Red

Their home was in disarray. But then, it usually was. Red had never seen a more slovenly haberdasher than her brother, Needle.

Today was different. The building had been tossed. A queue of suspects paraded through her mind. Needle collected enemies and murder attempts the way most tailors did thread.

Dummies were strewn over the floor and bolts of cloth had been slashed and discarded. Red eased her sword from its scabbard. It had been the first real gift her brother had given her.

She kicked her sandals off and padded lightly through the room, checking corners, closets and piles of debris for any sign of who could have done this. Satisfied no one was waiting to follow her up the stairs, she crept to the second floor, avoiding the steps that creaked.

At the top of the landing, the door to their sleeping chamber was ajar. She waited, and listened. She held her breath; blood pulsed steadily in her ears. Red could hold her breath a long time. There were no telltale sounds of anyone within.

Red knelt with her sword to the bottom of the door. She moved it about, seeing nothing in the reflection.

Good enough.

She burst in and slid to the left as the door slammed against the wall. Her eyes flickered over the room. Their modest beds had been smashed, and the screen separating them was shattered.

There was a small pool of blood on the floor. Not enough to mean death, but not much to hang belief or hope upon. There was a pattern of score marks—like a spider’s web—scratched into the floor. A cult symbol, maybe. But who carved it there? Needle, or his abductors? Needle may have been taken alive. Whether he stayed so would be up to her.

Read more in Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy from Parallel Universe Publications, edited by David A. Riley