Written by Jeff Lee
The alchemist remembered Suisan, and the service she once provided him. He took her into his shop, locked the door, and hurried her to a chair. After inspecting the assassin’s blade, that she had produced from her pack, he grunted, nodded, and began grabbing various bottles off a shelf nearby. Suisan slouched in the chair, her long legs akimbo. Between the poison, the fight, the adrenaline crash after it was over, and a long, circuitous walk across half the city, she was exhausted. And the day was only half over. She watched the alchemist through hooded eyes as he prepared his concoctions. The man’s hair and beard were thick, black, and unruly. The only combing they seemed to get were when he ran his fingers through them while mumbling to himself as he worked. She took a deep breath. The shop smelled of heady herbs, soot, and an acidic tang she couldn’t identify. So far, returning to Unthara wasn’t worth it. Dwyer wasn’t as much fun as she remembered it being when she was a child, even if she could now afford to rent famous gladiators for company. She had found the information she was looking for, unpleasant as it was. It had taken calling in favors and influence she’d not wanted to use. Also, now the Brotherhood of Khayne wanted to kill her. She grabbed two fistfuls of her thick, red hair and pulled, trying to keep herself awake and focused. The alchemist shuffled over, grunting to get her attention. She opened her eyes to see him handing her a cup. The smell of its contents made her eyes water.
“Drink this. All of it,” he ordered. “Then I’ll clean and dress your wounds. You’ll want to remove the tunic so I can get at your shoulder. Suisan looked down at her right shoulder. A spot of red showed against the sea green of her tunic. She sighed and threw her head back, taking the contents of the cup in a single swallow so she tasted as little of it as possible. Then she removed the tunic and let him work. He cleaned out the wounds, then applied something that both stunk and stung, but took away the lingering, burning pain of the cuts. He finished, then set his tools aside. Wiping his hands on his apron, he reached into a pocket and handed her a ceramic vial.
“Healing potion. Should take care of most of it. Save you a few scars. On the house, for what you done for me.”
“Nothing wrong with a few more scars. I’ll take it though. I don’t have time to wait for the wounds to heal and I need to keep moving. Killing your cheating wife and her lover was a pleasure. Khayne approved of your righteous anger and lust for vengeance.” She took the vial from him, and drained its contents, and set it on the nearby table. The pain faded as she watched the wounds on her arms close over.
“I thank you for your work. If you don’t mind, I’ll change into my armor before I go on my way.”
He gave a nod, tugging at his beard as he left, moving through a doorway covered by a dusty curtain at the back of the room.
Suisan had just finished unpacking her armor from the bundle on the bottom of her pack and begun to undress when the door smashed open. A woman strode in, leading with a halberd. A pair of horns curved up and away from her scowling brow. Smirking, Suisan affected the local highborn accent, mockingly crossing her arms across her chest.
“Can’t a lady be given time to dress before she’s attacked? This is the second time today.” The halberd’s spike pointed at her. Neither they nor the woman’s scowl wavered. So much for humor.
“You’re no lady, Kinnon. You’re leaving here with me, dead or alive. Choose.”
“Well, if I have the choice, then I’d prefer to leave here with you dead. Shall we take care of that now?” This time the scowl wavered, then deepened.
The tiefling woman stepped into the room, halberd still leveled at her. Suisan noted the other woman positioned herself in such a way that she’d have no chance to break for the door. She wondered where the alchemist had gone, and whether there was a back way out. The tiefling woman was a head shorter than Suisan, but her solid, broad-shouldered frame and stance indicated she was martially trained. Something about her was familiar. The halberd. Not a common weapon outside of the gladiatorial arena or a militia. Except…Suisan played a hunch. As she spoke, she reached for the tunic she’d doffed. No way she’d allow Suisan to armor up, but her dagger sheath was under it. Suisan picked it up, unseen under the tunic, which she pulled up in front of her torso in a show of modesty.
“You expect to drag me out of here, alive or dead? A devout warrior of Khayne, well-recognized, led publicly through the streets by a servant of Makash, without response or repercussions? I didn’t realize they allowed the insane to take vows to the Sanguine Lord.” That broke the mask. Surprise showed on the tiefling’s face. Suisan’s smile widened.
“You blunder around the streets with that chopper, in those clothes, and you’re what? A pilgrim? Traveling halberd merchant? Did you tuck your holy symbol down the front of your blouse and consider that a clever disguise? I’m surprised you aren’t dead already.” Suisan wanted to continue, but she could see that her foe had recovered her composure. She wouldn’t be baited by any more words.
“Put your clothes on and come with me,” demanded the tiefling. “Now. Hesitate or resist, and I will kill you.” She took another step towards Suisan. Suisan swore. A fight would attract attention she didn’t want right now, knowing that the Brotherhood had signed her death warrant. One cleric of Makash she could handle. The bulk of the Brotherhood of Khayne was something else.
“Very well. I’ll come with you,” she said. She turned her back on the tiefling, sliding the dagger from its sheath. She folded a hand over the pommel, keeping the blade along the inside of her forearm and out of view. “Just let me dress. Would you mind looking away. I’m a bit shy.”
“You’re a bit of a liar, is what you are. Hurry up.”
Suisan could hear the tiefling take another two steps into the room. She was likely within another step of being able to run the halberd’s through Suisan’s spine, or split her head like a melon from where she stood. While running her limited options through her head, Suisan’s attention turned to the curtained doorway, as the covering began to move. She saw the alchemist’s scruffy face, as well as the bomb he held in his hand.
“Down,” was all he said.
Suisan threw herself forward, towards the doorway, landing on knees and elbows and rolling as far away from the cleric as she could. The alchemist lobbed the bomb high. It broke on the rafters above the tiefling’s head. However, instead of the explosion and roar of fire Suisan had expected, there was a crash and hissing. She glanced over from the cover of a small table. Gas erupted from the broken vessel, cloaking the other half of the room. The tiefling, shrouded in the gas, coughed and choked. Then there was a thud, of a body hitting the floorboards. When the gas cleared, the cleric lay unmoving on the floor. Suisan raised an eyebrow and regarded the alchemist.
“Sleeping, not dead,” he said in reply to the look. “If you want to kill her, I’d ask you take her out of the shop first. I think I’ve repaid my debt to you.”
Suisan threw her head back and laughed.
“No, I won’t kill her. I think she’s of more use to me alive. And yes, we’re even. I think, in fact, that I now owe you a favor. I’d like to put myself further in your debt. Do you have a cart, a blanket, and some rope I can borrow?”
The alchemist grunted and motioned through the doorway behind him. Suisan finished dressing and buckled on her weapons. Then she picked up the halberd and rested it on her shoulder. With the other hand, she grabbed the tiefling by one booted ankle and dragged her through the doorway after the alchemist, whistling cheerfully.
To be continued…