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.”

Sariah’s Story Chapter 8

Kegan watched Sariah leave, pretending to sleep.  He really never slept, part of being half fairy that he liked most of the time.  Sitting in the dark and thinking was one of his great joys.  Doing that while listening to Sariah saw a forest’s worth of lumber, not so much.  He gave her a few minuted to make sure she was really gone before he left the couch.

Looking at the time Kegan decided to wait a bit before setting off to search for Asopt.  He wasn’t sure if Wyndia or Nellissa would show up at the shop this morning.  He didn’t really want to deal with either woman right now, but he owed them a little of his time, so he spent it cleaning up his shop and waiting.  After half an hour had passed he gave up and left the shop.  He put a sign on the door claiming he was working in the back and was not to be disturbed.  He was happy he worked with the part of the population that was literate.  He hated pictograms.

It took three stops before Kegan was able to get a clue as to where Asopt was working.  He was somewhere in the tinker’s district along the west wall of the city.  When Kegan arrived in the district he ran out of leads and people to ask.  He tried a small bit of magic, but nothing came of it.  Kegan wasn’t surprised since he hadn’t really talked to the man for five years or so.  The problem with the tinker district was all the buildings were almost identical and laid out in little blocks of eight along a razor straight grid.  It was easy to wander around hopelessly if you didn’t have a decent directions sense.

After a bit of foundering around what seemed like the same two blocks for what seemed like forever, an average man wearing average clothing and the typical haircut for the times fell in lock step with Kegan.  Kegan startled and cast his force shield, almost knocking the man over.  “Is that how you treat old friends?” asked the friend.

Kegan dropped the shiled and held out his hand in greeting.  “Sorry Asopt.  I was looking for you, but I didn’t expect you to find me,” Kegan said.

Asopt accepted the hand and gave it a squeeze before letting it go.  The grip screamed average as well.  “A bit jumpy then, are we?” Asopt asked.

Kegan looked around and continued to walk.  Asopt once again fell in step.  “After last night I have a right to be.”

Asopt slapped Kegan on the back.  “That was you?” Asopt asked.  “I wondered who was kind enough to take out a few of Warbashes’ thugs.”

“Well, we didn’t take them out,” said Kegan.  “We sort of put them down, but someone else put the arrows in to silence them.”

“You said we,” Asopt said.  “Who was the other part of the we?”

Kegan ducked his head low and in towards Asopt.  Kegan said, “She didn’t want me to tell you this, but-“.

“Sariah’s back?” Asopt whispered.

Kegan stopped and looked Asopt in the eye.  “Is that one of your questions, or a statement?” asked Kegan.

“That makes so much more sense,” Asopt said.  He rubbed his hands together.  “This is going to be so much fun.  I’ll need to let Gordo know I’m not available after this.”

Kegan shook his head.  “Wait a minute.  Sariah hasn’t said anything about getting anyone back together, and what do you mean after this.”

Asopt smiled his average smile.  “It’s simple.  They were testing you last night, and I know who did the testing.”

Kegan smiled.  “You’re still fast on the thinking there,” he said.  “So who was it?”

Asopt started off down the street.  “I’ll tell you after you help me with a job I need to do.  It won’t take more than an hour.”

Kegan groaned, but began to follow.  “Why can’t you just tell me now?”

“Now who is asking all the questions?” asked Asopt.

Kegan had to practically run because of the length of his legs to catch up to Asopt.  “What is the job?” he panted.

“We are going to see a man about a horse,” Asopt replied.

Kegan groaned for the second time.  “I told Sariah she always brought trouble with her.”  That elicited a laugh of joy from Asopt.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Sariah slipped out of the shop early, feeling apprehensive.  She had worked for King Georde many times, but she always had used Tomais as her fixer, her go between.  That allowed the king a bit of protection should things go bad.  It also benefitted Sariah since she did not have her face associated with the king.  That was what really bothered her so much about the attack last night.  She didn’t want to worry Kegan, but very few people really knew what she did.  She had some public scraps, but they could be attributed to her fighting skill.  The more people who knew her directly, the more problems she would have.

That brought back the picture of her house fully engulfed in flames.  That is why Sariah usually used a fixer.  Now she had nothing to hide.  If someone killed her they would be putting her out of her misery.  Until that time she was going to make sure she handed that misery out with a generous extra helping of mayhem.

Space was at a premium in Ferngreen, so very little of it was wasted.  Because of this small shops backed up to the castle on three sides, leaving the south side that faced the lake free for kingly views.  Sariah walked past that view and headed to the east wall.  There she ducked into a small cobbler shop that seemed a bit down on its luck.  The bell tinkled as the door opened.  Sariah was almost blinded coming into the shop.  The amount of light coming from the multitude of gas lamps left no shadows at all.

Sariah nodded at the mountain of a man cobbler.  The man was working on a dainty boot with his huge hands, but his dexterity was amazing.  Small taps from his hammer placed the tacks perfectly as he shaped the boot.  Sariah loved seeing such craftsmanship.  She picked up a pair of light military boots.  The bottoms were supple, but had a real toughness to them.  She brought them over to the cobbler and waited while he finished attaching the sole of the boot he was working on.

Once the man was done, Sariah showed him the boots she was holding.  “How much for these in my size?” she asked as she lifted her foot.

The cobbler glanced down at her foot then looked at the boots.  “Eighty-five lumbics,” he replied.  “It will take me five weeks at least.  You show up on week four for a fitting.  Sixty lumbics now, twenty five on delivery.”

Sariah put the boots down and pulled out her sack from underneath her tunic.  She fished inside for a moment before pulling out her mark.  The cobbler’s eyes widened a bit, then went cold.  “Why did you waste my time then?” he asked her.

“I still want the boots,” she said pulling out the full eighty-five lumbics.  “I wanted you to know why I am giving you the money up front.”  Sariah left the money and the boots next to the cobbler as she moved past him toward the back room.  “Hopefully I’ll be back in four weeks for my fitting.”

“If not they will look great on your corpse,” the cobbler replied.  That brought back the grim smile to Sariah’s face.

The door to the backroom was a tight squeeze, forcing Sariah to move almost sidewise to get through.  The backroom was darker than the front making Sariah pause for a moment to let her eyes adjust.  The backroom was a bit crowded with boots and four armed guards with crossbows pointed at Sariah.  They were spread around the outside wall, no one in the shooting path of another, and no way to take them all out at once.  They did take their back door security seriously here in Ferngreen.  She noticed that the bolts all had a discoloration on the tips.  “Watch were you point those things.  Someone might get killed,” said Sariah, displaying in her hands in a non-threatening way, making sure her mark could be seen by the four guards.

A fifth guard came from behind a stack of boots to Sariah’s right.  She noted two more places there could be people hiding.  Yep, they took security very seriously.

The newly revealed guard took the mark and did something to hit.  The mark glowed for a moment then dimmed down.  “She can pass,” said the guard holding the mark.  “Follow me.”  He gave Sariah back the mark and proceeded to lead her to the back of the shop.  The four crossbow wielding guards never took their aim off of her.  The guard leading her paused in front of the two doors at the back of the room.  The guard opened the left door revealing a closet.  “All weapons are to be left here.  You will be checked thoroughly before proceeding.”

Sariah took off her sword and pulled out various knives hidden on her body and placed them in the closet.  “Do I get dinner after you are done?” she asked when she was done.

The guard did not answer, but he closed the left door and opened the right door.  Something small flew out from behind the door, but Sariah didn’t worry about that because a monster of a dog came leaping out at her.  She dropped into a fighting stance, but the dog pulled up short.  “What was that?” she asked, then she felt the prickle of a touch of magic from behind her.  It was a gift and something she told no one about.  She turned slowly and saw that the small flying thing was a mayna bird.  They were a semi-intelligent bird that had a talent for magically detecting hunting implements.  The mayna flew back into the corridor and the dog grinned and followed it.  Sariah swore and looked at her escort.  “Are we done playing games?” she asked.

“I am, but I am sure you are not,” he said and he entered the door.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 6

Kegan dropped the crossbar down locking the door.  “That should keep us safe till morning,” Kegan said.  “I’ll sleep on the waiting couch and leave you the spare bed in the back.”

Sariah laughed.  “Decided it was too risky to walk to your new bed?” she asked.

“No, you were right,” said Kegan.  “If they wanted to kill us they would have.  That means they were testing us.  I am testy enough now to take any more tests tonight.”  He opened a small locker and took out a flask of amber liquid and two crystal glasses.  He filled them both and handed one to Sariah.

“Any more ideas on who was behind this?” asked Sariah.  She swirled her glass a bit and breathed in the aroma.  “This is quite the brandy.”

Kegan lifted his left eyebrow in surprise.  “Good nose,” he said.  “It was magically aged for two hundred years in sentient oak.  I keep it to help customers loosen up their wallets.”  Kegan took a large swig and held it in his mouth for a moment, savoring the taste before swallowing it.  “I love this stuff.  I just wish it wasn’t such a kick in the wallet.”

Sariah sipped hers, liking the way the brandy played across her tongue.  There were hints of oak and a sweetness that played well with the alcohol.  When she swallowed the taste lingered on her tongue, playing games with her taste buds.

Kegan refilled his glass and continued, “I was thinking that whoever it was has a good sized group of people to draw from, or money to blow, or both.  They must have been pretty sure we would wipe the floor with the ground crew and wanted to make sure if when we won the power would stay anonymous for now.”

“For now?” Sariah asked.

“It was a test.  If we failed we would be dead.  Since we passed I’m sure we’ll be contacted for a job soon,” Kegan replied.

Sariah took another sip and savored the flavor.  She shook her head and said, “I hate being blind in these things.  That’s why I’m my own fixer now.”  That got both eyebrows raised from Kegan.  Sariah held up her hand.  “I’m not going into it right now, but let’s say Tomias and I didn’t agree to come out of retirement together.  He lost his head about it and I left him behind.”  Sariah could tell that Kegan wanted more, but he showed his patience as she continued.  “I need to know more before we’re contacted.  I can’t negotiate blind.”  She took in another sip of this wonderful spirit.

Kegan pointed at her.  “You know what,” he said, “I know of one way to find out, your old apprentice,  Asopt.”

Sariah spit that wonderful spirit right out of her mouth.  “Asopt?” she asked.  “He was never my apprentice.  I never took him on.”

“Hey, remember this stuff is ridiculously expensive.  For intake only,” Kegan said.

Sariah ignored the remark.  “I can’t believe he thought that I…  Oh that little…”  Sariah’s glass was moving in larger and larger arcs as Sariah became more and more agitated.  The liquid looked for an avenue to escape.

Kegan wiggled his fingers and the glass flew from Sariah’s hand and landed on the counter.  “Hey, why did you do that?” Sariah asked.

Kegan opened up the bottle and filled both glasses before putting the bottle away.  “I wanted to fill it up and calm you down.  Whether he was your apprentice or just claims it, he is the most connected person in this city, besides the Minister of Lies whoever he is.”  He gave Sariah back her glass.

Sariah took a small gulp of the brandy.  “I don’t want him knowing I’m in town,” she said.  “He was like a puppy.  I couldn’t get him to leave me alone.  Tomias thought it was cute and encouraged the kid.”

“That puppy has grown into a pit dog with plenty of teeth,” Kegan said.  “He still works for Gordo, but runs a network twice as big as Gordo’s.  Honestly I don’t know why he doesn’t just go out on his own.”

Sariah finished her glass with another gulp.  “Because he never wants to be that responsible.  It is all about Asopt all the time.”

“I’m going to talk to him in the morning.  See what he says,” Kegan said.

Sariah noticed what she had done and regretted not enjoying the brandy more.  She stared at the glass mourning her loss.  “Fine, you keep me out of it though.  I’m going to get an audience with the king.”

“You want to stay unknown, but you are going to see the king.”  Kegan pulled back out the bottle and gave Sariah one more refill.

Sariah raised her glass to toast her host.  “I have a get in without being seen card.”

Kegan tapped her glass with his.  “But someone already knows you are here.  Remember that.”

“No, they better remember,” said Sariah as she watched the amber fluid dance in her glass.

Sariah’s Story Chapter 5

Kegan caught up to Sariah as she was half way back to the Purple Feather.  “Do you know how hard that was to explain away?” he gasped.  “I had to pay double to make things nice with the owner.”

Sariah kept walking, but she did slow up some to help Kegan keep up.  “Why didn’t you just kick up the charm?” Sariah asked.

“Too many people, which would cause too many questions,” Kegan answered.  “But you knew that.  That’s why you left so quickly.”

Sariah let out a hint of a smile.  “I don’t live here.  I don’t mind leaving questions,” she said.

“Very funny,” Kegan continued.  “Oh, and I can still move in with Wyndia, thank you very much.”

“See, you didn’t need to pump her full of magic,” Sariah said.  “I approve of the two of you now.”

“You approve?” Kegan asked.  Kegan looked around at the nearly empty street.  He adjusted the tone of his voice to being much more serious.  “Really?  There are times I am jealous of your marks.”

That brought Sariah up short.  She stopped and stooped down to look Kegan straight in the eye.  “Why would that be?” she asked.

Kegan didn’t blink.  His voice got even harder.  “They meet you once, then they are off to meet eternity.  Me, I have to put up with you for what seems to be the same amount of time, but with no chance of paradise.”

Sariah reached for her sword and eased it a bit out of its sheath.  “That can be arranged,” she said.  “Want to test your luck?  I figure you’re being outfitted for an eternity of short jokes from giant women.”

Kegan pulled out a thin cherry switch.  “Is that the best you can come up with?” Kegan asked.  “Turn around and I’ll hit that behind so hard they won’t know what hit them.”

Sariah smiled.  “They?”

Kegan shrugged.  “Doesn’t matter.  Now!”

Kegan spun around and blowing lines of force shot from the switch hitting three people that had been following Kegan from the Water Buffalo.  It wasn’t enough to knock them down, but it slowed them and caused one to fumble the blackjack he had been carrying.

Sariah spun, pulling her sword free and surprising the fourth attacker who was about to stab Sariah with his dagger.  The weapon clanged to the ground as Sariah finished the job, making the dagger an orphan.  The fifth and sixth attacker flung their daggers at Sariah and pulled their own swords.  Sariah parried the daggers and ran at the two before they could bring their swords to bear.  The two were trained well.  They separated and forced Sariah to back away to keep them both in front of her.

Kegan was retreating as well.  The three attackers he had slowed down were also spreading out, not allowing him a chance to do more than hurl mini missiles of fire to keep them from just rushing in at once.

Soon Sariah and Kegan were next to each other, their back to a wall, and all five of their remaining attackers confidently, but slowly closing in.  Sariah said, “Okay, you can go home now boys by just telling us who sent you.”

That earned a low chuckle from the attackers.  “I would listen to the lad,” Kegan said.  The attackers glanced at each other and came another step closer.  Kegan cast a quick glance at Sariah.  “I don’t think they are in the mood to talk,”

“That’s fine,” Sariah replied.  “They can send a massage to their boss with their bodies.”

Sariah then took a step forward and took out the two who had been attacking her with three quick strokes.  As the other two tried to react, Kegan force blasted the knees of another two, crippling them and sending them to the ground.    The last remaining attacker tried to turn to run, but Sariah sliced both of his Achilles with one stroke, sending him face down on the cobblestone.  Sariah stepped on one of the destroyed knees causing a cry of pain.  “Who sent you?” she asked.

An arrow flew out of the darkness and took the attacker Sariah was standing on in the throat.  Sariah ducked into as much shadow as she could find, while Kegan called up a force wall around himself.  Two more arrows found homes in the throats of the remaining attackers.

Sariah pointed in the direction of where the arrows had come from.  “There!”

Kegan shook his head.  “So?  What do you want me to do about it?”

“You’re the mage.  Cast a spell,” Sariah said.

“I did,” he said.  “It’s called force wall and I am safe behind it.”

Sariah picked up a stone and chucked it at Kegan.  It bounced off.   “Hey,” Kegan yelled, “Why did you do that?”

Sariah stood up and walked out into the open.  She said, “Wanted to see if you were lying or not.”

“Get back here.  I can put it around you as well,” Kegan said.

Sariah shook her head.  “No need.”  She kicked the arrow through the throat of the attacker she had lamed.  “Whoever did this is gone.  They could have killed us before we could have reacted.  They didn’t want us to know who or why they were testing us.”

Kegan kept the force wall up, but he moved away from the wall behind him.  He pointed to the dead men.  “I think they failed.  We didn’t even breathe hard.”

“Agreed,” Sariah said.  There was the sound of police whistles in the background.  “We better get out of here.  I don’t want to have to answer questions.”

Kegan finally dropped his wall.  “Yeah, but questions is all we’ve got right now.”