Not strictly speaking a story - but the challenge was to show character-in-action. Both are sketches of characters who I'm hoping will appear in future Rurik stories...
The crowd parted.
Into their midst strolled Feliks, his left arm curled possessively around the waist of a Ladylark. As the men fell back he acknowledged them with a wave of the ebony cane in his other hand, the ruby in its handle throwing shards of blood red light over their features.
“Are you having a good time, boys?” The question fell into deep silence. Feliks’ grey eyes narrowed. “It seems not.
Rosa - sing!”
The woman at his side planted a kiss on his cheek before wriggling free of his embrace.
Feliks turned towards the bar. “A bottle of Bloodboil, and be quick with it.”
The barman almost ran across to the raised platform, but Feliks still arrived first. The gentleman lowered himself onto the couch, crossing his legs carefully so as to avoid creasing his linen trousers. The cane was laid aside as Feliks fetched a thin silver case from his pocket.
The barman, a sheen of sweat visible across his bald pate, struck a match.
Feliks opened the case and placed a dark cigarette between his lips. He leaned forward to touch it to the flame, which trembled only slightly in his employee’s hands. When a wisp of smoke rose into the air, Feliks waved the man away.
With a sigh of satisfaction, he loosened the cravat at his throat, undid the gold buttons of his jacket and draped a silken-sleeved arm along the back of the couch.
He took a deep pull on the cigarette, rolling the smoke around his mouth while he surveyed the silent men standing beneath him. As the first notes sounded on the piano, Feliks blew out a perfect smoke ring.
The diamond in his tooth flashed as he grinned. “Sing, boys! Sing!”
A grimy hand snatched the bread virtually from under the stallholder’s nose.
But already the thief was out of earshot.
Amba scurried between the long skirts and greatcoats and market barrows, her eyes darting from side to side in a constant search for uniform. She clutched the loaf to her chest, drawing into herself what little heat remained in it. Gradually she slowed her pace.
Only when she was absolutely certain that no-one was after her did she stop. Amba allowed herself a triumphant smile. It had been so easy!
She tucked the loaf into the waistband of her skirt in an attempt to keep it clean and flicked a black flea from the golden crust. They would have a feast tonight – providing she could get it home safely. Almost absently she scratched at a couple of bites on her arm, considering the safest route to take with her treasure.
A pungent smell wafted under her nose. Amba sniffed the air, trying to pin down the source of the deliciousness. Her eyes widened. Over there!
The barrowman speared a fat sausage from his makeshift grill and slapped it between two slices of thick black bread. The sandwich joined several others, all kept warm on a metal tray heated by several candles.
Saliva flooded Amba’s mouth. What a prize that would be, if she could get it.
She moved steadily towards her target, taking a circuitous route just like Pa had taught her, all the while scanning faces, making sure that they hadn’t noticed her. She was almost there. Within touching distance. Wait! Wait…till the barrowman turns to the grill again…Now!