a bullet through crowns

"Who are you really?"
art by alex-tuan
      There was an electricity in the air, not ominous but fateful, the boy called Crowe observed. Even the guards seemed especially agitated tonight. They did not mull about their favorite bars or lean against the railings of their watchtowers, rifles loose in hand. No, their barked orders were rough and stirred enough gut-fear to keep him well away.

      He mounted his hook on a jutting brick and settled comfortably as an airship passed overhead. Shaking his matted black hair out of his eyes, he climbed down until his bare feet hit the slick cobblestone. Taking the half-loaf of bread from between his teeth, he squeezed out the rainwater, took a huge bite and impaled the rest on the end of his hook. Laughter bubbled in his stomach as he skittered down the dark alley. If he could get away from this guard infested street today, he could play it safe until tomorrow evening. Perhaps he would even finish the book he stole, Le Manuel de La Mechanik.

      Just before he rounded the corner, a shadow appeared. He stopped too soon, slipping in the rain. From the ground he watched the bread tumble to a stop before a pair of polished black shoes.

      “Well, would you look at this?” said a bemused voice, “Poor scrap’s been stealing bread.” A hand grasping his shirt pulled him off the ground. “Careful now,” the voice almost purred, “wouldn’t want to break the law in front of an officer.” The guard was decked in a smart navy coat with shining brass buttons. His eyes – lawful and sharp, like a gavel striking wood – searched Crowe’s own dark eyes, which simmered with hate.

      Crowe lashed out at the guard’s hand with his hook. “Merde!” The guard pulled away, clutching his forearm where a river of blood trickled from a long gash. Crowe ran. “I’ll get you for this!” the guard roared. There was a distinct cock of a pistol and Crowe dove as two gunshots rang the air.

      Shivering, he turned his head in time to see the body of the guard hit the floor. Two men were silhouetted against the storm and rain, one with their pistol raised and smoking. When he tried to get to his feet, the edges of his vision started to blacken. Gingerly, he pressed his shoulder and his palm came away red.

      “Saints,” one man hissed. “Darius, help me get him up!”

      “Let go of me!” Crowe protested as he was pulled by steady hands. There was a sharp pain in his left shoulder. He clutched his hook in his right hand like it was a lifeline.

      “Quiet! Do you want another guard to hear you?” As he was carried away he took a look at his saviour. He was younger than Crowe expected, perhaps in his twenties, with droplets of rain trickling from his damp brown hair down his cheeks, almost as if he was crying. His brown eyes were alert. “Keep your eyes sharp,” he ordered as he handed Darius his pistol.

art by kalasketch
      They left the alley behind, moving to a quieter neighbourhood with washed-out white houses and cascading terra cotta roofs. The two boys marched up the stairs of one apartment, Crowe in tow. “Bastien?” a little girl inquired as they stepped through a door.

      “Clear the table ‘Lena, we’ve got injured,” the boy holding Crowe replied. He gently propped up Crowe against the wall.

      “I’ll contact the medic,” Darius yelled as he left.

      As Bastien searched through medical supplies he muttered, “Sacrébleu, first an uprising in Mercelles and now a guard who wants children dead.” He let out a puff of air. “What’s your name, mon frére?”

      “Alexander Crowe,” Crowe replied quickly. “Who are you?”

      “If you’re sure, Alexander,” said Bastien. His brown eyes were warm and twinkling. “My name is Bastien. How did a young street rat like you survive on your own?”

      Crowe shrugged, which made him wince. “I avoid guards. Find food. And this,” he said, holding up his hook.

      Silence filled the room as Bastien worked Crowe’s shoulder. Then, “What do you think of Mercelles? Do you know what happened today?” Bastien asked. When Crowe shook his head, Bastien continued passionately, “You know what it means to be hungry. So do all of us. The workers of Mercelles, the hungry and underpaid, marched today as one. Many were shot down but ... it’s incredible. Every man defending the man beside him, defending his rights. It’s the same in every city in Arian. We are all tired of kings and bishops. But Mercelles fought back, and now it has changed everything." He tied the bandage tightly around Crow’s shoulder with a pin and looked at him expectantly.

      Crowe shook his head. “I fight for myself. Kings, bishops, guards…”, he faltered, “it doesn’t matter much to me, as long as I’m alive the next day.” And my friend’s a noble, Crowe thought. Arryn was good and warm and kind, not an enemy. Then he scolded himself for being naive, for how long could he and Arryn last in this divisive world of theirs?

      “Of course,” Bastien agreed, “you and a hundred other boys have learned to fight alone. But what if we learned to fight together? Imagine that, a hundred Crowes come to peck. The king would be shaken to his bones.” He smiled and ruffled Crowe’s hair.

      Crowe ducked away, still not totally comfortable with the stranger though he had saved Crowe’s life. “Perhaps,” he spoke carefully. “Who are you really, Bastien?”

      It was a long time before Bastien answered. “Voix de la République,” he said, no longer smiling. Crowe’s eyes widened. “Darius and I saw you today. Yes, you wounded that guard because you were escaping and also afraid. But I know a part of you wants to not just fight but win. Don’t try to deny it – I know you hate the guards as much as I do. Do you understand, Alexander? You still haven’t given up! And if you don’t believe me … well, you may change your mind once you’ve met our leader."

      He hesitated. "Look, why don't you come with me to meet him? If you joined us, you could be a valuable member of the cause. You could have brothers to look after you in the worst of times.” Bastien looked sad for a moment; he stretched out his fingers as if to hold onto a memory, a lost thought. "Lorenzo would never forgive me if I let you slip. We need more men."

      ‘So,” he continued, stretching out his hand toward Crowe. “Will you come with me, mon frére?”


What did you think? Veronica and I thank you for reading. :) Things will get heavier from here on out if you keep reading, I promise you!

If you're a really old reader of Bearable you might recognise the title of this story. That's because I created it two years ago, during the period of Cringing-At-My-Own-Writing (AD). My friend Veronica and I decided to create a new story from the ashes of the old one, completely different from the original.

A Bullet Through Crowns is on-going webseries set in an alternative steampunk France, told from the perspective of the rising rebel Crowe and noble-born Arryn. Through their eyes we learn why people give up a life of comfort for one of danger. What does it cost the rebels? Is it ever right to sacrifice a few for an entire country? Can we ever put our history behind us, truly?

Chapter list || Next chapter



  1. This sounds so good so far!!

  2. Wow, that is good writing! It got me in right away, and the artwork matches perfectly! I look forward to reading more of the saga. :)

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the rest. :)

  3. THIS WAS AMAZING I CANT WAIT TO READ MORE! (ps - love your blog, tagged you for a self-made tag on my blog if you wanna check that out?)

    1. THANK YOU! I saw the tag and shall be doing it for this story. :) Thanks for the nomination! <3

  4. That was great! Can't wait to read more, you're super talented! :)'

  5. Oo, I like it! And the setting is awesome too. :)