The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.43

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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The Twins insisted that I dress appropriately for my meeting with Lily Gemarkand. The Kaemoul’s Playhouse was where the wealthy of Old Town and the Merchant Houses mixed with the creatives of Myrrhn. This was apparently of such importance, that it required that I dress in the ‘manner of a gentleman’, which meant tights, a ridiculously puffed up shirt with ruffles on the sleeves and collar, long soft boots, and a very tall hat. I drew the line at trimming my beard.

“The only way a razor will be applied to my jaw is if it opens my throat first, girls.”

I was bathed, perfumed, and given a crash course on etiquette.

“Try to make a good impression, dear, many of these people are our best patrons,” admonished Vethri.

“I am meeting with our avowed enemy, and a women who locked me in a cage with a Devout warrior,” I growled.

“Hardly a situation which you go out of your way to avoid, given that you were in a pit-fight with a werewolf a fortnight ago,” said Eiskra.

“That was different.”

“Sure thing, Ragnar.”

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The Kaemoul’s Playground was on Belltower, the islet that house the beaurocracy and much of the grand old buildings from the early days of Myrrhn. The Playhouse was a converted gladiatorial arena, magnificently restored by Akbar the Kaemoul, Myrrhn’s wealthiest man at the time. It was built in the ancient Archaean style with tall columns braced by arches, surrounding a massive open space.

The Playhouse was renowned for theater and music. The performance that evening was ‘Chloe & Jaques’ a recently written play about the last Empress and Emperor of Archaea, favoured figures in romance and heroic tales.

Lily’s box was once reserved for Archaean high nobility come to spend an afternoon watching slave-warriors butcher each other or face off against monsters on the sands below. It was tastefully decorated, with tessellated murals depicting scenes of violence that played out many centuries ago. I particularly liked the one that depicted the legendary swordsman Kael facing a strange abomination with a second, tiny figure growing from its chest in front of a roaring crowd. It was spacious and richly appointed, as befitted one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the city.

Lily Gemarkand stood at the front of the box, next to her ever-present bodyguard. She was dressed in green silk and wore an abundance of emeralds.

“Welcome Ragnar Skyggesson,” she said. “I am pleased that you accepted my invitation.”

“I must admit that I am curious, Lily. Your path has crossed mine again and again, often at times that seem more like the hand of fate that coincidence.”

“Have you forgiven me for testing you, Ragnar?”

“No.”

She laughed.

“Let us begin with Diamond Silvermane,” she said. “My sister and I had plans for the Doxies’s, you know that. When I found out that Madame Glorianna, had Sapphire murdered, I wanted to destroy the the Union. Diamond has convinced me that this was… irrational.”

“It is. Who is Diamond Silvermane to you, Lily?”

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.42

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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After the cheering died down. Vethri and Eiskra remained in speaking position. Diamond Silvermane frowned.

“Normally we would call for a vote now,” said Vethri. “As is custom for a leadership challenge. But, given the unusual circumstances, we would like to suggest that a full election be held. The Union is only recently recovered from a fractious end to Madame Glorianna’s leadership and Diamond Silvermane entered the race too late to be given fair consideration. It will also give the rest of you a chance to put forth your vision for The Union, should you wish to throw your name into the contest.”

A ripple went through the crowd. Diamond Silvermane’s exquisite face betrayed some surprise.

“As always, we will put this suggestion to a vote. All those in favour of running a full election, at no cost to the Union, in order to be as fair as possible to Diamond Silvermane and others, raise your hands.”

With a sea of hands thrust into the air, the suggestion carried easily. I could see Diamond’s jaw clench in anger. Her supporters seemed to think they were doing her a favour by supporting the motion, but I could tell that she did not want it this way.

After business was concluded, Diamond Silvermane sauntered off into the crowd without another word. Many of the Doxies fell in behind her.

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“Why is Diamond so angry about another election?” asked Carmen while The Twins wound their way through the Union Hall, greeting people and gathering support. It was a thankless task, and one I was not eager to repeat my part in.

“I don’t rightfully know, Carmen. It did make her angry though.”

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Later on the carriage ride back to our home, I broached the subject.

“We knew that Diamond was fairly confident that she had strong support for a single vote,” said Vethri. “That is based on a read of her personality, and the depths of her backer’s purse. A leadership challenge only gives those present a vote, and allows a secondary vote for the rest of a membership if it carries. Winning the challenge would give her a strong case to the membership at large though. Even if she was unable to carry a leadership vote she would be seen as the main opposition by default. Having her run an open election against, not just us, but all of the other factions. It will cost Lily Gemarkand more money and will force Diamond to navigate the difficult areas of Union politics.”

“What she is trying to say,” Eiskra mock-whispered to Carmen. “Is that we want Diamond to suffer through the same bickering and infighting that we have for the last eighteen months.”

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A few days later, as I was researching the last morsel of information that I needed to return to the North, a letter from Lily Gemarkand arrived. It was addressed not to The Twins, but to me, asking me to attend upon the lady of the Emerald Tower in her private box at the Kaemoul’s Playhouse.

I was intrigued.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.41

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise. Today has been especially crazy, glued to my computer watching the Comey testimony.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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There was loud applause as Diamond Silvermane yielded the floor to Eiskra and Vethri. Her confident delivery and sheer force of beauty had won over many in the hall. I hoped it was a temporary enchantment. She winked at me as she sat down. I did not swoon,

“You all know us,” began Eiskra. “We’ve told our story so many times in the last year, that I am sure that many of ya’ll can recite it by heart.”

There was some muted laughter.

“You all know about Gentleman Jim, and the horrors he inflicted on our sisters before Madame Glorianna and others came together to challenge him. As I’ve said, we have told our part in this story many times. After he left his mark on our faces and then left us to burn with our sisters, we crawled from the ashes, gathered allies, and put Gentleman Jim where he belonged…”

“WITH THE FISHES.” yelled someone.

“Quite so,” said Vethri, taking up where Eiskra left off. “You all know that we went on to prosper, in spite of the ugly scars that Gentleman Jim left us. We are wealthy and powerful now, respected throughout the city. One might even say that we have risen to the level of our ambitions. And yet, we are happy to pay our full dues to The Doxies’s Union, even if we do not see benefit for ourselves. That may seem like a paradox to some, but to anyone who has seen what we have it is not.”

Vethri paused and cast her gaze around the hall.

“You have heard our tale. But what of all of our sisters that died in the flames that day, and did not live to ‘meet their ambitions’? Some of those whores and joyboys had children or family that depended on the money that they brought in. Under Madame Glorianna The Union made sure that they received a stipend. We take care of our own. It took a long time to organize The Union and a much longer time to turn it into the compassionate place it is now. When a doorman gets busted up on the job, The Union makes sure his wages are met and his medical care is paid for. Sometimes, despite our screening, someone gets a disease from one of the clients; we make sure they are cared for. And when a Doxie gets cut bad, as sometimes happens even now, we make sure she can still find dignified employment after she recovers…”

Eiskra stepped forward and added “and sometimes The Union pays the Mercs or the Nightblades to make certain it don’t happen again…”

The room erupted into savage cheers at that. Every Doxie, save perhaps the luckiest, knew someone who had suffered under a cruel client. It was not an easy profession, even in Myrrhn.

“Some people are lucky enough that the world will stay out of their way while they toil and work hard and reach the zenith of their talents,” continued Vethri. “They deserve praise and the riches that they earn. But in the Doxies’s Union we know that some of the best of us get unlucky. A child loses a mother. The pox comes knocking. A trick goes bad. A good man gets a bad wound. The Union dues go to making certain that the unlucky ones are taken care of. They go to making certain that we all have a comfortable retirement when we are too old. No one who hasn’t seen what we have seen likes paying the extra money when they don’t need it, but when you do and you have the price seems more that worthwhile.”

She paused for effect, and then left it there. After a moment, the room erupted into cheers.

 

 

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.40

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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A ripple of excitement went through the crowd as Diamond Silvermane stood before them. She was beautiful, wealthy, and courageous enough to try to challenge The Twins in Union Hall: an intoxicating combination.

“Humility does not come easily to me,” Diamond began, her tone contrite, almost reflective. “I was born on the streets of Cliffshadow. After my parents died, my aunt sold my virginity rights for a small fortune. I hated that woman, but she gave me the best advice that I ever heard as the carriage came to take me to Old Town: ‘Sell yourself and take advantage of every opportunity you have, or someone else will.’ I followed that advice and I parlayed my beauty into freedom and fortune. I sought to break the Union to help others follow in my path, but I can see now that I was mistaken.”

There was a ripple of agreement.

“You all know that my patron is Lily Gemarkand. Her sister, Sapphire, introduced us, and our friendship has opened new doors to me. But the rarefied circles that I travel in have coloured my views. Running the Pink Pearl has cleansed them.”

I exchanged a glance with Vethri; Diamond was executing a deft pivot. While her shift would be seen as one of pure self-interest by some, she had the charisma to convince others of her conversion, I could see.

“I am still an individualist at heart, and while I believe that the Union takes far too much gold from hard working Doxies, but it is naive to think that we can do without it. The Union gives us power in city politics and it gives us a way to organize agreements between brothels. I believe in The Union most of all because it gives those who have the talent a chance to work their way into better and better institutions. As a madame within the Doxies’s Union I can attract the best talent from houses of pleasure throughout the city, which is admittedly very difficult if every brothel is a business unto itself.”

I saw more than a few nod at this. It was a point that all the membership agreed upon, and a persuasive opening.

“That is what this Union does best; it gives a smart, ambitious Doxie the tools that she needs to make the connections that will allow her to rise to the full extent of her talent. Without the Union, some of the Doxies and Joyboys would be little less than slaves to violent gangs and pimps, and the great pleasure houses of Myrrhn would have access to less talent. In short, The Union is good because it serves the interest of the individual by protecting her from predators and organizing movement between districts. As for political power, The Union strong enough to resist burdensome outside regulations that other forces in the city might impose on us. Yes, I’ll say it, the Union is good!”

Diamond said it with such enthusiasm that it drew cheers from many.

“But, I still feel that The Union is too intrusive, and too expensive for those of us who work hard to meet the limits of our ambitions. Why should I have to pay a greater percentage of my earnings than someone who has not worked as hard as I have? Shouldn’t we all pay an equal amount? We are all here for they money, and many of us do not get enough back from The Union considering how much we pay in fees. In the end, its just another tax, and no one likes taxes.”

This, of course drew more cheers.

“And while The Doxies’s Union protects us from outside regulation, it is too often used as a tool to regulate hard working Doxies. Do we really need all of these classes to do the things that we are naturally equipped to do? Are the apprenticeships necessary?¬†Do we really need more people telling us what to do? I think we get enough of that from our clients…”

There was laughter.

“I want leadership of The Union to lift burdensome regulations, ease fees, and make The Union a better, safer place where Doxies’s have the freedom to grow. That is why I am here tonight. That is why I am challenging The Twins.”

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.39

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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She was clad in gems and adorned in gold, more than a Queen’s ransom, and yet her garment was unmistakably that of a woman advertising her body. I could not help but admire her delicious curves, her poise, and her beauty. Diamond Silvermane stood out in a room full of artful, sexy, pulcherous people, commanding attention as she waited for Eiskra and Vethri to take the stage.

She did not look beaten, and I knew that she had some drama planned, some trick to wrest control from The Twins. Dissolving The Union had failed, but challenging them for control was the next best thing.

The Union Hall was as packed and unruly as ever. I felt eyes on me as I eased into a seat behind The Twins on stage. My name was clear now, with Ulfgrim taking the blame as Rake’s killer. The connection between Ulfgrim and Diamond Silvermane, Wolki and Lily Gemarkand, and the lost sword of High King Siggurd were the last pieces in the puzzle that would end my exile. As The Twins addressed the assembly, representatives of all the whores, joyboys, bouncers, and allied workers, I watched Diamond. She noticed my attention, but did not seem bothered by it.

As The Twins went through the simple minutae of the meeting; quorum, minutes, old business and so on, the tension in the room grew. Everyone present knew that Diamond Silvermane was going to challenge them and unless she was a fool, Diamond would have enough backing to call a vote. The deep pockets of her patron would be enough to sway the more mercenary members of the Union, I was certain. Others had come to the same conclusion and I could see them looking around, gauging strength for the coming conflict. The room was thick with intrigue.

“And now,” intoned Vethri. “We come to new business. Anyone who wishes to bring a point of order may do so.”

A ripple went through the room as Diamond Silvermane stood. She stepped in front of the audience, regal and commanding, waiting for a hush to fall before she began to speak, her voice as clear, crisp, and cultured as one would would expect from such a queenly specimen.

“I wish to Challenge for leadership,” she said.

It was what everyone expected her to say, and yet it still drew a collective gasp. The Twins had enough support to claim leadership, but not enough to prevent others from contesting it. The volume in the room increased considerably, as everyone began to murmur, and some shouted for or against.

“Quorum of support is waved, you may address the floor, Diamond Silvermane,” said Vethri. “Both sides will plead their case and then the members will vote.”

To her credit, Diamond Silvermane did not even blink. By not contesting her support, The Twins had denied her the chance to show it before the vote, and appeared divinely confident as well.

“Don’t worry, we got this,” whispered Eiskra as Diamond moved forward once more. “If not, we’ll come live in the North with you…”

I smiled at her and then turned my attention back to Diamond Silvermane as she began to speak.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.38

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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Carmen’s invocation of Lily Gemarkand’s name remained at the vanguard of my thoughts¬†me as we walked through the crowded streets of Myrrhn toward the gathering hall of The Doxies’s Union.

Lily was a queen in everything but name, the head of one of Myrrhn’s seven families. She had enough wealth and influence to shape the city. Her interest in the Doxies’s Union came about because of her estranged sister, Sapphire. But, even after Sapphire’s death she was still trying to break the Union. Was it simple ideology as Diamond Silvermane suggested, or was it something deeper, like revenge against Madame Glorianna for killing Sapphire. I could not say.

I did know that Lily’s continued interested boded poorly for The Twins and The Doxies’s Union as a whole. As powerful as the whores and joyboys of Myrrhn were, they could not match the sustained ire of one of the Seven Families…

Of course, Carmen’s presence was a sign that the one guild that could resist the Seven Families was interested in the outcome of this contest: The Nightblades were watching, perhaps even taking a hand. I hoped that they were favouring The Twins, it made sense if they wanted to keep the balance of the city intact, but I could not be certain.

The Twins were girded for confrontation, wearing the signs of their craft and station as they strolled through the streets of the city in a kind of procession. Taking a carriage at this point would be safer, but walking through the streets would create the kind of stir that The Twins wanted.

Vethri and Eiskra wore no masks, leaving the ugly scars that Gentleman Jim had gifted them with plainly visible, Some recoiled by beauty marred by such savagery, but many more saw the determination in the eyes of the women who bore the scars, and the dignity with which they walked, and they admired their toughness. The people of Myrrhn are much like the Nordan in this respect; we both admire those who survive and those who prosper after great suffering.

In Myrrhn there are a fair share of those who turn up their noses at prostitutes, and some people crossed the street to avoid our procession. Still more, however, stopped to watch, aware that an event of import to the city was heralded. Most of these onlookers were curious and well-wishing, but others watched with calculation, no doubt wondering how their own fortunes would rise or fall based on what they thought they saw. In a city as mercurial as this, it was not unusual behaviour.

The Twins stopped to greet to every member of the Union that we encountered. Eiskra did most of the talking, infectiously animated, with Vethri adding a calm word when needed. Carmen watched them closely, flashing me a smile when she caught me looking at her.

My presence did not go unnoticed. By now, rumours had spread of something important happening at Cassander’s Shield. My countrymen would be spreading the tale and my friends would make certain that my name was cleared in the murder of Rake. I hoped that the membership of the Union would see the truth in that instead of clinging to the rumour that The Twins sent me to kill him because he spoke of joining Diamond Silvermane.

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By the time we reached the Union Hall, the sun was low in the sky and our little procession had become a parade. The Union hall was packed and Diamond Silvermane, in all her glory, awaited us.

The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’s War 3.37

What a week! There is so much going on around the world with Trump, The French Election, and South American politics I almost feel like it has been a month since our last post.

This is my weekly serial, written raw as a writing exercise.

You can find the first post in the series here.

Last week’s post is here.

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I knew who had driven the fatal blow into Old King Siggurd, but until I knew why I could not share that knowledge.

But the treacherous blade was only part of the question. I still did not know what was behind the ambush in which the king had fallen. The sudden presence of a Skraeling army spoke of a much larger conspiracy than a knife in the back. I burned to know and lay the matter bare at last, but caution was in otder.

Once, I would have charged in, accusations flying from my lips, but the wisdom of my clan had sunk in me exile, and I knew it was best to be prepared with all of the facts when I came before Siggurd’s children.

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I slept well that night, better than I had in many years. I would have been content to drift in and out of sleep for the whole morning, but Eiskra jumped on me shortly after The Twins woke.

“Back for more?” I asked, mock serious.

“I wish, we have business to attend to, Old Wolf,” said Eiskra. “We are meeting at the Union Hall. The time has come to clear your name and dispel the rumours that you murdered Rake.”

“Hmmmm, yes… that,”

“You forgot didn’t you?”

“In my defence I have had a busy few days. Are you certain I should show up like this, I look pretty battered and broken. I might limp.”

“We want heroic Ragnar who suffered grievous harm in the pursuit of justice rather than intimidating Ragnar for this meeting. The Carriage will be here soon; Get up or you’ll miss the bacon.”

As I considered complying or stealing a few more moments of sleep, my sensitive ears picked up another presence downstairs.

“Is Carmen here?”

“Yes. She is still playing the part of our new apprentice,” said Eiskra. “She stays downstairs though; we need to get moving…”

“Point made, can you help me with my armour then?”

Eiskra nodded. With her help I quickly donned padded clothing and a suit of black studded leather armour. It was uncomfortable and impractical in a long carriage ride, but I knew that that it looked impressive. As Eiskra finished with the last buckle and stood we kissed and lingered for moment.

“Its the leather, always does it for me,” she said.

Chuckling, I pulled my weapons from the shelves, frowning at the empty space where my greatsword should hang. Instead I pulled down my axe and the elegant truncheon that I used in my days as a doorman for Madame Glorianna; a symbol of my connection to the guild.

“I wish you’d let me do your hair,” said Eiskra.

“I have an image to maintain. One which does not involve fine Myrrhnese braiding.”

The smell of thick slices of bacon had me salivating by the time we hit the bottom stair. Vethri was talking to Carmen, discussing some intricacy of empathizing with a client while selecting their punishments. Carmen, dressed seriously and solemnly, nodded at us.

“Did you give up the Assassin’s life Carmen?”

“You wish, Old Wolf,” she said, breaking character a little. “The Guild has business with The Doxies’s Union still. I am here to observe.”

“Are you the only one of your brethren watching this?”

“Officially, yes. Unofficially, I’m sure you know that several of our members are also part of the Union for their own purposes.”

“Yes, we can respect that,” said Vethri. “So why did they send you?”

“I can’t say,” said Carmen. “But it involves Lily Gemarkand…”

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