Here’s a bit from “The Gleaming Ones,” the first story in my forthcoming collection of short stories set in the world of SAGE, the collection to be called SHIFTY.
In this story, Kinnan has agreed to trade a woman’s jewel for her sweetheart, held prisoner by the mysterious people of the woods.
The Gleaming Ones
by Marian Allen
The wind rustled in the tops of the low trees. No, not the wind. The sound grew louder and the branches shook from higher to lower. Something was coming down from the trees. Many somethings.
Like over-ripe fruit, people dropped to the ground. Each tree produced four or five figures: men, women, children. They were all dressed in ivory garb, embroidered more richly than the clothes of Kinnan’s hostess. None of them had hair. Their heads, faces, necks, hands, feet — all visible parts — were tattooed. Some of the tattoos appeared to be metallic, and gleamed in the vision granted him by the cloth on his shoulders.
Kinnan drew his sword and bowed, though not low enough to take his eyes off the strange people. When he straightened, he held his sword across his chest like a slender shield. With every movement, the bells around his waist jangled.
The people murmured, and the approaching man halted and dropped his smile.
“You can see us.”
“And hear us.”
The man didn’t ask how. He only cocked his head and pointed a slender finger at the brooch Prisla had provided.
“We like that jewel.”
“It has a price.”
The man smiled again.
“We like to bargain.”
“It has a price.”
The man frowned. “We have many choice goods to offer in trade, and many long hours to discuss them and choose.”
“One price. I name it.”
The people’s murmuring was angry, now: a waspish drone, loud in the silent woods.
When the drone had died away, Kinnan said, “Askendar. Give him to me, and the jewel is yours.”
“No. He serves us well.”
Kinnan didn’t answer. Time passed in immobility and silence. His sword hand ached from holding his blade without its drooping or trembling. When the man before him lifted an arm and flicked a summoning gesture, it was all Kinnan could do not to flinch at the sudden movement.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about trying to cut a deal.