The tavern is already bustling by the time the gang arrives. Low, golden sunlight filters through the grimy windows and gives the assembled commoners a burnt, fiery look. The gang steps inside, standing two abreast, and seeks out the musicians.
They’re at a small, rude table in the back: the stage is empty for now. When he spots them, Fassn gives a wide grin and expansive wave. The drummer, his beard even more wild than the night before, gives his partner, the slender flutist, a look of dissatisfaction. Cang gives Fassn the very same look.
Shyan leads the way over, conspicuously scanning the room, ignoring any free tables she sees, until the gang arrives at the musicians’ table.
“Got the gold?” asks the drummer.
The flutist leads the way out of the tavern with the drummer close behind. The gang ponders their words for a moment before the barkeeper catches Shyan’s eye. “Aye, what’re you lot still doin’ here? The drink’s not flowin’ so you’d best be goin’!”
“I like this guy,” Fassn says, as the barkeeper ushers them from his tavern.
Standing in the dark street, the gang plans its next move.
“Well if we’re going to do this, we’d best get cleaned up,” Shyan says.
As dawn breaks over the city’s hidden horizon, the gang makes its way to a barbershop.
“Where?” Shyan asks. “We’re ready to get this deal done, but doesn’t seem like that’ll be happening here.”
“No,” says the flutist. She shakes her head as though to clear the cobwebs from within it, sending her mass of curly hair fluttering. “Our client favours a particular tea room in the Quiet Quarter. Of course, you can’t go dressed like that.”
“Huh?” Fassn asks. He jerks his head up from his fingers, sending the chimes woven into his beard tinkling. “Why not? Hey, can I have some of your hair? I just wanna touch it.” He begins reaching for the curly mass with his bitten-down fingers, but the flutist slaps him away.
“Ridiculous boor,” she snaps.
“Well said,” adds Cang.
The musicians stand, staring down their noses at the gang. “Clean yourselves up and present yourselves on the morrow. We shall go together once you’ve been properly groomed.”
“In fact they give you dreams so bad that shadows rise from them to throttle you,” Fassn says. He’s still munching on his fingernails, yet he manages to give his words an ominous tone all the same.
“Ridiculous,” says Cang, adding in an undertone, “All the more so when one attempts to sell something of value.”
“Well our client don’t care about no bad dreams,” says the flutist.
“Don’t think he dreams at all,” the drummer adds.
Abia’s dark eyes flash at this. “No?” she asks casually.
“Stays up all night admiring his riches, you know.” The flutist’s eyes take in the gang’s bedraggled appearance. “Maybe you don’t know.”
“Maybe we would if we could get this deal done,” Shyan says impatiently. Most of the taverngoers have filed out, drunk, to disperse in the night. The barkeeper and his staff begin putting up chairs. “So we doing this?”
“Er,” Shyan says, looking to Cang for backup. “We don’t really know her name…”
“She’s got a retainer named Old Mossy,” Fassn adds. “His beard is like mine,” he says, brushing at the wiry grey hairs with his fingers.
“Petite grey creature,” Cang says. “Her people shoot darts from the shadows coated with poison.”
“And the poison gives you—” here Shyan catches herself, and course corrects, subtly, saying, “—gives you bad dreams.”
The flutist cocks and eyebrow. “Bad dreams?”
“Of course we’re hungry,” Shyan says.
“We’re always hungry,” adds Fassn, currently biting his nails and swallowing the keratinous material.
The drummer beats the scarred wooden table with his fingers. The flutist shoots him a glance, then returns her attention to the gang. “Tell us about where you got the goods.”
“Is this relevant?” Cang asks with a sneer. “The weight is true, there is no plating whatsoever. This item is one hundred percent dense gold. Surely its provenance cannot be a factor.”
“It’s from a princess,” adds Fassn. “It’s real pretty but we’re hungry.” A grumble from his stomach washes over the table.
“A princess, yes,” says the flutist. “But which one?”