Hello, everyone. Tim here.
Today is the beginning release of a new light serial. These won’t be as meaty sections but will come out regularly each Friday for a while. Because this is the first release, there is no previous chapter link.
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Within the circle that protected Kalfar there was one city that commanded true respect and awe, the world over.
Sarsa, the seat of the Lord Executive, ruler of Kalfar. Glorious city, stern line of defense against beings from beyond. This was the richest and proudest of all cities in the near-eastern alliance.
Sarsa, city of countless exiles.
Sarsa should have drawn attention for all kinds of reasons, but there was a side of the city not often discussed on record.
Sarsa, the shadow city, where the desperate and the skillful plied their illegal trades. Darkness under street lamps. Poison in the minds of the high officials. Ice in the veins of the guilty.
That is the Sarsa to be watched.
And that is the Sarsa waiting to be seen.
The streets of Sarsa were dark and dusty as Percy made his way along them. Wind howled from the distant wastelands and brought arid storms to the city. Percy did not give a damn about wind or dust. He looked for the address on the business card tucked up his sleeve.
He looked for the familiar building on Acturehn Street.
The dust did not make his search any easier. He pulled the high collar of his shirt up to his nose. As he pressed on through the night, Percy began to wonder what another member of the crew was up to. He had no way of knowing for certain but guessed Alina would be schmoozing somewhere upscale. Then he remembered it was Saturday, which meant she sang evening prayers with the rest of her choir at the Church of Angels nearby.
Percy’s mouth was dry, and his mind went bitter at the thought of the religious order. All the religious orders bothered him. They wasted time people could better spend on their own lives, and what did they give? Only hope. Considering he had just spent the afternoon at a seance for a demon, the distaste was probably mutual.
Through the dust and darkness, Percy spied his destination. The sign by the door announced 718 Acturehn Street in mostly still-gilded letters. It was a three-story building, the dusk diner, a restaurant that catered to the night-shift. Percy forgot his previous unhappiness. In his own way, he worked a night shift. Stealing things often went better in the dark.
He climbed the ramp to the front doors of Acturehn Street’s dusk diner.
Inside, the place was lit dimly, but there was no dust in the air, just traces of smoke. Grateful for the reprieves from wind and storm, Percy seated himself as a sign suggested. He took a boot on the far side of the room, where it looked as though no one else was eating.
No sooner had he slid into place in front of the table, then a waiter arrived with a menu in one hand and a napkin in the other.
“Good evening,” said the skinny local.
Percy nodded to the waiter. “May I see the special beer list?” The words were the initiation of a secret set of phrases.
“Anything in particular?” asked the waiter.
“Something old. A rare vintage.”
“Of course. Follow me.” The waiter turned and walked to a door near the booth at the back of the room. Percy followed him through and into a dark room beyond. In this room, the smoke hung thick in the air. A coffee table with a couch on either side of it sat under the sole light in the room, a lamp of red and clear crystal hanging from the ceiling.
“Percival.” A local woman smoking a pipe on the far side of the coffee table rose from her couch.
And it was her couch. This woman was Hajur, the owner of the dusk diner, and a reliable fence for stolen goods.
“I heard you had a job,” said Percy, his voice dry.
“Of course, dear boy. But please, sit.” Hajur turned to the waiter. “Get our friend some water. I would not want to be out on a night like this.”
“It’s not pretty out,” Percy said.
Hajur motioned him to a plush seat by one end of the coffee table.
One of the two men seated on the couch opposite Hajur grumbled something in the local language, a language Percy had never been good at understanding, especially when it went muttered.
“Behave yourself, sir,” said Hajur. She wrinkled her nose. “Our game can wait for a moment. You see, it was only three hours ago I put out the word, and already a faithful friend has arrived to assist.”
The waiter placed a glass of ice water on a glass end table beside Percy’s seat, then backed away and returned to the main room.
Hajur smiled with laugh lines. “Percival, I trust. You two, please leave us alone for a moment.”
The belligerent one grunted. But both men rose and left the room after the waiter. Percy did not blame them. Hajur might be a smiling older woman, but she was also a deadly enemy for anyone who lived off the streets or conducted night work in Sarsa.
“Thank you.” He sipped his water. So cold. So good.
“I appreciate punctuality. The work I have for you is quite sensitive. A courier is to deliver a letter to the Jagged Palace tonight. I would like you to intercept that message.”
“Tonight?” Percy frowned. “I don’t know if there’s time.”
“The letter is still being drafted in the Vancaldor estate,” said Hajur.
“The Rogue Hound.” Percy scowled as he remembered the warlord who had dragged him to Sarsa in the first place. “I have unfinished business with him.”
“It should remain so. I do not ask for assassination, only the usual relief of an object from its owner.”
Percy whistled. “Tonight it is. I’ll call the others.”
“See that you do, Percival. The pay will be double your usual rate for this. It is important to me.”
“I understand.” Percy took another sip of water. He relished the opportunity to break Alina from her prayers. The others would be easier to assemble. And tonight, he had a feeling they would all be needed.
His first stop after leaving the dusk diner was the Church of Angels.
Hopefully, things there would go better than they had last time.
The crew assembles… next week. Thanks for reading.
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