She wasn’t in the bed when he woke. He stretched his limbs and back, pulled himself out of the bed. The scars on his chest were still fresh and they ached. Roake put on his pants, walked across the room in bare feet into the kitchen. She was there.

She was clothed, perfumed and smoking a black cigar. When she saw Roake looking at it, she offered it to him. He shook his head. She didn’t say anything.

Roake stepped over to Javis. He knelt down. “She’s going to use your coach,” he said. “Take her back to the Upper City. Never come back here.”

Javis nodded. He didn’t say anything.

Roake got back up. He looked at the woman. She smiled through the smoke. She got up and took Javis by the arm, leading him out the door. She stopped for a moment.

“Jocasta,” she said. “What do I call you?”

Roake opened the door and said nothing.

After she left, Roake went back to the bedroom. He got dressed, pulled his hair back and tied it. Then, he went to the washroom.

A little later, he was on the street. It was early morning and the merchants were selling. The smell of baked bread and pastries barely covered the piss and shit from the morning buckets.

Beggars crowded on the walks, each of them with hands out. Some of them had all their fingers. Most were soldiers, crippled in the War. Roake never recognized any of them because he never looked close enough.

He passed by two Black Guards, wrapped in their dyed robes and silver bindings. The wound in his shoulder ached as they went by. Roake looked and saw them carrying crossbows. Behind their masks, he couldn’t tell if they were the ones he met. He walked a little further, then thought about following them.

No. There was no point. And he had other things to do. He kept going.

Later, when he passed under the shadow of the Wizard’s Tower, his wound ached again. He walked a little faster and got clear of it.

When he reached his destination, he knocked on the door. A squalid copper merchant’s shop. A peephole slid open and a single eye looked out. “Roake,” a voice that belonged to a toad said.

“Gange,” Roake said. “Let me in.”

The eye didn’t blink. “No, Roake,” he said. “You’re supposed to be dead. The fact that you aren’t means trouble. And I don’t allow trouble in my store.”

Roake raised the envelope and put it up close to the peep hole. The eye looked at it. Fingers reached through and tugged, but Roake didn’t let go.

“I’m no fool, Gange,” Roake said. “Let me in and you can see it.”

The eye blinked. “Very well,” it said. The peephole slid shut, the door unlocked and opened, and Roake stepped inside.

Fantasy Noir 4
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