+++THE LIVES YOU LOVE TO LEAD+++
“So can you or can’t you?” Jaik wrapped his arms around himself, his chin tucked against his chest, looking miserable. The woman opposite him took a long lungful of smoke from her pipe and blew it out in a single stream toward him.
“You’ve got it bad,” she said. There was no compassion in her voice. She seemed amused. “Who did you say gave you my name?”
“Holberg Ollis. At the Waterway.” He sounded dejected, his voice practically a monotone. “Over the river.”
Velyna di Maestra smiled mirthlessly. “Ollis needs to learn to keep his mouth shut.”
She tapped her pipe against the table three times, then smirked.
“It’s two crowns a dose.” she said. Jaik’s eyebrows shot up, but she raised a hand to forestall him. “Don’t argue. We’re a long way from Holberg, and its getting harder and harder to get hold of with the militia all over the trade.”
Jaik nodded slowly, and pulled out a pouch. He counted out six crowns, mostly in rings. Velyna didn’t bother to conceal her contempt. She swept the money into a drawer, and nodded to the thug behind her. The massively-built woman tossed three twists of paper onto the table in front of Jaik. He picked one up and started to unwrap it.
“Not here, idiot,” snapped Velyna. Jaik straightened up, allowing a spark of anger to show.
“I’ve not leaving until I’ve checked it,” he said belligerently. “It could be anything.”
Velyna looked irritated but she didn’t argue. She took another lungful of smoke and stared at him through half-lidded eyes. The paper was greasy, containing perhaps a tablespoon of coarse blue crystals. Jaik gingerly balanced one on his thumb, crushed it, and snorted the resulting dust. He felt a familiar sharp tingle spread from his nostril and was unable to stop a grin spreading across his face.
“It’s good,” he said. “Very good.”
“Good enough to give you the spine to… what was it? Take care of your sister’s Maestran boyfriend?” She sneered. “You people are all the same. So pathetic. If you had any backbone you’d not need bite to get you going. Now get out.”
Jaik stepped back but didn’t turn. He nodded a couple more times, no longer hunched over.
“Yes. Good enough to help me take care of my sister’s Maestran boyfriend. Or to get a gang of thugs riled up enough to burn down a bakery. Or to beat two cicisbeo half to death. Or to send a band of bravos across the river looking for a fight in the wrong neighbourhood.”
“Don’t you-” but he interrupted her, all pretense finished with. Her eyes widened.
“Velyna di Maestra, I am arresting you for possession of the proscribed substance commonly known as bite. You will accompany me to a magistrate, to answer questions about this and about your involvement in six incidents of violent assault and one case of arson. Tell your people to stand down, or things will go badly for you.”
The dealer jumped to her feet, sending her chair flying. Her thugs drew blades menacingly. Constable Jaik stood his ground, arms loose by his sides, mouth quirking in a confident smile.
“The building is surrounded,” he said. “Did you think I’d come in here alone?” He grinned insolently at Velyna di Maestra and then in a more quiet voice said: “You broke the rules, Velyna. Now you have to pay the ferryman.”
They stared at each other for a long moment, and then Velyna looked away, a snarl rippling across her lips. She gestured to the rest of her people, a sharp chopping motion, and they lowered their blades.
An hour later, Jaik stood outside while a squad of militia took the building apart looking for further supplies of bite, or any evidence of who Velyna’s supplier might have been. Predictably, she was refusing to cooperate. She wasn’t denying the possession charges, but was arguing that she bore no responsibility for how people used the merchandise she sold them. It could go either way.
A small crowd had gathered to watch - someone was already selling toffee apples and cups of hot soup to them. Seeing the spirit of his people in action - whichever side of the river they were from - always made Jaik happy. Further along the street a dozen Marchers stood, close together, muttering and whispering. He was pretty certain that the anonymous tip that had lead them to Velyna had come from one of them. He had half a mind to send some of the other constables to question them. Gitta saw where he was looking and shook her head.
“Don’t bother Jaik,” she said. "Nobody is going to talk. Just be glad that we’ve gotten another bite dealer off the streets at least for now.
“The word is that the Fog Devils were drinking in Little Whittle before they went after Torrio’s bakery.” said Jaik tiredly. “It’s not the first time we’ve been told that someone in the enclave is whipping up the gangs. Torrio was Regarian, but he didn’t deserve to lose his livelihood. Didn’t deserve those burns. This bullshit has to end.”
But he knew Gitta was right. He sighed deeply, and hunched his shoulders against the rain. “Maybe we should…”
“Forget it, Jaik.” said Gitta, laying her hand on his arm. “That’s just how it is in Marcher Town.”
The League! Four cities (or five depending you you ask) united by … something. This is a round-up wind of fortune in which you can learn about
- Bite in Tassato (among other places)
- Some timely wranging over Empress Giselle
- Buiding in Holberg, and an offer to give the Keeper of the Imperial Menagerie a mated pair of “leomarids”, exotic beasts unknown on the Bay of Catazar… providd yound Griffonsbain can meet the price their owners are asking.
You can read about League Shennanigans here -> https://www.profounddecisions.co.uk/…/The_lives_you_love_to…