Content Warning: This episode begins a several episode arc that is particularly dark. This episode includes violence against noncombatants, a brief, coarse, nongraphic sex scene, extortion, and unraveling mental health.
I stand firm against the slender dark-haired elfgirl's efforts to pull me into Norien's room.
I am burning inside, dark and searing. I need to know what Lynae’s game is.
“Which room is yours?” I ask.
“Why?” She asks.
She opens her mouth to say something more, but I don’t let her. I’ve had enough of this. I grab her by the throat and slam her against the wall.
“Which room is yours?” I ask again, through gritted teeth, my angry face inches from her frightened one.
She points to a door across the hall, further down.
“That one,” she croaks through the constriction of my hand around her slender neck.
“Great,” I say, letting go. As I move to the door, I hear her slump to the ground behind me, gasping. So much for thanking her. I try the handle. The door doesn’t open. I slam my shoulder against the door, breaking the bolt free from the flimsy wood restraining it, and the door flies open.
Lynae is on the bed, naked, on all fours, facing me. Her hands grip the wooden panel that marks the foot of the bed. She is moaning, rhythmically, as the human takes her from behind, gripping her waist as he thrusts into her. Her eyes are closed, but burst open when the door crashes against the wall. Emotions run across her face with the fluidity of piss: surprise, anger, embarrassment, even a hint of uncertainty. Behind her, the man swears.
“Hey,” he spits out, breathing hard and still thrusting. “This room’s taken. Move on.”
I focus on his face, ignoring Lynae. He is handsome, for a human. He does look like a pirate. I grab the handle of the rebounding door.
“Yeah,” I say as I pull it toward me. “Sorry. Wrong room. Enjoy your whore, pal.”
I back out of the room, pulling the door shut behind me. As I turn away, the other girl slaps me across the face, hard. It stings, but not as much as the sting of watching the human and Lynae. The dark fire rises within and I grab her by the throat again.
“Bad move!” I snarl, and throw her down the hallway. The girl hits the hallway wall with a thud and bounces off, landing on a thin wrist which snaps and bends impossibly. She screams. As I turn and make my way down the back stairs, I hear answering calls from the tap room, and footsteps running up the steps behind me. There are cries of dismay. I slam the door behind me and stalk away down the back alley, through the mid-day mist.
I haven’t gone two blocks when two figures materialize out of the mists, blocking my way. Elves, young and hungry looking, each holding a rusty knife. They crouch down, balancing lightly on the balls of their feet, ready to lunge or run.
“All right, mark,” says one. “No need for you to get cut. Drop your coins on the ground and back away.”
“Or what?” I reply, pulling my sword and sickle from their sheaths under my cloak.
The would-be robbers bounce back a step, extending their knives in front of them.
“Hey,” says one nervously. “No need for those. We’ll back off.”
“Yes,” I snarl. “You will. And you will put your pathetic rusty little knives away and you will go down to the docks and you will do an honest day’s work. Then we’ll forget all about this.”
“Hold up,” says the other one, backing up another step, placing himself slightly behind his companion. He stares at me balefully. “I know you. You’re Arq the enforcer. You used to work for Jet before the humans cut his head off.” He snickers. “Guess you lost your job, huh? I have an idea. Why don’t you go down to the docks and do an honest day’s work, killer? Oh, wait. Here’s an even better idea. You give us all your coins now, and we won’t tell the humans they missed one of Jet’s men. You think you’re so tough? You wanna test your blades against a human patrol?”
I shake my head. Stupid punk.
He laughs. “Yeah, I didn’t think so. Drop your coins, dead elf.”
I pounce. The elf who threatened me knocks his friend forward toward me and turns to run. I knock the off-balance elf to the side. He hits the building and falls. Apparently it’s my day to throw elves against walls. But the maneuver slows me down and the other elf dashes away into the mist. I follow, blades swinging as I run, catching glimpses of him through the swirling fog. I am running as fast as I can, but the gap between us remains steady.
Ahead, I hear the noise of the marketplace.
If the fleeing elf makes it out of this alley, I will never catch him.
Worse, there is usually a guard patrol near the market square.