Episode 2

The Story So Far:

Ten Months Hence: Umberto de la Calle, the man who coached the Mytilan Militantes in the previous season’s Blue Blood Cup final, dodges clear of assassins on a cold, dank night of freezing rain. Though he initially escapes and hides from the pursuit, he overhears one hired killer speak to his employer. To Umberto’s shock, he recognizes the voice of the person who hired the assassins, but he is confused. He thinks: How many league governors want me dead? Needing to escape, he glances left and right, on the lookout for killers. He hadn’t thought to look up into the night sky. If he had, what came next wouldn’t have caught him by surprise.

Back in the Here and Now: Cassandra Thordwall, erstwhile pirate and now owner of the Mytilan Militantes, argues with her head coach, Umberto de la Calle, about the need to improve the team. He advocates protecting the alchemy in the squad by developing the skills of the existing players. Thordwall tells him the team needs better players right away and says she intends to procure a proven talent. She also tells him that she’s going to take the team “… to the next level and I’ll be damned if our old adversary Eguardo Giamucci, or Grimmy Grimejacket, or the Havoc god of death, himself, gets in my way.”


“By the tingling in my ears, de la Calle this way nears.”

Umberto whipped out his dirk and crouched, poised on the balls of his feet. He scanned the darkness. He couldn’t see anyone in his entranceway and the silky, female voice had reverberated off the walls as though emanating from multiple directions. He regretted having closed his front door behind him when he had entered. Now he had no light to see by, not even the moon’s ghost-light. He tossed away his coat, freeing up a hand.

“I’m armed,” Umberto called out. “And I’m angry. I’m dangerous when I’m angry.”

“Oh my! Dangerous in a good way, I hope. I must admit, seeing such a well-built man without a coat has shifted the tingling away from my ears …”

He lunged in a somersault, rolling into the parlour and springing back to his feet. He kept moving towards the small dining nook, but as he passed the window, he yanked the curtains off their rod. He made it to his little round table, overturning it and crouching behind it. The curtain rod crashed to the floor.

“Well, that is cute. You look like a Nordman cowering behind a one-man shield wall! ‘Once more onto the bitch!’ or something like that, am I right? It’s all so dramatic. Ssssstimulating!”

The chair in the parlour?

He now had scant light to see by and he thought he could make out someone in his cushioned armchair. This woman, whoever she was, could do something funny with her voice. It seemed as though she spoke from the entranceway but she hadn’t been there when he’d lunged away.

“I’ll not die murdered in my own home, see. And I’ll have my satisfaction from anyone who dares invade my flat.”

Satisfaction? Well, now you’ve got that tingling turned into a roiling itch, my dear. Satisfaction can be easily arranged … for both of us.”

“Who are you? Show yourself!”

There was a snap of fingers from the parlour and a point of blood-red light flared, hovering above the armchair. Its faint illumination revealed a shape nestled therein. He caught the movement of hair splaying out beyond the chair’s back. Elegant fingers descended away from the illumination and were enveloped by darkness. Beyond the armrest, he saw a glow of skin: one leg crossing over the other.

“Now, be a big boy and come out from hiding. I need to ask you some questions.”

“You didn’t say who you were. Who’s with you?”

“Oh, I don’t enjoy having people around for my … intimate encounters, especially if they lead to satisfaction. I know some who do, but I am nothing if not discrete. I can assure you, no one would have seen me gain entry to your humble abode. Too humble for the coach of the mighty Mytilan Miliantes, I would say. This place could use a woman’s touch … or a man’s … anyone with eyesight, I suppose.

“Come on, out with you,” she continued. “Your Ludwigsburg training should tell you I’m alone. And I must say, I am surprised to have caught unawares someone so trained. Lots on your mind, Señor de la Calle? Or perhaps just a guilty conscience? Come join me. Don’t be afraid. I don’t bite.” She smiled. “Well, that’s not true. Let me put it another way: I won’t hurt you … much. And not unless you tell me you liiiiike it.”

Umberto rose and tucked his dirk back into his belt. He set the table back on its legs. He snatched up the wooden curtain rod: it had broken in two, but each bit was just the right length to be used to club a home invader. He walked to the parlour. “Can you cast a bit more light? We Humans aren’t so good at seeing in the dark as the Nagra-Drani.”

“Ah! You know our formal name! Good for you. Doesn’t ‘Nagra-Drani’ sound so much more elegant than …” her voice dropped, mimicking a bumbling stevedore, “Dark Elfs!” Then her pitch returned to its normal, silky notes. “Or is it ‘Elves’? My Martispeak isn’t what it once was. More light, hmmm? Well, an evening for satisfaction demands romantic firelight, does it not?”

Suddenly the hearth exploded into flames. Umberto stifled a cry and leapt back, brandishing his improvised clubs as the light bedazzled him. But as his eyes adjusted to the brilliance, his ears reassured him; he didn’t hear the sounds of an attack. Instead, he heard the hearty rumble of amused laughter. “There. Now come sit. I helped myself to the only chair I found in here, but I noticed a stool over by the kitchen. Oh, and I opened that Montezino Superiore I found in your cellar. Grab yourself a goblet.”

Umberto closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Through clenched teeth he snarled, “You poked around my cellar?”

“I must say, your choice in wine is surprisingly refined. Nary a Pintó Macía to be found!”

He opened his eyes again and blinked against the firelight. To his relief, the flames were burning nothing more arcane than the logs he always laid out for the next fire. He returned to the nook, grabbed a stool, and crossed back into the parlour. He dropped the stool with a clatter and sat down. But he made sure much of his weight remained on the balls of his feet. He could see the Dark Elf now. A shock of white hair splayed out around her head, gleaming black leather boots on long, muscular legs, a face like the angel of death.

Dred Curseweaver

“You’re Dred Curseweaver.”

She bounced in the armchair and clapped. “How very astute of you! Yes, you identified the star player of the Duskdaggers! – she who led her team in casualties inflicted, completed passes, touchdowns scored, oh and kills. I think I only came second in that last category to that stampeding steak, the Minotaur Goriada. I doubt anyone else could have put a name to my face!”

He flashed her a crooked, sardonic smile. “What does the Duskdagger captain want with me?”

“I’d say ‘to share a goblet of wine’ but you haven’t done as I suggested and gotten yourself one. Oh well, your loss.” Her hand reached out to one of his silver goblets and, with a smirk, she raised it to lips painted black. “Don’t be irksome. Go get a goblet.”

“I don’t want wine. I want answers, see. And they’d best be straight ones if you’re as smart as you pretend.”

“ ‘Speak. Demand. We’ll answer’ ” she quoted. “I heard that in a play once. It had witches in it, you know. Though I didn’t like how they were portrayed. They lacked … verisimilitude.” She pursed her lips and nodded gravely. “Take it from me. I know about such things.”

For fucks’ sake! She’s a witch! Just like her sister, Nytmir, was!

“Hang on. I’ll go get that goblet.”

“You do that. And just so our expectations are clear, I expect some clear answers too.”

When he returned to the parlour, Dred had unbuttoned her leather vest and was fanning herself with his scouting reports, the scouting reports he had locked away upstairs in his office. “I do declare, it’s getting hot in here! I’ll soon have to take off my blouse. Do you know what a Nagra-Drani wears underneath her blouse? Would you like to?”

“Why are you here?”

“Why, to find my sister’s murderer, of course.”

“Nytmir died summoning a fire demon, ’tis said.” It came out cool, something matter-of-fact that everyone in Guayamartí knew since the previous autumn when that granary in the El Bosque Quarter blew up. His heart now pounded in his chest more rapidly than it had hitherto.

“Indeed, it is so said.”

“You think it was murder?”

She smiled and nodded. “I do. And I am intent on exacting revenge upon the murderer.”

“It’s also said she died conducting a disgusting ritual sacrifice to Nagra-Lath. She killed my friend Karsgaard Neuvil.”

“How do you know that, Umberto de la Calle?”

“I don’t. His body had a dagger wound in the chest … ’tis said.”

Dred nodded. “ ’Tis also said, by some who were nearby, that a large, well-built man was seen walking away from the granary when it blew up. This man didn’t give a start, didn’t flinch, didn’t dive for cover. He just walked on, calm and collected. It was almost as if he had … what do the Chivalrons say? … the sang-froid of a professional killer. Someone, say, trained in Ludwigsburg. Or certainly, someone who wasn’t taken by surprise: as though he had set certain things in motion.”

“I hadn’t heard that,” Umberto replied. “I’m sorry for your loss, Dred, but didn’t the Sommer Sea Football League’s Officer for Conduct, Rennigan Slythe, speak about Nytmir having summoned a fire demon? Granaries blow up when you add fire, you know.”

She gave him a broad smile. “Why thank you! I didn’t know that. Obviously, you did.”

He returned her smile.

Dred knocked back the rest of her wine and got to her feet. “I shan’t be paying for the curtain rod and your ripped drapes. That was your doing. But I should add that you’re wise to replace the drapes.” She shuddered. “Yeuch. Even one of Pillaging Peggy’s sails would be an upgrade! You know, I think Miranda Esquiv could help you find something more elegant.” 

She walked from the parlour and into the entranceway. Umberto followed. “Thank you for your visit, Dred. Next time don’t let yourself in. Don’t make yourself at home. Don’t crack open a precious bottle of Montezino Superiore. Mi casa no es su casa. Be a stranger.”

She chuckled as she buttoned up her vest against the cold, sleet-filled night before opening the front door. “I warned you: my Martispeak isn’t as good as it once was. But if I understood you, of course I’ll not make you wait an eternity for another visit. I do so like to spend some time with such well-built friends! It brings so many … benefits.”

She opened the door to the night and took a deep breath of the sea air coming in off the Calxi Strait. Then she turned and laid the palm of her hand against Umberto’s cheek. “My dear, there’s one thing that makes me wonder about what really happened that night.”

Umberto hoped Dred wouldn’t have felt his leg quiver through her hand. “What’s that?”

“My dear sister Nytmir wasn’t a summoner.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Shopping Basket