As I mentioned a few days ago, I have a story in a mosaic anthology called Tales of the Emerald Serpent, which is having a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to pay for the printing (my understanding is that it will have quite a bit of artwork in it).
There are other authors involved: Lynn Flewelling, Juliet McKenna, Martha Wells, and Julie Czerneda to name just a few, and you can see some of the artwork at the Kickstarter site or the publisher’s Facebook page.
My own modest contribution is a short story called “The One Thing You Can Never Trust.” For folks who are interested, I thought I’d post the first couple of pages of my story. If you like it and want to read the rest, along with the stories from these other excellent authors, please consider pledging. The way Kickstarter works, you pledge whatever amount you want (larger pledges bring more/fancier swag) but if the project doesn’t meet its target, no money will be collected at all.
So! Without further blather, here’s the opening to my story. I hope you like it.
THE ONE THING YOU CAN NEVER TRUST
by Harry Connolly
Emil Lacosta did not expect his new prices to please Mama Serene, but he did not expect her to actually swear at him. She did. Being Mama Serene, she did it startlingly well. “I am terribly sorry,” he said, carefully keeping his voice mild. “Acquiring the materials I require has become quite difficult and…”
“Spare me the apologies of a Zimbolay scholar,” she interrupted. “Every learned word makes my purse lighter.” She wrote out a bank note, signed it, and handed it to him. It was for the old price. “Next time, I will pay your new, even more outrageous, fee.”
Emil nodded and handed the note to Mariella. He turned to the three young consorts sitting on Mama Serene’s ornate couch. “Do you accept this spell without coercion, of your own will?”
The consorts said “Yes,” in deeply bored tones. One of them added: “because it’s making me rich!” They all laughed at him. He had asked them last time, too, and would ask next time. It didn’t matter if they thought him fussy. He held out a small vial to the first consort and, after she had spit into the golden liquid, allowed her to take it. He did the same for the others.
They were love potions all. A select few of Mama Serene’s clients paid a high premium to be genuinely (or at least magically) adored, even if it was just for a few days.
Their business concluded, Emil and Mama Serene nodded politely to each other. Mariella opened the office door and led Emil swiftly and quietly down the side stair and through the lounge. Emil hated coming to the House of the Silk Purse, hated delivering his product in person, hated knowing the consorts would drink the potion when he was not there to watch over them. But the money was good. Very, very good. With luck, he–
Two men rose out of their chairs and moved toward him. They seemed to have been waiting for him, and Emil stopped immediately and drew back. Mariella stepped around him, her hand on the ribbon tying down her sword. There was an odd expression on her face.
“No no!” the taller man said, his empty hands raised. “We mean only to talk.” Continue reading