Argentum in Aqua: Blood on the Snow (Chapter 2)

[Chapter 1]

“Sinnlenst,” Sabbat growled. He spat a mouthful of blood onto the already gore-soaked snow. “That’s the last thing we fuckin’ needed.”

“Are you in any way surprised?” Archer countered, standing up and pocketing the last of the second corpse’s effects. In truth, he’d been rather hoping that the two men weren’t Sinnlenst enforcers, if only to avoid having to make the encounter a lethal one, but once they’d revealed their allegiances there was only one way the meeting was ever going to end. “We knew this was a possibility, Sabbat. Especially given where we found them.”

“Doesn’ mean I have t’like it,” the other man grumbled. He crouched down, pressing two fingers against the third body’s neck. “Alive. Not that that means much fer you lot, but saves you havin’ t’wait around ‘til he wakes up.”

“That’s something, at least. I don’t suppose he’s conscious as well?”

“‘s your lucky day.” He moved his hand from the young vampire’s throat to his ear, then gave the aforementioned appendage a sharp tug. “Rise an’ shine, matey. My friend wants a word wi’ you.”

“Eep!” said the young man, helpfully. He opened his eyes, staring around at the moonlit alleyway in what seemed to be utter bewilderment. “Um. Hello?”

“Hello,” Archer replied, trying very hard not to laugh. He crouched down in the snow, trying his best to look at least somewhat friendly. “How are you feeling?”

“I’ve felt better,” the boy admitted, pushing himself up on his elbows. His red eyes widened as he caught sight of the two corpses, and he made a small worried sound in the back of his throat. “Uh. Are… are they dead?”

“No, they’re havin’ a fuckin’ nap.” Sabbat sat back on his heels, pulled out his hipflask and took a hearty swig of the contents. After a moment’s consideration, he offered it to the boy – who took it, took an equally hearty swig, and promptly burst into a coughing fit that lasted a good half a minute.

When he’d regained his breath (and Sabbat’d stopped laughing), he took another look around the alleyway, closed his eyes, and appeared to come to some sort of conclusion. “I… Thank you. I think you might have just saved my life.”

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Argentum in Aqua: Blood on the Snow (Chapter 1)

 

By the time the dead man left the temple gateway, the stars had begun to come out.

It was early for it, even this far north, but the start of the longest night always seemed to catch people unawares – behind the high white walls of the temple complex, the acolytes and novices were calling out to one another, high voices echoing from the stonework as they checked and double-checked the arrangements for the evening’s ceremonies.

The dead man ignored them, striding purposefully forward into the maze of alleyways which sprawled out across the quarter from the back wall of the complex. Or, at least, attempting to do so.

It was, it turned out, rather hard to stride with a throwing knife buried in your throat.

As the dead man sank to his knees, a shadow detached itself from the pool of deeper darkness at the mouth of the nearest alleyway, stalking towards him with a predatory grace which was almost, but not quite, inhuman. Lamplight glinted off the second blade, held ready in its hand.

Behind it, the snow drifted downwards, caught for a moment in the dim orange glow of the streetlamp. And, somewhere overhead, the first bells of the evening started to toll.

Jonathan Fest smoothed back his hair, fussed with the slightly-too-tight cuffs of his slightly-too-small-shirt (his mother had assured him he’d grow into everything she’d sent him off to university with. She’d neglected to mention the possibility he might grow out of it again), and took another long look at the invitation he was holding, hoping against hope that this time it might somehow transmute into something that made even the tiniest bit more sense.

The invitation, unfortunately for him, did not. It stayed resolutely inert – a gilt-edged piece of thick white card which proclaimed in bold black copperplate, as it had done since it’d arrived in his pigeonhole in Halls a week ago, that the Luciels were pleased to request the presence of a certain Mr Jonathan Amaranth Fest at Lady Luciel’s Midwinter Ball and Reception, RSVP, no swords allowed beyond the entrance hall without express permission of the family.  And, as it had done since a week ago, it made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

He’d heard of the Midwinter Ball before this, of course – it was hard not to, given it was the social event of the season. He’d even, when his parents had told him he was going to study in the City, had a brief moment of wondering if he’d one day be able to acquire a invitation. But he’d never, not in his wildest dreams, assumed that one would actually turn up on his doorstep.

And now that it had, he was distinctly unsure what on earth he was going to do about it.

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Seventh Son: Chapter 16

The twins hadn’t gone far from camp – by the time Caleb got around ten foot past the treeline he could hear raised voices, and a few steps more brought him close enough to ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt that yes, that was Alak and Kala, and yes, they were still arguing.

That couldn’t be the source of the feeling he was having, though – it was the same argument they’d been having back in the camp and, from the sound of it, an argument they’d been having for years before today and would probably continue to have years into the future.

He pressed on, deeper into the woods.

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Seventh Son: Chapter 15

“We’re not elves!” If Alak was attempting to lie, he was doing a very bad job of it. “We’re just- We- We’ve just got pointed ears, that’s all. Plenty of people have pointed ears. Nothin’ elf-y about it.”

Kala rolled her eyes. “He’s not buying it, y’know.”

He wasn’t. But if they wanted to lie about their heritage, that was their business. Even if they were doing a terrible job of it.

Alak pulled a face. “You don’t know that.”

“I really really do.”

“You really really don’t.” Though he didn’t sound entirely convinced.

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Seventh Son: Chapter 14

As the last notes of the song died away, the strange breeze stirring the grass faded with it, leaving an odd blue-green glow in the air in its wake.

Ariane opened her eyes, and breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, I couldn’t have asked for a better result. This is perfect.” She scrambled to her feet, lute held tight against her chest, and headed quickly towards the glowing patch of ground.

After a brief moment of indecision Caleb followed her, hanging back a little as they got closer to the source of the glow – while he’d not so far experienced any ill-effects from his half-accidental participation in the spell, he wasn’t about to push his luck.

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Seventh Son: Chapter 13

The clearing was practically empty that morning, in sharp contrast to the gathering of the night before – aside from the still-bickering twins, Caleb seemed to be the only member of the company still in camp.

The fire was still burning, though, and a large pot had been set over it, filled with bubbling porridge that smelled of honey and warm spices. A pile of bowls had been placed next to the whole arrangement, alongside a box full of wooden spoons and a basket containing what seemed to be small pots of dried fruit and preserves.

“Help yourself,” Ariane commented, walking into view from around the side of Talan’s wagon. She was carrying an oddly-shaped bundle in her arms, and her green dress was immaculate as always, shimmering in the morning sunlight.

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Seventh Son: Chapter 12

Caleb rolled over, groaning as the morning sunlight struck him full in the face.

It’d been hours past midnight by the time he’d finally got to bed – he’d meant to go sooner, but there’d been planning, and singing, and then Talan had brought out a small keg of something which smelled very strongly of apples and tasted like nothing he’d ever encountered before, and there’d been more singing, and drinking, and dancing, and after that everything had got a little bit blurry.

He’d obviously found his way to some sort of bed, though, given he was currently lying on a very comfortable pile of furs inside a tent. He wasn’t entirely sure whose tent, mind, though the shock of red hair visible at one end of the lump of snoring blankets he seemed to be sharing the space with implied that it probably belonged to one of the twins.

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