After the End – 1

1

The Gods are gone, or dead, or they never existed in the first place. Any alchemist with a reasonable education would agree with you here. I did too, for the first few dozen years of my life, I was certain it was the fiction of fools and tricksters. But after my travels through the Great East, I had to change my opinion of the matter. Perhaps we can’t call them Gods. But there are powers, inexplicable and impossible out there. And it is stirringFrom ‘The Autobiography of an Alchemist’ by Salvant Tellermarchus
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Brachillio had many sins to atone for. Many despite his admittedly short life. And many more had happened to him and now that it was all over, he could set about righting them, one after the other.

The sin that was Holam of Solvay was staring right back at him in a dingy, dark-lit corner of an Inn along the storm-wracked stretches of the Storm Coast. Holam was where it had all begun, on an uneasy night quite like tonight. Nothing about the man had changed. He looked the same despite being ten years worse off, spoke in the same preachy, plodding tone and smelled about the same too.  And when Brachillio had the luck of tracking him down, he found that Holam of Solvay was still in the same business he was ten years back.

Nothing about the wretch had changed. And Brachillio was a little relieved for it. It made everything simple and simple was what he always liked.

‘You’ve got a fresh haul?’ Brachillio asked as he put his hands forward, all interest.

Holam of Solvay nodded as if he knew he had something at the end of his line and wasn’t in a hurry to reel it in, ‘I do. Like I was saying, we don’t fuck straight in this business. First we see the money, then talk price. And then just maybe, we talk goods.’

‘And I want a look at the goods before any of the shine changes hands…’

‘Stadie, little man.’ Holam drawled, yawning a little and giving Brachillio an uninvited whiff of his afternoon meal of garlic stew and dried fish, ‘Steaa-d-i-e. Like I was saying, money first. The wheels need to be wet before we get anywhere. We get a lot of limey bastards in this work.’

Brachillio nodded. He reached down to his belt and pulled out a small sackcloth and set it on the table with an audible clinking sound.

Holam reached out a hand but Brachillio swatted it away before the older man could grab the small heavy thing.

Holam’s face flashed with annoyance, ‘What’s the pissing problem?’

‘They’re a little shy. I want to know what they’re fetching.’

The expression on Holam’s face soured a little, then having mollified himself with a deep breath, recited in a bored drawl. ‘One boy is worth five silver hacks and for two dozen, it’s a single silver shingle. Girls are twenty silver hacks a piece and there’s not going to be any haggling about the prices. They’re fixed.’

‘Fixed?’

I’ve been doing business since you half the size of your breeches—‘

‘No doubt.’

‘And my goods are top quality. Top quality. I can vouch for that.’

‘How’s that? Brachillio asked, playing Holam up.

Holam gave him a big smile as if pleased at the question, ‘I do the work myself. Storm Coast’s got hundreds of these small fishing hamlets scattered all over, see? I go in with my men on a little skiff on a moonless night, if it’s raining, it’s better. In and out. Smooth and simple. If there’s any trouble, then it’s handled. E-e-a-asie as picking fruit.’

‘No doubt. And you’ve been doing this for what? Ten years?’

‘About.’ Holam nodded contently, ‘And do you see any competition? I’ve seen your kind before. You city cocks thing you can walk about ordering people about here, but it doesn’t work like that.’ Holam gave him a pitying look, ’I’ve had a lot of buyers all these years and they know better than to argue about the quality. These Storm Coast things are hardy little ones, the weather’s reason for that I suppose. But, now that we’ve got this war with the Rudavangians, it isn’t making my business easie.’

Brachillio nodded his understanding, ‘You have no idea, my friend. You have no idea.’

Holam of Solvey leaned back, feeling a little smug, ‘So your cousins ready to peek their heads out now?’ He gestured lazily at the coin purse in front of Brachillio.

Brachillio nodded vaguely as if pretending to think. He didn’t want to agree right away. Not if it would make the greasy bastard suspicious. Too many hours had already gone in tracking the bastard and many more in appeasing his suspicious nose. No, this was one that he would take …e-e-a-a-sie. He almost chuckled at the inflection.

This was one sin that he would right.

Brachillio stared at the grubby-faced common-room and found it staring back at him with an unhealthy expression. It had a smell. Somewhere between a rotting carcass and a pair of sweaty unwashed feet. And it was louder than the stink of dead fish for sale by the stalls outside. A few dozen tables were scattered chaotically about and a few oil lamps struggled desperately on top of them. Behind this pall of yellow, the rest of the room was shrouded in black. As if Brachillio was peering at the bottom of his soul.

There were only two other customers other than them. One of them was busy decorating the table with his drool as he snored peacefully. The other was drinking with an anxious sense of urgency as if he’d lost something in his mug.

Brachillio opened his mouth to close the deal when he was interrupted by a long, mournful creak.  The door, well if he could call the ancient withered thing hanging on those rusted jambs one.  It groaned inward, admitting wet spray, a blast of cold wind and a large, towering shadow. The shadow straightened to the shape and face of Lieutenant Kawir, his escort, his guard and his bagman. That look of disapproval on his pretty angelic face had now sharpened to a scowl as if Brachilli was a heretic who had crawled away from an absolution.

Brachillio got his feet before the handsome bastard could spoil his game. He already half-did by putting his pretty little nose into this matter, ‘That’s one of me associates. Need a word with him.’

Brachillio gestured to a far corner, away from Holam and into the darkness.

Kawir followed, the condemnation not leaving his face. ‘You sneaked away. You promised me that you’ll wait there and here I find you, making deals in the dark. What’s wrong with you?’

The only person wrong here, apart of the black-hearted Holam was Kawir. He was Kawir Matheran, a man who had too much opinion of himself and too little sense or courtesy, a title before his name and an ancestry of inbred bastards after it.

Brachillio sighed, ‘I don’t need reminding. I just wanted to get some information—‘

Kawir bullied on, ‘Bullshit. I told you to leave this alone. I said that I would handle it. I’ll have some of my best men look into that scumbag, but we have bigger things to worry about. Protector Anker sent me with express orders that I get you to him at the earliest. You are putting everything into jeopardy.’

‘I know, I know.’ Brachillio was feeling irritated, needled. He didn’t to be reminded of his responsibilities by anybody, much less a handsome, blue-blooded bastard, ‘This won’t take long. Just a few—‘

‘None of the ships want to even go close to Corrundum and this last one who’s agreed to take us for a small fortune is getting tetchy, impatient.’

‘It’s just a little while. He can wait for—‘

‘Didn’t you hear me? I said he’s getting worried.’

‘Go hold his hands if he’s getting worried. That’ll console him. You’ve got a face that’s pretty enough for—‘

Kawir interrupted him again, ‘The situation in Corrundum is bad. I’ve told you. We don’t have time for these little games. You have to—‘

That snapped something in him. Nobody told him what to do. Certainly not a blue-blooded inbred bastard. Nobody. ‘Stop fucking interrupting me, Kawir or I’ll swear I’ll decorate that pretty little face of yours so that even your mother can’t recognize it.’

Kawir stumbled, surprised at his anger.

‘There are somethings that I can’t walk away from and this sniveling, self-satisfied scumbag is one of them. You can either stick with me while I get on it with or get out of sight. Got it?’

‘Sure, Brachillio, but—‘

‘That’s fucking better. And you better stop calling me that. We don’t everybody to know who I am, do we? Now, shut up, keep it shut and follow me. You’re here to carry my bags, not order me around. We’ll have it done before your prissy little captain throws a fit.’

Holam had gotten impatient when Brachillio walked back, ‘You’ve spoken to your associate. What’s the final word?’

‘Two dozen you say?’ Brachillio pretended to still think.

‘Ripe and ready.’ Holam dipped in his head in a nod.

‘I want to look at them before we seal it.’

‘Done.’ Holam slapped his hands on the table and then put his right hand forward.

Brachillio shook the proffered soft, fleshy hand with enthusiasm but he would have sooner had his hand wrapped around the bastard’s neck. He would have shaken it until the eyes popped.

‘I’ll make the arrangements. You’d want to see them immediately?’

‘Of course.’

Holam was gone with the words of ‘I’ll be back’, the scraping of his chair and the long, reluctant squeak of the door as he squeezed through.

Brachillio turned to Kawir and gestured, ‘We’ll be done sooner than it takes to squeeze a bolt out of a crossbow.’

Kawir replied like a boy who’d just had his favorite toy pulled from his hand, ‘Now’s the hard part. We’ve got to fight them now. Just the both of us.’

Brachillio grinned and for the first time in a long while he felt happy, excited even. He hadn’t expected how glad he was to see Holam again. ‘I’ve never let a thing like odds get in the way of having some fun. And it’s about time we have some.’

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A pretty sizable post to begin with. The story will get updated every Sunday, with the size of the updates ranging from 1.5 to 2K usually though the next update may be longer than that.

Please share your feedback below.  Any thoughts would be sincerely appreciated.

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