I was being followed.
I’d picked up a tail not long after Leaving Mother Z’s tower. I decided to visit Cire some other time. I didn’t think whoever was following was one his boys. I’m sure he was still busy and wasn’t too eager to see what he was up to. I’m sure he’d want something. I was patient, though, and kept to the shadows. Lord Nail’s gifts have their uses. Whoever it was was highly tenacious, though, and hard to shake. Smoke still stank, oddly enough, of its own namesake as a good bit of it had recently burned when the Beggar King was slain.
I finally saw who was following: Imur. Imur wore tight pants and an open shirt, with the twin daggers of a Vistani prince in his sash. He was a Vistani of Clan Magno, nephew of their prince, and a few years younger than me. Had Clan Magno been more important he was the sort of Vistani I would have been given to by my father. His sister had been with us that fateful night, given to one of ours, because Clan Fekete was more important than Clan Magdo. Like all else, she did not live.
I allowed him to see me.
“Darkling Lily of Fekete’s Clan, Darkling outcast of the People of the Wagons I, Imur of Magno, Curse thee!”
He stared defiantly into my eyes.
His Curse meant nothing to me and he knew it. I had no good answer for him, none whatsoever, for he spoke the truth and deserved it from me in turn. “Imur, none of us are alive anymore save me, and I am not what I was. What do you want? I have nothing for you. Nothing I can do will bring Ameera back.” He stood and stared, his daggers hanging loose in his hand.
“You! You are all that is left of your clan and must pay!”
“Imur…” I locked eyes with him. I could kill him, but there was no point. No more of my people needed to die. Enough of us do not survive the Night Roads already. He stared, and stared, and if his looks could kill I would be dead. His eyes wavered but he wouldn’t give.
We were too near a Crossing, or too many had died here, ground into the misery and dust and grime of Smoke. His rage and my own nature called up the dead. I could hear them, see them. One screamed its thirst and rage and came out of the mists. “Run! Run!” I screamed to him. “They are coming for you, not me.”
The wraiths strode through Smoke by the light of the moon. I am already cursed by the Deck, and by Lord Nail. The wraiths fear the likes of me. And I taste poorly to them anyhow. I hoped that was true.
I stood my ground and interposed myself between the wraith and Imur. “You have no claim over his blood and breath.” I stared at it, and invoked The Curse. That wraith was rent asunder by it but others took its place.
At this Imur ran. I did not think his foolish Vistani prince’s pride would let him, but in the end run he did. He ran for his life, for the joy of the girls in the next town he would charm with his smile, and his skill with the bandoneon and his voice, for the lives of the bastard children he would father on those girls, and for the children of Clan Magno who would eat because of it.
I found him some time later. He’d found his way to the Drowned Rat on the edge of Smoke. I saw Cortabo and the half-orc there. Cortabo had a massive stein of beer, foam on his mustache. The half-orc was drawing and resheathing his dagger repeatedly.
“Darkling… I do not understand… I thank you”—-I could see the words pained him—-“but this changes nothing between us.” He drained his glass and strode off into the night.
I did not tell him of what the wraiths took from me in his stead, or what they doubtless did to others less able to defend themselves.
The half-orc giggled. I looked at him, “If you played with your prick any more than you already do I’d swear you kept your dagger in a sheath between your legs.” He glared at me, but something told him that it would be unwise. I was in no mood for him. I looked to Cortabo, bowed a bit, and said. “I would not keep Master Cire waiting.”