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I find myself extracting vengeance from the strangest places sometimes. Being the right hand of the king is not always an easy job.

In fact, you might say it’s hard to be the right hand of the king when I did not have a right hand. I have interesting opportunities though, where other people do not. My cauterized wrist was regularly buckled, and a sleeve would fit up my arm, fastened with buttons with which I one-handedly assist.

I had four. Still do somewhere in this rickety old house.

My first faux hand was the most traditional for a handless wonder in my day and age.

It was (as one might expect) a hook. I called her Jolene. My second implement of torture was a long rapier, which had a silver guard near my wrist, and a leather red sleeve. His name was Faust.

I was less fond of my claw.

While it can grasp, It failed me more often than the others would do. I’d given it a clumsy name to go with its clumsy attitude: Illwicket. That year, it had managed to burn me with a cigar, drop two bottles of rum, make me lose at cards, and cost me a lady friend or two.

My next two were a matching set.

They had treads that they screw onto and off of on a thick woven sleeve. I kept intending to have another claw made for the treads but found myself putting it off. Jolene did just fine as an option, no need to replace her yet.

The last two were a simple shovel and a pickaxe/crowbar.

They could be handy for investigating things. Their names were Doug and Poke.

In the darkness of the cave, with the glowing of torch light without a breeze, I looked at Doug, held in one hand and Poke on the right, snugly in place. I could hear the idiots I followed talking inside the door as my back was pressed against it. I slid Doug in my deep pocket for now.

“Oh, the king never knew what took him!” A crotchety voice sang from within the door. “A whole bag from the treasury.”

“These are them taxes, they are,” piped up a deep female voice. “And don’t you be stiffin’ me my share.”

I gritted my teeth, and swung Poke at the lock. It made a loud banging noise as it cleaved to the outside of the door and fell off in front of my foot and bounced. I pulled the door open.

“What have we here,” I said quite jovially.

To the left was an orange-haired fellow with an unkempt orange beard covering his mouth.

His garb looked like a member of the cook staff, except the cooks weren’t allowed to keep beards, nor were the servants serving the food. It peeved the King so, finding hairs in his food, that he instituted the rule over a year ago.

To the right was a thief—one that had made a name for themselves in the local area. “I know you. You’re… oh-ho-ho-ho-ho! Yes! You’re Bristol! Big fan of your work!” Bristol had matted blonde hair, pulled into a ponytail, and tucked in a snood of purple silken cord. She wore a skirt and a front-laced corset with sleeves that were snug to her shoulders but billowed on their way down to her wrists.

“Charmed,” Bristol said. “And you would be?”

“Your escort for the evening,” I teased, slick and oily. She rolled her eyes.

“Fine. Don’t tell me.” She had been reaching for the inside of her opposite sleeve with her left hand. Now she brandished a dagger.

“Bristol, dearie, be a good lass and send this one to his grave. Ten gold for it?” The one with the money at the table dropped a small stack of gold and paid attention to her response.

Bristol spat. “Twenty! I get paid ten for rats, this ‘ere is kingsgaurd.”

“Oh, so you do know me! By sight anyway.” I watched as the second little gold tower was formed.

Suddenly, a purple glam exemer washed over her. Glammer was a special magic. New, given by fate to a select few heroes and favorites of the land. When the mist cleared, her unkempt hair was smooth, her eyes flashed with lightning, and her hands were drenched in dark fire. I cheered and hooted. “Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho,” I said again. “You shouldn’t have done that.” My face broke into a wide grin. “Bristol you should come to the palace! We’ve needed a talent like yours since the passing of Grimgower III.”

There was a pause.

In unison, everyone present said: “May his charmed soul be at rest, and his pieces naught be found.”

We all looked at each other, and attacked.

Both Bristol and the nameless infiltrator rushed at me.

Bristol let loose a torrent of flame that I dodged, swinging my pickaxe. It wasn’t a practiced sort of move; I prefer not to use my pickaxe for weaponry. The thief in the chef’s costume attempted to grab my left arm.

I tripped him and backed up, sizing up my enemies.

“You both are going to be sorry you messed with the King’s treasury.” I bent my knees and went in at a full rush at Bristol. Headbutting the sorceress, the wind was knocked free from her chest.

She snarled.

My world turned into black flame as her fire engulfed me.

I shrieked from the pain. Normally I would say something crass or pithy.

In that moment I had no words.

I broke free from the enchantment, but I had been burned very badly. The money was still on the table, and the thief had begun to scoop handful after handful of coins into a bag.

“Oh no you don’t!” I pulled my handheld saber from my hip, now dual wielding in the torchlight. Giving Bristol another look, I turned on my heel and ran towards the table, upsetting it and sending coins everywhere.

“YOU FOOL!” The words escaped his mouth, his final words as I pierced his chest. I held my pickaxe out towards Bristol, in a motion for her to be silent.

“His life was forfeit per the king, you on the other hand are a bonus.”

“I’m not listening to the likes of you,” Bristol said. The sorceress blipped out of my presence, flickering like the torches on the wall, and then gone.

The king only wanted revenge on the known thief so, in theory I had completed the task.

In reality, I knew that I would only fear the day that I would meet that woman again.

V. Buritsch

A freelancer, fiction writer, podcast listener, fantasy reader who sometimes remembers to write for herself on occasion. She has a BA in English and Management, and currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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