysociety Event 01 | Favorite Media
"I'd rather die on an adventure
than live standing still"
oh no the danes put holland in the plinko. rescue him :/
☕️ Tea and Current Read 📖
Holland hated to do it, but he was under orders. The owners didn’t pay their required bit on time, then they started buying from the Maresh brothers. They knew the rules. Holland was only there to enforce them. The tavern was a crucial bit of turf and the Danes didn’t take too kindly to the snub. Losing the income was unfortunate, but rules were rules.
So the Ruby Fields had to go.
His nose curled as he walked the perimeter of the place, shaking out the last of the gas can on the back door. He set it down and reached for a stack of crates, where the top one sat open. Inside, seven bottles of Maresh whiskey sat waiting for the bar top and patrons inside.
Holland had once frequented the establishment. In a way, he knew the doorman — walk around the back, knock twice, and ask for Fauna. The proprieties covered as a coffee shop during the day, locking up the front door to serve bootlegged booze out the back at five sharp. The back locked up at two every morning, roughly twenty minutes from then.
“Panther piss…” Holland grumbled, breaking the neck of the first bottle against the brick wall. He walks the same path as before, shaking bottle after bottle over the blackened windows windows, soaking the wooden frames.
No one had seen him walk from the Danes’ car. No one had seen him slip into the alleyway like so many other patrons. No one had seen him open and spill the gas can around the perimeter. No one saw him then. No one saw him now, as planned.
For a minute, Holland thought it was a shame. When the Ruby Fields went up, it would take the whole block with it. That was a lot of real estate. Astrid had mentioned it, comforting herself by reminding them it was a lot of Maresh real estate. Establishments that held stock or accounts with one of their business branches. Landlords and tenants who had gotten loans or bought insurance policies from them.
Come sunrise, Maxim Maresh’s bank and agency friends would be shelling out. His sons, if they had brains in their skulls, would understand the message embedded.
Satisfied with his work, Holland walked to the back door again. He pulled a smashed chair from a trash pile in the alley — remnant of a raid earlier in the week, he supposed — and wedged it under the door handle. He pushes the remaining filled crates up against it, cracking one open to retrieve a fresh, full bottle. This one he keeps whole, pulling the stopper and taking a long drink from it as he walked back to the main road.
He was not prepared for the Maresh brothers’ rotgut to be halfway decent. It wasn’t anything like the imported stuff the Danes hawked, but pretty decent for low rent bathtub swill. Not a hint of paint thinner or Jamaica ginger.
But Holland Vosijk wasn’t having a clandestine drink. He wasn’t celebrating a victory before it happened. No, he was only clearing space in the bottle for his handkerchief.
[Read the Rest Here]
It would be a long time yet before they would reach the stalwart line of sloops and schooners they were bound for. Three and a half miles out, right past the line of legality and into open international waters; that’s where the Blessed Waters floated, a lashed-together never-dry den of vice.
The first time he’d lay on the deck as the boat approached, Kell had been enchanted by the rum row. Baubles of light were strung between the masts, swaying with the hulls. A Victrola played, grainy and off-kilter, somewhere off starboard. By the time they’d tied onto a sailboat, the most undecorated of the bunch, Kell was half-way convinced he should ask for a cabin and never leave. That dalliance was cut short by a knife thudding point down into the wood next to his hand, its owner a willowy young woman with a blunt dark bob and a sharp grin.
The very same boat, the Stone’s Throw, cut the water in front of him now. Kell knew the hull’s dingy, smoke grey from a mile off. He grabbed the rope under his stomach and pushed up to his feet again. Parrish, taking it as the sign it was, cut the engine and let them drift closer.
The fog thinned to a gray haze, parting like swaths of theater curtain velvet to reveal the broad side of the Stone’s Throw, a single lantern lit and throwing buttery yellow on a figure beneath it. Kell grinned up at them, knowing exactly who it was despite the shadows.
“Hello,” Kell said.
“Hello,” Lila Bard replied. Her legs hung over the top of the ladder, trouser legs tucked into the tops of tall boots, giving her the look of a long-lost explorer or perhaps a pirate. Kell knew which one she would prefer.
He tossed one end of the rope to her, watching her slide forward and snatch the coil out of the air without a second thought. The tension pulling them in reached his hands. Kell held tighter and leaned back, the rope biting into his palms. He could see her face now, the quick flickers of her dark eyes, the thin curve of her lips.
“I heard you went south of here last week. To Calla’s place,” Lila smirked. “Our stash not good enough, Maresh?”
“Your stash doesn’t have gin,” Kell tossed back.
“So, you’ve come back because you miss our rum?”
Kell allowed himself a laugh. “Rum, sure, but I miss my best girl.”
Lila rolled her eyes, unimpressed but smirking all the same. “I’m not your best girl, Maresh. I’m your best thief .”
“Just as well, Bard. Not all of us have your light fingers.”
“I’ve told you before. It’s all in the wrist.” She rolled her free hand in the eerie light, grinning brightly at him. She rolled up onto her knees, tying the rope down under a cleat. She watched the trawler bob under the ladder’s end, then shrugged. “The wrist, and a certain kind of permissiveness in the Commonwealth. The borderlands thrives on turning a blind eye.”
Read the Rest Here