The Thief and the Shadows: Chapter 1 by Chris McCartney

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But being a thief had nothing to do with being an assassin and Latch did not enjoy occasional crossovers like this one. He replaced the blade and rolled the man's sleeves up until he saw what he had suspected: the man bore two identical marks just below the groove of the inside of his elbows. He was from the north. It wasn't terribly hard to tell, men from north of The Wall tended to be taller and more muscular, the rugged lands requiring a stronger body to make farming possible. But the things that worried Latch most were the marks, they indicated the man's enslavement to a clan that Latch knew all too well: the Felmik Lizard-men.
In any other situation he would have felt bad about killing an escaped slave, except that this man hadn't escaped, this Latch knew because of a very simple fact: the fact that those unwilling to serve are branded on their necks and foreheads between the eyes, a truly excruciating torment. This man had no doubt joined up just as so many had, because of the power they believed they would gain working for the Lizard-men, after all they were nothing more than errand-boys for the dark forces who laid claim to that part of the northern reaches. Whatever had made this man leave his masters, I wasn't want of freedom; that was certain but what was a Lizard-serf doing in Latch's city?
Standing to leave he noticed the peddler's pouch. The man was long gone from here, and would probably leave work earlier from now on. Latch squatted and picked up the pouch. Oh well, he thought, at least some good will come of tonight's events.
Then the shadows of the night enveloped him lovingly and he was gone.

The Summer Swift was now slowly coming into port, the waves beating off its hull and keeping it from connecting with the port's gangway.
Running with heavy steps, a young man moved across the gangway and signalled to the ship's crew. Onboard, a man stood tying a monkey knot into a coil of rope, which his nearest crewmate tied down. When the knot was finished, the crewman fired the ball-shaped knot to the young man on the gangway who quickly undid the knot again and tied the rope to the gangway.
Two sailors slipped down the rope and with a clap on the back dismissed the young man, more knotted ropes were hurled to them and the ship was secured to the port. Within the next few minutes the gangplank was laid down and secured. It was then that Eral gave his final thanks to the captain and departed the ship.
The wind was rough and although the sun beat down, clouds did occupy a good part of the sky. Their rain mixed with the sunshine and provided Eral with a "welcome home" rainbow. He walked towards the port's entrance. He had long since stop trying to get wet where boats were concerned and was now simply trying to ignore the gentle splash of water about him.
A figure stood at the city's entry way and Eral quickly recognised his old friend Peter, but this was no time for happy welcomes, his summons had been urgent and had forced him to reorganise his schedule, and he was not terribly thrilled with that.
‘Welcome home brother,' Peter intoned.
‘And you also, brother.' Eral answered.
They turned and quickly left the port.
‘Was that really necessary?' Eral asked.
‘Well I thought you deserved some form of welcome and with secrecy and customs as they are, it was the best I could do.

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