I apologize for the tardiness of this post. We spent most of last week out buying new furniture, building it and doing various other things that needed to get done. It has left me exhausted and left me with barely any time to sit down to get it done yet.
As promised, here is the first installment. This is a history piece from my recent work ‘At War With His Army’. Tune in every Monday for the rest of this month to read the rest of it.
Here it is:
Smoking Guns Part One
The local dive was packed with the usual ruffians and royal guard alike. It was, after all, the best alcohol to be had around. There was no posturing when it came to relaxation time. Nobody was on duty here and it was evident by the jolly conversations happening around. Who knew, maybe a few new royal guard members would come from such a gathering. That was always the hope, anyway.
With the war at hand, they were losing thousands to body bags and severe injuries. It left them short-handed and unable to feel spots. Even those on the guard had taken to offering up spots to friends and family at an increased price just to fill the spaces needed.
He knew the rumors. They were all familiar in the underground. Some went voluntarily for noble causes. Other avoided it, moving from place to place, never staying too long to avoid it. Not Demetrius. That type of life just wouldn’t work for him.
After all the years of his family moving around from place to place with his father’s work he’d found a nice humble home in the city. Really it was more of a mansion by some standards, but considering his father was Count of Thantyr, he was used to a much more extravagant lifestyle. It was one of the reasons that serving in the royal army seemed beneath him at this point. Sure, he could have followed his father, but he’d left that to his older brother.
He’d taken his inheritance and partly bought him the clothes to which he loved and other was set aside for him to live off when times got hard. Not that Demetrius ever let them get so, he worked, not because he had to but because to allow his brain to go idle would prove damaging on many levels.
His mother raised the kids that idle brains wilted in the sun of life. Demetrius wasn’t sure he cared for the metaphor, but somehow, he still found often he followed it. It was strange to him how much his childhood influenced his adulthood.
His thoughts were interrupted as a pint of ale was slammed down on the wood table in front of him. It caused the metal plate he was shoveling food into his mouth from to jump a bit. His own ale mug jumped about on the table. One of Demetrius’ hands moved to where the steam pistol sat on his hip.
‘If you care to keep your male bits, I suggest you take your drink and leave.’ Demetrius growled without bothering to look up. To iterate his point, he pressed the barrel of the pistol into the man’s crotch. He sucked a piece of meat out of his teeth.
‘S…sorry, Sir.’ The bartender stuttered out a reply, taking a step back. ‘Those men over there asked me to deliver this to you. On them.’
‘On them, huh?’ Demetrius lifted his gaze then.
In the middle of the dive bar were tables surrounding a large rock fireplace. Seated at those tables was the worst sort of people, the royal army. They all stood, facing him and lifted their own ales in his direction.
Demetrius sucked part of the meat stuck between his teeth free. His eyes narrowed as he looked at the men and the fresh ale. They expected him to pick it up and take a healthy swig. It would mean he was open to talking to them.
‘You can take it back. They have nothing to offer me that I want.’ Demetrius pushed the ale closer to the bartender with his gun before tucking it back in the holster and going back to his drink. He picked up the meat once more and went back to eating it. His body hunkered over the plate to keep the juices from dripping onto his velvet suit.
That was one thing he didn’t tolerate, disregard for one’s quality of clothes. He believed you dressed to impress. It was a rule of his father’s and now of his. Probably something left over from his father’s times in the court. Demetrius was no different. He always ran around in three-piece suits, gold trimmed with elaborate designs on the lapels. Dress to impress.
He finished his food, grabbing a couple of the discarded pieces of cloth. Demetrius used it to clean his hands off. Taking a large swallow of his ale, he used the last of the contents to clean the meat juice off his fingers and dry it once more.
He stood, dropping coins onto the table. They clanked about before coming to a rest. He gave the bartender a nod and headed toward the door. His cane tapped against the floor as he swung it forward before taking a step to meet it.
By the time he pushed his way out of the musty smoke-filled confines of the dive it was dark. The air was cool and crisp as he stopped a moment to take a long breath. He whistled low, a tune that played over and over in his head. His cane swung about as he headed down the cobblestoned streetway.
In the small gas lamps lining the streetway, it illuminated small parts of the walkway. As it was only dusk, he didn’t need the gas lamps to see yet, but if he lingered too much longer he would. The streets were empty, and nobody lingered past dark so it wouldn’t encumber his journey home.
His dress shoes clapped against the stones as he walked along. Between steps, he could hear the shuffling of boots behind him. Demetrius continued to whistle as his gaze moved to a shop window. Even with it being covered in smudges of ash and grease, he could see a group following behind him. Four men, one with a wanky gait, probably from an injury. Another wore the markings of an officer, none high enough to be of concern.
It didn’t take a genius to know, they were the same ones that tried to buy him ale. They must not have taken lightly to his excusal of such an extent of friendship. That was too bad, he didn’t have time to listen to their pitches of why he should join up with them.
Demetrius turned the corner into an alleyway. If they wished to follow him into the complete dark he’d gladly oblige them a chat of some form. He hesitated in the deepest shadow he could find. Sure enough, they turned the corner to follow him.
Apparently, they weren’t taking not interested as an answer.