Chapter 29: Snake Fangs and Thuggery

1K 85 3

Really, that was the most tempting thing about the Eight. They claimed they could cheat death. And we all feared the Cold River, the Fangs of Night, and the hundreds of other epithets we gave to the Gates of Death. And really, we would sell our own souls for even a rumor of transcendence.

***

Eleven Years Ago

***

The man walked into the door of the tavern and stopped. "What in the bloody Light is this?" he asked angrily. "I wanted thugs. Hired muscle. Not whores!"

Skaria frowned at him. Jason sighed. "Well, look, they're what I got." Skaria sat at a table. To her left, Amshara, her friend, sat. And to her right, Jason's nephew, Altean, sat. Altean was a broad-shouldered, bulky kid, about five years older than her. His nose had been broken in more than one fight. He could have been handsome, but just didn't make it.

Amshara, however, was hideous.

There was no nice way to put it. From the nose up, she looked nice. Darker skin, bright white hair, dark eyes, and a large nose, as with most Islanders or Reefmen. But her lower lip was where the Change took place. Her skin turned from nut brown to emerald green snake scale. Her tongue was forked, and she had fangs. She was a Changed, through and through.

"You asked for a team. I got you one," Jason said.

The man sighed. "What can the animal freak do? Can she talk?"

Amshara hissed slightly, before turning to Skaria, making several motions and odd gestures with her hands. Is it just me, she asked, or is this man dumber than Altean when he's drunk? Skaria gave a small shrug. The man glared at all three of them like they were a bunch of bilge rats. Which wasn't too far from the truth.

The man turned to Jason, as the innkeeper began to polish the pewter mugs. "So, you sure they can do this?" he asked.

Jason sighed and put down the tankard. "Hannar, have I ever lied to you? In all my history as a crewhost, have I ever deceived you?" Hannar, the man, shook his head. "Good. My nephew is a capable fighter. His protege, that girl, is harder than iron. And that Changed, Amshara, well, when I can get her to sit down, I can find her. But otherwise, she's practically invisible."

Right. Jason was arguably the most virtuous man in Saefel Scelion. But even he got his hands dirty. Soon enough, Skaria had learned what he was. A crewhost. A guy who knew other guys who knew people with talents. Criminal talents, to be precise. And a crewhost was the kind of guy who could, in the space of a day, whip up a team, whether it be for an elaborate heist, some general thuggery, or elementary extortion. And Jason was one of the best.

Hannar nodded. "Alright." He sat down, across from the three of them. "Did Jason brief you on what you're going to be doing?"

No, Amshara signed. "No," Skaria translated.

"Is that all she does?" Hannar asked. Amshara nodded. "Well, I guess she can keep quiet." Amshara responded to that with a glare. Completely silent, of course, only further proving Hannar's point.

"So, could you tell us what we're here to do?" Altean asked. He was straightforward, to the point, no-nonsense. "I don't want to go in somewhere completely blind."

"Of course," Hannar said. He paused. "How many of you have been to the Manor Maze?" Everyone raised their hand. The Wintermark District of Saefel Scelion was it's real name. But "Manor Maze" fit better. Sprawling homes, once luxurious, now picked clean of any valuables, had begun to collapse. Some areas were blocked off, some paths closed by rubble. Other rooms and secret passages were revealed as the manors collapsed. Very few people knew their way around the sprawling labyrinth. Manor rats, they were called. Gangs kept them on leashes -literally- and used them to navigate. They were useful, for they knew the paths by heart.

Fever BloodRead this story for FREE!