The protagonist, and POV character for my novel Tsirash, Octras is a freelance mercenary with a complex past and a shaky future. He's great at his job--although he's reluctant to do it--and his size makes him an intimidating opponent. He's also got a scholarly mind, although he's never been able to afford schooling. But his people skills are lacking.
Anyway. He's awesome. :)
And so, I present to you the short story which introduces my novel and Octras: "Broken Rules."
Octras licked his cracked lips as he studied the ground. The rocks around his feet slipped when he stood. He knew that his shell thief was somewhere in this pass, hiding among the jagged cliffs that jutted out along the face of the mountain. It was an ideal hideout, really. From the road, it was impossible to see any of the caves that existed among the broken cliffs. And the terrain was treacherous; no man was designed to climb the slope. Even as Octras drew breath, the rocks gave way, and he slid down a finger-length. The only way to find sure footing here was to test it.
He moved, little by little, until he found the footprints he was looking for. Tiny rocks had been pressed lightly into the moist ground where he now stood. They marked the thief’s trail, which led straight up the mountainside. Octras gripped the wall of gravel and climbed. It was like crawling up several flights of broken stairs. Stones slid around him, but his calloused hands and careful balance kept him from falling.
As Octras reached a flat surface large enough to stand on, he knew he was just below the entrance. His muscles tensed and stretched as he hoisted himself over the ledge and onto the shelf—the thief’s cave. It was much larger than he expected, filled with treasures from all over the region.
“I didn’t think you would make it,” the thief said, stepping from the shadows. His black hair hung like drapes from a loose ponytail. “You’re clever to have followed me this far. Since you survived the climb, it means you’re either a magician or a death seeker. I’m curious to know which it is I’ll be killing.”
The words were strong from someone so short. This thief was hardly more than a boy; even if he had some combat skill, he was no match for Octras.
“Now, none of that. I didn’t even bring Tyn with me. I just need the shells you took from Dors, and I’ll be on my way.” Octras rose to his full height, weighing the boy’s reaction. “But if you insist on fighting, I’m sure Varin here would love to play.” He tapped the broadsword strapped to his belt.
Though he was certain the thief was scared, the boy puffed with bravado. “I don’t know what you’re spouting, mercenary, but I’ll write it on your grave anyway, when I bury you.”
The thief lunged forward, a knife flashing as he struck. Octras dodged, and the thief pushed past him. Octras wheeled around and pushed on his opponent’s head—the boy stumbled toward the entrance. He turned and slashed several times, but his movements were wide; Octras barely had to sidestep his swings.
The thief’s attacks were all wrong. He had never been trained, and yet he swung with confidence. A blow finally landed, pushing Octras out toward the entrance. The blade hadn’t pierced his skin; it was a dull thud against his chainmail.
Octras drew his broadsword—and was taken off guard as the thief tackled him, sending them both over the ledge. Octras gripped the rock with his right hand as he went over. His side smashed into the cliff, and he dropped his sword. Below him, he could hear the thief tumbling down the slope. When the sound ended with a sudden thump, Octras brought himself around the shelf to the only flat area and let go. Turning toward the road, he slid after the thief down the mountainside.
At the bottom, the thief’s unconscious body lay in a sad pile of bruises and broken bones. The shells he had stolen were still tied to his waist. Octras removed them, and then checked for a pulse and shallow breath. Badly broken from his own foolish mistake—Octras knew that punishment well—and yet the boy was alive. Octras grabbed his damaged broadsword and sheathed it, another unseen struggle going on within his mind. He would have to go against the rules of service again.
The mercenary, arms shaking and fresh blood trailing across half his body, carried the boy on his shoulders.