I held up a single finger, and smiled at Eddrås. “One. Just one more.”
The older man scoffed. “You always say you only want one more.” He reached beneath the bar and pulled out a decanter of amber liquid. “You still owe me from Rivening night.”
My grin grew wider as he poured. “Surely, you can’t expect me to pay for what you were serving Rivening night?”
“Same stuff you’re drinking this afternoon.”
I nodded thoughtfully. “Excellent. I assume the price will be comparable then.”
Eddrås gave me a rueful grin and turned to the tavern’s other patrons.
Honestly, I hadn’t remembered that I owed him from Rivening, but that was hardly surprising. I rarely stepped into Eddrås’ place, but that night I had gotten completely sloshed. I watched him pour for a couple of men on the far side of the cedar wood bar, and then he stepped back, polishing a glass.
“Where’s your partner?”
I paid him some silver slips. “She’s over on the Hill this afternoon. Gave her the day off.”
He scoffed. “You gave yourself the day off, you mean. You sent your pretty lady on, and came in here to listen to Aija’s stories.”
I sipped the bitter liquid. “I’m not certain what you mean.”
The older man chuckled and leaned across the bar. “Please. At least assume I’m half as intelligent as most of the citizens you serve.”
“I don’t know why I would.” I gave him a grin.
He ignored the jibe. “Come now, Thom Havenkin.” He stressed the ‘Havenkin’ part of my name.
“So I kept my kith name.” I took a sip. Means nothing.”
“You were raised in the Havens, listening to the Cantorès. Every bit o’ learning you have comes from stories.”
“So that’s it? I was an orphan child, so I’ll take time off of my very respectable job, just so as to listen to stories in a dirty hole of a tavern?” I held my empty tumbler up to him. “Your deductive mind is brilliant. The case is cracked. You should quit this petty life and work with me.”
He poured again as I set the tumble down. I could see that he had his next volley ready when Aija walked in.
Eddrås shut his mouth.
“Was I late?” The bright-eyed young woman looked around the room. A good number of people had showed. “My cabman wasn’t as quick as I liked.”
More than a few people gave her good natured assurance and one of them even stood and bowed to her. She blushed. Then, Aija stepped to the bar, where Eddrås had already poured her a mug of soft cider.
“You ready, girl?” Even though his voice was gruff, he gave her a smile. “Folk been waiting.”
She smiled back, and gave him a flash of teeth. “They better be ready.” Then, she downed the cider and set the mug back on the bar. “Right then. To work.”
Aija stepped up to the small stage.
It wasn’t much, of course. Eddrås’ place had never really been much for singers or players. Aija had apparently struck his fancy, however. I had heard her on Rivening night, and when I realized she would be here today, I had made a point to be back.
Her voice had been like burning silver. Like sweet mead.
Eddrås was right. I had a soft spot for a good story, and yes, it was because of the Cantorès. I just couldn’t let him gloat, that was all. I turned my chair towards her, and took the last sip of my whiskey. I set the tumbler down. I held up a single finger, and smiled at Eddrås.
“One. Just one more.”
Aija began to speak.
I need a clean-up team to my current location, Designate. Four targets. Memory modification as a minimum.
I turned and made my way into the conduit.
The moment I stepped through, I felt white light flash in my mind. With one step, I was halfway across the globe.
Michael Bishop. Asset number 108. Welcome to Facility 17.
It was monstrous, easily two arm span taller than she was, with long, gangled arms. It had perhaps been a bear, once upon a time. Today, it was little more than some fell creature that had become entrapped in a gloaming storm, and was now twisted and hollow, mad and lost.
Against it, Sierra stood alone.
Writing tip #6
People hate it when sentences do not end the way they potato.