Bloodsticks - Chapter 1
Dedicated to Jethro Tobbert the gnome who originally introduced me to the game of Bloodsticks. I hope you rot.
I’m excited to start releasing BLOODSTICKS today! This is the second award-winning work of Höbin Luckyfeller, and the second book in his Field Guide series. The script is hot and fresh and we also have a new cover for the book!
When Höbin is contracted to research the popular game of chance, he quickly learns the truth surrounding its history is anything but. Circumstances unfold faster than he can anticipate, pulling Höbin from his assignment and thrusting him into the shadows of intrigue, magic…and murder.
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Chapter 1 - The Chase
There are distinct advantages to being a gnome. We are a naturally quick and agile race, with keen reflexes and the ability to hide just about anywhere. Unfortunately, being a gnome in your mid sixties hampers some of those advantages…and then there are the metal parts.
“I’m too old for this crap,” I huff out loud, sliding behind the rolled up rugs…and just in time. The two brutes charge past me and down the next alley. It’s a miracle those idiots didn’t notice the small trail of water I’m leaving behind—it would lead them right to me. Huh…this might not be as hard as I thought.
I try to control my breathing as best I can. There was a time, many years ago, that I’d laugh at being chased by dark things that go bump in the night. I lived for things like that…the chase. Now I just hope I’m fast enough to avoid these human idiots with the combined IQ of a bedpan.
Caleb, the rug merchant, comes to the door and notices me hiding among his inventory. When he opens his mouth, I shake my head. He glances at the two splitting up to search for me, clubs in hand, and nods understanding. Caleb slips back into the shadows of the doorway. Things happen in the Black Market. Bad things, that good people shouldn’t be a party to.
I pat my small vest pocket to make sure the vial hasn’t broken.
Tgii help me…I better be right about this.
Creeping into the open, I make a dash across the main road and hop over the fence of the holding pen. My metal foot catches the top plank of wood and I stumble over the side. The clanking of my metal leg and hand spook the sheep, which bray loudly.
“Shut up, mutton-heads!” I hiss. They scatter, drawing the attention of some patrons just entering the market. Not good. Use my telescopic eye to check the way I came, having a clear view of the alleyway. Sure enough, one thug looks across the road at the sheep. It’s unlikely he can see me amongst these grey fluffs of wool.
I wrinkle my nose and glance at my tunic. Yeck. My chest is steaming with hot sheep sh—aww, crap.
Sigh. Can’t stop now.
Scrambling to my feet, I hop the back fence. Slow down, Höbin. Control your breathing and try not to draw the attention of patrons at the exchange window. The Sentry lean against the main building, talking casually with one another. Luckily, I pass without being noticed.
I take less than five minutes to get from the upper rim of the Market to the cluster of buildings behind The Whipped Mule. As the only gambling hall in the Black Market, it’s for the more refined personalities…or those who want to be. If you have the cash, you can arrange for dice, cards of all types, or even a rare game of Olen at the only gambling hall in the Black Market. But the chief attraction is always Bloodsticks. Game of hell, I call it. Draws folks in and sucks ‘em dry.
Satisfied that I’m in the clear, I sprint around the corner…and slam into two of the ugliest humans you’re likely to find in the market. The impact nearly knocks me to the ground. The fat one smiles down at me, his pitted face looking more like swiss cheese than flesh. He twists the cudgel in his hands.
“Mr. Culver and I doesn’t like to run,” said the skinny one, leaning an elbow on Culver’s shoulder. “Does we Mr. Culver?”
Fatboy snarls, “We do not, Mr. Aswin. That’s we do not, indeed.” The snarl would have been more intimidating if most of his teeth weren’t already missing. Instead, I have to stifle a laugh, which doesn’t improve my situation.
“Think this is funny,” sneers Aswin, “…little…metal…man?”
The fat one chuckles.
“You owe Mr. Keeley a large bag of coin you do.”
The smug expression of bigger races always ticks me off. Aswin raises an eyebrow and inspects his fingernails. He picks at the dark spots infecting the tips of his grungy, stained fingers.
“We have also been given strict orders to take the equivalent, mind you, from your skin, if you don’t have the aforementioned bag ‘o coin.”
Culver laughs louder, patting the cudgel in his palm, “Even if we’s got ta peel back yer turtle-shell head ta find it.”
There’s another blessed talent we gnomes posses as a race, exclusive to the whole of this world: technology. Black Magic, the other races call it. Well, the narrow thinking, paranoid, ignorant donkeys do, anyway.
Call me what you like—but I enjoy shooting a pop-wire into both goons. They flinch when the barbed needle penetrates their tunics and flesh, then flop around like fish as 50,000 volts pumps through the hair-thin wires of my cybernetic arm.
“Ohhh,” I grin, with a feigned look of dismay, “I don’t think we’s like this, Mr. Culver!” The drool rolls out of Aswin’s mouth and pools under his cheek. My tone drops to imitate the low-pitched rasp. “No, we certainly do not, Mr. Aswin!”
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