Zeke finds and meets with an old acquaintance, a mysterious blonde hair woman dressed in black leather. The young man procures information that may safeguard Leila and Azmal from any business backlash. The only obstacle left is the assassin from the Nest of Shadows, Blackfire. Time is running out as daylight begins to pour over the ports of Igstanpur, the Inquisitors within the Central Didact are on high alert following information of a possible break-in and attempted theft on the Eye of Ashara once more. Leila and Azmal continue to wait within the prison cells below the large headquarters.
Dawn broke over the horizon and crept along the stone walls that surrounded Igstanpur, the docks were the first to burst into life as the sailors awoke early to begin shoveling crates and barrels of goods. Soon the merchant stalls would spurn to life and the bazaars would be filled with buyers and sellers from all across the city and beyond. The smell of baked goods mingled with the stale, arid air. Time was precious and Zeke would need to find his prey soon, otherwise Leila and Azmal were sure to meet the wrath of an assassin from the Nest of Shadows.
Zeke had gotten word from a few urchins and con men about a place where the illicit roam or reside, especially smugglers and sellswords. Even if Blackfire was not there, someone must have heard something. The young warrior kept his cloak tight as he traversed the narrow streets and alleyways, avoiding Inquisitors and guardsmen. Eventually the streets became quieter, some of them even darker for the middle of the morning. Stepping into the world of shadows can be treacherous if unprepared, Zeke could feel a dozen wandering eyes as he walked past small groups stooping on street corners. Zeke prayed that they were smart enough to realize that they were out of their league, luckily they did and most left for other tails to chase.
He followed the hidden symbols and cants left around the proximity of a plain building, a tavern for smugglers and illegals to shelter up for a night or two. Zeke once again became attuned with his surroundings, the sound of every heartbeat, a couple dozen of sleeping breaths, others active and awake. He had the element of surprise, he considered his options traced his hand over the door of the tavern. No wards, but an intricate magical lock held the door shut. Zeke took his metallic arm and grasped the handle of the door, a gentle tug and the door opened. The inside was dark and dimly lit but a few lanterns. There were two behind the bar opposite of the entrance, and another mopping the floors behind a few rows of long tables.
Zeke quickly entered and made his way over to the bar, the two there looked up on his approach while the one mopping continued on his business.
“Room for one?” One of them asked, he had a scar across the left side of his face, clean-shaven head, rather chubby but definitely had some muscles underneath. The man wore also a rather plain tunic with breeches, a low-level grunt meant to keep appearances of a business not far from the dockside.
“Yeah, two nights. Could also use a drink, too.” Zeke replied.
“Three gold a night, drinks are a couple of silver. Don’t expect anything fancy.” The bald fat man relayed.
Zeke slid eight gold coins onto the table, leaning closer to the innkeeper, “I’m going to need a few drinks.”
The innkeep took the coin and motioned Zeke over to the bar that was not far, the other man was towering with muscles and a thick burly beard. The smell of the sea dripped off him, probably a dock hand on the side, made sense for any necessary trafficking. The bearded man handed two all mugs of what looked and smelled like ale in front of Zeke. It was sickening and bitter from the first sip and practically remained that way all the way down to the bottom. Disgustingly sour and bitter, the aftertaste was equally sickening.
“What’s the good word around here?” Zeke calmly asked after finishing the first mug, keeping his face plain even after that awful drink.
“Inquisitors seem rather spooked since yesterday, they’ve been up and down the city all morning. Some said since last night even.” The bald chubby man replied, he remained at his post while wiping clean a few plates and glassware.
“What’s got them spooked?” Zeke continued.
“Word is that they got back their Eye of Ashara, but still thinks somebody will go after it. So they upped their patrols to scare off anyone stupid enough to go after it again. Heard they caught the ones who stole it in the first place, didn’t take them long, did it?” The bald man continue on his intensive focus on one plate, wiping off the smudges off.
“All a show, eh? Sounds pretty silly if you ask me.” Zeke concluded.
“Aye, them shinies always do this to remind the people they are above them, all about their divine mandate or whatever. I’ve heard enough religious babble this past week to last me a lifetime.” The man ranted and started on another plate.
“What? A bunch of missionaries or preachers knocking on these doors?” Zeke joked, taking another sip from the second mug.
“Nah! Not recently, just some folk holed up here. Spouting about black flames and sacrifices to some dark god. I tell ya, you always gotta keep an eye on those – they be crazy.” The bald man warned.
“Black flames? Sounds like something you wanna avoid,” Zeke related.
“Aye, hopefully they’ll leave soon. They pay good coin, but they leave ya worried at times.” He cautioned.
Zeke finished his drink and thanked the two for the talk. They nodded and continued with their chores while the morning waned. A set of stairs behind the bar was the only entrance to a hallway of rooms located below the tavern. Out of the dozen rooms, Blackfire was most likely in one of them. The innkeep told him to take the room at the end on the right, the young man focused on the surroundings again in the hopes to let his hunter’s instincts take hold and find a sliver of dark prayer from the zealous assassin. He walked silently down the hallway listening, gripping the handle of his blade poised to strike, his metallic arm was also ready. His left eye began to burn, Blackfire was close.
Zeke stopped in the middle of the hallway, the whispers of dark prayer crept behind the door to his left. He found him, the young man slowed his breath and channeled all his energy for one precise action. Like lightning, Zeke busted through the door and there a black hooded man sat surrounded by sacraments and candles. A black smoky blade met Zeke’s metallic arm, the sound of their clash rang like a temple bell. Zeke had found his prey, or was it the other way around?
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