“Thirteen carrots but that’s only a chip and a half. I know there’s more gold down there. I just need a way to get it.”
I nodded my head and pushed the tanker to the middle of the table. I figured it’s on his coppers so he wouldn’t mind doing the ordering as well. He obliged, but not without a look.
Lifting the empty tanker into the air, he continued “I got an in with one of the baggage trains heading south. They’ll get ups close then it’s a few days to the site once we split off the wagon herd. The map I got—“
I had my hand raised by then. “Let’s get serious.” I said, lowering my hand to the hilt of my sword. “How much is this mine worth to you?”
Ignle looked at me with a flat stare and said “A lot.”
“More than I owe?”
Ignle frowned, his black half-man eyes crowned by his thick bushy brow.
“Then I’m out.”
Ignle face fell as if I had dropped him from a cliff.
“You can’t be serious. This might be the only way you’ve be able to pay back even a quarter of what you owe me. I’m giving you an opportunity to at least get something resembling square.”
“There ain’t no square with you, Ig, just a different kind of bent.”
The serving girl glided by and I snatched a tanker meant for someone else. She wouldn’t stop me. Not with Ignle across from me.
“And secondly, it’s not my debt. It’s my fathers’.”
Ignle grumble, looking sullen. “You long-limbs are all the same. So sense of history.” He glanced over his shoulder at the two bruisers near the door and nodded to them. They joined us.
“Fine.” He said as they strolled over. “You do this job and we’re square. But if you turn this up…”
He didn’t have to finish with the hitters at his side. Their presence was clear. Turn this up and I’ll be seeing them again, probably after they'd have raped Kayney and killed everyone else at the office.
Ignle took his leave then and I lingered for a while as his knives scuttled out of sight. I headed out of the kitchen and exited it out the back just to be safe though. I kept my eye peeled for flashes of steel in the recesses of hooded cloaks.
In truth, I took the job months ago, when Donal completed his survey of the Gyre and discovered that the next Crucible would be found in Sovaine’s Breach. The Branch had been building up plates, taking odd jobs and doing troubleshooting work for the Low Families, to launch our own expedition into the trenches when Ignle contacted me about an opportunity to lower my father’s debt. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting me to push for clearing the books, thinking I’d be so damn happy for a chance to be rid of that cursed burden, but then again I’m sure he wasn’t expecting the mercenaries that he had purchase to meet with unfortunate accidents within a week of the expedition, leaving the Branch as his last recourse within the city.
It expected it, being the one that asked Sasse to hobble the competition for us. It’s good to have a Secret Hand on the payroll.
So there I was, a full contract for a ludicrously well-paying expedition, a guarantee dominion over this particular sortie, and what’s more, my familial debt has been covered. Were the day not the pea-soup constitution of a bowl of smoke-broth, a day common in Drownspot during the harvest months, I would say that the very sun was with me. Still, a victory is a victory, drizzling rain and milky-gray clouds notwithstanding.
I turn into Sow Street from the thoroughfare and slip into the tangle of side streets that demarcate Merchant’s Valley from the flanking Wardes. I turn into a tenement garden, mud-crusted and thick with brambles, and head towards the other side. I come to a rusted gate leading down to another alleyway and disappearing into the mouth of Filth Street. I swing the loose gate closed, its rusty hinges crying like small children, and I lock it into place. Holding the bar, I think the words. It sound of it feels thick like leather on my tongue. I take the key from around my neck, open the lock and step through the gate, keeping my eyes closed as a rush of cold air meets me. I open them again only when I hear the creak of the floorboards underfoot.
The door shuts behind me. Kayney is the first on her feet. Her heels snap together as she brings the room to attention. I lift my fingers to the side of my temple and then call them to ease. Kayney comes from around the desk and gives me a kiss.
“How did it go?”
“Great. He bit.”
“You knew he would.” We kiss again and then she unbinds my scarf. “Wish you would have taken Castian though.”
“Castian needs a break. He’s been working doubles this week.”
“Jorguns loves to work like half-men loves to drink. You know he thinks you’re punishing him, by the faith. He’s in his dorm right now, brooding.”
“How can you tell?” I asked, having never seen a half-giant so much as smirk in my 38 years.
“I just know.” She said and headed towards my office.