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Broken Crossroads
Type: , ,
Author: Patrick LeClerc
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The city of Laimrig, once a mighty hub of commerce and a seat of power sinks into corruption and decay. Slavers, crime lords and corrupt officials hold sway while the ruling nobility wallow in decadence. War rages beyond the borders, while within rebellion simmers and sinister plots unfold.

Trilisean is an acrobat turned burglar. Conn is a jaded former mercenary. Against the background of deadly blades, subtle schemes, glittering treasures, dark sorceries and fell servants of forgotten gods, fate has thrown them together.

Fate has a sense of humor.

Broken Crossroads is a fast paced, witty, swashbuckling modern pulp fantasy adventure in the tradition of Fritz Leiber and Robert E Howard.

Rating: Unrated

Sample Chapter

Trilisean drifted through the marketplace crowd, as invisible as an attractive woman could be.

Stealth was not always slow, deliberate and cautious. Stealth was not being noticed.

The secret was to sense the currents of the crowd. Like the sea or the air, a crowd had mass and inertia and momentum, a flow as predictable to one trained in such things as the tides are to a ship's pilot. She moved with the crowd, adjusting her pace to its mood. Decisive, rapid, purposeful movement in a throng which browsed aimlessly would stick out.

She projected indifference. Moving casually from stall to packed stall, glancing over the gaudy heaps of bright silks, the delicate vials of scented oils, and the glittering offerings of the jewelry stalls. The right amount of interest was vital. Too much and the merchants would perk up like wolves scenting prey, too little and people would wonder why she were here. She needed to be simple background.

Most thieves knew that it was difficult to steal from merchants. Merchants are good at reading the intent of customers, and are very aware of their wares. What the best thieves knew, she thought with pride, was that it was difficult to steal near merchants. The mark must not notice, but neither could an observer, and no good merchant would fail to observe his clientele.

She had chosen her quarry with care. A fat, middle aged man, dressed in expensive and fashionable silks and ruffles of a courtier with a strikingly beautiful – and far younger – woman on his arm. The man should be shopping in a market nearer to the wealthy side of town. He surely would be if the woman were his wife. The couple was a perfect target, Trilisean felt. Both would be distracted, she by the gifts being lavished upon her, and he by the youth and vibrance of his companion.

Trilisean also knew that the best way to catch prey was not to follow, but to be where the prey were headed. Observing the general direction of their progress, she guessed they were headed for one of the better jewelry stalls. She set a meandering course towards it.

She arrived just as the woman pointed out an expensive necklace. The man dug in his purse as he haggled with the merchant. Just a bit. Out of habit, Trilisean felt. He was clearly a man who felt he should haggle, but didn't want to appear stingy to his new partner. She smiled to herself as she saw the fat man struggle to play both the generous and adoring lover and the tough, savvy customer to two audiences in the same place. He must be a courtier, she thought.

The woman smiled at her escort as he accepted the jewelry from the seller. With an expression of carefully practiced innocence, she brushed back her blonde ringlets, opened her collar and tilted her chin up to him, the easier for him to fasten the piece around her neck. Coincidentally, the pose accentuated the swell of her young, pert breasts, and gave him an excellent vantage.

Trilisean was almost as grateful as the middle aged lover. Her prey's hands trembled with nervous energy as he draped the necklace over the soft white skin and struggled to fasten the clasp with chubby fingers. He had to lean close and put his arms around her to work behind her neck. Trilisean noted his breathing accelerate.

She leaned toward the counter, brushing lightly against the wealthy man, gave a covetous glance at the necklace to stroke the ego of his companion, and examined a cheap amulet, lifting it with her left hand. The merchant, who, like all good merchants, seemed to have nerve endings connected to every piece of his stock, diverted a fraction of attention to the piece Trilisean turned over, examining it with the lip-biting concentration of one whose aspirations outreach her funds, and is all too conscious of the fact.

The stage set, all the pieces in play where she wanted, she made her move. The courtier hadn't noticed the brush of her hip against him, which both served as a final test of his awareness and pushed open the lips of his purse. Her slender, dextrous right hand slid into the purse, seizing coins, sorting them for value by touch long honed for the purpose, and drew them forth, clutching them separately between her fingers to keep them from jingling. She then put the hand, much less subtly, into her own pouch.

“How much is this?” she asked the merchant, dropping three gold crowns and a heavy, five mark silver coin into her purse.

“Ah, your eyes are not only beautiful, but are sharp for quality,” he replied. “Four marks. I should charge more, but seeing its beauty near yours is compensation enough for an old man.”

She gave him her best crestfallen look and started to put it down.

“Wait. I could let it go for three and sixpence,” he wheedled. “It's of the finest Redanyan craftsmanship. Pure silver from Thyta.”

Trilisean smiled to herself. The piece was at least half tin, made within a mile of where they stood. The forger had even gotten the Redanyan characters wrong. It should sell for a single silver mark, and that to the husband of an illiterate washerwoman, trying to buy forgiveness for a late drunken evening.

“It's so beautiful,” she lied, “but I just started a job here in the city. I can't spend more than two marks.” Let him rob you, she thought, just not much.

The merchant gave an elaborate pantomime of inner struggle, during which the happy couple departed, the woman's head on the fat man's shoulder. With luck, he'd be too distracted to count his money any time soon. Eventually, the merchant, in an act of what he made sound like financial suicide for the simple pleasure of looking upon her, settled for two mark sixpence.

Trilisean counted out the money, selecting one silver mark and painstakingly counting out eighteen pennies as though each were a drop of her blood. She accepted the amulet on its leather thong with childlike delight and skipped off.

Sixty five marks for the outlay of two and a half, she thought. Not a bad haul. She looked at the cheap amulet. It was pretty, if misspelled, and the metal was nice and shiny.

She slipped the cord over her head. The piece wasn't worth the effort of selling, but she decided to keep it as a trophy of the hunt.

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