“Fortune favors the bold, though statistics favor the cautious.”
“Hey, come on!” Kail pushed into the hallway and saw an ascetic-looking man whose lapitect robes had some little stars on the collar. “We’re trying to work, here! Do I go down to where your mother works and push the sailors out of her bed?”
“So how'd an academic end up walking a zombie through a palace on a heist job?”
“I'm just saying, as someone who occasionally rigs fights, I'm offended by the lack of professionalism.”
“Fight the enemy. Not their people.”
“Word on the street says you've taken down a lot of rich bastards."
"Well, the poor bastards don't have much money, or any challenging safes.”
“The lone guard was asleep at his desk. Loch thoughtfully woke him up by prodding his throat with her sword, and it was agreed that the guard would spend the night peacefully and quietly bound and gagged in the broom closet.”
“What's your specialty?"
The wizard squinted. "What would you like my specialty to be?”
“She said it with capital letters and everything.”
“Trust is a more complex philosophical issue than the average layperson can understand.”
“Oh, please,” said Hessler. “It’s your standard false duality designed to draw gullible believers into a world of monochromatic enemies and strip away any moral ambiguity—usually utilized by the ruling government to bolster whatever policies it wishes to implement.”
“Do you mean good as in ethical or good as in capable, Dairy?”
“Do you radiate cold magic when you punch people?" Kail asked.
"I do not engage in physical combat," Icy replied, taking a bite from his vegetable plate, "and I possess no elemental magic ability."
"Then why Icy Fist?"
"It is short for 'Indomitable Courteous Fist,' which is my full name."
"That's significantly less cool, Icy.”
“I am a death priestess,” Tern’s voice echoed out of the vault, “but I’m bouncy and I have pretty hair.…”
“Do you make a habit out of proclaiming things in ignorance?”
“The others agreed that the gifts of the ancients and the gods were sometimes confusing, and Desidora did eventually decide to stay in.”
“So I'm, like, more male than most men?" Kail asked with a hint of pride.
Icy pursed his lips. "That is certainly one way of interpreting my statement," he said, and glanced briefly overhead before continuing. "And you seem almost to transmit this disharmony to others by your speech and attitudes, such that your very presence disrupts the balance of their spirit."
"You're saying I get them mad and confused?" Kail asked.
“And as Bi'ul leaped at him, a shimmering prism of rage, Dairy swung.
The world went black for one long moment, and there was only the sound of glass breaking, a glass containing all the oceans in the world, and those oceans held back the fires of a thousand suns, and it all burst forth in one massive wave of power that spread across creation in an instant.”
“Dairy laid a hand gently on her flank. "Captain Loch showed me the difference between is and should. She shouldn't be gone but she is..." She was still trembling. Tiny whiskers of breath barely made puffs of steam in the cold morning air. "But she shouldn't be. Someone needs to start should.”
“Because you alone are the spark that will burn clean and let the new growth come.”
“You’re a death priestess?” the man asked. His urge to have sex with her had diminished greatly, though not entirely. “Like, sacrificing babies and devouring souls to gain the power of daemons and all that?”
“Get you dead ass out of the sarcophagus and follow along," Tern muttered. "And no yelling for guards, and no continuing forward when we stop and then stomping all over us and crushing our spines and skulls under your undead feet because we didn't explicitly tell you not to do that.”
“The brigand in the inner palace had led the guards on a lively chase, picking corridors and servants' hallways almost as if he had studied the palace layout.”
“So you can sense her aura and stuff, right?" Kail asked as he got to his feet. "So anything I say about her not being a unicorn--”
“I like my kahva the way I like my women… hot and black.” “I like my kahva the way I like my men,” she replied, her eyes half-lidded. “Ground up into tiny pieces and stored in a bag.” As the man sputtered, Loch laughed in delight”
“To try to convince this proud old brotherhood that the color of my skin doesn’t make me a fool? Do you know what I have to swallow to get myself invited to the meetings where the real decisions get made?”
“You just stay careful." Tawyer prodded Kail with his truncheon. "Can't blame the warden for getting angry. Byn-kodar's hell, all she had to do was show a little respect!"
"Oh, damn, Tawyer, you're right," Kail said as he and Loch turned a corner on the pipe, their leg-chains protesting the uneven fittings with shrill screeches. "I guess she has to die. What was I thinking?”
“Axes and fire killed, as swiftly as the hunter’s arrow, as surely as the mountain lion’s fangs.”
“He broke into a smile again, a boyish grin. "You know what the best part is? You didn't even steal the real manuscript." He picked up the book again. "I had a forgery placed in my vault, just to be safe. The real elven manuscript is in my library." He tossed the book aside. "After all, young lady, that's where books go.”
“I’ve dropped out of their hearts like a little sparrow fallen from its nest. So gather me up, dear, fold me to your heart – and you’ll see how nice I can be.”
“Every day people judge all other people. The question is whether they judge wisely.”
“I try to keep in mind” I recite dryly as I run the front sight of my pistol over his face, “that my life is only as significant, as I am to the lives of others.”
He’s sobbing and won’t look up from the floor so I lean close to his ear and ask softly, “Would you say that I’m significant to your life?”
“To stand up for someone was to stitch your fate into the lining of theirs.”
“In my youth, I was always one for the dramatic entrance. Now, in keeping with my character, I gravitate more toward the subtle and refined. Okay, with the occasional feathered serpent thrown in.”
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