“I wouldn’t bother if I were you. He does this for a living.” The two men looked up from their seats across the candle lit table. “The penitent Thief doesn’t suit you Lucas, unabashed gambler was always more your speed.”
“Diversity is the spice of life dear brother.” Lucas stood and held his arms wide to embrace the newcomer.
“Has it been so long since we last met that you’re going grey?” The newcomer ran his fingers through the tips of Lucas’s shoulder length grey hair curiously.
“Genetics has a lot to account for Marcus. I can’t help it that Mother past both her health and beauty onto you. I, unfortunately, have to make do with what’s left.” He flicked his brother’s hand away carelessly. “Speaking of which, I have something to show you.”
The man sat across the table coughed and looked at the two brothers expectantly.
Lucas smiled. “Oh, I do apologise Alfie, this is my dear elder brother, Marcus Villaine.” He watched and delighted as the colour drained from Alfie’s features. What had previously been a ruddy complexion turned distinctly white. Marcus merely blinked and rubbed his fingers together. The grey hair dye had left greasy smudges across his manicured nails.
“A pleasure I’m sure.” Marcus said. “Apologies for interrupting what I have no doubt was a thrilling business opportunity but my brother has requested my company. He has assured me that it is a matter of the utmost urgency.”
“That it is! Would I ever deceive you, my closest of kin?”
Marcus lifted a sculpted brow. He looked around the grubby inn. It was in the lowland district of his city and the clientèle here weren’t the most reputable of people. That was to say, they weren’t as adept at hiding their criminal activities as the individuals he was used to dealing with. His clothes marked his wealth and status and he had picked up more than one shadow on his way into the bar. They were now sat just to the left of him in an unlit booth. They sipped their drinks deliberately, gazes never leaving his pockets.
“I find it hard to believe you had anything but ulterior motives to invite me to such a delightful and welcoming establishment.”
Lucas’s grin was infectious and Marcus had to fight to school his features. “Please, Lucas, lead the way to your latest find. My apologies, Alfie was it? Here.” He laid a highly embossed business card in front of the man, and managed to avoid touching the sticky wood of the table. “My card. That should be enough to get you into the next games. I shall instruct my people to ensure you have an excellent seat.” He felt, rather than saw, his shadow’s eyes switch from his pocket to the card on the table. It was worth three times what the average citizen earned in a month. “After you, brother.”
Lucas nodded and walked them out of a back door into a surprisingly well-lit back alley. Marcus could hear the fighting start before the door had even finished closing. They headed down a cobbled street and into a non-distinct warehouse, he hummed the whole way.
The smell hit Marcus the moment he entered. Blood, sawdust, sweat, lust and fear bombarded him along with the screams and yells of countless people. The unmet pleas and tears of the creatures in chains and pens assaulted his ears as he walked down the hastily constructed corridors of cheap wood and chain. Marcus knew where they would all eventually lead. He didn’t rush as he walked, his expensive shoes made no sound against the tiled floor. He looked dispassionately at the specimens on offer, nothing particularly catching his eye. He trusted that his brother had an ace up his sleeve, after-all the man never played unless he was certain he would win. When they reached the centre of the maze Marcus allowed his brother to move to the fore and walked over to an oddly incongruent guard rail. It was constructed from highly polished bronze and stood out against the obviously rushed and haphazardly put together displays surrounding it. As he looked over the railing into the space below he was surprised to note that, this too, was well put together, if a bit minimalistic for his tastes. The pit was small enough for two fighters to circle one another and swing a basic Gladius. Sunken into the floor its walls had been reinforced by stone and cement, the ground was compacted dirt, beaten flat by countless small feet and bodies, a practical solution to the issue of spilled bodily fluids. It didn’t surprise Marcus to note that it was already a deep rust brown, stained as it was with blood and other bodily fluids.
Upon their approach an old woman strode up to them. She was immaculately dressed and her neat grey hair was held in place with two large and delicately carved wooden pins. Marcus would have put good money on them being lined with a steel core.
Unlike the patrons of the previous establishment the old woman recognised him and bowed before addressing him.
“Lawmaker Villaine, how may I be of assistance?” Her smile was polite but genuine and he could make out a subtle perfume that spoke of a wealth and a status that should have kept her well away from places like this.
“I fear you have me at a disadvantage Madame?”
“Junius, Josephine Junius, proprietor of Junius Auctioneers.”
Marcus bowed slightly in acknowledgement and took her outstretched hand. “I do apologise, Madame, I was not informed where I was to be taken by my brother and I admit it was a rather pleasant surprise to find myself here. Lucas has yet to show me the particular specimen he has brought me to see.”
Josephine looked across to acknowledge Lucas’s presence. “My my Lucas, you have been hiding your secrets well haven’t you? Who would have suspected you were related to the Lawmaker himself?” She once again inclined her head towards Marcus.
“It’s almost as if I planned it that way Madame Junius.” Lucas winked unapologetically. “I wonder, would it be possible for us to examine the wild Fey that were brought in by the central tracker unit last week?”
“Of course, although I do need to make you aware that we have not fully processed them all yet and some are proving to be rather…difficult.”
“Is there a particular specimen you would like to see or are you wishing to just browse the collection?”
“There is! It has black skin and chalk white hair. I heard that it had a particularly vicious temper, took down two of its trappers before they managed to finally subdue it?”
Madame Junius didn’t try to hide her shock at the request but nodded nonetheless and lead the two men back into a side door off to the right of the main auction floor. They followed her through a series of small and distinctly clinical looking corridors until they reached a heavily guarded entrance. She nodded to the guards who parted to let the three of them through. The creatures held in here were wilder looking than the ones in the previous room. They still had the feral edge of the wilderness they were from. Only through rigorous training and discipline would they hope to resemble anything closed to the civilised men and women who would were waiting outside to purchase them. They were bound by manacles imbued with magic, rather than the simple metal contraptions of the Auction House floor outside.
Both Lucas and Marcus followed Madame Junius to the far left of the room and stopped before the only creature that had to be held in a cage as well as by the magical chains. It looked back at them through the most intelligent and hate filled emerald eyes Marcus had ever seen. He turned to his brother in awe.
“I don’t know how you do it, but you never cease to amaze me brother.”
“Quite something isn’t it? I’d only seen pictures before now but even in those you can see the potential. I’m told it has claws as well. Sliced one of the trackers faces to ribbons when it saw him take down its Mother.”
“Really?” Marcus turned back to the creature with renewed interest. “How quickly can we get it into the Pit for a demonstration?”
“My Lord, we can’t just take it out into the public like that. We have no idea how it will react and it hasn’t been cleared by any of the formal channels that you yourself set up. I can’t –”
“That is correct Madame, I set the laws in place and so I am, legally, the only one who can allow an exception. I wish to see this creature fight, tonight. Make this happen and I assure you your company will receive my official badge of office to add to its coat of arms; fail to do so and, well, need I go into detail?”
“No, Lawmaker, I will see that it’s done immediately.” Madame Junius stepped away and began to hastily talk with a young woman who had been not so subtly watching the three of them from a nearby office.
Marcus circled the cage and watched as the Fey inside turned to track him, its small frame readied in a crouch as if it were waiting for him to either let it loose or attack at any moment. Marcus’s mind was already racing with the possibilities and he was itching to see the Fey in action. He knew from his previous research that some Fey were able to shift shapes and take on the form of another animal. From the looks of it he had finally found one. The potential if he could only harness it, was almost limitless. He would finally be able to make his people great. Should all go to plan, the world would be his to command. He looked up, through the cage, to capture his brother’s eye.
“Thank you, it’s perfect.”
Lucas simply smiled. “Of course it is, I found it for you.”