Daeseraya said i should tell at least some of this to someone else. Not sure why he was so insistent, it isn’t like writing it down will change anything or help anyone, but he won’t let it go until I do, so I guess I should start off with Ayehi, I’m Daisy Le Fey. That last part isn’t because anyone I know or came from was named Le Fey, it is because my dad was out of the Skydancer Commune in Lyonese, and my mom’s home base was Sibola when she wasn’t out on the seven seas, and there in Sibola there’s a law that says all of us halflings with elfin parents have to be named Le Fey because people seem to think we have the same problems the elfin folks do. Kinda why I moved to Durango, in a way.
I can say that at no time in my life has my temper ever gotten out of hand, and I can say that where others might not, since I’m a Reeve and I work for the Agency. I know, I know, not exactly a glamorous job for real, but folks like to make out like we are all some kind of special badass. One woman armies able to take on two dozen men and win the day. All I’m gonna say to that is if I could actually do that, I would have gone into the Grand Games. Definitely pays better.
So, this is it. Top floor of three, and it ain’t much, but it is home. The fireplace doesn’t always get clogged up and send smoke from below into the place, and i at least have a window that looks out on a street instead of the courtyard. I do not need to see old lady mellin’s backside while she bakes bread every day. I get teased down at the office for having a decent spread of my own, but she’s like three of me in every direction, and Ogres seem to me to be more a danger than some half breed Elf.
The smell isn’t too bad, either — those cesspit laws are kinda important, and the dungsweeps are better here than some of the richer areas. Day’s pretty big on personally enforcing those. I tend to be more about the rougheer stuff. Though with more and more of those carriages around, I think we’ll see fewer and fewer of the horses that keep the sweepers busy. Not too much, mind you, the cost of a horse still isn’t close to the cost of one of those magical contraptions.
You can sit down over there. Yep, I got two chairs. came from my mom. She said they are real Teakwood, made in Aztlan, and took two months of her personal storage space to ship the here after winning them in a card game. The cushions are newer — I sewed them and stuffed them with some wool i got cheap out by one of the villages. Comfy, right?
Let me get out of this armor and into something a bit lighter. Oh, and don’t touch the blades. I am still working on those. Relics of my adventuring days, short as they were. Water’s inthe pitcher there — jene brings it up three times a day, and she should be here with my bread for the day in a bit.
That? I used to track my travels, when I was a lot less busy. So I made maps. Back when I was a member of the adventurer’s guild, i would get asked to join groups because I could make a map. Nothing fancy. No, really — the Palace has some mapmakers that are more artist than anything. You can see the edge of the Journey Tower from my window if you lean far enough out.
THere, that’s better. ok, so, where should I start? Well, I suppose it was the day that I cam across a couple of the Skythe syndicate’s boys dumping a body in the cess pit over by Quarterrun and Hostel. I knew one of them, a nervous one that has a face like a moll after a bad date named Helkin. I had crossed with him three, four years back as a new Reeve, and was a lot more forgiving then. You know, that thing about us being the judge, jury, and executioner is real, right? There’s only five of us for all of Durango, though, and we don’t do regular crimes like the watch does.
No, our charge comes from the Agency, and we have to follow the Old Laws, all thirty something of them. One of which is killing, of course, and so I took a moment and asked these boys if they might maybe have been the reason the people became corpses that they were dumping. I was nice about it. Leaned against the gate post and smiled, arms crossed, all non-threatening.
Now, I know I am all of five and half feet, and l look more like a Syndic’s Moll than a Reeve, but I wear the star tabard, and I earned my way in just like all the others. I keep my pretty face by being good enough to do so. These two mokes were not good enough to do that, and seeing me the big one asked what business it was of mine.
“Darse, she’s a Reeve.” said Helkin, all bard whisper like he was on some stage.
“Don’t look like no Reeve to me, Helkin.” Now, I feel pretty sure that Darse was at least some kinda Ogre, but he didn’t have that green skin or eyes or hair you see them with, not even a hint, so I guess he was just grown extra big. Had at least a hundred pounds and a good foot on me. Strong Imperial stock, not like my thalassen.
But I am half elfin, and I got a bit more oomph than it looks and a lot more dance than people think, and while it took a couple minutes, he was a head shorter and half as handsy, and sweet Helkin was looking at having part of his sentence being moving the oaf. The rest, I explained, was going to involve throwing himself in the pit, and saving me the paperwork, or talking to the Watch, and we all know what Syndic Skythe would think of that.
Either way, he was a dead man and I wouldn’t have to wash more off my armor. Custom stuff. Bought it with some funds from a find in a village out near Antilia. Fandelver or something. Mining place near Arendale. Sorry, sidetracked. I just am really proud of that armor.
Now, Helkin, he wasn’t real keen on his options and suggested maybe I take a look at who he and his buddy had been tossing, while swearing that while sure, the big guy had been involved int he killing, he was just a small time hoodlum, and only got the dirt jobs. At least, ever since he was busted by yours truly.
Given I’d had a talk with Syndic Skythe late one night after that event, I was inclined to believe him. A girl can’t jump to too many conclusions, but sometimes they are more a hop or a skip than a jump, and this was an easy one. Especially since I could pay another visit to Garik, the Syndic Skythe. He still hadn’t put in wards like i told him to do.
The first one I got a good look at — the corpses, I mean, the bodies — changed a lot of my thinking right away. She was Debora Silvaretti. An Envoy working for both the Durango branch of House Ford and the Ford Syndicate. Good work if you can get it, though the two branches don’t always see eye to eye. Except on the carriages, of course.
Ol’ Deb was an operator. Envoys aren’t to be messed with, not with them turning to shadow and being known more as assassins than diplomats, and I had worked with Deb a time or two back during those Syndic Wars in the south ward.She’d been gutted like a fish, and her face was still stuck in a scream, so I knew it had to have happened fast.
That big guy might have been something, but neither he nor Helkin could ever have taken on Deb. Hell, I’m not sure I could, even with another Reeve as backup, and I get called in to help with them.
“Darse said it was a devil what did it. All seven of them. And Garik, him was bossing it.”
Now see, back when, I trained with a Paladin who served Antelle.No, I ain’t cut out for being a paladin, though he sure thought so. I’m just a simple girl, and while I didn’t apprentice him, I paid attention, because if you ever have to fight a demon or devil, you want a paladin. They got things they can do for that. I was more a wanderer sort, and fell in with a bunch of secretive folks. What did I do? I was a Messenger. Nomad subguild. Yeah, the weird ones. IS why I quit and became a Reeve instead after a few years. But I can still get a message from one place to another, and damn all that lies between.
Problem is, Devil’s are already damned, and I only had theory about infernal denizens.
“You see it?” I asked. He shook his greasy head, and turned over a few more. ” You already toss the guts?”
“No, Ma’am,” he said nearly pissing himself. At least, I think that’s what he was doing, given how he was shaking. It wasn’t that cold. The cess pit had barely begun to ice back up. And while he didn’t do much, he did exercise a little in trying to shorten my lifetime. “They says the Devil ate them.”
That fit. Devils tended to be fond of flesh. Demons of everything but. “You know they’ll feed you to it if you go back, right? Loose ends are not a specialty of Skythe.”
helkin had not realized that, and explained such under his breath at length. I let him get it out of his blood until he looked back at me, head canted down and to the side.
“There ain’t no way out, is there?”
I’ve seen a lot of folks who have lost things, Tawmis. Lives, jobs, kids, spouses, hopes, dreams. I was taught that loss leads to grief, that grief leads to the discord, that sets one outside the harmony. yeah, the Nomads messed me up. You’d think they were Bards the way they carry on about music stuff. “Music of the spheres”, my left tit.
The rarest kind of loss is everything. That moment when someone who has spent their entire life thinking there is always a way, always an angle, always a chance, always a co or a job oor that last break that you just no is coming around the corner. The loss of optimism. Helkin’s face just went gray and the spark in the deepest part of his eyes went out. Kicked puppies got more spunk than he had right then. He told a story without moving or speaking, a tale of someone who the world had just swallowed, folded, spindled, and mutilated before crapping them back out again to start once more, like giving a pat on the head.
I knew that look. It was why I left. Why I became a Reeve.
I should have just cut him down then. Or been merciful and turned him over to the watch. I knew that anything else was passing a problem on down the line to another day and another person because Helkin wasn’t the type to stop breaking the law. But the law works for everyone, including him, and in that moment, I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to do my job right.
“There’s another way. But there is a price you’ll have to pay.”
“If it ain’t my life, it’s worth it.” Smart words. Most valuable thing you have is your life.
“You’ll have to never break the law again. Go honest.”
“It ain’t like breaking them ever done me much good given where I am, huh?”
I shook my head and agreed privately, then dug a Sovereign out of my purse and held it up. “This will get you on a ship tonight if you go to pier seven and ask at The Momma Duck and say you are a duckling. There will be enough left over for you to pay your guildwage and escrow wherever they take you. You’ll have to learn a trade.”
“My poppa was a mason. I guess I still member some.” His eyes started to shine again.
“If I give this to you, and I see you in Durango ever again, and I will be looking, I will kill you on sight.” I flipped it at him.
It was just a spark, not a light, after all, but it was enough to get him scrambling over the bodies and out the gate and he even went the right direction.
Sometimes all you need to do is give someone a chance no one else ever gave them. That one gold coin was worth two years of apprenticeship for him.
I’m an incarnate, you see. I was still born here and all that, but my soul, my self, the stuff that makes me me — all of that came from a different world, and one that is outside the Cycle. I had been a man there, a janitor, and I died one day and woke up a baby girl that could remember all her life before. Still have them, but I grew up here and I’ve been living here thirty some odd years and this ain’t anything like where I was before.
No one ever gave that chance to me back then. In another life.
I looked down at the bodies and knew I was in trouble because all the bodies were movers and shakers in the Ford Syndic and House, and one of them was a ringer for a Reeve I had known when I was training up. Kemet wasn’t the worst by any means, but he wanted to do the dirtiest work, the sneaky stuff, and if he was who I stared intot he old, dead eyes of, then we had a bigger problem than I could handle by myself.
The Devil had come to Durango, and he was planning on fighting the Law.
Too bad I didn’t have beginner’s luck…
Dayesera is the Marshal for all of Durango, and if’n ya ask me, he’s got the worst posting one can get. But it runs in his family, including my bestie who tells me I have to tell you all of this.
Dead people are important, Don’t let anyone try and tell you they aren’t when we have statues and steles raised to them and folks still spend a dozen pence to pay for the funeral rites from some Shrineward or Cleric. What they can be said about, however, is they can wait. They are dead, and afte getting the watch over to haul the bodies out of the space around the cesspit, I headed over to the office.
We don’t get a barracks, don’t have much pay, even if it is better than most, and we don’t have to put up with much — those are the benefits. The downside is that the office is a room big enough for seven desks, five holding cells, three chairs, and I always want to mention the parrot in the dead tee that sits next to Nala’s desk. I always thought that Hyborians were savage animals, but having a Panther work with you — and one that is shorter than you are by a foot — has taught me a lot about them. Nothing about why a full grown Panther Therian would keep a pet Parrot, but among the things I have learned are you never pat them on the head, you never call them cute, and you never think of them as any less civilized.
Also, they make these weird flatbreads that are amazing in curry. And there’s Jene with the fresh pitcher and the bread. I can send her out for something from one of the stalls int he market if you’d like, This is going to take a bit. Okay, preferences? Oh, that sounds good. One moment.
I might give the old lady a ration for butt crack, but she does make damn fine bread, and she only takes two bits for it. Butter’s in the counter crock. We’ll have some of that derby wine later. So, where was I? Oh, yeah, the office.
I snagged a chair from behind Nala’s desk and dragged it to my own, then stared filling out the paperwork that seems to be our reason for living in the Reeves. I am an honest Reeve, and included the bit about Helkin in it. Might seem strange that we have to write everything down every day. It isn’t like anyone reads it — except that I was there when an Auditor came through, and that weird old dude did in fact read everything. Seven years worth of stuff in like one day, ad then he asked questions of everyone about all of it for the rest of the week before he poof up and vanished. I think the real folks who watch the Agency are the Powers. Ever wonder why you never hear about what happens to Reeves who go bad?
No, no, there are plenty of bad Reeves. Most just don’t last after an Auditor comes through. They vanish. Preston Kant was a bad Reeve. Let the power go to his head and tried a graft operation and there he was all high and mighty on Hearth Day and Faith day he’s nowhere. So I do my reports and I do them right. I’ve been a Reeve for five years now. Adventurer for five years before that. And I apprenticed as a Messenger. Not bad for a thirty year old, huh? My Mom spent thirty years on her boats, could track a river or coastline by the smell of the air. I spent most of my younger days on the water with her, and I have to say that the old shack we had for during the worst of the winter when we got stuck without a load was still a damn sight better than that office is. You’ve seen it. Just boards put up on a frame. Hot as hell in summer, cold as the abyss in winter, and if they stop the wind at all, I can’t tell.
But I did my report, and then I waxed it and set it on Day’s desk, and then went home.
I got to the second floor landing, the one right out there, when the first guy came at me. I admit, I wasn’t thinking right, my head still in the report, and I should have been thinking about what it all meant. I had word that a Syndic was ruining a Devil and i had taken out two of his guys and Garik and I already had a history. I don’t think Helkin ratted me out, I think there was supposed to be another member of that crew and I missed him and set myself up for a chance run in with Garik’s response to my suggestion of improving his security.
On the other hand, the smart move would have been to wait for me in here. There’s no locks. I’ve got a ward ont he chest and stuff, but otherwise, this is where I would have been most relaxed, even if I wasn’t expecting things.
I took a good hit or two before I was able to turn the tide. There were five of them, and they pushed me back down to the first landing , leaving two of their team smoking to do it, and by then I was pretty much done with this and flung the others up and over my head. Tuckered me out, but if there is one thing being a messenger does for you, it is that you learn how to get out of tight spots. I broke a knife, though. That’s why it’s on the bench over there. Had it reforged, but now I have to do a few things, like getting a greenschine crystal for it.
I’m proud of not having to use those old skills as a messenger, though. It was only five guys and that narrow staircase. I should have done better, and even if I was bleeding, I could have drawn them out into the street. At least, that’s what I thought I could have done, but it turns out that was the plan all along, as I found out when I rushed the bunch of them in a rage, lightning crackling around me.
Yeah, I got some magic. Ain’t like the Witches or Wizards, but it does me a spell in those tight places. I was doing my little dance ad shouting my invocation and I stepped into the main entry to let loose a bit of thunder and like every fool who ever walked into a trap I had a moment to notice the carriage parked out front with crossbows sticking out the windows before lights out from the side. I was so caught up in the spell that I didn’t catch the movement out of the corner of my eye. Choked me out, the spell fizzled, and i was out for the night a bit early, with no real reason to think I was going to wake up on this world again. I figured I was bound for the Cycle for sure. Given the way I did this life, I figure Perdition, maybe Limbo.
You can imagine my thoughts when I woke up and saw a bit of Hell.
You know the butcheries on the edge of the city? No? Well, this is Durango. We are the pig chopping up capital of the world, right here, and they kill so many pigs in a week there that they have barrels of pig blood. Just stacked up. Some they ship off to Akadia for the Mages, but most of it is just going to go into fertilizer for the fields to grow the stuff that they feed the pigs anyway. And let me tell you, it stinks. I fought in a pitched battle against goblins, and the smell was infinitely preferable. It is why I hate going there. Nala doesn’t mind, so she does a lot of tours through there, since the Guild house is there and we think the GUild Lord is forgetting the difference between people and pigs when it comes to how he treats them.
Well, I should say I used to hate it, but what woke me up was far, far worse. I was upside down, my head just beneath the ceiling of a large room with no door, just a big ole round hole in the top that I was being lowered into. That room was painted with offal and blood and people dung and I was pretty sure that I was going to be adding to that mess. People dead stink. People dead for a while plus the body odor of a Devil is why I vomited and some of it went in my nose.
Upside down, you see. Wasn’t sure if drowning in my own puke or the devil would be worse. I was trussed like an Imp prize, of course, but they hadn’t gagged me and I could still hear fine, so hearing roaring laughter from the direction of my feet was a bit unnerving. And really bad for my rep as a badass Reeve and all that.
“Why hello again, Daisy. Such a lovely flower to have delivered to me. Boys, you shouldn’t have.”
Garik was not known for bringing in the sharpest knives. “Uh, Boss, but you said…”
“I know what I said!” Garik shouted before making a visible effort to calm himself down. I zeroed in on the dark spot his voice was coming from.
“Well, I suppose this is one way to get my attention, Syndic. Not that you needed to. I was planning on coming to you soon anyway.” I doubt that the words had the effect I had hoped for, what with puke runnign down my face and getting in my hair, and a softly chuckling devil somewhere beneath that.
At least he found it funny. And it was a he, no doubt. Lady devils don’t have a voice like the pit. They sound more like a screeching banshee. Told you I paid attention.
“I am afraid this is the sum total of our time together, You have other matters you will be attended to shortly.”
“What, you mean the scary guy in the dark hole that can’t leave a little circle you put him in?” I really tried to sound nonchalant. “Meh. I’m not a Marshall yet, but I’m in line.” That was a total lie. But he didn’t know that.
Marshall’s are like Reeves on Ambrosia. Possibly literally. I once watched Day lift a horse in a sling by himself. How does one get that strong? I have to work out every night for two hours just to be able to lift a mark and a half. A typical horse is almost ten marks.
“Your banter is much better this time, Daisy.” The way he said my name made me think he stomped on flowers for happy.
“I don’t usually banter when I have a knife to a man’s balls, Garik. What do you want?”
“Your head on a pike.”
“Granted.” Said the sepulchral voice from beyond my head. I swear, I think he was playing with my ponytail. Batting it back and forth. I could feel it.
“No offense, either of you, but I am sort of attached to it right now. More importantly, you do realize that this will only make things worse for you. A Syndicate killing a Reeve is grounds for erasure of that Syndicate. And Days kinda likes me.”
I was jerked up. And by up, I mean towards my feet. I was getting a little loopy just swinging there. My hair stopped moving on its own.
“They would have to know about you first, Daisy.”
“I stumble across a bunch of corpses and a story about a summoned denizen under the thumb of Skythe Syndicate and you don’t think I wrote that report out before going home? You don’t think that I pointed out how those corpses were Ford peoples, do you?”
Someone moved above me, and past my feet I saw the hook that the rope was run through to suspend me over the pit. I still couldn’t make out face, just shapes, because it was dark and the light was all behind them and to my right. Remember what I told you about Messengers. Well, about Nomads, really. We are good at three things. Getting the package through. Getting out of tight spots. And getting through obstacles if we have a blade we’ve made.
I didn’t have a blade on me, but I had one near me, because I could sense it. And now that I could see the hook, I had one small chance that might not work if I couldn’t maintain the willpower long enough. I had been planning to pull Garik down with me, the noble heroic sacrifice and all, but this was a different chance. Magic requires folks to be able to move and to speak. If they are doing a ritual, they have to have odd materials and other stuff. But Nomads, we use magic a different way. Or at least, some of us do. There are others who do weird stuff without magic. But my kind, the messenger kind, we take our mana and we turn in inwards, and then we let it pass through us into the world around us. Mana is some potent stuff. Most Reeves are former adventurers. because a lot of them learn a thing or two about magic along the way. I don’t like to use it. All those lights and sparkles and flashes and stuff, they annoy me, but there are three things we all learn. The first is to move things with our ind. It had been a long time since I had tried to move something that weighed as much as me. At least they had take that off me when I was out. I am certain it would have been too much, because that stuff is like thirty more pounds, and soaking wet I top out at 140.
What? You think this long ass hair is light? Or these muscles?
I took a deep breath and tuned whatever it was Garik was saying out, centering myself in a way I hadn’t done in half a decade. Big difference between using Move to throw some guys down stairs and using it to move yourself up. But I needed to use that hook as an anchor. Using the Vibe is a humming ting, one that few folks ever realize is going on because to most people it seems to be tuneless. Bards get it, but don’t always know why. It isn’t like a Song, it is more physical, more deep down in your bones, more about the beating of your heart and the rushing of your blood, and mine was all going to the place I used it the least, I guess, because I was in a hole wrapped in rope and Baal was waiting for his personal snack.
Ok, it wasn’t the Prince himself, but its an expression.
And then I started to hum.th Vibe starts deep in the chest, right in the gut, and you bring it up and out until you are moving to the Vibe of the universe or some mystical crap like that. I mean, I know, but then I would have to kill you if I told you and like I said, honest Reeve. Thankfully, Garik and his goons were just droning on about how they were going to still kill me and get away with it because they would be gone or some other kind of thing, but I didn’t care, because I was linking me with the big ass hook in the ceiling joist up thee about fifteen feet away from my feet, and also working on how to get this rope undone or wriggle out. And thankfully, I was managing both. I couldn’t pick a pocket to save a life, but I can bend in ways that hurt to see. Tight spaces.
Something else Vibed.
I paid attention. I really did. But at no time did anyone, anywhere, tell me that Devils could Vibe. I mean, okay, yeah, they are the children of the Powers that Be and all that, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but holy cow, that was so not the right thing, and the bastard denizen was better at it than I was. I got my arms free to the elbows, and that hurt, but I was able to see if they had missed any of the smaller blades, A dagger, maybe. No, but I could touch my butt. And the wall in front of my nose if I bent. But I wasn’t moving up, I was moving down, so slowly, and were the ropes loosening? The Devil was vibing with me and the ropes, I was Vibing with me and the hook, and I needed a distraction. I swear I couldn’t think of anything else.
Please, Tawmis, understand, I didn’t really have a choice. Not if I wanted to live, and I may not have made it clear, but Deb was a friend. I owed her justice.
So I stopped anchoring witht eh hook and snatched one of the goons instead. I am pretty sure he was dead in the first five feet, because I head a bone snap after his head struck a way at an angle, and then he bounced me around as he tumbled bonelessly into the darkness beyond my forehead.
Devils may eat us, but they gain the most from corrupting us. From pushing us into the dark places, from forcing us to do things we would never do because they hurt others, they are evil, malicious. It makes us sweeter. Innocence means nothing to a devil beyond sour milk and spoiled meat, really. And not just us. They get it from hags and wraiths, vampires and trolls, anything that can think and is capable of being corrupted and eaten.
And at that moment, I think I became a bit sweeter, because I pulled that man down. From the sounds that followed, he was plenty sweet already, but that didn’t make my action more bearable. At least, not to me. And as he gave his life for mine, I kept humming and snagged that anchor again, and zoom, up I went before the Syndicate boys even had a chance to get over the guy who “fell” into the hole.
Cups empty? Here, let me show you. Yes, that’s me moving the pitcher, No, I didn’t do a chant and wave my arms around or glow. See? No manifestation. This is still magic — it is like using raw magic. There you go. Moving things outside ourselves is easy, for varying degrees of easy. I mean, if I can lift it, then no biggie, and usually it is easier to get up and do it We all have different levels of mana we can store, anyway, and I am not that great at it, so I tire easily. Heavier things ar suppos3d to be just as easy in theory, but in prac5ice we kinda get in in our own way. So, yeah, hader. But above and beyond that, there is moving ourselves. TO move things, we need to become one with them, and so it is hard to do things to ourselves. I mean, I can do it, but the Masters? Hell, they can move entire ships and give themselves an extra boost. I can do it too, and often do, like jumping down from a roof or up a story. If I get about seven feet of lift, a Grand Master can get about twenty.
I burned through a lot of mana right then. As I swung out over the floor, the ropes coming loose, and dropped into a crouch, I was wobbly and seeing double, seriously fatigued fro just that, but I was also facing Garik and some of his guys, and my weapons were on the other side of the room.
I called one of my knives. I use big knives, you noticed. Trickier than a short sword, not as long, but pretty much the same kind of movement. My preferred is two knives. Here, let me show you.
This is a Doradan Bowan knife. Sixteen inches long, single edged, serration on the back side, broad blade, thick and sturdy. My Mom said that this was how I got made, because she and my dad met at an inn and talked about their knives. Really.
But this is a special knife. It has a crystal deep in the hilt. Now, watch. Cool, huh? It is a manifestation of my willpower and my mana. takes a bit of time, but I can cut through bone, stone, and wood with it. Masters can cut through metal. Takes more mana, though. Mine include a good chunk of orikal in the alloy, so I can store up mana in them. Anyway, so I pulled my knife to me just I like i did that one, and I wrapped it, and I knew I was going to have to get out of there fast, because I was about to pass out from using too much mana. Having been unconscious I didn’t have any spells in my head, and Vibing ain’t exactly low on power use, so I was in a world of hurt, and I think that’s enough for tonight.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you how I got out of there.
Oh, hey, I see you came with some friends. Yay.
Look, you are all welcome, and I know it is crowded, but I will get some vittles sent on up. Heh. Vittles. I do love that word. They use it all the time in Dorado, which is probably as far from here as one can get — but it is on the road to antilia and everyone should sail the sand sea at east once.
So, ayehe! I’m Daisy, and Tawmis here was suffering through me rambling on about the Devil in Durango, and I guess he caught the rest of y’all up, so here we go. I had just managed to pull myself up out of a tight spot, and was reeling on the edge, and there were about seven guys between me and the door and only about two were not directly reminiscent of a large mountain.
So it was a big mountain range I was facing, and all I had was a little bit of magic left, a knife that was giving me enough extra for maybe two spells I was busy trying to form in my head (because smarty pants me, I carved them into the knife so I could memorize them) and really, I was about to hit the floor. Immediately whereafter I would be dropped down intot he hole in said floor to face the aforementioned devil.
We were all staring at each other for a moment. Total silence. I am certain that my face was twisted as I did my best to wrap my brain around the spell on the blade, and the mokes were all lined up with variations on the theme of “what just happened” but with a third the vocabulary on their faces. ANd then two things happened at once.
The first one I choose because I could see it. Up from the hole in the floor pops a silver platter, which clattered on the floor in front of the Syndic, followed by a head that lands perfectly on it, although on the ear, the face set in a winking leer.
The second I couldn’t see, but I did catch the top of two very pale ears, and a growly little sound of fine humor that had me feeling like I was not going to die here tonight.
“So I take it you did forget we were taking BB out tonight? Decided to play with some new friends, and didn’t invite us? I mean, what are two gals gonna do when their plans are wrecked by by some insistent men bundling you into a car?”
I swear, Nala is easily the scariest woman I have ever known, and I am said to be at least a little scary myself. But when Nala uses that tone of voice, and while I couldn’t see her I could just see her in my mind shaking her head and looking around with an air of disappointment. And if she had BB, well, that just meant she was planning on something energetic, likely violent, and potentially illegal.
Which at that moment, sounded exactly like rescuing my damn fool hind end. The Syndic meeped. Then scrambled to a corner while screaming the usual “get them” or “kill them” or whatever it is they say at those moments when they still think they are going to make it out alive and have extra flesh to throw at the problem, and I finally got a glimpse of my work bestie.
Panther Therians are the type of folks who will make you regret everything bad you ever said about cats.
She might have been under four feet tall, but those four feet were well muscled, finely honed, and this was a gal who spent her childhood hunting herd animals so she could eat dinner. Without any more weapons than she was born with. She had learned a lot since then. Despite the historic competitive rivalry that existed among the assorted tribes of therains, she had even gone a few steps further — not only did she leave the lands of her birth, she made freinds with someone who certainly needed at least one.
And for once, I am not talking about me. BB is what we called her. Her name is Fiousker. Jīl Fiousker. I have never met anyone who actually called her that, though. Everyone always just calls her BB.
BB has a reputation. BB is who you hire when you need trouble caused. She is tiny. Her ears are the only thing over four feet in height, and they need the rest of her to do it. She’s a Swift clan member, and she is quick in most things, but she likes to take her time with the ones she enjoys the most, and sadly a lot of that is why folks like myself and Nala end up knowing her. She’s kinda become like a personal side project of Nala’s, a way to save her from herself, maybe — though I am inclined to think that it is more about saving us the headache of trying to keep up with her.
She’s a thief, a con artist, a rabble rouser, a walking human distraction with a penchant for bloodlust that got her kicked out of the Grand games. Twice. Because she didn’t wait to start until she got on the field and in front of an audience.
I know, you are thinking that maybe I should have mentioned I had plans that night. Truth is, I had forgotten My mind was on the case, and things get lost when I go there, and I guess they had seen me get picked up and found me. Given those fancy carriages can move faster than a horse, they must have been working a sweat, and given the state of BB, I was willing to bet they had been slowed a small amount on the way.
But all this stuff happened and gave me a chance to lock into my head the one spell I had access to. I was not a fool.
I cast that spell right away. Simple thing, really, just a sparking bolt, but I do hate the way that magic and I interact. All magic manifests visually, they say.
It was the last mistake I would make on this case, but it certainly wasn’t the first one. I dared it because I had back up, I had my friends, and I was pretty sure they would take care of me.
My bolt hit four, shocking the hell out of them, and as I toppled forward I realized I was probably going to bruise my face and that would suck, but also I caught Nala taking out two below the knees and one below the waist while BB suddenly appeared above their heads and her legs snapped out four times in rapid succession against heads.
and off to the far side, just in sight as I look straight ahead from where I had fallen, a secret door had been left open and the Syndic had escaped.
Oh, it was on now.
It was so on.
And after that was pretty much nothing until I heard some pretty intense whispering and smelled a very familiar scent of tea. Hyborian tea is hard to get, because hyborians are really big on guarding it, and it costs an arm and a leg since they don’t technically farm it. They don’t let anyone else do it, either, and if Hyboria ever falls under the aegis of the Agency, I hiope I am not the one that has to try and stop them from protecting it.
It is a tea that smells like coffee. Tastes better than most, though — it lacks any bitterness, and it is said that it helps clear the mind and sharpen the senses and all that stuff. Just like tea and coffee, but instead of coming from down south around Aztlan and Qivira, it comes from up north, out in the Savage Lands. Big world.
The smell alone had my mouth watering, but the lights were so bright they had my eyes watering as I rolled over and opened them, barely strong enough to try and fail to block the light from getting in my eyes.
“Rawr, girl, drink up and get some sense into you. What were you doing with all those boys?” Nala shoved the mug at me. “I thought you hated going light show in public, and we come around the corner and there you are down the block about to toss off fireworks at a magic carriage of all things.”
“She held me back, or I’da got ya before they lumped ya good.”
“I held you back because if I hadn’t they would have used you as a pin cushion.”
“What’s a pin cushion?”
“A soft thing you stick needles into.”
“Oh, that doesn’t sound so bad. But we did follow them. Well, I did. Took Nala forever to catch.” BB is not all there most days.
Me, I was drinking up a small piece of heaven and feeling my fatigue ratchet back a notch. I sighed. “Thanks, gals.”
Nala shook her head. “You can thank me by pulling my hnd end out of the fire when I need it next. Now, what the hell was going on?”
“Skythe Syndic’s got a pet devil, and was planning on feeding me to him. He’s there, below the floor of that room.”
Nala and BB exchanged glances, and I froze in place. “You cleared the place, right?”
“Well,” BB said, scratching up one long ear. “See, it like this. Afta you went bouncy, and the Syndic got away, we heard the laughing as we were finishing up the messy mess. And Nala here, she was all ‘bad omen’ and we grabbed you and skedaded on out just as the whole place went up in a big ole ball of kerfloom!”
“Kerfloom?” I asked, to be sure.
Nala nodded. Whole building is a crater, and now the Watch is on our case because they think we did something to cause it. Day’s gonna burst his seams.”
“Not if he reads the report. That’s why I forgot about you two.”
“Did you see it?”
“No, but it played with my ponytail. And it almost stopped me from getting free. Just before you showed up, I was in that hole, upside down.”
“He didn’t have it circled.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think so. Not if there was a kerfloom.” I looked at BB, who nodded. “How in the hell does a mid level Syndic get the juice to summon a devil and not have him circled?”
BB frowned and tried to think about it. I’m sure. Nala shook her head. “Over our heads. We’ll have to write more reports, now. BB, can you grab us some food? Good, thanks. Daisy and I will do that boring stuff and after we all eat, I may have you go dig up some rumors. THe street has to be noisy today.”
BB grinned. “That I can do. What do you elfies eat? “
I settled for a pretty standard breakfast, as it was peeking dawn through the window, and Nala and I would have to head into the office soon. I would have to take some time today to memorize spells again, too. I might not like using them, but you don’t go out without all your tools if you can help it. Speaking of…
“Nala, did you get my stuff?”
She winced. “I got the armor, but not all the rest. BB had you, and you were more than big enough for her. I’m sorry.”
I sighed. “That’s ok. At least you saved the armor.”
She chuckled. “You really love that thing, don’t you?” She did a sudden stretch, one of those long, drawn out tins she does that reminds me she’s not a cat, but sure acts a lot like one at times. ” If we get a chance, we’ll see if there’s anything lying around. Wasn’t a syndic House, just a blockhouse that had been left to rot. Come on, catch me up.”
I spent the rest of the morning catching her up on what had happened so far, eating breakfast and hearing about their adventure following and rescuing me, and then heading over to my place to get ready for Day.
He really was going to be mad about this.