In a shining example of lifestyle synergy, I have been watching the History Channel’s Vikings series before posting my Shadow Wolf serial these last couple of weeks.
Shadow Wolf is my weekly serial. The first series, Shadow Wold Sagas: Blade Breaker is collected here, and will be published later this year, when the wolftime comes.
The first post of Shadow Wolf Sagas: Red Fang, which is also last week’s post can be found here if you want a refresher.
“She was hung upside down, her throat was slit, and she was drained of blood,” said Murith.
I sputtered a moment trying to come up with a suitable oath. It seemed so odd that lively little Delilah was lying dead at my feet, bloodless. “Gods… Why?”
Murith shrugged. Over a decade on the city watch had given her a hard exterior, but I knew that it was not lack of compassion but rather a kind of fatigue. Myrrhn, the City of Shadows, the City of Assassins, was not a kind place. I knew Murith’s answer, or the direction it would blow at least, before it left her mouth.
“To sell, of course,” said Murith. “Delilah was a nice, young, clean girl. Blood like hers fetches a premium in the under-city markets. Vampires, Blood Mages, even alchemists buy it. We get a dozen of these a month, although this one is especially brazen. Usually the victims are the vulnerable; the poor, drunks, and newcomers mostly. You can make a lot of money off fresh blood, especially if the source is pure.”
I felt like hitting something. Just smashing the wall or my hand. It all seemed so pointless at that moment. I liked Delilah. She didn’t seem like the type who would become a victim, not now, but that had been wishful thinking on my part. We always want to think that the brighter lights will burn longest.
I realized Murith was staring at me expectantly. I looked at her. She raised a brow.
“–so it had to be someone she knew, then,” I said.
“You’re learning, Nordan,” said Murith. It might seem inappropriate to a casual observer to jest at a moment of tragedy, but Murith and I had shared many such moments and we knew how to push the other along, to help get past the grey thoughts that can follow loss. “This section of the watch has already reported and filed. We have no clue who killed her beyond conjecture and no idea where they did the deed. They won’t investigate beyond that. You knew Delilah…”
“Right,” I said. “I’ll start with her former associates.”
I went home to get my gear. Prowling the streets of Myrrhn can be very dangerous, even during the day in some places. In Delilah’s former haunts, gangs shortened many lives. Of course if you are born into poverty and despair, what other choices do you have? The City could be cruel.
The Whore’s War was still underway. There was a massive Ogress standing guard at our door. I nodded to her and headed in. The Twins were holding council, so I crept around, nodding to another pair of heavily armed bodyguards as I went in search of my weapons.
I decided to wear my Kingsmail. The favoured armour of wealthy Karl’s in the north, Kingsmail consists of a masterfully crafted suit of chain whose rings were reinforced with a crosspiece, with additional protection in vital areas. My hammer and my axe found a place in my belt. I was wondering if I should wear a cloak when I saw Vipra looking at me in the mirror.
“Going out Ragnar?”
“Don’t forget there is a price on your head. They want to hurt us, love.”
“I know. I wouldn’t do this unless I had to.”
Vipra smiled. She looked tired. The Whore’s War was two months old. “I’m afraid to ask.”
“Delilah was killed today. Bad business. The last person she was seen with was her brother.”