Read the First Chapter of ‘As the Crow Flies’

To celebrate the upcoming release of my fantasy novel, and to give readers a taste of what to expect on December 10, 2012, I want to share with you the first chapter of As the Crow Flies.
I’d love to hear what you think!

Chapter 1
Flying Weather
I am called Crow, and I am a thief. The name and the profession go hand in hand and, like the bird, I am not at all opposed to appropriating what pleases me. I am good at it. Crows are smart and clever. Black of hair, dark of eye, and dusky of skin, I am as like that much-maligned bird as any man can be. My nimble fingers and quick mind have guaranteed me the most profitable jobs and a comfortable place in the annals of history.
I always work alone. Most of my life, in fact, has been spent alone, a situation I never felt inclined to alter until, in my thirty-first spring, I fell in love. Ah, Tarsha, my beautiful jewel…
It was for her sake that I perched on the ledge of a narrow window in Baron Metin Duzayan’s residence more than three stories above the churning waters of the Zenn River. 
The din of pursuit clattered down the hall behind me. Which way would the guardsmen most likely look for me? Down. Down was the easy way to go, the quick way, but any fool can leap to his death in a raging river, and I am no fool. With vengeful Winter tramping through the land, it would be bitterly cold, too. I would rather fly than take a wetting, so up it was.
From my pack I took rope and grapnel, and in a trice I made my way to the Baron’s rooftop via an ornate corner finial. Fluted, ice-covered tiles made the roof a dangerous place and Winter, openly jeering, spat the first few droplets of a freezing rain in my face. Gaining a dubious perch, I loosed the grapnel and flipped it higher up the roof. Thank the god of ornate architecture, the hook caught on a fine-looking gargoyle straddling the upper peak. Scarcely I had pulled myself from view before I heard the shouts of the guardsmen. Baron Duzayan was the proud proprietor of many exquisite collectibles—one of which now resided comfortably in the belt at my waist—and employed guards touted as the best of the best. However, just because they were most likely to look down first didn’t mean that they would altogether neglect to look up. I had only moments in which to disappear from this location, else suffer the consequences, a fate I had nimbly avoided thus far in my life.
I lay against the icy tiles, shivering, and looked around at my options. They were decidedly few: slide down the roof to the street, a drop of at least two stories, or continue along the peak. Having no particular desire for the probable death or crippling offered by the first choice, I naturally took the path of the second, all the while cursing the infernal, flea-bitten cat that had given me away attacking my ankles as I’d hidden behind a tapestry. I hate cats, and if not for that one, I would have decamped by way of the underground route that had been part of my original plan, and so been long gone by now. 
Using the grapnel as an ice-hook, I pulled myself along the roof until I reached the end and another sturdy gargoyle protecting the eminent Baron from Evil. Darkness opened up below me. Baron Duzayan was a rich man, and could afford the narrow strip of garden that separated his building from that of his neighbor, but at the moment, I could find no appreciation for its doubtless beauty. The distance was only some twenty-five feet, and with my grapnel and rope I crossed it quickly and ran the length of the much nicer, flatter roof of the next house, and then the next. The sounds of pursuit faded behind me. I was going to make it! Praised be the god of quick thinking!
An alley appeared below me, but it was not so wide that I couldn’t make the jump, and I took it with a quivering thrill in my heart. No wings, no strings, an unmeasured height—and the certain knowledge of the cobbled street below. That dizzying leap on the run was one of the few ways I could ever get close to flying.
I hit the parapet on my feet and leaned forward into a somersault that landed me on the roof proper. With a crow of delight in my throat, I skipped across the remaining space and vaulted down to the next level. The neighboring building was a burned-out shell, but along the edge of the river ran a high, narrow wall. Rather than going to the ground and stumbling through the ruins, I ran along the wall. Full of rain turning to hail, the wind at my back pushed me along. Still, if I missed my footing, it would be a nasty fall into the water. I made it without mishap, cornered, and ran a little further along the wall to where another roof hung low enough for me to scramble up. It was high time to cross the street and head for another neighborhood. Hooking my grapnel in the top of a chimney, I climbed up to the second story and made my way to the front of the house. Across the street stood another impressive mansion like the Baron’s. It was three stories high, and much decorated with fancy frills, convenient balustrades, and more grimacing gargoyles. It was, in other words, a tiny castle begging to be scaled.
The wind coming from my right had gained in heartlessness. I shivered and flexed my stiffening fingers. Even the running I had done was not enough to keep me warm, and my flapping cloak did little to help. Tiny pellets of ice stung my face and made my eyes water. It took a miserable four tries to hook the grapnel around my newest stone accomplice, and then I swung across the street and hauled myself up to the roof hand over hand. I slipped twice on a rope grown stiff and ungainly with ice. Even so, I made it to the top without accident. The wind carried the noise of confusion and turmoil from the Baron’s house. None of the guards had made it this far up the street yet. The best of the best had met their match. I grinned.
Turning to make my way down the ice-slick slope of the roof, something struck my shoulder. With a shout of surprise, I flung my arms out in a vain attempt to keep myself from falling down the incline. Swearing, I slipped and slithered across the tiles. There was nothing to grab onto, no purchase to be had. Gathering momentum, I skidded off the roof and into space. Was it luck or a curse that tangled my rope around my wrist? I only know I came to a swift and painful halt as my arm was nearly yanked from my shoulder. 
The halt was temporary. I was, unfortunately, not grasping the rope, and I began the second stage of my descent with a shriek-inducing rope burn.
The gods bless me with good fortune beyond measure. The god of chance set an opposing section of architecture beneath me to break my fall. It nearly broke both my legs, as well. I landed heavily and pitched headfirst into a wall. Dizzy and battered, I tried to blink the stars from my eyes. A few loose tiles smashed behind me, and someone opened a window and shouted.
If the shrieking and the tile flinging hadn’t been enough to capture the attention of the guards, the shouting surely would. As if on cue, a handful of them spilled down the street on the run.
Pulling myself together, I scrambled up the valley to the lower ridge and slid down the other side. My head was still ringing, and my eyes refused to focus. My attacker, however, experienced no such problem, coming at me from behind and battering my head with hard, tiny fists. “Thief! Thief!” it squawked at the top of its lungs.
“What—?” Broad wings covered my face, blocking my view entirely while razor-like talons dug into my scalp. Predictably, I fell. This tumble was neither as graceful nor happy-ending as the last. I smacked into something—a chimney, perhaps. It caught at my shoulder and spun me around, hurtling me sideways across the roof. From there I banged into three more unidentifiable objects, which was probably a good thing, for it slowed my descent, however much blood the encounters drew. It was, therefore, no great agony to flounder over the edge and bash myself into a new pitch of the roof.
My body begged for me to lay there and gasp and moan for even a moment, but my assailant had other plans. Even had it not, I had to contend with the relentless slant of the roof. Still, the gods were obviously with me this night. I slid feet first into something solid and came to an abrupt halt. My knees were not going to stand up to much more torture. Surely something crunched.
I had no time to worry over my wounds, however. Tearing the creature off my face, I flung it away as hard and far as possible. It was a small, winged demon, of the sort occasionally enslaved for sundry menial tasks, such as guarding the valuables of the rich. I’d seen them a time or two, but only once had to deal with one. Disgusting creatures. Despite my muddled state, I found a few choice words to vent my irritation. Evidently the creature took offense at my verbal assault, and renewed the attack.
For all that it was a small thing, perhaps half again the size of the Baron’s attack-cat, it packed an impressive wallop. It came for me, aiming at my head. The instant I put my arms up to defend my face, it dove directly into my stomach, howling fit to wake the dead. My breath deserted me. Gasping at the frigid night air, I tried to knock the thing away. My blows were weak and clumsy. Unaffected, the demon viciously bounced on my belly, swatting my fists away with its own cruelly clawed little hands.
Things were not going well. In desperation, I rolled away from it. However, I also rolled away from the chimney that had stopped my precipitous slide. Near death from lack of air, I finished my abrupt journey and plunged over the edge of the roof. One’s life supposedly flashes before one’s eyes in the moments before death, but I saw nothing at all. Not the building I fell from, nor even the ground below me. Perhaps I was concentrating too hard on trying to fill my lungs.
Surely the last bit of roof I had visited had been the one over the ground floor? Why, then, did landing come as such a shock? Did it, by chance, have something to do with the rosebush?
My leather jerkin was a blessed protection against the thorns, but it did not defend my carcass from the broken, jabbing canes. Neither did it cover my arms. A thousand tiny spears tore through my shirtsleeves and lanced my skin. Then, to add insult to injury, the demon landed squarely on my back. The fall seemed not to have slowed it at all, for it immediately began berating my shoulders with its fists. Still shrieking, of course.
Stunned, I lay there for a moment, accepting the abuse. It was, after all, the lesser of the evils besetting me. The first order of business was to retrieve my missing breath. The icy air tore at my lungs with a vengeance, but I sucked away like mad.
Ideally, I would have then leapt to my feet, thus freeing myself from the rosebush and dislodging my assailant at the same time. Unfortunately, it was all I could do to drag myself from the bramble and force myself into a more or less upright position, still encumbered with the wailing demon.
The first thing that came to mind was to smash it into the wall. Staggering, I did so, backing as hard into the stone as I could manage without doing myself further injury. A strangled squeak preceded the creature’s silence, and it fell to the ground when I stepped away from the wall. I gave a savage kick, sending it flying into a bit of shrubbery.
Now what? My breath was returning, but I’d lost my grapnel and rope. There would be no returning to the rooftops. Casting about, I found myself in a small, walled garden. I absently patted my waist, checking that the belt full of pockets in which I carried my tools—and the Baron’s pretty bauble—was still in place. The sound of the guards’ approach spurred me to inspiration.
Dashing across the yard to a door wasn’t nearly as easy as it looked. Falling from a three-story building whilst being battered by a demon has an appalling effect on one’s muscles as well as the steadiness of one’s hands, and it took me an unconscionable amount of time to pick the lock and slip through into nearly complete darkness. I still had the foresight, however, to lock the door again behind me. 
Trying to sort out the logical layout of the house, I made my way toward the front and succeeded in finding the main hall. The house was quite large and grand, with a vaulted and beamed ceiling soaring upwards. Four cunningly worked windows let in a faint gleam of light high overhead. Fine tapestries hung from the walls, thick carpets padded the floors, and artful niches displayed handsome statuary. What caught my eye—and ’tis a blessing indeed that I am well able to see in the dark—was a pair of massive chandeliers. I could use the one closest to the door. Finding the rope that raised and lowered the thing, I loosed it and hung on tight. The chandelier crashed to the floor, hauling me up into the rafters. Two hands wide and set apart by the height of a man, the beams made an ideal catwalk. I scampered (more or less) from one end of the room to the other and positioned myself next to one of the windows. Yanking off my cloak, I wrapped it around my arm and smashed it through the glass. It produced a lovely, loud crash followed by a satisfactory shout from the guards. I trotted down the length of the beam and hid myself in the darkness of the shadows on the opposite side of the room.
I hadn’t long to wait before the guard beat at the door and the astonished owner let them in. They came jangling through with their torches, finding both the fallen chandelier and the gaping window.
“He’s gone out the front!” one of them shouted, and they all dashed toward the front door with the distressed master of the house tagging along behind in his night robe, wringing his hands and whimpering.
Returning to the window, I watched as the guards split into two groups and headed in opposite directions. For all their reputation as choice guardsmen, they were making this far too easy. I had to shake my head.
I padded quietly down to the front entrance. To their credit, one guard remained behind, quite cleverly concealing himself in the shadow created by a tall bookcase. It was my pleasure to relieve him from that duty with the handle of my knife bashed to the base of his skull. I caught him as he sank to the floor, and eased him down so as not to alarm the master, who had gone to his liquor cabinet to pour himself a drink with hands that shook enough to rattle his delicate glassware. In the light cast by the candlestick he’d set on top of the cabinet, I could admire the clarity of the pure, graceful crystal.
“Would you be so kind as to pour a drink for me, as well?” I asked politely, gliding up behind him. “Whatever you’re having will be fine.”
He whirled, his face paling. “What—?” He took one look at the knife I held in my hand—the blade a generous span of fine Taessarian steel—and his eyes rolled up into his head. I rescued the wineglass from his suddenly limp fingers as he measured his length on the exquisite parquet flooring. 
“Tut, tut,” I murmured. “Another poor fool who can’t hold his liquor.” I drank down the wonderfully bracing wine, fetched a pillow for the fellow’s head, and started out. A small curio cabinet drew my attention, and I paused. Tiny ivory figurines crowded one shelf. Unless I was mistaken (and I knew I was not), they were Cataran. I counted the figures. Twenty-one. A complete set. I expressed my amazement and delight with a low whistle. A hundred years ago, Catara had been a premiere sculptor sought by the wealthiest and most discriminating of collectors. In his latter years, he had worked on commission alone, and this set—one of a dozen Emperor Gaziah had commissioned as special rewards after the Ten Years’ War—was worth more gold pieces than I had time to contemplate. They made the transfer from the shelf to the pouch at my waist without a whimper.
Outside, the street was empty. Too empty.
Peering through the cracked door, I watched and waited for one of the guards to reveal himself. In my experience, patience is not a virtue to be taken lightly. However, the longer I waited, the more likely were the chances I would be espied by the Baron’s returning lackeys and the more my abused body would proclaim its hurt. I most certainly did not want inactivity to stiffen my muscles. I chewed on my lip for a moment while my brain raced through the alternatives.
Behind me, the master of the house moaned. He did not, apparently, realize the true danger of his situation, else he would have remained unconscious a spell longer.
I went over to him, drawing my knife again from its sheath. I put on a show of examining its finely honed edge in the imperfect light of the candles. Even as he opened his eyes and let out another quivering moan an idea came to me. He was roughly my height and build except for an unfortunate tendency toward portliness around his middle. Hopefully his taste in clothing would run along the same lines as his taste in decor. If his robe and nightclothes were anything to go by, I was in luck. I couldn’t wear my own torn and dirtied gear without attracting unwanted attention.
The moment he saw me standing above him his eyes journeyed to the back of his skull again. “Ah-ah, my dear sir,” I scolded, going down on one knee to pat his cheek smartly. He blinked back at me, and his lower lip trembled. I stood up. “On your feet now. You have nothing at all to fear if you do as I request.” He took my proffered hand and got up, shaking like a leaf in a gale.
“What—That is—Don’t—”
“Not to worry,” I assured him, offering a bright smile and patting him on the back companionably. “I need only for you to escort me quietly to your sleeping chamber. Do you think you can manage?”
He opened his mouth to speak, but instead nodded his head and said nothing at all.
“Very good.” I gestured toward the stairs with the hand that still happened to be holding my knife. He blanched, picked up the candle, and mutely led the way.
“It’s awfully quiet,” I said, halfway up the stairs. “Is your entire staff on holiday?”
“N-no, they’re in their quarters. Where I sent them when, er, when the Baron’s men came.”
He hadn’t of course, but I suppose he couldn’t have known I was watching. The absence of any sort of staff raised questions about his financial stability. Still, I kept an eye and an ear out for the possibility of the sudden appearance of a butler or maid. “Weren’t you afraid?”
“Of c-course not.”
I chuckled. “You’re a terrible liar.” Candlelight glimmered softly against the rich wood paneling, and I could make out portraits framed in gold hanging on the wall. We stopped in front of a closed door. A trickle of light seeped through the crack at the bottom. “Where is your wife?”
He gulped noisily. “In, er, Chatay. With her parents. Visiting.”
I took his wrist and twisted it gently behind his back as I reached around him and pressed the tip of my knife against his neck. “Open the door and tell her to move slowly to the center of the room.”
A tremulous little moan escaped from his throat. “D-don’t hurt us, please!” he whined.
“Don’t give me a reason to.” He was disgustingly spineless. He possessed all the constitution of a bowl of gelatin. I put a little pressure on his crooked arm. “Your wife?”
“I c-can’t—open—the door.”
Ah, yes. Between us, we had all hands occupied. I pushed him aside and opened it myself with my knife hand. The blade banged noisily against the doorframe.
“Windel?” a woman’s voice queried timorously. “Is that you, dear?”
We pushed into the room where a woman knelt on the bed. She covered her cheeks with both hands and gave a little scream, rather like a trapped mouse.
“Do as he says, Darling!” Windel gushed. “He’s got a knife!”
Yes, I’m sure she missed that, poised as it was at her poor, sweet husband’s throat. Glancing around the room, I guided Windel to a chair. “Darling,” I said, addressing his wife, “fetch me a few of your pretty scarves.”
She blushed. “Scarves?”
“Yes, that’s what I said.”
She scrambled off the bed, snatching up a robe as she went, and dashed toward a closed door. Opening it, she disappeared inside for a moment, then returned with a handful of the requested items. Shortly, Windel was snugly attached to his chair.
“Your turn, Darling.” I pulled another chair over beside Windel’s and gestured toward it. The woman meekly sat.
“Are you going to rob us?” she asked as I fastened one wrist to the arm of the chair.
“The thought has crossed my mind.”
“Torture us?” she asked, a little breathless at this notion.
“Darling!” Windel protested.
“Would you like me to?” I inquired.
“Oh!” The color in her cheeks increased. “No, thank you!”
“Very well, then.” I went first to the bedchamber door to close and lock it, then went to the door Darling had used. A peek inside revealed a decent-sized room filled nearly to overflowing with clothing and shoes. “Lovely,” I smiled. I sorted through them until I found Windel’s things, then picked out a pair of breeches, a shirt, and a coat.
“What do you think?” I asked, returning to my hosts and holding up the clothing for their inspection.
“That depends,” Darling said. “What sort of look are you trying to achieve? Judging from your present attire, I would say you prefer a look of quiet strength and understated elegance.” She tipped her head and examined me critically. “And perhaps just a touch of the unexpected.”
“Darling!” Windel objected with a touch of outrage.
I beamed at Darling. “You are most perceptive, madam.”
She fluttered her eyelashes and dimpled in a manner that was meant to be becoming, I’m sure. Her position and her sleep-tousled locks rather ruined the effect.
I popped back into the closet and came back with a new set of clothing. “How about this?”
“Oh, no,” Darling shook her head. “Those trousers are strictly for morning. They’re not at all appropriate for evening wear!”
Irritated, I tossed the clothes on the bed. “I don’t have time to dawdle!”
“Well, I could help you,” she offered.
“Darling!” This time Windel was really upset. “He’s a criminal! He’s broken into our home and tormented us! Gods alone know if he’s robbed us yet, or what he’ll do to us before he’s through!”
“All the more reason to give him what aid we can. Don’t you see, Windel? The better we cooperate with him, the better are our chances to come out of this unharmed!”
“She has a point, Windel.”
“If you screamed, the servants would come to our aid,” Windel reasoned.
“Me?” Darling squealed. “How did this suddenly become my responsibility? You’re the one who brought him upstairs to our bedchamber!”
As they continued to wrangle in increasingly shrill voices, I loosed the lady’s bonds. Taking her hand, I pulled her toward the closet. “Come along, Darling, let’s go discuss the possibility of ravishment in privacy.”
:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:
I somehow managed to escape unscathed; I don’t know what they were worried about. I made my way through dark, snowy streets in a bitter wind, hugging myself tightly. I didn’t see the Baron’s men again. Their absence produced a repeated urge to rub the back of my neck.
When I arrived at Tarsha’s apartments, I took up a post against the wall across the street, out of the wind. Then I waited. Anticipation made my heart race, and only the experience of years kept me in my place, making sure I hadn’t been followed. Even out of the wind the night was cold, and my nose wore its own icicle in a matter of minutes. It didn’t matter. In mere minutes I would behold the joy on Tarsha’s perfectly sculpted face when I showed her the prize I’d won for her. I stayed until the soles of my boots had nearly frozen to the pavement and all of the cuts and bruises I’d acquired had set up a cacophony of complaint. Then I limped up the stairs.
I rapped out our coded knock and the door opened.
“Tarsha, my dove,” I greeted, grinning. The warm air of her rooms embraced me, fragrant with the scent of her perfume.
“Crow.” Her lovely eyes widened. “What’s happened to you? You’re a mess! Are you hurt?”
“Nothing your sweet kisses won’t fix,” I replied, reaching for her.
She laughed softly and touched her finger to my abused nose. “You’re freezing, too.”
“I am.” I put my hands on her slim waist and tugged her closer. “Will you warm me?”
She spun nimbly away. “That depends on what you’ve brought me…” She gave me a coy look. The diaphanous fabric of her robe fluttered around her, barely enough to conceal. Her eyes were bright and expectant.
I followed her inside and took off the cloak and muffler I’d procured. “No small talk? No chit-chat?”
“Since when was that important?”
I contrived a pout. “I’ve been out for hours in the cold, risking life and limb for you. Weren’t you the least concerned?”
She glided close and ran her fingers up my chest. “I was,” she whispered in a husky voice. Her lips were warm as summer and sweeter than nectar. If there were ever an island upon which a man would be content to be marooned, it was the Island of Tarsha. 
“Was?” I asked between kisses.
“Well,” her arms crept up around my neck. “You’re here now, safe and sound. What’s to worry?”
“Indeed…” I slid my hands slowly down her back. Angling my head, I bent closer to taste the delicate skin of her throat. She made a small, adorable noise and buried her face in my shoulder. Her mouth was out of reach, but her hands remained busy.
“Where is it?” she asked.
“Where is what?” I wanted only to kiss her again.
“The Gandil. I know you have it.” She backed away, looking at me seductively from behind the fall of her dark hair. “You mustn’t tease…“
“Oh, mustn’t I?” I laughed, catching her hand, refusing to let her escape. “That’s hardly fair to say while you’re carrying on so shamelessly.”
The hint of a smile curved her lips. “That’s different.”
“How so?”
With her free hand she fanned out the fabric of her robe. “You’ve already seen what you want.”
“True.” I tugged her close and kissed her.
“Please?”
Still kissing her, I removed the jewel from my belt and held it high over her head. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
She gave a little shriek and jumped to reach it. “You did get it!”
“Of course.” I spun away from her, keeping the treasure out of her reach a moment longer. “Pretty spectacular for my final job, don’t you think?”
“The bards will sing about it for decades. Let me see!”
“Ah-ah… I need another kiss first.”
She laughed and paid her toll with an ardency that took my breath away. The pearl seemed made to fit her hand. Seeing her ooh and ah over its sky blue perfection made every bruise and scrape I’d collected worthwhile.
The Great Gandil, which had always sounded to me like the name of a hedgerow conjurer or a comedic play, was purported to have magical powers. Perhaps it did. Something transformed in my heart as I watched her. I reached for her, brushing a tendril of hair behind her ear so that I might not miss one iota of her excitement.
An awful din on the door, accompanied by booming shouts, interrupted us. Tarsha pulled away from me even as the door burst open, a look of alarm on her face.
“Scream!” I ordered, pushing her backwards. Scarcely had I turned toward the intruders, my hand on the hilt of my knife, before a small brown shape attached itself to the top of my head and began screeching.
“Thief! Thief!” The demon. “Robber! Pirate! Brigand!” It had a voice like an un-oiled hinge, only worse, and a grip that belied its size.
I shouted and struggled to pull it off before it raked my face with its claws. Hands grabbed me and dragged me to the floor, pinning me down like a prize hide. I could neither move, nor see. Nor could I do anything to resist as my person was searched rather more thoroughly than civility required.
“Here it is,” someone said.
The pearl? How had it got into my pocket?
“And these.” A small, clinking sound came to my ears.
“Get it off.”
The demon was removed from my face. Half a dozen athletic and appropriately scarred men looked down on me. There wasn’t a friendly face among them. 
One man, still standing, gently tossed the Baron’s pearl up in the air and caught it. “You’re a thief,” he stated. He had a remarkable way of making the word sound like something dredged up from the bottom of a latrine.
“I’m not,” I protested.
“Ah, and a liar, too.” I don’t know how he managed such a sublime aim with so many men holding me down, but the toe of his boot connected solidly with my ribs.
“You’re wrong,” I grunted. 
“You saying you don’t know anything about this?” He held up the stone between two fingers.
“It’s mine.”
“And the demon?”
“I don’t know anything about the wretched thing. Ungh—” His foot smashed into my side again.
“And these?” He produced two pieces from the Cataran set.
“Mine,” I choked.
“Wrong answer.” He kicked me again. “Get him up.”
They did, easily. “Let me go,” I said. “You have—”
This time it was a fist in my belly. I would have crumpled, wanted to—but the soldiers held me upright.
“Don’t!”
From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Tarsha, arms wrapped tightly around her middle, and lips compressed into a hard, tight line. She looked irritated. I could hardly blame her; the interruption made me quite cross, too. I had, after all, a retirement to celebrate and a lovely woman to accompany me.
The man who had spoken—I assumed he was their captain—gave her a stiff nod. “We’ll get him out of your way. Thank you, ma’am.”
I feared they would take her prisoner, too, but it was me they dragged willy-nilly out the door and down the stairs without the benefit of my cloak or the use of my own feet. Out in the snowy street, the captain faced me again.
“You sure you don’t want to tell the truth about your little collection?”
“I told you the truth.”
“Liar.”
“Thug.”
His smile was not a comforting sight. “Do you know what liars and thieves are good for, fool?”
I smiled back. “Inventing admirable tales and redistributing wealth?”
One corner of his mouth twitched. “For an educated man, you don’t seem very smart.”
“I’ve done pretty well so far.”
“Until now.”
“I think I can manage.”
He shook his head and folded his bulging arms across his chest. “Why don’t you boys teach him a lesson?”

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If you want to discover the rest of Crow’s tale, “As the Crow Flies” can be found on Amazon and Smashwords.

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