Evening had yet to cast its long shadow upon the world outside as Zwi arrived at the posh, exclusive club for one of her rare visits with her boss. He had come, like the rest of his kind, to better live as they wished – in decadence and sinful indulgence, away from the prying eyes of civilization.
The club was at the peak of one of the tallest buildings of New Azoth City, an industrial urban centre surrounded by sand, metal sky scrapers towering over the wasteland deserts. Fenring owned much of the city, and the slums he ruled required his own brand of order.
That’s where she came in. His enforcer.
He stood by himself, behind the bar, two brutish half-orc guards upstairs watching her every move. The railings and bar edges were all brass lined, shined to a bright sheen, the marble surface just as pristinely clean.
He was a pale human male, youthful but with a mature air. Without the constraints of mortality, it was likely for a good reason. His hair was a pitch black, framing either side of his face and parted down the center. His suit was a pressed ebony that rose up in a high collar. The slim patch of hair upon his chin formed a goatee as though the middling height man sought to hide the boyishness of his body with the trappings of age and refinement.
His gaze fell upon her as she arrived on the chugging elevator, a blasé expression upon his face that seemed to say he was bored with everything he saw. He wore a pretentious dark-crimson cravat with billowy white sleeves that poured out from beneath his jackets cuffs as he strummed his fingers upon the bar.
Zwi understood that these rare meetings with her boss were important. The silken white hair was done up in a pretty style, the shade matching the numerous runes along her flesh, elaborate tracings around her eyes, down her neck, and over her exposed breastbones.
Her dark skin was almost purple in the evening light and the black cilia of her eyes with the silver-white irises encased in them gave her an almost demonic visage. She approached with a friendly gait, her expression business like in contrast.
Her body was clad in a tight fitted white blouse ruffled at the edges, scooping low over her shoulders and across the middle of her bicep, a tight brown corset laced around her midsection, a silken white skirt flowing out beneath it and hugging to her curves. It had a slit up the side, the material falling in an asymmetrical fashion, with ruffles following the seam, and a pair of brown high heeled boots ending at her calves.
Even dressed as she was, she felt childish and underdressed in front of him, in this place with all the trappings of high society to which she certainly didn’t belong. Even still, Zwi acted casual about the entire invitation.
Seeing the woman approach he finally gave a nod to her, the only greeting she got. In a slow, throaty upper class drawl he began, “The apartments are growing overly full. The city is crowded, and there aren’t enough places to house them all,” his eyes appeared a little sunken with the way he gazed at her, “This means rents will be going up.”
The implications of this were obvious, of course. Rents increasing in those poor slums meant some people would be out of a home, others would have to do without basic necessities to keep a roof over their heads. Violence was assured. “So that means you have to keep order there as this goes down. To ensure there is no trouble that interferes with the flow of rents.”
She listened with practiced calm, her face betraying no emotion. It helped that she had several drug cocktails earlier in the day, the particular mixture keeping her as stoic and as heartless as any sadist. She nodded at his words, “Of course,” she said, and her voice was as dark and as creamy as her flesh, a slight bite to it that gave it almost a masculine husk.
“When will they be made aware?” She was not an official law enforcement agent. No such thing existed this far into the wild wastelands. She was a contracted enforcement officer; the defacto ruler of her little slice of slum heaven.
Her boss answered promptly in that old world aristocratic drawl, “Tomorrow morning.”
Pulling a small vial of some dark substance out of his pocket, he pushed it across the marble bar top towards her between two pale, gemmed digits. “A bonus,” he said, “for you to ensure nothing happens to the property.”
Fenring knew all too well of her addictions, and like any manipulative owner, he saw it as an advantage to wield her as a better tool. Had he known her a little better, however, he might have realized he had something even more effective that he could offer her.
She stretched her long fingers towards the vial, her face registering no emotion on it. Her white eyelashes and brows contrasted against the brilliant dark of her face as she lowered her head deferentially, “You are too kind,” she said as she quickly moved to tuck it in her small, white purse.
It joined an evening supply of various drugs and what cash she had managed to save in the fabric pouch. “They will be made to understand,” she promised in that rich voice.
“Then I trust we needn’t speak again for a while. Should you fail in your duties, I’ll be in touch,” he warned, as he slipped his hands from the brass edging of the bar and tucked them behind his back, the meeting officially ended.
Not a flicker of emotion passed by her face, despite her annoyance and anger, her voice coming out even and pleasant, “Have a pleasant evening,” she bid before turning, moving towards the elevator once more.
As she heard the jingle of vials clank off each other in her purse, she managed a small smile. She was guaranteed a pleasant evening on her own, alone, in her dingy apartment. The thought brightened her.
Leaving the high society building and its well armed guards, she became reacquainted with the reality of the city. Even the streets outside the very buildings that the upper classes call home were filled with beggars and ruffians. The trip towards her section of town introduced a worsening vista, however.
The stone and metal of the tall buildings were warped and swayed in the breeze, the structures shabby and barely able to be considered buildings at all. There were a few apartment buildings created by her boss in the early days, but mostly there was ramshackle constructs made to house the ever increasing population of hopefuls. Plenty of tents and makeshift box homes were crammed into free spaces for vagrants, all of whom were still expected to pay land fees.
Most of the residents knew not to test her on the requirement. Even with new ones arriving each day, she had a flare about her that warned off those wishing to disagree with her. With her odd eyes and the demonic coloured skin, she was also tall, especially for a woman, especially in heels, levelling in at around six feet. Adding to that she always had at least two guns on her person, and it gave her a convincing edge to all arguments.
Her apartment was situated on the main level of the central apartment building, only a short trip across the street from a bar that seemed even grimier and seedier for having just been in the high society establishment up top.
She glanced over at the bar for a moment, as if considering just how she wanted her night to end. The people at this leg of the city were the bottom of the barrel. Half-breeds, orcs, trolls, beast men and worse. These were the ones who mostly weren’t even welcome in the rest of this misbegotten city, which spoke a lot for the quality of her little empire.
The races that could do hard manual labour with little other prospects had made this place their home, and they were a rough crowd to deal with at the best of time.
She had expected something more for the evening and was already disappointed. When her boss had invited her up to the Club she was hoping for a night of glamour. Of illicit hedonism. She had wanted a party.
Instead she got one vial.
The memory quickly soured her against socializing and she decided quickly that she needn’t face any more disappointment this evening. She pushed through the outside door of her apartment, preparing to spend the rest of the night in an absolute wash as she planned for a morning of danger and violence.
The sound of a gunshot rang into the night, and she knew her evening was far from over. It distantly came from the direction of the bar, the sight of several low class denizens scurrying out through its doors and down the streets in fear, emphasizing the true source of the ruckus.
She groaned, more in annoyance than any real fright or worry. Lofting the shot gun that almost seemed attached to her hands, she walked towards the bar, shoving people out of the way. Even in her rather formal attire, she was certainly not someone that you’d like to see toting a gun at nightfall, her skin blending into the muted purple of twilight.
The bar was a grungy sort – catering to the local lowlifes, how could it not be? Dark and dreary inside, it was a large enough place to accommodate all the riff raff of the area. There were multiple levels, and a big rectangular gap looking up to the floor above where more patrons peered over the wood railings to down below. Shoving her way past the crowds of watching misfits–orcs, trolls, beast men and all manner of mixes of the sorts. Many made quick displays of anger before seeing her, or her gun at least, then shuffling away.
As she shoved through she came to see a curious sight. Standing at the center of a ring of patrons were two men. One was a more familiar sight, a local resident with greyish skin, a sleek look to him that was almost elven with the pointed ears and refined features, but with a strange air of sinister birth to him. His hair was a thick shock of white that went back past his nearly foot-long ears.
His eyes were narrow and a pure black, but for a sort of misty grey that passed through them. Dressed in a long trench coat with a high leather jacket beneath, he was a familiar sight to the place, though he faced something much more peculiar.
An elf. A simple high elf with golden skin and hair. A bit short for his kind, perhaps. His thick mane of golden blonde came down from his black hat, and around his expensively tailored jacket. He reminded her of her aristocratic vampire boss by the manner of dress, except to the keen eye it could be noted his black finery was scuffed and worn at the edges and seams; it had seen some travel.
However, handsome as he was with his thick lips and round, yellow tinged eyes, he held a revolver pointed upwards, smoke curling from the barrel after having been recently fired.
She was shocked at the sight, though not fazed by it, and with her gun trained onto the golden man, her white on black eyes staring at him hard, she spoke loud enough to be heard over the din of the crowd, “Who are you and why are you shootin’ your gun off in my bar?”
In her mind, everything in this section of the slums belonged to her, one way or another. This man was no exception.
The greyish apparition of a man, Frellen, gazed at her with his keen eyes that always seemed a little displeased. His voice was a little nasally, but otherwise had the makings of a deep, attractive tenor. “This newcomer here insists he’s been cheated.”
The golden elf gave a disarming smile, looking far too pleasant and appealing to be any trouble to anyone, “I assure you, m’lady, I was ah merely defendin’ myself.” The elf carried an odd dialect that was more similar to lawful regions, far from her little slum city.
She glared at Frellan, her eyes hard. He dealt in drugs, having helped her out more than once when her boss was stingy, though they weren’t close. Still, she trusted him to not be the cause of trouble in the bar. It was bad for his business.
She turned to the elf, studying him over quickly. Her thoughts quickly turned more lustful than she had anticipated, his attractive visage a refreshing sight in these parts. She looked towards the crowd of half breeds and mutants and mused that anyone with appendages where they ought to be was at least a little attractive in these parts.
“Is that true?” she asked, pausing, “That you say you’ve been cheated? By who?”
Frellen was a rather tall sort and he looked intimidating as he folded his arms over his chest, glaring at the elf. “At cards, no less.” Shooting a glance back to Zwi he added wryly, “Hardly call for gunplay.”
The golden man stepped forward, shorter than the accusatory Frellen, he waggled his gold-plated revolver before cautiously lowering it and slipping it into his holster. Tipping his wide brimmed, flat topped hat, he doffed it to her in an elegant bow, “Hugh Glantau,” he said, introducing himself before rising back up and giving a charming smile.
“And I do believe the gentleman here is just bitter that he’s no longer the most appealing male specimen in the bar. But, as to the veracity of the accusations…” Hugh said as he righted himself, “I was ah merely venting my suspicions when some rather hostile motions were made unto my person. Hence, the self-defence.” The elven man had a way of talking a lot.
She sized the two of them up and inwardly mused that this was a reason she didn’t have kids. She lowered her gun, though she was still prepared to use it all the same, “I hate to trust you two to settle this like men, but look,” she glanced at the stranger, “No one came to these parts a stranger and expects to win at cards,” she grinned at Frellen, “And ain’t no one came here lookin’ to get their ass beaten neither. If you ain’t nice to new folks, well, how will we ever fill this place, hmmm?” she drawled out, “Now. Am I really goin’ to have to settle this?”
The grey-skinned Frellen dipped his head in deference to her, and after a moment, the golden elf did the same. “Ah, now… I’m afraid it was not quite so simple anymore.” Frellen rolled his dark eyes, not that it was easy to tell, as if expecting this.
“While there was ah all this ruckus,” he said, “two brutish orc-like gentleman did make off with the remainder of the tables pot. Includin’ my own. Mayhaps you did see them boltin’ from the establishment?” He flashed her a white-toothed smile that could very nearly be imagined to sparkle.
“Maybe, then,” she started in slowly, her eyes narrowed, “you should have been paying more attention to the pot and less to causing a fuss, clearing out the bar and hurting business for the next… oh I don’t know, how long’s it take for them to come back in? Ten minutes or so?” she asked, focusing on Frellen before turning her attention on the golden elf, “There’s too many people in this place, too many homes, too many back alleys. Cut your losses.”
The devious looking apparition of a man Frellen gave a wide, thin-lipped grin to her, a glint of respectful admiration in his face. The golden elf, however, gave only a frown that bordered on a pout. “I do believe I am understandin’ the way of things now. Ah do thank you for your patience, madam.”
“Yea, well,” there was a pause as her lips warped into a bawdy grin, “if you need a way to cheer yourself up, I have a place across the street.”
Frellen soured at her offer to the other man, his respectful grin faded. The golden haired elf gave another elegant bow to her before swaggering up to her, the dapper and handsome high elf extending a smooth hand to her, “Well… perhaps I just might then. Though I fear,” he said with a tilt of his head that makes his long, lustrously wavy golden hair sway a bit, “drinks shant be on me for the time being.”
She glanced around the tavern briefly, her eyes lingering on Frellen for a moment, “There,” she announced in her loud voice, “threat removed for the evening, and you’re all free to enjoy the night in peace.” She gave Frellan a rather wicked grin before adding on, more quietly, “Might be your turn for cheering up tomorrow.”
The tall, ghostly Frellen merely dipped his head slightly in acknowledgement of her offer, not seeming ready to perk up entirely just yet. The crowd of unwashed masses slowly began to turn back to their doings, the gambling and drinking and drug abuse mostly.
Hugh was most definitely a couple inches shorter than her, though his thick hair and high boots made it hard to tell exactly. He walked up beside her, leaning in against her arm, “Ah do trust the offer was, ah… genuine then, ma’am?” he asked softly to her, or as softly as the rising din of noise as the bar returned to business would allow.
“Something like that,” she replied as she reached her hand around his bicep, leading him outwards and towards her own private haven, her shotgun still in hand. She was careful around him, especially of the pouch around her wrist, though having squandered most of her income on drugs, she was a less appealing target for thieves.
Quite surprised by the strong grip upon his arm, the handsome elf gave her a curious look, “My, you are quite the lady as they say, no?”
“I’m sure they say a lot of things,” she offered, her hand testing her door to check for potential intruders, taking the key from her small pouch, unlocking it and shoving him into her room before following suit quickly after, dead bolting it as soon as she was through.
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