Posts Tagged ‘sword & sorcery’

External Weapons

She walked into my office, long legs striding, high heels clicking. What you’d call a real dame, although that kind of language faded out a hundred years ago. Asked to see the detective.

“I’m a private eye, Miss,” I answered, as respectfully as I could with a whiskey hangover clouding my brain. It would last until at least lunch, when I would get a few hours of clear headed sharpness before five o’clock made me thirsty. If I had clients, I’d meet them at the bar downstairs. If I didn’t, I’d go anyways. It made it easy for my ex-wife to find me when her alimony payments were late.

“I’m no Miss,” she said. “And you’re drunk.”

Respectful still, I nodded.

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” she snapped, reaching into her Greta Garbo trench coat. My first instinct was to dive. Women like to carry guns that way, hidden in long fur coats and tucked in thigh holsters. You can usually tell when a man is packing; he walks differently, struts a bit more. Women strut naturally, and it has nothing to do with an external weapon.

I myself have never carried a gun, instead reaching down for the blade I kept in my trouser pocket. It was a light samurai edition; only the handle was grasped in my sweaty palm, but if I slid the safety away it would extend into a beautiful fencing master style weapon.

But what she pulled from her coat and flung at me wasn’t a bomb, or a hand grenade, or even a court summons: it was stardust.

Mehnschelom,” she said, wrapping her tongue around the ancient words, and I felt my chest seize, as if my heart would lift right out of my ribcage and pull all my secret fears with it.

I grabbed at my collar, feeling strangled. “Mmpghm.”

She only crossed her arms, prepared to wait.

“Mmpghm!” The strangling sensation burned and then eased, before a powerful throbbing hit my temples. I began to sweat, and then shiver. My body was rapidly accelerating the hangover; processing the alcohol from last night – was that tequila I smelt? Damn that bartender – and clubbing my head and guts with it.

 Then I blinked and the room wobbled on its axis for one long second; Greta Garbo just watched, and I caught a tell-tale glimpse of silver in her eyes. I should have noticed right away; this one was a witch.

“Pfft,” I said, reaching for a waterglass and realizing I had never, not once, drank water in this office.

“C’mon, let’s go downstairs,” she said, coming around the desk and grabbing my shoulder. “I need you firing on all pistons and I don’t have time to waste.” I staggered after her downstairs to the bar, where the bartender took one look at me and reached for the Jameson; he took a second look at her and put it back.

“Soda water,” she said. “Two.”

I guzzled mine and burped slightly; she pushed her glass over and I drank that as well, slower this time.

“So what can I do for you, ma’am?” I said, managing full words again and remembering not to call her ‘Miss’.

“I need protection.”

“Plenty of hired guns in this city, ma’am.” I smiled, appreciating the experience of sitting in a dingy bar with such a beautiful woman. Cheekbones that could cut glass; thin lips that didn’t look given to loving words. Her silver eyes were covered up more or less with contacts, but when she was annoyed – which she was now – the light shone through anyways.

“And they carry guns,” she said. “I need a swordmaster.”

I felt a sick thrill, probably akin to how a former heroin addict looks at needles.

She took out a package of smokes and offered me one; I accepted, holding up a lighter. Her long blonde hair drifted forward as she leaned in, cigarette in her lips, and touched it to the flame as I lit mine simultaneously. It was the closest we would come to a kiss.

“My name,” she began.

“Is not important,” I finished for her. “You’re not going to tell me the real one anyways.” I glanced involuntarily down at her long legs, which were wearing real, old fashioned silk stockings with a seam up the back. That seam was like a fishing line; it led straight into the imaginations of men. “There are what, a hundred witches registered in the city of Chicago?”

“In the registry, I’m dead,” she said.

“My condolences.” I understood the stardust now; her signature energy flare would be detected by the government immediately, and dead witches don’t cast spells. It seemed an expensive way to get rid of a hangover though.

She inhaled deeply and blew the smoke at the approaching bartender in a clear warning. He backed away and she returned her attention to me. “People are looking for me,” she said. “Not the Department of Energy.”

“They think you’re dead.”

She nodded. “And the Keyes Gang is what made them think that. There was a blow-out blaze a few nights ago; I was supposedly a part of it.” I had seen the arcs of light fizzle and die like fireworks over the housing projects to the south; witchcraft battles could be so pretty. From a distance.

I tapped out the ash directly on the bar. “So they faked your flare and stooged you. Handy how witches don’t leave bodies behind. And now they’re looking for you? The Keyes Gang?”

Another nod. “I need to get out of the city. Quickly.”

“Did you steal from them?”

She laughed. “Nothing that wasn’t mine to begin with.”

I sighed, stubbed the cigarette out. “They all say that. But a dead witch who won’t come to life, who has stardust to throw around like confetti, who needs a swordmaster because guns don’t kill sorcerers – you really expect me to get involved…”

The doors of the bar flew open with a crackle of silver. She threw a glance back at me, reaching into her coat. “You’re already involved,” she said. “Now draw your sword.”

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