Thursday, 25 November 2010
I followed the lad. Not my favourite part of the job, but with the new ones it was necessary. Sometimes they would do silly things that might cause problems for my associates and me. Not that many would believe them. That’s the beauty of using runaways with gifts. Even when they are caught, the law’s so quick to execute them that it never gets traced back. Every now and then though, some smart alec tries to warn the mark. Not good. They have to be eliminated, of course, but the mark is spooked, which makes more work for me. Now that I can’t be doing with.
Anyway, I had concerns about this one. Little cat boy. Too quiet, hard to make out. He didn’t even owe us that much, probably could’ve got away with a mugging, or a beating or two. He didn’t even argue, just nodded, in that silent way of his.
We had decided to call him Jakumi, after the big cats, for obvious reasons. It’s something that he managed to stay out of the guild so long. It’s not like he can hide the fur or anything. He must have some skill at not being caught. It’ll do him well in this game, so long as he doesn’t bottle this one.
We are in the right place, that’s always a promising start. The lad’s a bit of an archer, or so he says. Strung the bow up right, anyhow. Let’s hope he’s as careful with the arrows. We didn’t tell him about the toxicon poison on the tips. It’ll take him out as just the same as it would its intended target. Wouldn’t usually bother for a job like this, but the client wants it, so as they’re paying for it.
Now for the decision. You can see it in their faces, the first time. Weighing it up. They quickly learn not to think about it, it makes the job much harder. Poor little cat, having to pick whose skin he values most. Most people think they wouldn’t do it, no matter what. When it comes down to it though, few choose their own death. That’s what breaks them, the ones that don’t make it. The realisation that they are just as selfish as the rest of us. Little cat looks like he’s made his choice.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
You glance over and almost miss her entirely. A slight, barely-teenage girl sitting alone at a corner table. A child so young shouldn’t be near a dive like this. You’ve almost looked away when she turns her head and you are caught in her eyes. One green, one yellow: these are the eyes of a lizard. Her pale, gaunt features add to the reptillianess of her appearance. A snake wearing a human suit. She looks down and is again just a little girl, lost in a place she doesn’t belong.
Studying her closer, you can see other signs that she is not what she seems. Signs of her afflictions - her gods gifts.
Her light brown curls could be pretty, on another face, if washed and given some attention. The finger-combing and ragged cut does better though, to hide the tiny, grey-brown horns that nestled on top her small head.
A long, elegant hand escapes from her cloak towards the dirty glass in front of her. A delicate, lacy pattern adorns the unnatural webbing between each of her fingers. She inspects the raised glass, turning it to find the least filthy side. For a moment, you see her forked tongue whip out and taste the liquid. She grimaces, and downs it.
Unaware of your scrutiny, she turns her attention to a group of older men at the bar. She seems riveted by one in particular. Standing, and drawing her threadbare cloak around her, she moves towards him. As she begins to speak, she stumbles and falls into him. His friends laugh, the girl turns an embarrassed red, and mumbles an apology. She thought he was someone else. She flees past you, out of the inn, as he laughs at her. His eyes must be slower than yours; he hasn’t yet noticed his purse is missing.
You leave, and follow her. It’s difficult. She melts into background; just another part of a busy street. Within seconds she’s gone, even your skills can’t track her. You have people that can find her for you, if it comes to it. You take a narrow lane, a shortcut to get back. Most people wouldn’t head down here. Most people aren’t you.
A movement behind you makes you turn. And there she is, her tiny face staring at yours, smiling and cocky. Her smile reveals a set of fangs any carnivore would be proud of.
“Miss me? I can’t believe you gave up so easily.”
Her accent was foreign. Maybe Mochene?
“You were sloppy kid. He saw your face.”
“He’ll have forgotten me already. And I’m not a child, I’m fourteen!”
“Maybe you didn’t notice kid, but you’re pretty distinctive, what with the eyes. It’s a dead giveaway.”
Even as you say it, you know it’s a lie. Despite her gifts, she was utterly forgettable. Just another face, another pitiful life you couldn’t notice, less you risk noticing them all. The city was full of people, children, like her, unloved, unwanted, waiting to die, desperate to live.
She glowers at you, her cold eyes narrowing to a slit. Her acne almost glowed against the deadly white of her skin. Odd. You can’t remember her having acne in the inn. You’d have thought something that severe would have made an impression.
“I’m not a kid. Anyway, you couldn’t find me.”
“All I need to find is my beer. Why would I need to find you? Be a good girl and run home to mama. It’s getting late.”
You’ve seen a lot of odd gifts, but this one caught you by surprise. The spots, now covering all her skin, seemed to squirm, moving as if alive. One pustule, under her left eye, broke first, exposing its content, then a wave, her skin erupting into hundreds of miniature, flying, biting, scratching insects, swarming towards you, over you, covering you in their tiny bulk.
Then it stopped. The darkness lifts. The street is quiet, not buzzing with the sounds of thousands of wings. You are aware you are on the ground. There are no marks on your arms, or anywhere, as far as you can tell. A sound breaks your concentration. Her skin is flawless.
“I guess that makes me more memorable.”
“You’ve got my attention. Do you have a name kid?”
“Mera. And you are Noron. You run this town.”
She announced the thief’s name, your name, like a prize.
You smile. “Some call me that.”
Mera tosses you a familiar green purse. Your coins are inside, apparently untouched. She's still holding the purse you saw her take.
“I picked this up in the inn as well. I hear you need an apprentice?”