Chief among those who serve shall be the Striders, faceless tools of perfect destruction. In the name of the Order Templari they are those who shall bring forth honest subterfuge and righteous murder, those who shall defy the natural and the supernatural alike in the true quest for cleansing. A mighty fusion of those both wicked and virtuous, they are to be the grim reapers of utopia
Eda Bonehunter was a man of simple pleasures. A drink after a day’s work, a bed and a woman to share it with. The crack of bone breaking under his boot in a skirmish, an outlet for needless but nevertheless entertaining violence when he so desired. The ability to spill the blood of his foes without the obstructions that prevented other men from doing the same. It was the little things that carried Eda through the numbness of the daily grind, so the taking away of any of these base desires, unimportant as they may seem to some, was more than a minor annoyance, it was a direct breach of daily protocol.
”What do you mean you can’t?” he asked, bitter-tasting irritation rising in his gullet. The man in front of him was some backwater guild merchant – dressed the part, the red and gold of his guilds filthy and soaked – carrying cheap spirits across the strait from Oakville. At least, that was what he was supposed to be doing.
”As I’ve told you sir, respectfully, I’m out” replied the merchant, holding out a coin-filled leather purse, as if showing the gold he had made off the sales somehow made things any better.
”I’ve been a regular with your guild for some four passings, man, and not once have I been let down by the guild’s services. I’ve filled the purses of your friends more than once, I don’t appreciate change, and I certainly don’t appreciate changes that disturb my evenings. I would like you to supply me.” Eda pulled his right hand out of his pocket, flashing the metal grafted onto his fist casually. The gesture wasn’t lost on the merchant – he took an unwilling half-step back and almost knocked over the table behind him. A few bar patrons glanced at him, trying to discern if anything of interest was going on, or if there was a fight in which they could participate. Seeing Eda – and moreso his expression – they quickly turned away, deciding that the bottoms of their mugs were more important.
”Sir, there is simply none to be had. I will gladly offer you a full refund if you just-” the merchant stopped mid-sentence as Eda put his grafted fist on the man’s shoulder. He was smiling now.
”Yours is the only guild to ship to Capital from Oakville, and unless you’re suggesting a refund magically puts a bottle in my hand I think we can work something else out. Sir.”
The merchant’s professional behaviour was all but gone, replaced by whimpering and the shakes. With a mocking snort, Eda gave the merchant’s shoulder a tight squeeze and felt it dislocate. To his credit, Eda noted, the merchant kept his mouth shut while eyes teared up. A pitiful noise came from his throat regardless as Eda patted it condescendingly.
”Now, about the spirits?”
The torture that was the Arkanian military’s basic training had taught Eda that there is an ongoing struggle that courses through everything. Every relation was defined by it, every action decided by its complex workings.
The struggle between customer and salesman, sibling and sibling, husband and wife – the basic lesson was that no true friendship exists, that everything is but a struggle of power between the strong and the weak, between two equals struggling for superiority.
The idea had been drilled into him since his enrollment into the Special Ops Academy, and the more Eda saw and learned, the more it remained the same. It was applicable in every situation, he’d found, and it had given him – as he liked to call it – ”the shortcut to life”. When other disguised their desire for power over others, careful not to show any hint that they may have a purpose that lay beyond the groundwork of friendship and alliance, Eda watched in silence. Such men were fools that only hid what they truly were from themselves. He, on the other hand, had no qualms with showing his naked desire for power and his capacity for violence when he deemed it necessary.
So when Eda imposed his superior will (and strength) upon the merchant whose only crime was to bring news he didn’t want to hear, the little Oakville merchant had no choice but to abandon what little wares he had left – no doubt intended for a rich low-class noble somewhere in upper Capital, and hurriedly limp out of Eda’s way.
”Yer’ a bully, Bonehunter, ye know that?” Al’drec chuckled from across the bar table, raising his pint in celebration. ”A bully with a lot o’ booze, it seems” he concluded, sweeping his beer and gesturing a barmaid for immediate refill.
Al’drec Valentin was the biggest man Eda had ever met, Nadir or otherwise. Shoulders triple the width of most men, the size alone made him an imposing figure. The reflective dark of his skin only setting him apart further. But he wasn’t just big, he was gigantic in every sense of the word. Arms like logs, swelling muscle and charred skin as though he was fresh emerged from a fire, Al’drec packed enough of a punch to pose a very real threat to people at any given time.
The rest of Al’drec was rather reminiscent of one of the trolls that were cornerstones of children’s stories – huge beyond realistic humanity in every thinkable way.. But unlike most of their shared group of professional acquaintances (anything else would have been strange), Al’drec was a real brute. Barely friendly even on the surface, he – like Eda – was very careful not to let anyone overstep the bounds he set himself. While his aptitude for bickering and ever-burning desire for bar brawls made him an uncomfortable and highly undesirable drinking buddy for many, Eda enjoyed the giant’s unwillingness to spend a night in peace.
Their position within the Ops provided them with rare opportunity to engage in otherwise lawless (and certainly amoral) behaviour on a grand scale, the only prerequisite be that they stand at the ready when demanded and that no lasting damage be dealt to bar patrons.
”’course! Wouldn’t have it another way on bar night, Al’drec. That there was just about asking for it though, he knows that I need this particular spirit every passing!” Eda lifted a bottle of Oakville Blue, a strong sea liquor typically reserved for minor nobility across Capital Lake, and smiled.
”Not yer’ fault he didn’t take yer’ money either, I suppose”
”Indeed. But I can’t blame him, I’d much rather have Oakville than money too” Eda grinned, taking a sip. “You think there’s someone uptown with a supply of Oakville I could relieve him of? The Oakville guilds’ usually aren’t this low on spirits, so there had to have been someone in town with tastes.”
”I never saw what ye see in that cross-strait muck, Bonehunter, and I never saw why anyone would buy that crap. Ye should just stick with the good stuff”
”I can barely stomach a sip of what you consider great so I think I’ll pass on that offer, thanks”
”The crap ye guzzle down is making ye a woman, little man” Al’drec wolfed down the last piece of steak that remained on his plate and looked hungrily at Eda’s. The Arkanian chuckled and shoved his plate across the table.
”And the… whatever it is, that you drink, is turning you into a troll. Oh, no, wait – you already are!”
Al’drec shrugged, downed another mug and cut into his second meal.
“Ye visit the Mansion yet?” the giant asked smugly.“Very funny.”
“I’m funny by nature, but right now I’m serious, Bonehunter. Ye shoulda’ visited the day the order came, and it’s been weeks since. Palazzi ain’t gonna appreciate ye scuttling around when yev’ got things to do and places to be.”
“You should come then, I’m convinced it’ll be a riot.”
Al’drec snorted loudly. “I got places to be that’r better than playing word games with the Secaris. Ye got the order, Bonehunter, that means yer’ got to go.”
“You said it well enough, friend. The Secaris play word games, I prefer knife fights. Or beer. Or roasted boar. Truth be told, I prefer anything.”
Across the bar, something was brewing. Both Eda and Al’drec noticed – they were too used to civil unrest not to, but neither moved to address it. There was a mutual understanding between the two, rooted in the brotherhood of combat and honed through years of practise that was much like the mental links of the ancient magicians. Despite their affiliations, they avoided interference when they could drink instead, and if one made no move then neither would the other. And they always knew when the other would act.
The changing atmosphere in the bar did put them on edge whether they wished it or not, however. There comes a point, Eda had learned, when experience and instinct overtakes even conscious action, when one developed an additional sense for trouble that seemed to transcend the physical.
One could shrug off many things in the behaviour of others, but it was impossible to ignore hostility as open as the ones displayed by men who would like no more than to kill you.
The bar patrons in the far corner cast angry glances in the direction of the two Striders, seemingly attempting to judge whether or not the superiority in numbers could outweigh the supposed superiority in experience and skill the giant regularly boasted.
”What ye’ think we do this time?” Al’drec asked, not yet bothering to even look at the grumpy drunks who wouldn’t even give him the courtesy of an insult to the face.
”Hard to say” Eda replied thoughtfully. ”I suppose I may have slept with all of their wives at one point or another. Maybe all of them at once!” he chuckled. Al’drec grunted again.
”Should probably just take off. I like this bar, be a shame if we get banned or the keeper wrecked” he rose slowly, in no hurry to leave but very eager to send the message across. If you want a brawl, I’ll oblige, but don’t.
Eda gave an exasperated sigh, rising to his feet as well.
They moved across the room in unison, keeping practised distance while covering the other’s vulnerable side. A product of a thousand hours’ repetition yet invisible to the untrained eye.
As they passed the bar desk, Al’drec dropped a pair of heavy Capital coins in the tip jar without looking. At the same time, two men rose from their chairs on Al’drec’s right with unpleasantly hostile and sober expressions. Al’drec yawned, pulling out a chain from within his sleeve.
In front, two more men got up. The turn of events was disappointing – they had both hoped to leave in relative peace and be able to return at a later date for further consumtion, but Steering’s was fast becoming yet another place where they’d be unwelcome.
”Fer’ the throat or fer’ the joke?” Al’drec muttered, chain rattling. The bar had quieted down, those not interested in fighting moving well out of the way.
”Since these men are all jokes I think we can oblige,” Eda replied, a little disappointed in the lack of demands or angry accusations. He had come to enjoy the ridiculous justifications men like these used to explain their need for violence more than he enjoyed the heat of battle itself The men simply seemed like they wanted to fight, no strings attached. Strange and unwise, though he was sure Al’drec would find it entertaining. “They might come to their senses eventually.”
The two men in front charged and suddenly the bar was a battlefield.
Mere minutes later, two men – both dressed in military black leather, emerged from Steering’s Bar in the very centre of Manon’s lower city. While one limped slightly, blood tricking from a cut above the knee, the other swaggered out of the bar head high as though he owned the town. Not, for that matter, that such an assessment would have been wholly incorrect. Manon’s lower city was no place of luxury, and while the two men hardly looked any richer than the people around them, it would be blatantly obvious to anyone visiting even for the first time that the two leather-clad men struck fear into the hearts of every bystander. A kind of fear unlike unlike the begrudging respect that the men of the Order commanded.
Where they walked, writhing masses of people scattered hurriedly and where the two men looked, others turned away in quiet respect. The unhurt man – a man of average size, blonde with Arkanian features and a broad, unconvincing smile on his face, scanned his surroundings cautiously, looking for something beyond the dusty red of Manon’s lower city. A few whores returned his smile hesitantly, but he made no indication of interest in their services, passing them all without sparing a second look.
The man next to him, a giant of man with black skin and a chain strapped across his massive chest, seemed less concerned with the state of things. He limped on slowly, not lifting his gaze to even look at the people surrounding him. Blood ran slowly from a cut above the man’s knee, the only sign that they had, mere moments ago,
The two men walked through Manon with no clear purpose, taking winding paths through the mess of shanties and whorehouses nestled into the poorest parts of the city. Be it as it may that the shanties of Manon’s lower city were dangerous for the common man, but the thieves and the would-be bandits steered well clear of the two men as they navigated the maze of the shanties as though they were looking for something, but never speaking a word to the other.
When the sun finally set on the plains outside Manon, the two men came to a sudden stop in a dark alley known to the locals as Robbers’ End. In essence, it was nothing but a filthy pile of garbage and a score of drunks – sleeping or dead, scattered around they alley’s length.
The men moved with purpose into the alley, stepping over a long-dead corpse rotting on the first step of a set of stairs positioned at the far end of the alley. Knocking three times in rapid succession, the Arkanian took a step back and produced a brass key from his back pocket. A screeching noise came from inside as one keyhole appeared, then another, and then a third. He unlocked the first of the three locks and stepped back, allowing the giant to move up and unlock the other two with his own set of keys. Three successive clicks, and the the door swung open, revealing a dimly lit spiral staircase leading underground. The two Striders entered.
Butcher’s Fist was the modern-day name given to the gargantuan undercity located below the sprawling shanties of Manon. It had gone by many names in many languages over the years. Some remained in use while some – most – had been forgotten. There were only rumours as to who had built the undercity and why anyone would think to go through with such a senselessly grand underaking, but over the years rapid expansion and the ingenuity of certain affluent individuals had turned what had originally been the very apex of criminality and inhospitality into a place where treaders of the wide path could find both shelter and like-minded folk. That was, of course, as long as they paid the due coin to the men capable of offering them the protection they so desperately needed.
Every regime, Dissentian or otherwise, had sought to control Butcher’s Fist for their own gain. Likewise, every regime had failed. The undercity’s design prevented incursion admirably, and where government officials treaded no lawless of any kind was to be found, and where soldiers set foot grisly deaths quickly followed.
Those more prone to superstition among the thieves and mercenaries of Butcher’s Fist believed that Tabetha herself watched over them. Those tending toward insanity believed she had chosen them to be her servants and thus did everything in their power to put their hands in pockets where they did not belong. What was most puzzling about those few lunatics was that none of them seemed to possess even an ounce of skill. If Tabetha were to choose anyone to be her chosen servant, Eda mused, it would not be the half-wits that hid in Butcher’ Fist because the Order hunted them above ground.
There were talented craftsmen in Butcher’s Fist, to be sure, but those who knew the craft well-enough also shared the pragmatism of sensible men. Men like Eda and his associates.
Eda and Al’drec walked through the door and descended into the undercity like they’d done a thousand times in the past, steering clear of the tripwires set just inside the doorway with precise and practised movements.
When the door closed behind them, Al’drec immediately broke the silence.
”We really gotta to find an, ah, more agreeable bar. Again”
Eda grinned but secretly agreed. The fact that they were being alienated so actively by the locals had been eating at him. Since his and Al’drec’s relocation to Dissentia, they had went through over a dozen bars and emerged bloodied unhurt every time.
While a beatdown or a dozen might pose as decent entertainment – Al’drec especially seemed to feel that way – the deeply rooted dislike the Manoneers harboured for Striders and shady military figures in general severely limited the ability to procure alcohol.
”How’s the leg?” Eda teased. He imagined that if Aldrec’s skin was not already about as dark as could be, his ears would have turned red at the comment. Taking a cut from a simple plebeian was embarrassing and far below the standard they meant to uphold.
”I got more surface area than you, punk” Aldrec muttered in response, clearly antagonised. ”More body to cover in a fight” Eda grinned again but didn’t say anything.
The Striders turned left around a corner, descending into the depths of the undercity. Most men who ventured into the maze that was Butcher’s Fist came with a map (usually several) or a guide – someone who knew the ins and outs of the undercity well enough not to find their head impaled on a pike. Sometimes both. The undercity’s ever-changing nature made it near-impossible for non-residents to navigate its crumbling corridors, and the overabundance of traps – both those set by the undercity’s current residents and those long dead – made a peaceful stroll through the unmapped areas all but impossible for those who wished to retain their heads.
Eda Bonehunter, however, had made it his life’s goal to become the go-to source of all information on the happenings in the undercity. It had made the Striders take great interest in him even after his less than honorable relocation from Arkania to the Dissentian Islands.
He knew every nook and cranny of the first through sixth levels in the undercity by heart and was a good enough navigator in the deeper levels that he could be seen as a genius. He’d walked the upper corridors more times in his last three years than most of the lowlifes in Butcher’s Fist dared to in a lifetime of crime, and was one of the few to ever venture below.
Eda lead Al’drec down to the fourth level, where he parted ways with the Nadir and headed further down. “Yer’ idea is as crazy as you, Bonehunter” Al’drec had said,
Though the work they did in the Striders had quickly killed any lingering belief they had previously had in higher powers, the giant remained superstitious on a single point – he refused to venture further under ground than the fourth level. When asked about it, he would cite personal beliefs and quickly change the subject. “My tribe roamed freely on the northern islands, unbound by the soil beneath our feet. If I want to drown in dirt, I might as well head off to the graveyard” was the first he had spoken of the matter, when they had first come to Dissentia. Although he had gradually accepted the grueling necessity of passing through the undercity, his superstitions still kept him from venturing deeper, a secret he was careful not to share with anyone else.
Beliefs of the superstitious sort were frowned upon in military circles, and the Striders – as loosely tied to Dissentian governing bodies as the organisation was – were no exception.
On the sixth level, some hundred pace underground, lay the Secari Mansion. Constructed some time after the eighth great rising, the mansion was magnificent and enormously out of place in the layer of rusty red dust that covered almost everything in the undercity. Supposedly built on a foundation of the bones of traitors and rebels, Family Secari’s headquarters was a massive building of pure obsidian, standing in the center of a pentagonal plaza with drawbridges in every corner. Massive turrets sat atop the Mansion’s walls, promising swift demise to anyone who attempted to breach the perimeter without permission. Although disclosing information on a Family base of any kind was strictly forbidden under Order law, rumours of the Secari headquarters had eventually spread to the city above, which had forced Family Secari to take steps against intrusion.
Why one of the six Families had elected to rebuild their Mansion underground, inside the largest hive of criminal activity was a subject of discussion, one the Secaris didn’t seek to address.
A dirt road crept from the stairwell up to the mansion like a snake, moved a few inches here and a few inches there every year that passed in accordance with the Secari trappers’ demands. Straying from it was synonymous with death – if not from the traps set then from the defensive structures mounted on the mansion’s watchtowers.
Eda swaggered past the four guardsmen at the gate, whose bothered expressions told him more than any conversation could. It was abundantly clear that they didn’t want him inside, but had no grounds to stop him.
Very few people actually did.
Eda barely recalled a time when men had not bent knee to his superiority, be it physical or more indirect. Since a young age, when he had been little more than a scrawny kid Eda had always been the most agile, the most skilled fighter.
He had a finesse that normal men lacked – a way with words and with fists, and that finesse had made him one of the most powerful Arkanian thief kings before the Striders got to him.
The change of pace was nice, but he’d kept his Arkanian connections and retained the experiences that had made him for life in the first place. With ordinary men like the two Family guardsmen, he could pass without even slowing down. He enjoyed the subtle display of power immensely. He ascended a flight of stairs and found him in front of a set of great mahogany doors, standing ajar. Without waiting for an invitation, Eda entered.
Inside, sculptures of every Secari grandmaster lined the walls. At the very least, that was what the Secaris themselves claimed. Of course, the ”every” was a gross exaggeration. Their respective outward images were carefully constructed to create an idea, an illusion of unity within the Family. But despite what the Order Templari’s ample history and reputation made things seem like, Family politics were harsh – often more so than even national politics, and most dared not keep friends within their own Family for fear of betrayal. While the weapons of choice weren’t violent, deception and smearing were powerful tools for swaying opinion within the Order. As the Families demonstrated frequently, having subordinates vandalise rivalling Family members’ personal works of art was not below anyone with ambition. Some found that pathetic, but Eda found it acutely adorable.
”Are you admiring the art, general?” the Strider turned his head quickly to the left and was met by the Grandmaster Secari’s unmoving gaze, the very vision of calculation and provision. Against the perfect image of a calculating Family elder, the Grandmaster was comparatively tiny, something he more than made up for with a posture of confidence to rival even Cyon Zealot’s. His dark hair, turning grey after forty years of stressful Order politics and more battles than the historians who had made his life their work could count, hung over his wrinkled face. Albeit many years older than when they had last met, his legendary priggish smile had remained exactly the same.
That smile was never a sign of good news.
”You’ve… aged” Eda replied, dumbfounded. When the order to visit the Secari Mansion had first come, the letter had made it seem like an ordinary visit to renew old alliances and toast to the well-being of the Family. Standard procedure. He hadn’t expected to be met by a senior Family member, much less the Grandmaster himself. He had been caught completely off-guard. ”and please – I’ve not been ”general” in years. It’s Eda. Or Bonehunter. Maybe both. Whichever you prefer”
The Grandmaster’s gaze remained steady, as though he sought to probe Eda’s deepest thoughts with his eyes alone.
Eda remained still, eyes locked in a high-stakes staring contest with the most famously deceptive man on the islands, for a long while before the Strider conceded. Out of respect, naturally.
”I see” was the Grandmaster’s brooding reply. Eda felt in his bones that this encounter had been carefully planned out for some arcane purpose and that he, for a reason he couldn’t grasp, had been left out of the loop. Lack of information was a heinous offense to his base principles, and it made him uncomfortable. Worry stirred in his stomach, despite his mind’s best attempt at shrugging it off as unimportant. He cleared his throat nervously, telling himself that he had taken on more formidable opponents in the past.
”So, ah, can we, ah, sit?” ventured Eda. He wanted to continue with a sore comment about the Grandmaster’s age, but no words would come. Grudgingly, he had to admit that the Secari intimidated him. He wished it were otherwise, but the templar’s aura of dominance was unrivaled. He breathed a kind of power that humbled men. He hadn’t risen to the rank of Grandmaster for naught, it seemed.
”No. I will speak here, Bonehunter.”
”Alright, I’m here. Speak”
”It may be so that you once outranked me, Arkanian, but that was in another place and another time entirely. Here and now you will treat me with appropriate respect.”
The Grandmaster leaned close.
”I will have a favour” he said, plainly. He didn’t disguise it as a polite request or even something that could be turned down, instead simply sharing with Eda what was going to happen.
A tense silence followed as Eda weighed what few options he had in this conversation against each other. He concluded that he had none.
”I’m listening” he replied sorely.
The Grandmaster watched him with a mix of amusement contempt as he tried to wiggle out of the simple but efficient trap that had been set for the Strider. Invite a man dependent on your goodwill into and make a demand. He had won the battle of wills the second Eda set his foot on the sixth floor. Out of courtesy and because of that damn letter from Heirus, he had no choice but to listen and – if he knew the Secaris as well as he thought he did – oblige.
Fucking templars, don’t these folk ever tire of the games?
The Grandmaster loosened up a little as Eda’s body language signaled defeat. A small smile crept up on his face and he once again looked like a worn-out old man who had seen too many struggles.
”I trust you are aware of the present situation in the Order” he began, a pair of manservants appearing from the shadows with a chair each. He gestured for Eda to sit and sank down into his own, taking a sip from the hip-flask he carried with him.
”The Adjacents’ Meet side with the Zealot freaks and are cutting back on Secari privileges. We have less resources to work with than ever before to subjugate more dissenting beliefs than ever before in the history of Regent rule. Triage and Mantra are apparently in bed with each other as if things somehow weren’t bad enough. Triage’s Null bastards are taking what private contracts we could and should have obtained for their own gain and we’re left with nothing” a thick vein pulsated above the Grandmaster’s right eye, signaling the stress he was under clearer than words.
Eda fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair. Slowly, he was beginning to put together the pieces of the puzzle. Why he had been relocated to Dissentia and why he had just happened to find himself running a new kind of business a mere stone’s throw from the Secari Mansion.
”I’ve been, ah, made aware of the situation. Yet… I’m not clear on what it is you think I could help you with. My talents lie… elsewhere. Sir.”
The Secari said nothing, instead staring right past him at the statue of the first Grandmaster of his Family. If Eda didn’t know better, he would have said that there was a hint of sentimentality in the deep brown of the old man’s eyes. While he was eager to get far away from the old scrum, Eda knew better than to push his luck by driving the conversation onward forcefully.
When the Grandmaster did speak, there was no hint of softness in his voice nor on his features. What ever had crossed the Secari’s mind for a moment had disappeared as quickly as it had come and left the man cold and jaded in its wake.
”We were the right-hand men of the Regent once, we Secari” he said, a clear undertone of supressed rage in his voice. ”We protected the bloodline of Lucius from threats inwardly and outwardly, but first and foremost we didn’t bend knee to the other fucking families” he almost spat out the last few words, struggling to contain his evident hatred for the Zealots and their allies.
Eda could not help but feel somewhat sorry for the man. He had fought with tooth and nail for Dissentia’s survival (and the advancement of his Family’s power, granted) since he was but a boy and now he was seeing it being taken away bit by bit by a Regent younger than him and a Zealot whose hatred for Secaris was second only to his hatred for hellspawn.
It resonated deeply within Eda. The Grandmaster’s dilemma mirrored that which the Arkanian division of the Striders were facing. It was what had put him on Dissentia in the first place.
”We waged the clandestine wars of the Regent and the Adjacents’ Meet and they honoured us” – a grunt – ”we got the shit on our hands for doing the work they shied away from, but when the fucking Zealots dress up nicely we’re left spluttering in the dirt, and I won’t have it”
Realisation struck Eda like a blow in the face. From the very beginning, Eda had felt that this conversation was one that he had heard before. Only then, he had been the one speaking and not about the Zealots, but about the Dark Council in its entirety.
That Grandmaster Secari was shrewd bastard was common knowledge, in part because becoming Grandmaster in a Family built on deception and betrayal through honesty and a moral code was impossible, in part because he had been the one to run the show in the Adjacents’ Meet for fifteen years.
But bringing the conversation in Eda’s direction, striking as close to heart as he had managed without even having spoken to him beforehand… He had to admit, the Grandmaster’s cunning had damn near caught him with his pants down. Again.
With bravado, Eda leaned back in his chair and spoke, this time with confidence. He had cracked the Secari’s act, that gave him an advantage.
”I’m sure you realise that like you, I am a man of few hours and many tasks. What’s in this for me and, more importantly, what is the favour you want to ask of me?”
The Grandmaster Secari studied him closely, no doubt weighing the merits of dropping the act completely and proceeding with honesty.
Eda wanted to smile, feeling as if the infinitely subtle power play was going his way. Seeing through the verbal smoke screen of sob stories had put him in prime position to ask more than he reasonably could from a man of the Grandmaster’s stature, but Eda was all too pleased with himself to abide by the rules of caution.
”My proposition is of a simple nature” began the Grandmaster, signalling the manservants for refreshment. A crooked old man, likely more than twice Eda’s age, scurried across the hall with a bottle of aged Chever, another similarly wretched figure, though perhaps female as it carried different clothing, carrying a set of glasses. The manservant hurriedly poured two glasses of the brandy before spurting back into hiding behind the statues. His needs tended to, the Grandmaster took a savoury sip and gestured for Eda to do the same.
”The Adjacents’ Meet no longer welcomes me as one of their own, and I require someone to be my ears. Someone who can not be tied immediately to me. You will attend the gatherings as an envoy of Family Shield. You will not speak nor take make your presence known beyond rudimentary needs. All I need is knowing what is said about me and my Family so that I can make the appropriate… Adjustments.”
This piqued the Arkanian’s interest. He had expected the Grandmaster to be much less direct about what he wanted. Spying, that was something he could do.
He swept the brandy.
”Tell me more”