Reading the Ice Cubes (a 50 word story)

Kevin stared at the ice cubes at the bottom of his bourbon glass trying to ascertain what they told about his future.  He thought he could hear them predict he would be in a world of hurt in the morning.  He decided they were truly psychic and poured himself another.



Sariah’s Story chapter 15

Kegan picked at the rest of his meal, but the smells coming from the pot that Sariah was working made him almost lose what he had already eaten.  “The bouquet is going to take days to leave my shop,” he said.  Sariah ignored him, adding more of the very specific green slime they had retrieved from the lake.  “I think I saw my neighbors boarding up their windows when they saw that scent leaving my shop.”

Sariah looked up at him with an exasperated glare.  “You can’t see smells,” she said.

“I can see this one,” he responded, waving around at the light yellowish haze the clung mostly to the ceiling.

Sariah turned back to the pot.  “Okay, you might have a point, but just wave a hand and make it disappear,” she said.

Kegan put his leftovers in the trash.  The food was beginning to taste like the smell.  “Magic can’t do everything,” he said.

Sariah added some more iodine.  “That’s not what you used to tell me,” she said.  “Everything was possible with magic.  We should just stop doing everything else and concentrate on developing our magical gifts.”  She put the iodine bottle down and stretched her back.  “Don’t you have a table at a decent height?”

“I’m half fairy, remember?” Kegan said.

Sariah dipped a piece of copper wire into the solution.  “I thought we weren’t supposed to talk about that,” she said.

Kegan watched as a greenish gas was released.  That gas seemed to do a war with the yellow gas, upping the stinkyness to a whole new level.  Kegan muttered under his breath and pushed with his will, moving the noxious gasses out the open window.

Sariah smiled without looking up from her pot.  “See, that didn’t hurt.  Magic can solve anything, just like you said.”

“You know full well that magic burns,” Kegan said.  “I hate feeling my insides burn.”

“You’re used to it,” Sariah said.  “Besides, that didn’t burn much.”

Just then Asopt’s voice called from outside.  “Man you guys reek.  I’ll come back later.”

“Get your questioning arse in here,” Kegan yelled. “Or I’ll turn you into a toad.”

“A toad?” asked Sariah.

“Well, it was better than something profane.” said Kegan.

“Not really,” she said.  A pinch of dark powder entered the pot and Sariah began to smile.  “There, that’s finished.  Now all I need to do is inject it into him at some point and make it look like something else accidental happened.  His spirit won’t even know what happened.”

“Well you better be thinking really creatively,” Asopt said as he entered the room.  “Your mark has gotten himself walled into his compound.  Seems he fears he is a target for assassination.  He has used royal funds to hire a ton of extra security, including a couple of Kegan’s buddies.”

“Not all magic users are my buddies,” Kegan fired back.  “Besides almost everyone in this city are hacks.  There is nothing to worry about, Sariah.”

“Greggorin and Helfin are hacks?” asked Asopt.

“He paid to have both of them?” asked Kegan.  “Damn.  Sariah you have lots to worry about.”

Asopt continued, “Not only that, but rumor has it he has a necromancer lying in wait, just in case.”

Sariah carefully poured out the powder from the bowl into a small metal box that had seen plenty of use in the past.  She carefully scooped every grain out then slowly closed the box so the shifting air of the closing lid didn’t disrupt the grains inside.  Once the lid was secured she looked back at Asopt.  “There, that’s enough poison to take out half the town guard.  Oh, and you’re lying through your teeth about that necromancer,” she said.

Asopt spread his hands out wide.  “It’s what I heard.  I can not confirm or deny.”

Sariah shook her head.  “Too few of those around in the three kingdoms, much less the free lands.  Unless things have changed that much since I retired there wouldn’t be a necromancer.”

Asopt smiled.  “I agree.  I checked into it a bit, and no one has heard or seen anything, but I thought you should know, just in case.  I wouldn’t want you to be surprised.”  With that Asopt turned on his heel and began to leave the room.

“Where are you going?” asked Sariah.  “Don’t you want a part of this?”

Asopt stopped, but did not turn around.  “You made it abundantly clear that you didn’t need my help other than the information you requested.  I have decided to honor your request.”  With that he continued out of the room.

Kegan spoke up.  “What about those schedules and staff lists?”

“I left them on the table out here,” came Asopt’s voice from the other room, just before they heard him go through the outside door.

“Well are you going to go after him?” asked Kegan.  “He is a part of this crew.”

“I never wanted him in the first place,” said Sariah.  “You were the one who dragged him in.  I say we are better off being without him.”

“I don’t know Sariah.  A lot has changed since you retired,” Kegan said.

“Not that much,” replied Sariah.  “Let’s go plan an accident.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 14

Kegan walked with Asopt out of the shop.  “I’m not happy not knowing why Lyda went after us,” said Kegan.

“Agreed,” Asopt said.  “Want me to see what I can find?”

“Yeah, but let’s keep this between the two of us.  I think Sariah is worried it would distract her.  If we can handle it without her, we will,” Kegan said.

“Is that smart?” asked Asopt.

“Probably not,” Kegan said.  “Kicking a wasp nest is never smart, but I would rather do that then have the nest surprise me.”

Asopt laughed.  “Did anyone ever tell you you have a way with words?” he asked.

“No,” Kegan said.

“Good, you haven’t been lied to,” Asopt said.   With that he left leaving Kegan stunned with how well he had walked into that one.  After contemplating how hard it would be to hit Asopt with a small tripping spell at that range he decided to head back inside.

There he found the store empty.  Kegan moved into the back room and found Sariah working over the small pot he mixed his signature purple.  “Please don’t play with that,” he said.

Sariah stirred the contents a bit more with a heavily colored stick.  “You really do need more iodine.”

Kegan reached over and took the stirrer from her.  “I don’t need it really at all.”

Sariah slapped Kegan’s hand to make him release the stick.  She caught it deftly before it hit the floor, all this without getting a drop of the dye on herself.  Kegan, on the other hand was not so lucky.

“Really Sariah?” Kegan asked as he quickly cast a small cantrip, forcing the ink back out of his shirt and onto the floor.

“You were the one whole rudely took my stick,” she said.  Sariah went back to stirring the dye.  “I’m confused.”

“Why are you confused?” asked Kegan.

Sariah held up the bottle of iodine.  “I added more of this, but the color hasn’t changed.”

“I told you, I don’t need any iodine.  As long as I have some of that dye there I can add anything.  I crafted the pot to change any liquid into my dye,” Kegan said.

Sariah looked at the pot, then at Kegan.  “You were that lazy?”

“Creating a unique magical item that transmutes any liquid into the dye that makes me quite comfortable financially is lazy?” Kegan asked.

“Okay, if you put it that way, probably not, but still, why did the color shift?” she asked.

“The color is still the same,” Kegan said.

“No it’s not,” Sariah countered strongly.  She stared him down, daring him to disagree again.

Kegan sighed.  “I created the pot, but I made one slight miscalculation.”

“What did you do?” Sariah asked.

“I didn’t realize I had to use so much ink to infuse the pot, so I kind of used all of the original ink to make the pot.  I had to whip together a new batch to begin producing new ink,” Kegan said.

Sariah waited, but Kegan wasn’t adding anything more.  She decided to push the matter.  “And?”

“I ran out of iodine.  I figured the purple was close enough,” Kegan admitted.

“Ha!  I knew it,” Sariah said.

“That’s nice Sariah, but I would be more concerned how you are going to arrange for an accident for a certain someone,” Kegan said.

Sarah stopped stirring the dye.  “I have a pretty good idea how to do it.”

This time it was Kegan’s turn to wait, but Sariah didn’t say anything more.  Finally he caved in.  “Okay, how?” he asked.

“We need to go to the river and see someone about some slime,” she said.

“Great.  Slime,” Kegan said.  Sariah nodded.  “What are you going to do, make him slip to death?” he asked.

Sariah’s Story chapter 13

The silence after that exchange dragged on for a while as the three people focused on different parts of the room waiting till emotional echoes died away.  Sariah fiddled with a hat that had the trademark purple along the wide asymmetrical brim.  Asopt took out a set of prayer beads and began running through them.  Kegan collected the empty brandy glasses and put them and the brandy away.  After that Kegan turned back to the other two and decided to break the silence.  “Sariah we might have a problem.”

This caused both Asopt and Sariah to laugh, breaking the tension even more.  “You think so Kegan?” she asked.

“The person who hired those thugs was Duchess Lyda,” Kegan said.

“Really?” asked Sariah.  She turned to Asopt.  “Are you sure?”

Asopt nodded.  “I was there when she hired out some of Gordo’s thugs to take care of a couple of easy targets,” he said.

“She was wrong about that,” Sariah said.

“Wait, I thought you said the ones killed were Warbashes’ goons,” Kegan said.

“Exactly!  Gordo’s thugs killed Warbashes’ thugs.  The Duchess was brilliant,” Asopt said.

Sariah groaned.  “Okay, she wasn’t wrong about that, and here I was hoping,” she said.

“What were you hoping?” Asopt asked.

“Oh nothing,” Sariah replied, “I was just hoping the Duchess might have grown senile.”

“Do you know the Lyda?” asked Kegan.

“A long time ago,” Sariah said.

“I wonder why she would test you like that.” Asopt said.

Sariah placed the hat she had been playing with low on her face, covering most of it from the guys in the room.  “I don’t have a clue.  I’m surprised she even remembers me. ”

Asopt perked up.  “I can ask around to find out,” he said.  “I have people close to her that I can collect favors from.”

Sariah stood up quickly causing the hat to fall to the floor.  “Sorry about that,” she said to Kegan.  Sariah picked it back up.  “No, don’t do that.  We have a much more important fish to gut.  We need to remove Duke Hurris from his ability to breath in a way that does not scream murder.”

“I think I better get out the brandy again,” muttered Kegan.  “The king wants his own cousin murdered?”

“At least Kilncare does,” said Sariah, “and he has both the authority and pays the bills.”

“I don’t like it Sariah.  It smells like a bad glordo carcass,” Kegan said.

“For once Kegan and I agree.  Kilncare doesn’t want it to look like an assassination, but what about a different form of murder?” asked Asopt.

Sariah shrugged her shoulders.  “I don’t know.  He definitely said no murder.  He wanted an accident.”

“I hate it when people try to tell you how to do your job,” Kegan said.

“You do it all the time,” Sariah replied while she gestured at the hats scattered around the shop.

“You have that all wrong,” Kegan said.  “I talk my customers into what I know is best for them.”

“So in other words you charm them into getting your way,” Sariah said.

“No!  Don’t go there again Sariah.  Now you’re being mean,” Kegan said.

“Never?” Sariah asked.

“Fine, once in a great while, but they are foolish not to listen to my advice,” Kegan replied.

“Exactly.  That’s why we need to do it Kilncare’s way.  Asopt, can you get a map of Hurris’ estate and any schedules of people who work there?” asked Sariah.

“That is quite achievable.  Do you have a plan?” asked Asopt.

Sariah shook her head.  “How can there be a plan?  This is going to be an accidental death.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 12

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.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 11

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.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 10

Horses were a rare commodity in Ferngreen.  There just wasn’t that much space for a horse to work in.  Donkeys and ithacs, large domesticated flightless birds, were used for most cargo transport around the city.  The only places you found horses were the king’s stables and around the single racetrack within the city limits.  The track was home to various forms of racing such as dog and turtle as well as the only sanctioned spot for other types of betting establishments.  It made the district that contained it loud, noisy, and a bit on the smelly side.  This did not act as a deterrent to the people who were looking for games of chance and so the place was crowded all day and night.

Kegan stepped in something and made a disgusted face.  “Why am I doing this again?” he asked.

Asopt either ignored the question, or decided that he didn’t have a good question to give in return.  Kegan tried to fling the excrement off his boot and onto Asopt.  Asopt didn’t notice since he kept looking around like he was trying to find someone.  Suddenly his face lit up and he was off at almost a running pace.  Of course it was a running pace Kegan with his shorter legs which made him even more disgusted.  “Why are you moving so fast?” he asked.

Asopt suddenly stopped and Kegan almost ran into him.  “I needed to see where that stable hand went,” Asopt said.  “Some days he plays cards, other days he partakes in more base needs.  I needed to know which it was today to know how much time we had.”

“And the verdict?” asked Kegan.

Asopt grinned at Kegan.  “Luckily for us he went to play cards.  That should give us plenty of time.  Oh, and since we are going to the stables, watch where you step.”

Kegan punched Asopt’s arm causing Asopt to giggle as he started off.

The stables were inside a large fence with a single gate entrance.  That gate was manned by two hulking brutes with arms crossed.  As Asopt and Kegan approached the gate the two men moved closer to each other, cutting off the entrance. “Where do you think you two are going?” asked the guard to the left.

Asopt smiled as charmingly as he could.  “My good sir, I am here to inspect Mr. Peepers before I place my bet on today’s race.”

The guard didn’t seem impressed.  “Only owners and people who work here are allowed past that gate,” he said.  “So keep moving.  You can see your Mr. Peepers when he is on the way to the gate like everyone else.”

Asopt looked at Keegan.  “Can you reason with these gentlemen?” Asopt asked.

“Really?” Kegan replied.  “You brought me for this?”

Asopt smiled.  “I would have used a different means, but here you are and you need something from me.”

The talking guard spoke up.  “Hey, I told you to move it.  Now get going or else I’ll move you for you.”

Kegan scowled at Asopt.  “I hate you,” Kegan said.  Kegan then turned to the guards.  “My apologies for my friend here, he is very rude, crude, and overall a bad man.”

The two guards zoned in on Kegan and began to nod in agreement.  Kegan continued.  “I would appreciate it though if you could let us in there for a look around.  It would be a huge help.”

The guard who didn’t talk opened the gate and moved out of the way.  The other guard, while nodding, wasn’t ready to give up yet.  “Maybe I should escort you to make sure you don’t get into any trouble,” he said.

Kegan shook his head and twinkled his eyes more.  “No cares my friend.  We wouldn’t want to impose.  Here.”  Kegan produced two small pieces of paper with the name of his shop and its location on it.  “Take this and bring it buy sometime and I will make sure you have a better hat to stand in the sun with.”

The two guards took the papers and the talking guard moved out of the way.  Kegan tipped his hat to the two men.  “Have a nice day,” Kegan said.

After they passed out of earshot of the guards, Asopt grabbed Kegan by the arm and spun Kegan around.  “Do you really hate me?” Asopt asked.

“What?” said Kegan.

“You told me you hated me, then said bad things about me to the guards.  That was hurtful,” Asopt said.

Kegan felt his jaw drop.  “You really want me to answer that?”

Asopt was silent.

Kegan continued.  “Fine!  I don’t hate you.  I hate you used me to charm those guards into doing something that will probably get them fired depending on what other shenanigans you have us do.  I do think you can be crude and rude, and if the situation is right a bad man.  That being said, I am with you aren’t I?”

Asopt thought for a minute.  “You didn’t need to use hateful words while performing your magic.”

Kegan sighed.  “Let’s keep moving, shall we?”  Asopt nodded and headed off reading signs posted on each grouping of stalls.  Kegan fell into step and continued.  “I need to use some truth to make the spell work.  That’s why the fae are so good at lying.  They mix in just enough truth to help you believe.  Would you rather me tell them we are here to fix a race?”

Asopt stopped and pointed to a sign marking Stable 4.  “There we go.  Oh, and we are not fixing a race.”  Asopt took off at that fast walk again.

Kegan hurried to catch up.  “Why are we going to see a racing horse if we are not going to fix a race?”

They entered the building.  A couple of grooms looked at them funny, and Asopt yelled at them, “Get out.  This is a robbery.”

The grooms looked at each other then back at Asopt and Kegan.  Kegan groaned and whipped out his wand.  “Sorry guys, but enjoy your rest.”  With that a blue haze billowed out of the wand, enveloping the grooms and putting them to sleep.

“Great.  How am I supposed to explain this to the city guard?” asked Kegan.

“Nobody will say anything,” replied Asopt as he began peering into the stalls.  “They won’t want to make themselves look like a fool.”

But I thought we were robbing a horse?” asked Kegan.

“Nope, said Asopt, open an empty stall.  He cleared out the hay from one side and poked around with a short metal post he pulled out of his sleeve.  Suddenly there was a soft click and one of the boards came loose.  Inside was a large amount of coins and a few gems.  Asopt grabbed a bunch of the coins and a couple of gems then closed the board back up.

“What was that?” asked Kegan.

“There is a jockey who takes bribes to fix races,” Asopt said.  “This is his stash.”

“What a dumb place to keep them.”

“Dumb?” Asopt asked.  “Behind a locked gate with guards and hidden in shite?”

“Okay, maybe not,” Kegan said.

As they headed out of the stable Asopt stopped suddenly.  “Duchess Lyda,” he said.

That caused Kegan to stop and stare at Asopt.  “Why?”

“That’s who put you to the test,” Asopt said.

Kegan groaned.  “Of course.  That is definitely trouble.”