Serial Fiction: Hands – Ep 004

“The elevator will just be a second, Miss Nejem,” the gaijin concierge said. She didn’t bother reading his name plate. The New Castle children were all the same boring clods, groomed to an ideal form of perfection that rang hollow and boring to her.

Husniya Aliyyah Nejem was here to meet with her master’s local spy master. It was a common practice amongst the wyrms to spy on rivals, and while local clutches often sought local talent such a trusting nature wasn’t always permitted for those beyond the misty boarders. Azial, her master, had been lacing cities like New Castle, Gar Raesa, and Greater Borrano for generations and in time these cities bore the fruit of skilled spies lying in wait.

The elevator came back down a minute later, absent the two poorly dressed men. The hume concierge seemed to be surprised when they were waiting for his return.

“My apologies, Miss Nejem,” he said, quickly rushing out of their way.

“Move Bakir, move,” her gaijin escort said. “Inform the host immediately, on foot.”

Aliyyah smiled as the hume ran off towards a stairwell. The gaijin concierge seemed to understand the insult against her, and was punishing his subordinate for her. At least New Castle had some manners.

The third floor of Ilahi was coated in a warm patches crimson and gold. Each table was a secluded nest with seating for up to ten in thick leather buckets. The tables were ringed with old world wood and the surface was smooth stone with a slight coating to reduce the sound of fine china brushing against it. The menus were made of slight projections that showed fully rendered versions of each dish, complete with chemical squirts for odor and flavor suggestion. The master chef here didn’t leave anything to chance, and if a patron received something they didn’t like it would ultimately be their own fault.

“This way, Miss Nejem.” He lead her towards the outer banks of tables, where the neighboring building obscured any pleasant views and the tables were outfitted with panels showing more pleasant vistas of New Castle and lands beyond. Most of the tables were unoccupied here, except one now containing the out of place men and their wide smiles. She caught a better glimpse of them as she passed, noticing the highland hume’s scared and bandaged hands. Was he a bodyguard? Unlikely. Too unobservant of her and their surroundings. Those were magical burns though, and the type caused by one’s own casting. Still, his mannerism indicated he didn’t belong here so didn’t come from money. Why was he here then?

“Madam Nejem,” said a large orc man as her escort brought her to their shared table. “It is a pleasure.” The spy master didn’t bother to rise for her, but instead kept his eyes on the aisle as she slid into the booth. He nodded to the escort and at once the gaijin vanished from their table. The orc glanced out once more then turned back to Aliyyah.

“Welcome to New Castle. I take it your flight was full?”

“Only in the head,” She said, responding to his requested phrase. The man relaxed a hair and nodded.

“Good, good. I’m glad to hear that. Pardon this though,” He said, as she felt a large foot brush against her leg. She stiffened in surprised but then gritted her teeth as she felt the connection spark.

My apologies, Aliyyah, but this is the only truly secure link,” his voice echoed in her head.

“I think I’ll try a white tonight, what do you recommend for dinner?” She asked out loud.

It is understood. Give your report.

“If you are going with a white, I’d suggest one of the local specialties of fish,” he replied. He was a typical large New Castle resident. Though this spy master, his name unknown to her, was of the blood of Azial he looked bloated and fat compared to the men born and raised in the city-state of Etza. His orc heritage didn’t bother her as, like her gaijin blood, his lineage had been tempered in the years under the dragon. Unlike the other city states of the current era, Etza had long held Azial in high regard and it was only natural the dragon had taken over.

They are here, but I fear they are in the hands of an enemy. A servant of one of the Duke’s Lords.

Do you know which Lord, which servant?” she asked. She idly flicked through the virtual menu until she found something that appealed to her pallet.

His name is unknown, but he serves Deus, one of the more competitive of the Lord of New Castle.

We are familiar with the wyrm. Then it is likely Allaway. Ever has he been a thorn.” Roswell Uilleam Allaway was a name known to many of the collectors beyond New Castle. He was a fierce combatant with hands in many of the cities. She had personally seen fit to the destruction of his network of spies, The Daggers, that he had injected into Etza. For the agent of a lord and not a Duke, he was formidable.

“The fish it is,” Aliyyah said. “What are you having?”

“What you had,” he said with a sly smile.

Then you have quite a task ahead of you. Ross is no easy quarry. But all is not lost, there may be a chance you can draw him out.”

“Oh?” She knew he wouldn’t bring the charms out in the open, and would unlikely wear them himself. They didn’t belong to Azial, but to one of Azial’s silent parents. In their slumber the charms and any other artifact would grant power to their users without the typical bonding curse, but Ross wouldn’t risk using them as that would exposure their imprint to the world.

“In a few weeks there is a gala event. The Winter Solstice next month is a favored holiday of Tyrant.”

Aliyyah chuckled in her head while she ordered the items from the menu.

“Tell me, does he bare himself in the open for such gatherings?”

“No, not him, but his lords do, briefly. And they often escorted by their loyalists.”

“Are you suggesting a direct assault against a dragon and his prize collector?”

“No, no, only that it will be a guaranteed time both collector and wyrm will be out of their lair.”

Aliyyah nodded, but paused as laughter broke from the nearby table.

Do not panic, I have already identified those two. The unmared one is a simple clerk. The burned man is a performer. A magician alone.”

“A Magician you say? Tell me, do the lords of New Castle hold their own events before the grand gathering of their Duke?”

Hands is a serial fiction series set in the Draco Artificium universe. Read the first piece here. Find the rest of the series here. New episodes go up Wednesdays.