Verses 6 & 7 of Allaigna’s Song: Aria will be release soon in Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017. Here’s a snippet …
The Bard’s Bail
The sun was unseasonably bright and cheerful, I thought, given my mood.
I couldn’t fathom what had possessed my self-appointed squire, Raddick — despite the eagle and a half worth of small coins I’d given him to complete his shopping errands — to attempt instead to steal a leg of cured mutton hanging from a butcher’s stall. I learned the reason later: it was his pressing sense of obligation to me, wanting to save me a few coins and lessen the burden he made on my purse.
Of course he was already in the stocks by the time I’d spotted the commotion across the market square and pressed my laden way through the crowd. All of his purchases and his purse had been confiscated by the guard, and, after I bought Raddick’s freedom, I had further negotiating to do to release his possessions. They were lighter by at least a third than they ought to be, but I had no way of proving it.
I loaded him up with my shopping as well, and sent him, shamefaced from my scolding, back to where Dog camped a league outside town. The reason we had separated in the first place was so I could buy new underclothes, and that task was still unfinished.
I set off, head down, grumbling at the inconvenience and cost of being liege to even one dim lad. I had only made fifty disgruntled paces when a large firm hand settled itself on my shoulder.
“Hold up a bit there, lad.”
I came to a slow stop and gave an even slower quarter turn of the head, just enough to see my interlocutor. It was one of the city watch: not the thick-jawed clerk or the hoary veteran I’d dealt with for Raddick’s release, but the one who’d been sitting at the back of the guardroom, whetting and oiling his sword.
Some rusty instinct began screaming at me to run, but I didn’t pull back from the hand, which I felt would only tighten if I did. I simply stood, knees bent, weight on my toes to see how this new development would hinder me.
He walked to cross in front of me, that enormous hand never letting go of my shoulder as if in some strange madrigal. He held me at arm’s length, studying both me and a sheet of parchment in his other hand.
“Nalen, is it?” he asked. It was the name I’d used to sign Raddick’s release; but it was also the name, so foolishly close to my own, that I’d given at Doniver’s camp. He must have felt the involuntary quiver that ran through me, for his grip tightened. “Ye’ll need to come back to the guardhouse wi’ me,” he said, not unkindly.
My feet were glued to the cobbles, resisting the gentle pull on my shoulder.
“Naught to fear, lad,” he encouraged. “A simple misunderstanding. Ye’ll not be punished.”
Fear warred with curiosity. What could that parchment say, and what did it reveal about me? With practice borne of many sibling battles, I dropped down out of his grasp and twisted up again, snatching the parchment from his other hand as I hurtled off across the public square. The curiosity had hurt me, though. The twisting motion I’d used to reach the parchment had sent a twinge of pain through my knee, not to mention costing me a heartbeat of time. Sometimes I still wonder what difference that fraction of a second might have made.
As it was, I only just missed escaping down an alley as a drover backed his oxen into it. I tried anyway, hitting the cobbles with my already sore knee, and scrabbling like a lizard between the cart’s moving wheels. I was almost home free when that large muscled hand clamped down on me again, this time on my ankle, and pulled me out like a load of washing against the washboard cobbles, not nearly so gentle this time around.
“I said, lad,” he puffed, once he’d pulled me upright by the collar. “Yer master don’t plan to punish ye. But make me run like that again and I might do it for him.”
Pre-orders of Issue 16 are $2 off until September 1st, so shotty your copy before midnight.
It’s a fabulous issue, with cover art by Akem, a feature story from kc dyer, short fiction from Erin Kirsh, FJ Bergmann, Susan Pieters, Brandon Crilly, and Patrick Bollivar, Magpie Award-winning poets Oak Morse, Leah Komar, and Glenn Pape, a brand new Stella novella from Mel Anastasiou, and a whimsical new cartoon that I just adore from Rina Piccolo. Find it here
And if you’d like to get your copy signed, join us on September 18th at the Cottage Bistro on Main Street. I’ll be there, along with kc, Erin, Akem, Sue, and Patrick, plus several authors from Edge Publishing’s Compostela: Tesseracts Twenty, edited by Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner. Authors include Roxanne Gregory, Rhea Rose, Linda DeMeulmeester, Cat Girczyc, and Guy Immega. It’s a joint Edge/Pulp Lit launch, and as usual there will be plenty of good food, good beer, and good cheer!
Save your place at the Pulp Literature Autumn Launch by RSVPing below. See you there …