Enemy of My Enemy by Robert Gresham

The clientele of the Crested Falcon was a who’s who of Korvosa’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. The restaurant featured a long front patio with two-person tables draped with white linen, and adorned with exotic orchids and platinum dinnerware. A waist-high iron fence created a comfortable barrier from the streets where star-watchers gathered to glimpse royalty.

Purvis Wade sat alone, eating a plate of soft-boiled Alikan oysters and enjoying a glass of mint-green Vudran absinthe. He wore a black dinner jacket with matching neck scarf, black knee breeches tucked into shined boots, and a crisp white shirt tailored earlier that day in Gold Market. He had a fresh shave and neatly trimmed black hair. Wade’s icy blue eyes scanned the patio for signs of his contact or if he’d been tailed. Satisfied, he returned to his oysters.

After a few minutes, a woman in a scarlet gown entered the patio from the restaurant. Straight, platinum hair hung to her bare shoulders, and a string of onyx glinted at her neck. Her form-fitting dress barely contained her creamy, milk-white bosom. Looking over at Wade, she smiled slightly, revealing perfect teeth behind crimson-painted lips. She took a seat across from him, and placed her handbag on the table.

“The canals are warm in spring-time.” She spoke Taldane in a husky voice with a heavy Chelish accent. “But their waters always treacherous,” he replied.

“You must be Wade. Your reputation precedes you. My name is Ophelia Blossoms.”

“That name’s a handful. Please, call me Purvis.”

A waiter approached and placed a menu before Ophelia. He flashed a wolfish grin and spoke in rapid Varisian. She replied just as quickly. The waiter nodded, and rushed off to the kitchen.

Wade downed an oyster with a spoonful of ginger lime relish.

“Having dinner with a woman as ravishing as you is a bonus to this mission,” Wade said. “I’ll have to thank Sir Rell when I return to Lion’s Blades Headquarters. Speaking of ol’ purple eyes, he’s still rather sore at that assassination attempt; spent almost two months with the clerics recuperating. Now that you’ve tracked down his would-be killer I can find out who hired him.”

Ophelia removed a black cigar from a platinum case, lit it with a tinder-twig, and exhaled a thick ring of pungent smoke, letting it linger in the air before them.

“He’s dangerous Purvis. He’s a cannibal as well as a killer.”

“Well he’s in for a treat. My Taldan flesh will taste infinitely better than this,” Wade held up another spoonful of oyster. “Isn’t the Crested Falcon supposed to be the finest restaurant in Korvosa? This is on par with the lowest tavern swill in Oppara.”

Ophelia smiled.

“Don’t let the cook hear you say that. We’ll be thrown out and barred from returning.”

“At least he thinks like a Taldan.”

The waiter returned with a silver tray holding a dark green bottle with Vudran lettering on the label, two six ounce crystal glasses, and a sugar bowl. The second, water-filled glass had a long spoon sticking out of it. The waiter poured green liquid from the bottle into the empty glass and began stirring it with the long spoon. He then dipped the spoon into the sugar bowl coating it white. He lit the spoon on fire, caramelizing the sugar, and when the flame died he stirred the drink adding a splash of water. He grinned, quite pleased with himself, bowed, and then strode off to another table. Wade and Ophelia clinked glasses and both took long drinks.

“Your killer, he lives in the Shingles. That part of town is always changing so it’s impossible to find his exact location,” Ophelia said.

“What’s his name?” Wade said, impatience creeping into his voice.

Ophelia leaned in close, her lips brushing against Wade’s as she whispered, “He goes by Jaleel. You can find him skulking around Twitcher’s rooftop tavern.” She kissed Wade, the warmth of her lips lingering.

“This next part is for my cover. It’s been a pleasure Purvis.”

Ophelia stood abruptly and slapped Wade hard across the face. She cursed in Varisian and stormed off. The waiter stared shocked. Wade shrugged, tossing his napkin over his plate and pushing aside the oysters.

“Well, I won’t need these.”

in his black beard tended bar across from a leathery-skinned half-elf woman with teased-up red hair. A figure in a blue cloak with the hood concealing his face sat alone in the far right corner drinking from a wooden mug. One of the halflings played a raucous tune on a clarinet. The music stopped and the patrons glared at Wade as he entered.

Strolling to the bar, Wade gestured to the barkeep. “Maheto Vodka, shaken hard over ice.”

Scowling, the bartender placed a mug full of fish-smelling karale in front of him instead.

“Two silver shields.”

“How’s a platinum crown sound? It’s yours if you can tell me where Jaleel is.”

Furniture crashed behind Wade. He whirled round to see the cloaked man in the corner darting for the exit. Wade slapped a platinum coin on the counter and rushed after him.

Ahead, the man leapt across a narrow rooftop and continued sprinting. Wade followed and jumped, landing awkwardly on a pile of rubble and broken glass. Palms out, he fell forward, cutting both hands. He shook the glass off and pulled himself up. The cloaked man was now another rooftop away. A partially collapsed brick wall — a holdover from a former structure — stood like a sentry, barring passage to the rooftop beyond. Without pausing, the man sprung into the air, halfway up the wall’s height, grabbed hold of the ledge, and propelled himself over, landing and rolling to his feet. Wade looked on impressed, and then whispered “Chimera.” His boots pulsed with azure light and his pace doubled. He vaulted high towards the collapsed wall, grabbing the top ledge with ease. As he pulled himself over, bricks broke free, crashing down to the streets.

Still only one building ahead, the fugitive ran to a broken chimney and dove into the top headfirst. He exited through a fireplace one floor lower, landing on his hands and s ome r s au l t i n g to his feet. Wade spotted an improvised skylight made from a sheet of blue glass. He leapt for the window and crashed through it, falling on top of the fleeing man. Shards rained down around them. As he landed, a sharp pain shot through Wade’s side and he felt something pop inside him. Ignoring the injury, Wade rolled to his feet and grabbed the man by his cloak clasp.

“Tell me who you work for, and I’ll find you a priest,” Wade said, spitting blood.

Trying to speak caused the man to cough up crimson of his own.

“Who sent you?” Wade shouted.

“…Bra….” He coughed up more blood, “Rhüel…”

Wade felt as if cold water had just been dumped on his head. That couldn’t be possible.

Suddenly a gold chain around the man’s neck began writhing. It dissolved into a cloud of fragrant incense, bubbling and engulfing the man’s head. Wade stepped back and drew a blackthorn wand from his belt holster. The cloud roiled then reshaped, forming into a four-foot long, hooded, hissing snake. Demonic horns protruded from its head. It stared at Wade with intelligent, glowing red eyes. As it formed, the snake coiled around the helpless man’s throat. It constricted, snapping his neck. The serpent hissed at Wade, daring him to act.

Wade took another step backwards. He slowly raised his wand, feeling its magic. The snake hissed again, but then disengaged from its victim and darted away, disappearing through a fist sized hole in the floor. Wade returned to the blue-cloaked man and checked him for signs of life. There were none.

Warm blood soaked Wade’s side. Running his fingers over his ribs, he felt the jagged ends of broken bones that had ripped through his flesh. Wincing, he pushed the pain from his mind and returned to the dead assassin. Searching through the cloak he discovered a figurine tucked into an inside pocket. He held it up to the sunlight to see. The figure it depicted was vaguely human, but with aquatic features and twisted limbs. The statuette’s sinisterly carved eyes seemed to stare back at Wade.

Shuddering, Wade returned the statuette to the pocket. After seeing the assassin’s necklace come to life, he wasn’t taking any chances. He’d take it back to Llewellyn in Oppara. That old elf might have a clue to what that carving was.

(Featured in Wayfinder, Vol. 7)