Monday, November 17, 2014

Spanish Fog

I've been straining to reach 50,000 words in my manuscript because tomorrow Dragon Age drops.

We've only been waiting for this for, oh, three years or so.

I crossed that line late Friday evening and promptly abandoned my manuscript for the second time. This novel is going to really hate me for how often I dump it for other things.

Just for you, a little preview of Spanish Fog. My man character, Vaho (the female bandit in the guise of a man), was sent on a little robbery missions but finds himself caught in a predicament.

 Vaho slid back from the door, slow as ice across a lake, and looked around the office. Curtains, a desk, and a cold fireplace. All could provide a hiding spot provided a blind man was hunting for him. Licking his fingers, Vaho snuffed out the candle. More of the incriminating wax dribbled to the floor as he tipped it over and laid it upon the desk. No reason to steal all of the Viscount’s wax.

He stepped to the window and looked across the small balcony. There’d be no way to latch it back up, but hopefully the guards wouldn’t notice or care. Sliding nearly blind fingers around the edge of the window sill, Vaho slid the clasps. The window opened up as more of the guards comments rose from outside the office.

“You’re right. Where’d the third candle go?”

Vaho stepped a foot out into the crisp night. He grabbed onto one curtain, tugging it free of the bonds and yanking it to cover his escape.

The office door rattled from behind the curtain. Holding a breath, Vaho pushed the window, praying it wouldn’t make a noise. A crack bounced as if someone slammed the door open, and Vaho stopped pushing on the window.

“You idiot!” one of the guards shouted.

“Sorry. I didn’t expect it to give like that.”

“Sorry? Sorry? Who knows what you scratched up.”

“Is that the candle on the desk?” Boots shuffled across the floor. Vaho glanced down but found only hard ground below. He’d survive the fall but wouldn’t easily walk away. Instead, Vaho tested the iron bars around the balcony. They didn’t give, that was promising. Sliding his weight upon a hand on the wall, he reached one foot at the top of the bars and carefully stretched to add the other.

Balancing precariously upon the perch, Vaho began to rise, reaching for the roof. The voices of the guards, having properly investigated the candle resumed, “Was that curtain always closed?”

The woosh of drapes being yanked back gave Vaho enough time to lean back, hidden in the shadow of the house. Now or never. Picking at the window, the guards bounced it against the frame. It’d be a matter of seconds before one poked his head out and turned around. Stepping back on the fencing, Vaho grabbed onto the edge of the roof and ran forward. His shoes caught on a few bricks, and from the force, he hauled his body up, but there was nothing to grab onto. Cursing the flat roof, Vaho leaned forward, crashing onto his side. His legs dangled off the roof as, sure enough, the head of a far too curious man poked out the window. By God’s grace he looked to his right first, missing the bandit yanking his legs out of sight.

“What was that noise?!”

“Probably squirrels,” the second guard said. “Come on, we need to get back out front. If we screw up tonight it’ll be our heads.”

“Right right,” the curious guard said. He looked out once more, his blonde head twisting around but never looking up at the eyes peering down off the roof.

Slowly, the head dipped back in and the scraping sounds of a closed window reverberated through the night. Vaho slipped from the edge, laying on his back watching the stars. The stamping of feet echoed through his ears, but Vaho heard only the pounding of blood in his brain, the ecstasy of pulling off an escape by the skin of his teeth. An idiotic grin pulled at his cheeks until they hurt. He stopped feeling terror at coming so close to the edge a long time ago. The joy was always there, hiding in the rags of fear from losing a limb or his head. It was probably why that young girl didn’t toss that stolen cloak into the fire the first time she was slashed across the leg. Instead she threw it on the next night and faced the storm alone.

Voices and stamping faded away, and Vaho rolled to his knees. Rising carefully, he balanced on the roof and glanced across the rooftops of Granada. Alhambra rested in the distance, a still burning spot amongst the slumbering silhouettes. Perhaps Ferdinand could not get a good night’s rest before his exit after all.

Now to find a ladder and get back to Mariana, Vaho thought to himself as he slid across the terra cotta roof. A few shingles rolled under his feet, threatening to toss him to the ground below, but he managed to keep upright, sliding towards the edge. “I’m glad I don’t have to do this often,” his breath smoked the cold air.

Walking slowly, he found the edge at the back of the house, near the garden and, hopefully, a working ladder. “Gaines, you better have come through.”

He lowered to his stomach and felt around the eaves like a blind man. Only cold shingles answered back until he bumped into something. His reflexes grabbed for the tumbling ladder before his mind caught on. Steadying the old girl, he slid his body towards the edge and placed a foot upon the step. It groaned in the cold, but accepted his weight.

“It’s a good thing I only had a bit of a peacock,” he muttered, placing another foot on the ladder and slowly climbing down.

The guards couldn’t hear him, they were already back at the front arguing about heaven knew what. Guards weren’t hired for their philosophical thoughts. Vaho’s foot made it down another three rungs before it slipped. He gripped tighter to the ladder and tried again, but only air answered back.

“Half a ladder, brilliant,” but glancing down his legs he saw the ground a reachable distance below.
Vaho placed both feet on the last rung and jumped off the ladder. Thanks to the seeping ice, the ground was harder than steel as it twisted his legs, but he staggered up, massaging life back into the aching shins.

Smiling up at the ladder, Vaho raised his hood and turned to disappear into the garden. Out of the darkness, something smashed into his concave gut. Vaho stumbled back when fingers latched onto his arm. He twisted around to punch the face, but another arm grabbed him, pinning his body in place.
A lantern struck up, bleaching Vaho’s eyes. He blinked quickly to adjust as the lantern bearer chuckled, “This, this is the fearsome bandido?”

Vaho twisted in the grip of two city guards, but their fists fully wrapped around his thin arms. There was no breaking free.

“What? No acerbic response?” the man taunted. His mustache twisted in a cruel wave across a tanned face. By the flair across his uniform he was important, by the burn upon his skin not important enough to remain indoors.

“I was out for a little stroll,” Vaho tried. His mind twisted in the wind, any attempt at a plan ended in visions of the noose.

“Upon the Viscount’s roof? With,” the captain reached his hand inside Vaho’s cloak. The bandit held his breath, praying it didn’t come out as her breath. But the captain was only interested in the paper folded inside his pocket, “private documents no less? Tsk tsk, that is high treason.”

“To possess a piece of paper is treason now? The King must have every road to Aragon lines with clerics,” Vaho laughed. His head snapped to the side as pain burst across his face. He sagged while light pinged over his eyes, but the guards held him up as the captain nursed his hand.

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