Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Coming Twilight

Jack sensed his faux pas even before Don Garibaldi did himself. He rose slowly to his feet while the boss worked through what had just been said. It was only two steps towards the door, but, for Jack, that was enough. By the time Garibaldi was shouting an order to his goons to grab the grifter, Jack's long legs had already taken him past them and into the storefront of the tannery. Jack thanked the ancient merlanes once again for making orks just bright enough to follow orders, but not bright enough to anticipate them.

He was hardly safe, though. The Middens was Garibaldi's territory, and no one would give him succor until he at least crossed the Ponte del Tradimenti. He was quick, and smart. The orks were numerous, though, and tenacious. He'd never make the bridge. He needed an edge. Fortunately, he made a habit of always keeping edges about him.

The chaos of a street bazaar tempted him. But it was too obvious. Then he spotted the ancient house on the edge of the square, built in an oddly Tsoic style. That meant a courtyard was just inside that wall. He darted past a pair of arguing Arran mercenaries and into the cool shadows of the house's foyer. The locked inner gate yielded to the stroke of his Gift, and he was inside.

As he had hoped, climbing vines clung to the walls of the courtyard. He called on his fae blood, and stepped among them. His body stretched and divided, the flesh turning to wood, until he was one with the vines. Only an odd tangle of leaves and flowers where his face was belied that there was anything unnatural here.

There was no chance to breathe, though. Someone must have spotted his escape, as orks came bursting through the gate just as the transformation completed. They were clearly puzzled. Two loogaroos, orks made from wolves, sniffed all around the courtyard. A simple glamour of hiding would not have been enough to fool them, but Jack now simply smelled like another plant.

Jack was terribly confused when the orks gave up and left, without even touching the inner door. Even if they could tell that the grifter had not gone that way, surely they would want to ask the servants of the house if they had seen anything. But, they had seemed afraid to even go near that door. As much as he was grateful for the narrow escape, old instincts told him that he may have slipped the noose only to fall amongst the dogs.

The cloak of night would be necessary for Jack to slip away. Only a few hours to go. He only needed to gather his strength. And to figure out how to recover from his failed negotiation with Garibaldi. Simeon needed that vellum, and there was no oth-

"Hello," a voice whispered in Jack's ear, startling him. "Is there something I can do for you, halfling?"

Never one to miss a beat, Jack smoothly replied, "I'm sure there are many things you might be able to do for me. However, without knowing who you are, I can only guess at what those things might be. Might I ask your name?"

"Clever boy," the voice replied. It was oddly flat, with no cues even as to gender. The accent placed it clearly in northern Tsoi, though, so it went with the house. "Names have power, you know. But, I'm sure your mother taught you that, along with the trick of becoming part of my garden. For now, you may call me Twilight. Please, come inside."

Jack watched the inner door open, and yet was unable to see any hand on it. Clearly wizardry was at work here, but his knowledge of such things was crude at best. The one thing he did know was that wizards were to be avoided whenever possible. They were, as a rule, even cleverer than Jack, and that was inevitably dangerous. How had this Twilight known that his mother was the fae one?

Choices had led him down this primrose path. Choice now abandoned him to Fate, and Fate was ever so much crueler.

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