• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Sayan Soul Chapter 2 Part 2 (Adult Content and Language)

Part 2

Autumn was fading in its colorful glory down by the river, but in the Red Lantern District, where trees were scarce, it was just another foggy, gray day.

“Why is it that I always come out looking like the asshole?” Strange asked, in an amused tone. “You must wash your hands more than anyone alive, to keep them so clean.”

Raisa uttered her response from under the hood of her cloak. “I wear gloves.”

They paused at the rear entry of The Scarlet Spicehouse, and after Strange unlocked the door, they entered. He set the lock again behind them and held the key out to Raisa, with an exaggerated bow. “The key to your palace, Your Grace.”

“Funny.” Raisa took the key and lowered her hood. The room they entered appeared some sort of storeroom, complete with grimy furniture piled up taller than Strange, and tossed on top, were old bed linens. The smell of unwashed bodies and stale incense drove the odor of the sea’s proximity right out of the air. It was every bit as dilapidated and neglected as she’d imagined, but for a brothel, it struck her as unexpectedly dank and cold.

The main parlor was even less impressive than the storeroom, when Strange led her through a pair of shabby doors held open by rusty hinges. “The whores have been furloughed, the bedrooms stripped of their tired furnishings, and the rest of the staff informed that they’ve been evicted. Again, making me the asshole, rather than you.”

“I appreciate that you did it,” she said. “I need this sale to remain quiet. I couldn’t have contact with the former tenants.” She opened a sun-bleached curtain to let in some light. “I’ll pay you for the carters, soon as I can scratch a few coins together.”

“Don’t worry about it.” He cleared his throat. “I haven’t a clue what you’ve got planned exactly, but I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Me too.” Raisa poked around in what once was the busy center of the distressed establishment. Rugs worn in paths. Walked by women as they paraded in their underthings, waiting to be propositioned. Sofa outlines, the divots from their feet remaining in the wool pile. “Getting out of the Elixir trade is about as hard as getting in.”

Strange leveled warm brown eyes on her. A sympathetic expression. “Kicking the stuff is hell, but getting out of a dealer’s business is deadly.” All the tears, the begging for death. He knew how much it hurt. He opened a door to the kitchen and ushered Raisa inside. “You’ll need friends now more than ever and I can’t spare any…friends being in somewhat short supply.”

An ancient stove lay under a heavy coating of grease, and a hanging rack of cast iron pots and pans clung to a bowed ceiling beam above. Raisa followed Strange through the room to a low hatch along the far wall. “This is the refuse chute,” he said, opening it and unleashing the rotten stench of kitchen scraps coupled with excrement. “It leads to the trash heap in the alley.”

“Good to know,” Raisa said, cocking her head and narrowing her right eye.

“Whomever’s name finds its way onto the deed will need to contact the appropriate authorities to have it emptied regularly.” His fingers drummed on the door. “Unless, of course, the house is more valuable with a hidden exit. In that case, I suppose the chute could be cleaned and the bill left unpaid, and soon enough no one would remember it exists at all.”

“I see where your this is going, and I’m not sure I like it.” Raisa brushed damp curls away from her face, careful not to stretch them and ruin her wig.

He closed the door and replaced the latch. “I was just thinking about that upstart who stole Lion’s chemist’s stock last year. ****ing tragic, that was.”

“Lion has a problem with restraint. I told him to cut the bastard and throw him in the sea, but he wanted to make an example.” Raisa fought the need to blink. If she did, she knew she’d see an image of that young fool with his face all gnawed. A recurring nightmare that took months to fade. “Could we step away from your passion for sanitation if I promise not to do anything that’ll warrant tying me up in the woods and leaving me to the pigs?”

“See that you don’t, because I can’t afford to cut you free and see to a proper burial.”

“Look…I’m not planning to murder Lion in his sleep, if that’s what you’re thinking. If that was my scheme, I don’t know which would be worse, praying no one found me, or relying on an old shit chute for escape. I couldn’t get away with it, anyway. He’s got hundreds of addicts out there, any one of them willing to sell me out to the next in line—Daveed, or whomever. I’d have a bounty on my head before his body went cold, and they’d have every crack in the wall watched, waiting for me to try to leave town.”

“I see you’ve given Lion’s untimely demise a healthy amount of thought,” Strange said, moving back into the main parlor. Raisa couldn’t tell by his stiff walk whether he disapproved of her forthrightness, or whether he actually thought she might have murder in mind.

“I’m really not going to hurt him. I can’t, and not just because I’m afraid of revenge. Or the pigs.” Her voice softened. “I care about him, Andrew. I really do. He’s an obstinate ass when he wants his way, and jealous as a cut bull, but I owe everything I have to him.”

Strange’s mouth became a tight line. “That might be the stupidest thing you ever said.”

Raisa’s nose stung, like when her eyes primed for a cry that began with a heart-tug. She leaned her weight against a windowsill, gazing out through a hazy pane at the street beyond the brothel’s front wall. “It probably doesn’t make much sense, my allegiance, but I don’t wish him harm. I just want my freedom.” She blinked until her face felt normal again.

“You deserve better than doing his dirty work for the rest of your life, but don’t equate freedom with happiness. It’s a lie, Raven, the worst ever told. The kind of lie that breaks hearts and minds. Turns folks into slaves all over again.”

Raisa turned to smile up at him. “You think I’m the sort of woman who would leave everything I ever wanted behind, just to become a slave to my heart?”

“No, I suppose not.” He straightened the wrinkles from his dark blue velvet coat. “But since you’ve taken in that girl, you’ve changed. Mind you, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. The girl’s given you a new reason to give a shit. I just don’t want you getting reckless. Freedom is one thing, but betrayal is something folks take seriously around here.”

“When I’m ready, I’ll ask Lion to let me go.”

He sucked in breath and let it out. “You’d better have a couple sacks of coins stashed under a rock, because even if Lion agrees to let you leave without question, others wouldn’t give a second thought to running down your carriage. To make it look like a robbery, they’ll rape and strangle you and the girl, leaving no witness. It’s happened before for less reason. No one who knows as much as you do gets out alive unless they pave the way with silver.”

“Who?” she demanded. “Who would kill me because I’m such a threat to them?”

“How many names do you want?”

His facetiousness wasn’t amusing, but a scowl was the best retort she could manage.

He put his hands in the air, as if Raisa stuck a shiv to his throat. “What? I pay protection money to keep accidents from happening to me, but you’ve had Lion’s reputation keeping you safe. In fact, if anyone caught a whiff of my getting too cozy with you right before you execute some big plan or some big name…well…I just can’t afford to start suffering accidents.”

“Then come with me.” She didn’t mean to blurt it, but frustration won out over tact. “You have a ship, and a family in the east. Neither of us believes in love enough to hold out for it. If you think you’re in danger for being my friend, come with me and we’ll sign the papers for Cherie. We could move to Eddenmark and build a real business.”

“Goronmark,” he said. “My family’s from Goronmark.”

“Whichever.”

He furrowed his brow. “You’re proposing marriage to me in a brothel I just sold you as a secret hideout? And the only strings attached are your crime boss benefactor, the most powerful don in Brazelton, and whether he’ll release you and your accumulated secrets? Oh yeah, all so we could live a marginally profitable yet loveless life together as merchants.”

Raisa narrowed her eyes. “Well when you put it like that, it just sounds stupid.”

He cocked his head and gave a little shrug. “It does…doesn’t it?”

She wasn’t serious, not really. But still, if Strange had showed even the slightest interest, she might have been relieved. Raisa took care of herself, but just once she wanted help making the hard choices. Strange and she would never have the kind of love that made the sheets wet, but they had the next best kind—loyalty. Truth, even. And that was something.

He sucked in a breath and let it out, shaking his head. “I don’t think I believed you until now. I knew you wanted to leave the game, but I didn’t think you’d actually follow through.”

“What changed your mind?”

“I’ve never seen you scared before, and I can see in your eyes you’re ****ing terrified.”

“Maybe I am.” There was no maybe about it. “All I have to do is find something Lion wants more than me, though.”

“How’s that going for you?”

“Well, I only just started looking. Give me a few days. Right now, I’m paying up on all my promises, so when the time comes, I’m not in debt to anyone.” She placed a stack of coins in his hand. “That’s all of it. Eighty-five.”

His eyes lingered on hers. Longer than a breath. Longer than three breaths. Long enough for Raisa to find his flared nostrils and lowered brows utterly confusing. Eventually, he took the coins, as if she were forcing them upon him. “Damn you,” he said, quietly. His beard bristled with his scowl of absolute irritation. “You’re really going to take the risk, aren’t you?”

Raisa regretted everything. She wasn’t one to apologize, because pride usually stood in the way of actually begging someone’s pardon, but guilt was a son of a bitch. If she didn’t say something to withdraw her ludicrous proposal, she’d regret it. She’d remember it. When she was trying to sleep, she’d punish herself, playing the scene over in her head. Always with the same outcome, though every pass she’d try to make herself sound less desperate, less pathetic. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to diminish anything about…anything…you know, between us.”

“You haven’t,” he said. “I might carry on with fellows, but I’m not completely inept regarding women.” His face softened. “I don’t hold it against you that you’re frightened and looking for somewhere to turn. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a terrible idea if you found someone who genuinely wanted to marry you. It just isn’t me, darling. What do you have to lose?”

Before Raisa could answer that she had a whole lot to lose, Strange followed up with another question. “What’s got you suddenly so spooked?”

No point being coy. “Shadow.” She shivered as a reflex, unable to conceal it entirely. “I heard he’s into something pretty shady, pardon the pun or whatever you call it.”

“Shadow? Are you kidding me? Why?”

“I’ve got concerns, is all. Have you heard anything about him making a play for Lion? Or me, for that matter?”

A pearl drop in his left ear swung with his headshake. “Nothing like that. He’s up to his eyeballs in the old business. Back to lifting shit, rather than leaning on addicts and shaking down whores. After that heist went bad in Mist…well, I’m sure you noticed things have gone quiet.”

Raisa hadn’t heard about a heist. She was too deep in her own problems. It did, however, explain Thorne’s magic ring. It must have come from the town with the magic school.

“I could do some asking,” Strange offered. “I know some of his associates. Simon, the wizard, and that bloke with the limp…what’s his name? Dimata. Shadow’s new best friends.”

“No,” Raisa said. “Don’t do anything out of the ordinary, especially not on my behalf. In fact, it might be better if you just avoided Shadow for the next few weeks.”

Strange raised a brow in his usual charming and exaggerated way. “Glad my protection money’s paid up, because it sounds like Shadow’s about to have himself a little accident.”

A silly grin crept to Raisa’s face. Strange’s antics and sense humor delighted her and she almost always took the bait when he set her up. “He just might be fixing to have one…”

Portfolio entry information

Author
Caged Maiden
Read time
9 min read
Views
873
Last update

More entries in General

More entries from Caged Maiden

Top