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The Lost Dragon 17.3

by soundofmind


Chapter 17 Part 3: A Bargain

Clandestine could feel the sweat on the back of her neck as she was brought to the mayor's office. It had been a few hours of waiting. She could see the streams of light pouring in through the tall bay windows slowly change direction, casting warmth over the hall she was waiting in by the staircase.

She'd been in situations similar to this before - at least, in fancier homes, waiting on wealthy people with monster problems. But she'd never finagled her way in to meet with a mayor, and she was nervous. Her leg shook erratically and her heel tapped against the wood floors as she studied the entire hallway over and over, trying to occupy herself with something to do as guards passed by and gave her bored glances, or lifted their noses a little like they were above her.

The walls were lined with patterned wallpaper - geometric shapes of faded yellows and reds, framed by brown floorboards and wooden floors. Long carpets stretched down the halls, matching the walls in red threads, though worn down in the center footpaths. A few paintings were spaced out along the walls - all beautiful works of art that looked like they would have taken forever to complete, framed in equally exquisite gold-painted woodwork.

A few lanterns filled the gaps between paintings, but they didn't need to be lit during the daytime with the generous amount of light spilling through the windows.

If she wasn't potentially an unwelcome guest she would've felt far more at peace in such a beautiful home. But her stomach was uneasy with busy butterflies.

They'd asked for her papers to take up to Barlowe to review before even letting her know if Barlowe had agreed to meet with her, and the uncertainty was driving her mad. She'd only been half-serious when she considered the possibility of the guards being able to tell her paperwork was fake, but with the amount of time it was taking, Clandestine was starting to really think she'd gotten caught.

It made time feel like it was stretching on forever. Clandestine lost all sense of how much time had passed in the waiting. Sweat gathered in her armpits like a little pool and she became self-conscious on whether others could see it through her jacket, or if they could tell she was guilty of having fraudulent paperwork. Curiously, she lifted up her arm to check.

"Clandestine," a voice called out beside her. Her arm smacked back down at her side and her head shot up.

Another servant with another unfamiliar face. He looked very plain, but very proper, with a tie neatly tucked around his collar.

"Ms. Barlowe has agreed to meet with you at this time. Please, follow me to her office."

Clandestine sprung up out of her seat with a too-quick, too-eager nod and a smile that felt the fakest she'd ever done. The servant gave her a once-over, and she couldn't tell if he was suspicious or unbothered, but she was sure he saw right through her.

In silence, he led her down a hallway, passing more works of art, more big windows, a lot of closed doors, and a bust of some guy she didn't recognize on a desk with flowers around it. She tried to pause and read the inscription on the statue's plaque but the servant ahead of her was moving quickly, and she was afraid to miss a turn or get in trouble.

Finally, they stopped at a double-door entrance, and the servant opened one of them, gesturing for Clandestine to enter.

Suddenly Clandestine was starting to think this was a very bad idea, but it was far too late to back out now.

She straightened up and held her shoulders back as she walked into the room with as much confidence as she could muster. This was just another monster hunting gig. She was just talking to a client. This was going to be fine.

Or so she thought until she sat down in a velvet-lined chair in front of the large, curved desk and Ms.Barlowe spun around in her chair to face her.

Clandestine stared.

A line of large windows stood behind Barlowe, lighting up the room with the natural light. Neat, organized stacks of papers were lined up on both sides of the giant desk she sat at. Barlowe was older than Clandestine expected, with more grey than black in her small afro that was pushed to the back of her head with a band that slicked back the front around her forehead. Barlowe was heavier than she'd imagined too. Her cheeks sagged a little around her chin and little bags hung under her eyes. Her whole body filled the entire chair, and it was a big swivel chair.

Clandestine wasn't sure why she'd been expecting someone who looked like a soldier, or someone like Silva... who was a leader of a guild, not a city.

"You smell like a forest," Ms. Barlowe said with what sounded like disappointment.

Clandestine blinked. "Yeah, um, because I was in a forest. Recently."

"Your papers are out of date. When was the last time you had them issued?" Barlowe asked, her voice sharp. "Ten, fifteen years ago?"

Clandestine could feel the back of her shirt, wet, clinging to her skin. Barlowe found out her papers were expired. Expired, not fraudulent. Clandestine wasn't sure if this was good or bad luck. She swallowed and forced an awkward laugh. "Oh gods, that's embarrassing. Yeah, it's been a while since I've had my papers renewed."

Barlowe half-rolled her eyes, sliding papers across her desk towards Clandestine. It took Clandestine a second to realize they were her own.

"Honestly, you freelancers are doing a terrible job of making yourselves look credible," Barlowe went on. "But things must be really desperate for you if you're resorting to threats of blackmailing and misinformation."

Clandestine still felt sweaty under Barlowe's critical gaze. She smiled politely. "I'm sorry I haven't made the best impression, Ms. Barlowe, but I wanted to make sure I met with you as soon as possible, seeing as the issue of the loosed griffin is a matter of some urgency. And from what I understand, you want it to be kept quiet, which is why I wanted to offer my services privately."

Barlowe's expression remained very serious as she listened to Clandestine, with her hands folded together in front of her on the desk.

"What did you say your name was again?"

Clandestine blinked again, glancing down at the papers Barlowe had just handed back to her. "Clandestine."

"No last name?" Barlowe asked.

Clandestine smiled, though it was something compulsive, now, when she got questions like that. "If I have one I never learned it."

Barlowe's lips pinched together and she hummed.

"I'm already aware of the griffin situation, and I've been informed of the details. My people did a thorough investigation of the scene."

Clandestine nodded sharply. "Of course, as expected."

"I have some of my men searching the forests but a monster hunter with more experience would be useful," Barlowe continued, though by the way she was looking at Clandestine, it was like she was trying to figure out it Clandestine really knew what she was doing. Clandestine remained quiet.

"There aren't many local monster hunters left to commission, especially ones willing to work with griffins..." she hummed, reaching across the desk for a cigar that rested by a circular little ashtray.

Clandestine stared at her as she reached in a drawer, pulled out a matchbox, lit the cigar, and started puffing.

There weren’t many monster hunters left?

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“Well, griffins that are trained for the games are conditioned to be far more aggressive than normal. There’s been a few… accidents,” she replied, drawing out the last word. “And in these parts, we try to keep the wild griffin population under control, since they can be a menace to our cattle and crops. So most griffins are learnin’ that humans aren’t friendly.”

Clandestine let out a soft "oooh" of understanding and nodded at Barlowe's explanation. That would make sense why Barlowe might not think it worth to bother with monster hunters anymore. But if the griffins were as aggressive as she said then a monster hunter was all the more needed, and angry lion birds didn't scare her. At least, no more than other monsters did.

"Well, I can assure you I am fully capable of tracking a griffin and luring it if given the proper information. I just need to know the story - if you know it's injured, which way it flew, even what food it likes to eat, so I know where it might hunt."

Barlowe took one long look at Clandestine, taking another puff from her cigar and blowing out smoke from her lips to the side of the room. It didn't look like she was going to agree. Or like she believed her at all. The silence between them was stretching on, as more of the cigar's smoke filled the air and the smell wafted over to her, almost making her gag.

Clandestine held back a cough.

"I'll do it pro-bono!" she spouted suddenly.

Barlowe's eyebrows shot up.

"I'll pay you," she retorted, before adding. "If it works out."

Clandestine stared, eyelids fluttering in disbelief.

"Really?"

Barlowe scoffed. "If you manage to get the griffin by tomorrow, this time, I'll pay you five hundred. If you can't get the issue settled by then I'm calling in a hunter from the isles. I can't afford to waste any more time."

Clandestine stuttered. "Wait. Five hundred... copper?"

Barlowe burst into laughter, the first time Clandestine had seen her mouth upturned into a smile. Clandestine wasn't sure she liked it. "No, gold!"

--

Clandestine almost never took actual notes from a client but when Barlowe had handed her a quill and paper she took some of the best notes she had ever taken in her life. Her handwriting was barely legible, but when Barlowe started reading off all of the information about the griffin and what they found out when they searched her cage and questioned the witnesses Clandestine wrote so fast she thought her fingers were going to snap. Barlowe didn't slow down either.

By the time she was briefed on everything she felt tired and anxious, almost forgetting about the plan to make sure the griffin was kept free in the first place and getting its egg back instead. And saving a kid.

But she quickly remembered when Barlowe cleared her throat and said:

"One more thing."

Barlowe gestured to the servant with a quick sort of hand signal, who had been standing by the door all that time. She'd forgotten he was there.

"Two of my guards will go with you. I believe you've already met them."

Clandestine had to quickly fix her expression because the moment Barlowe said those words her face fell into shock. She mustered up a weak, pleading smile.

"Oh, what? That won't be necessary. I prefer to work alone." That was a lie. "Partners just slow me down."

Barlowe shook her head, taking another puff of her cigar. "That's the deal. You have the information, and you'll be working on my terms. Now go find that griffin before it causes me more trouble."

Clandestine's smile twitched but she nodded agreeably. "Ah, well I'm sure a couple of extra hands will be a good help. I can cover more ground that way. Thank you, Ms. Barlowe."

Barlowe only gave a terse nod and pointed to the door with her chin.

That was her cue to get going.

As Clandestine turned around, she realized that the servant had left and returned in the brief exchange between them. He looked like he was standing taller and more alert.

"Mr. Kingsman has arrived, and his-" he paused half a second, eyes flicking to Clandestine. "His contact from the Moonlight Kingdom should be here shortly. He's here if you're ready."

Barlowe nodded. "Send him in," she said, before giving Clandestine a stern look. "You may be on your way, Clandestine."

Clandestine nodded and scurried towards the door as the servant opened it, trying to catch her breath and think about a plan. She'd have to ditch Barlowe's soldiers somehow if she wasn't actually going to catch the griffin, but she wasn't sure how to do that. Her mind started racing.

Then her heart stopped.

Just as she left Barlowe's office, Alexander was there, standing before her, eyes locking onto her and widening, like he was surprised to see her too. Clandestine froze.

But... he didn't say anything. Their eyes met in the most intense stare Clandestine had shared in her life but there were no words spoken. After a short two seconds, he tore her eyes away from her, walked into Barlowe's office, and the door was closed behind them.

Clandestine was alone.

She had to get out of there.

Panic pulsed through her as she retraced her steps, trying to not get lost in the mansion, but somewhere she had taken a wrong turn. She'd stepped into the wrong hallway, and ended up by the wrong exit, by the wrong doors, and had to run back around and find the bust with the flowers, the halls with the paintings she remembered, and so many carpets. But the running around didn't last long. By the time she found the bust of the guy's head she'd been discovered - and fear shot through her.

It was Mindy. From the front gate.

Mindy stood in the middle of the hallway, shifting her weight to one hip, looking at Clandestine like the lost child she was in the grand mansion.

"You think you're going to run off without me?" she said with a scoff. "Barlowe wants and eye on you for insurance. I'm coming with. Let's go. Hogarth got the horses."

Clandestine swore her nerves were going nuts. Her left eye twitched and she smiled. "Horses?" she said, emphasizing the fact that the word was plural.

Mindy gave her a flat look. "Yeah. Yours. Mine. His. We're not walking. Now like I said, let's go. We're losing daylight," she said turning with a wave of her hand down the hall.

Clandestine shoved her hands in her pockets, nodding her head even though Mindy couldn't see. She followed behind her in earnest and tried to muster up some enthusiasm.

"Yeah, of course! Let's get a move on and go catch a griffin!" 


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268 Reviews


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Reviews: 268

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Sun Sep 08, 2019 11:22 pm
Dossereana wrote a review...



Hello @soundofmind I am here to do a review on your chapter. so lets get right into it. So I did see that @mellifera did a lot for you all ready in there review.

But anyways, I loved this chapter just as much as the last one, your great at writing and you should never stop.

Clandestine could feel the sweat on the back of her neck as she was brought to the mayor's office.


So I read over this line quit a few times, and I just could not stop widening my eyes, it was like just such a great opening to the chapter, I mean really it was. I loved the description with this line.

She could see the streams of light pouring in through the tall bay windows slowly change direction, casting warmth over the hall she was waiting in by the staircase.


Okay so the word in bold is what I'm really going to be talking about, so the line was fine i loved it the description was great. I just had one thing I was not sure about. I feel like the word change is fitting that line a little but not really, I will show you the word that I would change it with, its not really going to change much though.

change < changing but that's just what I think you can keep it I will not mind. And after this there was just lovely description. It all flowed so well to gather.

Her leg shook erratically and her heel tapped against the wood floors as she studied the entire hallway over and over, trying to occupy herself with something to do as guards passed by and gave her bored glances, or lifted their noses a little like they were above her.


Okay so I was looking over this line a few times, and I was just thinking that you should put a full stop in at the middle of the line some were maybe. But the line its self was just lovely to read, you made the description so easy to follow, it all made so much sens.

one thing that I do feel like you missed, you went on to describing the wall, but you never seemed to have described the guards that were passing by. I just feel like that would have been a great place to describe them.

The rest of this chapter was great, everything made sens and you could not have done a better job at it. I love reading your work and you should never give up. Your characters are great, I like all of them and at any time.

So that is all that I can say about this chapter. If I was being to harsh, peaky or mean then I am really sorry pleas forgive me. So keep up the great work. I love your chapters, and I look forward to the next one.

@Dossereana Out In The Sky Of Reviews




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Thu Sep 05, 2019 8:21 pm
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mellifera wrote a review...



omg yes it's back <3

hey sound! bet you know what I'm here for today ;)

*cracks knuckles but actually doesn't because mine never crack*
let's go


Clandestine could feel the sweat on the back of her neck


As I've been taking an online novel writing course and have been called out for doing this all the time, I'm making everyone else suffer with me.
"could feel" is telling here? It ends up padding your sentence more than you need to. There's nothing wrong with a straightforward "Sweat trickled down the back of Clandestine's neck". Telling eliminated. Everyone wins! :D (bonus points if you say it's like, warm sweat or sticky sweat, because then it gets Even Grosser and more physically evoking!)

She could see the streams of light


I'm going to call the same thing here, because of course she's seeing them or we wouldn't be in her perspective (in this instance anyway, as she can see and we know she can). Yes, I'm going to be very annoying about this now (listen what's the point of getting called out on your own writing flaws if you don't suck other people into it with you). So, just describe the light shifting slowly as the sun moves. We know Clanny's watching it and taking note of it while she's waiting.

and she was nervous.


( :
You do a really good job of describing how she's nervous in the next sentence (and also wow what a mood clanny), so I think nixing this little bit won't actually harm anything here.

though worn down in the center footpaths.


Is this supposed to be describing how the carpets are worn down in the centre because of footpaths?

(also yeeessssss gimme all that description. I LOVE it)

But her stomach was uneasy with busy butterflies.


"busy" doesn't feel like it fits here? They're clearly busy if they're bothering her.

she would've felt far more at peace


"felt "could be "been" without changing anything (except telling vs. showing!).

They'd asked for her papers to take up to Barlowe to review before even letting her know if Barlowe had agreed to meet with her


omg the suspenSE THOUGH

Sweat gathered in her armpits like a little pool and she became self-conscious on whether others could see it through her jacket, or if they could tell she was guilty of having fraudulent paperwork. Curiously, she lifted up her arm to check.


anyway, I love Clandestine. (I don't know if I've said that before???)

I think I've already mentioned this in the past, but watch out for your filler words ("really", "very", and "just". I've noticed a few already).


a smile that felt the fakest she'd ever done.


"felt" aside, this is worded oddly? Perhaps "the fakest smile she'd ever had"?


For someone who has operated on fake papers for so long, it's pretty funny that Clanny is so nervous about being discovered. Like, I absolutely adore it, she's terrified of authority (what a mood), and she's like "WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF-".


and she was afraid to miss a turn or get in trouble.


why is clanny SUCH A MOOD

and Ms.Barlowe spun around in her chair to face her.


Lack of spacing between Ms. and Barlowe aside, I can just imagine that the servant came in previously and she was like "go fetch the monster hunter" and he's like "okay" and after he leaves she turns away from her desk just so she can swivel around dramatically.

lighting up the room with the natural light.


Since most windows are for outside and let in natural light, I think the only time I would mention what kind of light was coming in is when there was something artificial or not-normal lighting up the room?

"You smell like a forest,"


HOW can Barlowe smell her from across the room (unless it's a very small room?) :o what, is she a werewolf?

Clandestine still felt sweaty


:)

Clandestine blinked again, glancing down at the papers Barlowe had just handed back to her.


clanny: oh no what IS my name


Oof, monster hunters getting taken out is pretty interesting? I mean, it is sad, but like, I'm more upset about the griffins being abused and used for sport than I am about the monster hunters because they kinda brought this on themselves? (wow that sounds terrible)


"I'll do it pro-bono!" she spouted suddenly.


Was Barlowe not expecting her to? Why would this make her agree to hige Clandestine? This seems kind of... strange to me, that this is the straw that breaks the camel's back? "I don't think you're qualified but oh, if you'll do it immediately, then yeah that solves everything"?

"No, gold!"


*squints* this seems suspicious.

By the time she was briefed on everything she felt tired and anxious


I think you know what I'm going to say about this ;) show us how she's feeling, don't tell us what she's feeling.

"Partners just slow me down."


the guards, seeing James: *squints*

"Mr. Kingsman has arrived, and his-" he paused half a second, eyes flicking to Clandestine. "His contact from the Moonlight Kingdom should be here shortly. He's here if you're ready."


Isn't ALEXANDER'S NAME KINGSMAN?? HE'S TALKING ABOUT CARTER ISN'T HE??? aslkjaLKF

Just as she left Barlowe's office, Alexander was there, standing before her, eyes locking onto her and widening, like he was surprised to see her too. Clandestine froze.


D: D: D:


hi sound I am VERY NERVOUS


"Yeah. Yours. Mine. His.


nooooo billy :(


In case you weren't aware, I am Highly Nervous about this and my girl and what Alexander is about to tell the mayor??? What about JAMES???

Given my amount of distress and needing to know what's going on and what's going to happen, you've done an incredible job with this chapter! You really built the suspense in this chapter and raising the stakes. Now I'm really feeling the pressure. SUPER GLAD LMS IS COMING UP AND YOU'RE JOINING AS A ROGUE SO I GET MORE CONTENT :D


Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful day <3 Happy RevMo!!

Image




soundofmind says...


This was such a wonderful thing to wake up to.

AAAAAAA Thank u for catching all of those TELLING AND SHOWING THINGS. I didn't realize... how often I do that. NOw IT'S aLL IM GONNA BE THINKIN BOUT. (It's good tho).

Also my ,,,achilles heel..... . the like and very and much HHHHHH GOSH

ANYWAY. Thank you so much for your amazing feedback as always. :,) I LOV U!

Was Barlowe not expecting her to? Why would this make her agree to hige Clandestine? This seems kind of... strange to me, that this is the straw that breaks the camel's back? "I don't think you're qualified but oh, if you'll do it immediately, then yeah that solves everything"?

ADSHh this is one of those things where.... . I can't really reveal what Barlowe's thinking in this moment ,,, but I didn't realize that it could make it sound this,,, idk,,,,, ahsdlfjkghl. It's not just cuz of the pro-bono thing like... she's already decided in her head to hire her b/c she needs the help but at the same time she don't trust her 100% because her papers are out of date which is leetle suspicion.... and... other things I probs shouldn't reveal yet

also YES THANK GOODNESS I'm glad I ended a chapter on such suspense :,) FINALLy,, I feel like,,, I did that right ASDHGfshdlkj

Anyway <3 <3 <3 <3 big lov for u



mellifera says...


IT'S OKAY IT'S ALL I THINK ABOUT TOO

AH OKAY yees she seems SHIFTY and I am SUSPICIOUS (as well as nervous, ofc)

ily too!! <33 you're doing great !! ^^




Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
— C. Northcote Parkinson