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Chapter 3: The Cursewright's Client, Part 1

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 Ammas was an early riser, despite his frequent late night card games with Barthim the Beast. Those games had become less frequent of late. Since Casimir had begun playing with them as well, Ammas insisted the boy go to bed no later than midnight on most days. Now that he was assaying a proper trade, Barthim had no qualms teaching him the rules of Whistling Jack, though he still thought Casimir should focus his energies on chess until he came of age. Ammas, who was a wretched chess player, didn't force the issue.

Now the boy was sleeping in the comfortable alcove Ammas had prepared for him in one of the second floor chapels, surrounded by the haphazard collection of books that had survived from the time of Ammas's own apprenticeship and a few more recent acquisitions he had found while combing the junkshops and secondhand book dealers in Munazyr's market districts. The temple portico, looking cleaner than it had in ages since Casimir had taken to sweeping and washing it as part of his weekly chores, gleamed in the rising sun. Under one arm Ammas carried a sheaf of parchment; in the other hand a steaming cup of seretto tea. After taking a moment to examine the shingle advertising his fees -- a new one, freshly painted and lettered in Casimir's workmanlike hand -- he seated himself at the little table where he often conducted his initial interviews with prospective clients.

Shuffling through the parchment rolls the boy had written for his latest assignment, sipping at his tea, the cursewright found himself reflecting that, poorer district of the city or not, the Old Godsway looked rather beautiful in the morning, when the brothels and taverns and music halls and gaming dens had closed for the night and before the more respectable businesses opened for the day. A cozy silence drifted along the wide avenue lined with crumbling temples, most abandoned like his and some still in full flower, all elegant and reverent, some somber and mourning in dark stone, some joyful in tarnished silver and polished marble. Far off in the distance, the waters of Brightmoon Bay glittered like flaming sapphires, the silence occasionally pierced by a gull's cry. It would be a full hour before the fishwives toward the Bay began hawking their wares, and a trifle longer before the shipyards and the dockworkers reached the full fury of their operation. And in the lovely roseate dawn, tinted at the edges with gold, Ammas could see why, centuries ago, the people who built Munazyr considered this street to be a place fit for the divine.

Then from the Lioness next door, he heard the outraged and slurred protestations by some drunk who hadn't paid his full fee and who was now being forcibly removed from the establishment by Barthim the Beast, and whose face would go on the bouncer's wall of undesirables. The enormous Barthim carried the howling inebriate by the scruff of the neck and the seat of his pants, hurling him from the brothel's porch into the street. The man, who was dressed in the fashion of one of the larger caravan companies, began to choke on road dust. After a few minutes he managed to get to his feet, summon up what remained of his dignity, and make a pointed argument against the thunderously scowling Barthim's position by vomiting on his own shoes.

Ammas sighed and took a larger sip of his tea as the drunk muttered dark if unintelligible imprecations, staggering off to wherever drunks go on a bleary Graceday morning. The illusion was shattered.

For a change, it was Barthim who wandered over to Ammas instead of the other way around, padding from the Lioness's veranda porch to the temple's shady portico with a grace that belied his enormous size. The red lamp continued to flicker, nearly invisible. The Lioness stayed open during the daylight hours on Gracedays and Weektides. Barthim said nothing as he mounted the temple's broad stairs of and remained silent as he maneuvered his bulk into the chair across from the cursewright's. He did, however, look pointedly at Ammas's teacup until Ammas rolled his eyes, rose from the table, and slipped back into the temple, returning a few minutes later with the full kettle and a second cup.

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