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I am closing in on completing the manuscript for Werelord Thal. I'm styling it as a historical paranormal romance. It should only be one or two more months before I'm done writing it and can move into editing, which is the stage when it truly begins to become ready for readers.
Until then, I'll present this little excerpt from Chapter 26.
Characters in this scene:
Valentino, a Condottiere originally from Milan
Regis, a musician of Venice
A tavern in Prague
“There’s money to be made in war,” Valentino said.
“Then why do soldiers always want for pay?” Thal asked because it was common knowledge that soldiers earned promises more often than hard coin.
“Commanders get paid far more often,” Valentino said. “You could be a commander. I can see that men will follow you.”
Thal did not doubt that assessment, but knowing he could control men and perhaps even inspire them to violent deeds if need be was not the same as wishing to do so.
“I want no part in killing others for no reason,” Thal said.
“Oh someone has a reason every time, and he’s the one paying to put men in the field,” Valentino said to alleviate Thal’s ignorance. Thal’s moral high ground amused the naturally cynical Valentino.
“My killing is done for my own reasons,” Thal specified.
“So the huntsman does kill more than just the animals in the forest, as I’ve heard,” Valentino said.
“Thal stood in our defense against bandits. We employ him as our bodyguard,” Regis said, quite possessively.
“And there’s no competing with what a musician can pay,” Valentino joked.
Regis frowned. He did not like the direction of this conversation at all. He would have to keep reinforcing his message of peace with Thal. Hopefully he could keep him from going gun shopping tomorrow.
“I think my friend is clear about not wanting to be in your war business,” Regis said.
Valentino stirred the horseradish left on his plate, making it pink with bloody juice. “Perhaps he has not considered the opportunities soldiering provides criminals. Serving a good cause has spared many a man the gallows,” he said.
“Don’t let him threaten you,” Regis said hotly.
“We’re just talking,” Thal said, and his friend frowned but shut his mouth because he knew that his loyalty and fondness could not protect Thal.
“What cause have you to call me a criminal?” Thal wondered with faux innocence.
Valentino smiled. His full lips framed good teeth. “I’m the sort of man who also knows bounty hunters,” he said.
Thal pierced him with a threatening gaze and a discouraging chill scampered down Valentino’s back.
“Is there some bounty offered for me?” Thal said.
“Letters are circulating throughout Bohemia offering twenty gold florins for your capture on charges of Devil worship and shape changing, among other things,” Valentino said. He had just learned these details that afternoon after engaging in some strategic gossip.
“Is twenty gold florins a lot?” Thal said.
Valentino laughed, recognizing a man who possessed no remorse for his crimes. “It’s not bad,” he judged.
“It matters not. I won’t be caught,” Thal said.
“Be reasonable, man! You have to sleep. Someone will get to you, but I can protect you. We’ll give you a new name and I’ll set you up as one of my commanders. With a little training you’ll be magnificent. Wars are brewing, more than usual, and the powers that be won’t be scrutinizing who's making things happen for them on the ground,” Valentino said.
An outburst of loud voices in the main dining room erupted into a shouting match between two men. Regis leaned out of the alcove to see. A big woman smacked the fighters, but the argument still intensified. The men were dragged outside.
Thal paid little heed to the action. He stared at the table, deep in thought.
“Do you believe the charges against me?” Thal asked quietly under the noise.
Valentino shrugged. “I don’t care. The way the world is going I’m going to be called a heretic or worse no matter which side I work for.”
“I don’t worship the Devil,” Thal insisted. His lack of denial about shape changing implied admission of it. Valentino looked to the musicians to see if they were shocked, but apparently Thal’s unholy habits were not news to them. The Condottiere suddenly wondered if he was grabbing a tiger by its tail, as the silk traders would say. But he was a man accustomed to living an exciting life, and the qualities he saw in Thal were too tempting. Good men possessing bright minds and daring hearts and in trouble with the law were rare.
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