Day 5 of National Novel Writing Month! It’s time for the conclusion of Private Miks Tavus’ sting operation. Will he capture the dangerous dragon-egg smuggler?
Day 5, Story 2: Never Say Your Name
A smell of piss struck Tavus’ nose as his mind reeled back to the Corporal’s talk about names. Names. Something about names people take versus the names people receive…His badge warmed in its place against his chest. This name thrown at him—it was not alone, and whatever came on that name was trying to get through. He could feel little pricks and pokes in his ears and against his mind. Were it not for his badge, it would be in him, and he’d carry that brand of Alexander until she deemed to release him. Likely at death.
But if he acted like he was free, then she’d know he was a Green Trench and all of this would be for nothing.
So Tavus gritted his teeth. He let the sweat come (not like it needed help). He fumbled with his stew bowl, knocking it to the ground, but he let his eyes hold firm. “And what name do you give yourself, Ma’m?”
Her inhuman smile did not flinch. “Bell.”
Something hissed and rasped and gargled behind them. The legit Trade Couriers dragged their table and goods further along the wall with a groan. “Damn, lady, that is sick.” “I think that lady is sick.” Even the loner in the corner stood up as Turban’s servant shook in her piss-covered seat. The wind howled even louder, in pain, the ice battering the window and everyone’s ears and—
“L-l-la!” The servant’s head craned towards the ceiling as she pulled at her own jaw to open her mouth. “B-el-la!”
“Silence!” Turban waved her pipe at the servant, sending her down to the floor in a cry of pain. The Gaptooth Farmers tried to stand, but Waitress stabbed each of their hands with meat forks, pinning them to the counter while hexing their legs into wood. Her headcap fell as she nodded towards Turban, revealing a head of long grass for hair. “Out back!” she cried. “Go!”
TWO trolls. Dammit, where are the eggs?!
And Turban wasn’t moving either. Her empty hand reached for Tavus. “Not without a new vessel. Come, Alexander. A regal name, an ambitious name for an ambitious man.” The name dug into his temples, his mind.
The servant continued to writhe and gasp on the floor, gargling “Be-duh-don—”
“Quiet!” Turban flicked the pipe. The servant’s back crooked too, too far backwards, yet she lived and breathed with enough strength to hold her own mouth open. “Be-be—”
“Come, Alexander. Taste royal spoils and divine wines.”
And Tavus could taste them, faintly, so sweet and beautiful and lovely and eternal and light and kind and—
—and down he went when the other Trade Couriers plowed him over to make for the door. “Out of our way!” Only the wooden chairs were no longer chairs. Round the Couriers’ legs they twisted and groaned, leaving the pair in a heap in front of the door. Waitress stuck a fork in that wood, too, for good measure, then eyed the loner in the corner. “Give us any trouble, old man, and you’re next.” She eyed Tavus on the floor. “Him, a vessel? He’s no elemental like the other one.”
“No, but he’s strong enough to hold my cloaking spell when I return to the nests. We won’t need a blizzard then. Come,” the command sung around him and through him.His hands felt stiff, strange, his body, hardening, smelling of cedar.
Except for his chest. The glow of his badge warmed and dulled the name’s points. Its green glow peeked through his clawed coat.
Ribbons of green magic unspooled from Tavus’ badge across the diner. They pulled Tavus upright, cleared his vision. He could see Turban now, unsure where to direct her pipe, looking to his chest, to Waitress. “Guess I wasn’t the only one waiting for my partner. Bella.”
The name threw Turban back into the window, her own hold on the servant now weakened. But not broken. The name was not complete.
A shriek and shine of metal flew for Tavus and his badge’s ribbons, but he dodged and rolled in time. Waitress landed next to Turban, eyes black and wild as Turban’s grin.
But now Tavus was next to the loner, whose own green ribbons were coming forward, wrapping with Tavus’. Not that the loner seemed to notice, his focus on the broken woman heaving one last breath. “Doooooona!” Her fight was gone.
Loner nodded and rose. All battered garb remained upon the ground, the bright green trench coat in their place.
Private Miks Tavus pulled out his badge and held it aloft. “You are under arrest!” The ribbons spun and wove as they circled the trolls.
“No badge will take me alive!” Turban’s pipe let loose a stream of ash that singed the green ribbons while Waitress threw a fork at the counter. The counter itself folded and folded, revealing a ground of cold clay. Dammit, not the dirt!
“Corporal!” Tavus pointed and lunged to block the pair’s escape. His badge grew so damn hot to hold but he kept it aimed up and at them to increase the magic’s unfolding. More, more green ribbons pooled out to hold the Waitress in place just a few feet away and knock Turban’s pipe from her hand. But then she dropped her own cloak, revealing dragon eggs—plural—banded to each arm.
She laughed Death’s laugh as she grabbed one. “Never alive, Green Trenches, never alive!”
“BELLADONNA!” Corporal’s voice rumbled through the diner with such force the street-facing wall cracked. A million shards of glass fell to the street, revealing three more Green Trenches outside. Turban screamed as her body locked still under the green ribbons of the law. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST.” With a nod to Tavus, the Private pocketed his badge and carefully unstrapped the dragon eggs from the troll’s shoulders, all the while her eyes glared at him with such curses that, if she’d had any power left, he’d certainly be dead.
But he wasn’t. They had her name, and with it, her power.
Still, he couldn’t help giving one more “Ma’m” as he took the last egg and handed it over to the second squad that magicked the snow away for a clear removal of the criminals. No one needed those trolls to step on soil before they reached the transport.
Corporal ordered the last Green Trench to tend the Couriers and Farmers while Private Miks Tavus watched the Transport take off over the rooftops for Headquarters. The wind had finally gone to bed, the moonlight turning the snow into fallen stars.
Corporal stepped up alongside him. “You’re damn lucky, Private. That elemental was hollowed down to the last bits of rib bone. Takes even less time for a troll’s magic to do that to a human.”
“How’d you know I would be here?”
Corporal tapped his badge. “Brothers of the Badge always know, especially when we seek by names freely given.”
Tavus nodded. He had never thought of his name as a gift, let alone a lifesaver, until now. “Thank you, Sir. I’ll remember. For all my Brothers of Pips Row.”
“I know.” Corporal smirked. “Get some sleep, Private. Tomorrow, we start again.”
“Yes, Sir.” Tavus smiled inside and out. Damn straight we will.
Another story of Pips Row complete! Now who should we meet next? Perhaps another who dares hold a dragon in her hands? Or perhaps a keeper of stars? Or perhaps a wizard in a dispute over fences? We’ll just have to find out!
Read on, share on, and write on, my friends!