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Trever Bierschbach
Trever Bierschbach
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Trever Bierschbach

UPDATE Welcome to my page, still. I'm leaving the part below because part of me hopes I will get back to streaming at some point. I may still release videos but scheduled streams are not going to happen any time soon. So, what's this page about then? I still have my Frags and Beer site, that I want to keep free of ads. Posts going to Medium for your reading pleasure, and if you subscribe you'll have access to a regular short story series called Shadows of Barden (free first episode on Medium).

This page will also help fund more books, and my independent publishing work. Subscribing here gets you signed up for the email newsletter and entered into that month's drawing for a free copy of When Heroes Rise (digital outside the continental US). Help me keep the geekery coming, and keep most of it ad-free by subscribing.

Welcome to my Star page. You're probably wondering what this is all about. For supporting me here you're helping me deliver free content to YouTube, Mixer, Twitch, Medium, Frags and Beer Webzine and many other locations. You'll help keep new games coming to streams, and new equipment in the studio to bring you those games. Select a tier, and I will deliver the geekery.

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Trever Bierschbach
Public post

Shadows of Barden: Episode 5

“Another body found by the docks,” Meghan heard the man at the next table talking in hushed whispers. 

“Who was it?” His companion asked. 

The first man shrugged. “A young woman caught out at night. No idea who she was.” 

“Second one this tenday.” 

Meghan moved away from the table to the tavern’s long bar. News of the murders was on everyone’s lips.  All the victims were young women, and all lower caste. Street thieves, dock workers, and courtesans were all being targeted by the killer. The murders were brutal and inhuman, leaving the victims tortured and dismembered. Fear, worse than usual, gripped the people of the Wharf District. 

“Thanks, Berk,” Meghan said, dropping a coin on the counter. “The beer’s stale as usual.” 

“You keep paying for it,” the bartender said, pocketing the coin and moving on to deliver a mug down the counter. 

Meghan stepped out into the night and pulled her hood up against the mist falling steadily over the city. She rushed through the night, winding through one alleyway to the next until she stopped at a shadowy doorway. She looked both ways in the alley before knocking. After a moment, a small panel slid open. 

“Sixth first.” 

“Sunlight,” Meghan replied. She heard the locks click before the door was opened and she slipped into the dim hall. 

“Another?” The man who let her in asked quietly as she passed him. 

Meghan nodded. He shook his head and closed the door, turning a lever that drove three bolts home in the frame. 

“Lord of Luck be with us,” he said. “Damn shame it is.” 

“That it is,” Meghan agreed. 

As she turned to descend the stairs into the guildhall, another knock sounded at the door. It was frantic and loud, and they both jumped. Meghan waited, reaching back to grasp the hilt of her short sword strapped under her cloak. The doorman slid the panel open. 

“Sixth first.” 

“I don’t...I don’t remember, you have to let me in!” The woman’s voice was all fear and panic. 

“Sixth first,” the doorman repeated. 

“Let me in! It’s coming for me!” Something about her voice  

“Thoma, let her in,” Meghan said. 

“The passcode,” Thoma whispered, it’s the rules. 

“I’ll take responsibility.” 

“On your head then, not mine,” Thoma opened the door and a terrified girl rushed in. 

The girl was just a couple years younger than Meghan, and she was sure she’d seen the girl before. Meghan caught the girl before she could rush past and held her in place while Thoma threw the locks home. 

“What’s your name, girl?” Meghan asked. 

“Tigg.” 

“Tigg, what’s coming for you?” Meghan held the girl by her shoulders. Her eyes darted to the door and Meghan gave her a light shake. “Tigg.” 

“The ravager, it nearly had me but I got away,” the words rushed out of Tigg. 

“Ravager?” Thoma asked. 

“What they’re calling the thing that’s killing the girls down by the docs,” Meghan said. “Tigg, are you sure it’s the killer? What did it look like?” 

Tigg kept looking at the door like her nightmare would come tearing through it at any moment. Her mouth worked like she was trying to answer. Terror was all that Meghan could see in her eyes. 

“Come on, let’s go somewhere safe so we can talk,” Meghan nodded to Thoma and led the girl deeper into the building. She could hear the doorman throwing the extra safety bolts home. The ones used to keep out intruders intent on taking the door off its hinges. 

Meghan led the way to her small apartment, and shut the door behind them. She sat Tigg down in one of the two chairs and set a cup down on the table between them. She poured the girl a shot of Tullian whiskey from a bottle on a high shelf. 

“Drink that, it will calm your nerves.” 

The girl did so, coughing at the burn of the alcohol. She took a deep breath and set the cup down before her shaking hand dropped it. 

“Tigg, what happened?” 

“I was...,” she stopped, looking away from Meghan. 

“It’s all right, Tigg. You’re safe here.” 

“I was looking for work down by the docs.” 

Meghan nodded, needing no further elaboration. 

“I passed the Barton warehouse and something grabbed my cloak from the alley there,” Tigg’s voice rose in pitch. 

Meghan poured her another shot of the amber whiskey and Tigg drank it in one swallow. 

“Go on.” 

“It dragged me into the shadows and pinned me there. It’s face, it was a nightmare,” Tigg shook her head as if to clear it. “Its eyes burned like forge coals and its mouth was full of pointed teeth, but that’s all I saw. Its breath was like a plague house when it tried to talk.” 

“What happened next, how did you get away?” 

“Someone must have seen me fall,” Tigg looked up. “A man shouted from the street and got the thing’s attention. I rolled away and my cloaked ripped. I got up and ran and didn’t look back. I could hear it chasing me, crashing through the rotting crates behind the warehouse. I got to the next street and there were more people around. I couldn’t hear it anymore. I think it is trying to stay hidden.” 

“So, you don’t know if it followed you here?” 

“I don’t know. I thought I felt it watching me, but when I looked in the shadows of an alley or doorway, nothing was there.” 

“You said it spoke? What did it say?” 

“Nothing that made sense,” Tigg shook her head again. “It kept repeating two words, may gun.” 

Meghan sat down hard in the chair across from Tigg. She felt like the wind was sucked from the room. Why would this thing be looking for her, it couldn’t be possible, it had to mean something else. Then she remembered the voice, and looked to the small box containing the glass sphere. It sat on a shelf with other curios she had gathered over the years. 

“What’s wrong?” Tigg asked. 

“Meghan, my name is Meghan.” 

 
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Trever Bierschbach
Public post

Shadows of Barden: Episode 4

The shadow crawled along the rooftop, a dark form against the darker sky. It moved like a spider, close to the roof tiles, and crept to the edge. Emerald green eyes peered from the depths of the dark hood and face wrap to scan the narrow, cobbled street below. A lone man hurried up the street. His path carried him from one torchlit spot to the next like they were pools of safety between gaps of nightmare. The shadow was only interested in letting the man pass, though there may be other dangers to warrant his haste. 

When the street was clear, the figure leaned over the edge of the roof. Strong fingers gripped the gutter as the shadow peered through a window. The house’s occupant was rich, but money wasn’t the goal that night. The window looked in on a dark sitting room, probably attached to one of the occupant’s bedrooms. The shadow could just make out floral embroidery on the upholstery by the dim light of the moon. A dark gloved hand slipped a thin metal wire through the gap in the window and lifted the latch, letting the twin panes swing into the room. The figure followed. Flowed into the sitting room with no more sound than the night air. 

The shadow glided across the room to a door. Wait, listen, the soft sounds of someone sleeping beyond. The door opened with a gentle touch and swung inward on quiet hinges. A dressing table, with a mirror above, reflected the moon coming into the room. A silver hairbrush lay next to a tin used to hold face powder. Not his room. The shadow closed the door and slipped to the next. It opened into the hall. 

The upper hall was short, a flight of stairs on the left descended to the floors below. On the right, two doors. A window at the end of the hall let in enough moonlight to illuminate the deep red carpeting. The figure approached the closed doors, stepping around a small table that held a cold oil lamp. The figure stopped between the doors, soft-soled boots not even a whisper on the rug. Wait, listen. A soft snore on the right gave away the room’s purpose. The shadow needed proof, so the figure opened the door on the left. Good guess. 

The office was organized with meticulous care that everything had its place and was inhabiting its place with purpose. The room was a sparse contrast to the opulent décor of the lady’s sitting room. The shadow scanned the book shelves and desk. No clue to be seen out in the open. After opening several drawers on the desk, the figure found the ledger. The man’s organization was a blessing. Every transaction noted boldly, but in code. Dates were easy, gold amounts and the age of the merchandise as well. The names of buyers weren’t so quick to decipher. The shadow flipped through pages of entries, pages and pages of young lives disrupted by the man’s trade. Hundreds of children sold. The figure slipped the ledger into a small pack. 

With the proof obtained the shadow crossed the hall and tried the latch on the last door. Unlocked and well oiled. The door opened without a sound and the shadow crept in. The bedchamber was tidy and free of any extraneous furnishings. It was as sparse as the office, and just as organized. On the ornate wood bed, a large person snored under the covers. Deft fingers slid a stiletto from its scabbard. The shadow approached the bed and leaned in close, pressing the tip of the weapon under the man’s chin.  

“Don’t call out or I’ll pin your tongue to your skull,” the shadow whispered.  

The man’s snoring cut off abruptly. The man’s eyes opened, reflecting the light coming in the window. They were wide with fear, but he remained silent.  

“I know what business you are in, who are your buyers?”  

“I can’t,” the man said, barely moving his jaw. Even so the tip of the stiletto pressed into his flabby jowls. 

“Give me a name and it will go easier on you,” the shadow whispered. 

The man’s beady eyes searched the room for any help or escape but it was short-lived. He swallowed and clamped his jaw tighter in defiance. 

“Look, you are going to die tonight. It’s just a matter of how slowly, and whether you take someone with you,” the shadow said. “Just one name and I will end it quick.” 

“What does a petty assassin care?” 

“Even I have limits,” the shadow rasped. “They’re children for Gods’ sake.” 

The man’s chin lifted with pressure from the stiletto. 

“This would do awful things to your soft parts.” 

Fear became terror in his eyes and finally resignation with his fate. 

“Lord Bask, Hastor Bask comes to me often,” the man said. 

The shadow grabbed a pillow and pressed it to the man’s face, and as promised, made the end quick. The stiletto opened the man’s throat and artery. Small hands held the pillow in place while the man’s life spilled out onto the sheets. It took only a few moments for his struggles to cease and the shadow slipped back out the way it slipped in. 

Hours later Meghan sat under a lamp in Berk’s tavern, flipping through a ledger. She scanned the entries, muttering the name Hastor Bask under her breath. She stopped on a group of letters and numbers dated three tendays ago. 

3.H.B-young-55talons 

“It can’t be that easy,” Meghan whispered to the ledger. “What does the three mean, Lord Bask?” 

 
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Trever Bierschbach
Public post

Embers of Liberty Chapter 1

The first chapter of my novel, Embers of Liberty, is available for free. Future chapters will be available to all subscriber levels. Once complete I will make the audiobook available on Amazon's Audible platform.
EOLChapter1.mp3
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Trever Bierschbach
Public post

Shadows of Barden: Episode 3

“Meghan, where did you get this?” A middle-aged man was inspecting the glass sphere with the aid of a jeweler’s loupe. 

Meghan watched intently when he picked up the ball, but there was no smoke, no sigil, and no skin-crawling voice. Had she imagined it? 

“Robert acquired it,” Meghan said. “Asked if I could find a buyer.” 

“There’s a mark here.”  

Meghan’s heart nearly leapt from her chest. “Mark?” 

“Where did you say Robert picked this up?” 

“I didn’t,” Meghan said softly. “What kind of mark?” 

“It looks like a spider, the same sort the cult uses,” the fence looked up. “Why would the cult mark merchandise with their own symbol?” 

“This just keeps getting better,” Meghan muttered under her breath. 

“What’s that?” 

“I said, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not merchandise.” 

“If this is some personal possession of the Cult of the Crystal Spider you need to get it, and you, as far away from here as possible,” the fence put the glass bauble back in the lockbox and closed the lid. 

Meghan picked up the box and tucked it under her arm. “You didn’t notice anything unusual about it?” 

“Unusual? Like what?” 

“I don’t know, maybe it has some magic in it,” Meghan said weakly. 

“No, it’s just a glass sphere with a tiny spider carved into it. It’s probably some sort of decoration or maybe a gift for one of their members,” the fence speculated. “Either way, you should tell Robert to lay low, and drop that thing at the bottom of the bay.” 

Meghan dropped a silver coin on the counter for the jeweler’s time, and ducked out of the small establishment into the bustling street. Barden in the daytime was a different world from the one the young thief was used to. She preferred the cool nights with fewer people, and more shadows. There was too much noise, and too many people to keep an eye on. She felt like eyes were always on her and it made the small hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Her skin felt too tight for her body, and she just wanted to get somewhere dark and quiet. But, some business could only be done during the day so she swallowed her anxiety and pushed on. She had one more stop to make. 

Micham’s shop was at the end of a series of narrow, twisted alleys off of Market Street. One almost forgot that there was an entire city around them if they found their way to his doorstep. The noise was all but gone, and no people were in sight. Micham kept an immaculate garden at the end of the alley, bordered by a short iron fence with an arching trellis over the gate. A small fountain bubbled gently into a pool where colorful fish swam in lazy circles. She didn’t get to visit him often, but when she did Meghan always took a few moments to just stand in the garden and take it all in. 

This time, however, she rushed through to rap sharply on his door. She needed answers and time was not her ally. 

“Yes, yes, coming!” A muffled voice called from behind the thick oak planks. 

The thick door opened to reveal a short, balding old man in simple brown wool robes. He peered up at Meghan with piercing sapphire blue eyes, through the magnifying lenses of small wire spectacles perched on his nose. 

“Meghan!” The man said through a gap-toothed smile. “What brings you to my door? Come in, come in.” 

The young woman smiled and brushed past him to enter the cool, dim interior of his shop. He was one of the few people in Barden she called friend, and about the only person she trusted. 

“I picked up an unusual object I think may be enchanted,” Meghan said. 

“Well then, let’s take it back to the lab and see what’s what.” 

Meghan stepped down the short flight of stairs to the shop floor and followed Micham through the cluttered shelves and racks toward the back. The old man was a wizard of some renown. He was also a curio and antiquities dealer. He bought and sold almost anything one would describe as strange, or unique. Over the decades his shop became a cluttered mess of precariously stacked books supporting finely carved dwarven sculptures, magical amulets and trinkets dangling from the jaws of stone gargoyles, and stuffed birds hanging from the ceiling, just to name a few of the myriad pieces one could find at Micham’s. It was often said that no one went to Micham knowing what they wanted, but they usually left with something they never knew existed and simply could not live without. 

Meghan gave everything a passing glance, having seen most of it before, but something near the back of the shop caught her eye. Some sort of device made of metal and wood lay on a work table against the back wall. It vaguely resembled a crossbow, without the arms, and had runes carved all over the metal tube that extended from the wooden frame. 

“What’s this?” 

“Hmm?” Micham stopped and looked back. “Oh, that’s a new device from my dwarven friend. Seems they’ve found a way to harness magical power and turn it into a mechanical weapon. They call it a pistol.” 

“What’s it do?” 

Micham stepped to the table and lifted the device, which was about as long as his forearm. He opened a small chamber on the side and held it up. 

“An enchanted item is placed in here,” he pointed to several metal balls on the table. “Then a ball is loaded, and the device uses the magic to propel the projectile faster than an arrow, or crossbow bolt.” 

“Sounds painful,” Meghan said. 

“Early tests are promising, but I worry about magic becoming a resource for war if these become popular,” Micham said. “I’m told they’ve even used it to make a ship fly but I’m certain they’re exaggerating.” 

“Interesting,” Meghan watched him set the device down and followed him to the lab after a quick backward glance at the work bench. 

“Now, what have you brought me?” 

Meghan set the lockbox on a table between Micham and herself. The old wizard carefully opened the lid and inspected its contents without touching it. He spent a long time looking at it, muttering to himself and switching between looking through his spectacles and taking them off to peer closely at the orb. Finally, he looked up at the young thief. 

“What makes you think this object has magical properties?” 

“It, ah,” Meghan hesitated as the old man opened a small book on the work table and prepared pen and ink. “It filled with a greenish smoke when I picked it up, and I saw some kind of sigil inside.” 

“Mmhm,” Micham wrote while she talked. 

“And, there was a voice in my head,” the wizard’s pen stopped for a heartbeat at that, then continued writing. 

“I see,” Micham didn’t look up from his notes. He began to talk to himself as he wrote. “Size of walnut, no markings visible to the naked eye...” 

“Henri, the jeweler down the road, said there’s a mark he could see with that little glass he uses,” Meghan interrupted. “A spider, etched on the orb.” 

Micham nodded and corrected his note. He set his pen down and reached into the box, carefully lifting the glass orb with the tips of his fingers. He turned the globe to peer at it from different angles, rubbed it with his thumb, and even leaned in to put an ear close to it. Nothing happened. 

“Meghan, did you say, or do anything when you picked it up?” 

“No, I just picked it up and it started to fill with that smoke.” 

Micham held the sphere out toward her. “Would you mind just placing your fingers on the orb?” 

Meghan did so, and almost immediately a greenish smoke began to fill the ball. She looked at Micham and he nodded to confirm he was seeing it too. When the sigil appeared, he studied it closely to memorize it. Then she heard it. 

“Where are you?” 

The voice was like ice down the back of her neck, or the feeling of touching something unidentifiable in the dark. It repulsed her at an instinctual level and set off her anxiety like nothing she’d ever experienced. 

“Did you hear that?” Meghan still held her hand out but Micham was already putting the ball back in the lockbox. She was unaware he had moved it out of her reach. 

“No, but I felt something,” Micham said. His voice was troubled. “Meghan, you need to get rid of this immediately. I can find some way to dispose of it for you, but this thing is dark. Whatever made it is still connected to it, and it does not come from a good place.” 

Meghan suddenly felt possessive when Micham offered to destroy it for her. She couldn’t explain why, but it made her angry. 

“No,” Meghan said a little too harshly. She snatched the box off the table and tucked it under her arm, turning so her body was between the wizard and the orb. 

“Suit yourself, but you should consider at least burying it or dumping it into the bay.” 

The old man’s blue eyes were kind, and she was reminded that he was her friend. She tried to relax and soften her voice a bit, ashamed of her anger toward him. 

“I will consider it, thank you,” she said. 

She turned to leave, but stopped when the wizard put a hand on her shoulder. 

“Meghan, if anything changes about that orb let me know. It fills me with dread like I’ve not felt in many decades.” 

Meghan nodded and left the shop for the busy afternoon streets of Barden. 
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Trever Bierschbach
Public post

Shadows of Barden: Episode 2


The Sea Witch rocked gently against her mooring lines at the fifth dock in the city’s harbor. Even at night the warf district was a hive of activity, both legal and not so much. Barden was often called the City of Thieves, but it was also the trade capitol of Thelos. Commerce never stopped in Barden, ships vie for docking space all day, and unload long into the night, inns and taverns never close, and money flows like gold and silver rivers through the districts. The Sea Witch was one such ship, finally given the clearance to unload her cargo. The crew had been sequestered on the ship all day and they were chomping at the bit to finish their work and be released to enjoy the entertainment Old Town had to offer. 

“Mind if I take a look, my boss might be interested in picking up some of your goods before they hit the open market,” a young man, smoothing a close-trimmed goatee, approached the foreman. 

The man was clearly busy, and didn’t give much attention to the man. He was dressed in good, but inexpensive clothes, a clean shirt and dark red vest over leather pants and high boots that were folded down just below the knees. His hair was in a tight pony tail under a wide-brimmed red hat whose band sported a white feather. A brown cloak covered the rest. The foreman just waved his hand and barely took his eyes off the crew unloading crates and bags onto the dock.
 
“Go ‘head, but ya don touch nothin til it’s all accounted fer,” the balding seadog grumbled. 

The man’s vibrant green eyes sparkled as he turned to the piles of cargo that were being carefully organized and stacked. Another man was making notes in a log book and directing the crew on where to place each parcel. When the young man approached, the quartermaster with the log book took more interest than the foreman did.
 
“What’s your business?” The quartermaster split his attention between the young man and directing the crew.
 
“Robert duPree, for the merchant Saunders,,” Robert said with a smile. “Saunders sent me along to see if there’s anything he might be interested in purchasing before the goods are shipped off to the markets.
 
The quartermaster nodded, “Goods unaccounted for are over there.”
 
Robert touched his hat brim in thanks and strolled over to the pile indicated by the quartermaster. His eyes were moving, though, taking in everything the crew was bringing off the ship. He reached his destination, but still he scanned the cargo coming off the ship. While he watched, two other men approached the foreman from the landward side of the docks. The three exchanged words, and a small sack changed hands and disappeared into the foreman’s jacket. When they started toward the piles of cargo the quartermaster turned as if to speak, but Robert called out.
 
“Is this all the silk to be unloaded?” Robert was holding up the end of a bolt of silk for the quartermaster to see.
  
The quartermaster forgot the two others and stepped over to Robert.
 
“Let me see that,” the quartermaster took note of the color, and a number burned into the wooden board the bolt was wrapped around. He checked his log, turning a couple of pages back to find his entry. “Yes, one bolt of Wujing silk, emerald green.” 

Robert nodded and thanked the man, but his eyes never left the two newcomers. He fished out an appropriate amount of gold coins and dropped them into the quartermaster’s hand. Picking up the bolt, Robert touched the brim of his hat again, and headed back toward the city, following the two men. They were good, he had to admit. He almost missed the smaller one slipping the small iron lockbox beneath his cloak. He was certain none of the crew saw it, and the quartermaster had been suitably distracted by Robert’s question.
 
Robert followed the men through the warf district into Old Town, staying far enough behind that he could see their course, but they did not suspect they were being followed. He carried the bolt of silk under his arm and loosened the end of the fabric as he walked. The street became crowded near a pair of popular taverns, whose revelers were spilling out into the cobbled street from the establishments’ open porches. Covered patios and balconies in the area often turned the streets in Old Town into open parties of their own as musicians moved out into the night and patrons stumbled from one tavern to another. The crowd slowed the two men in front of Robert and he picked up the pace.
 
The road became blocked, and the two men stopped to let a drunken party of young sailors move past. The group was singing a bawdy song about some maid who likely didn’t exist and they cared not a bit that they were in people’s way. Robert took his opportunity and rushed ahead, slamming into the shorter of the two men and dropping the bolt of silk at his feet.
 
“Oi, watch yerself,” the man shouted in surprise.
 
“Of course, goodman. Completely my fault,” Robert apologized, but lost his balance and caught himself on the other’s coat. They both bumped into the first man and went down in a heap, feet tangled in the silks.
 
“Gods, what’s yer problem,” the taller of the two looked back in frustration.
 
Robert leaped to his feet quickly and held out a hand to the smaller man, “Please, let me help you.”
 
The man grudgingly took his hand and let himself be hauled up to his feet. Robert made a show of dusting off his coat and muttered his apologies again. He had been watching the crowd carefully, and turned the shorter man just in time to cause him to bump into someone passing by. The short man growled and shook off Robert’s hands.
 
“That’s enough, you. Just watch where yer walkin.”
 
“Of course, of course. Entirely my fault, but that man,” Robert pointed vaguely into the crowd. “Did he just pull a box out of your coat when he passed?”
 
“After him Tate,” the shorter man said to his companion, who was already looking over the heads of the crowd.
  
Many people were moving away from them. He must have seen one that looked particularly suspicious because he began to shoulder his way through the crowd, shouting at the unfortunate stranger. Seeing a large street thug storming in your direction would be enough to make almost anyone run, so the poor soul did, and the chase was on.
 
Robert took a moment to gather the bolt of silk, but soon ditched it behind some crates in a nearby alley. He turned left at the next main street and crossed, stepping into a tavern which was quieter than most. He hung his hat and cloak on a peg near a table and ordered a beer, letting the serving girl know he would return after a stop at the privy. He never did.
 
Exiting the back of the tavern, Robert turned up another alley, pulling off his vest and turning it inside out to reveal black wool rather than the red. He pulled up the tops of his boots until they were hip-high and stopped to knock off detachable heels, which made him two inches shorter. Finally, he pulled off his goatee and released his ponytail.
 
Meghan exited the alley and turned up the street, walking at a casual pace. She pulled the shoulder bag, that had been under her cloak, to her front and patted the solid bulk of the lockbox within. She found a secluded spot many blocks away from the docks, and Old Town, to see for herself what she’d acquired. Rumor was, the shipment was precious gems from the east. The lock was no trouble for her skills, and she took a breath to steady herself. A lockbox full of gems would be more wealth than she was likely to see in her lifetime.
 
Opening the lid, she frowned. No gems, no coin, nothing inside but a small glass sphere. She picked it up and turned it in her hand. At her touch the clear ball began to fill with a swirling green and black smoke. She wanted to drop it back in the box but her hand would not obey and she could not take her eyes from it. From the smoke a small sigil began to appear, wreathed in fire. She’d never seen the sigil before but she was certain it was nothing good.
  
“Who...are...you?” A voice spoke in her mind, the words drawn out and spoken slowly. It sounded far away, but it made her feel like she needed to climb out of her skin.
 
The shock of the voice seemed to snap her back to reality. She dropped the sphere into the box and closed it quickly. She returned it to her bag and looked around, hoping no one had seen her while she was fascinated by the thing.
 
“Lord Luck is not with you tonight, Meghan,” she said softly to herself. 
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Trever Bierschbach
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Shadows of Barden: Episode 1

So what is Shadows of Barden? This will be a regular (I want to say monthly but I want to be realistic) short story series set in my world, Thelos. It is the same world setting used in my short story collection, When Heroes Rise, and my upcoming novel series. This episode is free, as a sample of what I’m doing, and the rest will be available to subscribers on my Subscribestar page. Even if you subscribe at the lowest tier you will have access to the full series, story notes, art, and maps that come out of it. The story will follow the life of a common street thief who wishes to turn her life into something more, but is stuck in her place in the social and economical structure of the city of Barden. I hope to deliver a story of adventure, intrigue, and hopefully some humor. Please enjoy Episode 1 of Shadows of Barden.

The guards were nearly on her when Meghan turned into the alley off of Iron Street. The night was wet and miserable in the city. Light rain fell like a fine mist that covered everything in a chilling dampness. Slick cobbles made footing treacherous but her soft boots found purchase and she rushed into the dark gap between a smelter and blacksmith. She could hear hobnailed boots scraping on those cobbles as the two guards tried to follow the young woman into the shadows. Where she dodged crates and piles of garbage in the dark, they stumbled and crashed through them and fell behind. When she reached Baker Street on the other end of the alley they were far behind, but two more spotted her and set off in chase. The hood of her cloak slipped off and dampened hair clung to her face in light brown curls as she looked for some way out of the situation. Her bright green eyes settled on the glowing doorway of a tavern up the street and she was off again.

Meghan rushed into the tavern where her senses were assaulted immediately by a wall of noise, heat, and odors. It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the light, for which she was thankful as she pulled off her cloak and turned it inside out before replacing it. The change in light would affect her pursuers as well. She tied her wet hair back in a tail at the base of her neck, a fashion common with the men of the city and moved toward the side of the open common room near a large stone hearth. The tavern was busy and loud, patrons packed nearly shoulder to shoulder vying for space to drink, laugh, and game. It was easy for Meghan to lift a half full tankard from a table as she passed, and pick a spot near the hearth to stand as if she’d been there all night. If her pursuers even spotted her in the crowd, they’d see a young man in a red cloak halfway through his ale instead of the drenched street rat in black.

Just as she settled against the mantle one of the serving girls pushed through the door to a back room and the two guards rushed in the front. One of them scanned the packed room, but his partner nudged him and pointed to the door to the back room. They both ran for the door, thinking she was escaping through the kitchen.

“Thank Lodin,” Meghan whispered.

Meghan waited for an hour to insure no other guards came through, let her clothes dry and finished another tankard. Once she was sure she was clear of any pursuit she ducked back out into the night and walked calmly east, toward the sound of ship’s bells and water lapping against wooden piers. She turned off Baker street into another alley and knocked twice on the second door down on the left. She counted five breaths and knocked once more. A slot opened in the door and Meghan could see a pair of dark eyes through it.

“Third fifth,” a voice said behind the door.

“Nightlily,” Meghan responded.

Meghan heard the bolt draw back and the door opened inward to reveal a dim hallway leading into the building. She stepped in and a man locked the door behind them, then led her down the hall to a stairwell that descended into darkness. His small lantern was their only guide in what appeared to be an abandoned tenement. Down another dark hall at the bottom, and through a door at the end Meghan entered another world. A brightly lit hall was flanked by doors, some open revealing neat bunk rooms where men and women cleaned or mended clothing, tools, and weapons. They passed through a large room with several tables surrounded by chairs, but otherwise empty. Finally, at the end of a short hall on the other side of the dining hall the man opened the door to an office.

The room was cluttered with stacks of books in the corners, a shelf of trinkets next to the door, and a large desk in the middle. Behind the desk sat a neatly dressed man, looking up at Meghan over the rim of small square spectacles. His brown hair, thinning on top, was tied back like hers still was and he tapped a wooden pen against his bearded chin. A ledger was open on the desk, amid papers, a scale and a handful of small knick knacks he liked to have around. He set the pen down and drew a kerchief from his vest pocket and used it to clean his glasses.

“You have it, I assume?” He asked Meghan.

Meghan nodded and reached into a small bag attached to her belt. She held out her hand and dropped a small gold signet ring onto the ledger.

“Easy enough to get in and out. I wasn’t spotted in the house,” she said.

“In the house?”

“City watch saw me coming back over the wall but I lost them at old Berk’s on Baker,” she explained.

“Good, now let’s see what we have here,” the man picked up the ring to examine the details of the engraving.

“Just like the jeweler said. Lord Ketch had a new one made,” Meghan said. “I found the old one in a box in the back of his wardrobe.”

The man behind the desk made a notation in the ledger and opened a drawer on his right. He spent a moment looking at the contents before lifting a small leather pouch and tossing its clinking contents to Meghan.

“Ketch’s enemies paid well for this job, congratulations,” he said when she caught the bag.

“Any word on the Sea Witch job?” Meghan asked.

“She’s docking in Spider territory, we can’t take that shipment,” the man said.

“We can’t be caught taking that shipment,” Meghan smiled and pocketed the bag before leaving the room.

“Meghan!”

“Don’t worry, bossman, I’ll be careful,” Meghan waved back down the hall.


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