Today I have the wonderful opportunity to post a excerpt from the book The Hiss Of The Blade by Richard Writhen. I hope everyone enjoys! I appreciate being able to post this. Thank You Richard for this opportunity!
is out NOW!
So go get your copy!
The two mercenaries walked down a street in the middle city, passing a multitude of hollowed out houses as they went, one after the other. Some were actually crumbling, while others only bore tell-tale signs such as wooden boarding and graffiti to mark them as untenanted. The whole neighborhood was probably less than twenty percent occupied, and the majority of those that did live there were squatters, which is why they had come there in the first place. The first mercenary was a man approaching middle-age named Trenton Kuthrag; he was both tall and robustly muscled, with an almost elegant skull structure, facial features that were like stony edifices and a neck that was thick and corded. He wore his hair longer and tawny-colored at the crown, yet it was gray at its faded sides; he carried a long-sword at his side in a stitched leather scabbard at his left hip and favored dark clothing; he wore no jewelry aside from a tarnished silver chain that hung about his neck with a small pendant that displayed the sign of the quartered circle.
His companion, an unkempt-looking but apparently energetic man named Nickolat Khavel, was only about five feet tall; he sported a thick unibrow, long sideburns, and a goatee, and wore a dark blue, hooded cloak with large pockets. He had rings on the fingers of each hand and a black tunic and breeches with a lined leather belt. The two of them stopped a couple of houses down from the abandoned building that the runaway chippers were said to be hiding in and began to confer.
“Alright. You cover the back, I will try to flush them out. Attempt to arrest them. If they continue to run … just shoot them as they do. Can you handle that?” Khavel began to unsling his longbow from where it was secured to his backpack. “I think so. How bad could it be? There’s only ten of them, you say?” Kuthrag grimaced down at the shorter man. “Only ten? Three to one is bad odds, when all are fully armed. Five to one is worse. If you’d been doing this as long as I have, you would have known that. You’re still green around the edges.” Khavel looked away and sighed heavily. “I know. Thanks for trying to teach me.”
Kuthrag only grimaced further. “You can thank me by living through this. Let’s go.” So, they split up, acting as if they didn’t know each other, with Khavel taking a circuitous route around a mass of twisted, burned hedges to reach the property’s backyard. He found ample cover behind a small tree and began to notch an arrow as he faced away from the house, turning back when he had finished. As he did, Kuthrag approached the front door cautiously, took the deepest breath his lungs would allow, then exhaled it quietly before depressing the door handle; it was unlocked, and he drew the door open as stealthily as he could and ducked inside.
A stairwell led up to the second floor, as was common with two-story domiciles in the region, with three doorways surrounding it; one to its left, one to its right, and one that led past it to a hallway straight ahead. Kuthrag experienced a moment of quiet indecision, but it was short-lived; he heard the sounds of deep male voices chiding each other coming from upstairs. Nodding, he pulled off his backpack and rummaged through it before producing some hand tools, which he used to take off the door handle on the inside of the front door with the lock already engaged as quietly as possible. He crouched to put them away, then rose and drew his long-sword slowly and began to advance up the stairs.
“Nah, Bess is the tightest as you’ll find in that shit-hole.” The voice was very direct, with almost a sardonic undercurrent to it, as if the speaker didn’t even take himself seriously, let alone expect anyone else to. “They’ve only got like eleven girls all told, and Racine is pushing sixty at least, so I think she’s safely out of the running. Though I guess … if you weren’t so careful with your aim …” There was a loud round of guffaws at that, which was all to the good as the stairs were relatively creaky. Kuthrag pressed this occurrence to his advantage to make it three quarters of the way up them before the cacophony subsided and the consecutive back-slapping commenced.
He stopped again and waited; but before several seconds had even elapsed, he heard someone approaching the stairs. Apparently the boards of the second floor were equally noisy and they announced the chipper quite well as he staggered drunkenly towards the stairwell. He never quite made it; Kuthrag finished his ascent and made the landing. Then he placed his sword blade-down in his left hand, sprung upward and grabbed the startled man by the back of the neck; his eyes flew sideways to meet the mercenary’s own, wide with terror, his long dark hair wafting around his rounded head. “Back to work, chipper!” The man, who was a good twenty-five years his junior, spat out,“You first.”
“Suit yourself, sir.” Kuthrag overpowered the man handily and sent him flying down the stairs headlong; he hit one of the lower stairs headfirst, the sound of teeth shattering plainly audible before his skull slammed into the next step with low thunking sound. Kuthrag faced forward again without the slightest hint of compunction and stepped onto the rise of the second floor. There were three more doorways visible, one at the end of a short hall that looked to be the privy and two on his right hand side; the roof must have sloped down over the north side of the roof so there was no room on that side, but the southern two were very large. Following the still active sounds of muted conversation, Kuthrag skipped the first doorway and walked down through the shadows to the far one; after short preamble, he began to slowly turn the ornate brass knob that some former owner had probably insisted on having fitted to the door.
Originally from Rhode Island, Richard Writhen also lived in NYC for about ten years. He has been e-published on several notable sites such as Grimdarkmagazine.com, Ragnarokpub.com and Techzwn.com and is the author of three novellas and several short stories. He writes Gothdark, Grimdark, GDSF and Psychological Horror, and will eventually be exploring the Weird West.
Two petty mercenaries are falsely accused of switching sides in a feud between two rich and powerful magnates; an ex-miner on the run from a murder charge becomes a reaver and embroiled in a romance; an industrial lieutenant is recruited to help capture a serial killer and an entire city is in danger of being ensorcelled by an ancient monk.