A free post? I can write anything? Brief flash of joy, followed by total brain freeze as I consider every topic I ever wanted to write about and reject them all. How do I ever manage to write novels…novels…hmm.
So I ultimately decided that if I can do anything with this post, what I wanted to do most was to share a snippet of one of my favorite scenes from my work in progress, Scholar’s Plot:
The death of one plan should hatch another. I gave up a couple of tricks I should have taken, throwing several pots into Stint’s hands. We all agreed, amiably, that the luck seemed to be turning—except for Pig, who growled. Squirrel begged him not to let it upset him. Kathy assumed a sympathetic expression, but her misty eyes were sharp and bright.
When Stint rose, complaining about how fast tea went though you, I said that ale did the same and followed him out. The privy was in the yard behind the tavern, and while I’ve seen and smelled better, I’ve also seen worse. I waited till he’d come out, buttoning up the front of his britches, before I spoke.
“I think our friends are signaling.”
“What, the bully and that poor little mouse? She’s so fearful, she’d… Hm. But they’re losing.”
I shrugged. “What can I tell you? He pats his stomach, he has all the rounds in the deck, practically. If it’s horns he rubs his nose. When she plays with her necklace, she’s long on leaves.”
Then I went into the privy, leaving him to do what he willed with this. When I came back into the warm, beery fug of the tavern, Stint was speaking to the tapster. And the fresh pot of tea that followed him back to our table could have accounted for it. But it didn’t surprise me that the tapster, and the two maids who passed through the room serving the other tables, were now paying more attention to our game.
Master Stint should be kindly inclined toward someone who’d exposed a cheat. Maybe even kindly enough to answer a few questions…though if he played like this all the time, it was no wonder his landlady said he won more than lost. If he needed money, he could pick it up at the card table. He had no need to—
“Hey!” The tapster darted out from behind the bar. “I’ve seen that signal three times now, Master, and I want you to show your hand. If it’s long on daggers, then you’re cheating. The game will stop, and you and your partner’s stakes will be…divided…”
His steps slowed in time with his words, for as he spoke Pig had risen to his considerable height.
Belatedly, I remembered how the Pig and Squirrel con is supposed to run. As Kathy would say, Oh. Dear.
“Who called me a cheat?” Pig rumbled, in a voice that turned heads all over the room. “Who told you I’m cheating?”
It would have taken a stupider man than the tapster to refuse. He pointed to Stint, who promptly pointed to me. Where was I supposed to point? At Carmichael, who was sixty if he was a day? At Kathy?
I sprang to my feet, leaping to put the table between us. Pig solved that problem by putting one hand under the edge and flipping it like a tin plate. It probably weighed fifty pounds. It fell with a loud crack, followed by the rattle of falling coins, but I was too busy running for my life to watch Squirrel at work.
Scholar’s Plot (working title) is the fifth book in Hilari Bell’s Knight and Rogue series, and The Last Knight is the first.