Fantasy Noir

The body blow hit Skilari like a falling tree. He folded instantly and gargled dead air, sucking and gasping at something that wouldn’t come. He collapsed into the fetid black earth dislodging two fat black millipedes from a fleshy root, the dark grains stinging the cuts on his neck and cheek.
“Enough… enough…” he coughed from his now horizontal world. “Whatever it is you want, I can get it for you.”
Two iron shod boots looked back at him sideways on. They were as trees, planted and unmoving, as stoic as their owner.
Selar crouched beside the shaking fink. She cocked her scarved head to one side, the better to see his lying eyes. She blinked like a snake as if to decide whether to strike or be on her way. Instead she tasted the air.
“You know what Skilari? I’m never sure whether I’d prefer it if you lot cried, spat or just shut up. Everybody starts off with a show of some kind, strength, terror, whatever. But in the end it always comes down to whimpering, face down in the mud.”
“Look, Selar,” he began, sensing a chance to negotiate. He reasoned; if we’re talking, I’m not dying. Selar flicked him in the eye with a delicately sharpened fingernail.
“No. You look ratboy. You’ve cost my mates. They had cash tied up in an enterprise of yours and you let them down.”
“But I didn’t know,”
“And, there are penalties for such behaviour as you are well aware. There’s bugger all point pleading your innocence with me because I can’t afford to go back without a result can I?” A rhetorical eyebrow cocked. “Now, I don’t care about you or anything you have to say. I just need you to walk. We’ll show you where. So up you get and start picking up the pace. Let’s not make this night any longer than it has to be, alright?”
Selar straightened herself and brushed imaginary lint from her moleskin strides. She cadged a smoke from Piotr with a gesture and the big Khadoran hefted Skilari to his tremulous feet before roughly shoving the man onwards down the marsh path.
Selar sparked her smoke with a tindertwig.
“He’ll be no trouble” muttered Piotr. “We’ll be at the safehouse soon enough and we can get on.”
“We’ll see Piotr. You never can tell with these money men. But you’re right, let’s push on.”
The three slipped through the bayou. Skilari’s hands were bound in the small of his back, his once expensive overjacket scrunched around his elbows. Occasionally he slipped and went up to a knee in brackish,dead water. Piotr heaved him back on track and herded him deeper into the throat of Widower’s Wood. The three of them moved steadily, Piotr’s hand lantern barely piercing the green black gloom of twisted boughs and creepers. As the night got blacker and a chill air sent the flies to their torpor the trio arrived at the tumbled ruin of the villa.
Skilari went down again, hard. His jaw cracked off the marbled floor and a moan issued from behind his fat lip.
“Stay there.” commanded the big man.
The villa floor was flat and dry, perhaps the only place with such attributes for a league or more. Caen’s twin moons could be seen through the canopy of giant ferns and night blossoms which offered a meaty stench to the night flyers and crawlers. The light of those moons painted a quicksilver edge to the green black bayou, and neatly outlined the fallen pillars and stunted walls that had once framed the villa a thousand years ago. Now there was little remaining but for the mosaic floor which would have gleamed red and ivory in the sun, but now traced a blood diagram in the dark.
Piotr set his hand lantern down on a block of chipped masonry, flicking open the tiny iron shutters so that the pale orange glow could fight the dark. Meantime, Selar ground out her smoke under her boot and moved to the patch of floor over by the furthest fallen column. She narrowed her black lined eyes until she could make out the rune scratched into the tessera. The capital G was invisible unless you knew what you were looking for. Selar knew, she’d done this before. She drew the Cryxian dirk from it’s retooled sheath and with it’s cross sectioned tip scraped the moss from the lines of the concealed trap door. Piotr stepped over and pushed away the column with straining arms. The ton of stone rolled away crunching dried bark and vine as it went. When Piotr had cleared the way Selar popped the seals on the door and jemmied it up with the dagger. Swampy air rushed from the opening like a dying breath.

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