A Smugglers Tale Volume 1 – by Malkhelm – narrated by Asclepius
Hello everyone, this is Aclepius, with a wonderful story from Malkhelm. It’s called
A Smuggler’s Tale, Volume 1
As the story lent itself to multiple voices, I have joining me in this podcast:
Lord Baldrith as Harry
Amber Raine as the new girl
And Lady Adnor as Sole
Background music “Evasion” my Matthew Pablo at www.matthewpablo.com
A Smuggler’s Tale Vol. 1
“Hello, Love. How would you like to make this the night of your life?” I don’t recognize this one. She must be from one of those backwater villages, or an Outlander from a very open society. Goddess knows there are more and more of us showing up every day, all of us thrust into this alien world where if you don’t find a place to fit in quick things can get real messy real fast. She knows her stuff though, leaning at just the right angle, pulling at her dress to entice the eyes to all the right body parts, and a natural knockout, almost no make-up. Sorry darling, but I’m taken.
I pull a coin purse from under my black leathers and slide it across the table to her, barely taking my eyes from my bottle of spirits. Best to do these things quickly. “Despite your very tempting offer, I’m afraid I must decline. Nothing personal, Milady, but there is only one girl for me. Take the gold and the night off, on me. No hard feelin’s lass.”
To my surprise I got none of the usual responses. “Awww,” she purred, sliding closer. “Well I’m afraid you’re the only man for me tonight, and I’m very gifted when it comes to getting the things I want. Come now, I know how much fun you tall, dark, and brooding types can be behind closed doors.” She reaches towards the first button on the low neck-line bodice, still trying to close the deal. Trying too hard.
Before she can react or even breathe one syllable I strike, grabbing her wrist and gently pulling my coin purse before she could slide it out of sight down the front of her dress. I pull her into an embrace, at least that’s what the rest of the rowdy barflies in the tavern would think. “Alright madame, you have my attention. Now who put you up to this?” My eyes were already making a third sweep of tonite’s patrons.
“How dare yo-”
“You see, a newbie would have been embarrassed by my refusal and all the pros here in Kingsport know that I’m off the market. So enlighten me. Who’s paying ya?” Her big eyes darted to the side for only a split second, but it was all I needed. I spotted my new friend just as he was turning out the side door. “Well I dare say he looked a little flustered. Gotta go, Love.” I only stopped long enough to grab my black, wide-brimmed hat and toss the coin purse to the poor, wide-eyed girl. “Consider that payment for guarding my bottle until I return,” I spoke over my shoulder before I was out the door and into the pitch black alley. I really didn’t need to hurry, the man I hunted could always be found in the same spot. A couple of twists and turns in the dark and there he was, acting as if he hadn’t moved all day. Stands to reason that if you’re a fence then people have to be able to find you I guess.
“Harry! How ya been old chum? Everything all right? You look a wee bit winded, a little flushed, I’d say.”
“Harry,” sigh, “can we skip the song and dance. I’m gonna be real pissed if one of my last bottles of the good stuff isn’t right where I left it.” I cross my arms letting the casual act sweep aside my cloak giving the sword on my left hip the clearance she needed. Harry got the message.
“Ok, ok… it was nothing persona-” the weasely back-alley fence pleaded.
“What does Anton want?”
“We don’t see ya around much anymore. Boss has always shown favor to his more valuable employees. You know that. Me and the fellas thought maybe the new girl-” My laughter brought him up short. Confused and fidgeting. Easy target.
My blade cleared her sheath in the blink of an eye. Point levelled at Harry’s chest and ire in my voice. “Anton wants to go land-lover on us, fine. Thinks he can turn this island into his own little fiefdom, fine. Let him play house. I want nothing of it. I’m a sailor Harry, there’s only one place for me and until our little undead problem is fixed, I’m out of work.” That was the stick. Time for the carrot. I relax my sword grip, prop my blade back on my shoulder, and crack a half grin. “Come on, mate. Tell me what that little fool really wants.”
Harry never takes his eyes off the blade in front of him. Of unique design and make, to be sure, but I never have quite figured out why everyone who looks upon her becomes seemingly mesmerized. She’s long, thin and wickedly sharp. Single edged with just the slightest curve and a grip that is easily three hands long. She resembles the blades used by the folk in far off Ardoris, to the east, but that’s not what makes her special. What catches the eye is the fact that she is made of the blackest material I have ever seen. More akin to rock than metal. No smith I have ever shown her to has been able to identify it, nor have I ever had to hone her edge. Not even a single tool mark on her. She wasn’t for the faint-hearted either, having no hand guard or tsuba in place. A signature weapon can come in handy in the life of a smuggler ship captain who deals in the underworld of Novia. It can also make one a target. As I was about to find out.
“Still got that ugly thing, huh?” Harry gestured towards my sword. “You should have thrown that cursed thing in the sea like I told you, Captain. Else I wouldn’t have to be doing this,” Harry says as he whistles between thumb and forefinger. Wide eyed fear is replaced by cold, cruel certainty. Men wearing black appear at either end of the alley. A quick glance tells me about half a dozen. Three in front, three to the rear. Including Harry that made seven. Bad odds. And I was the fool who walked right into it. I remain calm, sword still propped on my shoulder like a fishing pole. Can’t panic in these situations. No such thing as a no-win scenario.
“Well, seems ya got me, mate. That mean you’re going to tell me what Anton wants now?” The three men in front halt just behind Harry. Two look like average bruisers, cudgels and faces only mothers could love. The three behind me stop and take up positions four or five feet away. A quick glance coupled with the smell of them told me they were cut from the same cloth as the two ruffians behind Harry. I had been in and escaped from worse, however it was the look of the third man behind Harry that brought me up short. He was tall and lean, carrying a staff and, as opposed to his cohorts, dressed in finery befitting a noble. Dammit, Anton, I swore to myself. This was certainly going to complicate things. “Really, Harry? You brought a mage? What are you thinking?” I’m still talking to Harry in my friendly voice.
“Oi, him?” Harry jabs a thumb behind him towards the spell caster. “He’s just here for verification. Ya see, Cap’n Malk, Anton knows all about your plans to get off this island.”
I snicker at him. “Lots of folks want off this island. How am I any different?”
“Well as you know, our gracious Oracle has us blockaded from leaving until that damn liche who’s raising an army of the dead is taken out.”
I sigh, overly exasperated. “I do hope you get to what this has to do with me. There’s a bottle waiting for me, remember?”
“The blade, Malk! Anton happens to prefer things the way they are right now, and would like certain assurances that some would-be hero isn’t going to go fix our undead problem with his hell-spawned sword and the rumoured cache of magic items he’s supposedly been hoarding!”
Laughter. A deep-belly laughter that has me clutching my gut and starting to bend over. “A hero?” More laughter. The irritation on Harry’s face is starting to turn to red rage. “So, criminal smuggler saves whole island?” Can’t stop laughing now. “I suppose after that I ride off into the sunset on my talking horse?” Got to keep this up just a little longer.
“Malk! This isn’t a request,” Harry slid a little closer to me. His attempt at being menacing was even more fuel for my laughter.
“After that it’s off to find a magical farmer’s hoe that can take down a dragon, I guess?” I barely manage this last line through my hysterical laughing fit.
“Anton’s respect for you is the only reason we ain’t killed ya already, but rest assured. That can change very quickly.” Harry’s closer now. Almost within arm’s reach. “The sword, Malk! Now!”
I start to calm down. Wipe the tears from my eyes, sober up a bit. I glance up at Harry and rise again to my full height. In a flurry of movement and with a deft hand motion, the black sword snaps off my shoulder. Everyone tenses, but the men only had enough time to slightly raise their cudgels. I’m not attacking they realize for I’m holding her out to Harry as if to relinquish her. She’s in a reverse grip, pointed at the ground separating Harry and I. Everyone visibly relaxes, couple of the thugs even look disappointed to be denied their blood sport for the night.
“Here ya go, mate” Harry steps forward. Right where I want him. As he raises his hand to grab the rest of her grip, he catches my crooked grin. Now. Strike.
I pull the sword away from Harry’s grasping fingers and execute a blind stab directly behind me. Caught one of the brutes in the belly. One down. Now my sword is flying straight at Harry’s face, but I’m still holding her in my reverse grip. My sword pommel smashes his nose. The blow and shock stagger him backwards into the mage and two henchmen. All four go down in a tangled mess in the tight alley. One now worthless Harry and three more temporarily down. Next. Pivot and turn left. The blade moves with me and I am able to turn fast enough to score a slash on one of the remaining men behind me. Deep chest wound. Another one down. My blade continues her same arc, flying towards the next and last guy still on his feet. This one has had the longest time to react however, so the best I can do is simply parry the overhead cudgel strike aimed at my head.
We separate and square off. I do not have time for a duel. Already, I hear Harry’s group regaining their feet. My eyes dart their way to check their progress. It’s the mage who is first up, his hand already pulling bits of archaic powders from the satchel on his hip. He’s chanting, his staff’s head dipping in my direction and beginning to glow blue-white. I parry another cudgel blow coming from the man in front and twist away, letting his forward motion carry him stumbling towards his compatriots. The mage has completed his incantation. You should have known better than this, Anton. I hold my sword, Blackrock, up between the spell-user and myself.
Harry notices his wizard’s actions too late. He knows what will happen. Through the blood gushing from his face and watery eyes he shouts, “No you fool, don’t cast that spell!
Too late. Lightning begins gathering around the head of the staff before suddenly leaping towards me. One of the other reasons I have never parted with her and one of the unexplained mysteries about my sword and the substance she is made of: she causes magic to go haywire.
The lightning bolt is yanked off target and drawn to her, striking the tip first before running down the length of her blade. The results of magic cast at her are random. This time the lightning becomes a vortex of wind and water that swirls about the blade like a typhoon at sea. And as quickly as it attracted the magic, the sword expels it, right back at the caster. I feel nothing of the effects. Harry and his men are pummelled by wind and stinging water drops. All of them thoroughly dazed but nothing fatal. Time to run. “Later, old chum. Let’s do this again sometime, eh?” I shout at Harry as I sprint out of the alleyway, turn a corner, and run right into three more toughs coming to the aid of their fallen comrades. “By the Three!” I swear. “All of my brandy will be long gone by the time I get back to that bottle.”
Before things could get any worse, from out of the darkness above us, the whistling sound of four arrows screamed down and thudded into the packed earth at the feet of my would be attackers. “Run along now, boys! Tell your master that his prey has eluded him tonight!” The voice is female. One I was very grateful to hear. My attackers begin to slowly retreat, but a few more well placed arrows got them running soon enough.
A lithe shadow materializes from the thatch roof above me and nimbly drops to the ground next to me. “Care to sheathe that thing now?” the brown haired woman asks me.
“How’d you find me, Sole?”
“Well the floozy back at the tavern helped a lot. Seems to be rather taken with you too. She’s guarding a bottle of brandy like it’s the most precious thing she’s ever seen. However, it was Drakkhan who sent the search out. Why in all of the Black Void are Anton’s men after you, Malkhelm?”
“That’s Captain Malkhelm, my dear”
She straps her bow to her back. Blackrock returns to her sheath. “Oh really?” the sarcasm shining through her friendly banter. “Last time I checked, neither one of us has a ship. Kind of makes it difficult to be a captain. Wouldn’t you agree, Malkhelm?” I set off down the lane, setting a brisk pace. “Where are we going?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” I ask, chuckling a little. “Us being heroes and all, there is only one thing to do.” I don’t need to look at her face to see the bewilderment. “We’re going to go save a whole island.” I continued walking while she stopped a moment in stunned silence. She didn’t hesitate long before she was right back beside me.
“What’s the plan, Captain?”
“Brandy first, dear.”