“That was not what we agreed upon, Modor,” Orisis said.
Modor didn’t turn around. Instead, he spoke as though to himself. “It was a tough job. You knew that going in.” Modor took a drag on his cigar. “I want what you owe me.”
Modor had made arrangements to meet with Orisis within an hours of leaving Kafiri Square. He’d insisted on meeting at the docks. For his part, Orisis had insisted that the meeting take place after dark. That had suited Modor. Still, even though he’d been expecting Orisis to sneak up behind him, Modor found the experience unnerving. It had required considerable restraint to keep from turning around, especially considering that the War Master probably wanted Modor dead.
“The coin was to be given for stealth. Stealth was not achieved. Give me the Eye, and count yourself lucky to have survived.”
Modor took another drag on his cigar. “I know a fence who would give me a lot more than twelve crowns for it.”
“There is not one fence in all Brega would touch the Eye after what happened today.”
“Good thing my man is in Agathon,” Modor replied. He knocked the ash off the end of his cigar. “After all this excitement, that trip’s starting to look mighty appealing.”
Orisis leveled his gaze. “I could kill you where you stand.”
“You could try.” Modor put a hand on Fang’s hilt. “But now that you’ve seen what my crew can do, I expect you’d rather not. And let’s face it. Even though we were seen in the Tower, you got away clean. That means the Stone Priest got away clean as well.”
“And what of your affair with his wife?” Orisis asked.
“Y’know, I’ve been thinking about that, and Karissa isn’t one of his favorites. She told me as much herself. So what I’m thinking is that hunting me down over an affair with a girl he barely knows and rarely sees probably isn’t worth his time and effort. Especially if I’m in Agathon.” Modor turned and looked Orisis in the eyes. “You, on the other hand, he might feel different about.”
“And why, pray tell, would he hunt me down instead of you?”
“Because of the danger to his reputation,” Modor said. He shrugged. “I figure he can handle an affair. The man’s not an innocent, after all. But he won’t want knowledge of that affair getting around. His reputation means something. And you know about the affair. Plus, you’re right here in Brega. And the fact that you mentioned it once—even to him—means that you might talk about it again.”
Orisis laughed. “Very good. But why would he not kill you for that same reason. Surely even you must realize that your continued existence is a threat to Belam’s reputation as well.”
“Maybe,” Modor said, “but then again, I’m not the one who’s threatening to talk. Plus I’m leaving for Agathon tomorrow.” He took another drag on his cigar, and when he exhaled, he blew a smoke ring. Then he smiled. “So are you gonna give me my twelve crowns, or are we gonna have to fight about it?”
“Where’s the Eye?” Orisis asked.
“Very well.” The War Master drew a small purse from beneath the folds of his robe. “Here. It’s all there.”
Modor smiled. “I never doubted it.”
At Modor’s nod, Belle emerged from a shadow at the far end of the alley. She handed the Eye to Orisis.
“It was a pleasure doing business with you, War Master,” she said.
* * *
Three crowns didn’t buy much, Alaira reflected, but they could pay for a bath in a fancy inn and a very nice bottle of bourbon. She leaned back in the soapy water and savored the feeling of being clean. Then she tipped her head back and ran her hands through her hair for perhaps the two hundredth time in the past hour. When she came up, she grabbed her glass.
That’s very nice, she thought of the brandy.
She heard the door open as she set her glass down, but she didn’t turn around. “You disturb my bath at your peril.”
“And here I thought you were waiting for someone to scrub your back,” Modor replied. He sat down next to the bathtub and poured himself a tumbler of bourbon. “You did a nice job today.”
“Thank you,” Alaira replied. She lifted her glass in mock salute.
Modor clinked his glass to hers. He took a drink then started to pull off his shirt.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting ready to scrub your back?” Modor asked in response.
Alaira sighed. It was just too much. She could still see Khalid Al-Kafiri’s dead eyes looking up at her, and she could still feel his dead flesh under her fingertips. Like it or not, she needed to process that. And more to the point, she needed to reconsider the people in her life that continually put her in these sorts of life-and-death situations.
Bottom line: she needed a break. From Modor. From burglary. From everything.
“Put your clothes back on, Modor.”
“What?” he said, clearly surprised. “But I thought you’d want—“
Alaira looked at him. “What I want is to not have crawl through any more sewers for you. Just let me finish my bath in peace, okay?”
“Then you’re not going to Agathon with us?”
“No. You and Belle can go. Xarian asked me to stay here with him, and I’m going to do it. We might head out to Grob’s Folly until things cool off, but that’s it.”
Modor frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that. You’ve been a good friend to me.”
Alaira smiled. “I still am your friend. I just need some time to think things out. But don’t worry. When you and Belle get back from Agathon, I’m sure we’ll all hook up again.”
“No buts! Now leave me alone. I want to finish my bath.”
|Modor concept sketch by Sheldon Goh|