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  • Writer's pictureNicole Jorge

Writetober prompt #7 - water

My mother always said “blood is thicker than water.” But she was wrong. For one thing, that’s not the full quote. What it really says is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” Basically, it’s literally the opposite of what it’s assumed to mean. I could never tell her that. She wouldn’t have stood for it. But somehow simply knowing it marked a change in me. It meant that I wasn’t bound to that house, to all I’d ever known. It meant that someday I could escape.

There was blood dripping in my brother’s rooms. The City Guard had gone there on a simple enough matter, just some grain missing from the neighborhood’s stores. Maybe if I’d known they were going I could’ve warned them that something was wrong. My brother had long been a spoiled thing, the favored child, indulged in his every whim. I knew that our parents were paying for Abel’s quarters on the condition that he attend the Academy, study business and follow in our father’s footsteps; of course afterwards he would take a wife and birth happy, healthy children. They would be proud of him. At least one of their children, they would say, had done right by them.

My brother didn’t need the grain. But the Guardsmen who’d called on him hadn’t known that. And now they were dead.

“You should’ve told me.”

The lieutenant made a frustrated sound. “How could I, Abs? I had orders. The commander thought it would complicate things - they were thinking of you, you know.”

I scowled at him, turning to gesture at the body laid out across the kitchen floor. “And now we have this.”

Something shattered in the distance. “Sorry!” Lila called out. She emerged from the bedroom looking sheepish. “Knocked a glass over. His room’s full of them. Who can afford that much glass these days?”

My parents could. They were comfortable enough. The furnishings in the apartment were simple, for the most part, but well-made, suitable for a bachelor pad. If you really looked, though, you could see fine things here and there - glass, a silk tablecloth (stained, of course), a good winter coat hung from the coat rack beside the front door even though we were well into summer.

“He’s wounded,” Rem said. “Blood on the sink didn’t come from either of the guards. He didn’t entirely catch them by surprise.”

He didn’t seem particularly interested in the facts. He looked almost bored as he turned to me. “He’ll be running scared. He should be easy to track.”

“What about the stores?” Lila asked. “Everything he took - it’s all hit the black market by now. He must have a lot of money on hand.”

“There’s no telling how much,” the lieutenant grumbled. “Or how long he was at it before anybody caught on. Did he really need that much money?”

“Of course not,” I scoffed. I crouched to look at one of the fallen guardsmen. Stabbed in the back. It figured. “He’s never wanted for anything in his life. But he has expensive hobbies...gambling, women, drugs. Figures he’d want more.”

“He’ll have underworld contacts,” Rem put in, thoughtfully. “People who will shield him.”

“He killed Guardsmen! They have to know we’ll come calling. Is hiding him worth the trouble?” Lila asked.

I sighed. “It’ll be more than the money. Abel can be very charming when it suits him. He’s good at playing the victim. I’m sure there are plenty of women willing to lay their reputations on the line for him.”

A tense quiet settled over us. Off in the distance came the ringing of the town bell tolling the hour. The day was still young. Abel hadn’t been on the run for long. If we were going to catch him, we couldn’t afford to be wasting time. He’d be comfortably hidden away somewhere by nightfall.

“Where should we look?” the lieutenant asked me, finally. Lila and Rem both turned to me expectantly. I thought it over for a moment.

“Well, like I said, there will be women. Ask around the gambling dens and find out who he’s been seen with. I’d like to think the Academy girls would be smart enough to know better, but you’d better check in with his maesters regardless.”

His next question was more delicate. “And your family?”

I couldn’t help snorting. “They would be more than happy to accommodate him. I’m sure he could convince them that this was all just some big misunderstanding, and it wasn’t really his fault. But they’ll want to make sure everyone knows that. He can’t risk the exposure. He won’t go to them. Of course,” I added, shrugging, “you’re welcome to ask them yourselves. Just leave my name out of it.”

“They know you’re with the Guard,” Rem pointed out. “You don’t think they’ll appeal to you for help?”

At that, I laughed outright. “My parents haven’t spoken to me since I left home five years ago. I’m an embarrassment to them. They meant for me to become a governess, not a soldier. They might stoop to acknowledging me again, but I can’t imagine they really expect that I’ll be any help to them.”

The lieutenant was looking at the bodies on the floor again. He shook his head. “This could have been avoided. I’m sorry, Abigayle.”

“No use crying over it now,” I replied. “We’ll see them buried, and we’ll see my brother to justice.”

“And if it comes to you to bring him in?” Rem asked me.

I met his gaze evenly. “Then I bring him in. You know where my loyalties lie.”

The lieutenant clapped me on the shoulder. “I know we can rely on you to honor your vows. Let’s get moving, then, shall we? To the gambling dens, to the Academy, and to the Oliver family compound to cover our bases. Let’s let the cleaning team take over.”

I knew better than to think that was the last of it. We left my brothers rooms and descended the wall to where our horses waited. The lieutenant took the lead, Lila falling into line after him with an anxious glance my way. When I gave her a grim smile she returned it shakily. Rem lingered on his feet as I mounted up.

“You really mean it, don’t you?” he asked, betraying the slightest hint of surprise. “You would bring him in. Your own brother.”

I met his dark eyes. “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. I know who my family is. I’ll see this through, Rem. You can count on it."

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