Hey everyone, Tim here. Today’s chapter will be the last serial fiction on the site for a while. I need to evaluate if posting fiction here is a good use of my time, as it really disrupts my writing of other fiction. This chapter wraps up the current story. Enjoy!
Here is just a quick reminder I have two new books out.
Now back to the story.
Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.
Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.
Sarsa, city of countless exiles.
Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.
Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.
That is the Sarsa to be watched.
And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.
The sapphire-inlaid mask slid across the smooth counter of the morning bar, an establishment on the south edge of Nicodod Ring. The place would not open for another fifteen minutes, but the proprietor knew Kelebek when he saw her, and let her in the door. She looked at the old man behind the counter. “What can you make of that?” she asked.
“The korda diplomat’s mask. I know a collector who may be interested.” He took the mask off the counter and replaced it with a bag of coins. “Hope it’s worth the trouble.”
Kelebek smiled at the old man. “Me too,” she said, “time will tell.”
A short distance away, down the street at dawn, walked Martin and Saint. They were off duty for the day, but everyone trusted Kelebek to hold onto their shares once she fenced the mask. Good thing too, Martin thought, yawning. He needed food and sleep in that order. Martin glanced at the hulking golem walking at his side. “You alright?” he asked, holding up a small pad of paper.
Saint’s airborne pen scrawled a few letters on Martin’s paper.
Martin read the two words to himself. Worried. Alina.
He looked at Saint and nodded. “Me too big guy. Me too.”
Once Alina changed into her damp clothes from the night before, Rethe shewed her onto the dock as quickly as she could. She had not asked for a share of the crew’s profits. The girl had killed Ceth, and that would make life interesting for her awhile yet. She raised the houseboats anchor and removed the line from the dock. “Until next time, kids,” she said to the two young thieves on the dock. They did not answer her as the boat pulled away.
Percival walked with Alina, feeling as tired inside as she looked outside, but not nearly as down-trodden. He knew why. He had not taken a life this morning. Though he worried about her, he did not know what he could say. When she ran forward to help Martin as Ceth prepared to strike, she ought to have known what could happen. By Percival’s estimate, killing Ceth was nowhere near the worst it could have been. He sighed when they parted ways, then pulled his dust coat around his shoulders, and walked for home.
Alina did not go home, not right away. She marched steadily east through the city, toward the Furnace of Confession. Every day, countless pilgrims and believers wrote their sins on small pieces of paper. Every night, those secret confessions went into the fire, symbolizing the angels forgiving the sinners.
Alina had offered confessions their before, and fairly regularly when she was a few years younger. Yet, never had she felt so filthy, so in-need of forgiveness as that morning, with the bloodstains left on borrowed clothes, and the implement of murder still stowed, freshly cleaned, in the concealed sheath in her trouser-leg.
On a scrap of paper, she took from the woman overseeing the collection of sins, she wrote the crime. Murder. Her hand trembled as she wrote. Once she folded the paper up and dropped it into the basket of metal wire with those filled out by others, she hoped she would feel better, feel forgiven. She did not.
Even that night, when she went to meet the others and the smoke drifted over the city from the Furnace of Confessions, she could only think of the blood dripping from the blade. Every time she recalled it, she knew what she had done would not be easily forgotten or forgiven. From on high, the angels answer the righteous. From below, the demons answer the wicked.
And in Sarsa, those who work in the dark could only truly answer to others who ply the shadows. The girl who felt remorse looked ordinary to the people she passed that night, but to those who could see into the heart, she would have been the rarest sight in the city. Few would pray for forgiveness here, and fewer still could find it.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this story.