Sariah looked at the note again to verify she had the right place. It wasn’t too hard to find The Lazy Wench, but Sariah couldn’t fathom who would want to meet her in such a place. The note had been tucked among her weapons when she had retrieved them from the closet after her meeting with Kilncare. The note had asked her to come here around noon to discuss old and new business. Sariah didn’t recognize the handwriting, but if the person who wrote the note could get it smuggled into the king’s back door they must be a power in the area and that meant Sariah needed to keep this meeting.
As she entered The Lazy Wench she immediately looked around the room to see who might have been the author. The room was pretty empty because of the time of day, but a few women and a couple of men were still lounging about looking for work. This was the type of place that you could rent a room, or more, for an hour. Definitely not a place where a big mover and shaker would be usually found, but that made it even more ideal.
The woman behind the small bar looked up from his tidying to see Sariah. “What are you up for my dear?” she asked. “There are more guys in the kitchen working. Or would you rather-“
Sariah held up her hand to cut the woman off. “I’m here to meet someone.”
The woman shrugged her shoulders. “They’re upstairs. Second door on the left.”
Sariah nodded to the woman and headed up the stairs. At the top there was a man dressed in casual clothes, but he was anything but casual. He screamed danger, and Sariah respected that screaming. He looked hard at Sariah, noting her weapons that he could see, as well as a couple of places where she had hidden ones. Sariah’s opinion of the man increased. He was definitely military, or fresh out of an elite group. “You’re late,” he said as he stepped aside.
This took Sariah by surprise. She was certain that the man would want her disarmed. What was going on? She tried to keep her concern off her face as she walked up to the door. She paused with her hand on the door knob. “King’s corp?” Sariah asked.
“The Black Fist,” he replied.
The Black Fist were an elite group of almost fanatics who were used in truly desperate battle situations. They almost always completed their objectives, but they always needed fresh recruits to refill their ranks. This man would not think twice about sacrificing himself, as long as the objective is met. This man must have served the six years and gotten out, both extremely rare in such an intense and deadly unit.
Sariah flashed him a smile. “You coming in?” she asked.
“I don’t do three ways,” he responded. “Either go in or leave.”
Sariah was even more confused, which wasn’t good going into a blind meeting. She tried to center herself and prepare for what was behind the door. She turned the handle, and moved with her enhanced speed into the room, closing the door on the ex-Black Fist, hopefully starling him with quickness. Then again, he was Black Fist, so probably not.
For the second time that day she was surprised at what she saw when she entered the room. There, naked in the large bed was a woman she didn’t think she would ever see again. “My dear,” the woman said. “You look as beautiful as the last time I saw you. Motherhood suits you.”
That last line hurt more than Sariah thought it would. “Duchess Lyda, you look different from last time,” Sariah said.
“I hope that is for the better,” Lyda said. “I would hate to think that all these beauty treatments I’ve been using have gone for naught.”
Sariah picked up the dress the duchess must have been wearing and tossed it to Lyda. “You were dressed last time, Lyda. I would prefer you resume that,” Sariah said.
Lyda laughed and threw the dress onto the floor on the side of the bed away from Sariah. “Don’t be a prude, Sariah,” Lyda said. “I was so happy to hear you were back in the city. I almost couldn’t believe you were back. Actually, I didn’t believe you were back. When I was told you were here I knew I had to arrange something special.” She waved her hands to encompass the room. “So what do you think?”
“Lyda, please,” Sariah said.
Lyda grew serious. “Why are you back my dear?”
Sariah walked over to the only chair in the room and sat down. “I was asked to do one last job. I found out I missed the work.”
Lyda patter the bed. “Don’t sit over there. Come here next to me. We have so much to catch up on,” Lyda said.
Sariah crossed her arms. “What is there to catch up on?”
Lyda rolled forward on the bed, laying on her chest. She dropped her voice. “Remember how we discussed a path for me to step to the head of the succession line?” Lyda asked.
“That was talk for younger, more foolish days,” Sariah said.
Lyda smiled. “You are right of course.” Lyda blew her a kiss.
Sariah stood up. “If that’s all you wanted I think I will leave,” Sariah said. “I have work to do.” She moved towards the door.
Lyda whispered, “I know who the Keeper of Shadows is.”
Sariah stopped in her tracks. “What do you want?” she asked.
Lyda sat up, all business now. “Finish your job for Kilncare. Then you can help me kill the Keeper. I’ll take over the role and you will become my instrument. It will be like our dreams, Sariah. Or at least like your dreams,” Lyda said. She put back on her mischievous smile. “We can do my dreams if you would just come sit next to me.”
Sariah continued to the door and then stopped. She laid her forehead on the door. “Are you sure you know?” Sariah whispered. “Once we start down that path there is no turning back.”
“Finish your job then come back to me, Sariah. You’ll see. It can be like old times,” Lyda said. “Oh, and send in Geraud.”
Sariah turned toward Lyda. “Really?”
Lyda laid back and spread her limbs. “I paid for this room for two hours. I want to get my money’s worth.”
Sariah smirked. “Two hours? You think he will last that long?” Sariah asked.
Lyda laughed, her eyes glittering slightly mad. “He is Black Fist. They always complete their mission, or die trying.”