Hello everyone, Tim here. I’m on vacation right now, so I’ll be ringing in August with my family back east-ish. Anyway, the latest chapter of Invisibles is the last in the first set.
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Now, on to the story.
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.
Alina woke up quickly once the soporifics wore off. She sat up on the couch where she lay and looked around Hajur’s back room meeting place. Smoke and shadows dominated, but she made out the shapes of her fellow thieves on the chairs and couches around her, except for Saint, who would not have fit through the door.
They had all made it out of the score all right.
The room was warm but smelled less of the sweet narcotics she expected, then of… burning paper.
“The letter?” Alina asked.
Hajur grinned and lowered her pipe. In her free hand, she held the burnt edge of a piece of paper. “Disposed of,” she said. “After I read it, of course.”
“You wanted the letter to burn it?” Alina sat up fast, her face hot with temper. “He’ll just write another letter, you know?”
“Calm down, girl,” said Hajur, dropping the remains of the paper to the floor. “This letter was the Rogue Hound’s message to his legitimate leader. As I suspected it was time sensitive. By the time the couriers deliver the second letter, my associates will be long out of danger.”
Alina scowled at Hajur, past Percival, Kelebek, and Martin.
For their part, the other three thieves in the room looked puzzled, but Alina doubted any of them would care once they were paid. But Hajur had made Saint, and Martin who really should care, betray their leader, however nefarious, and that should be worth extra. Alina took a deep breath and explained her opinion to Hajur.
“Correct, indeed, girl.” Hajur took a puff on her pipe. “I will pay them an extra half share each.”
Martin gave a satisfied grunt. “Sounds alright. Now, if I hurry, I should be able to return with the case the letter was in. Get another bonus, maybe.”
“And Saint?” asked Alina.
“I’ll take him his share, and we’ll be on our way together,” Martin said.
Percival and Kelebek glanced at Alina. She nodded. “Alright. Fine.”
Hajur blew smoke from her pipe. “Take your cut, and be grateful, girl. Not everyone gets away so easily.”
She knew what Hajur said was true. As she took her bag of coins while the others took theirs’, she considered saying something else, to clash again with the information thief. Alina thought better of it. She glanced at Percival as they left the dusk diner for the night outside. He pulled his collar up but caught her gaze as he did.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Back there, Hajur only wanted us to delay the Rogue Hound’s message. Why? I don’t believe it’s just her agents getting out of trouble.”
“I don’t know,” he said. And he really did not know. However, his hatred of the Rogue Hound meant he had not questioned the job before. “Anything to slow down the war machines.”
Alina shook her head. “You really hate the hounds, Percival.”
He snorted. “When someone enslaves you for their war, you can tell me how to feel.”
Kelebek clapped them both on the shoulder. “Don’t bicker too loud, you two. There are worse things in the night than hounds and golems.” She slipped between them and headed for her home. The money jingled a little in her pocket, telling her there would be enough to help her sister’s children eat for another week. She hoped Martin did something useful with his share. She could have used the extra coin.
Eventually, she reached her shop. Once inside, she locked the door, and then bolted it. She climbed the stairs to get some rest before morning. But sleep took it’s time to arrive.
Percival and Alina walked side by side in silence for a while. He wanted to apologize but could not seem to find the words. She turned to go to the smaller, local Church of Angels in her neighborhood near Nicodod Ring. Percival started to speak, to say sorry, but she brushed off his words.
“It’s late,” she said. “I was angry too.” She did not sound angry at that moment, but Percival let her go with just a nod of assent.
She knelt down before the altar in the little church with its simple tiled floor and single tower over the sanctuary. She prayed a while, asking for forgiveness for her lifestyle, praying fervently. Eventually, she raised her head and went home to sleep, but she did not feel much better by the time she drifted off.
Percival found his way to the fortune teller who worked near his home in a run-down part of Nicodod Ring. The windows of the fortune teller’s antique shop were dark and the doors closed. He kept walking as the last of the dust storm died away. At last, he reached his building and then descended into the basement he rested. Down there it was dark as pitch. He took off his coat and sat in a musty but comfortable chair, under a lamp. He doused the light before long, and eventually, he drifted off to sleep, dreaming not of his friends, or the Rogue Hound, but of what might be the next score. Invisible in the dark, the city slept, waiting for the next dawn.
The Rogue Hound was writing his replacement letter. Hajur’s pipe-smoke gradually dispersed. Martin Leng collapsed onto his cot.
Only golems like Saint remained, watching, listening between the dying of the lights and the rising of the sun.
Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with more stories.