Speakeasy #145: Her Majesty’s Ranger-The Hunt

Cezanne-cardplayers1

Cezanne-cardplayers1

I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness. The murderer of my mentor, Mallais, ever eludes my grasp and the Queen’s justice.

He shall not do so again.

Hidden like a common cur, I stride through the dust of Hope. A ‘free’ village, the peasants shuffle with an absence of their community’s namesake. A lift-skirt eyes me, suspicion and warning mixed with desperation. I bury myself deeper within my cowl and hurry on, uninterested in losing my cover due to worries over lost business.

You need to change your walk, Izzy, vibrates in my ear. Even disguised you scream “Ranger!”, and you know what they say.

Rangers hope for hot glares instead of cold steel in Hope, I sub-vocalize. My hound companion, Keats, waits on the outskirts, his distinctive appearance a detriment instead of boon during this excursion. Maybe Cezanne will be drawn out by rumors of-

Two figures, dressed in royal blue-gold livery, halt my advance with their presence farther up the street. Plas-sheets adorned with my visage flash at uncooperative villagers. “Artemis’ ass,” blurts out of my mouth.

I bolt inside a tavern, murmuring, “Forgive me, Goddess, my blasphemies.” A haze of pipe-smoke sears my senses as I inhale my new surroundings. Silence, broken only by the soft flap of cards shuffled, holds sway. Villains stare at colored shards of plas with cold intent, my presence unregistered as they attend their sport.

Izzy?

QueensHands. Later. I sidle up to the bar and signal the tavern-master for ale, unsure of how to proceed. The Royal Guard of Her Majesty, known as the QueensHands, draw worthies from across the special forces wielded by the kingdom. Those few accepted are augmented by arcane sciences held secret for centuries.

Mallais served with them, only to die at the hand of his partner, Cezanne de Paulo.

I imagine the same intelligence about Cezanne’s whereabouts graced their path as it did mine. Fear, not a foreign emotion, but distant enough to be mere acquaintance, announces his presence within me. I fear not the punishment for leaving without authorization on my hunt, nor do I fear the QueensHands, formidable foes, but also fair.

No. I fear justice delayed and vengeance denied.

With my movements hindered, I find myself at a loss. It feels as if the Silver-Maiden turns away her favor.

Thoughts of surrender race through me. I stand, ready to face the Queen’s judgement, when a quick tug upon my cloak halts my despair. A small boy grins and motions me closer. I lean down and the scamp whispers, “I know who you seek.”

Child-wisdom senses my disbelief. “Cezanne the Darkhand, he resides at the Planetfall Inn.”

Gold flashes between my fingers, and disappears with alacrity inside his tunic. I ruffle his hair, though he sends me to a trap. He runs off, no doubt to call my arrival. “Forgive my doubts, Artemis,” I whisper. “I shall see the hunt through to fruition.”

Keats!

Izzy? The QueensHands can monitor these frequencies.

I hope they do. Meet me at the Planetfall Inn.

***

My Goddess smiles upon me as I reach Cezanne’s den without meeting my pursuers. Tabanca fills my hand as I throw off my cloak. Concentrated plasma explodes the door into splinters, and screams betray those hiding in ambush. “DARKHAND! I, Isabella Florentine, have come. Face me.”

A slow clap answers my bravado, and thugs encircle me in a moon of filth. “You are a persistent one, young Isabella.” His voice echoes from a communicator on a table. “Too persistent. Ah, well.”

His timbre hardens. “Kill her.”

My eyes swivel to each man. “I offer you one chance. Leave now. If not…”

“What?” one of them asks.

“Then you will learn a poet’s sting strikes down the mightiest of mortals.” My whistle pierces the evening. The questioner falls, throat missing from a black flash. Tabanca sings, sending to eternal sleep one, then another.

The last piece of my trap falls as blue-gold blurs descend upon my would-be slayers. Monofilament-blades sparkle as foes fall. In moments bodies litter the streets of Hope.

I stride to the communicator. “Hear me, Cezanne. You may hide, but I will find you. This is not over.”

His laughter mocks me. “I shall enjoy the pursuit, dear child. Fare thee…poorly.”

“Ranger.” A Hand approaches me, eyes glittering. “By order of Her Majesty…we are to aid you in your hunt.” He smiles. “If you’ll have us.”

I glance at Keats, who nods his blood-muzzled head. “The hunt continues.”

Word Count: 750

Speakeasy #145. Her Majesty’s Ranger, Isabella Florentine, and her faithful hound, Keats, are back with a new enemy and some new allies. If you missed their introduction, you can find it here. In keeping with the previous story, I incorporated the artist’s name into the story. Mostly because I think Cezanne kicks gluteus maximus as a bad guy name.

The prompts this week are Cezanne’s CardPlayers-1, to be referenced in some way, and the sentence “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness”, to be used as the first line.

Rules:

  • Your post must be dated January 19, 2013, or later.
  • Submissions must be 750 words or fewer.
  • Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
  • Your piece must include the following sentence as the FIRST line: “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.”
  • The Speakeasy is for submissions written specifically for the grid. Please don’t submit an entry if you intend to showcase it to another blog link-up. Such posts are deleted without notice.
  • Please don’t post long explanations before your post. We want your writing to be the star of the show. If you need to clarify anything, feel free to do so at the end.
  • The badge for your speakeasy #145 post is found in the sidebar. Add the code to the html view of your post before publishing.

Hope you enjoy this foray into the planetary kingdom of Gliese and my delve into sci-fantasy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

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27 thoughts on “Speakeasy #145: Her Majesty’s Ranger-The Hunt

  1. Ok, Mr. 750. You will have my vote this week! Always amazed at what you come up with.

    DJ

  2. Spellbinding! I loved Keats and Cezanne de Paulo. Very smart!
    I, too, had far too many words and spent a day cutting it down.

  3. I thought I recognized this world. The mention of Keats and Tabanca sealed it for me. Like before, I love the language you use in this. It’s odd to read something where the language so firmly roots it in the middle-ages, but then the protagonist has a radio and people read from plas-sheets. What a fascinating world! I hope you keep writing in this universe. Certainly, it’s a joy to read.

    • Thanks! It seemed pretty well-received the last time, and the prompt sentence just fit with something I picture Isabella saying 😉 Plus, Cezanne was just too good a name not to add to the world! I have so many worlds I want to expand, I’m having difficulty choosing which one to focus on. WordPress keeps mentioning I haven’t posted a poll yet…
      E-mail me and we can figure out details on what kind of story to do 😀

  4. I still like Keats for a dog’s name. There’s got to be poetic justice coming there 🙂 Nice continuation!

    • Thanks! It had been a while since I wrote them and I worried I wouldn’t be able to fall back into the rhythm established in the first one. Once I started writing, it came back pretty quickly.

  5. Love the tone and your ability to transport us back in time is masterful. And what a work of art when you paint the pictures in the story with lines like this, “Gold flashes between my fingers, and disappears with alacrity inside his tunic.”

  6. Keats ad Cezanne are totally LOVE ❤ Loved the way you have written the story using such perfect words. Brilliant !

  7. I’m amazed at the world you’re able to create in so few words. I felt like I was in a completely different world. I loved that the poets are the heroes!

  8. I love the details, Jeremy. The scene flows smoothly in the mind’s eye and I love that. 🙂 I don’t think I’d ever be able to match up to your writing. It’s beautiful!

  9. This was a super fun read. You are very masterful at setting a scene. Oh, and I love that you used the word cur.

  10. Imagination can sometimes blossom into a deluge of words. Like you i enjoy filling out the story and sometimes have to cut back my prose to meet the guidelines. It is a big reason my current effort morphed into a four part epic.

  11. Awesome! I love that you brought back Isabella and Keats – and I agree, Cézanne is an excellent name for a bad guy. Great story, wonderful pacing. Can’t wait to see more from this world. 🙂

  12. Wow. Great work this week. I’m going to have to dig around for other pieces you have in this world, looks interesting.

  13. This is so complex! I loved piecing it all together in my head.

  14. I love the world you created, great story.

  15. […] back to the grid with a bang and a narrative back story of world-weary gods. Third place goes to Jeremy and the imaginative world he created for his submission this […]

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