Burn Down Bloody Twilight: Preview 2

Posted: November 3, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

tqp-logo-readyAnd now, the second of four preview excerpts from “Burn Down Bloody Twilight,” the forthcoming novel by Jeff Holland and published by Threat Quality Press. (ON SALE FRIDAY)

It is an epic and yet easily accessible fantasy-adventure yarn (can epics take place over the course of three days?) with soldiers, pirates, zombies, alarmingly profane magicians, and stoned warrior-monks. And here’s a bit from the second chapter:

 

Chapter 2: The Glory Road to Admiral Mudd’s Lament

Quinn hoped it was a good day, and marched up to Admiral Mudd’s Lament, a hole in the ground – literally – that Cord saw fit to call a bar. From the outside, it was nothing special or unusual. Bricks, mortar, and a hastily-painted sign, hung four feet high. On the inside, after marching down six steps, pretty much the same, without the sign. A fireplace in the center of the room. Small windows, barely the width of her own narrow shoulders, situated along the ground outside, letting in little creaks of light. Less a bar so much as a very inviting cave, atmospherically speaking.

After making her way down the uneven steps and slipping through the door, she scanned the room. A couple of tables manned by the area pig farmers, a few neighborhood regulars perched by the counter. Udo, the best bartender in the region, refilling their glasses. And in one dark corner sat the one-eyed king-killer himself, the infamous and disgraced former chief of Coal Brigade, Nathan James Cord.

Quinn never really understood what special body chemistry allowed the Pics to move undetectably to human eyes. Then again, she never questioned it either, since it was one of her favorite species differences. Not even the northern Tree-bob clan, more common to this area, were as gifted as the Pics when it came to natural camoflage.

She stepped stealthily through a shadow or two until she was at the bar, her small frame hidden behind two burly farmers drinking a reward for their hard day. When she smiled, Udo suddenly saw her. It was rare that Quinn visited the Admiral’s Lament, and Udo knew it, so he connected the dots and didn’t bother to give Cord any kind of signal.

Clever man, Udo, Quinn reminded herself.

Udo was actually sharper than a lot of people ever gave him credit for. It might have been his size—he was a thick, tall man. Imposing without showing signs that he knew it. Head shaved bald, save for three long black ponytails jutting out of the back of his skull, down past his shoulders. More metal than flesh visible on his ears – a pirate tradition. His eyes were small, black stones, impossible to read. And he wore a thick goatee that made it difficult to see his mouth when he spoke.

Aside from an occasional conversation with Quinn those few times they ran into each other at the marketplace, he didn’t speak much at all, really. His reticence, combined with his lumbering physique, was likely what had given people the impression that he was a bit on the slow side. And he certainly didn’t speak much about himself. But though he never said much regarding his past, lots of people had heard whispers of rumors about from whence the big man had come.

The prevailing rumor tagged him as a pirate under the command of Admiral Jonas Mudd, the renegade privateer and general shithead of legend.

If that were the case, people assumed – if he had indeed sailed with Mudd – then obviously, there must be the blood of some unfortunate sailors on Udo’s hands. And what else could a man like this have been, to arrive out of nowhere with a heavy sack full of gold, enough to pay the local farmers to help him build this cave-bar, plank by plank and stone by stone?

The best tale told – Quinn’s favorite, at least – entwined Udo and Mudd with the disgraced, fugitive ex-chief of Coal Brigade, Nathan Cord. The story went that the crew of Admiral Mudd’s ship, the Royal Hell, had found Cord on a piece of driftwood out at sea, dehydrated, nearly dead, and stark raving mad. They put him to work on the Hell, but upon regaining his strength, Cord had attempted a mutiny, and Udo had sided with him.

The mutiny failed, but before they were tossed overboard, Cord and Udo had stuffed chunks of the admiral’s ill-gotten fortune in their boots. It sunk them to the bottom of the ocean. And they started running. Udo reached the shore first, and when Cord couldn’t make it any further, Udo, waiting diligently on the shoreline for his seafaring brother, marched into the water and dragged him the rest of the way back to land.

In thanks, the story went, the ex-chief gave him the gold with one simple caveat: build a bar. And then Nathan Cord disappeared from the world, for the better part of two years.

When the former chief of Coal Brigade returned, wild-eyed and heavy-bearded, he found that Udo, quiet fellow that he was, had neglected to name the tavern he’d been running all that time. Learning this, Cord, in a fury, grabbed a bucket of paint, a piece of wood, a saw, and a length of chain. Ten minutes later, a hastily-scrawled sign announced to the town the bar’s official name: Admiral Mudd’s Lament.

The sign has hung outside the door ever since.

It should be noted that no one has heard from Jonas Mudd since the bar opened.

Quinn liked that story a lot. She was biased, of course, since she had helped tell a substantial portion of it, making sure it spread out like a plague among the people. And as she’d hoped, the bar got something of a reputation for danger and daring.

Of course, there were some embellishments in the telling.

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