fishing rope

Teyn Armek was eleven years old when his father was killed in front of him. 

They were walking along the Western Gateway. It was early morning and the large port was busy with fishermen and merchant crews. The sky was clear blue. The broad cobbled street was crowded. 

Teyn looked away just as a man passed close by. When he looked back his father was on his knees with a hand pressed to his stomach. Then he fell sideways to the ground. 

Teyn lifted the hand. The cut was long and deep and ran from side to side and he saw his father’s insides glisten. He turned and saw a man looking back as he ran around a corner away from the water. 

Vengeance pulled him in that direction. His father’s free hand tugged gently on his shirt. Teyn lowered his head. His father apologised and told him to care for his mother and younger brother and then he died. 


Teyn married his betrothed on his eighteenth birthday. She moved in and straight away it felt as if she had always been there. His father’s name wasn’t mentioned and on Teyn’s mother’s orders hadn’t been mentioned since the murder. 

The next day he was walking down to the port with his brother when he saw the man. He was bearded now and his hair was longer and half grey but Teyn had made himself picture the face every day since and recognised him instantly. 

“What?” his brother said.

“Keep walking.” 

The man was coming towards them. Teyn looked straight ahead. He felt the man’s eyes on him. But Teyn was bearded now too and a foot taller than he had been and his face was drawn and fast becoming leathered beyond his years. The man went by. 

Teyn continued for ten seconds forcing himself not to look before he turned. The man was just going down a road to his right. 

“You’re on your own today.”

Teyn gave his brother the bait he’d been carrying then jogged up the Kingsway overtaking carts coming from the port and crossed the road ahead of those going the other way then took the same turning as the man into the Sprawl. 


The street was lined with stalls on both sides selling food and trinkets and the slow-moving crowd was already thick. Teyn pushed ahead as best he could and lost the man for a moment before finding him again when he turned left. He followed closing the gap ever so slowly. There were no stalls along this narrower unpaved street but it was still busy with people. 

The man turned again then again going deeper into the Sprawl until Teyn didn’t recognise the streets. There were fewer and fewer people until finally Teyn turned and found a narrow alleyway deserted.

He pulled the knife from its sheath hidden beneath his tunic and held it by his leg. He advanced slowly and forced himself to breathe and listen and focus. 

Teyn whipped around at the sudden noise behind him but too slowly. One arm wrapped around his neck and squeezed and the other held the hand holding the knife fast against his side and though he struggled and struggled he couldn’t break free. As a last resort he started to shout and heard an immediate hissing in his ear.

“Fool. Stop that.”

He did and the grip around his neck relaxed slightly. 

“Drop the knife.”

He held onto it and the grip tightened again. 

“Do it or I’ll kill you anyway. I’ve no good reason not to.”

The knife fell to the floor and the man kicked it behind them both then let go. Teyn coughed and rubbed his neck. The assailant stooped for the knife and turned back and Teyn saw that it was not the man he’d been following. 

“You’re a fool.”

“You’ve said.” 

“What was your plan, to just walk up and stab him? He’s a professional. Clearly you’re not.” 

“My mistake to make.”

“So it is, but we want the same thing, and you could prove useful.”

“Aren’t you a professional?”

“Not like him.”

“Who did he kill?”

“My love.”


“Close on three years now.”


“It took that long to find him. It happened far away.”

Teyn stepped back and saw the man’s shoulders and forearms and the set of his face. “You’re Mithalan.”

“He’ll travel for work.”

“Who sent him?”

“Does it matter? Who sent him for your departed?”

“I never knew.”

“Or why?”

“Not specifically. You’re right, it doesn’t matter.”

“Then you’ll join me,” the man said. It was a statement not a question. 


They didn’t talk as Teyn followed a step behind the Mithalan who took them southwards taking the turns automatically. They continued that way until they were only half a mile uphill from the port and there they stopped in an alleyway diagonally across the street from a large inn Teyn had seen but never visited. 

“He’s staying there,” said the Mithalan. “We’ll take him when he returns.”

They leant against the side of the alleyway with a view of the inn and waited. Few people used that passage but people passed constantly going to and from the harbour on the road in front and the inn was busy and loud even in the morning. 

They stood there two hours before the Mithalan straightened. Teyn followed his eyes and saw the man. He stopped outside the inn and looked around then went inside. They looked at each other and the Mithalan nodded and Teyn followed him across the street. 


The inn was large and loud. People stood at the bar or sat at the small round tables or formed groups at one of the long tables. 

The man stood at the far end of the bar away from all the other people with a drink untouched before him. His elbows rested on the bar. His head was in his hands. As they watched he ran his hands back through his long silver streaked hair then shook his head and finally lifted the wooden cup and took a long drink. 

“Help you?” the barman called to them. 

Somehow through all the talking the assassin heard. His eyes found the Mithalan and recognised him. He advanced immediately drawing a long knife from beneath his tunic. The Mithalan stood still and withdrew his own knife. Silence spread across the bar. 

Perhaps because of all he now had to lose Teyn only stood and watched the assassin close with the larger man and swing for him and the Mithalan lean away but that was only a feint and the real punch landed heavily in his side so that he grunted and doubled over and stepped backwards still holding his knife out to ward off the man advancing expressionless after him. Then the assassin darted forward and swung again with his right hand but his left had moved close to his tunic and suddenly there was another shorter knife there and he brought that hand swinging around and into the Mithalan’s side where he’d punched him. 

Blood came away with the knife and the Mithalan gasped. He stumbled further back but the assassin came after and easily avoided his swing and stabbed him again with the smaller knife then cut him with the larger blade across his stomach and watched him fall to the ground before walking past Teyn without looking at him. He left the inn already hiding the knives and not looking back. The outside world briefly entered then the door closed and there was dim light and silence again. 

The Mithalan lay on his back. He turned his head and found Teyn. He tried to speak but couldn’t. Blood bubbled from his lips. Teyn’s own mouth was open. The cut across the man’s stomach was long and deep and ran from side to side and he could see the insides glisten. 

Teyn met the man’s eyes a final time then turned and ran out through the door of the inn. 

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