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Stranger of Tempest

by Tom Lloyd

Stranger of Tempest - Tom Lloyd
Part of the The God Fragments series:
  • Stranger of Tempest
Editions:KindlePaperback

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour; a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent's principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. It might never bring a man fame or wealth, but he's not forced to rely on others or kill without cause.

Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won't turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough; the mercenaries less stupid and vicious than most he's met over the years.

So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.

Published:
Publisher: Gollancz
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Tags:
Tropes: Abandoned Place, Band of Misfits, Hunted, Lost Civilization, Redemption Arc, Reluctant Hero, Roguish Thief


Languages Available: English, German

Excerpt:

For a damsel in distress, she was rather more spattered with someone else’s blood than Lynx had expected. And naked. Very naked.

‘Well?’ she demanded.

Lynx could only gape a while longer. Finally his words spilled out in an abashed mumble. ‘Um – come to rescue you, Miss.’

‘You’ll have to wait,’ she snapped at the knot of mercenaries crowding the doorway. ‘I’m busy.’

‘Guh.’

Lynx tried to say more, but something in his head had stopped working the moment she’d opened the door, and his tongue seemed to fill his mouth. A beguiling scent of vanilla and night jasmine fogged his mind. Beside him the hard-bitten veteran, Varain, sounded like he was choking, while the silent giant, Reft, was as wordless as ever.

It fell to Safir to remember how to use words and even the former nobleman hesitated before he offered a deep bow.

‘We are at your command, my lady.’

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That prompted a small smile. ‘Glad at least one of you’s seen a woman before.’

Safir inclined his head and gave a polite cough. ‘Ah, my lady?’

‘Yes?’

‘Your, ahem, friend,’ he said, pointing behind her. ‘He’s found a knife.’

Once Lynx managed to drag his gaze off the woman, he saw a half-dressed man with pale hair and chiselled features staggering woozily in the room behind. Blood dribbled from his broken nose down a once-fine white doublet and his silk stockings were ripped and sagging. As the man tried to yank his britches back up from his ankles he only managed to rip them further as he snagged one foot.

An emerald silk shift lay on the floor nearby. From the smell of brandy, Lynx guessed the man had staggered in and ripped it off her when she answered the door. A broken nose certainly seemed a fair start.

Eventually the man managed to haul his britches over his knees and waddle forward, brandishing a gold-hilted dagger in their direction. His long, oiled hair was now plastered over one side of his face, his lips swollen and bleeding as he tried to work his mouth well enough to call for help.

‘Oh please.’

The woman sighed and stalked back into the room, ignoring the blade Safir offered. Instead she swept up a candlestick from a side table and lashed out with a ferocious backhand swipe. She caught the nobleman’s wrist and Lynx heard something snap under the impact. As the blade tumbled from the man’s grip she followed the blow up with a knee to his stomach. That threw him back against the ornate bed post and drove the wind from any further attempt to cry out.

‘Lady Toil,’ Anatin called from behind Lynx. ‘We’re on something of a schedule here. Could we hurry this up?’

Lynx glanced back at their commander. The grey-haired man didn’t seem in the least surprised that their fifteen-year-old kidnap victim was in fact a muscular veteran of about thirty, the glisten of sweat on her skin only highlighting her wide assortment of scars. Nor that she was beating seven shades of shit out of an armed nobleman.

Her long hair was tinted a deep red and had been carefully styled prior to her current exertions, her fingernails painted a similar bright shade to her raw, bloodied knuckles. Even naked she stood tall and moved with lithe purpose, quite unconcerned by the mercenaries watching like lust-struck little boys. Lynx realised he’d been holding his breath as he watched her and exhaled noisily.

‘Lady Toil?’ The woman laughed. ‘I like the sound of that.’

She punched the nobleman on his already-broken nose and he flopped back on the bed, whimpering.

‘You,’ Toil ordered, pointing at Lynx. ‘Clothes in that drawer, boots in the cupboard.’

Lynx blinked dumbly at her for a moment. It took a swat around the head from Anatin before he sheathed his sword and ducked his head, muttering, ‘Clothes, right.’

‘Good boy.’

‘So who in the coldest black is he then?’ Lynx added as he pulled open the drawer and tossed aside a silk dress to unearth something rather more practical.

A pair of short-swords lay under a plain tunic and trousers so he pulled them out and threw them over a chair. He shook his head as though he could dislodge the image of Toil that had been burned into his mind, stoking his anger to distract the lurching sensation from deep in his belly.

‘This ray of sunshine?’ Toil asked, holding the man’s lolling head up. ‘Can’t you guess?’

‘All I know’s we’ve been lied to all the way here,’ Lynx said. ‘Those were proper soldiers downstairs, this ain’t the house of some minor noble who didn’t like being told no.’

Toil let the man drop back and hauled on her linen drawers and shirt. ‘You’re mercs,’ she commented. ‘You do what you’re told and you get paid for it.’

‘Lynx,’ Anatin added in a warning tone, ‘you of all folk got no right to start getting pissy now.’

Lynx gave the commander a level look. ‘I signed up for a rescue, not an assassination. Right now I’m guessing this job’s a whole lot more dangerous than we thought. You even told your Knights what the real mission is?’

Toil took a step towards him. Despite the fact she was unarmed and distractingly beautiful, she carried a threatening air that made him tense.

‘You were told enough,’ she said firmly. ‘Get me out of the house, escort me out of the city.’ Without warning a dazzling smile broke like the sun through clouds. ‘Now be a sweetheart and fetch my pack and boots. We’ll be running soon.’

‘She’s right, Lynx,’ Safir added, stepping in to the room so Lynx’s unit commander, Teshen, could look inside. Both the dark-skinned Safir and pale Teshen were Knights of the company and neither seemed disquieted by what they saw. ‘I can put the pieces together, but now’s not the time. We ride clear of the city, then we can fling blame about like angry monkeys.’

Lynx paused as he pulled the boots and pack from the cupboard she’d indicated. He looked over at the battered man on the bed while Toil continued to dress. Olive-skinned and blue eyed, the man was clearly an Asann merchant-prince and now he looked around the room, Lynx realised this wasn’t some nobleman’s city residence at all. More likely the elegant home of a merchant’s mistress, albeit a rich one.

What’d be the worst trouble we could be in right now?

Lynx sagged. ‘He’s Princip of the Assayed Council, isn’t he?’

‘Not for much longer,’ Toil said darkly, lacing up her boots. Once that was done she stood and belted her short-swords on. ‘Anatin, you ready?’

The commander nodded towards Teshen and jerked his thumb at the corridor behind him. ‘Get ready to move, assume there are more guards.’

‘There won’t be,’ Toil interjected. ‘He always comes with just a handful, but there will be patrols on the street.’

‘So we go quietly,’ Anatin replied. ‘Teshen, check the street.’

‘Quietly? Sure, I guess,’ Toil said with a small smile. ‘Now come here, you gutless little fuck.’

She grabbed the Princip of the Assayed – ruler of the entire city-state of Grasiel – by his bloodied tunic and hauled him upright. The man whimpered and snivelled, barely supporting his own weight, but Toil was a powerful woman and held him easily.

‘Yeah, we could do quiet I suppose.’

Toil gave the mercenaries a savage grin and lurched abruptly right. Lynx watched open-mouthed as she took a brief run-up to the diamond-pattern window that covered much of the western wall. With a grunt of effort she hurled the Princip at the large central panel. The glass seemed to explode out into the night air and he pitched through – finally finding his voice as he flailed at the darkness. He dropped, the echo of his shrieks cut off by a sickening crunch from the paved street beyond.

There was a moment where no one even breathed. Then Toil leaned out of the window and gave a grunt of approval.

‘See, all quiet now,’ she said as she headed for the door.

It was late into the night and a quiet neighbourhood. Lynx was in the corridor and already running by the time he heard the first screams.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Tom Lloyd was born in 1979 in Berkshire. After a degree in International Relations he went straight into publishing where he still works. He never received the memo about suitable jobs for writers and consequently has never been a kitchen-hand, hospital porter, pigeon hunter, or secret agent. He lives in Oxford, isn’t one of those authors who gives a damn about the history of the font used in his books and only believes in forms of exercise that allow him to hit something. Visit him online at http://www.tomlloyd.co.uk.