Chapter 1: Impulses (Part 1)

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"Stop, thief!"

Jack Von Drey didn't stop.

He elbowed through the busy market crowd in the noon heat, running fast, the large sack on his shoulder clinking loudly.

"In the name of His Majesty, halt!"

As he reached the last stall, Jack could feel the two bottles of wine he'd drunk an hour earlier, but he still wasn't stopping. A lurching sprint took him out of the main street and into the alleyways. He sensed the pursuers, the wagon driver from whom he'd relieved the sack, no doubt, and probably a member of the Watch, shouting; the first a trifle, the second a concern.

"Hey you!"

He kept running, a mazy course, angling toward the city walls. A wine sweat was on him now and his breathing ragged, but no minion of the crown would stop him, especially with several hundred little majesties jostling in the sack, urging him on.

They could have shouted ahead, but somehow they didn't. He reached the shade of the fortifications, safe from bowshot here, even if they did alert the sentries. He paused a moment and looked back. The sun beat down on the flat white houses and spidery streets of Wisimir, but revealed no sign of the chase. He crouched down, hunkering into a corner, dropped the sack in front of him and drew a knife from his belt. His next move had to be smart and quick. He cut the sack open and pulled out a handful of coins, stuffing them into his pockets. When they were full, he tucked more into his shirt and filled his boots. When he could carry no more, he used the knife to dig a shallow hole and emptied the remainder of the coins into the earth, smoothing over the dirt when he was done.

"You hear something?" said a rough voice from above.

Jack froze. The slats of the battlement creaked above him and a dark shape moved across the beams.

"Only your whingin'," came the growled reply.

There was a rustle of cloth and then a stream of piss ran down through the wooden boards, missing Jack's hiding place by inches. Midday sun made the smell ripe and made the wine in his guts rebel.

Then it was over. The beams creaked again as the men moved off and the last drips soaked into the dirt. Jack waited a few more minutes to make sure they were a distance away and checked the alley again – nothing. He crept out carefully and headed south.

---

"Jack Von Drey! Well, this is a treat, the great Jack Von Drey at my door!"

"Hello, Orri."

South Wisimir, also known as the Southside, was notorious. A man might get his throat cut for a slice of bread;  a woman might get worse. But Wisimir needed the Southside like an addict. The port wouldn't run without cheap labour, so the Watch turned a blind eye. Scum were left to fight scum and those that ruled the streets stood on the faces of their victims. The houses were the same; dodgy wooden shacks, crammed into every inch and built onto and over each other.

Orri occupied a middle tier in the hierarchy, a fixer and a shifter, able to get rid of things with no questions being asked. The fact he was well over forty was his testament. You didn't survive long around here if you weren't good at what you did. His home squatted half way down a side street not far from the port. In some streets, shacks were piled three high. At least Orri's was on the ground.

"So what does 'Lord' Von Drey want with the like's o' me?"

"I found some money," Jack told him.

"By found I guess you mean stole?" Orri scratched at his shaven scalp. Bald was the poor man's fashion, it kept the lice away.

"I mean found," Jack insisted.

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