Read An Excerpt

by Mark Charan Newton

Genre: General Fantasy, Fantasy

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Malum lingered, in the frozen night. Now wearing a white mask, a few paces from the corner or Ru Nár – a little too close to home for comfort, but he had to get this business out of the way. A hundred lanterns and the occasional biolume shifted around the city streets, like the heavens at night swirling around here on the ground. Fiacres were still passing carrying night-goers to illicit destinations. Two blonde girls in cloaks walked by, laughing, bottles clinking, heels clacking, a sight so typical of this area in Villiren. A redhaired woman shuffled in his direction, heavily pregnant, then stumbled and dropped her bag to the cobbles. She obviously couldn’t afford to buy a new coat to suit her condition so her belly ballooned beneath her present one, forcing it to part. He wondered what babies thought, cocooned in all that sticky warmth? Does this one have any instinct of the hell it’s about to be born into?

He stepped forward, thinking, Sod it if my cover’s blown – to help her collect her scattered cuts of meat from the ground. At first she might have thought he was there to rob her, but then she murmured a grateful ‘Thank you’ as he handed her back the possessions. As they exchanged quick glances, Malum could smell the deep scent of her… her blood.

He hadn’t felt like this for so long because he could usually control the urge. Immediately he turned aside and the pregnant woman continued on her way.
He needed to get back in the zone, that certain mental space he needed to inhabit – in order to do what he was about to do.

It was one of dozens of public squares in Villiren, but one of the few districts to forgo the monotony of incessant redevelopment of the city. Amazing how quickly things had changed all around, he contemplated; how the wooden houses had inexorably given way to stone. Money from the mining industries fed the prosperity of the smiths of the city, propagating an urban expansion so speedy that if you sat on a street corner long enough they’d build a shop around you.

Check the knives: one in his boot, one up his sleeve, slick messer blades, the kind of gear he needed to get this job done. Scarf around his mouth, a heavy surtout keeping out the fine mist of sleet, tricorne hat pulled down and a white mask to cover the upper half of his face. With his heart pounding, he could almost taste his own anxiety.

Forwards yet again. A few traders were still here, some frying food, or selling thick clothing, or jugs, pots, plates. He noticed a kid he thought he himself had sold a pirated relic to, and was surprised to see he was still alive. Inevitably a few youths were milling around with nothing better to do, such was the way of things around here. Never anything sufficient to occupy them despite the hundreds of distractions on offer, the hundreds of market stalls during the daytime, the eclectic mix of peoples, the nightly entertainments. No, they just seemed to want to lounge around.

A rectangle of light signified a doorway, his destination, the shadow of a man standing inside, bulky in his heavy coat. As soon as their vision connected, they knew each other, though they also knew not to show it. Malum slipped him a few silver Lordils, and went inside, downstairs to the relative warmth, where musky smells added to the sudden claustrophobia. These jobs did not get any easier, but this was one he felt he had to do himself.