Author’s Note: You are about to read a working draft of the fourth chapter in my novel, The Six Provinces of Debris. You may wish to read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3 before reading Chapter 4. I hope you enjoy it!
A cool, refreshing breeze blew through the open window, causing the bloody curtains to billow and flutter. Josiah Remington sat on the dead man’s bed, his hands clenched into fists. He had never done the deed himself; he usually got others to do it for him. He looked down at the sword, the hilt still shiny with blood. He slowly unclenched his hands, marveling at the tingling sensation in his fingertips. Every cell in his body vibrated with pleasure. Sounds of yelling and breaking glass drifted through the window on the breeze. Remington felt drunk with power.
Pounding footsteps interrupted the sounds of the raid outside, “We lost them, sir.”
Remington looked up to see a young redhead in boiled leather, still just a teenager. “You what?”
“We, uh, we lost them.” The boy repeated, looking down at his boots. “We sent Travers, Huntsmoore, Lyko, and Fyre after them. They killed Travers and Huntsmoore, Lyko has a bad gash in his face and will likely lose his eye, and Fyre has, uh, disappeared altogether.”
Rage boiled deep in Remington’s chest. He screamed and launched the sword at the boy in the doorway. It wobbled awkwardly through the air. The boy stumbled out of the way, and the sword fell with a loud clatter in the hallway behind him. Remington, breathing hard, envisioned strangling the boy with his hands, envisioned the life draining from his bright, naïve eyes. But he thought better of it. He calmly brushed past the now forgotten boy, picked up the sword, and pounded down the stairs. How could two, grief-stricken women kill two of the Province’s raiders and wound a third without getting caught? And what happened to Fyre?
The poorly lit garden was already full of Ambassador’s men. Several of them were digging holes by torchlight while others tore the shack apart. Remington didn’t expect them to find anything. He had already collected the illegal book in the girl’s room, and he suspected that Langston Anders would have known better than to bury ancient books in moist earth.
Remington approached the body in the dark corner of the garden. The torso was covered in blood, and the eyes stared vacantly past Remington into nothing. Excitement once again tickled his fingertips. Remington bent down, looking the dead man square in the eye, gleefully remembering the last words he had whispered into Langston’s ear before pushing him out the window. The gasp of shock and recognition had been more satisfying than Remington had expected. He turned, noticing the redheaded boy once again. He was heaving into the carrots.
Remington wished he could strangle the weak excuse for a soldier. “Load this onto a wagon. I need to take it back to the garrison to prove we’ve plugged part of the leak.”
The boy nodded, still looking queasy as Remington walked back into the house to spend the night in the dead man’s bed.
He awoke the following morning to the hollow sound of hooves on cobblestone. The light was still new, the air from the open window crisp and young. It was still early, not long after sunrise.
Josiah Remington swung his bare legs over the edge of the bed and reached for his glasses. As he moved, a curious pain pestered his rib cage. A small mirror on the wall revealed a black and blue bruise just under his right breast, wrapping around to his back and stretching down to his slender waist. He scowled and prodded the bruise gently. Pain blossomed from his fingertips and spread through his torso. Josiah removed the mirror from the wall and used it to inspect the rest of his pale upper body. His skin stretched over his delicate frame, and Josiah admired the contrast of the muddy bruise against his milky skin.
He was still admiring his combat souvenir when the door to the bedroom opened behind him.
Josiah turned quickly, anger burning his throat. A tall young man stood in the doorway wearing a smirk and a dusty uniform. Josiah stared at him, grinding his teeth as he waited for the filthy man to introduce himself. Instead, the man strode confidently up to Josiah and bent down to inspect the bruise.
“Looks like you experienced your first bit of combat last night. Congratulations.”
Shocked by the man’s condescending tone and acutely aware of his boyish arms and torso, Josiah silently snatched his shirt from the bed and pulled it over his head. He forgot to remove his glasses, and the tight shirt collar knocked them askew and caused them to dig into the bridge of his nose painfully. His face burned with embarrassment, and he hoped the man hadn’t noticed.
“Offensive or defensive wound?” The man was standing at the window now. He was studying the bloody curtains with a curious look on his face.
Josiah cleared his throat and dug his fingernails into his palms, “Offensive,” he growled, annoyed with himself for allowing this stranger to barge into his room and belittle him with a casual comment and
The man nodded slowly, still studying the curtains. “Strange bruising pattern for swordplay. I can help you with your technique, keep you from injuring yourself next time your auditing duties require you to impale someone with a sword.”
Josiah’s face burned again and his pulse quickened. Something about this man intimidated him. He didn’t like it. “Identify yourself.” Josiah demanded, trying to sound authoritative and intimidating.
The man pulled a knife out of his pocket and fiddled with it absently as he looked around the room. “Name’s Captain Orion. The Sector sent me here to take care of your little leak.”
“Very well,” Josiah responded, still maintaining his authoritative tone. “My men can brief you on the situation downstairs. We leave in an hour.”
Orion smirked again. He tossed his knife in the air, the smooth blade spinning around and around before Orion caught it by the handle. “We? Your services are no longer needed, Mr. Remington. You’re free to go about your auditing business.”
Josiah froze, his mind racing. The warm, tingling memory of Langston Anders’ last gasp played at the edges of his mind, and he felt a craving for more.
“Oh, I disagree with you, Captain” Remington replied brazenly. The memory of the night before had restored his confidence.
“I’m the only one who can identify them. I’m coming with you.”
Orion snorted and continued tossing the knife in the air, each toss higher than the first. “A light-skinned woman with a reader tattoo and a sixteen-year-old girl traveling alone? I think we can manage.”
Remington smiled, his confidence returning as he watched the blade of the knife fly through the air. “But what if you’re wrong?” His last word hung in the air as he swept through the doorway and floated down the stairs.
Back in the bedroom, Orion’s knife clattered to the floor. He swept it up, but did not leave the room. Instead, he turned toward the curtain and used his knife to cut off a bloody square. Frowning, he crumpled the crusty fabric in a mocha fist and swept out of the room.
Hungry for more? Check out some of the characters’ back stories: