Unabridged and Unedited Scene from TSM
Today I am happy. I just finished writing the first scene in The Shimes Mission that features Menlabi Karsla. Menlabi, who appeared in The Ocean’s Accomplice as the nineteen-year-old sidekick, is now thirty-three. That makes me feel old.
I’m sharing this scene because I’m excited about it, not because it’s polished. It isn’t. If you lean up against it, you’ll get wet paint on your clothes.
Just to clarify, these are the characters in the scene: Dentiar Mentae, protagonist. Reniel Caretti, irritating sidekick. Rarmonzia Caretti, mentally unstable sister. Goreno/Reno, older twin. Monsakun/Mons, younger twin. Menlabi Karsla, twins’ guardian. Random Keynonian Soldiers, enemies.
Here it Is:
Dentiar turned to speak to Monsakun. He got only an impression of a man’s face before his legs were kicked out from under him. He landed hard on his face. Somehow, his pack went flying. A sharp knee pressed into his back, and strong fingers grasped his wrists. Close to his ear, a voice whispered, “Don’t struggle.”
Hot adrenaline raced through Dentiar’s body. He thrashed on the ground, but the more he struggled, the heavier the knee pressed into his back.
Somewhere on his right, Caretti screeched.
Dentiar kicked and twisted, attempting to free his hands.
“Mons, the knife,” said the voice above him.
Dentiar paused long enough to feel the dagger slip off his belt. The betrayal was as sharp as physical pain. “Monsakun?”
“Quiet,” said the man.
“Monsakun, how could you?”
“Told you,” said Caretti. “Let go of me, human.”
“Listen, Menlabi, they’re not enemies.”
The knee let up slightly. “No? Who are they?” The accent was vaguely foreign, but not Keynonian.
“I’m not telling you anything,” said Dentiar, still trying to free his hands.
“Stop struggling, girl.” It sounded like Goreno.
“Traitor,” she hissed. “I hate you.”
“What are you doing here?” said Goreno.
Dentiar looked up at him. “Being attacked.”
“Mons. You didn’t.”
“Monsakun?” said the foreign voice. “What do you have to say?”
“I’m sorry,” Mons squeaked. “I didn’t want the Salties to get them.”
The man lifted Dentiar to his feet but held onto his elbow. “Let’s go inside.” He pulled Dentiar forward.
Dentiar was still a little dazed from the impact with the ground, and the left side of his face stung. He shook his head and didn’t fight back.
“You don’t want to mess with us,” said Caretti. “We have friends.”
“So do I,” said the man. “There. We both lied.”
Dentiar strained his eyes in the darkness, but he couldn’t make out facial features.
They tromped through the trees and turned right at a large, stone outcropping. The man led Dentiar under it, clanked some keys, and opened a door in front of them. Cold air swooped out, and they went in.
There was a shuffling, and the door shut. After more key noise, a tiny flame appeared. One of the twins set a candle on a rough, wooden table. Other than the table, the room was furnished with three chairs, a shelf of books, three cots, a chest, and a mess of ropes. The walls were rugged stone.
“Oh, lovely,” said Caretti. “Another cave.”
Dentiar could see the man–Menlabi–clearly now. He had a dark, handsome face with strong features and brown eyes. Two gold earrings shone beneath his thick hair. He looked to be about thirty-five.
“All right,” he said, finally releasing Dentiar. “Monsakun first.”
Mons, who was helping a limp Rarmonzia into one of the chairs, jerked to a standing position. His eyes were huge. “Reno overheard the Salties.”
Reno was having a difficult time with Caretti. She wrenched his arm, punched him in the gut, and backed up, fists in front. “Where’d you put my sword?”
He covered his stomach with both hands and acted like it didn’t hurt. “Sorry, Menlabi, I told him not to go.”
“Give me my sword,” said Caretti. “I want to fight.”
Reno glared at her. “We already did.”
“What about us?” said Caretti, approaching Menlabi. “Don’t you care who we are?”
“Who cares about us?” said Dentiar. His mind was getting clearer. “If soldiers are actually following us, they’ll be here soon.”
“Where did you put the stupid sword?”
“Mons, I really can’t believe you brought them here.”
“I want my sword. Sir, how old are these vagabonds, actually?”
“Everyone shut up,” said Menlabi. “You two.” He gestured at Dentiar and Caretti. “Sit.”
Caretti flounced around and perched on a chair, sneering at Reno. Dentiar lowered himself and rested his head in his hand.
Menlabi stood in front of them, not looking especially worried. “Who is in charge here?”
“Him,” said Caretti.
Menlabi’s teeth flashed an instantaneous smile. “That was convincing. What are you doing here?”
“We are hiding from the blue army,” said Rarmonzia.
Menlabi frowned and stooped to Rarmonzia’s eye level. “Where is the blue army?”
“It’s nothing,” said Caretti. “She gets excited easily. She must mean the Keynonians.”
“No, I don’t think she means the Keynonians.”
“You’re Lezzlejangs, aren’t you?”
Dentiar pretended not to be surprised. “Yes. And?”
“How did you get to Keynoni?”
“The humans helped us,” said Rarmonzia. “They said …”
“Hey Rarmonzia,” Caretti interrupted. “It isn’t nice to answer other people’s questions.”
“What a joke,” a twin whispered.
Menlabi waited for the snickering to die down and looked at Dentiar. “What’s your name?”
Dentiar didn’t answer.
“I asked you a question, my friend, and, since you are the fellow who invaded my property in the middle of the night, you are the fellow who will answer my question. What is your name?”
Thud. A heavy object had hit the door.
A knife flashed in Menlabi’s hand. The room froze.
Dentiar scanned the area for weapons. The only object remotely dangerous was the candlestick. Menlabi stood motionless, his empty fist curled by his face and the dagger ready. He nodded to the twins.
They scurried to the far end of the cave, crouched by the large pile of ropes, and gestured toward the Lezzlejangs.
Outside, a Keynonian voice shouted.
Rarmonzia scampered to the twins. They covered her with the ropes, or fishnets, as they appeared to be.
Menlabi glanced at Dentiar and Caretti. He raised his eyebrows and pointed with his eyes to the fishnets.
Caretti opened her mouth, but Menlabi stared at her so fiercely that she actually obeyed, sulking toward the hiding place.
Dentiar’s hands trembled with excitement. He got up silently and stood beside Menlabi.
Menlabi acknowledged Dentiar, handed him a knife, revealed a new one, and pointed at the candle.
Dentiar wetted his fingers and extinguished the flame.
They stepped back just as the door crashed open.
An armored soldier with a torch and a sword stood inches from them, facing the back of the cave. He took two steps forward before someone in the fishnets whimpered. The soldier raised the sword and lunged.
Menlabi leaped at him.
Dentiar heard a shout but saw nothing of the fight, because another soldier rushed in.
Dentiar took him from behind, holding the knife to his throat.
The soldier immediately dropped his sword.
Dentiar held on, surprised at the coldness of the armor.
“Drop!” shouted Menlabi.
Dentiar yanked the man sideways and hit the floor.
Above him, Menlabi collided with another soldier. There was a brief struggle that ended in a quick slash and silence.
They panted in the darkness for a moment.
Menlabi pulled Dentiar to his feet. The remaining soldier lay still.
“Help him up,” said Menlabi.
Dentiar stooped and touched the arm, but it was slick with blood.
The man coughed and groaned.
Menlabi pushed Dentiar out of the way, knelt beside the soldier, and said something in Keynonian.
He whispered in answer, and Menlabi leaned forward.
They exchanged a few sentences, and the soldier died.
Menlabi stood. “You’re coming with us, Dentiar.”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“I know.” He relit the candle. “Reno, Mons. Come on out.”
Dentiar followed Menlabi to the back of the cave. “What did you tell him?”
“That he was a good soldier and had nothing to be ashamed of.”
Dentiar was still processing Menlabi’s calm deadliness as Menlabi disentangled the four from the fishnets, gently passing Rarmonzia’s fainted body to the arms of her sister.
“What did the soldier tell you?”
Menlabi freed Monsakun’s foot and shook the fishnet. “Your name.”