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  • The Parliament House

READ CHAPTER ONE: Double-Crossing the Bridge by Sarah J. Sover

The Parliament House is of course known for our darker, weirder, unique brand of fantasy....

But we bet you didn't know we also have a funny bone.

And we are so excited, because tomorrow is the debut of DOUBLE-CROSSING THE BRIDGE by Sarah J. Sover, a title recently featured both online and in print in Writer's Digest!

Get ready for heist and hilarity in a brand new adventure unlike anything we've ever released before!




Granu snatched up the quivering rat, the latest victim of Critterhole freed by a bad toss, and snorted at its futile efforts to wriggle free. The mahogany table in the low-lit cavern tavern wouldn't offer salvation tonight, not with two trolls tossing back flagons of grog in the corner booth. Any hopes the creature harbored of escaping its gruesome fate, inevitable impalement on the spike within the game’s painted wooden platform, came to an abrupt end.

Not one to ruin frivolous entertainment, Granu tossed the rat back to the waiting swog. The porcine underling with an upturned nose and beady, wide-set eyes grunted in thanks, a string of snot leaking from his nostril as his tiny wings fluttered in appreciation of her attention. His black-speckled tongue darted out to clear the mucous as he arched an expectant brow at her. She smiled but turned away. The would-be suitor picked up on her lack of interest and returned to his friends, a knot of trolls, swogs, and other sun-avoiders jostling one another for a turn at the tavern game.

Voices echoed off the stark stone walls, and a persistent drip from the cavern ceiling added to the water collecting on the table. Granu used the back of her stubby hand to clear the puddle. A green neon sign bearing the name “Goron's” flickered over the bar, illuminating the vinyl upholstery throughout the tavern and giving the place a mossy feel common to the outermost caverns of New Metta.

A shrill shriek followed by rowdy cheering marked the death of the rat and a point for the swog's team.

“He said that to her? What was he thinking?” said Fillig, picking up the interrupted conversation. He sat in the cracked forest-green booth across from Granu, gobbling fried fairy wings by the fistful.

“Kradduk only thinks of one thing, you know that.”

Granu gazed after the swog, who was no longer visible through the crowd. Snot aside, he wasn't a bad-looking potential mate. Granu had no idea why such a tasty hunk of meat was interested in her.

“Ah, my favorite topic! Me.”

A well-groomed, large troll with three chins and a killer smile appeared at the end of the booth. He used his tree-trunk thigh to shove Granu farther in, taking his usual seat beside her at the corner table past the Critterhole platform. Granu knew Kradduk only chose the spot next to her because it offered the best vantage point for scouting the tavern for mates and launching to his feet in pursuit if the opportunity arose.

Kradduk Chert wore the latest in corporate fashion, a solid black jumpsuit fitted against his bulging chest, adorned with a red burlap necktie. His booming voice and huge, rectangular head caught the eye of more than one species of female scattered throughout the cavern. Granu rolled her eyes at the flirty glances.

“And I think of more than one thing, thank you very much. I think of finely ground fetus bones, perfectly aged grog from the hills of Friddum, the feeling of Maise granite beneath my head at night, and only the sweetest, plump rumps of the most beautiful females in New Metta City resting on my slab after a full day of strenuous exercise.” He waggled his heavy eyebrows in a way that made Granu laugh.

She could never take Kradduk seriously with his goofy expressions and endless catalog of pick-up lines, no matter how obscene his words. Fillig, on the other hand, sneered in disgust as he took a long slurp of grog.

“Kradduk, you sicken me,” he muttered, setting the flagon back on the table with a sloppy thud.

Granu shook her head. She'd first met Fillig Schist in stone-blasting class. He'd been her study partner back at Vinkle U, and they’d spent countless late mornings cramming for exams. She wasn't sure how she would have gotten by without him, but he always seemed to miss the humor in life.

“You know it's just his way. He's a dirty cud-chewer when it comes down to it.” She smacked Kradduk's arm with the back of her hand, emphasizing the insult. He curled into himself as if the blow hurt, and a flirtatious smile played at the corners of his mouth and touched his eyes.

Fillig snorted. “He should show some respect, if not for the females of the world then at least for you.”

“Trolls!” said Kradduk, “I'm sitting right here and my hearing is great. But, as long as we're on the topic, I could do more for you than that, Granu.” Kradduk stuck out his tongue playfully, eliciting another groan from Fillig and a chuckle

from Granu.

The tavern was bustling at this hour, when those with day jobs celebrated surviving the sun and those with night gigs pre-gamed in anticipation for the long hours to come. The clientele of Goron's was comprised primarily of trolls and swogs, but a few brightly-feathered grawbacks and small-boned, pink-skinned molents sat scattered throughout the tavern. There was even a sniggle, small for her species but still hulking over the other patrons, her gray flesh stuffed into an alcove on the opposite side of the room like the contents of an over-filled suitcase.

Goron's didn't discriminate based on species, unlike some of the other establishments in New Metta, which allowed only higher-level creatures such as trolls, swogs, and other intelligent underlings. Some still excluded trolls due to the Billy Goat Blight, though they'd never admit it. Treating high-level creatures that way would be downright rude, not to mention illegal. Not Goron's. Any upstanding sun-avoider with cash was welcome. It was one of the things that drew Granu to the tavern.

Goron’s was far from the classiest establishment in the sector, but it was relatively clean. The green paint on the cavern walls chipped away to reveal gray stone in many places. The furniture was rotten and wobbly, and the smell was always a pleasing mixture of compost and cooked meat, never of rot or flowers, scents trolls found intolerable despite their prevalence throughout the city.

A grawback with bright blue tail feathers, iridescent green and blue down framing her face, and a razor sharp beak and tongue, made her way to their table. Dreatte was their regular server.

“Is Kradduk at it again?” she laughed as she set another round of drinks down, expertly keeping her trailing arm feathers out of the condensation accumulated on the table. Her claws rattled against the glasses. “I'm surprised he hasn't died of the yellow fingle yet.”

Grog shot out Granu's nose at the lewd reference. Fillig doubled over in laughter, nearly slamming his forehead into the thick wooden table.

Kradduk's face fell, his shoulders slumped, and he cocked his head to the side, reminding Granu of a mongrel caught eating scraps from a table. Then his mouth tightened as his wide nostrils flared in mock anger. “No tip for you.”

“I'm not concerned. You never tip well anyways,” quipped Dreatte, her round yellow eyes sparkling. Kradduk was known for throwing money around nearly as much as for throwing himself at every female, eligible or otherwise. He'd even taken a pass at a sniggle or two, though it was largely unheard of since the creatures were repulsive on so many levels. Granu couldn't fault him, though. She'd once seen a sniggle smash an entire table with his thumb simply because he wasn't happy about the way Dreatte spoke to him. Skin lesions or not, it was hot. Granu blushed at the memory.

“Pouting doesn't become you,” said Dreatte as she sashayed away, her tail swishing back and forth with each step. Kradduk craned his neck to watch her, and Granu smacked his arm again.

“What was that for?”

“Grawbacks now? Really?”

Kradduk shrugged. “Nothing wrong with diversifying your portfolio.”

It wasn't that Granu thought less of grawbacks. Some of her closest grade school friends had been grawbacks. But mating was a different story. Their anatomy didn't mesh with trolls'. Where trolls were wide, they were narrow. Where trolls were large, they were petite. Brittle bones didn't hold up to the dense mass of a troll in the throes of passion, so the two rarely intermingled. Besides, angular features were far from alluring to trolls, as small-boned Granu was acutely aware.

“A fine, sexy lady deserves to be appreciated. I don't discriminate,” Kradduk said.

Granu laughed, shaking her head. “Next it'll be molents or worse, humans.”

“What is your problem with molents, Gran?” asked Fillig. “You're forever putting them down. I didn't peg you for a back-cavern bigot.”

“Besides, Kell is a damn fine-looking dude,” added Kradduk. The bartender looked up at mention of his name then went back to his duties with the shake of his head.

“Kell is different. He brings the grog! And I don't have anything against them, I just don't find them attractive. I'm allowed to have my preferences. Besides, Kradduk would probably kill a molent if he tried to get it on with one. I mean, he's a thousand times the size of one.”

“So, you've noticed my size, then, Granu?” asked Kradduk, nudging her with his arm. Amongst trolls, the bigger, the better. A large troll could have the personality of a wet mop and the brains of a unicorn and still bring home the ladies.

“Everything is suggestive with you!” Granu said, her face flushing. “You're the largest troll I've ever met, but that doesn't mean anything. You're like my brother.”

When Kradduk and Fillig got together, they had a way of keeping her off balance. Fillig took everything so seriously and lured her into a real discussion while Kradduk snuck in for the kill when her defenses were down. She was fairly certain that Fillig's part was unintentional at least.

A large female troll walked past on her way to the restroom, giving Granu a reprieve as both males paused to watch, Kradduk with his flagon poised in mid-air and Fillig with his mouth agape.

“Seriously, guys, do you think staring a girl down will get you into her pants? You're like juvies watching the kiddie tank at Flopps.”

“Hush Granu, she's looking this way,” mumbled Fillig.

“You don't have a chance in heaven,” said Granu.

“Speaking of Flopps, you want to grab dinner there sometime this week?” asked Kradduk, bringing his attention back to Granu. No longer staring at the passing troll, he watched her with his head propped on his hand, the picture of nonchalance.

“Um, it's a little out of my budget right now,” said Granu. She stared off into the distance as if there were something really interesting near the far wall of the tavern.

“I'll cover you.”

“Honestly, I don't care for that place. I think it's kind of cruel to keep the humans alive until you pick one to eat. I mean, I know it's no different in the long run, I guess, but it kind of makes me a little sick.”

“Like they're smart enough to know what's happening?” Kradduk grinned.

“Wow, our Granu is a humanitarian and a speciesist. What a combination. Did that old roommate of yours get to you? What was that human-lover's name? Gill? Garve?” asked Fillig, laughing.

“Bood, you idiot. And no, I'm not about to become a vegetarian and join the human rights movement. I hunt more than you do, I bet. When's the last time you even left the city anyway?”

When Fillig didn't reply, Granu tacked on, “Yeah, that's what I thought. I just prefer my killing done quickly and with finesse. I don't like seeing their ugly little faces crying for mommies that were skewered days before. It kills my appetite.”

“If it makes you feel better, they do it too,” said Kradduk. “Unlike our shut-in here, I frequently leave the confines of New Metta. Ever been to a seafood restaurant topside? They keep their prey in tanks right by the front door, so it's the first thing you see when you walk in.”

“Of course I haven't been to a restaurant topside. I don't make a habit of dining with my food. You know, you can get a lobster skewer and a plate of oysters at Fred's without having to mingle with the herd.” Her lip curled in disgust. “Besides, I thought humans didn't accept our existence? Most think we're stories to frighten their young ones. Do you mean to tell me they tolerated you at a table with them and didn't run screaming?”

“Not exactly. TCB had a high-end seafood joint rented out so we could experience dining the way humans do.”

“Why on earth would you want to eat like an uncivilized beast? Better off chewing hay at the unicorn r