Another snippet from my ongoing work, the sequel to The Hordes of Chanakra:
“Bvaykoo.” Mosho took a long drink from his tankard. “Kaw, you call yourself?”
Kreg inclined his head.
“Stupid name,” Mosho said. “You speak Chanakranon well, but your words carry the sound of Aerioch and…something else, I do not recognize.”
Kreg opened his mouth to protest but Mosho held up a hand.
“Do not deny it. I traveled much before old Pfane took me on as his guard master.”
“Pfane?” Kreg sipped his own drink, a rather sour beer.
“The cavern master. You have not met him nor are you likely to.” Mosho waved his hand in dismissal and took another drink. “It does not matter. I do not know why you pretend to be from Chanakra nor do I care. Serve well and you can have a good life in my company.”
Mosho downed the rest of his drink. His eyes narrowed as he stared at Kreg.
“Betray me and I will spill your guts and leave you for the buzzards.”
Kreg nodded. “I understand.”
“Good.” Mosho clapped him on the shoulder. “Take your ease. A silver ney will let you tumble a likely wench.” He pointed at the larger moon, rising in the East. “Return to the caravan by the time Shüdhae–” Mosho used the Chanakranon name of the larger moon. “–reaches zenith. Or not. You have stood your watch. If you choose to keep company in the town, be back by dawn, ready to ride.”
Kreg nodded again and took another drink from his tankard. Mosho clapped him on the shoulder one more time and then turned to return his empty tankard before departing.
Kreg suppressed a smile as he raised his tankard to his lips and drained it. Every time he had started a new job he had received the same speech from his boss. Less talk of gutting, perhaps, but other dire consequences.
His smile vanished.
Every time but one. Neither Kaila nor Marek had ever issued threats of what would happen if he did not meet their standards. They had simply assumed he would and in doing so had created in him a better man than he had ever dreamed of being.
Kreg returned the tankard as he had seen Mosho do. When he turned away, he felt a slight tug at his belt. His hand swooped almost of its own accord and closed on a bony wrist. He hauled the wrist forward and up.
The urchin attached to the wrist could not have been more than ten years old. Boy or girl, Kreg did not know. Neither the short cropped hair nor the baggy tunic and trousers offered any hint.
Kreg looked to the left and right but no one seemed to be paying any attention to him and his catch.
Kreg lifted the wrist in his hand until the urchin stood on tiptoe.
“Picking pouches?” Kreg said. “What do they do with pickpouches in this town?”
“Please, sir,” the urchin said. “My sister is sick. The herbwoman, she say, bring silver or she do nuthin.”
“Mm, hm,” Kreg said. “How stupid do you think I am, kid?”
“Milord is wise, I am sure.”
“Sick sister, huh?” Kreg lifted a little higher. One of the urchin’s toes barely touched the ground. The other kicked futilely in an attempt to find purchase. “I don’t suppose you’d show me this sister?”
“Show you, milord?”
“Show me.” Kreg lowered his hand then released the wrist but, before the urchin could even begin to move, Kreg’s hand darted out and twisted into the back of his collar.