Author: Nathan Crowder
Published: July 23rd, 2015
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Content Warning: PG-13 Violence
Franklin the Steadfast Soldier saw first hand what the cold indifference of modern London does to a Fictional Personae–a Fict. Refugees from their respective texts, scratching out a meager existence, the Ficts’ only comfort is the weekly Book Fair.
When a determined Knight of the Round Table hires him to find a missing king, Franklin starts to believe a better world could be possible. But the Knight works for the Host of Heaven, and Medea and Judas warn Franklin: One man’s heaven is not heaven for all. There is no place for misfits and villains in this new world order, their crimes are pre-ordained, written into the very fabric of their being.
To protect their city from a holy war, Franklin and his friends must stop the Once and Future King and an army of angels. Will they find the courage to write their own stories, or will they die slaves to their text and the ink in their blood?
“What brings you to the Book Fair, Franklin?”
The richly-accented voice snapped the Soldier’s head around. He recognized Judas immediately. While not adversaries by any means, they had engaged in their share of disagreements at the shelter. Franklin didn’t know what it was about the fallen acolyte that set his teeth on edge and, for his part, Judas seemed to delight in testing the Steadfast nature of Franklin’s title. The Soldier said nothing. His eyes narrowed in suspicion when he saw the young Juliet Capulet in the Scripture’s company. “Surely you have nothing to sell,” Judas continued, “and little money with which to buy.”
This last was said without a hint of judgement, and they both acknowledged it as a truth—both men existed largely on the charity of others, and the occasional coin earned from their very specific skills and reputations. “I have been retained by a woman who desired a degree of protection while stepping out this evening.” The soldier indicated the flap of the tent behind him with a tilt of his head. He hiked himself up straighter upon his crutch. “While it is true that I possess skills rarely sought, my courage and integrity bring peace of mind to those who need it.”
Moll chose this inopportune time to fold back the flap. “Only a moment more and you will escort me home before William even knows I was gone,” she said, her tone pitched as though she was addressing a disobedient dog. She retreated back within the tent, ignorant of the flush appearing at the base of Franklin’s neck.
“That is who hired you?” Juliet joined in, pointing towards the tent, with a disbelieving look. Judas offered up a sad smile. “Tell me, Franklin: how much does your integrity cost these days?”
Franklin clenched his jaw. “Even a Steadfast Soldier needs to eat, Judas. We were not all given thirty silver coins.”
Both men glared hard at each other as if willing the other to burst into flames. Juliet looked embarrassed to be seen with either Judas or Franklin, and peeled herself free from their company. The waifish teen made a bee-line for Medea, which didn’t surprise the Soldier in the slightest.
It was Judas who broke the silence first, his voice cold and flat—a sterile scalpel. “How I enjoy these talks, Franklin.”
“And I as well,” the Steadfast Soldier’s voice dripped. “Let us do this again sometime soon.”
Judas ambled in the direction Juliet had gone. He didn’t seem to be following her so much as already heading that way. Franklin waited where he stood, and it was only a few seconds later that Moll exited the tent with a bemused smile. “Good news, I take it?” he asked.
“Great news. Now, hurry me back to my home.”
Scarcely had they taken five steps when a bellowing voice cleared a path behind them. “Moll, you scurrilous wench! You’ll learn the price you pay for cheating ol’ Billy Sikes!”
The Soldier’s head dropped in realization. “And that would be William?” he sighed to his employer.
Moll’s smile as she glanced back over her shoulder at Franklin was all sugar and razorblades. “If you want the rest of your money, you had better make certain he doesn’t lay a finger upon me.”
By the time Franklin had spun around, there was a clear path from him to Bill Sikes. The well-known Dickens rowdy wasn’t particularly tall, but his arms were corded with muscle, and veins bulged in his neck. His face was red with rage as he closed the twenty feet between with an incomprehensible roar. There will be no reasoning with him, the Soldier realized, at least not at this point. Like it or not, Franklin had to fight this madman. He tightened his grip on the crutch in his right hand. Remember, the client paid for courage as well as integrity, he thought distantly as he limped into desperate combat.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
He has appeared in several anthologies including That Ain’t Right: Historic Accounts of the Miskatonic Valley, Coins of Chaos, and Cthulhurotica.
AUTHOR LINKS: Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Website
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