It’s been an interesting week, writing-wise, and I’ve unfortunately been sort of out of it. Thanks to everyone who has been reading nonetheless. Here’s a summary and this weeks Friday Flash:
I was the winner of Emma Newman’s first Friday Flash podcast prize draw! To kick off her narration service, Em is recording pieces submitted by #FridayFlash participants. My piece was "Wicked Witch for Hire," my first Friday Flash and one of my all-time favorites. Em does a wonderful job of reading it; give it a listen! (And she pronounced my name right on the first go!)
Added Bounce! to 52/250, a site endeavoring to publish a year of flash fiction, each week with a theme. This past week’s theme was "small worlds." Small is relative.
Also, Pas de Chat is still going strong. I’m only up to chapter six, so if you haven’t been reading, it’s not too late to catch up.
And now, for this week’s Friday Flash. I’m currently working on a reread/editing pass of Divine Fire. It’s part of the Weordan universe, so there’s a couple of words that don’t exist in general English.
A Tale of Balito Germand
In the crowds, Balito could remain hidden, but he could also lose a mark unless they stood out. Neltiar easily fit in with his plain face. He was an everyman. Marie was short and not striking enough to be unforgettable. The pair would make good pickpockets in Balito’s estimation. Not to mention Marie’s damned parasol. Lavender was a popular color this season.
They stopped often at shops. Sometimes they stayed for a while, sometimes the visit was so brief that their return took Balito by surprise.
When they turned a corner into an alley, Balito jostled past a pair of robed Ecclesians and smashed into a short man with a curly mop of brown hair. He bounced off of Balito and crashed to the ground.
"Well, pardon me!" He got to his feet and brushed himself off.
Balito muttered an apology and moved on. He kept his eye on the corner, but could no longer see Neltiar or Marie.
"Hey! What was that? I didn’t hear you." The short man grabbed hold of Balito’s shirt.
"I said, I’m sorry," said Balito. The man was probably a pickpocket, a brazen one at that. Balito had no time for him. He tried to pull away, but the short man gripped both of Balito’s arms.
"Not good enough. Maybe you should watch where you are going and not tread on those people who are smaller than you. You won’t tread on me again, will you?"
"Listen, I need to go. I’m really sorry. I was distracted."
"Yeah, sure. Right." He let go, giving Balito a push. Balito was amazed by the little man’s strength. He briefly lost his balance but did not fall.
Balito couldn’t give him another thought. He ran as quickly as he could toward the alley, dodging pedestrians. He didn’t expect Neltiar as he careened around the corner.
"Good afternoon. I’m Neltiar Silva, but I think you already know that." The apothynom placed a hand flat on Balito’s chest and firmly guided him toward the wall of the building.
Balito wasn’t used to being pushed around. To be man-handled twice by men smaller than him in only a few minutes was too much for Balito. He pushed back. Neltiar lost no ground, and Marie Lemieux came into Balito’s view. She was holding a long, bright knife instead of her parasol, and Balito suspected that her heathen training had prepared her to use it.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about," said Balito. He offered a nervous smile. "My pockets… Take what you want."
"You’ve been following my friend. Why?" Neltiar asked.
"I’ve never seen this woman in my life."
"I’ve seen you," Marie said flatly. She brought the dagger closer to Balito’s stomach.
He dropped the dopey grin and tried to stand straighter, to suck his belly away from the tip of Marie’s blade. "I was told to not underestimate you. I obviously did a bad job."
"Told by whom?" Neltiar asked.
"My employer, Philip Lemieux."
"Philip?" Marie’s dagger wavered. "My husband, Philip Lemieux?"
"Yes, signora. Your husband."
"How much is he paying you?" Neltiar interrupted.
"Two ten-score a bi-week, plus expenses."
"Does that include what you pay to your organization for taking on outside work?"
"I’ll pay you three ten-score plus what you owe."
"For what?" Balito couldn’t help but laugh.
"To discontinue your observation of Signora Marie and not let her husband know that you are doing so. I take it you are to send him reports?"
"Yes. Are you suggesting that I’m supposed to make up my reports?"
"No, I’ll author the reports. You’ll just have to copy and send them. I’d also like you to be under retainer for me."
Signora Lemieux’s eyebrows rose. She hadn’t been expecting Neltiar to offer him a job.
Balito responded quickly. "I’m afraid I have connections here in Florey that would take exception to that. Sorry."
"Tell your associates what you’re doing and add a third to what they expected from you as recompense," Neltiar said simply. "I can’t guarantee that I will stay away from their matters, but at least they’ll know who to come after if things go wrong."
Balito stammered. The problems that a heathen apothynom might cause for Balito and his employers paled in comparison to the difficulties that might arise with the Ecclesians. "No offense, Signor Silva, but I really must decline."
"It would of course include expenses," Neltiar continued. "A man like yourself is always low on money. I don’t expect you to work cheaply." He pulled a handful of ten-pieces from his pocket. "Would this do as a retainer?"
"I said I can’t agree."
"This game is at an end." Neltiar spoke quietly. "You’re either agreeing or we’re going to have to start over and play by rougher rules. What will it be?"
"I have no choice then."
Neltiar handed him the money and Balito begrudgingly put it in his pocket.
"So," said Neltiar, "now that I’ve hired you, perhaps I should know your name."
"Maybe Signora Lemieux could put away her dagger," said Balito.
"Fair," said Neltiar. "Marie, please. Don’t be so rude to my new employee."
The blade didn’t waver. "I’d still like to know why my husband hired a sneak thief to spy on me."
Neltiar made a noise. "Because he’s as distrustful as he is unfaithful."
Marie was not pleased, but she acquiesced and sheathed her dagger.
"I’m Balito Germand. And for your information, Signora Lemieux, I think your husband was afraid you’d get into some sort of trouble."
"Well, it’s a good thing Marie spotted you, Balito Germand, because she’s certain to get into trouble. You would have been underpaid for as many reports as you would have written." Silva snorted at his own joke.
Balito shifted his weight. "I was sure I hadn’t done that poor of a job of shadowing her."
"You didn’t," said Neltiar. "Marie is just that observant."