Feigning a Fine Fettle

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The Saint Stalls the Scum

The Saint was like a jewel in the mud, like a shaft of sun cutting through sheets of rain, like a dab of flower in a field of weeds, like a shiny copper bit in a turd. He was like a fair number of other poorly conceived similes, but Farred wasn’t a bard and the scene unfolding in front of him wasn’t worthy of song.

The narrow little lane had emptied out. All the slum-dwellers had slunk off with their heads down when the Saint had singled a beggar out, like sheep scattering before the wolf (Farred mentally berated himself for yet another simile). He didn’t blame them, not one bit.

Since the emperor had converted to the new religion from the south and made it state sanctioned, the empire was run like a theocracy. He’d founded the Saints, a militant order who were holy men and town guard rolled into one, backed by the gods and the local magistrate. Dangerous mix, all that authority — went to a man’s head. That’s exactly what was happening here.

Farred stood unseen at the dark mouth of an alley just a few feet from where the Saint was pressing the man into the muck. He could hear the beggar whimpering, could see the look of cold disdain in the eye of the Saint. Rain was coming down hard, running off the roofs and flowing downhill in rivulets, pelting off the Saint’s immaculate silver breastplate, emblazoned with the golden sun of his religion, the emperor’s mark set within.

“We have reliable reports that he operates in this area. You will tell me everything you know,” demanded the Saint through gritted teeth.

“I don’t know anything, I swear, please, please — ah!”

“I am running out of patience. You refuse to talk? That’s both heresy and treason.” The Saint hefted his mace, ready to bludgeon the man’s head in.

Time to act. Farred stepped out. “I know where to find him! Please, spare that poor man!”

The Saint’s eyes shifted to Farred, sizing him up. He sneered. “You know where to find the criminal they call the Saint of the Slums?”

“I know exactly where to find him. I can take you to his hideout. Just let the man go.”

The Saint’s eyes shifted back down to the man under his boot. He lifted his foot and the beggar wasted no time crawling away. “Wait!” The beggar cringed, but stopped. “Put your legs out.” The beggar looked to Farred, but Farred just stared back with an empty expression. He hesitantly extended his legs.

The mace came down hard once, twice, and the beggar’s legs snapped with an audible crack. His scream of agony echoed down the empty street. “Now you can go.” He turned his attention back to Farred, a smirk on his face.

Farred let out a whistle then bowed to the Saint. “You are indeed merciful, sir. If you would, follow me.”

They made their way through the twisting streets, the tenements looming in close on every side. Darkness would be descending soon, but a backward glance at the Saint showed no sign of fear or hesitancy on his face. Farred let out another whistle at the intersection of two streets.

“Why do you keep whistling like that?”

“Sorry, am I whistling? Guess I’m just happy someone has come down here to take care of the problem. The Saint of the Slums is naught but a menace. He’s always talking, you know, preaching to the beggars and whores and rabble down here. Not good to stir up folk down here, makes everyone uneasy and nervous. Makes life difficult if people are riled. So much robbery and murder and every kind of villainry!”

“Alright, alright, just stop talking and walk faster. How much further to his hideout?”

“Oh, we’re not far off now.”

The Saint stopped behind him. Farred turned to see him holding his mace. He pointed to a sign. “That’s the second time I’ve seen that. What game are you playing at leading me in circles?”

“Circles? No, I merely took a wrong turn that led us back here. Nothing intentional, I assure you. In fact, this very alley up ahead contains the entrance to his hideout. I recognize it now. You’ll see!”

The Saint scowled at Farred, but stalked after him.

The alley was a dead end, all seamless walls devoid of door or window.

“What is this? An empty alley? You’ve wasted my time.” He began stalking forward, but Farred held his hand up. The Saint paused, unsure of what Farred was doing.

Farred smiled and then whistled. The Saint looked down at the bolt sticking out of his breastplate. He raised his eyes to the rooftops and saw at least a dozen crossbows leveled at him, wielded by grim looking men and women.

Farred tsked. “I told you to avoid hitting the breastplate. We can’t use this one now. What a shame.”

Realization dawned in the Saint’s eyes, even as his knees gave out. “You… you’re…”

“Yes, the Saint of the Slums. Believe me, I didn’t choose the name.”

“You treacherous… bastard. Couldn’t fight me… yourself?”

“Oh, I’m not a fighter. I just like to talk. The people seem to listen.” He walked forward, pulling a stiletto from inside his ragged coat. “I can, however, finish a job.”

The Saint lashed out, but faltered. He earned another bolt in the thigh for his effort. He sprawled out in the mud face down, trembling. Farred put his boot on the man and turned him over on his back. Blood was running from his mouth. Farred drove the stiletto up through the Saint’s chin, ending it.

The men and women made their way from the rooftop and stood around Farred and the body. They stripped the dead man. Just mud, weeds, and rain now, not worthy of song.

This was a writing challenge from terribleminds.com to roll a random title from a list of ten, and to then write a story based off of the title in under 1000 words.

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2 Comments

  1. Mark Baron says:

    This was awesome. Seriously awesome. I love the build up, the background delivered seamlessly in the weaving of the tale. I would read more of this world in a heartbeat. Bravo!

Give it to me straight.

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