Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Snippet: Hepen The Watcher

September 2nd, 2012

I’m re-posting this at the top of the blog today, for “Sample Sunday.” One of my much-neglected Puzzle Land books! Find newer posts below.

Praise be to God!


Beyel the poet was experiencing a rare appreciation for the divine as he retrieved the bowl of coins he’d just earned with his new monologue. If the army thugs had shown up even a minute sooner, he’d have gotten only a pittance. Then again, if they’d waited one minute more the last holdouts might have pitched in . . . but never mind! The idiotic Koráyos character he’d debuted tonight had earned him a lovely wage. God damn the army, and God bless the poor fool who’d dropped the bundle of Koráyos clothing into the back of the wrong wagon.

Beyel was so pleased he even dared to think his luck might be turning, at last.

He scooped coins out of the bowl, depositing them across several pockets so none would bulge too much.

The crowd in the marketplace was thinning out rapidly. Naturally, no one wanted to stay and talk to the soldiers. Beyel, too, was eager to slip away, but unfortunately he had to hitch up his oxen before he could take the wagon out to the traders’ field.

So, as soon as the coins were safely stashed in his pockets, he shaped his actor’s face into the wide-eyed visage of a frightened citizen, and then he turned around, prepared to assure the soldiers he’d seen nothing—which happened to be the truth.

To his surprise though, no one noticed him. Every one of the soldiers had already captured a citizen to question—the unlucky, the slow. Of these poor souls, most shrank from their interrogators, shaking their heads, but one man (no doubt drunk) pointed at a closed stall where a linen merchant had earlier displayed his wares. Beyel’s gaze searched the deep shadows within the stall, but he saw nothing, and before curiosity could buy him trouble, he went to fetch his oxen.

Two soldiers ran past in great haste as he brought the first beast around, but it wasn’t until he was backing the ox into place alongside the hitch that a soldier finally approached him. He was a middle-aged fellow with an ugly scar across his left cheek who spoke with all seriousness when he asked Beyel, “Sir, have you seen anything of a demon?” And when Beyel’s only response was a slack-jawed look of surprise, the soldier clarified his question, “It’s a Hauntén demon, male, well-armed and with long brown hair.”

Just any demon at all would have been something new to Beyel’s eyes.

“No, sir.” He found himself glancing over his shoulder into the unknowable dark beyond the wagon. “I was performing. I only saw the faces in front of me. I-I assumed you were after a thief or a runaway slave.”

The scar on the soldier’s cheek unbalanced a wry grin. “And I thought the shopkeeper who called us was drunk! But many reported seeing the creature. One man said the demon stood watching your performance, with a bloody mean scowl on its face. If you’ve offended it, best watch your back, I’m thinking.” His grin widened, and then he wandered off into the dark after his fellows, seeming none too much in a hurry to catch them up.

“God bless us,” Beyel whispered, because it was all he dared to say aloud. God damn was what he was thinking. And wasn’t this just what he needed! A vicious Hauntén demon who didn’t approve of his acting skills.

So much for a turn in his luck.

Follow this link for more information on Hepen the Watcher.

Posted on: Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 at 11:53 am
Categories: Snippets.
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