Inkling returns from hiatus! When last we left Our… Er, let’s call them protagonists, shall we? Heroes might be stretching the definition a bit. Anyway. When last we saw or intrepid duo, this was going on:
Collin spoke again, low, glaring at Emygdia as though he’d prefer to yell. “If I was lying, I never would have come here. You might not trade in kind with the family, but there are plenty of people in the valley who know my name, and who would throw their lot in with me just to try ousting my uncle. I could lie, say I still have the power for it, but I don’t. And I don’t want that. He promised me a life, free of his interference, and that’s all I need from him. If he finds out what I’ve done, dying will be the least of my worries. If he thinks someone else knows anything…” His cadence didn’t change, but his gaze dropped, until his final words were addressed more to the floor than either of them. “Secrets aren’t the same thing as lies.”
And now, we return you to you regularly scheduled mayhem!
(If you need to catch up, you can always read the full story (for free!) here: Inkling
An Ongoing Flash Fiction Serial
“They both get people killed, kid, and I’ve got no use for either from the likes of you.” Emygdia propped her elbow on the counter, holding her cigarette dangerously close to her hair as she leaned forward. “Unless you’ve got something other than your name to trade on, get the hell out of my store.”
Collin’s eyes narrowed, and he glanced around the store as though someone might be watching them. Grays didn’t really think it was outside the realm of possibility.
“What can I get for a guaranteed safe passage into his home?” The smile he flashed at her was tight and unpleasant. “In is the only thing I can promise on that, mind you. Out is someone else’s responsibility.”
Even as the obvious outsider, Grays could tell immediately that Collin wasn’t offering someone the key to his Uncle’s townhouse so they could throw a kegger. Emygdia’s interest was instant, a sharp tang sparking in the air around them that raised the hair on Grayson’s arms. She didn’t answer right away, taking a slow drag. None of the smoke emerged when she breathed out again. That couldn’t be healthy. “Are you seriously asking me to strike a bargain with you, knowing that given half the chance, you’d betray the sanctuary of your own family?”
“Absolutely.” Looking past Grays, out the front of the shop, Collin shrugged. “I’ve got nothing else to offer, at least nothing you’d want, and he broke our bargain. As the wronged party, I have a free passage back into his homestead to exact my vengeance. Nothing says I can’t take someone else with me.” Pushing his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he laughed a little. “For that matter, I know all the back doors, and most of the traps.”
Grays wasn’t too familiar with the kind of desperation that seemed to settle into the worried lines of Collin’s face, but he was an artist, and no stranger to the edges of emotion. Emygdia recognized it on her own, and she waved a hand in front of her face, the cigarette gone, and her impression of humanity stretching thin. Stepping back unconsciously, Grays found himself pressed against the solid weight of her fox. He didn’t know what she was, but the light in her eyes wasn’t a metaphor, and the subtle shift of her face remade her into someone, something, even less likely to belong in a strip mall in the middle of Phoenix.
“You offer too much, Bastion. If what you say is true, there’s nothing to stop anyone from claiming you and taking that knowledge however they can manage.”
“Anyone who wants it is welcome to try. I’m only useful to them alive. Uncle Castan is going to kill me, and that’s a lot harder to recover from.”
In the most sudden move he’d made since the parking lot, Collin stepped up to the counter, accompanied by the low growl from behind Grays. “I won’t beg for sanctuary, Emygdia, but I’ll bargain for help. My blood might not sing anymore, but it’s plenty binding, if that’s what you want.”
Grays yelled a warning when she lunged forward, grabbing Collin’s right hand and slashing her knife across it so quickly that it was several seconds before the wound even began to bleed. Collin winced, but he did nothing to free himself, and Grays couldn’t look away as the blood began to drip across the counter, sizzling on the glass like acid.