This is a piece of flash fiction (1,000 words or less) I wrote up to submit to New Edge Sword & Sorcery. Alas, they turned it out down! I still liked it and wanted to share.

Gildebrand couldn’t stop himself from smiling when they hauled the beaten sellsword into his chambers. His arms, bound behind him at the wrist, were marred with purple bruises. Dried crimson crusted his body from cuts and gashes. His lip was split open from a harsh blow.

“We meet at last Dogran Whoreson,” Gildebrand said mockingly a mocking flourish. The northman lifted his head to peer at Gildebrand but didn’t respond. He cast his gaze around the room. “You’ve caused me quite a bit of trouble these past months.”

The sellsword snorted. “That was the idea.”

“Killing my men and destroying my shipments,” Gildebrand frowned bitterly. “The spice you burned was a fortune on its own!”

Dogran’s battered features bent into a bloody smirk. “I’ve done well then.”

Gildebrand flushed with anger. For two months, the northman had been harassing his operations. It had started small enough that Gildebrand could leave it to his lessers. Spice peddlers disappearing from the city’s streets. Collection drops that were emptied when his men went to retrieve them. Losses that a crime lord knew to expect from time to time.

In the past weeks, however, things escalated until Gildebrand had no choice but to intervene. Two of his underbosses had been slaughtered in their homes. Then, even worse, the bastard had destroyed a cargo of Higaran spice.

Between buying it from the desert lands and smuggling it across the seas – the stuff was worth its weight in gold. So long as you got to sell it afterward! 

Dogran had fought his way onto one of Gildebrand’s ships, its holds heavy with cargo, and set the whole thing ablaze. Gildebrand had beheld the fire from the balcony of his manor. He’d vowed, in the pale glow of the distant flames, that he would end the sellsword himself.

“You impertinent fool!” He kicked the northman in his guts. Dogran doubled over from the blow, coughing out a spew of blood that splattered across Gildebrand’s boots. “I’ll see you flayed alive!”

A strange sound rumbled from the northman’s curled form. It took Gildebrand a moment to realize that Dogran Whoreson was laughing.

You’re the fool,” Dogran said lowly. “I wasn’t paid to destroy your operation, Gildebrand. I was paid to kill you.”

“Who hired you?” Gildebrand roared. “Tell me now and I might show you mercy.”

The northman ignored him. “I’d hoped burning your ship would draw you out, but you’re a coward that likes his walls. Then I heard about the bounty you put out to bring me in alive…”

Something in the northman’s voice made Gildebrand nervous. He gestured to his guards to move closer.

“What are you getting at?”

Dogran raised himself upright and Gildebrand took a step back, in spite of himself. The northman had eyes like a wolf — barely holding itself back from the pounce.

“I let your thugs take me.” Dogran declared.


The sellsword laughed viciously. “I was ready to fight through your whole damned cartel, but I realized there was a faster way to get to you.” Dogran Whoreson raised his hands. The ropes, previously tied, fell limply away. “And I was right.”

Everything next happened so fast that it barely seemed real. Gildebrand screamed for his guards. The pair in the room rushed forward, swords singing as they slid free from their leather scabbards.

Dogran, in a single motion, was on his feet and turning to meet his foes. He leapt toward the closest one. There was a sickening crunch as his fist slammed into the guardsman’s face. The man cried out, sword slipping from his grasp as he reached up to clutch at the ruin of his nose. Dogran caught the sword in mid-air and, with a spinning slash, put an end to the man’s misery.

The second guard, charging with a shriek and his sword raised high, brought the blade down in an arc that would have ended the northman if it found purchase.

Dogran Whoreson was no addled peasant, however, brain so muddled by spice that any skilless brute could slay him. He dodged the clumsy blow and swung his stolen sword into the man’s side. The blade cut through leather and linen and hacked deep into the soft flesh beneath – a killing blow.

Dogran pushed the dying guard to the floor and then pivoted to face Gildebrand. The crime lord could only stand in shocked silence, mouth agape like a bewildered trout.

“I’ll make you rich!” Gildebrand finally managed, as the northman stepped toward him. “On the gods I swear it! Please, just let me go!”

Dogran’s eyes narrowed.

“I have been many things, Gildebrand. A warrior and a reaver. Honored and exiled. Faithful and faithless, in equal measure.” His fingers wrapped tighter around his sword hilt. “But my days of betrayal are far behind me. I was paid to take your life and I’ll have it, no matter how much silver you promise in your weeping.”

It didn’t stop Gildebrand’s begging. Only the opening of his throat seemed enough to shut the man’s mouth. Dogran had no time to enjoy his bleeding silence, though. He could hear the scramble of footsteps outside. The guards he’d killed were doubtless only the first of many protecting the crime lord’s manor.

Dogran turned to the doors they’d dragged him through, bloodied and bound, only moments before. He would more than earn his wage before the night was over.