LIGHTNING was striking in the city again.
It cracked and boomed, lit the sky and scorched the ground.
Aias stood upon a rooftop overlooking the lower reaches of Assan, a long way from the Palace at the city’s heart, far upstream of the tributaries of the great Messro river that wound through this district.
“The wars aren’t quietening,” remarked Briny at her side. The woman leaned on a gargoyle as she watched the lights, an inadvertently intimate pose that brought a smile to Aias’s lips. She had opened up to Briny since their last big job, when she had shown a level of trust and loyalty that had impressed Aias, and she thought the woman may be her first true friend since childhood.
“They’re getting worse. Weapons are getting cheap. Anyone can pick up sorcery in a stick for a couple of crowns.” She looked up at the bright night sky, cloudless, though thunder continued to reach her from the underworld battle in the distance, the sound echoing along claustrophobic streets.
“This why your work is drying up? The mages are in hiding, churning out equipment rather than put themselves in harm’s way?”
“Maybe. Ulaf has a diviner who might have picked up on a lead. They’re protected from scrying pretty well, so he’s asked for my help.”
“Ulaf… the crime boss, right? From up near Little Feruli. I was wondering whether you’d taken up an official position with the City since the last job you did with that mage and the Guard.”
“Don’t push me, Brine. I push back, and it’s a long fall from here.”
Briny laughed at the empty threat. She’d just wanted to push some buttons, play on Aias’s animosity for mages and the Law.
“Are you with me, Brine? We’ll be walking straight into that.” She gestured toward the flashing lights, now accompanied by a steady red glow as something large burned out of control.
“Mortal danger? A fiery death? An opportunity to work for an odious little crim that makes me want to bathe after he looks at me? Don’t make me beg, Aias.”