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Short story: “The Chase”

A little scene that came to me one morning, using some old characters of mine. I just knew I had to write it down in full before it escaped me. I quite like it and the implications of it.

***

“And then at the end of that 17th century, barely a month after the death of King Charles XI, disaster struck. A fire started in the southern part of the castle, which soon spread throughout the entire castle. The royal family was forced to evacuate, along with the body of the old king who’d been left on display for the customary mourning period…”

 

Zouriel managed to suppress a yawn, but was still awarded with a sharp elbow to his midsection. He shot Marcus a dirty look.

“Why aren’t you paying attention?” Marcus hissed.

Zouriel kept his voice low when he responded. “I told you I’m not all that interested in old history.”

“It’s not that”, Marcus said. “Everything pointed towards it being here we would find it, so don’t screw it up.”

Zouriel bit his lip and let his gaze pass over the crowd that was eating up the words of the female guide. Her raven hair made her stand out, even in this group of tourists of varying ethnicity.

“Low profile”, Marcus mouthed and vaguely gestured towards the guide with his shoulder, the one that was still flesh and bone.

Zouriel went into full attention, which was a bit of a trial in itself on a warm day such as this. And it was hard to keep a completely low profile when you didn’t look completely normal. He scratched at the back of his ear, where the sunglasses were chafing him.

The tour continued as the guide let them onward through the cobbled streets of the old town, framed on both sides by multiple story houses. Marcus looked like he was in some kind of seventh heaven, marveling at the buildings that ranged from a mere one hundred to several hundreds of years old.

“The tour ends in the big square”, Marcus said, whispering in Zouriel’s ear. “I memorized all the potential escape routes, and with the crowds…No one might notice a thing.”

Zouriel nodded and fought to suppress another yawn.

Marcus grinned, then nudged him playfully. “If you’re good, Zou, I’ll let you have an ice cream afterwards.”

Zouriel flushed and he tried to hide his face by turning up the collar of his jacket.

He had to admit that the tour got more interesting when the guide mentioned all the bloody events that had taken place here, as well as all the spooky stories that had been born from them. As they climbed the narrow street leading up to the large square he imagined the cobblestones running red with the blood of all the beheadings the guide spoke of.

Soon enough they were all gathered around the old water pump in the square, mingling with other tourists who tried to find a seat in the cafes that were housed in the old buildings that faced it. The guide handed out some pamphlets that summarized what she had talked about, as well as suggesting museums where they might learn more. And then she wished them a pleasant afternoon.

“Now”, Marcus mouthed and Zouriel moved into position.

It was vital he cut off her escape to the north, for that route would lead her down to a main road and too many potential onlookers that could call the authorities. Meanwhile Marcus moved to cut off her retreat, back the way they came. It was obvious she had noticed them, but the guide was doing a good job of making it seem natural when she backed away, towards another street, one that Marcus had assured him would lead her back towards the square. When the time was right, Marcus gave the signal for pursuit.

They split up, Marcus taking the right road, while Zouriel took the left. He kept up a brisk pace, but did not run. Their target was still not running and it would not do to call attention to themselves like that. He could feel impatience bubbling inside him though and he began to move faster and faster. Naturally, this made the guide pick up the pace as well and he made certain to herd her on the right path. Soon enough the roads would join and then Marcus would be there…

The woman began to run lightly and Zouriel spat out a curse and increased his pace accordingly and there in the crowd up ahead he could see Marcus and…

One second the woman had stopped dead in her tracks, the next she’d been gone.

Marcus joined him and he spat a curse so course that even Zouriel had to flinch.

“We almost had her!” he said, running a hand through his hair.

“But where did she?-” Zouriel began. Then Marcus grabbed his arm and nudged him into looking up, towards the stained copper roofs of the 18th century buildings.

That’s when he saw the large black bird, mingling with the seagulls, watching the tourists below for any dropped food item they might claim.

“A raven…” Zouriel mumbled. “She is The raven…”

Marcus sighed and gritted his teeth in frustration. “They only told us we’d have to locate one of them here, but they didn’t say it would be a bird.”

Zouriel tilted his head. “I guess it makes sense…Didn’t Old Norse Mythology have those smart ravens that served one of their gods?”

Marcus blinked, giving him a shocked look. “And I thought you had no interest in history.”

Zouriel grinned. “Well, I still wanted to do some research on the country we’d be going to. That’s standard procedure isn’t it?”

Marcus wrapped an arm around him and ruffled his hair playfully. “Well, you’ve earned yourself an ice cream now…And maybe something more once we head back to the room for the night.”

Zouriel contained the flush to his earlobes and smiled back. “But what are we supposed to do about her?”

He nodded towards the black bird that seemed to shoot them ugly looks, while still trying to look like any old raven that was suddenly hanging out in the old city center.

Marcus’ grin faltered and he chewed his lip. “We’ll have to track her down elsewhere…And maybe let her know we don’t mean her any harm.”

“Maybe we should have done that to begin with”, Zouriel said and frowned.

“Zou, Zou…” Marcus said and shook his head. “Look at us, if you were a creature who’s been living in hiding for years, would you trust us?”

Zouriel raised his sunglasses so he could rub at the bridge of his nose.

“I suppose not…” he said sullenly.

“Come on then”, Marcus said. “She’s smart enough not to come down until we’re well and gone from here.”

Then he lead Zouriel back towards the square, to the line for the little ice cream kiosk that sat at the corner of the Nobel Museum. He had promised him ice cream after all.

One thought on “Short story: “The Chase”

  1. Pingback: Short story: “Breathing History” | Fantasy Transcendent

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