An Extract by Hamish Lonie

He looked a lot like all the other beggars and thieves that littered the capital. Covered in mud, half-naked, starved and thirsty. The boy’s silhouette seemed to dissolve into the afternoon shadow of a nearby olive tree except for a pair of sea green eyes and a stare so intense that it could turn your blood to ice. The boy’s eyes searched through the well-dressed men and women walking through the forum, he spotted an elderly woman wearing a silver bracelet and a rich purple chiton. To the untrained eye she seemed unarmed and defenseless but following close behind was a bald man shrouded in a mottled cloak not dissimilar to his own. The boy could tell that the guard was well trained by the way his eyes swept the streets, alert, scanning for any potential threats… Unsurprisingly he didn’t consider Alex as a threat.
Alex didn’t look like he could walk, he looked like he was on the verge of death, his expression was so devoid of hope that a few of the people walking past took pity on him and tossed him a few copper coins but most just walked past without a second thought. Alex looked like nothing special but his tattered clothing and gaunt face were nothing but a disguise. He rose from the shadow of the olive tree and slipped into the crowded streets of the market with a grace which didn’t suit his disguise, but that didn’t matter because he had found his targets and was determined not to let them get away. The crowds threatened to crush him, almost as if they were trying to hold him back and allow the duo to escape, but Alex somehow managed to keep up, his gaze never strayed far from the bodyguard or the woman’s bracelet as he slipped through the gaps in the horde of Athenians to keep up.
Keeping sight of the bald man whilst navigating the crowded streets of Athens was surprisingly difficult, his mottled cloak seemed to allow him to blend into his surroundings surprisingly well, one moment he was less than few meters in front of Alex, the next moment he seemed to have emerged from a shadow twenty meters away. Alex knew that if he had any chance against at getting the bracelet, he would have to separate the guard from the woman first. The sun was beginning to set giving Alex a little more cover but as the light faded, the mysterious guard became harder to see, as if he was a part of the ever-growing shadows. Alex’s instincts were screaming at him to turn and run, there was something off about the man. Every time Alex got too close he felt a wave of ice cold fear run down his spine, rooting him to the spot, as if the guard was sucking all the goodness from the air around him. The man was small, barely 5”5, walked with bare feet and seemed to leave a trail of darkness behind him as he walked, Alex dismissed it as a trick of the light. Either way, the bodyguard made him feel uneasy, but he had already been paid and had a job to do.
Eventually, the woman ducked into a dark cobbled alley, she disappeared so fast that Alex almost missed it, the bodyguard suddenly appeared outside, blocking the entrance. His stone cold eyes and dark expression seemed to order people to stay back and they obeyed. Alex was having second thoughts, no bracelet could be worth enough to risk his life and something about the guard’s expression told him that his life would be more than just “at risk” if he tried to get past. He needed to find another way in.

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