Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction) Part 1

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 2, 2016

This is the first of a four-part short story of one of Dirk’s adventures shortly before he met Chloe and Arianna and formed the Frayed Knights. I really enjoyed combining my obsessions for both writing and game development on this. The rest of the story appear later this week. Let me know if you enjoyed the story!

Part 2 is now available.  As is Part 3. And the conclusion in Part 4.


The Thief and the Chalice, Part 1
by Jay Barnson

Getting arrested embarrassed Dirk more than anything else. Sure, spending the rest of his probably abbreviated life rotting and miserable in the baron’s dungeon was an unpleasant prospect. But his main concern, as the guardsmen dragged him from his inn room and took him into custody, was that he hadn’t yet made a name for himself. Nobody would mourn the loss of Dirk C. Kuldare, the greatest thief the world had ever known!

Or would have known, if he hadn’t been pinched while in possession of the Lady Gorsava’s formal necklace. Some might say that holding onto it as long as he had was a rookie mistake. But if some might have said that, Dirk might have politely corrected them. If gaining credibility was the goal, showing off the pilfered prize was of much more value than a few dozen gold coins from the local fence.

Not that any of that mattered anymore. After spending the rest of the night in a holding cell, Dirk was taken to the magistrate at dawn. The hooded judge read the charge against Dirk in a monotone: “Offense against the nobility and high theft, to wit: the theft of Lady Emile Gorsava’s necklace, appraised at a sum of at least fifty gold coins.” The judge turned his apathetic eyes to Dirk. “Have you anything to say in your defense?”

Dirk straightened his shoulders. “Your honor, fifty gold is absolutely incorrect. I could get half again as much as that from a fence in North Umberland. The necklace would get at least three times that on the open market.”

The judge glanced over to the three jurors at the side of the chamber, who nodded. He signed the document containing the charge. Without looking back at Dirk, he announced, “This court finds the accused guilty, and sentences him to the Baron’s own dungeons until the end of his days. Next!”

The guard laughed as he shackled Dirk to the wagon to be transported to the Baron’s dungeon. “What a stupid thing to say to the judge!” the guard said as he fastened the bolt, locking Dirk to the cart with his hands behind him.

“Why?” asked Dirk. “Was there anything I could have said that would have changed his verdict?”

“After they found you with the necklace? Not a chance.”

Dirk shrugged. “Then it didn’t matter what I said, did it? If I’m going to rot over the thing, I may as well make sure people knew that it was worth it.”

The guard shook his head. “You’ll take what you can with you to the dungeon, I suppose.”

As the guard moved to the front of the cart, Dirk felt at the lock chaining his hands to a mounted metal ring. The lock was heavy–which didn’t bode well–but not well-made. With his hands free and a proper set of tools, he could have picked it in seconds. Under the circumstances… he’d have a much more interesting story to tell once he escaped. He worked at both thumbnails until he held a sliver in each hand.

He paused while another guard arrived with a second prisoner, chaining him to the cart opposite Dirk. The two guards mounted the driver’s bench and with a snap of the horses’ reins set off through the city.

If the cart had any springs, they no longer worked. The cart bounced and jostled along every bone-shaking irregularity in the road. Dirk wasn’t certain if he was sitting on a bench or being spanked by it as he tried to use the crescent-shaped thumbnail slivers to pick his lock. The cart went over a larger bump, jostling the lock loudly against the chain, undoing his negligible progress.

The second guard looked over his shoulder at the noise. Dirk tried to look as glum as his fellow prisoner. Satisfied, the guard turned back, and Dirk resumed his work on the lock. To mask any further sounds from his efforts, Dirk started a conversation with the other prisoner. “I’m Dirk Kuldare. Who are you?”

The other man looked up, his face defeated. “Taigan. Not that it really matters.”

“Why wouldn’t it matter?”

“Who’s going to care? They’ve rounded up half the thieves in the city over the last year, and nobody has ever been freed from the baron’s dungeon. We’re as good as dead, and nobody will mourn us.”

Dirk maintained tension on the lock with one thumbnail sliver, requiring an awkward angle of his left thumb and forefinger to prevent the severed piece of thumbnail from bending. He manipulated the lock’s mechanisms with the sliver in his right hand. He felt the first pin stick in place. “Half the thieves? The dungeons must be overflowing!”

The brown-haired young man shrugged.

The cart jolted on another bump. This time, the sliver in Dirk’s left hand sprang from his grasp, landing somewhere on the road behind them. A hundred expletives formed in Dirk’s mind, but all he said was, “Oops.”

Taigan looked at him strangely, but said nothing.

Five minutes later, the cart came to a halt near an ominous, squat tower. Four guards approached the cart, two aiming crossbows at the captives. The guard who had secured Dirk’s chains said to his companion, “What’s going on? We ain’t at the dungeons.”

The second guard said, “Good observation. Now you’d best forget you made it.”

To Dirk, anything short of a headsman’s axe was an improvement over the dungeons. The guards unchained the prisoners and took them from the cart. The court guards rode away. Dirk briefly considered making a run for it, but falling to crossbow bolts was a boring way to die.

A nobleman approached them. The man looked like he’d spent hours before dawn getting dressed and groomed. His dark hair held only touches of gray at his temples and the tips of his perfectly-waxed mustache to suggest his age, and he bore himself with strength and vigor. “Do you know who I am?” he asked.

Taigan gasped. “Baron Hargrave!” The nobleman nodded.

Dirk’s gaze shifted between the two men. “You can’t be the baron himself. He’s over sixty years old.”

“Ah, flattery. I’ve aged well,” the nobleman said. “And if you are very cooperative and clever, perhaps you will live to see such an age. I want you to know who I am, and know that my offer has authority.”

“What offer?” asked Dirk and Taigan simultaneously.

“This is the tower of the sorcerer Sontex. It’s not common knowledge yet, but he died a short while ago, and he left behind an artifact I want. It’s a silver chalice decorated with pearls. I need someone of both skill and discretion to retrieve it for me. Whoever brings it to me will be granted a full pardon and their freedom.”

Taigan immediately agreed. “I will do this for you, m’lord!”

Dirk couldn’t fault Taigan’s eagerness, as neither of them had anything to lose. But while some… or many… or pretty much everyone might accuse Dirk of being foolhardy, he wasn’t a complete idiot. He liked to know what he was getting into. “So why not send your men in to get it?” he asked.

The baron’s grin was genuine, but in a “genuinely likes twisting the knife” kind of way. “Sontex probably left behind lethal traps and guardians. My men aren’t disposable.”

“And you are sending both of us because…?”

“I want to improve the odds that one of you will make it out alive.”

“What if we both return with your prize?”

Now the baron’s grin broke into a broad, toothy smile. “Then whoever holds the chalice goes free, and the other goes into my dungeon to rot.”

The baron produced the key, and unlocked the tower door with a familiar ease that suggested that Dirk and Taigan were far from the first that he’d sent on this errand. The charnel stench wafting through the open doorway reinforced that suspicion. Dirk stepped forward with genuine eagerness. Taigan followed, looking less enthusiastic but determined.

[ Continue to Part 2 ]

[ Or skip over to Part 3 ]

[ Were you looking for the conclusion in Part 4? Here]



Filed Under: Frayed Knights, Short Fiction - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction) Part 2 said,

    […] This is the second of a four-part short story of one of Dirk’s adventures shortly before he met Chloe and Arianna and formed the Frayed Knights. You can read part 1 here. […]

  • Modran said,

    A good start 😀 !
    Those are some really solid fingernails, though :p.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah, a little like mine. It’s supposed to be kind of remarkable he made as little progress as he did. Maybe in the next revision I’ll tighten that one up a tiny bit.

    It was fun presenting the world from Dirk’s point of view. He’s the kind of guy who always assumes his theme music is playing in the background when he gets to work.

  • The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction), Part 3 said,

    […] Rampant Coyote on The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction) Part 1 […]

  • The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction) Part 4 said,

    […] The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction), Part 3 on The Thief and the Chalice (Frayed Knights Fiction) Part 1 […]

  • The Pulp Fiction Formula Presentation – Tomorrow! said,

    […] So… I used it, whipped out a cyberpunk short story in a week, sent it in… and it sold within 24 hours. Which probably ruined me for life, as I keep expecting responses in really short time. I tried it again, and that story sold on the first try, too.  That’s definitely not guaranteed with this system, but I’m a convert. I also used it to write the Frayed Knights story, The Thief and the Chalice. […]