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Another excerpt from a WIP. All constructive criticism welcome.

“I said that Oliff has dispatched a ship to fetch you. It should be here by nightfall. Tomorrow morning you leave for Remfall.”


Stanisar leans forward and gives my shoulder a squeeze. “I promise not to have your room cleared out until I have official confirmation that your head is in the basket.”

“Very funny,” I say miserably.

“Farewell, Kovik,” Stanisar says. He turns to leave. “I’ll always remember how hard you made me laugh.”

I watch the nobleman leave and cluck my tongue. My ace card just waltzed out the door, meaning I’ll have to dust off some skills I haven’t used in a couple of years if I’m going to get out of this alive. No problem. Time for some serious thinking.

I awake with a start. Right away I notice the darkness through the small window. Did I actually sleep that long? My ears pick up a sound outside my cell door. I have pretty good hearing, which helps when listening for guards and husbands coming home early.

“Who’s there?” I whisper.

“It’s Panny!” comes a hushed reply.

Oh yeah! Panny’s my little shadow. He’s a curious little halfling who tagged me as some sort of mentor a few months back. He’s a bit of a pest at times, but he can drink like a riverbed and he has a knack for getting things done. Panny has grown on me a little.

I jump to the cell door and peer out through the barred window there. I look down to see a small figure with a cowl pulled up over its face, leaving only a pair of brown eyes gazing up at me.

“Good to see you, pig nipple,” I say.

“Stop calling me that!” Panny hisses. “You know how much I hate that name!”

I laugh. I’m in a dungeon awaiting extradition and execution, and I’m laughing. I need to get my head on straight if I want to keep it on at all. “Sorry, kid. Whatcha got for me?”

“Oliff’s sending a galley here to pick you up,” Panny says. “From what I hear, he’s really mad.”

“I’d be angry too if my wife’s *** was that big.”

“Really?” the halfling replies in a highpitched voice. “You’re going to have your head removed in a couple of days and you’re cracking wise?”

“I know. I know. What else can you tell me?”

“Dawn hits in a couple of hours,” Panny continues. “By mid-morning, you’ll be out of here.”

I tap my fingers on the bars, my mind jumping around for anything that could help. “Go to my room. Behind the third sconce is a loose stone covering a hollow. You’ll find a sack of coins there. When Oliff’s galley docks, go to the captain and book passage back to Remfall.”

“What?” squeaks the halfling. “Why am I going there?”

I point a finger at him. “Are you talking?”


“Are you sure? Because that sounds an awful lot like talking.”

“I’m sure.”

“Good. Now after you’re done, have Pavel take the big red trunk from my room and load it onto the ship. If anyone asks, the trunk belongs to you. Got it?”

“Got it. What’s in the trunk?”

“Never mind, you. Give Pavel two gold pieces for his troubles but no more,” I say. “He’ll try to lay his usual sob story on you about his injured leg to get some sympathy gold, but don’t buy it. Two coins and no more.”

“You’re pretty stingy for a man about to die.”

Panny’s usually not so sassy. I briefly consider how I’m going to make him suffer when this is all over. “Keep the rest for yourself and get your gear ready. You’re going on a little sailing trip.”

“I hate the water.”

“I hate losing my head,” I snap right back. “Remember. If you lose me, you lose your meal ticket.”

“And my friend,” Panny replies.

“You’re breaking me up, here.”

“Just saying.”

“Do I need to give you a moment to cry or something?”

“No,” he responds. “What do I do once we’re under way?”

“You’ll think of something,” I say with confidence. “Now get cracking. If you do good, I’ll tell Maria to give you a turn or two.”

“Ooo, really? Isn’t she the one with the big-”

“Get moving!” I hiss, sending the small figure in black scurrying down the hall.

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