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A part of this has been posted before, but I made some changes, expanded it and added a second part, one of the same lenght as the first.









That's it?


Raesa looked up, over a muscled shoulder, to the low, beamed ceiling above the bed. A lamp swayed, giving out a reddish glow, once to the right, then sharply to the left. Thumping sounds rang out, a head-rest hitting the wall, again and again – the lamp swayed, in step with the beat above. Time well spent – unlike mine. His moist, heated breath brushed against her ear; frowning, she shifted away. Particles of dust fell down and sprinkled the bed, forming a lighter pattern on the tanned skin she’d caressed moments before.


Caressed too well.


Raesa’s hand traced a way up a powerful arm, resting against her side – he shivered – and gripped him at the shoulder, pushing back. She’d had enough of his dead weight on her.


Grunting, he sat back, leaning on his haunches, tangled braids of wet hair flying through the air as he shook his head. “Fun’s over, then?†A tired, but satisfied tone. He grinned and tried to slap her behind – Raesa caught his hand. Her eyes narrowed, taking him in. What had she seen in him?


Visibly sobering, he drew back. “How much?â€Â


Raesa blinked, drawing herself up on her elbows. On reflex, her hand flew to her waist, where a weapons belt would be. Her fingers traced bare skin instead – his eyes followed them, breathing grown heavy again. Eyes drifting closed, Raesa took a deep breath of her own and expelled it.


Just like a man to think her a paid whore when she’d only wanted a moment’s pleasure.


Wishful thinking. No pleasure could be found in this fool’s fumbling touch. Considering, Raesa smiled and let her hand drop – down her hip, over his thigh, nails scratching skin. He swallowed, hard.


Might as well get something out of this. “A hundred gold.†One stray feather tickled between her shoulder blades as she leaned back against the pillows.


The man’s – what was his name? – eyebrow rose, the corner of his mouth quirking. “Careful, girl,†he said. “I’ll not have you rob me.†He rose to his knees. “I could have the use of a Calishman harem for such a sum.â€Â


He thought she meant is as a jest. A jest, yes, but not one he’d had in mind. Her eyes met his, unflinching. “Two hundred gold.â€Â


The inept man’s jaw clenched. The joke did not please him anymore, it seemed. A foot touched the floor. “You’ll have a gold piece, no more.†His voice tethered on the edge of a threat.


He thought himself intimidating, no doubt. A green youth to the field of battle, as well as to the pleasures of the bed-chamber, despite his size. A mercenary for hire. Raesa stretched and yawned, hiding a smile “Three hundred gold, then.â€Â


Tunic draped over his head, arms sliding into the sleeves, he paused. “Don’t tempt me, woman.†Reaching for his pants, strewn on the floor, he said, “I’ve had enough of your insolence.â€Â


Insolence! A hot wave of anger rolled in, drowning whatever humor she'd found in the situation.


With a clink of metal, a coin landed on the bed stand. “Take it and be thankful,†he said, turning back towards her.


How’s this for gratitude?


Raesa’s fist connected with his throat, fingers rigid and extended – enough to stop him in his tracks, not enough to kill. No need to get the city-guard into an uproar. Gurgling, he sagged to the floor, limp. A swift kick to the back of the head knocked him unconscious.


Raesa breathed in, once, her anger ebbing away, as it always did after the fighting was done. Father would be proud. A bitter edge of sarcasm accompanied the thought. Stepping over him, she collected her clothes, strewn throughout the room, and retrieved two daggers, fallen behind the bed stand. Once done, clothed and armed, she crouched down, next to the lumbering fool and took a heavy pouch from his belt. It clinked when she shook it – filled with gold, sliver and copper. It had been a good year for mercenaries.


Take it, he'd said. And she would. The blow – for the insult. The gold – to pay the thieves’ damnable price. Raesa needed all the coin she could get.


The stairway creaked and groaned under her feet as she descended into the common room of the tavern. A myriad of smells drifted up, both pleasant and foul, so intermixed that it proved impossible to determine which. Bodies cluttered, next to the bar and seated at the tables, perfumed and unwashed alike. Scents of wine, ale, roasts venison and strong stew fought to cover up the stench of the sewers – and failed to. Raesa shook her head, holding her breath. This, the guests of the Copper Coronet got to enjoy for free. Coin up-front for everything else.


Raesa shouldered her way through the crowd, gathered around the pit, eager to see the dogs fight, and shoved a dark haired man out of the way. Spewing curses, the man reached for his belt – she relaxed her muscles, balancing on the balls of her feet. Another man, hair the color of wheat, caught hold of his wrist and shook his head, with a few whispered words in the first runt’s ear. Both soldiers, by the look of them. On second glance, Raesa recognized the other man; a companion of that inept mercenary she’d had tonight.


Him and his gold both.


Taking a step back, the hot-headed buck on her right spat and turned back towards the pit. With a smile and a nod her way, the fair haired man opened his mouth to speak, the scar above his lip glinting white. The angry snarl of the dogs and the roar of the crowd, pleased at the sight of first blood, drowned out his voice. Frowning, he pointed above. A clear question.


Dark humor making her lips curl, Raesa nodded and placed the back of her hand against her cheek. Asleep – partly true. With a small nod in return, Scar pushed his cloak to the side and pointed to a coin pouch beneath it – another question.




Stifling laughter that threatened to burst out, Raesa offered him a real smile and a polite shake of the head. Rolling his shoulders in a shrug, he turned around, his attention shifting back to the match in the pit beneeth their feet. A dog howled, then fell silent.


Raesa allowed herself yet another amused shake of the head. What she wouldn’t give to see their expressions when they discover their friend strewn out on the floor, bested by a ‘tavern wench’. Hah! Moving away from the crowd, she made her way towards the tables…


…when raised voices drew her attention.


“Cheating son of a whore!†A burly man jumped up from a table, a curse on his lips, a hand gripping the hilt of a knife. “You’ve rigged the dice,†he said.


The hilt caught Raesa’s eye – lavishly ornamented, heavy with jewels. Her eyebrows knitted closer together. Any man who would dare to set foot inside the Copper Coronet with something of such worth plain in sight could be only one of two things: a madman or a power within the city walls.


Trouble, either way. Raesa stepped closer, behind the man’s considerable bulk.


Amusement flickered across Yoshimo’s fine-boned, angled features. “Peace, my good man.†Both his hands remained on the table, spread out in a gesture of good will.


An empty gesture at best, a lie at worst. Raesa had walked with him, through Ribald’s store, when he bought the new arm-sheaths for his throwing knives. No gold, silver, or jewels adorned those hilts. But the blades were sharp, quick and deadly, and one, at least, could be found up his sleeve at all times. Among other things.


Yoshimo smiled – a dangerous smile, to anyone with a good par of eyes in their skull. “The dice are yours.†An elaborate shrug. “How could I have rigged them?â€Â


The man’s face molded into a mask of confusion, and Raesa felt a grin stretch her lips. Will wonders never cease? He’d actually won this one, fair and square – a rare occasion. She moved forward and to the side, to observe both men.


The fat fool paused, fingers griping the rich material of his cloak. Recovering, he said, “A trick of far-away lands. Magic, sorcery…†He towered over Yoshimo, the sitting, smaller man. “You can’t be trusted, you foreigners.â€Â


Yoshimo’s high pony-tail swung through the air when he shook his head. “I assure you, I know of no magic.†The metal rings in his hair clinked. “We place little stock in such things in my homeland.†Reaching down, next to him on the bench, Yoshimo placed a still sheathed katana on the table.


Sheathed for the moment.


The chatter from the neighboring tables came to a sudden halt.


“My family holds fast to the old ways,†Yoshimo continued, in a cheerful tone, as if he told a tale. “The sword-dance.†His fingers slowly traced the hilt. “Now, there, I know of a trick or two.â€Â


Yoshimo gazed up at the bulky man, found his eyes and held them. “Would you care for a demonstration, friend?â€Â


The man’s Adam apple bobbed, and he pushed away from the table. “They should have drowned you when you first washed up on the shores of Amn.†With that, he walked away, pushing through the crowd, cursing until the door of the Copper Coronet slammed shut behind him.


It serves the fool right. With a laugh, Raesa circled the table, until she could stare down at Yoshimo.


“Back so soon?†Yoshimo didn’t look up, still counting his winnings.


“Unfortunately.†Raesa’s hand traced the rough wood, circling a splinter, as she sat next to him on the bench. “Here’s something for the next dice game.†The pouch landed on the table with a clink of metal.


Yoshimo quirked an eyebrow. “A sudden change of profession, young one?†Familiar dry humor in his tone. “From warrior to…â€Â


The corner of her mouth twitched. “From warrior to thief.†Leaning back against the wall, Raesa clasped his shoulder. “I learned from the best.â€Â


Yoshimo weighed the pouch in his hand, before loosening the laces. “Should we expect… company?†Silver flashed between his thumb and forefinger, reflected by the torch-light. “That would be unfortunate,†he said. The first coin disappeared from sight, replaced by the glitter of gold. “The rooms are paid for the week, and the owner of this fine establishment does not reimburse his customers.â€Â


And those that insist too much end up in the stew. “I am aware of it.†Raesa pointed at the mug of ale in front of him. “Just don’t have too much of this.†Waving a serving girl over, she said, “I may have need of your sword-dance tonight.†She reached for a dagger in her boot – it needed to be sharpened.


Yoshimo nodded and pushed the beverage away, a ready smile on his lips. “I never do.†The pouch slid across the table, into her waiting hands. “How many?â€Â


“Three, no more,†Raesa answered, twirling the dagger in one hand. Good balance. “One wounded.â€Â


His knuckles rasped against wood. “I am not one to turn away coin, but…†He caught her eye. “Was this wise, young one? We do not lack for enemies.â€Â


The old door at the entrance creaked as she leaned in, fingers creeping forward to trace the hilt of the katana. “Any weapon, Yoshimo…†He tensed, predictably so, hand twitching against the wooden surface. “…needs time out of the scabbard.†A pause. “Lest it become useless.†Raesa lifted her hand up, away from the hilt, fingers spread – Yoshimo relaxed.


His most prized possession, that sword.


Body twisting to face her, he said, “The hand that wields the weapon needs rest.†Yoshimo took the mug and raised it to his lips for a small sip. “A rare thing, ever since our paths crossed.†Another sip, “If anything, some time inside of the scabbard is in order.â€Â


He moved the katana out of her reach as he spoke – she did not speak against it. Let him keep his secrets. Raesa shrugged. “That’s rich, coming from a man who just made an enemy of a Council member, most likely…†She re-sheathed the dagger. “Over a dice-game.â€Â


A slow shake of the head. “That is no Council member.â€Â


“Even so,†Raesa answered. “A fool he may be, but a fool with wealth to spare is nothing to be trifled with in the City of Coin.â€Â


He gave an exaggerated sigh. “You forget, young one, that I have been a guest here, in this city, for far longer than you.†The twinkle of silver appeared in his hand again. “That man had been a figure of some influence in the past, true. He even had the ear of the Council.†The small coin moved back and forth between his fingers. “But no longer. His businesses have been foreclosed, quietly. Two days past, his mansion in the Government District had been sold in secret to the highest bidder, and a price will be placed on his head by tomorrow morning.†The coin flew through the air and landed back on his opened palm. “Something to remember, young warrior. When two men share a mistress, it is only a matter of time, and coin, until one of them ends up in the gutter, face first. And if one of the two is the head of the Council…†A pause. “The other will soon find himself out of coin and time both.â€Â


How does he hear these things? Determined not to ask, Raesa lookad away and pushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear.


“One hears fascinating things among the guards, past the eight tankard of ale,†Yoshimo said. “The trick is to let them win a hand or two. And one must, of course, remain sober. A necessary evil.†He eyed the mug in her hand. “Nothing loosens a man’s tongue faster than ale, cards and dice…. And a willing, able woman. In absence of which, one must improvise.â€Â


Raesa lowered the ale and held back a smile. “Spoken like a man of true faith, Yoshimo.†At his frown, she continued, “Mask’s faith, that is. The god of thieves.â€Â


Both elbows on the table, Yoshimo leaned forward. “We have many gods in my homeland. I honor some of them still. An agile mind, a glib tongue, and a steady hand are the things that make up a thief’s fortune – but a prayer never hurt one’s chances.†Looking up, towards the rented rooms, he said, “Now, I would retire for the night…†He paused and smiled. “Do you, by chance, have need of another kind of sword-dance?†A wider grin and a wink accompanied the words.


Snorting, Raesa elbowed him in the ribs. “I’ve had enough of disappointments for one night, thank you.†His mock-wounded expression forced a laugh out of her, and she reached out, to slap his forearm.


“My lady wounds me…â€Â


At the name, her hand paused, mid-air, eyebrows knitting closer together. Raesa drew back, feeling a tightness in her chest she could not explain. Guilt, and… Reasa shook her head. What was there to to feel guilty about? “Don’t call me that.†The serving girl placed a mug of ail on the table, white froth tickling down its sides. Her own voice sounded strangely hoarse to her ears. Raesa tried for a lighter tone. “I get enough of that from…â€Â


A slow nod and an even slower smile. “Ah. The young samurai.†How Anomen hated being called that, Yoshimo knew well enough. “And here he comes, back from praying at the Temple.†Yoshimo pointed to a point past her shoulder. “You’ve gone to some lengths, lately, to keep your conquests out of his sight. And paid good coin for the rumors not to reach his ears. One has to wonder why.â€Â


Raesa swallowed. “None of your business.†The reply came out sharper than she’d intended. What was this other feeling?


“You care for him, then?†Yoshimo did not sound surprised. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Will he be a disappointment, too, I wonder?â€Â


“My lady…†Anomen’s voice rang out behind her, warm, hesitant.


Twisting to face him, Reasa’s eyes circled the room – past Yoshimo’s knowing smile, past a drunken tavern guests, stumbling towards the in-keeper, past the men standing guard next to back-rooms, past her own mug of ale, forgotten on the table – and met his. When his fingers brushed the back of her neck for an instant, she shivered.


Desire. Yes, she recognized that. That, she could handle. But…




The sinking feeling returned. That tightness in her chest.


She’d read about this feeling.


Father would be proud.


The thought almost made her smile.







There will be another one shot from Anomen's pov after this -- taking place before the events of this piece, in the time of Moira's murder.

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