Delay in Broadcast Plus Short Story Bonus
Some of you know that our website was down Wednesday late and early Thursday morning. I don’t know how much this mucked with voting, but I have decided to delay the show until the winning (and leaving) contestant has a minimum of 5 votes.
In place of Episode 8, I offer a glimpse into a new short story I’m working on that will be featured in a Depths of Peril short story collection. The story is called "Pinch of Crazy" and reveals some of how the world has changed after the Fourth Great War. Enjoy.
The Blue Coin was the fullest Keewin had ever seen the place. Many depressed traders lamented over lost trade routes to dwarven lands, the lumen source for exotic goods, while spending the last of their earnings on Brown Water beer.
“Stupid orcs and their stupid war.” Lurok downed a shot of White Fire. His pale face glowed in the light from the table lamp while shadows defined large blue eyes on a lumen small face and frame. “Makes the government go crazy. No travel outside of lumen territories. No one gives a rock about us crazies, don’t care if we go out of business competing with boring traders. It’s a load of work for scant coin.”
Lurok’s grumbling wasn’t new to his trade-mates, Keewin and Kiro. His argument about the pay was amusing, since everyone knew he really wanted to practice magic, particularly taming wild creatures. One didn’t find many wild animals inside the cavernous lumen territories. Certainly no dangerous kinds.
“Sometimes I wish the council would send out some warriors,” Keewin said, swirling a finger in his beer. “I’m as anxious as anyone to get back on the road now that we’ve no reserves of exotics to sell.”
Kiro shook his head. “They’d never do it.”
“I know.” Keewin sighed. “The only warriors who could leave the territories would be crazies like us, and even I’m cautious enough to know that’s insane.”
“Ah yes,” Lurok said. “The rule of survival- plenty of crazy with a pinch of caution.”
Caution was a way of life for the lumen. Most couldn’t physically leave the lumen territories without getting the shakes but those few who could had an immense advantage in the market. Keewin was excited when he found he didn’t suffer from the shakes. The profit outweighed the negative reputation. Through the years, he’d even learned to use being called crazy to his advantage. Only crazy people mess with crazies.
The Blue Coin wasn’t a dive like some of the trader bars. It had a magical curtain doorway, containing the sound within. Approaching the place, you never knew if it’d be packed or empty inside. Three traders Keewin recognized walked through the curtain. Tezzi, the leader of the group, grunted. He was thin like most lumen, which made the stout warrior, Horrib stand out all the more. Most of the drinkers turned back to their conversations as Horrib pushed his way through the crowd to the bar. The third member, a priest called Ammer, stared at Keewin from the doorway.
“Ho,” Keewin called. “Tezzi, Ammer, good trading. Care to join us?”
Tezzi’s eyes caught his, and he nodded. “Brujar’s blessing.” He pulled up an empty stool with Ammer following suit.
“How’s the trading?” Keewin asked.
“Turkey spit in a cave-in, that’s what,” Tezzi replied. “Those dumb-arse dwarves need to get off their butts and kick those trouble-making orcs back to hell and the hereafter.”
Lurok nodded. “I wish I had an orc to magic. A docile orc pet could be advantageous on the road.”
Tezzi frowned. “The only good orc is a dead orc.”
Lurok shrugged, staring off into the bar. Probably imagining his pet orc lugging around heavy merchandise.
“Heard from your dwarven friend lately?” Tezzi asked.
“No word.” Keewin shook his head. “I’m getting worried. It isn’t like Copperwheel to be out of contact. He sent missives by bat when the war first broke, but now… The bat rectory gets nothing foreign.”
“Maybe the orcs are shooting them down.” Kiro said.
“All of them?” Lurok shook his head. “They would catch them all.”
Keewin sighed, glancing around the table as Horrib returned with drinks for is pals. Ammer didn’t seem to notice. He continued staring at Keewin. It was getting creepy.
“What’s up with Ammer?” Keewin asked. Tezzi’s eyebrows raised as he looked at his friend.
“You’re planning something,” Ammer said.
“What?” Tezzi asked. “A job?” He stared at Keewin, eyes gleaming. “What is it?”
“I don’t have a thing. That’s why I’m sitting in a bar instead of dusting up the road.”
“Ammer is never wrong about these things.” Tezzi rubbed his hands together. He wouldn’t be shaken.
Keewin looked down at his drink. “Ain’t about trade, what I’m thinking.”
Kiro’s eyes widened as he looked sidelong at Keewin. “We haven’t decided yet.”
“For Brujar’s sake, spit it out man!” Tezzi sat on the edge of his seat.
“Like I said, it ain’t trade.”
“Tezzi leaned back. “Fine, it ain’t trade.” He lifted his hand in a dismissive gesture. “But tell me it’s less boring than watching my pouches bleed dry, and I’m interested.”
Horrib drank his beer in one large gulp. “Work would be good.”
Keewin leaned forward. “I don’t want this to get out, even to the crazies, cause it’s just that crazy.”
Kiro folded his arms around his chest frowning. “You have decided then? What I say doesn’t matter.”
Keewin sighed. “It’s not like that, Kiro.” He closed his eyes, shaking his head. “It’s something I’ve got to do. Go home. Visit your family. You don’t have to come.”
“You’re going out, but I can’t see why,” Ammer said.
Keewin’s mouth dropped open. “How do you know?”
“He’s close to Brujar, that one.” Tezzi said. “Brujar whispers things he can hear. It’s why I brought him on my team in the first place.”
“Handy,” Lurok said before taking a sip of his drink.
“Quite. Like now in fact. Just what are you planning on doing out in the unprotected wilds, if not exotic trading?”
“I’m leaving my goods behind. To dangerous to risk the cart.” Keewin finished his beer, slamming the empty cup on the table. “I’m thinking, a little reconnaissance. I want to see just what’s going on in the dwarven areas. Maybe check on Copperwheel.”
“Holy sandstone, but you’re crazy!” Tezzi exclaimed. “There’s no sense in it.”
“Then you’d advice against it,” Kiro asked. Tezzi sighed, looking at Ammer.
“Change is coming,” Ammer said.
“Just what does that mean?” Lurok asked, scratching his chin.
“We should go,” Ammer said.
Tezzi nodded. “You got room for three more?”
“Just like that,” Kiro said, raising his voice. “Is there no more caution among restless traders?”
Tezzi frowned. “Don’t get me wrong, Kiro. I think it’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard. Wouldn’t do it, wouldn’t even consider it, really.”
“Then why?” Kiro balled his fist near his forgotten drink.
“Ammer is always right about these things.”
“You trust him with your life? With your very mind?” Kiro looked from Tezzi to Horrib.
“I do,” Horrib said. “Saved my life, he did. More’n once.”
“See Kiro,” Keewin said. “Brujar provides. We’ll be safe with five, and you can go home.”
Kiro’s head hung and they couldn’t see his face. “I have to go. It isn’t right to split the team. It’s bad luck.”
Writer for Soldak
Yes. Soldak is going to publish an anthology of Depths of Peril stories sometime soon.
Writer for Soldak