I had often found that it didn’t matter what tier of society I found myself in, money was the great motivator. Noblemen were just as susceptible to silver and gold as the lowliest mongrel peasant. The price might vary, but the principle remained the same.
The healers and apothecaries at the hospital closest to our little scuffle the evening before were no exceptions to this rule. We flashed a few coins and they were perfectly happy to tell us that Deputy Fiegrsonn had indeed come in the previous evening, along with several other wounded Lionguard, many who were still in recovery. We avoided those, making it clear we only really had interest in the the deputy, and discovered that he had insisted on going home after basic treatment. Typical of his people, I mused to myself, feeling a spark of satisfaction. This would make our task considerably easier.
We feigned disappointment at his absence and one novice, a burly peasant boy with more eagerness than sense, told us that he had been ordered to bring some of the deputy’s personal effects to his home and would be headed there in the early evening if we wanted to wait. It didn’t take much persuasion to convince him that perhaps it would be easier if we simply carried said items to Fiegrsonn ourselves, if he’d be kind of enough to tell us where to find the Lionguard’s home. We sold ourselves as representatives to some of the merchants whose wares had been damaged during the fight, which was apparently convincing enough, because with a smile from me and a promise to tell the Lionguard how helpful he had been the novice promptly handed over the small pouch and told us where our target lived.
“People can be fantastically stupid sometimes.” I muttered as we left, and Baen grunted in agreement.
It was still the middle of the morning, and though I’d had only a few hours of sleep I felt surprisingly invigorated, determined to track Fiegrsonn down and work him till he divulged everything we needed to know. The wash and the change into one of my few sets of spare clothes had helped.
The outfit was a simple combination of dark breeches and a white blouse hidden under a dark jacket of leather that hid just how finely cut it was. I’d replaced my cracked spectacles with one of my two spares, not wanting to look too much like a vagabond. No-one would mistake me for a peasant, but I didn’t look wealthy enough to truly stand out amongst the visual cacophony of colours that made up Lion’s Arch.
Baen had decided that Grapple should stay in the room with the food and water she had left for the beast. It was all the same to me, though I had worried that without the hound tracking Fiegrsonn would have been more difficult. As it was, our current solution presented a far easier alternative. Elsif had always been quick to remind us that the best solutions were the simplest ones, these often presented themselves if one took the time to look. She’d been wrong about many things, but on that count I had once again found myself agreeing with her.
“Hello ladies.” Sahir Kincarron said amicably as he fell into step beside us. “Mind if we chat?”
“As a matter of fact we do.” I said, trying to hide my surprise while silently cursing my carelessness. I hadn’t noticed anyone with their eyes fixed on us. Had I been sloppy, or had he simply been that careful? Coalpaw had warned us about Sahir, and if he was as professional as everything about him suggested he was then maybe he simply knew better than to stare at his target. It was a small comfort that apparently he hadn’t chosen to just gun one of us down.
“Come come, it’s just a little chat with me and a few friends.” He said, flashing a brilliant smile. Baen kept him in the corner of her eye, but otherwise kept walking. “Captain Levaunt would like to discuss a few things with the two of you.”
“We’re not interested.” I snapped.
“Come on, let’s not cause a scene.” He said, his tone as casual and calm as if this were a completely normal conversation between friends. “There are Lionguard all over this neighbourhood, and while they’re not exactly sure what you look like I’m sure someone could give them a few pointers.” I was beginning to notice more and more eyes were now turning to the three of us, keeping pace as we walked through the sunlit streets. “And I wouldn’t want to turn either of you in until they start offering a better reward.”
“What does Levaunt want?” I asked, realising we were surrounded now.
“You’ll have to ask him that.” Sahir said, shrugging as first three, then five, then eight pirates moved in to walk with us. A burly norn with a mane of thick black hair, larger even than Fiegrsonn, calmly plucked the satchel with our sword hilt from Baen while the rest of them quickly and calmly disarmed us. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it all back.” Sahir reassured us. “I’m under strict instructions not to lay a finger on you unless you make things difficult for me.” He smiled again. “And I’m really hoping you don’t. I would genuinely hate to cut up a pretty pair of faces like yours.”
Levaunt was waiting for us in the captain’s cabin of a behemoth of a ship, The Cloven Maiden, sitting in its berth less than an hour’s walk from where Sahir had found us. The ship was bustling with activity – carpenters and sailors hard at work with some manner of repair or renovation. But where I would have expected a boisterous, raucous crowd we were instead greeted by a grim, judging silence as we were led to the captain’s table.
Draped over a chair with one leg hanging over the armrest as he flipped through a ledger, Levaunt still looked less like a pirate and more like a noble dandy. The ever-present sense of terrible violence that surrounded him, likewise, had not diminished. He lowered the ledger as we drew closer, but I caught a brief flash of some kind of sculpture with a set of figures I imagined to be costs scrawled next to it. A new figure for his ship, perhaps? Clearly Levaunt was either doing just fine financially or he was putting on a big show to try and convince someone of it. But who was the charade for, if that were the case? The public at large? His own men? The Misericorde? Tatianna? On the other hand, if he was The Mis then it would stand to reason that he had this kind of money and this wasn’t just an act.
“Kaede, Baen.” He greeted in his soft accent, gesturing for us to sit across from him. We hesitated, then I felt the norn’s hand on the back of my neck push me forcibly down onto the chair. I gritted my teeth, resisting the urge to snarl which became harder when the hand lingered just a little longer than was necessary. “I’m so glad Sahir found you.”
“What do you want?” I asked impatiently. “We have places to be.” Levaunt arched an eyebrow, then barked a short laugh.
“Of course you do, visiting the good deputy?” He said, and I realised that Sahir must have been following us since the infirmary. I noted Baen giving the first mate a careful glance, no doubt reasoning just as I did that for us not to have noticed him he must be as good as Coalpaw had described. “I do hope he’s well on his way to recovery, though I’m sure he’ll wish he was at his peak before you show up.” He shrugged, a slight shifting of his muscular shoulders. “Wine, either of you?” A serving maid came forward with two crystal goblets, setting them down in front of us and pouring us a generous measure. “Don’t worry, they’re not poisoned. You’re currently under my protection, and if I wanted you dead I’d have ordered Sahir slit your throats in that hovel while you were sleeping. What was it called again?”
“The Gilded Anchor.” Sahir supplied, dropping into a chair beside his captain. “Not the most creative of names.”
“Terrible, if you ask me.” Levaunt said with a grimace, as if the very sound of it offended him.
“Shame no-one ever did.” Sahir snickered with unexpected familiarity. I thought I saw, through Baen’s eyes, the corner of Levaunt’s mouth tighten ever so slightly. Was he trying not to smile, or trying to hide his anger. Undercurrents, clearly. Sahir and Levaunt were perhaps not so close as they might seem.
“Go on, drink.” He ordered, and when seeing the two of us hesitate rolled his eyes and dropped both feet to the ground. “Here.” Leaning forward, he took first my then Baen’s goblet and poured a healthy stream of the sanguine liquid from them into his own, empty glass. Lifting it in a toast, he took a measured quaff. “Satisfied?”
“Just tell us what you want.”
“You two are not on Tatianna’s crew.” Levaunt said, leaning back in his seat. It was a statement, not a question, and when we said nothing a small frown came and went on his face before he continued. “I know everyone who served on The Covenant, and I’ve always been careful to keep track of new hands her captain hired on. You two aren’t amongst them.”
“We’re new.” Baen shrugged. “Very new. Maybe you need better sources.”
“It’s clear the two of you know how to handle yourselves.” He smiled, brushing the insult off. “I heard all the details of your little battle with the law. It was impressive enough to make me wonder if you realise that Tatianna cannot afford you.”
“That’s not quite the way she tells it.” I said. “And I don’t see how our arrangement is any of your business.”
“I’m sure she’s told you all manner of things, but none of that really matters.” He replied. “You two are capable, the Lionguard you left in the street attest to that.” I decided not to mention that Baen hadn’t been involved in the fight and if it hadn’t been for Fotti’s sniping things would have been a lot more desperate. I was still confident I would have demolished the Lionguard, but not without revealing my abilities. “I want you both on my side.”
“A job offer.” I said, lifting my goblet and taking a small sip. “That’s why you sent your stooge there.”
“’Stooge’?” Sahir smirked, leaning back and looking steadily at me. “Kaede, you wound me.”
“Setting aside Sahir’s obvious charms, let me present you with my offer.” Levaunt said. “I understand you’re trying to make good on some merchandise, and that’s what drew you to Tatianna in the first place.” He nodded behind us, and the norn deposited the black satchel on the table. “I’ll find you a fence, pay for his commission and indeed cover all expenses to help you sell that if you do one simple thing for me, and don’t worry, it’s not something as dramatic as murder or even treachery.” The pirate smiled.“Just leave Tatianna and The Covenant. Stay out of the way and let what’s going to happen happen.” He leant back, a card player convinced he had the winning hand. “Nothing more.”