the smuggler’s bible

Thornquist

Thornquist watches until the warehouse is entirely demolished. His clothes are filthy with ashes and one of the firemen mistakes him for a comrade. The man offers him a shovel to help scrape the embers for valuables. Any little trinket will do, and it is amazing the sorts of things which can survive the inferno.

Cremuel is waiting for him in the alley. He stands from a squat, tucks something carefully into his shirt.

“Scoundrel,” Thornquist says. “You allowed yourself to be bribed.”

“Of course I did. Great men, sir, consider it a terrible insult if you refuse their money.”

Cremuel

The grain burns like sawdust. A tongue of flame erupts from the mouth of an enormous cannon, followed by a warm breeze and rolling thunder that rattles the windows.

“Perhaps I didn’t know about the poison.”

“Come now.”

“Yes, well, only later, you see,” the Burgrave says, closing the shutters. “The poor have to eat, after all.”

“And you will continue to see that they do.”

“What if I make another mistake?”

“You will be much more careful. Or you won’t. You could buy cheap grain again.”

“I would save a great deal of money.”

“Sir, you would die rich.”

Cremuel

He moves through the corridors, the hem of his cloak gliding above the floor at about the height of an inch-bug. There is no breathing, no footsteps. There is no Cremuel. His shadow, perhaps, wavers slightly in the dull yellow light that drips from the wall sconces and pools on the carpets.

He has seen two men to bed, but the Burgrave is still pacing about. Cremuel can hear him shouting. A back staircase, a pass-key newly acquired—he barges into the room.

“No time, sir, no time,” Cremuel says. “I’m sorry to tell you, but this is an ultimatum.”

Thornquist

The glow creeps through the warehouse, red and orange billowing like a flag in the currents of hot air. Thornquist pulls the men out onto the dock. They are innocent. Three of them have taken ill themselves after stealing from the store they were guarding.

He sits on a wooden post and watches the harbor. It reminds him of sunrise the way the color grows in the dark, dark waters. Soon, one of the men begins to stir.

“The fire brigade is coming,” Thornquist says. “They won’t save the building, but if you help them try, I’ll break your ribs.”