A Bride in Korvosa by W. David Wood

Omas reckoned that if all had gone as planned, he and Rulhor would have been safe somewhere, discussing their spoils, perhaps enjoying spiced mead whilst catching the eye of a friendly bar wench. But no, their efforts did not go as planned, and Omas chuckled mirthlessly at the thought that, in spite of all the attention needed to run a demanding cosmos, the Gods still found time to prevent any modicum of success from occurring in their plans last night. Instead the two were running along the darkened streets of Korvosa’s North Point district in the wee hours of the morning, the guards of a merchant lord in dogged pursuit, the noise made by all of them gradually drawing more attention from the early risers hoping to get the jump on a new day of hawking wares in the street markets dotting the city.

“You just had to grab that damn platter, didn’t you?” Hissed Omas, his breath rasping through clenched teeth, hands cramping as he clenched a bag of loot over his shoulder. He remembered his clumsy friend reaching for it, nudging it over, and how it toppled into the wares on the settee, the clatter waking the residents and alerting the house guards.
“I thought it was nice!” Rulhor growled, his own bag clutched under his left arm, his right pumping furiously as he ran alongside his partner. He pulled it from the bag. “See? It has an engraving of Sarenrae on it. People like her. It should fetch a decent price!”

“Where?!? We don’t know anyone to sell it to! I said ‘stick to coins and gems’, which apparently you misheard as ‘grab shiny stuff’!” Omas huffed slightly as he leapt over a fallen barrel. Rulhor dodged around a pushcart emerging onto the main street from an alley.

Deciding the growing traffic was paying a bit more attention to them than was comfortable, Rulhor grabbed Omas by his shoulder and yanked him into the next alleyway they came to- it was all the small man could do to hang onto his bag of plunder, both feet nearly leaving the cobbles as he was swung around and shoved down the foul-smelling, narrow street. “This way!” The big man yelled.

“Really?” Omas gasped, sarcasm dripping like venom. The alley was full of refuse and sheens of slime and water coated the cobbles. The two dodged barrels and crates of noisome garbage and finally drew up short of the end- a dead end, at that. Omas’ shoulders sagged while Rulhor looked frantically for a way out. He tried a door set in the wall at the end of the alley, but it was locked. Omas slouched behind a pile of boxes to keep an eye towards the street they had just been on. Rulhor sat his bag down with a clatter, drawing a small pack from a pouch strapped to his right thigh and shaking its contents into his hand.

“Tell me if someone is coming. I’m going to try to get this door open.”

“Right.” Omas slid into a crouch and drew out his short bow. If any of the guards poked their noses this way, well…he would have to make them question their wisdom. He glimpsed one, then another, of the guards trot past the alley’s entrance. A street peddler was stopped by a third (how many guards did that old fool have?!?) and Omas could see an animated discussion taking place.

“One of those guards is quizzing a poor vendor.” He told Rulhor. The guard held his hand up high, indicating a tall man, possibly. “I think he’s describing you, friend,” Then the guard held his hand low. “I think he’s describing me, now- what? I’m not that short.”

Rulhor chuckled at his friend’s indignation and kept working at the door’s lock.

“This is taking a bit longer than I thought it would, Rulhor.”

“I’m trying my best- Would you care to have a go?”

“Well, at least I’m not in the habit of breaking picks off in the- uh-oh.”

“What?”

“It appears our guard has just been joined by his friends, and that poor little vendor just pointed down this alley!” Omas hissed, notching an arrow. Rulhor drew his own bow and looked around as he joined Omas behind the pile of crates. Narrow field of fire, chokepoint easy to defend- decent place to make a stand- it would do.

“You know, my friend, I’m thinking a career in thievery is really not suited for the likes of us.” The big man said as he readied an arrow then laid his large, single-edged sword within easy reach. Omas nodded as he pulled two well-worn kukris and sat them on the crate in front of him. How did things come to this, he thought. Two men of action, so to speak, late of Katapesh, coming eventually to Korvosa searching for adventure and, as their stomachs grew empty, work. They sought employment as house guards at one point, but were rejected. That would have been the end of that, but the rejection came with insults and laughter from the officer in charge. This led to a desire to teach that particular household a lesson in just how incompetent its guards were, which led to their attempt at looting said household, which in turn led to their present situation.

“All the way from Katapesh to die in a Korvosan alley. Just doesn’t seem fair, does it?”

“Aye, friend.” Omas replied, silently cursing the pride that goaded them to this fool’s venture.

The three guards started slowly down the dark alley, looking around and prodding piles of trash with their short swords. The third hung behind a few steps with a small crossbow, covering his companions’ advance. Omas and Rulhor knew they would have to make this quick for fear of attracting the Korvosan Guard. These were house guards- nothing special to deal with, but the Guardsmen were professional soldiers, grimly astute in the execution of duty and keeping order. Rulhor was actually amazed that they had not gotten involved already, but didn’t voice his speculation for fear of jinxing that single sliver of luck that hadn’t deserted them yet.

Omas glanced at Rulhor and nodded briefly twice- a signal that they would shoot at the second guard in, the one with the crossbow. “We wound them and break past.” He whispered. Rulhor acknowledged with a nod. Omas extended the fingers of his right hand, keeping the short bow seated in the crook of his thumb. He wrapped them back around the grip, one at a time, ticking off the moments until they would rise and fire as one. Rulhor watched his friend’s fingers count down the fate of the crossbowman, the small finger, the ring finger, the long finger, the-

The door behind the two unlatched loudly and crashed open, eliciting squeals of surprise from the two companions and cries of alarm from the house guards now fully a third of the way down the alley, as well as a hastily fired bolt which thunked into the wall three hands above the door. A girl, hardly into her womanhood, stood in the doorway, visibly upset and clutching the doorframe. Omas and Rulhor sat motionless in the muck of the alley, astounded at the sight. The crash of the guards bashing through garbage to their position brought them out of their shock, though. Omas rose, spinning and sending a shaft down the alley to keep their heads down and Rulhor followed suit, his arrow biting into a guard’s thigh. Their foes dodged behind their own piles of refuse (well, two dodged- one lurched to the side and fell), calling for help. The two friends turned and regarded the girl, glancing from her to where the guards had taken refuge to her again, readying arrows.

“If I let you in will you help me?” She gasped, chest heaving, nails digging into the doorframe. The two erstwhile thieves looked at one another, then at her. Omas scooped up his blades as Rulhor grabbed up his sword. They both rushed at the girl, snatching her under each arm. She yelped in surprise as they piled through the door with her, throwing their bags of loot back toward the guards as they went. Rulhor dropped his gear and slammed the door shut, tripping the latch and setting his back to it, his eyes wide at the surprising upturn in their fortunes. Omas looked around quickly and, seeing no trap or guards waiting for them here, sighed heavily.

“Please let my arm go, goodman- you are hurting me.” The girl said softly, a slight, fearful tremor to her voice.

“Oh,” Omas said. “I apologize, dear girl. Stress of the moment, and all.” With that he released her upper arm gently and patted smooth the rumpled sleeve of the white house dress she wore. Omas backed up a step and took in their surroundings, noting another door opposite of the one they just came through and a lantern giving off a feeble light, hanging from a hook in the center of a low ceiling. The chamber they were in seemed to be a storage room. Boxes and bundles of neatly folded linens were piled neatly against the plastered walls, allowing room to walk in spite of the chamber’s small size, and a small table with papers and an unlit lantern on it stood in the corner, a single tall stool next to it. “Young lady,” he said, “I must admit this is quite an awkward situation, and that we may appear to be quite the ruffians you suspect we are, but I assure you that my friend and I will not harm you. My name is Omas Adib, of Katapesh,” The girl nodded. “And my large friend by the door is Rulhor Aazhal.”

“Also of Katapesh.” The big man said and stood away from the door, giving a half-bow and grinning in a neighborly way. The girl nodded to him, and seemed to relax, but only a little.

A Bride in Korvosa continues in Part 2