Zeke learns of the job contract from Leila, the Eyes of Ashara, a mystical amulet of unknown power seems to be the root of the troubles in Igstanpur. The item had been stolen from Leila and the red-haired woman urges Zeke to undertake the job and help her track the thief before the Inquisitors find the poor fool.
The night was quiet, thought Zeke while he rested his arm against the open window. The lodgings were surprisingly decent given the neighborhood. The moon and stars were bright, not a single cloud, it almost seemed as if they were speaking to those who bothered to look up. The gentle breeze from the harbor side managed to make its way to the ghetto, Zeke adjusted his right arm out of his cloak, its entire length was encased in an elaborate gauntlet up to his shoulder. Upon careful inspection, the gauntlet looked still pristine. No stiffness in the joints, reaction time was within acceptable margins, and the weight did not seem uneven. The young man remained transfixed on the arm, each digit ended with a pointed tip, it was designed to rend and shred its target.
Footsteps approached the door to the room, Zeke quickly pulled his cloak over his right arm. The steps passed but the young man eyed the wooden door intently for a few more moments, just in case. Once he deemed it safe, he relaxed his posture and pulled the arm out again under the moonlight.
Sooner or later, I’ll have to use this, he thought.
By mid-morning, the sound of workers rushing to work filled the streets down below. Zeke was already a light sleeper, he took the washcloth and got himself ready for the day as well. He tucked his right arm behind the cloak and made his way to the dining table and found Leila already eating breakfast. A small platter of bread, cheese, some meats, along with some hot tea. A rather modest breakfast, but for people in this area, it would probably be considered an exquisite and luxurious meal. The two ate their meal in relative silence, the small boy from yesterday returned to pick up the plates and cups after they finished.
“So where should we start our ‘hunt’ for today?” Zeke asked with a piece of meat still hanging from his lips.
Leila took a sip of her tea, her gaze transfixed on the warm liquid, “I managed to get some dirt from the cantina before you and those metalheads arrived. The thief was a tiefling named Azmal, has a part of his right horn missing. A con-man by trade, but it seemed he was in a bit of financial trouble and most likely does not understand the implications. He’s going to try to sell it, though I do not believe he has a buyer yet. It’s a dangerous item to keep for too long. But if the wrong buyer got wind that the Eye was in circulation, there might be some unwanted attention.”
“Wrong buyer?” Zeke inquired.
Lelia cleared her through but avoided eye contact, “there are some dangerous individuals that do business in this region, some of them are collectors of magical artifacts. They will do anything to get their hands on such an item.”
“This job is starting to sound more and more dangerous with each passing moment,” Zeke slyfully retorted.
Leila grinned. “I warned you the job would not pay much, and danger is always expected.”
“Always,” Zeke managed.
The both of them left and blended in with the crowds, plenty of people were out early for work and to do their shopping. Zeke had his hood up but remained observant of their surroundings, Leila navigated through the crowds expertly. There was a clear destination in mind, every so often Zeke caught a glance of her back and could not help but let his eye trail downward. Leila turned back every so often, though Zeke knew better and quickly turned to look elsewhere.
Finish the job, he told himself.
The two of them made their way to the harbor, Leila raised the hood of her cloak over her head. Her red-hair was already unique enough to be spotted several yards away, to conceal it now suggested a greater need for discretion, Zeke thought. He tightened his grip on the cloak, his right arm already held the scabbard of the blade. Using a trick he learned, he channeled the senses together to gain awareness of his surroundings. A technique he acquired from a tracker from the northern mountains.
“I’ll do the talking, just watch my back,” Leila instructed. The two made their way to a tavern that hung on the port. The sound of drunken sailors in the midday hour filled the dark interior. It smelled of fish, sweat, and cheap ale. Most of the patrons paid no mind to their entrance, a few curious glances but nothing threatening.
Zeke kept close and assessed the patrons, some looked like thugs and brutes who primarily worked on the docks. Leila led them to a sleeping drunk in the back corner of the tavern. He reeked of the foul ale, and probably did not bathe in a week.
A swift kick and the scruffy man awoke startled.
“Relax, Ced. It’s me.” Leila lowered her hood and kept a stern face. Like a disgruntled child to a disappointing parent.
“Eh, Leila? What is it girl? By the nine hells it’s early.” The old man tried to adjust his eyes, his hands smeared dirt over his cheek and across his nose. He coughed up some flem and spat it on the floor. Another sip of ale.
“Focus, Ced. I need your help finding someone and I promise you can go back to sleep.” Leila took a nearby seat next the Ced. She gave Zeke a reassured look.
“Alright, then. Who you look fer?” Ced kept half an eye closed, his other assumably good eye swerved between Leila and her companion.
Leila asked softly. “Where’s Azmal?”
Ced sharply eyed Leila, “something happen to ’em?”
Leila leaned closer to Ced, holding his bony hand, “I pray to the Gods, no. But something might, have you seen him?”
Ced’s eyes began to water, a few short sniffles, and a hiccup. “Last I saw ’em was a few nights ago, said he would get nuff coin to get outta here. Said he be goin’ to Drakka for some sorta deal.”
Leila’s complexion turned pale, “Drakka is involved?”
“I don’t know, that’s all he said to me before he left.
Before Leila could to leave, she felt a tug on the edge of her cloak.
“Please Leila, he’s all I got left,” Ced pleaded. Leila held the old man’s hand gingerly, her expression softened. There no further words between them, Leila pulled the hood over once again and the pair exited the establishment swiftly.
Zeke could tell that this ‘Drakka’ perturbed Leila, he kept his silence and closely followed her.
“Are you good dealing with mages?” Leila asked.
“I can hold my own,” he replied.
“Good, looks like we’re going to be hunting some mages soon.”
The two past a busy marketplace, various merchant stalls full of goods, foods, and wares. After passing through two districts, Leila and Zeke stopped in front of large bordello. The sign was written in Igstanpur, with what would be loosely termed as the “Palace of Love”.
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