The Short Stories
The short stories of Judah Lamey,
as well as the Stories of Quillville.
as well as the Stories of Quillville.
Fire with Fire is a Serialized story by Judah Lamey, set in his world of Aleta.
It is not part of Quillville.
You can find Fire with Fire Part:1 Here
Fire With Fire Part 2:
Daniel Rickman had been very careful in laying out his plans to catch his thief. It was like trapping a sparrow with your bare hands, it took time and patience, and it was impossible unless you found a way to lure them to you. Stopping in front of a small window that displayed a chaotic pile of fabrics, Daniel did one last mental check and ran over his pitch. He doubted that there could be two thieves in Midura that would fit his need, he had to make this work.
Stepping into the shop, Daniel made small adjustments to his bearing to make himself more intimidating. A trick he had perfected over years. Winding his way around tables piled high with rolls of fabric he made his way to the back where an older, but far from frail man stood behind a wooden table smoothed and polished from years of use. A chip of chalk stuck out from behind the man’s ear, and he fingered a pair of long sheers. This was not the best part of town, and more than likely he would have had more than one chance to use those sheers to scare off street vultures looking for an easy coin.
“What can I do for you good sir?”
Daniel dropped his voice as he answered, “I pulled you aside the other night and asked you a few questions. Asked you to keep your eye out for a friend of mine. Just wanted to see if you had any luck with that.”
The shopkeep’s eyes flashed in recognition, but his tone was calm, “Didn’t recognize you in the light of day without your hood up.”
Daniel resisted the urge to smile, he liked people who had the guts to mock a threat. Instead he glared and waited.
Seeing he was not going to get any reaction from that, the old man leaned forward across the table and smiled, “Haven’t seen or heard a whisper from ‘em.” That smile did not touch his defiant eyes.
Cracking his knuckles Daniel leaned forward as well, “I suggest for your health, that you keep a sharper eye, old man.” A bland and vague threat would be expected. Now to throw him off a little. “This, is so you remember me next time.” Daniel laid down a pair of coins on the table that would match what this shop could make in a week. Then he turned on his heels and left behind a very confused shop keeper.
Daniel hated threatening people. If he ever caught any of his guards pulling what he had just done they would never set foot in the city again. They would be lucky to get out of the city unscathed. However, today it was his only choice. He had been asking after his thief around the city and they had to know he was looking for them. Until now however, no one he had asked could have recognized him. He had just plucked a strand of a spiders web, it wouldn’t be long now.
Walking slowly down the street, he made no effort in the least to hide. To that end the store was barely out of sight when he noticed that he was being followed. A pair of gutter children, doing a surprisingly good job of it too. Maybe he should make room on his Shadow Hunters for a few of those. They went everywhere, and were overlooked by most. There was, of course, the glaring down side of them being able to be bought off with a few hot meals. Two more blocks, and he heard the sound of small feet pattering across the street, now abandoning all stealth.
Had he mis-judged his thief? Where one of those children sent to stab him in the back? Suddenly a swarm of thoughts sprang into his head, filling him with doubts. What if instead of sending word to the thief that the man looking for him was about, the shopkeeper had given the coins to a pair of gutter snipes if they knifed him in the street. Spinning, he put his hands out, he would not draw his blades on a child. It was a young girl that ran at him, her hair tied back with a scarf and wearing rolled up pants. She held no weapon, but her face was intent. What was she doing? Daniel stepped up snapping his hands out to catch her arms. The girl slid around his grasp like smoke, leaping to the side she kicked off the wheel of a cart and launched herself back at him, Daniel tried to spin, but she was already in the air behind him her elbow connecting with his ear.
Curses and profanities did their best to escape his lips as Daniel spun around again, one eye squinting as he fought back the pain. She disappeared down an ally, and Daniel gave chase ignoring both the pain, and laughter of the few that had seen his embarrassment. The homes and buildings in this part of town had been built and expanded in erratic styles and fashion, and the alleyway twisted and turned twice in twenty running paces. However the second turn showed him a dead end. There had been no off shoots, where had he missed the girl? Some bolt hole to slide into? It wouldn’t have been hard he hadn’t seen her again after she disappeared into the alley. If he caught that little wisp of a thing, he would…Well he wasn’t sure what he would do, shake her till her teeth rattled, or offer her a job, it really could go ether way.
Her disappearing however was a moot point, because this dead end was a sprung trap. Thus it was also exactly where he wanted to be, but it still irked him that he had lost the girl so quickly. Walking to the dead end he turned to look back the way he had come.
Standing between him and the way out was a masked figure. Its clothes were black, and held tight to its skin with cloth wrappings. The tattered ends of which blew in the wind. The thief was so thin as to look like a corpse wrapped in a black shroud for its burial. Thin, yes, but Daniel had experience in sizing up opponents, and there was a lean muscular build under that skeletal appearance. Completing the disconcerting appertain was the mask. It was smooth and black, removing all form or detail from the face, all but a jagged white painted smile. Long black hair blew out around the mask in the wind.
Without a word the figured reached behind its back and brought out a black rod two handspans long with a wicked hook on one end and a large ring on the other. Then the figure started forward, Daniel had hoped this confrontation would not start with a fight, but he had figured it might. One did not ask questions and threaten people in the criminal underworld long without repercussions.
Reaching under his cloak he went for his two knives. Except, they were not there. A laugh burst from him. That little gutter rat.
“I guess that gives a new definition to a bump and lift.” Daniel rubbed at his ear. The masked figure hesitated, and Daniel continued, “I might still have it in me to beat you bare handed, but if it’s all the same to you I would rather not find out. I am truly sorry about threatening that friend of yours. I left him enough coin to compensate the fright. You see, I’ve been trying to find you, and this was the only way I could think of. This part of town is surprisingly loyal to you.”
The figure didn’t advance or relax. It stood as silent and steady as a statue, only it’s hair and the tattered ends of its wrappings rustled about it.
“My name is Daniel Rickman, I am the captain of the City Guard.”
With a whistle the figure jerked its head toward the mouth of the ally and the young girl darted into sight and then back down the ally, carrying Daniel’s knives.
“You’re Grin.” With a wry smile Daniel added, “I can’t imagine where that came from.”
Grin tilted their head slightly.
“I am here to recruit you. I have looked into you, going over every scrap of information that this city has. There were a lot of pieces to put together, and it took me quite awhile.” He lowered his voice, “I know who you are Jack.”
At that, Grin jerked back as if burned, his head whipping around to look and see if anyone had been close enough to hear.
Daniel continued, “More than that, I know why it is that you do what you do, and how you pick your targets.” Grin reached up with his free hand and pulled off his mask. His face was beaded with sweat, apparently that mask was not the coolest of attire. “This city needs you, I won’t threaten you I am not bribing or blackmailing you. This can only work if you come to it willingly. There are too many that think themselves gods in this city, that think of themselves as untouchable. You are among them, but not one of them, and for that I need you. The City Guard does nothing but walk the streets and put on a show, I am the first to admit it. We need the ability to look into crimes, to hunt those responsible. We need to bring justice, not just say we stand for it. We need to do what you wanted us to do all those years ago when you came to us. You asked us for help and we said no. For that I am sorry. I am putting together a new guard, one that will give the evil in this city no place to hide.”
Grin looked him in the eye for a long, silent moment. “You can do this?”
Daniel nodded, “With you and few others help I can.”
Then Grin flicked his hand forward and Daniel heard a clink by his boot, he looked down and saw a small black stone, reaching down and picking it up, he turned it to see that on the other side was painted into a likeness of Grin’s mask. Unsurprisingly the thief was gone when he looked back up.
Slowly a genuine, joy filled smile started to spread across his face. He had his thief, and his new guard was officially begun. Now for the hardest of the three, to recruit an honorable murderer.
Fire With Fire Part 1: The Leader
Theron, a sprawling country laying across the land like a child napping after a brisk adventure, and a warm meal. To the north the border was as crisp a line as could exist. The constant strain with its bordering country of Ruthrien kept Theron in check. However, to the south the land simply grew harsher and colder to the point where no one had been able to find out what lay beyond the snows bite. Just out of the reach of this white desert lay the city of Midura.
Built almost from the first stone to be a beautiful city. Designed all in curves and graceful lines. The lord’s home was nestled in with the mansions of the wealthy merchants, surrounded by a wall of smooth and polished stone. Impossible to defend against any but the most slovenly of attackers. Adorned with vines, and flowing flowers, small trees grew from artfully crafted nooks. On the outside of this less than daunting defense spread the homes of the comfortable folk. Men and women who had worked their way out of the streets, who still had to keep a shrewd eye on their coins, but who rarely wanted for much. Their homes stood, less ornamented but mirroring the beauty of Midura none the less. These homes acted as a shield of wood and stone, protecting the wealthy from the assault of the third section of town, the market district.
There was nowhere you could go to be truly free of those aiming to sell you something, but the market district is where the song of coin reached its crescendo. Midura was a very successful quarrying town, or that is how it had made it’s start. The merchants started the town, and it was the worst kept secret that they had ruled it ever sense. However, the city had not really made its mark on the maps until the artisans moved in. They were drawn from all over the realm. And one could see at least two aspiring artist hawking creations from nearly any point in the market district. Over the years, of the names revered in the artisan community, at least two in three lived for a time in Midura.
And so, through merchants and artisans, money had come to Midura. And like a mold growing in the dark recessed of a beautiful home, crime began to grow in the shadows of this beautiful city. But, as shadows grow, so do the few lights.
Hunching his shoulders, Daniel Rickman, did his best to hide his imposing frame. He tried not to march down the street, feeling somehow naked without his uniform. Today, unlike most, he did not wear the green and silver that would have marked him as a City Guard, nor did his sword hang on his hip, that was the herald of his station as Captain of the Guard. No, today he had donned the stained leathers of a common workman, a cloak across his shoulders. More than a disguise, the cloak also concealed a pair of long bladed knives that were tucked into the back of his belt. His shuffling gate, and slumping posture further concealed his identity, he had even left off his morning shave. It was hard not to itch at the stubble.
Daniel Rickman was after a fashion both on and off duty today. He answered only to the lord of the city, Gregory Stint, the supposed leader of Midura. Stint did not see the merit of, nor did he encourage the pursuit of Daniel’s goals today. Though his station as captain over the city guard demanded of him to do his duty, and guard this city. For he loved Midura, like a sailor loves the sea. No matter how fickle, or treacherous, it was his life, pure and simple.
These thoughts, led him to take a moment and stop and observe his city, to truly see it, smell it, and feel it. His attention was drawn to an elderly woman standing behind a table laden with fruit, calling out that her sweet cherries were the finest around. Walking over he pulled a handful of coins from his pocket and thumbed over what she was asking without barter. She said nothing, but he noticed the twitch at her lips and eyebrow that told him he had overpaid, to her surprise and joy. However, as he watched he saw her toss out a few bad cherries as she gathered his into a small woven bowl, and his smile was genuine as he thanked her and continued on his way, briefly scratching at the stubble on his chin.
Popping one of the dark red fruits into his mouth he bit into its meat and had to admit they were very good. He spit the seed into the gutter, and tossed another into his mouth. Daniel let his mind wander as he walked and ate, and unsurprisingly it drifted back to what brought him out today.
Nearly half a year back, he had been standing over the body of a murdered man, barely more than a boy. His throat cut, and everything in his rented rooms gone. Leaving his men to send for the grave diggers, Daniel had gone straight to Gregory Stint’s door, interrupting the lords dinner much to the dismay of the doorman. Daniel had barely held his temper in check as he nearly demanded time and resources to hunt down those responsible. Stint had set his dinner down, picking up his goblet and had begun a long winded and well rehearsed speech, with small breaks to sip at his wine.
Crime would be stopped with vigilance. Focus not on the past, and those things that can not be changed, focus instead on the future. Walk the streets and keep a keen eye. Other such meaningless drivel that all meant the same thing. Daniel had been dismissed with a pat on the back, his fury smothered under hopelessness.
To hunt down criminals would stir up interest, and on some level it would be admitting there was crime in Midura. As if ignoring it could somehow keep it at bay. Ignore the wolf in your bedroom before sleep, and you would never wake. Daniel would not stand for it. If the city guard were the shield of the city, it was time for a knife. A new guard that in many ways would have to be as hidden as the criminals they would hunt. He had told his idea to a good friend over a mug of ale, and his friend, being a wide eyed dramatic, had insisted the group be named the Shadow Hunters. It had a ring to it, and Daniel had nothing better to call them, so the idea had been formed, and named.
Time had passed, and Daniel had watched and listened, waiting, and today was the day all his waiting would pay off. His Shadow Hunters would have to be few to keep from coming to the attention of Stint.
There was a bit of risk to his plan. In order for it to work he would need people who knew the mind of the criminals they would hunt. Hunters who knew where to ask the right questions, and how things were done in the shadows of Midura. He had combed the ranks of his men, and found none that would fit his needs, he had found one that would fit A purpose, but that was for later. For now, Daniel found himself in need of a trustworthy thief.
Part 2: The Thief if now live. Read it HERE
Here you will find a growing collection of my Short Stories. From pieces I wrote for competitions, to some of my world building stories. Some of the longer ones, will be broken down and released as Chapters.