The opening scene was posted earlier and remains substantially the same. Now for your delectation (or whatever), no less than the second scene!
The twisting lanes led to Bunny Mixowa’s boarding house. By law, only Cuffs could own property, but only the lowest class of greens held property in the Mews. Bunny was a third-generation greeow and had no objection to local food or climate, or even to mixing with the natives in the Mews – provided everyone knew his place. He lived on the lowest floor, the one with running water, where he ran a tavern, collected rents, and drank enough absence to keep himself plausibly oblivious to his boarders’ activities should the Watch ever take an interest. Teo and his companions lived up two narrow and none-too-sturdy flights of stairs and had running water only if they ran while carrying the jugs from the well in the street.
The third floor had been divided into several rooms, and Teo found Chum Varòwanop in the kitchen-eatery, chopping vegetables into a stewpot. The swampman paused when the plainsman entered, and wiped his forehead with the back of his knife-hand. “What’d ye get us for dinner?” He spoke in the shortgrass plavver that had been the common tongue in the Foreign Legion of House Tiger.
Chum had been a “battle engine-maker” for the Tigers and had fought in the battle of Joojen’s Creek, where the Legion had held and defeated three companies of New Cuffy militia. Teo had led the Horse Archers in that battle, and it had been a fine day’s work, spoiled only because the main greenie army, the Royals, had circled through Moose country and used their thunder tubes to break Cliffside Keep.
Teo laid the ripped game bag on the table. Chum inspected the bird. “You stole the bird,” he guessed, “and tried to carve the poor fowl on the run.”
Teo told him of the hoo-rah down at the docks and how he had cleverly used the pheasant to block Seven Quail’s knife and disarm him.
“So you ruined our dinner?” asked Chum. “Why bother? Weren’t your fight.”
Teo shrugged. “Don’t like sneak ambushes.”
“Stupid plainsman,” said Sammi o’ th’ Eagles, who wandered into the kitchen from the common room. “Those best kind.” He habitually spoke other languages using the grammar of his own tongue, which had an alarming shortage of articles and conjugations.
“It was Seven Quail,” Teo told him.
“Oh. That different. Kill him?”
“Poled him. Rest is up to the greens.”
“Seven Quail owe Sammi five pieces,” the hillman grumbled.
“Good luck collecting on ‘em.”
“What am I gonna do about the damn bird?” Chum complained.
“You could bring suit in the ’cheating court…” That was the Figa Anya Goregovona Herpstonesdoor, who had emerged from her private room, properly dressed for her position at the chandlery.
Chum looked at the pheasant. “’Cheating court...”
“Not the bird. Sammi’s pieces. If Seven Quail dies for a felony, his legal property ’cheats to his overlord, and Sammi can bring suit for his debt.”
“Sammi not believe it.”
“That you can bring suit?”
“No, that Seven Quail got legal property.”
“Did any of you make any progress last night,” she demanded, “discovering the recipe for the black powder?” The three men looked to one another.
Chum sighed and took the bird to the cutting board. “Maybe I can cut out the parts his knife may have poisoned. Teo, you can be the taste-tester, since it was you managed to get dinner contaminated. Princess,” he added to Anya, “that recipe is a closely guarded secret, and even if we discover it, I have no more pigeons to send word back.”
“Your commanding officer sent the three of you out here to spy on the greenies and…”
Sammi put a finger to his lips. “Not so loud.”
(c)2015 Michael F. Flynn