Outwitted (a long short story)

Today, I completed my story Outwitted (a 32 part fantasy story of around 32000 words in total). It is the tale of magic, family, betrayal, and murder

You can find all the parts to the story on steemit. Below is part one
Part one: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-a-little-bit-of-fiction-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

In cold blue light of the moon the streets appeared to be made of ice. Barefoot, I followed the old man as he made his way slowly through the alleys and passages, trying to avoid the central lowered flagstones where faeces floated in puddles of urine.

The clunk of his clogs, and the tap-tap-tap of his stick echoed around the walls, creating a strangely hypnotic music. He stopped, suddenly. Leaning on his stick for support, he turned and peered into the eerie light behind him. I ducked back into a doorway, trying not to inhale the odd mixture of odours: cabbage, spices and cat piss.

At this time of the evening, it was hard to follow someone without being noticed: this close to the curfew there were few people on the streets. If he spotted me he would lead me away from her, not to her. And no doubt he would lead me into a place where I could be taken, questioned and killed.

I took a breath and peered round the corner. The old man had vanished. I had not heard the percussion of his walk, which meant he must be close.

She must be close.

I crept towards the spot I had last seen the man. Hidden, on the left, was a passageway with steps leading up to a door.

The door was ajar.

Aware this was likely to be a trap, but seeing no other option, I eased the knife from its scabbard, hidden under my cloak and skipped lightly up the steps.

Neither light nor sound trickled from the cracks in the door. Perhaps I should mark this place, somehow. Come back in daylight. But if I was right and she was here, it was unlikely she would remain until I returned with my friends.

The regimented sound of boots on stone echoed up the streets behind me. The City Guards were out, strictly enforcing the curfew with their steel. If I wanted to leave, I should have already done so. My mind made up, I inched towards the door and, taking a deep breath, pushed the door open.

The hinges were well oiled, and did not creak. That both relieved me and worried me in equal measure. Noisy hinges were useful for alerting those who listened for them to the presence of unwanted intruders. Either, she was not here, after all, or they did not care who entered.

Inside it was dark, and very cold. This dwelling would have been carved into the rocks of the city many centuries ago. I stood for a moment, listening, and letting my eyes adjust. I could hear something, I realised. Music. And laughter. Using the walls as a guide I slid along the passage until my hand touched the warmth of wood. Another door. I pressed my ear to the door. It was from within that the music and laughter came. I adjusted the grip on my knife and let my other hand wander over the door until it found the handle. I took a deep breath and turned it and pushed the door open.

The room was lit by lamps flickering oily flames up the walls, and by a fire that sat in the middle of the room, the smoke flowing up a metal tube that led up through the high ceiling above. She sat behind a table laden with food, and jugs of what I assumed was wine. Musicians playing flutes and instruments stringed with animal gut were sat on cushions and rugs beside her. There did not seem to be any guards, or visible weapons.

Perhaps this would be easier than I thought.

The musicians continued to play their music, despite my intrusion. If she was surprised to see me – barefoot, black cloak covering my thin body, knife held out towards her – she did not show it. Her smile widened and she gestured towards the table in front of her.

“You must be hungry,” she said, her voice loud enough to carry through the music. “Come, eat. We have much to talk about.”

I sensed a movement from behind me, and turning I found the old man’s toothless face in mine. With a flick of his staff, he sent my knife spinning from my hand, across the room. She caught it, without seeming to move.

All the while the musicians played on.

I have been outwitted, I realised, as I am led by the old man to her table.

“Eat,” she said, pushing a plate towards me, with my knife. “Drink,” she said, gesturing at a goblet already full of dark red wine. “And then, my dear brother, we will talk.”

Part two: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-part-2-a-fictional-tale-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

The best laid plans…

Father led the way, his long stride carrying him easily over the rocks.
“It’s this way, everyone” he called out behind him, his tone as confident as his steps.
I glanced at Mother. She had THAT look on her face, her lips pressed so tightly together they bearly existed.
There was trouble brewing.
Tears before bedtime, as Granny used to say.
The younger ones skipped and slipped over the rocks, in front of us, following in Father’s wake. At the moment they were happy, but with the little ones happiness was only a short slip away from a full on tantrum at this time of the day.
The sun was setting, darkness was beginning to gather around us like a pack of wild dogs. We would be lucky to make it before we were swallowed up by it.
Father called over his shoulder again, but his words were dragged away trom us, dashed upon the rocks, lost in the sea below.
Father was taking us on one of his shortcuts.
I had come to realise that when Father used the phrases “I’ve got a plan!” or “this shortcut will save us time!” things would usually end up more interesting, but not necessarily in a good way.
The “plan” was to cut across the bay on foot (“we don’t want to get back in the car again after such a long journey, do we kids?”, “Noooooo!”), eat at the restaurant and get a taxi back (“This way way will save time and we get to see the sea”, “yaaaaaaaaay!”). Mother had argued, of course, but had lost the battle. Even the request to “at least phone ahead and book a table” was laughed off.
I didn’t pick one side or another, even though I knew Mother was right. I couldn’t bear to see the look of betrayal on Father’s face.
I just gave the best shrug my adolescent shoulders could muster: whatever.
At least, this time, Father had brought a torch. As the last red rays left us we had a white beam of light to guide us up the beach.
The restaurant car park was suspiciously empty, the windows depressingly dark.
Father walked up to the door and studied the sign for longer than it could possibly take to read the word “Closed”
Mother put her hands on her hips, her lips twitching as the words “I told you so” struggled to stay behind them.
Father turned towards us, a smile on his face.
“I’ve got a plan!” he said.