Part 18:

Our Liege Wants to See This Through

  • A Quick Correction: In part 17 I said that it was the middle of the flooding season, when I had said earlier that it was actually the beginning of the dry season. This has been corrected.

The interior of the hideaway had been changed yet again, this time encompassing a smattering of short tables. Each had a handful of similarly dressed gang members sitting on the floor around it, many of whom were keeping themselves busy with a variety of card games. Kajulan briefly wondered why the woman from outside wasn’t joining them. Maybe it was simply that the hazy lighting inside was too dark for her. But probably not.

Kajulan walked down the center of the lobby, not a single person paying her any heed. It wouldn’t usually have bothered her; Kajulan preferred to go unnoticed. But the energy around her was deathly, and it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Once she made it to the back of the room she practically sprinted up the stairs. She couldn’t wait to get out of there. As well as the dumb clothes she had been wearing, admittedly for longer than was probably necessary.

It was surprisingly difficult for Kajulan to remember which room she had been put up in. It had only been two nights ago that her and Tekole had been captured, but now it was all a bit of a blur. She might not have shown it, but she had been pretty terrified. It was simply hard to perceive through her constant indignance.

Kajulan did eventually find the room, however, and entered. The curtains were drawn, and her outfit of choice was crumpled up into a ball on the floor, exactly as she had left it. As she bent down to grab it, Kajulan began to think. She probably would have to do something about her living situation. The room itself was possibly still available to her, but the thought of living there seemed miserable. No way that was happening.

Kajulan walked back through the hallway, but stopped, her ears perking up at the sound of voices. She moved towards the source, a room that’s door hadn’t quite been shut, and listened.

“You’ve been neglecting your demesne,” came a voice, unfamiliar to Kajulan. “Now that’s fine, when the reward is great enough, but you’re here to expand our operations, not to wage a private little war.”

“I can do both!” replied another voice, this one clearly belonging to Jethin. There was fear in his voice, yet the usual air of condescension remained. “And you have to admit, the rewards so far have been great.”

“They have. And Frankly I don’t understand how or why they have been, and I question how sustainable this is, but the take’s been good enough that our liege wants to see this through. That will change, however, if you let yourself get dragged into a long and costly turf war.”

“It won’t be long and costly,” replied Jethin, the ire in his voice evident. “If you send me back the muscle I’ve been asking for!”

“Excuse me, my lord,” came a third voice. “But we might be able to avoid fighting entirely. The Fulcrum’s Hooks only provide “protection” to Lu’egal business owners, and they don’t even touch our other rackets.”

“Shut it Debon!” shouted Jethin. “Your job is to guard me, not advise me! I sent Red away to avoid these inane suggestions!”

Even without being able to see him, Kajulan could tell Debon had shrunk. “I am sorry, my lord. It won’t happen again, my lord.”

“Correct,” replied Jethin. “I’m not asking for anything excessive. All I want is what’s owed to me. And I don’t want someone else taking it.”

Kajulan heard a chair scoot, and the first voice spoke again. “Fine Jethin. You’ll get your muscle. But I hope you remember this conversation. We don’t want another Blue Snow Incident.”

The sound of footsteps began to approach the door, and Kajulan decided that it was time to get a move on. Less because she didn’t want to get caught eavesdropping, and more because she didn’t want to have to talk to Jethin again.