Short Story: The Art of Deception

Niko Hrabanic was once a famous swordsman. But after a scandal-laden departure from his last job at a royal court, he’s now hiding out in a rural inn, making himself useful to his attractive landlady in all sorts of ways that don’t actually involve paying rent…

…until a summons from the mysterious and dangerous White Library shakes up his life all over again. His landlady, it turns out, has secrets of her own. Now Hrabanic and Julia will have to confront both of their pasts – and if they’re going to have any hope of survival, they’ll need both Hrabanic’s sword arm and Julia’s magical training.

It’s time for them to become experts at the art of deception.

*Shortlisted for the 2016 WSFA Small Press Short Fiction Award*


There are three moves every true swordsman should know. First, the Shagomir Defense, as taught by every minor proponent of the art; second, the whistling attack, suitable for advanced students only; and third, the Hrabanic Deception, a lethally difficult move which turns a seeming defense into the neatest of stabs, clean into your opponent’s chest, piercing the heart in an instant. The Hrabanic Deception is always fatal.

Considering that Niko Hrabanic had invented the move, he should have been more prepared when it was used against him. But he had never been as gifted in the art of verbal swordplay as he was with the blade; and at any rate, he was attacked at an inopportune moment.


“What do you mean, ‘useless’?” It’s hard to carry off any semblance of dignity while naked, but Hrabanic did his best, pulling the sheet up to his chest and directing an outraged glare at his bed partner, who also happened to be his landlady…



The Art of Deception is a 12,400 word novelette full of swordfighting, banter, and a twisty plot. It was originally published in the 2015 anthology Insert Title Here, ed. Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Press). You can buy the full anthology (full of fabulous authors and stories!) as a paperback or ebook.

Alternately, you can buy the novelette on its own as an ebook…

….and also add it on Goodreads.