If you’ve discovered this post, then congratulations as you’ve found part 6 of the treasure hunt!
I’m so excited to be sharing this with you, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, a few UKYA bloggers and I have been working with Bex Hogan, the lovely author of the Isles of Storm and Sorrow series, to bring you this short story she has written in the world of Viper and Venom. If you haven’t read the previous five parts, you’ll want to get hunting but to help you out, the treasure hunt starts here.
Quick spoiler warning: do not continue past here if you haven’t already read Viper, as this short story is set after the explosive events of that brilliant book and therefore contain spoilers. If you haven’t read Viper already, go and add it to your TBR immediately!
Vitirol Part 6:
Raze had been shocked to see Choke, had wanted to imprison her and immediately return her to the ship, but Shard had convinced him that would be short sighted. Had reassured him that they could use her to their advantage, that discovering her here was actually a stroke of good luck that might allow them to complete their mission sooner than expected. They could sell her out once she ceased to be useful to them.
But Shard wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep this pretence up. Sooner or later, he was going to have to force Raze to pick a side.
They weaved through the dark, narrow streets, ignoring drunken revellers and lovers snatching secret trysts. Raze kept glancing around nervously, but Shard was focused solely on Choke, watching her closely so as not to lose her shadow to the night. She knew exactly where she was going, but it occurred to Shard that she was leading them on a deliberately tortuous route, as if to make it hard for them to find their way again. She would be disappointed, because Shard had an excellent sense of direction and would have no difficulty retracing their steps.
Eventually they arrived at a small cottage, completely unremarkable in any way, and Choke knocked, twice quickly then three times slowly. After a moment, the door opened, and after giving a quick glance to check no one was watching them, Choke disappeared inside, leaving Shard and Raze to follow.
They were escorted through to a back room where a group of bandits awaited them. Several pairs of distrusting eyes turned to scrutinise them, and all Shard’s instincts hummed with danger. He wished he hadn’t had so much rum – tonight was a night with no room for mistakes.
At a silent command, the bandits parted and Shard saw who was sitting beyond them. When Shard had imagined Karn he had envisaged an older man, like Adler, scarred from years of devilry, a cruel glint in his eye marking him out as formidable. What he saw instead was a young man, with fresh and open features, the charisma oozing from him, luring men in like prey. To Shard’s surprise, Karn rose to his feet, a dazzling smile illuminating his face.
‘Shard, is it? We’ve been expecting you.’ And the notorious bandit shook Shard’s hand.
Dizzy with the flattery, and the residual alcohol, Shard found himself relaxing. ‘It is good to finally meet you,’ he said.
‘Choke tells me you’re the man I’ll be working with soon, should all go according to plan.’
Shard shot Choke a grateful look but her features didn’t shift in the slightest. She never allowed her expression to betray her thoughts.
‘All is falling perfectly into place,’ Shard said, swelling with pride. It was good to finally say it out loud.
Karn looked pointedly past Shard to where Raze waited, his face creased with concern as he tried to make sense of what was happening. ‘You brought company?’
‘This is my good friend Raze,’ Shard said, patting Raze on the shoulder.
‘And can he be trusted?’ Karn asked the question lightly, but there was a definite edge to his voice. An undertone that said if you’ve bought someone untrustworthy into my home I will slay you where you stand.
‘Of course,’ Shard lied, thinking of his own neck more than Raze’s. But he shot Raze a look to be quiet, that to his relief was heeded.
‘Excellent,’ Karn said, returning to his chair, his ease at being seated while others stood only serving to accentuate the power he commanded. ‘So, Choke has told me of your plans, and I owe her more than one favour. We’ve worked together very successfully in the past.’
This was news to Shard. He hadn’t known Choke was so well connected. She had kept such information secret, no doubt to use as a weapon when the situation demanded. Shard wondered whether Adler knew the company his Snake had kept.
‘When she came to me and explained what you desired to achieve, I was more than willing to offer my help,’ Karn continued. ‘I’m a man of my word, Shard. But I need to know you’re one too. I need to know that you’re willing to do all that it takes to bring our plans to pass. Can you do that, Shard? Can you prove your worth to me? Prove you’re the man to become the Viper?’
Raze caught Shard by the arm. ‘What is he talking about?’ he said under his breath. ‘What are you doing?’
Shard shook Raze’s grip away. The time had come. Pulling Raze to one side, so their words were reserved only for their ears, he said, ‘He’s talking about me embracing my true calling. We’re assassins, Raze. Killers. And I have my target. I am going to kill the Mouse, that imposter who has the audacity to call herself Captain, and I shall claim the title for myself.’
Raze stared at him as though seeing him for the first time. ‘Are you mad?’
‘I’m the one thinking clearly,’ Shard said.
‘No,’ Raze said. ‘This is mutiny.’
‘You’ve got some nerve saying that after you betrayed Adler.’ Shard could no longer hide his anger. ‘But I’m prepared to give you a chance to see sense. For old times’ sake.’
‘You follow this path, you end up dead,’ Raze warned, their conversation still in violent whispers. ‘You give the Captain Karn’s location and you end up honoured. Don’t be a fool.’
Shard took a breath and looked from Raze to Choke. To Karn. Tension filled the air, the anticipation of what was about to happen. For all their attempts at discretion, everyone knew what was happening.
‘You’re right,’ Shard said to Raze and this time he made no effort to lower his voice. ‘I’m no fool. And I won’t allow anyone to stand in my way. Not even you, old friend.’
And with the swift deftness that Adler had taught him, Shard slipped the blade he had concealed up his sleeve into his hand and thrust it deep into Raze’s guts. For a moment their eyes met, and Shard saw the confusion, the pain in Raze’s before they emptied of any emotion at all. Shard let the body drop to the ground.
The sound of a solitary clap rang out like a cruel laugh. Karn was amused. ‘Looks like you’re our man after all.’ He turned to Choke. ‘You were right about him.’
Choke simply blinked in response.
‘Come, Shard, let me introduce you to my wife,’ Karn said, gesturing to the tall woman who had stood silently beside his chair throughout. The woman nodded in greeting but Shard paid little attention, granting her only a courteous acknowledgement and a passing judgement over her pleasant looks. Beyond that, Karn’s wife was of little interest to him.
‘You are able to help me overthrow Adler’s daughter?’ Shard wanted to be sure of the help he would receive.
Karn fixed him with a look as deadly as poison. ‘I will do everything in my power to ensure that girl dies and is replaced by the right person.’
Shard grinned. ‘I’ll drink to that.’
‘Then bring us wine,’ Karn said to one of the bandits before returning his attention to Shard. ‘We have much to discuss.’
I hope you all enjoyed part six of the story! In order to find part seven tomorrow, you’ll need to decode this blog name:
Basilisk homey of
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