Sariah sat down heavily on a chair in the back room of the Purple Feather. Kegan and Asopt had just beaten her back to the shop. She took the glass of brandy being offered by Kegan. She sipped it as Kegan and Asopt told her of their adventures this morning. “All that to steal money that you gave to your boss to pay a debt from a baker?” she asked.
Asopt smiled. “Isn’t it brilliant?” he asked.
“Bloody crazy,” muttered Kegan. “Still, I understand why.”
Sariah looked back and forth at the two men. Asopt interpreted her unsaid question. “Simple really,” he said. “Now the baker owes me something big. When I call in the favor he will do it. Much better than beating the man for just a small bit of money.”
As Sariah drank her brandy in contemplation Kegan continued. “But what if the man doesn’t do your request?”
Asopt shrugged. “Then he gets the beating he deserves,” Asopt said.
“How is that different then you beating him for the money owed to Gordo?” asked Kegan.
“Simple,” said Asopt, “if he doesn’t do my favor he is taking from me. That becomes personal. The other is strictly business.”
Sariah finished her brandy. “How often does it get personal?” she asked.
“About once in twenty. It has gotten better once rumor spread that I mean what I say,” said Asopt.
Kegan saw that Sariah had finished her glass and went to refill it. She waved away another shot of the brandy. “I need to be able to think,” she said.
Asopt shot his glass right back. That made Kegan cough in disbelief. “Man, that stuff is too expensive to do that,” Kegan said.
Asopt waved Kegan to fill his glass again. “Did you buy it from Old Man Jankins over on Minor Street?” Asopt asked. When Kegan didn’t pour, Asopt grabbed the bottle and did it himself.
“Wait. How did you?” asked Kegan.
“It isn’t magically aged. He buys good stuff and then cuts it a bit of malmoth ichor. It gives it that extra kick,” Asopt said.
Kegan’s eyes bulged out. He looked at his glass a second time then poured it on the floor. “That bastard of a sandshark. I am going to make sure he gets a piece of my mind.”
Asopt started laughing so hard he almost dropped his drink. Sariah finally figured it out and joined in. Kegan started to get mad. “What’s so funny with you two? Enjoying a guy when he’s been taken?” Kegan asked.
Sariah nodded through the tears. “Especially when you poured it out.”
Kegan looked back at Asopt. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I’ll have another bottle sent over. Jankins owes me a favor or two,” Asopt said.
Kegan looked like he was about to have an aneurism, but then watched Sariah laugh an honest laugh and his anger evaporated. He refilled his glass and lifted it to Sariah. “For coming home and beginning life anew,” he said.
Asopt echoed him, “Agreed.”
Sariah shook her hand. “Sorry boys. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this woman is working solo. I have too much invested in this to worry about the two of you,” she said. Kegan and Asopt looked ready to protest, but Sariah tried to cut it off. “There is a reason I’m my own fixer. Tomais ended up not being, well he.”
“I am not Tomais,” said Kegan. “Besides, you need a wee bit of the magical on your jobs, and I am half a wee, so that is better than nothing.”
“And you owe me this Sariah,” said Asopt.
Sariah looked at Asopt with a bit of scorn. “I owe you?” she asked. “I didn’t want to even find you. If Kegan hadn’t opened his big mouth you wouldn’t even be here.”
Asopt turned to Kegan. “She’s still sore I broke up with her,” he said.
Kegan for the second time that day spilled his brandy. “Really?” Kegan asked.
Sariah interrupted Kegan with a fierce stare. “No, not really,” she said. “It was just something that sometimes happens between master and apprentice.” She snapped back to Asopt. “You stopped your training. I stopped the other.”
Asopt smiled, but a lot of the humor had evaporated out of it. “I think you have that backwards my Sariah,” Asopt said. “After kicking me out you poofed and left me to my own wilds.”
Sariah sat quiet staring at Asopt. Asopt returned her glare with a hint of contempt thrown in. Kegan broke the awkward silence. “Anyone want more brandy?”
“You would have never made it,” Sariah said, ignoring Kegan.
Asopt nodded. “You are right. I do not have the ruthlessness that you obviously do,” Asopt said. Sariah’s eyes closed to slits, but that didn’t stop Asopt from continuing. “But I did learn, and learn well. That’s why you need me. You may not need a fixer, but I have one thing that Tomais did that you can’t replace. I have connections.”
“Connections?” Sariah asked.
“Favors my dear Sariah, favors,” Asopt said. “The question is are you willing to deal with the devil you know, or find a devil that you don’t?”
Sariah smiled her hard smile. “That is what you should be asking Asopt.”