Welcome to part two of my stories from the roleplaying game; Dusk City Outlaws (disclaimer at the end). Iago Corona has already been recruited by the sorcerous Magoria, but this is a job that will take more than just a con man…
Gideon looked up from his beer and eyed his cousin with disapproval. It hadn’t been a bad day up until now and the thief, no, the master thief, had been in fairly good spirits. His elevation in the school was still recent enough to leave a sweet taste in his mouth, and he’d been spending his morning indulging in one of his favourite pastimes; ripping off merchants. Gideon Caine had learned long ago that any fool could cut a purse, as evidenced by his idiot cousin here, but switching them was infinitely harder. And infinitely more enjoyable. The mark would keep on walking with the weight of his purse still secure upon his belt, and only when he reached for it would he find the bag of worthless seashells or pebbles that Gideon had placed there. He’d been smirking when he’d walked into the Dead Man’s Hand, imagining one of today’s marks trying to pay for a meal in some fancy dining hall with a handful of tiny stones. But Gideon wasn’t smirking now.
Samuel, sitting across from him, was not unlike his cousin to look at. Both had broad faces and stocky builds, and both wore their curly hair long to the shoulder, though Samuel’s was a lighter brown than Gideon’s. They were both dressed simply in dark coats over scarlet tunics, the colour of their school, and both wore high boots that were tough enough to be hardwearing, and soft enough to make minimal noise when called for. Samuel wore his beard more closely trimmed than Gideon did, but then the younger man loved his reflection more than he’d ever loved a girl, and was reluctant to hide his pretty face with too much hair.
The master kept glaring at the acolyte, waiting for him to carry on. Their conversation had been interrupted by a pair of men dragging some docker outside but the Dead Man’s Hand had quietened down again now, and Samuel still had much explaining to do. The youngster licked his lips nervously.
‘So… well… I just sprinted for it, didn’t I? I mean, what else could I have done?’
Gideon wanted to shout at the fool but he kept his voice low. Angry though he was, it wouldn’t do for him to be overheard rebuking his junior; the business of the clan was their own affair, and the Dead Man’s Hand had many ears.
‘It’s your own damned fault. Nobody works Harpers’ Way anymore. They’re on their guard on the way in and if they’re drunk enough to be picked on their way out, then they’re drunk enough that the singers have already fleeced them.’
Samuel coloured a little. Not only had he wasted his morning, he had grown sloppy in his frustration and a mark had spotted him for what he was. He’d raised hell and the Watch had come running, and Samuel was lucky to have escaped with his hands. Gideon sighed. He is impatient. He ought to perfect his trade before chasing high-class marks, and he should damned well know his ground before wasting his time on nothing. Gideon had spent two decades cutting purses in the docks and streets of this city, and he’d taken his time to learn the art before biting off more than he could chew. He took another sip of beer and waited for the inevitable justification. He didn’t wait long.
‘It was still early; I figured it’d be fine’
Gideon took a breath and made an effort to keep his temper. When masters of the clan had told him how the land lay, he’d listened to them. Damned youngsters nowadays. Gideon himself had only thirty years behind him but people like Samuel could make him feel very old.
‘Never underestimate the decadence of the merchant class, my boy. They’d spend their lives drinking and whoring given the chance, and the singers at Harper’s Way know that. They pick them to the bone from dawn ‘till dusk, and if you knew a damned thing about your business you’d understand that.’
Samuel opened his mouth to speak again but Gideon waved a hand at him for silence. Like most sensible men the master thief had chosen a seat that faced the door, and a figure had just entered that demanded his attention. She was an ancient-looking crone, dressed in a scruffy grey coat with an equally bedraggled cloak draped over it. Her shoulders were bony, her arms thin, and the face beneath her hood was a grey-fleshed mass of wrinkles. Magoria’s eyes, sunken but bright, met Gideon’s own, and she began hobbling towards his table, looking more awkward and lopsided with every step.
Gideon shooed Samuel away with a gesture. Whatever Magoria wanted, it would not be for his ears. She was a magicker, a trickster, and rarely deigned to speak to those of Taoan blood. The young man disappeared without a word. At least he knows his place as far as these things go, or it could just be that he’s afraid to be sat with her. Gideon could hardly judge him for it. Whatever one thought of her appearance, Magoria was dangerous. The crone limped up to Gideon’s table and he half-rose to greet her. He might not be a man renowned for his manners, but with people like this, courtesy became common sense. Magoria waved him down.
‘Spare me your formalities, Taoan.’
Most people would have received anything from a glare to a clout for addressing Gideon like that, but he held back his temper and sat down again. The old woman hobbled to Samuel’s vacated chair and sank down into it, her eyes never leaving Gideon’s. The master couldn’t help but notice how bright they were; a stark contrast to the weathered face they stared out from. Magoria did not waste any time with pleasantries.
‘I have a job to offer you.’
Gideon waited for her to elaborate but nothing else came. From her expression he got the feeling she didn’t want to be here in the first place, much less converse with him any more than was necessary. It might anger him but it came as no surprise. In this city she was not alone in hating the Taoans. He tried to keep his tone civil as he answered her.
‘That’s all you have to say?’
Magoria shrugged her bony shoulders.
‘There will be gold involved, is that not enough to make your kind jump?’
Gideon felt his jaw begin to clench.
‘I have no need for gold. I have my trade.’
Magoria sneered, her voice dripping with contempt.
‘And a more honest trade than most Taoans I’ve met. But this is something bigger than anything that you have done before.’ She sneered at him. ‘And all men have need for gold. It might be shiny rock to the gods but somehow it is life and death to men.’
Gideon fought to ignore the insult. The fact was that Magoria was right, at least in part. He might not need gold for himself, but expenses needed paying that were his responsibility. Samuel’s sister had given birth to twins last month, and combined with the cost of having to feed the rest of her brood, they were barely hovering above abject poverty. The clan had kept them in their home but it was a small and squalid place, and Rella’s husband was a well-meaning but completely useless man. With a windfall of funds he could provide them with something better, and at least keep the wolf from their door until winter was done. He forced himself to stay polite, though he drew the line at feigning a smile.
‘Give me some details and I’ll consider it.’
Magoria didn’t look especially pleased at his interest and she answered him curtly.
‘Not here. Come to the sluice chamber beneath Inkwell Lane tonight.’
She stood up, clearly done.
‘Be there at sundown.’
Gideon frowned at her. He didn’t like the idea of going into a meeting blind.
‘I said I’d consider it if you gave me some details. You assume too much if you think I’m on board without so much as….’
Magoria glared down at him and it was an effort not to flinch. Her voice was quiet but filled with venom, and her young-looking eyes flashed at him.
‘You assume too much! Make no mistake, Taoan, we could use you in this, but we can always find another.’
Gideon kept up his blank face, though it wasn’t easy. The stories he’d heard about what Magoria could do were not things to be sneered at, and it hadn’t been wise to provoke her. It was pretty clear that Yellowtooth had been the one to suggest him for this job, and that Magoria was against the idea. Part of him wanted to back away right now, before this got unpleasant. Another part of him liked the idea of annoying this intolerant hag by taking a job she clearly didn’t want him to be in on. The rest of him just knew he needed gold.
He made sure his voice was steady and he looked her in the face, if not quite in the eyes.
‘I shall think on your offer. I may see you tonight.’
Magoria gave him a look that suggested she’d sooner see him at the bottom of a canal.
‘You will be there.’
She turned away from him without another word and limped her way out of the tavern, her grey rags flapping about her. Gideon’s mouth was dry and he waved a girl over to bring another drink. When it arrived he had to resist the urge to down it in one, and instead he took just one long draught before settling for sipping at the liquor. Magoria was probably right; he would be there tonight, he needed the gold after all and he hadn’t reached where he was today by passing up good opportunities. He fingered the coin-like talisman he wore about his neck. You haven’t reached where you are today by taking foolish chances either. He smirked quietly to himself. So don’t.
Legal bit (not sure if this is fan fiction or whatever but figured I should put something like this in) – this is a story based in the world of Dusk City Outlaws and not a world of my own invention. I’m not getting any money for writing it, I’m not calling it my world etc, this is entirely for entertainment purposes. Thanks goes to all the people here: https://scratchpadpublishing.com/#home-section for making the game interesting in the first place!