I am sitting in a cold, dank jail cell listening to cacophony of wheezy snores. Inkwell is nowhere to be seen. There is one bed, currently occupied with someone I’m quite sure I don’t want to face one-on-one. There is a ratfolk with a disconcerting sulfur odour lying less than a metre from me.
The evening started innocuously enough, back at the inn. I’d love to say I’m staying there out of some twisted sense of dark humour, but in truth it’s just the cheapest inn at the docks. Fortune telling is not a lucrative business here in Riddleport.
Still, it pays for a bed and a drink to help me forget about the horrible things crawling in the bed. I never thought I’d miss that damn bed, but tonight as I lie against a wall in this ill-smelling cell, even that pathetic lump of straw and lice seems inviting.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack to how exactly I got here. Specifically, to the moment the two marks walked into the bar earlier this evening – a muscled woman with a fancy-looking shield and another with an oversized hammer. The fine-looking weapons attracted my attention and the flash of coin I saw as they ordered their drinks confirmed my suspicions – they had money.
Seeing an opportunity, I sidled up to them and began baiting the hook. The shield woman – she looked as if she’d seen the business end of more than her fair share of fists, so let’s call her Bruiser – looked skeptical. They are a rather more suspicious lot in Riddleport than I’m used to. This one needed more stronger bait, so I whipped out the Harrow deck and began to give her a free demonstration.
Fortune telling’s all about reading your mark, but Bruiser was trying very hard to keep a straight face. Luckily, her friend was less stoic, her eyes widening at every hit I got.
The second I laid down the last card, something happened that finally validated the pointless weeks I’ve spent in Riddleport telling sailors they’d find fortune and marry a sumptious serving girl. A small figure crashed into the inn like a gift from Calistria herself, followed by an angry-looking man.
I immediately felt it in my bones – this was the sign I’d been waiting for. This was why my dreams had brought me to this nest of cutthroats and jacknapes. This skinny, bedraggled ratfolk was what I’d been waiting for.
Not the grandest omen, I’ll admit, but you can’t argue with fate. The Harrow deck forgotten, I fixed my attention to the newcomer.
The ratling grabbed something out of his coat and threw it at the man following him. It missed and landed straight in the poor innkeeper’s face, causing an alarming puff of green smoke to rise from his coat. That was that, he immediately started ringing his ‘trouble’ bell.
Then the ratling jumped onto our table and made for the door, avoiding Bruiser’s lunging arms as he did. He was not however so lucky with her companion, who grabbed him and swiped at him with what I swear was a reptillian claw.
The gendarmes arrived then, threatening to arrest us – yes, including yours truly who’d done nothing but watch the scene unfold – for disturbing the peace. Rolling my eyes, I turned to the head gendarme and said in my best imitation of a harbinger of doom: “You will not be taking me anywhere.”
I’ll admit I got cocky. I’ve perfected the aura of otherworldly menace well enough that I can send usually grown men quivering home with a well-placed grimace.
But not in Riddleport. Here, where the biggest industry is theft and extortion, a threat like that gets you a club to the back of the head and a stay in a cell with a bunch the other lowlifes.
Did I mention I hate this city?