the Devil's City
Sword & Sorcery Epic Fiction
Chapter 1 (sample)
“Burning another church.”
Sin sat at the edge of the roof, near the steeple of the Coal Fire Tavern. It was a good place to view the latest “burnings” and often the only place to get above the smoke in a windy sunset. Sin had been spending increasingly more time on the roof of the tavern. It was the one place she felt at peace in the city.
Her friend Olo stood behind her in the darkness of the roof’s overhang. Her hand clutched in a death grip with the iron bars covering a third-story window. She refused to get close to the edge of the roof. A childhood fear had continued into adulthood. “It’s the Healers of Ruhin.”
“Anything to keep control.”
Olo roughed up the patchwork tar on the roof with her foot. She was not comfortable with any conversation about the Heartfire Club. Being younger and less experienced than Sin, she was not comfortable with many of their recent conversations.
Sin spun around to face her friend, “It makes sense.”
“Burning down the churches.”
“Sense? Driving off the priests that are here to help?”
“It does.” Sin swung her legs back over the edge, letting her feet dangle three stories above the cobblestone road.
“How can it make any sense?”
“The Heartfire Club has to keep the power.”
“Nothing threatens power more than religion.”
“People need the gods.”
“Truly. Even people in the Devil’s City.”
“It would seem to me—”
“Worshiping a deity makes no difference.” Sin flicked her biri into the smoke rising from below.
“That your last?”
“I was planning on quitting anyway.”
Olo shook her head. Sin had said she was going to quit smoking a thousand times. Instead, she took to rolling her own biris so she could get as many leaves into one as possible.
“Were you a part of the vote?”
Sin snapped at her friend, “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my idea.”
Olo wiped her nose on her sleeve during the awkward pause. Tears ran down her cheek. If Sin asked, she would say it was the smoke rising from the braziers below. But it was the tension that had grown between the two of them that brought tears to the girl’s face. “This city is as damned as are we.”
“We should leave. You always wanted to see the other side of the mountains.”
Sin snorted, “Leave? It would be welcome to get away from the smoke. But--”
There was a giddiness in Olo’s voice, “The Heartfire Club will never miss us.”
“Right. They will never miss you. I believe my disappearance might have a different reaction. You remember what they did to Doriin. Chased him to the Green River. Burned him at the stake.”
The moment of Olo’s excitement faded at the tone of her friend's voice. She had hoped to convince her friend, “They would never catch us.”
“They would,” Sin rose to her feet. “They always do.”
Sin stepped off the roof, falling straight towards a brazier burning in the street below.
People around the flaming cauldron watched as the young girl landed in the brazier at a breakneck speed. A deluge of fire and ash rose engulfing Sin until she vanished from sight.
Olo eased herself along the roof, never loosening her grip on the bars of the window. She got within three feet of the edge and could go no further. Hearing the screams of bystanders from below, she did not want to be associated with another one of Sin’s “deaths.” She took one last look at the burning church in the distance and headed for the stairs.