Black and White Queen - Part One: Thief's Game - Chapter Six
Posted March 29th, 2011 by Lenni
in my evil laboratory, complete with cloud wallpaper >:)
Here is the next chappie, in which Sannar mopes and I realized filler scenes are extremely hard to write. Please do not throw things if it sounds weird. Slaying the evil Writer's Block monster took some of my writing skills away.
Sannar wound through the dark streets, in a much better mood than he'd arrived in. Berenice could handle it. She could handle anything, as proven by the countless rooks that had died while she stayed alive and relatively unharmed. He'd managed to get the last word over Kessiah.
Oh great, now he was thinking about her. His promise to himself not to think of her had lasted about five minutes. It just showed how terrible he was at keeping promises.
It was a way of getting the better of her, payback even. Nothing more than a risky move on the chessboard. Only...
Why was he already thinking about her after five minutes?
Sannar remembered the slap he'd had to dodge, and the cold anger in her eyes. Clearly it was nothing more than a political move to her.
He stopped in the middle of the road as he heard a muffled crash. He looked up. It wasn't exactly safe in the streets at night, and he slipped a hand under his shirt to touch the handle of his knife. He looked cautiously around the corner.
A figure was standing in front of a wall, its arms filled with scrolls of paper. The wall behind the figure was covered in the same pieces of paper. The figure was dressed all in black, which wasn't so strange in this city.
But a full-face mask?
"Excuse me." Sannar said, his hand wrapped around his knife handle. The figure glanced up, then turned and ran.
He took a few steps after the figure, but stopped. It was unlikely that he would catch up. Instead he turned to the wall.
Plastered against the stone were dozens of paper flyers. He looked at one, and felt the words hit him.
Citizens of the Black City:
Sitting on our throne is a thief queen. She is a white pawn in disguise, here to rob us of our monarchy and our way of life. How long do you think it will be before the white players arrive in our city, with weapons and instructions and new rules for the Long Game?
It will not happen.
Because YOU, the common ordinary people, will not allow it to happen.
Take these words to heart, and remember them when the time is right. Remember that our queen stole her throne and her power, and does not care in the slightest for us, the people. Remember that she is a pawn at heart. Remember that when the time comes.
He stared at it for a moment, the reached out and tore a long swatch out of the paper. Sannar ripped through each flyer, leaving tattered pieces clinging to the wall and pile of shredded paper curling around his feet like pencil shavings.
A thief queen. Definitely. A thief queen looking to ruin their way of life?
Sannar remembered Berenice's whispered words to him as she left for her mission: "Maybe we were wrong about her. She might be able to change."
He sifted through the flyers at his feet until he found one that was mostly intact. He folded it carefully and tucked it into his pocket. He started to walk through the streets towards Berenice's house. She and Marc were both gone on missions, and he needed somewhere to stay.
He unlocked the door by feeding a piece of wire into the lock and closed it again with a sigh. He walked up the tight stairwell to the upper level, sitting down on the bed in the guest room he sometimes stayed in. It was tiny, but familiar.
Sannar lay back on the pillow with a sigh. He unfurled the flyer and held it above his head, skimming over the words again.
A pawn at heart. He thought back to Kessiah's cold stares and her calm, steely way of speaking. After four days, she was more of a queen than he would have thought possible. He couldn't picture her as a pawn any more than he could picture her giving him a smile that wasn't in some way cold.
He closed his. Just a minute. Then I'll get up.
He followed her through the streets, keeping pace easily with her long strides. She glanced back once, and he didn't look at her, just another face in the crowd with the hood of his grey cloak drawn up. She ducked into a store selling herbs, and he followed her after a moment.
She leaned against the counter, the hood of her cloak thrown back from her long white hair. It looked odd to him, snowy hair against unlined skin, but no one batted an eye here. He was in enemy territory.
She gave a laugh, glancing up, and he turned away. He was sure she hadn't seen him. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she paid the shopkeeper and left out another door.
He went up to the counter. "Can I leave through that door?" He nodded to the man behind the counter. "I'm in a hurry, and I live just down there."
"Did you move in?" The man asked. "I haven't seen you around."
He allowed a smile to settle on his face. "Just moved in." He replied. He walked after the pawn, closing the door with a click behind him.
The alley outside the door was narrow and made of rough stone, not too different than the alleys in his city. She was crouched down at the point where the alley met another, tying together into a web of stone. She was stroking a cat, murmuring to it. He walked up behind her, his feet noiseless until he deliberately nudged a stone with his toe. The cat streaked away, and the pawn looked up.
"Good evening." He said. Her face was halfway between friendliness and alarm, the mixture he saw in the faces of every white player. It didn't have to be like his. He could just sneak up behind them and slit their throats without a sound. But he must have been more sadistic than he thought, because he enjoyed it better this way.
He seized her in a quick hold, locking one arm around her waist and covering her mouth with the other. He pulled out his knife and held it to her throat. "Don't scream." He said. He could feel her heart pounding in fast rabbit rhythm, her frantic breath whooshing past his hand.
She bit him, struggling against his hold, and he pulled his knife away from her throat to cut a long slash in her arm. Her shriek of pain was muffled by his hand.
"Who are you?" He asked. He shook her when she didn't respond.
"Kessiah." She said, and he was surprised by how young she sounded. "If you want information, you're insane. I'm not saying anything."
"I'm here to kill you, Kessiah." He said. She gasped slightly, and opened her mouth. Her scream was barely a second long before he slammed his hand against her mouth, cutting off the sound. He sliced at her other arm, and she moaned. "It'll just be worse if you keep talking."
"Screaming isn't talking." She said through gritted teeth. "Kill me already."
"Alright." He said. He set the knife to her skin.
There was a noise at the end of the alley, and he spun, his knife slicing into her neck. Berenice was standing at the end of the alley, watching. "You don't have to kill her." She said. "I killed her sister."
Kessiah made a horrified sound, and he pressed his hand into her mouth. "I can't leave her with this much information."
She gave an elegant shrug. "So knock her out. We only needed to kill one of them."
He spun around, dropping the pawn to the ground. She curled on the ground, blood staining the arms of her shirt and pooling around her fingers. "I hate you." She said.
He knelt next to her and grabbed her chin, forcing her eyes up. "Just count yourself lucky that I'm leaving you alive." He said.
She looked at him with pale grey eyes, the colour of thin ice over freezing water just before it cracks. "I'm never going to forget this." She said. "You better hope I stay a pawn."
"I really don't think you're in the position to be making threats." He cut her arm again, suddenly furious with her. She shouldn't be this fearless.
She barely flinched as the knife entered her skin. "I hate you." She repeated.
"That's enough out of you." He struck her on the back of the head with the knife handle, and she sagged against the wall. He wiped blood off the blade of the knife and tucked it into his pocket. He turned to Berenice.
"Come on." Sannar said. "We shouldn't linger."
Sannar jerked awake, his heart pounding. He was curled into the pillow, the blanket tossed over his knees and his face pressed into the flyer. He rubbed at his cheek and sat up. Outside the small window the sky was lightening. He leaned against the headboard of the bed and pressed his hand against his eyes, as if he could press the memory out of his head.
How had his hatred for Kessiah turned into a grudging respect? He'd been ready to kill her. How come he was having nightmares about torturing her?
How come he was dreaming about her at all?
Sannar left the room, folding the rumpled blanket before he did so. He set the flyer on the table and studied it as he ate some leftover bread in Berenice's kitchen. This was serious. It sounded like a rebellion.
A thief queen. The phrase nagged at him, like a splinter that wouldn't come out. A month ago, he would have agreed. Why did it make him angry now?
He shoved the flyer off the table. I need to talk to someone who doesn't hate me. He thought. Too bad there aren't many people like that around.
Did Kessiah know about this?
He was halfway to the door when he realized how stupid that idea was. Try and talk to her? She'd probably lock him up. Or kill him.
She must know. She was queen, for heaven's sake. She had informants, people on her side...
Did she? Sannar thought back to the hatred of the white players he'd kept inside him since he could remember. Why would anyone follow the orders of someone who had once been the enemy?
Why would he?
He sat at the table, kicking at the now-crumpled flyer on the floor. He resisted the urge to set his head on the table and settled instead for rubbing at his eyes. He had to tell her, he realized. Even if he came off worse, he wouldn't be able to sit around Berenice's house twiddling his fingers.
But he wouldn't go right away. If he left immediately, Kessiah probably would run him through. Sannar smiled to himself as he remembered her icy, stiff voice. Of course, she'd be more angry if she knew he was laughing at her than if he told her about a rebellion first thing in the morning, but it felt good to think about her.
He shook his head to clear it and tucked the crumpled flyer into his pocket, mind made up.
See more stories by Lenni