So Anthony asked me some time ago about when I was going to write a sequel to Thagoth. As I mentioned previously, there are several bits and pieces floating around, sequel and prequel and short story. I thought I might share a bit of the prequel, The Blade That Whispers Hate. In this scene, Holgren the mage gets to act like a bit of the bad-ass he is:
In a place like the Cock’s Spur, they don’t even bother putting out chairs or benches that don’t face the door. Nobody wants their back to any trouble that enters. As I came through the door, a couple dozen pairs of eyes skewered me. Well, except for the one hairy brute that had lost a beady, pig-like peeper somewhere, and in the not-too distant past, judging from the puss weeping out of the socket. He really should have considered an eye patch; if not for himself, then at least for anyone forced to look at him.
After a heartbeat, all the eyes slid right off me onto Holgren, which gave me faith in the fetish he’d given me. Or maybe it was the quality of his clothes. I heard Holgren sniff behind me.
“What’s that smell?” he murmured.
“I think they’re brewing ale.”
“Oh. I thought it was cat urine. Is it supposed to smell that way?”
“Maybe the house recipe calls for cat piss.” I’d heard of stranger ingredients, if not less disgusting. Bludgeoned roosters and the like. There was a reason I generally stuck to wine.
“I find myself appallingly unthirsty,” said Holgren.
“Come on, let’s brace the bartender.”
“About the ingredients?”
“About the owner.”
“Good idea. Take your complaint to the top, I always say.” Holgren was nervous. He joked when he was nervous, I’d finally figured out. That Holgren was nervous made me nervous. Which made me pissy. I strode over to the bar along the left-hand wall where the tap man was pushing a filthy rag along the filthy bar top.
“When you’re done rearranging the dirt, I want to speak to Gavon.”
“Ee innt ear,” the spindly man said, or something like it.
“Sorry, could you speak a human language?”
He hawked and spat. “Gavon’s not ‘ere.”
I lifted the heavy satchel to the bar top and lifted the flap so he could see. “Get him here, and soon, or I’ll let everybody in the place have a look at this. If I do that, they’ll try to take it away from me, and then me and my friend will have to kill them all. That won’t be good for business.”
He stared at me for a second. “You couldn’t take um all.”
“If they take Gavon’s gold, it won’t matter if we could or couldn’t. Not to you, anyway, because he’ll kill you for pissing around instead of minding his business.”
He thought about that. “That’s a point. Stay ‘ere.”
He drifted up a set of decrepit stairs into the gloom above. Three of the bigger patrons seemed to take that as a signal for opportunity. They got up and walked toward Holgren and me, bad intent written all over their faces. I slipped a knife into the palm of my hand, but Holgren stepped between me and them.
“Gentlemen,” he said, purple light suddenly arcing from hand to hand, “the tap man will be back shortly. I’m sure he’ll see to refills then. Until such time, I suggest you remain seated.”
Two of them saw the sense in that. One, a lean man with enormous hands, fingered something under his shirt. Some sort of talisman. I could see him deciding to place his faith in it.
“Why, I just wanted to have a word, all private-like,” he said. “You being newcomers to this fine establishment and all, I thought—” and the knife came from his waist and towards Holgren’s throat in a blur of reflected lantern light.
Holgren was quick, quicker than I would have given him credit for. He twisted away, and the knife blade kissed his earlobe on its way to being buried in the wall behind the bar.
The man wasn’t waiting to see if his blade would do the job; he was already rushing in with those big hands clenched into fists. Holgren put his own hand out, palm forward, and that purple arcing light leaped from his hand to the would-be killer’s face. Where it began to gnaw at the flesh like a hungry animal. In an instant I could see the man’s teeth through a hole in his cheek. He screamed and stumbled, and clawed at his own face. He fell to the hard packed dirt floor and screamed some more. Holgren fingered his cut earlobe. His hand came away red. He pulled a handkerchief out of his sleeve.
“That’s enough, mage.” A voice from the stairs, mild, a little high pitched. I glanced up and saw a supremely nondescript man drumming his fingers against the railing, the tap man behind him.
“He started it, Gavon.”
“So finish it, Angrado.”
“Fine.” Holgren did nothing that I could see, but the weird light playing on what was left of the man’s face winked out. The man stopped screaming. I glanced at him, then took a double take. The only wounds on his face were the claw marks he’d made himself.
Holgren leaned down, elbows on knees, and said conversationally, “That trinket around your neck has never been within a mile of a mage. Until tonight.” Then he stood and walked toward the stairs. After a second, I followed.