Caine Thaslay, the new magistrate of Pellan and nephew of the previous, sat back in his late uncle’s chair and enjoyed the view. Pellan was not large, but it was prosperous, even by the ore-hungry dwarves’ standards. The mines still produced vast quantities of precious metals, and revenue into the city was at an all-time high. With a tight hand and stern financial mandates, his uncle had dragged Pellan into wealth and prosperity through the blood of its people. The town was sparkling and increasing in appeal by the day. At a glance, the commoners of Pellan seemed to wear a finer cut and enjoyed a bit more luxury than other regional counter parts.
It helped that the rabble and rough-shod were shipped to the mines, with either little or no pay, depending on their willingness to depart town living. Caine knew all Pellan’s dirty secrets, since one need only follow the flow of money, and he had been his Uncle’s most trusted accountant. Perhaps that only went to prove how much of a fool his uncle had been. Regardless, the Thaslay name went a long way in Pellan. Caine’s appointment was assured.
He poured himself a glass from the sifter of brandy and savored his victory.
A knock on the door interrupted his internal revelry. “Enter,” he ordered. It felt good to be in control. The power was invigorating.
The guardsman bowed, stepping aside to present a visitor. “Lady Fray, Magistrate.”
Caine stood and stepped around his desk, setting down his glass. “I ordered no visitors,” he said sternly. He wanted to celebrate today’s victory in private, at least for the time being.
The woman smiled. It seemed like a private smile meant only for him, accompanied by a teasing glint in her violet eyes. “I thought perhaps you’d made an exception for me, your honor.” The emphasis on his title was congratulatory.
He looked at her appraisingly, not bothering to disguise his blatant appraisal of her figure. The dress of a practiced courtier clung appreciatively to her curves, emphasizing the fullness of her hips. Pleasant, though not as ample as he would have preferred. That was often the case with these half-elf wenches, though her hips were not her only alluring feature. A complex string of delicate pearls graced her neck, playing in the open traces above her breast. Those were not cheap. If this woman was nobility, it would not do for him to spurn her now. On the other hand, if she was a courtesan, she was an expensive one, and not a gift to be wasted.
He smiled at his visitor. “Of course, Lady Fray.” He nodded to the guard and returned to his seat, gesturing to the guest couch. The guard closed the door as he left. He watched Lady Fray, particularly her hips, as they swayed across the plush rugs to the couch. She sat with absolute posture, delicately crossing her ankles. Perhaps she was a woman of repute after all. Pity. “So tell me, what brings you to my office this evening? Business or Pleasure?”
He poured her a glass of brandy from his sifter and handed her the glass. She accepted it graciously but did not drink. She blushed delicately and gave him an apologetic smile with a nod of her head. A brunette ringlet fell loose from her tight coiffure as she nodded her head slightly. “Business, I’m afraid.”
Her answer was a bit disappointing, but he was not going to count the evening as a total loss yet. Business had ways of turning into pleasure if high enough hands played the correct cards. No one held a better hand than Caine. “Then let us get the business out of the way. What do you need from me?”
Her hand absently tucked the errant strand back into order. The urge to take that perfectly placed hair and plunge it into disarray stirred him. Best to be done with business quickly.
“I am here on behalf of a friend. The knight hired to protect your late uncle, in fact.”
Caine nodded. “Ah, yes. Unfortunate event that.” He took a deep drink of his brandy. It appeared that caution was in order. “I heard about his unfortunate circumstance, but facts remain as they are; He failed in his duty, and thus does not deserve the reward for safeguarding the late Magistrate.”
She gave a reluctant nod, rolling the glass in her delicate hands. “I can agree that his full reward is out of question, but perhaps a compensation of half? He did protect the Magistrate for several days before his inevitable death. Surely that is worth something.”
“Perhaps.” He leaned against the polished mahogany desk and sipped his brandy, swirling the liquid around in his cup as he relished the bouquet. It was rich with an underlying note that he couldn’t place. His late uncle had exquisite tastes. “Tell me, Lady Fray, if you would. What is your stake in this knight’s well-being?” He raised his eyes to meet those of the lovely creature across from him, examining her expression for a hint. “Is he a family friend, perhaps?”
The lady inhaled sharply. She was reluctant to answer, a fact that he noted with growing interest. A paramour, perhaps. “I… no, your honor. Simply a friend.”
Caine smiled. “I see.” He walked to the couch and sat down beside her, brushing a finger down her arm. “Perhaps you and I could come to an… arrangement. I could see that your friend is well taken care of.”
The look of shock on Lady Frey’s face melted into disgust and disappointment. “I was hoping to not resort to this.” She turned boldly, no longer shy, and gave him a sly smile. In response, Caine’s smirk faltered and he pulled away slightly, wary of this sudden turn of events. The minx continued, “Let me put it this way, my lord. I am unsure how long you have been drinking from your uncle’s brandy sifter, but I poisoned it weeks ago.” She reached into her satchel, pulling out a delicate vial. “Here is my offer. I give you the antidote, and you restore, at least in part, the honor of the man that I unwittingly destroyed, along with your uncle.” She sat down the full glass in her hand. “Who, might I add, was very stingy with his brandy.”
Taliesen, now short one vial of colored water spiced with mint, climbed the stairs to the top floor of the Silver Chalet, one of the more reputable inns in Pellan. She used her key to open the door and quietly slipped in, unnoticed. Eric, deep in his cups and sleeping off more than a few mugs of Dwarven Fire Whiskey, was still where she had left him. She did not relish the idea of letting him know that a woman had seemingly drunk him under the table, but then again she had cheated. She was drinking water after that first glass. Perhaps she’d just let him think he’d won.
He did survive eight flagons of Dwarven Fire Whiskey, after all.
She smiled at the sleeping knight and removed the brunette wig, placing it carefully in her costume kit, along with the necklace of fake pearls. Lady Frey was going to have to lay low for many weeks after tonight’s events.