Roake walked through the little shop, not looking at the bronze cups and decanters. He followed Gange to a little, dirty carpet on the floor. Gange lifted it and Roake saw a place in the floor that you would never see unless you were looking for it. Gange lifted that and Roake followed the bent little man down the crooked stairs leading down into darkness.

At the bottom, Gange lit a lantern. The oil stank up the room quickly. “It keeps away the ghosts,” Gange said.

Roake heard the Tower used ghosts to find men like Gange. He didn’t know whether to believe the rumor or not. But Gange was the kind of man who believed in safety and secrecy. That, at least, Roake could appreciate.

In the little room, Gange took tarps off the weapons and tools. Roake looked them over, one by one.

“Looking for something in particular?” Gange asked.

Roake shook his head. “No,” he said.

“That doesn’t sound like you,” Gange told him.

There was nothing to say to that. Roake picked up a knife. Short enough to be hidden up the sleeve. Long enough to cut through a man. The balance was for thrusting, not throwing.

“Like that one?” Gange said. “It was on a man who died escaping the Black Guard. They didn’t find his body.”

Roake asked, “Why did the Guard want it?”

Gange smiled. He had more fingers than teeth. “It’s enchanted, of course. A bleeding blade. You make an injury with that and the cut will never heal.”

Roake held the blade in both hands. He put it back down. “How much?” he asked.

“Three thousand,” Gange said. Roake just looked at him. “A valuable weapon. A revenge weapon. I can’t just let it go.”

Roake nodded. He took out the envelope. “I have one thousand in here,” he said.

“That’s two thousand too little,” Gange said, smiling. “So sorry.”

Roake reached into his pocket and withdrew a golden ring. He showed it to Gange.

“Will this cover for the rest?” he asked.

Gange’s eye opened wide. “It might…” His voice trailed off as he looked at the ring.

Roake waited for the little man. He looked around the shop.

“There’s a small enchantment on the ring, you know,” Gange said. Roake turned and saw Gange had lifted his eye patch. The red eye under the patch gleamed in the dim light. “A very… oh.”

Gange clenched the ring in his hand. “Yes. Yes. This will do. It will do very well.” Gange smiled again. “In fact,” he said. “It more than covers your debt.”

“Good,” Roake said.

The little man stepped over to the tables. “Here,” he said. “It came in the other day. It made me think of you.” His twisted fingers lifted something small from the table. He put it in Roake’s hand. “Keep this on you. Keep it in your pocket.”

Roake looked at it. “Why?”

“For luck,” Gange said. “It was marked at the founding of the City. By the first Emperor. The fool who sold it to me had no idea what it was.”

Roake thought about the ring he just handed over.

“It’s yours. A good trade. Trust me, Roake.”

Roake did trust him. Gange was always fair with him. Even if he was a bit superstitious. A bit cryptic. What could you expect from a man who spent ten years in the dungeon under the Tower?

“Good,” Roake said. “We’re done?”

Gange nodded. “We’re done,” he said.

Roake followed the man to the stairs leading back up into the bronze shop and put the coin in his hand into his pocket.

Fantasy Noir 5
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