4 Unitas, 561 YA, Damnation Flats, Lanterion

Keiff lived for Saturday night. His warehouse-turned-tavern was the center of attention in Damnation Flats, and Keiff was the center of attention as the barker for his weekly “entertainments”, which was just a glorified excuse to draw in the soldiers, drovers and dregs; the ten pieces of gold prize was a pittance. Geary and Kurt kept the booze flowing, Murls ran the kitchen across the alley, the girls waited the tables, and Yorig kept his crew of hitters ready for trouble.

This was like most Saturdays; there was no trouble, and everyone was thirsty. There was an odd mix of the “heavily armed and doesn’t care who knows it” and the “wanting to be invisible” in the big private alcove at the far end, but they paid a nice fee to be overlooked. There was even a table of feeling-no-pain drunk Azkaderra women, one of whom wanted to dance.

The first seven acts of the night were the usual mix, but Keiff couldn’t help but smile thinking of the next one as he stepped forward to do the introduction, “Up next, a rare treat. Straight from the Vale, and eager to please… Lily!”

A tall, lithe, female Tumkayal, with her long beet-fucia-pink-white hair in many small braids, her tight leathers popular among the underclass of the Perillon Alliance a generation ago, stepped from behind the crude curtain behind Keiff to the whoops and catcalls of the crowd. She stopped noticeably back from the edge of the stage, as if she were frightened. She bowed her head and waited for the music to begin. Instead of the usual crude, japing music of farmers or sailors, the small band launched into a mazurka, and the woman set off whirling about the stage as if she were at court, a lordling her invisible partner. Keiff knew she had requested a special song, but this was eerie. At her first leaping spin, the crowd erupted in genuine appreciation, rather than just the usual catcalls.

“I’ll be damned,” was barely a whisper coming from the lips of the Meseidiaren commander sitting at the large table in the shadowy alcove, her attention drawn by the uproar.

Surrounding her at the table were dozens of blades and centuries of experience, but up on the stage, beginning her turn in a “dance” competition was a former war hero and alleged traitor, persona non gratis on this entire continent, and one of the most dangerous people in the known world.

When the others at the table noticed their leader’s attention was elsewhere, everyone at the table turned, and some swore, some were struck dumb, and a few, too young to know the true significance of the dancer’s appearance, simply gaped at the strangely beautiful Azkaderra woman dancing on stage in a ten gold shimmy contest.

The handsome, middle-aged Meseidiaren woman in charge was the first to snap out of the trance at the table. “Javery. Nico. When she is done, please ask her to join us.” The massive, brass-colored dragonborn bodyguard standing behind her nodded, and the rakish man to her left practically hopped out of his chair. The pair stalked to the stairs at the left edge of the stage, the Meseidiaren following in the wake of the broad-shouldered dragonborn.

The usual wagging tongues in the audience were instead whooping and stomping as the music built to its finish and the woman ended with a pirouetting leap onto a table across from the stage, right past the two soldiers waiting for her. She landed already in a bow, and the crowd erupted. Then she sprung off the table into a back flip into an empty chair between her twocompanions.

Keiff thought there might be a riot. Riots made people thirsty.

The smaller woman on the dancer’s left, leaned into her ear, “Show off.” The dancer beamed in response.

The Meseidiaren male sent to fetch the dancer leaned across the table to be heard. “Corporal Wenyamrunmion, someone would like to talk to you.”

“Nicodemus Gates,” she responded with his full name, which he hated, to put him on the defensive, “how is your uncle?” His nostrils flared; that got his blood up.

With a nervous swallow, Protector General of the Hearth Emilia Langston, addressed the new arrival at the table in the alcove of a seedy bar in the worst part of Lanterion, “You are on Alliance soil, where you are not welcome. There is also a price on your head. Why should I not arrest you?”

Lisseh shifted in her seat; the rest of the table put a hand on a weapon reactively. A Cheshire grin expanded across the guest’s face as she considering the letter in her pocket from one of the five people in the Alliance that outranked the woman addressing her.

With taunting inflection and a Chesire grin the dancer responded, “I have taken care of the prices on my head. As I recall, you’re the one that arranged my exile. Why should I not kill you right here and now? Wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

Everyone still seated at table but not speaking, rose in offense at their commander being threatened. The “Hearth” had only been spoken to like this once before. She held up her hands to pacify everyone, “Well, we may not have parted on the best of terms all those years ago. I realize certain words were exchanged. Also, certain… blades.” She then unconsciously rubbed the almost unnoticeable scar below her left eye. “Let us all remain… calm.”

Rein and Vels were to either side of the unarmed Tumkayal insulting their employer. They had been bounty hunting partners since they both left the Alliance military some seven years ago. They made eye contact and made themselves ready to strike. Then their target spoke.

“That’s a good idea, Captain. These two are anxious to find their way to a grave, so I suggest you tell me why we’re here before they find their way.” The grin remained.

“You men have work to do,” Commander General Langston was becoming perturbed, “so go do it.”

There was much shuffling as the rough men headed out of the small alcove. Only Javery the Dragonborn and Nico the Meseidiaren remained with the two women at the table.

She continued, “I have no idea why you are here, but you are unwelcome. You have until sunrise to leave Perillon.”

“Whoever you have follow me better be more polite than you,” Lisseh said as she rose. “And whoever you send to arrest me better be twice a good as these two. Mortimer would be a good choice.”

Javery had to restrain the smaller Nico, knife already in hand, and ready for blood at the mention of his uncle.


4 Unitas, 561 YA, Damnation Flats, Lanterion

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