*Sigh* Yet another weekend where I probably won’t have opportunity to post a new write up. So, instead of leaving my lovely readers hanging, I’ve decided to post a short story I wrote based around one of the characters from my novel-in-progress, First Empress. The character is Zahnia the Chronicler, one of the “immortal” characters from the novel. At around nine-years-old, Zahnia was rendered incapable of aging by essentially an Iron-Age equivalent of mad scientists (mad alchemists? mad arcanists?). Clever and inquisitive, Zahnia’s talents are recognized by Queen Viarraluca, who pays for her education and recruits her as a spy and historian.
The following story takes place some 1,800 years after the First Empress story. Stuck forever in the body of a child, Zahnia currently works undercover as a spy, burglar, and assassin to protect the Tollesian Empire. The story features a Napoleonic-Era technology level with new characters and setting. Queen Viarra is also still alive, but works behind the scenes to protect her beloved people, rather than leading them as Empress. Under the pseudonym “Lady Ellona,” she owns a merchant empire, runs a spy network, and serves as an adviser to the current emperor. Though Viarra doesn’t feature into this story, her current role is alluded to in part 3. The story might someday be part of something bigger, or may just stay as is.
A Zahnia Short
“Is that a crack about my height?” –Zahnia, the Chronicler
On a clear and otherwise pleasant mid-autumn afternoon, Senator Velex Othro was shot in front of his town estate in Chyllis.
An avid fowler, marksman, and firearm collector, it was perhaps mildly ironic that the senator’s last words were, “where the hell did that kid get a pistol?” Nearly instantly as he said it, the flintlock discharged in the boy’s hands, shooting the Tollesian senator through the forehead. The dark-haired urchin shrieked and tossed the gun away, bolting past the startled onlookers. Major Anda Othro, former officer in the VIII Imperial Field Artillery and current captain of the senator’s bodyguard, stepped in to catch the falling senator, realizing almost instantly that it was too late.
Her cousin was dead.
“Stop that kid!” the redhead major shouted to the other bodyguards, though the order was unnecessary. Both guards reacted instantly to the shot, charging past the bystanders in pursuit of the culprit.
She could hear the shooter screaming and sobbing as he fled, “Oh, gods! I didn’t mean to! Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods! I’m a murderer now! Please don’t hang me!”
Anda eased the senator’s body to the cobblestones, feeling the unbidden tears sting her face. Blood flowed from the wound, Velex’s heart having not yet realized that his brain was destroyed.
Lady Norva, the senator’s wife, came rushing from the estate moments later. “Oh gods,” she gasped, sounding panicked. She knelt beside her slain husband, clutching his chest and wailing. Anda moved to her bereaved lady’s side, folding her in her arms and tucking her head against the major’s shoulder. “One… one of the servants said the senator was shot,” Norva sobbed against the bodyguard’s crimson dress coat. “I’d prayed it was just a shoulder wound like last time, but…” she trailed off, weeping.
Anda stroked her lady’s flaxen hair, feeling like a failure—feeling somehow responsible. Her military and bodyguard training and experience had prepared her for the possibility of snipers, poisoners, backstabbers, traitors, or bombers. But who would have expected a dumb, random kid who didn’t know one end of a pistol from the other would accidentally shoot the senator?
Despite her tears, Anda lifted her head as the thought occurred to her. Who indeed would expect a dumb, random kid?
Continued in part 2. Thanks for reading!