Saturday snippet: Firesmoke Soup

One of these days I will be organised enough, and get up in time, to do Six Sentence Sunday like Jasmine Ahern does – I always enjoy looking through the posts and seeing the excerpts from so many different kinds of books. Until then, here is a quiet moment with Kallisty’s bandits. The viewpoint character is the camp’s physician and vrykol-doctor, Szabah.

Besnik offered her a bowl of aromatic soup. Firesmoke soup, it was called, which was appropriate for a cold longnight like this. Voices rose along with the smoke, drifting around her on the frosty air.

“… share of the salvage, that’s all I’m saying, if you take on that debt I owe to Cristobal Hawkwood…”

“… and then Mad Justin Ferrante wiped down the axe he’d used to cut Ferrante Prime in half with, and said, that proves that a Prime can be divided by something other than itself, go burn all the mathematics…”

“… pierce the sides of my nose, you think the girls would like it…”

“Prophet sakes, medika, you look frozen. Drink your soup.”

That was Ushantih, interrupting himself in the middle of brokering a complicated three-cornered deal. Part of the deal was cables and rifle-shot, and some more was scrip and coins from various Spires laid out on a piece of red velvet. Ushantih’s tattooed hands moved over them, sorting one piece from another, until he looked as if he was playing some multi-keyboard instrument.

The rest of the deal seemed to be something to do with a new tent for Ushantih’s daughter Haili; but Haili had lost interest and was flirting with Shukri and Tigerlily both at once, which was Haili all over. Szabah let her shoulders relax. She lifted the lacquer soup-bowl to her chilled lips.


“Haili, give me those binoculars of yours.”

“What?” said Haili, sitting up straight where she’d been leaning amorously against young Tigerlily.

“I think we’ve got Swarm incoming.”

“The Swarm fly at night now?” said Augustine, complainingly, but not as if she disbelieved it.

All around Szabah, the riders were standing up and unslinging their rifles, the movements echoing themselves in a circle around the fire like the uncoiling of a spring. Ushantih gathered the cables back up into his velvet scarf and made it disappear under the bulk of his cloak, and whistled for his vrykol Old Legs. Besnik leaned down to cover the pots and adjust the settings on the firecover.

“I’ll go and tell Kallisty,” said Roskilde, and tucked up her skirts into a wide swag front and back of her breeches as she started up the hill.

“She’ll know,” said Besnik.

Image ©

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