While it’s not necessary to read Evie Adventure 3: Prologue, I do recommend it!
Directly following the events in Evie Adventure #2, Right Where She Wants Him, Evie embarks on a new adventure that will take her far from Rith. In Right Where She Wants Him, Evie intercepted a sultry foreign spy, exposed a corrupt senior government official, and ‘met’ a handsome guard. But those events may pale in comparison to the peril and intrigue she experiences when she sets off on her own.
It was more difficult to leave Will than it should have been. My thoughts of him lingered longer than they should have. There was something more to this man than just someone to roll around with beneath the sheets for a night. I’d have to ask around about him and learn a little more.
For professional reasons only, of course. So my reports would be complete, that’s all.
I made a quick stop at home to change into my uniform before reporting to the office of Cassandra, my mentor and handler–who also happened to be the senior spymaster for the Codex Cryptae. Her blue-grey eyes lit up when she saw me and she motioned me into a chair.
She was already aware of Councilman Goldwain’s arrest and had already spoken with Ambassador Francis, so I was able to keep my debrief fairly quick and high-level. I avoided sharing the saucier details of my evening, truthfully telling her that I’d been collecting evidence with a guard from Protective Services since the disgraced councilman was taken away.
She could tell I was glossing over the more lurid details. Cassandra didn’t get to be spymaster without knowing how to read people. She didn’t press for details, though–she’d wait until we didn’t have an urgent mission, and then demand I share the saucy bits over glasses of whiskey.
As I anticipated, Cassandra did indeed want me to continue following up on Vyndra’s sale of secrets to others. However, she didn’t want me to go northwest after the Jarlvordian warlord, nor northeast into the land of the orks just yet. Their threats to Rith were already well known.
Instead, my orders were to follow up on a new threat, from a developing land to the west, with relatively primitive warring tribes. Vyndra had been doing business with profiteers exporting exotic items from this land, items ranging from creatures to potions to weapons to treasures of gold. I needed to try and investigate the sources and find out what Vyndra was up to.
That meant going south, away from the more civilized and cultured lands of Rith and Varala, and traveling through the more seedy lands and sinister peoples beyond, toward the Forbidden Islands.
From the bawdy port city of Chowheim I’d have to arrange passage across the ‘big puddle’ to another seedy port, Revana, on the island of Quada. From there, it would be a shorter sail southwest to the land of Mayab–the reported source of all the imported goods.
Chowheim was a two-day journey, and thanks to my late-morning dalliance with Will, it was already too late in the day to be embarking. I would barely clear the outskirts of Greytrade before nightfall. Better to take my time preparing my gear, and get a good night’s sleep. And getting a good night’s sleep also meant resisting the impulse to seek out Will for one more night.
I also needed to resist the impulse to head over to the Devil’s Due in hopes my cute new ranger friend was there again. If there was one thing of which I could be certain, a visit to the Devil’s Due would not lead to a good night’s sleep–regardless of whether or not I found Alynnya there.
However, once I restocked my gear by visiting the armory, the alchemist’s laboratory, and library, I still had time on my hands. With all my gear packed and ready, there was not much to do alone in my modest apartment. I told myself again that a ‘good night’s sleep’ was critical, but after the crazy pace of the last few days, I couldn’t force myself to go to bed so early.
The siren’s call of the Devil’s Due was irresistible.
I wasn’t even sure what I was hoping to find when I got there. The passionate night with Will had sated any carnal desires, and a casual hook-up would pale in comparison to the erotic interlude with the handsome knight.
Perhaps I needed a calming drink with an interesting friend, I thought, as the face of the adorable blonde ranger flashed in my memory. Or perhaps I just needed a quiet night of brooding introspection over a mug of something strong.
The Devil’s Due was remarkably quiet, but it was early. The absence of the singing gnome and her stoic companion likely had something to do with the quiet. Unfortunately it also likely explained the absence of Alynnya, the lovely blonde I had met two nights before. I resigned myself to a disappointing evening–I’d just have a quick drink or two and head home.
I took the first seat around the corner of the bar, where Vyndra had sat. She had good instincts; the position gave a good view of the front entrance, of the stairs to the rooms above, and down the length of the bar. I gave a slow shake of my head to dissuade the first two men coming my way with drinks in their hands, and mouthed ‘no’ to the third, who was too drunk to notice.
I was in no mood for any intrusions tonight. I just wanted my quiet drink or three, and then to get some sleep before my mission. I had no tolerance for nonsense.
I spied Reggie at a table near the stairs, and gave him a warm smile and a nod, while simultaneously hoping he wouldn’t come over. Reggie suddenly flushed red and found something interesting requiring his attention at the bottom of his mug of ale. Apparently he hadn’t yet recovered from seeing me tied up naked on the bed upstairs two nights before.
I went on alert when I saw a flash of light colored hair near the door, but was disappointed to see a very different young woman stride into the Devil’s Due. I assessed her quickly, as I was trained to do, and very quickly concluded: trouble. Sigh. So much for my quiet four drinks.
She was a little shorter than me and very wiry, and carried herself with confidence and an obvious chip on her shoulder–and a scowl on her face. She was dressed in a tight but ill-fitting black shinobi shozuku, but her tightly pulled pony-tail of dirty blonde hair suggested she was not from the exotic far-eastern land of Ienotochi. She carried a few weapons in full view, but also had several poorly-hidden weapons in her garment.
She looked ready for a fight. Actually, she looked looking for a fight.
She appeared, I thought, like a poor-man’s version of me. Ok, perhaps that was unkind, but I was getting in an unkind mood quickly. What I meant was, she was what I might have become if I had continued growing up in my poverty-and-crime-riddled neighborhood, if I had received my training in an oppressive environment, or if I hadn’t received the best equipment and uniforms from the Rithian military.
In short: angry. Very angry. And socially inept. But mostly angry.
One of the regulars stood up and started to say, “Sorry miss, no weapons…”
She flicked her right wrist, and a blade appeared from the sleeve over her forearm. In a flash it was poised at his throat. “You gon’ try’n take ‘em?” she growled.
She was fast, and very fluid. But predictable. She’d throw something at the next person who moved. And even if she didn’t kill someone, I’d quickly learn all I needed to know about her.
Another regular behind her began to stand up slowly, drawing a dagger as he did. A ruffle of fabric, an extended left arm, and the man sat down again heavily, with a rounded shuriken embedded halfway into his chest. He’d live, but with a nasty scar to show his grandkids.
Dammit. I just wanted to have my five drinks and go home. I could have just drank there.
I caught Reggie’s eye. “Get…rangers…” I mouthed at him. He nodded, and headed for the side door. Fortunately the angry girl didn’t notice, because there were several other patrons heading for the side door at the same time.
With luck, some rangers or knights would arrive in five or ten minutes. They would be able to secure the scene and protect the innocents in the bar once they got there.
As I watched the angry girl, I knew they would be too late. Someone was going to get hurt before then if I didn’t step in. I sighed, and downed my drink. Maybe I could get number six to go…
“Yo! Angry Girl!” I yelled, while staring into the bottom of my mug. The room fell silent.
I could see her whirl in surprise, looking about. Such poor training. She hadn’t scanned the bar, didn’t know I was there, wasn’t even sure where the voice came from. Any ranger with a projectile could have taken her out by now. Maybe even a half-as-talented knight.
I lowered my mug so she could see my face, but turned my eyes to the bartender, motioning for a refill of my mug. “Lighten up a little, will ya? Come here, let me buy you a drink, we’ll chat.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” she roared, turning and narrowing her focus in my direction. Good, good, focus on me…
“Oh! I’m Evie!” I said cheerily in a tone sure to throw her off guard. I turned and looked at her. I swept my hand toward the crowd in the room. “And these are all my friends. And if you hurt any more of them, we’re going to have a different kind of chat. So whaddaya say, let’s avoid the nastiness and have a drink?”
Angry Girl brandished her blade and started walking purposefully across the room toward me. “Oh hell, bitch. Y’wanna go? I’m so ready t’ face off with a ranger. You coddled bitches ain’t shit ‘n a fight.”
I concluded my assessment. She definitely had lethal skills; she had been trained to be a killing machine, a weapon, but she was a blunt tool despite her sharp blades.
If needed, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. But even I wouldn’t emerge from that fight unscathed. That’s why I needed to avoid a fight–it wasn’t worth it. I needed to convince her of the same.
I slid off my barstool and stood up straight as she advanced, squaring off my body to face her in a non-threatening stance. It wasn’t even a defensive stance. I just calmly watched her approach as if I expected her to shake my hand.
It was enough to give Angry Girl pause. Even she had enough sense of right and wrong to not strike out at an unarmed and passive foe. She stopped, still scowling, but with a quizzical look. She began to look me up and down, for the first time assessing me as a threat instead of an infuriating interruption or a victim to bully.
That’s when I saw it…I saw a flicker of doubt in her eye. A momentary recalculation where she realized her arrogance may have doomed her. For the first time since she entered the bar she doubted whether she was the one in control, and wasn’t certain she’d be leaving it alive.
And in that moment–though she didn’t realize it yet–this conflict was over.
“You’re good, Angry Girl, but you’re not good enough. I can see that you know it.”
“I can fucking try.”
“You’ll die trying. That’s not a boast or a threat. It’s factually the predetermined outcome here. The only outcome.”
“I’ll hurt you bad before I do.”
“I know. That’s why I won’t fight you.”
“Fuck yes you’ll fight me!” she raised her blade again.
“No. I won’t.”
She flinched as if beginning to swing. I didn’t flinch.
“Defend yourself, god damn you! I will kill you if you don’t!” Her voice was a screech now; it echoed in the silent bar.
“No. And no, you won’t.” My voice was unwaveringly calm.
She flinched with her blade again, a movement of inches, closer to my face. “Aaaaaugh!” she screeched in frustration.
Only then did I bring my persuasive look to bear upon her. “Angry Girl, be calm,” I said as I smiled and looked deep in her eyes. My soft gaze and calming tone was a skill I’d developed that made most people passive and pliant to my wishes. I tilted my head to one side and broadened my smile. Her head tilted in the same direction to match mine. She slowly dropped her blade to her side again.
“I don’t want to fight you. You don’t want to fight me. We don’t want any of these good people to get hurt.”
She looked around at the stunned crowd as if seeing them for the first time. She seemed a little bewildered by the mix of facial expressions among them: fear, shock, anger and disdain.
I stepped closer and put my arm around her shoulders. As her face snapped back toward me, I hit her with the gaze again. I watched the glare in her eyes soften and fade. “Let’s forget the drink and go outside for some fresh air,” I said softly.
She nodded as we began walking, my arm around her shoulder guiding her back toward the door. As we approached the injured man, I asked her, “Do you have a coin purse?”
She fumbled at an inside pocket and withdrew a black velvet bag that jingled softly, and stared at it as she held it up, not sure why she was holding it.
“You really should apologize to the nice man and give him your purse.”
She looked at him, then glanced down at the red stain on his chest. “I…I’m so sorry, sir.” She held out the purse for him to take.
He accepted the purse tentatively and wide-eyed, his hand shaking a little. With his other trembling hand he returned the bloodied shuriken to her. “Nnn…nn…no problem.”
Meanwhile I dipped into my own coin pocket and retrieved several gold coins for the man who first confronted Angry Girl. “That was very brave,” I told him, placing the coins in his hand. “The rangers thank you for your bravery.” I followed the coins with a quick peck on his cheek. “And I thank you too.” That ought to make others more willing to step up next time, I thought.
“Ok, let’s head outside!” I told the more subdued girl. I returned my arm to her shoulder and nudged her toward the door. A couple men began clapping but I silenced them with a glare. This incident was no cause for celebration despite the peaceful outcome.
“Your name’s Evie?” the girl asked as we reached the door.
“Don’t you wanna know my name?”
“No. You are irrelevant to me.” We stepped out into the cool evening air, and I took a deep breath.
“Oh. Ok. What are you gon’ do wit’ me?”
That was the sixty-four thousand gold coin question, wasn’t it? I could–probably should–kill her in the alley and let the knights dispose of her. But it was unnecessary and I didn’t have time for the paperwork. I could turn her over to the rangers if they ever arrived. But imprisonment would just make her angry again. And again, paperwork. Give her to Crazy Stepan? No, even Crazy Stepan wouldn’t want this messed up girl around his clients.
I thought I’d try something different for once. I turned her to face me and looked deep into her eyes again, holding her chin in my palm to emphasize my sincerity. “I am sending you away with the gift of your life. You will leave Rith and never return. You will renounce your masters and discard your weapons. You will find something useful to do with your life…or I will kill you.”
She looked passively back up at me, her eyes flickering between mine as she sought understanding. “Can I stay with you? I can learn from you. You can make me better.”
“No. I want nothing to do with you as you are today. Make yourself into something better first. If you can do that, then perhaps I will have some use for you someday. But now, you must go.
She nodded, tears forming in her eyes. Then she turned and disappeared into the night.
I looked to the heavens above. “Holy Ones, don’t let me regret this someday,” I muttered.
I turned back toward the Devil’s Due and saw through the window that Reggie had returned. He had brought some rangers in through the side door. They appeared to be patiently watching and listening as patrons enthusiastically re-enacted the scene.
I started to enter the bar to give the rangers my report. I paused with my hand on the door. I didn’t feel the need to justify my decision to send Angry Girl on her way. They would be obligated to pursue her, which could actually end badly for them. Plus, you know, paperwork.
No, I thought, it would add to the mystery and wild tales of the Cryptae if I didn’t return tonight and Angry Girl simply disappeared. I grinned as I thought how that would boost my own reputation among the regulars.
I took a lingering mournful look at my full mug sitting alone on the corner of the bar. If I went back in, the bartender would ensure that the mug would be bottomless for a very long time. I sighed audibly. “Evie, you have a mission in the morning…” I told myself.
I sighed again and turned to head home alone. I laughed softly to myself, thinking that it was probably a good thing I had no idea where either Will or Alynnya lived…
Chapter 2 of Evie Adventure #3 coming soon!