I have been floating in darkness for an eternity surrounded by a great nothingness, the smell of incense and alcohol making me dizzy. Whenever I moan something fresh is brought against my face and then the pain is gone. I can hear voices in the darkness; I search for them to no avail. I can hear something else too, something I easily recognize: the musical sound of silver against silver in the eternal abadarite dance of money changing hands.
“I am sorry, this is not enough”.
The darkness was full of clanking sounds and dry heat. That wasn’t what disturbed Natalia. She was used to such sounds, having grow up in the forge. What disturbed her was a certain noise of silver against iron that created a peculiar ring. She opened her eyes slowly and searched for the distinct sound in the darkness. Listening through the louder noises wasn’t easy for the untrained, but she not only had years to learn, she enjoyed it.
“Hey there! Are you alive?”
A woman below looked up to her, appeared worried as she hit the pipe-works with a dagger, trying to get Natalia’s attention. Natalia looked down, noticing the weapon first. She instinctively went for hers, but realized she was too dizzy to wield it. Which was fortunate as she suddenly recognized the silhouette’s voice.
“Lady Yocasta? Customers are not supposed to be inside the workshop!”, Natalia began to move. She was crammed between the pipe-works where she had fallen asleep… for Torag only knew how long. She began to let herself down hesitatingly. Lady Yocasta tried to help, but she rebuffed. “I’m alright; it’s not easy to sleep there” Natalia lied.
Though most people only noticed Yocasta’s height and the strength of her sword arm, the redhead had been always a good judge of character and knew when something was amiss.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” Natalia answered annoyed.
“I have only gotten good references about the quality of your craftsmanship miss, yet I haven’t seen any of it,” Lady Yocasta said with casual criticism. Natalia knew this tone all to well. Her father… no, Lord Lictor Ravencroft, used it quite often the few times he visited them and this was one of his soldiers, a Hellknight. Though she had worn the Hellknight’s dark armor the first day Natalia had met Lady Yocasta, she was not wearing it now. She was dressed only in a leather tunic and mail. Strangely, there was a symbol of the Inheritor hanging from Lady Yocasta’s neck. It was so strange that Natalia couldn’t resist touching the beautiful holy symbol before the woman could stop her. Annoyed, Lady Yocasta took a defensive poise and pulled away.
“Masterful craftsmanship”, said Natalia simply as she turned around and began walking towards her space inside the workshop; a small room cluttered with cogs, metal bands, tubes and metal pieces of different sizes. In the middle of a cluttered table was a crossbow. Through unfinished, the craftsmanship was superb and possessed undeniable beauty. It was a beauty, aesthetical and practical. Among the modifications to the basic design of the weapon, Lady Yocasta could saw that Natalia had fashioned it so that it would be able to hold extra bolts on the side, allowing them to be more quickly loaded into the weapon, doubling its rate of fire. “As you can see Lady Yocasta she is almost ready. Come back tomorrow.”
The redheaded Hellknight approached the table and lifted the weapon with reverence, testing its weight and the trigger. Natalia cringed as the woman touched her unfinished work and bit her tongue before verbally attacking. Maestre Malin would not be happy if the Lady complained about her treatment. Natalia’s father would also be displeased if he heard of her ‘ratty’ appearance, being that her hair was uncombed and she hadn’t had a clean change of clothes for days. Then Natalia saw her vial of pesh in the table, just between some spare parts. Natalia held her breath, nervous at the thought of Lady Yocasta discovering it, but Natalia needed not have worried for Yocasta was completely fixated on her prize. Natalia made her way to the side of the table and slipped the bottle into her coat while Lady Yocasta imagined herself aiming the weapon at a living target.
“Magnificent, Crow! All I have heard of you is true. I hope I can test it tomorrow.” A pleased smile formed on her lips.
“Test Her.” Natalia’s eyes narrowed a bit as she advanced towards the taller woman.
The Lady’s smile faded, giving place to a confused expression. “Excuse me?”
Trembling, Natalia took the crossbow and put it back on her table, cleaning it as if it has been soiled by filthy hands. “I said test her. It’s your weapon I know… but a weapon like this needs to be treated as a friend or a lover, not like a thing… that is a sure way of having her fail you when you need her most.”
The smile returned to the warrior. “You and him have more in common than you’d both think. Heh. Sorry, I know it’s a delicate business,” said Yocasta apologetically, as the artisan glared toward the Hellknight and then Lady Yocasta noticed something and extended her hand toward the girl’s face. Natalia was fast, but between her drugged state and the Hellknight’s diligence, the heavy hand took her face and turned it to show the left side. Yocasta inspected the girl’s left eye gone completely white and the skin burnt around it. Being a hellknight, Yocasta was accustomed to seeing the wounds of battle, but not on such delicate face. “You were not like this the last time we meet. What happened girl?”
Natalia hated the condescending tone in Yocasta’s voice, it was as if she could hear her father on her, and pushed the hand away. “An accident. Now go! I have your weapon to finish.”
The big woman hesitated suspicious, but she could do nothing. After all, it was not her jurisdiction, and by law Natalia was nothing but her commander’s bastard. Yet, while he wouldn’t say a thing, Yocasta knew he loved his child. Besides, Yocasta enjoyed mysteries. She would keep an eye on this one for a while, but for now she would respect Natalia’s wishes and move on.
“Finally.” Natalia breathed with relief as the Hellknight left. Her body trembling, she pulled the pesh vial from her pocket. There was a card, a harrow card with two crows walking along a path, stuck to the vial. It was in bad shape but she remembered she had found it yesterday while working along the pipes. Natalia noticed something written on the back of the card. She turned it around and read. Natalia began trembling hard, her skin paling as she read the words. “Gaedrem… Gaedrem Lamm” she said in a whisper. He was a monster of a man, a boogieman even. Someone had information on him… and where Lamm could be found, Yarguin would not be far away.
Her eyes narrowed as she noticed the time for the meeting. “Sunset? Today or was it yesterday?” With panic and desperation, she began to rush. She looked over her gear to make sure she had everything. She had the scissor blades of her own design on her belt, the small crossbow and bolts in her backpack, her ‘exotic’ tools hidden along the belt pouches.
Trembling with desire she took out the pesh vial and considered drinking a few drops, but put it back with what she had left of her will. “No… I need my mind clear. Even if it hurts.”
It was a little before sunset when she arrived at 3rd Lancet Street. There was no one around and the place looked as if it had been abandoned for a couple weeks. The door was open, so she let herself in.
Once, this place would have been cozy, but now it was a mess, not too different than her face, she thought. There was a thick carpet of dust everywhere, except where footprints had brushed the floor clean. There had been a group of people around a table recently. Natalia looked around in desperation hoping against hope to find something. She waited hours for someone to come, but she remained alone. Finally in frustration she kicked a chair hurting her leg. Angry with herself she went to the table and took out her pesh ready to drink it. As she took it out the card with the crows fell from her pocket onto the table. Then, she saw it. Written on the table in the dust, highlighted by the card, were three small lines:
Relieved, Natalia felt her hope returning and a smile crossed her face. She left hurriedly, recognizing the address written on the table. She had been there many times before with her mother to buy fish when she was a child until the owner had disappeared in the Jeggare. It was said a devilfish had gotten him, but only the gods really knew. In her hurry Natalia did not stop to consider the source of the message, and as soon as she was gone, the words erased themselves as if an invisible hand had passed over the dust.
(featured in Wayfinder, Vol. 2)