The Beckoning Void
The Beckoning Void
by Patrick LeClerc
Genre: Gaslamp Adventure Horror
Roderick held the young man tight against his torso, not giving the intruder room to turn or grab a weapon, and twisted the knife until the struggles subsided.
It took longer than he remembered.
It always did. It didn’t matter if you’d killed a man before. Something dulled the sharp edges of memory. Feeling the life go out of a man was always surprising, but it was a familiar surprise, as if that made any sense. It was as though the mind didn’t want to remember, but the body did.
“Easy, lad,” he breathed in the young man’s ear. “Just let go. There we are.”
He eased the limp body to the floor. The young man’s musket and hanger were definitely captured from a cultist. They were from the lot of surplus Roderick had purchased. He had a red cap with the stupid starfish badge the cultists used. That didn’t mean much. They’d lost a few men at the village and a fair number attacking the Phoenix. Could have come from either. The rest of his clothing was local peasant dress. The knife at the man’s belt was local as well, but long and sharp and well suited for slitting throats of enemies. Well, do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you, he’d always thought.
Now, what is it you were so eager to hide? he wondered. He retrieved the note and read:
Received your map. Preparing to move. Will await your next message. If no contact by Friday, we will assume the worst and take steps.
He took the other note, the one the young man had taken from the cavity. This one was in a delicate hand. A flowing script.
Make yourselves ready. They plan to perform the ritual in two days. I shall try to discover the hour.
Well, well, well. Roderick tucked the message back into place and replaced the stone. No need for Gorka to see that quite yet. And if the boy’s contact did come looking for it, best not to tip them off. Maybe he could even lie in wait and see who showed up.
Now, to go show the prophet that his fortress was beset by spies and gain a bit more credit in those damned uncanny eyes.
He hoisted the corpse over his shoulder and set off for Gorka’s chamber.
The guards flanking the door of the advisor’s chamber snapped to attention at the count’s approach.
“Captain—” one began.
“No time for that, my good man,” said Roderick cheerily. He raised a boot and kicked the door open. “Gorka! Brought you a present, old boy!”
The acolyte spun toward the count, his face twisted in rage. It was then Roderick saw the prophet himself was seated to the right of the desk. Perfect. The prophet always made the hair stand up on the back of neck, but few things were quite as delicious as showing up Gorka in front of his master.
“What is this outrage?” shouted the high acolyte.
Roderick heaved the corpse off his shoulders onto the man’s desk. The thump was satisfying, making pens dance and knocking an inkwell smashing to the floor. He saw the stunned, speechless anger on the face of the cultist and couldn’t remember the last time he’d has this much fun with his trousers up.
“Found this fellow sneaking in the back side of the castle. Crawled through a window. I would hazard a guess that he’s a spy, and he had somehow acquired one of the very fashionable red hats your men wear. Simple military advisor that I am, I thought this important enough to demand your immediate attention. I did also detail a squad of men to scout the forest around the castle in the event that this fellow wasn’t operating alone.”
** Recently made it into the semi finals of the 2023 Book Blogger Novel of the Year Award! Details can be found at https://www.bbnya.com/ OR on Twitter at @BBNYA_Official **
Patrick LeClerc makes good use of his history degree by working as a paramedic for an ever- changing parade of ambulance companies in the Northern suburbs of Boston. When not writing he enjoys cooking, fencing and making witty, insightful remarks with career-limiting candor.
In the lulls between runs on the ambulance --and sometimes the lulls between employment at various ambulance companies-- he writes fiction.
His work can be found at inkandbourbon.com, and quantummuse.com
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