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 3.40

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 Whore’s War 3.24

Hello! 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 Pink Pearl was newly renovated and very popular. We were ushered around the back  by a pair of burly doormen in black leather studded with ‘diamonds’. The perfectly manicured garden path let to a little patio cut off from the rest of the grounds, sheltered from the rain by the series of decks and balconies above. A little round glass table awaited us with chairs set all around.

As the doormen left, a pair of servers, one young, one old, appeared, bringing wine and port as well as a tray of cheese and grapes.

“Diamond will see you shortly,” the elder said as they departed.

I could sense more ‘doormen’ nearby, my ears picking up the sound of leather creaking and my nose the odor of the cologne that they were told to wear.

Carmen held up her hand in making a gesture or inquiry. “Five?”

I nodded affirmatively, wondering if she was just guessing or she had some other method to count the guards. I doubted her senses were as sharp as mine.

The Twins sat down at the end of the table facing the door. They were dressed in simple evening wear appropriate to a Myrhnese woman of any station; a knee length back dress, short black blazer, and knee-high black boots. Vethri wore a simple gold chain, while Eiskra wore her favourite ruby ring.

Carmen was still dressed in her ‘apprentice’ clothing, although she now carried weapons both hidden and in-character.

Vethri and Eiskra looked at each other once and settled, still as statues. I contented myself by listening to the sounds of the Pink Pearl and the streets beyond.

Diamond Silvermane waited just long enough to make her entrance. She strolled through the heavy oak door, resplendent in a cloak of white minx fur and the most impressive diamond necklace that I had ever seen. Her silver hair billowed about her head like a candle flame. She smiled at the twins, but there was little warmth in her eyes.

A pair of guards followed her out. These carried swords.

“Welcome to the Pearl, fellow whores,” said Diamond Silvermane. “The best brothel in Myrrhn.”

“You seem a little understaffed, Diamond,” said Eiskra.

“We’re just busy, darling,” said Diamond Silvermane. “But I do thank you for your concern.”

“Half of your rooms are empty,” said Vethri. “We know the capacity of this house and we know that the Silk Swan is already drawing some customers away from you now the Dierdre Dark and Troy work there.”

Diamond Silvermane laughed. “You’re right. Those two do have a loyal following, and I admit that their defection has caused us to lose their regulars. But you can see that we are busy and I assure you I am recruiting new talent; young women who will build their own followings. Now I assume that you did not call this meeting simply to insult me, girls. Let’s do business.”

“We are not going to take you to council.” said Vethri.

“Pardon?”

“We have decided not to challenge The Pink Pearl’s severance from The Doxies’s Union. We welcome the competition; Myrrhn has always been governed by market interests and we will not try to force you or your girls to join us you do not want to.”

“That’s all. No need for wine or anything,” added Eiskra.

The Twins stood, in unison. It was a gesture complicated by the fact that Vethri was a head taller than Eiksra, but they managed it.

Diamond Silvermane look confused for a heartbeat, then she recovered and stood as well. “Are you certain you don’t want to discuss this further?” she said, a little less bombastically.

“What is there to discuss?” asked Vethri. “Thank you for your hospitality Diamond, I know that The Pink Pearl is in good hands.”

“Have a nice afternoon,” added Eiskra, a little too gleefully, I thought.

And we left.

“What was that?” asked Carmen as soon as we were in the carriage.

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The Shadow Wolf Sagas: The Whores’ War 3.3

Good evening friends, it is time for another installment of the Shadow Wolf Sagas. This is the third such tale and is written raw and unedited, every Thursday.

Here is the first post of this arc.

Here is last week’s post.

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The Twins stepped forward to address the assembled members of the Doxies’s Union, the doors to guild hall yawned open. Heads snapped back, and people stirred, memories of The Devout attack surfacing and setting them to murmur. My hands snapped to my weapons.

The woman stood in the open doorway, pausing at the edge of the shadows for effect. Even in a room full of people who made it their business to be beautiful, striking, or unique, she stood out. Eyes the colour of a clear winter sky swept the room, dismissive and commanding. Full lips, painted rose red, curled into a smirk as her gaze came to rest on The Twins. Her silver hair, a tangle of curls held in place by glittering ornaments, gave the impression that she was an untamed thing, come from the wild despite the expense and art behind such furious coiffure. As the shock of her entrance, so obviously intended for drama, strangled the room, she stepped forward into the light.

“Fucking bitch,” muttered Eiskra, though I doubt anyone other than me saw her lips move, let alone heard a sound.

A collective gasp went through the room as the light within the hall struck woman’s dress, seeming to set it alight. Diamonds, a King’s ransom worth, worn as a clothing. I was immediately reminded of Lily Gemarkand; who else but the woman who controlled the gem trade in the most important port in the North could fabricate such a garment?

The diamonds twinkled and glittered as she strode forward boldly, her eyes fixed on The Twins. Vethri met her gaze calmly, while Eiskra bristled.

Before she could reach her destination, the woman in the diamond dress was stopped.

“That is far enough,” said Rana, the head doorman of the guild. Tall and strong with a white skull tattooed over her ebony skin, Rana was well known for her ability to defuse violent situations with a snarl and a glare. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“You may call me Diamond Silvermane.”

The name was unfamiliar to me. She did not seem intimidated at all by Rana, or the sea of potentially hostile Doxies surrounding her, continuing “I am the new boss at the Pink Pearl.”

“Welcome to the Union Diamond,” said Vethri,making a valiant effort at congeniality. “We would love to show you around after we attend to tonight’s business.”

“That will not be necessary,” said Diamond. “I won’t be staying. The Pink Pearl will not be joining the Doxies’s Union. The City Council has granted us a permit of operation. Anyone who is beautiful and talented and tired of sharing their hard earned money with cut up old bitches is welcome to join me.”

The room erupted into anger, but Diamond Silvermane walked past a roiling sea of sneering, angry Doxies as if she were taking a stroll on a pleasant beech. By the time the anger subsided she was gone.

I exchanged glances with The Twins. It appeared that The Whore’s War was not finished.