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A few things, the first jotted today as a possible start to a book called Taming the Tiger. This is mid-scene.

When Kaelin’s heartrate had settled back to the 50s he said, “They’re on the overpass, Pax. I’m in position.”

“Roger that,” Matthew Paxton replied, sounding easy. He stood below, looking lonely in the grungy alley. He’d rolled a commercial trash container out for cover if he should need it. If Kaelin did his job, he wouldn’t.

Kaelin felt another vibration quiver through him. The corrugated metal roof beneath his belly rumbled a warning.

“Ah, hell,” he whispered. The world had been strangely twitchy lately. Only those in Sentinel had the slightest inkling why.

“Easy, big guy,” Pax said.

They stopped talking because the van passed out of sight on the street below the overpass and then turned down their alley. It rolled to a stop, belching diesel stink and the two got out. They lifted their chins and did a cursory scan of their surroundings.

“I’m alone, as you said,” Pax said. His tone held the quiet disgust of someone holding the purse strings. “Now what’s this about?”

“You said you have a buyer,” the man answered.

“He doesn’t waste his time with smalltime,” Pax said. He tipped his dreadlocked head toward the van. “But that looks promising.”

The man nodded. “Two hundred AKs. But my situation is…complicated. I need to move them today.”

Kaelin had killed his last buyer and Pax had ransacked his safe, making him late on bills due to people who didn't offer grace periods. The gang had sifted the neighborhood for quick cash. Nerves were strung tight in the local protection racket. Shopkeepers shut down early, trigger-fingers were twitchy, even cops seemed to drive by more often of late. The pressure, concocted by Sentinel, fell squarely on the shoulders of this mid-rung gun runner.

Pax grasped the strap of the black messenger bag hanging crosswise over his chest. “Ten thou, like we agreed. Let’s see the merch.”

The second joint of Kaelin's forefinger found his trigger and depressed it slightly. He let his heart rate ease up to thirty-five and listened to the lull between the beats, savoring the quiet. With Aidan yammering in his head day and night, running hits was his only chance at peace and quiet.

And this bit, from a short story called, tentatively, Odd Man Out:

“My father killed yours, you say?" Prince Regan asked. "Do you seek vengeance? A man should know if another wishes to kill him.”

“You're a prince. Someone always wants you dead. But not me. Abduction, political unrest, or religious upheaval, though...” Saxot shrugged.

The soldiers shifted on their horses, but Regan raised his hand to quiet them.

“Religious upheaval?” Prince Regan barked a laugh and jerked a thumb toward the prisoner cart. “I think I’ve got that bit managed on my own. And here I thought you a simple soldier. You’re shrewd. I think my father made a mistake in killing yours, if he was clever by half.”

“I wouldn’t know, Prince Regan,” Saxot said. “He died when I was very young.”

Regan grunted, his smile fading. He gave Saxot another close look. “I could use a plainspoken advisor in my service.”

“I will speak to any man,” Saxot said, “but freemen serve none.”

“You might recall the freemen swore oaths to my father-king.”

While standing in the blood of mine, Saxot thought.

“Well met, then, Kingcrux.” Regan patted his sword hilt. “And hopefully better met upon my return.”

Chilled by a threat delivered so lightly, Saxot inclined his head and backed away to let them pass.
The prisoner wagon protested every rut and hole with moans and creaks. Inside, a small towheaded boy, too young for tribal tattoos, clung to the bars. He stared at Saxot, who hadn’t been much older when the Armidian royals had put his family to death.

Armidians had originally conquered these lands and presented hostages to the Holy Fire for sacrifice. Balesat had spared those who bore the name Kingcrux--hence the village name. But that had been generations ago, and everyone in the realm knew King Anders didn’t give the old practices credence. His Crusade was about eradicating non-believers, not converting them.

So why had Regan taken a prisoner when King Anders’ stated intent was to kill all barbarians? Religious upheaval. Saxot thought of the Prince patting his sword hilt and a chill climbed his spine. Temple Barony and its sacrificial fires were a half-day’s ride on the road the Prince traveled. Saxot could see the mountains of the barony, like hulking monsters in the distance. Did Regan mean to defy his father-king by offering this helpless barbarian boy to Balesat’s Fire as a sacrifice?

“Balesat keep you,” Saxot whispered to the boy as urged his horse back up on the road, for Prince Regan surely wouldn’t.

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