A/N: This chapter is rather long. I didn't realize how long it was until I uploaded it. I don't have spell check anymore so forgive my spelling errors!

Happy Holidays everyone.

(Disclaimer: I own none of the characters, the major plot, and some of the dialogue but most of the subplots belong to me)

Thursday, April 2, 246

When I woke this morning, Kora and Aniki were still asleep. Apparently the venture to Corus scored a bigger number on them that I had thought. I decided that I should do a bit of walking, getting to know my way around the City before I tried to get in any work. I need escape routes from the Dogs, especially the Evening Watch here in Corus. They looked plenty vicious compared to the Guards in Scanra. Their morals were probably better than the Dogs in Scanra as well. No matter, I just needed to keep a distance from them at all times.

I walked out of the inn and into a busy street. I was almost pushed to the ground by some lad that smelled strongly of fish, but I dodged him carefully. There was something in his eyes that looked tricky, or maybe it was just bad lighting. Whatever the case, I kept his face in mind, just in case.

I made my way through the Lower City. There was a lot going on despite the early hour. Though crime was still low, I still saw several lads picking pockets and grabbing purses. It was impressive, and the Dogs of this watch didn't even try to stop them. I took in the faces of the Dogs and remembered which ones let things slide. I decided that watching the Dogs of each watch would be my best chance at having a good start. If I wanted to have a nice place in the Rogue's Court then everything thing had to play by my hand. I was going to be the one calling the shots.

Mothers were sitting at their doorsteps gossiping. Some where feeding their children or watching their children as they played close by while other sewed clothing to make them look presentable even in the poorest part of the City. Children ran by on the muddy streets, spraying mud droplets everywhere. I avoided them as much as possible. I didn't want to get too dirty from little children. Pigs were wandering around, digging trash while stray dogs and cats cursed them for stepping in their territory.

There aren't many carts down the narrow streets, due to the fact that they won't fit. They wound around buildings sharply, just that in itself was difficult to walk. I noticed how many people preferred to walk. There were few who seemed to think that riding a horse or a mule worked well, but they had to take it slow from the normal pace of the human foot. I shook my head at them; they should have known that riding wasn't going to get them somewhere fast.

I came across some vendors selling some delicious looking food. Though I had to pick wisely, because I didn't want to eat sommat that was going to make me sick. It has happened before back in Scanra. An older woman caught my eye in particular. Everyone seemed to buy something from her stall and she would thank them heartily. I decided that I would try her food; they looked fresh and inviting.

"Good mornin'," she said as she set a tray of hot rolls down before me. She pried them off of the tray and set them to cool a little next to the older rolls that were already cooled. When she finished, she started to put the cooler rolls in a sack. "Take these," she told me handing me the sac. "They may not be much but you look too thin." I blinked at the woman and took the rolls with a thank you. "Is there anything else you would like?"

"What would you recommend?" I asked. "You see, I am new here and I'm not accustomed to your food." She smiled at me and handed me a fritter. I paid her the proper amount with a tip included.

"I'm Deirdry Noll," the woman introduced. "May I ask who you are?" I had a feeling that I would be seeing more of her.

"Rosto," I told her with a nod. "Thank you for your generosity." I lifted the bag of free rolls and smiled at her.

"Come again another time, Rosto," she said, her eyes twinkling. I assured her that I would. The fritter in my hand begged me to eat it. The smell alone teased me slightly. I turned away and made my way back to the busy streets, slowly eating the fritter. The fritter was delicious. I knew it wasn't my hungry stomach believing that it was delicious; it was the pastry itself. I was going to have to tell Aniki and Kora to visit Mistress Noll whenever they wake. Of course, they were going to be upset that I didn't get them food but it's not my job to mother them about.

I continued to walk about the Lower City eating the rolls one by one. They was amazing when they were cold, I wondered what they tasted like warm. I couldn't even imagine.

"Filthy whore!" I heard a man bellow down an empty alleyway. I took a peek, not liking what I was hearing. Before my eyes could focus in the dimly lit space where the two people were hiding, I heard a painful smack against flesh and a cry of pain. My eyes narrowed at the sound. I quietly made my way to their hiding.

The woman was against the wall, her face bloodied and swollen from the man's beatings. Tears streamed down her face as her wide eye looked on the man with terror. The man had his hand balled into a fist, arm raised, about the strike her again. I grabbed his wrist and pulled it back.

"Excuse me, sir," I said with a sting in my words. "I don't believe that hitting your gixie is appropriate."

"Stay outta it," he slurred at me. I nearly choked by how strong the alcohol was on his breath. It was the morning, why would he be drinking now...unless he was still drunk from the night before. Whatever it may be, I didn't like it. He swung his free hand at me, but I dipped out of the way, still holding onto his wrist. The tosspot snarled at me, drooling from the corners of his mouth like a diseased dog.

"I said that you shouldn't hit your gixie," I said, bending his wrist, and then thrusting it upward with my free palm until it snapped. "Now run along and leave the poor woman alone before I break more than your wrist." The man scampered away, no doubt going to lick his wounds.

I looked down at the woman; she was sobbing and whimpering, pressing herself against the wall as though she were afraid I was going to hurt her. I felt a little offended. Never in my life have I raised a hand to a mot, Aniki and Kora would have hung me by my toes; though she didn't know that. I took a step back, giving her space.

"Are you okay?" I asked bending down slightly, trying to see if there were any serious injuries. She moved a little, looking up at me with her bleeding eye. I thought that she was going to finally talk to me and let me help her but instead she lashed out her leg, her foot connecting to a rather sensitive area. I fell to the ground, balled up waiting for the pain to leave me as she ran away. So much for trying to help, I thought.

When I was able to get my sorry self out of the dirt, I thought it would be a good time to see if the girls were awake. I dusted myself clean of dirt before returned to the crowded streets. It was getting livelier by the hour but I was concentrating on getting back to the inn without anymore problems. A little gixie ran up to me, noticing that I was still in a bit of pain.

"Wha's wrong with ya?" she asked me, scrunching her face in a curious way. I looked around, wondering where her parents were.

"Well," I said, trying to think of some way to make her go away. "I just fell down," I lied. "I'm not havin' a good start this morning." The girl laughed at me, saying something about me being a bugnob because I tripped over my own feet. She went away grasping her belly as though my idiocy was the funniest thing in Corus. Is it wrong of me for wanting to spit in her little face? Probably.

The pain was fully gone when I made it back to the inn. I was rather impressed at how hard the mot kicked me. If the pain lasted that long it must have been hard enough. I went to my room only to find Kora and Aniki sitting on the floor, eating breakfast. They looked up at me when I walked in the door, surprised. What did that need to be surprised about? It was my room after all and they gawked at me as though I were breaking into their rooms.

"What are ya' two doing?" I asked.

Kora raised her eyebrows at me. "Uh, having our morning meal. What does it look like we're doing?"

"Sitting in my room without invitation!" I said. My mood was flaring. It was definitely not a good start. "Mayhap I wanted to rest."

Aniki stepped in, glaring at me. "Well then we would leave. Did our Rosto have a bad morning?" I sneered at her. Sure, she may help me keep my bed warm some nights but it didn't mean I had to be nice to her all of the time. "Calm yourself, laddybuck! Maybe you didn't rest yourself fully. You can be a rather big -"

"It's not that," I said, cutting her off. I sighed and slid to the floor. I looked at the food that they had before them. There was ham, bread, and twilsey before them. "Where did you get all of this?"

"I worked my magic," Aniki said, smiling at me though her blonde locks that drifted before her face. Part of me didn't want to know what she had done, but another part was curious. As always, the curious part won.

"How?" I asked, accepting a drink from Kora.

"You don't want to know," Kora whispered in my ear. Aniki gave her a false smile that Kora returned. "On a happier note, we have breakfast."

"I already ate," I said drinking the rest of the twilsey and setting the empty cup down on the floor. I stood and stretched. "I'm going to take a little rest here. You can stay but if you are silent." Aniki and Kora just stared at me as I sprawled out on my bed looking up at the ceiling as though it held interest. I sensed their eyes on me. They were worried. I wasn't acting myself. I sighed and sat up. "Let's go for a walk." There was no way I was going to be able to sleep with those two gazing at me.

They finished their food and cleaned up their mess. The innkeeper's wife winked at me as we walked toward the doors. I shook my head; I wasn't that kind of cove. Kora rolled her eyes at the woman, knowing her intentions. "The nerve," she mumbled. I patted Kora on the back and eased her forward, out of the gaze of the innkeeper's wife.

"She's not satisfied," Aniki said. "Last night, her and her man got into some argument about sommat. It was muffled through the floorboards, but I could tell they were angry shouts." I shrugged. I still didn't want to be part of that. I looked at Aniki and Kora. They were far better than the innkeeper's homely wife.

That talk of the wife was no more.

"Where are we going?" Kora asked looking around the narrow streets with innocent interest. It was moments like these when I realized how coves could mistake Kora for an innocent mot, or a trollop. In the end, they run away with their tail between their legs,

"Getting to know the area," I told her. We walked all around the Lower City, feeling no need to explore other districts. If we were going to be crooks we do it low class areas where we blend. I, for one, wasn't much in to dressing expensively. I kept it simple yet good enough. I needed to make impressions on others in a positive way before I started my trouble making.

We made our way to the Cesspool where it smelled strongly of urine in some places. The children there were dressed in rags, looking at me with hungry eyes. I knew that I shouldn't give them money because more would come after me with their hands held out before them begging for my stolen money. I did take slight pity on the little mumpers. When their parents had nothing, they felt the need to take responsibility in their own hands and try to find a way to feed themselves, if not the family.

But still, if they wanted money, or anything of the sort, they were going to have to learn how to snatch things without being noticed. They will learn the hard way.

The Cesspool was a treacherous place. It was just an area filled with crime and rot. The buildings were rundown beyond repair. People lay on the street looking sick, some even looked dead. There were some older women, walking around, trying to help them. I watched as a child was lifted from the street and brought into a house. The child's hand hung limply toward the ground, looking as though he were dead.

There were people arguing, yelling, throwing fists in the air; in other terms, making the air around a violent air. There were few Dogs about, I had a feeling that they were up in the better part of the Lower City. It would be hard to control crime in a place like the Cesspool. When there were poor, hungry people clumped together in a tight area, there was bound to be crime. Killing, thieving, raping, you call it, they do it. Down in the Cesspool, survival was their only standard in society.

"I thought this place was bad in the dark," Aniki said, looking around at the crumbling buildings. "But under the sun, it's even worse." She tightened her grip on her sword as a cove looked at her with lust-filled eyes. She threw him a sharp glare making him look away.

"Now," I said putting a hand on her tense shoulder. "Don't let them see that you are uncomfortable with them around. They will use it to their advantage." As I spoke she relaxed her grip on her sword and nodded. "We should probably get out of here," I told them. I think the last thing we need is to have our pockets slit...or worse."

"I agree," Kora whispered to me. We didn't turn around in our place. No - that would make it look as though we were fleeing from the place. Casually, we made our way around several buildings until we were going in the right direction. I looked at the mumpers as we were leaving. Their fair was far worse than anyone else in the city. If they needed money for their families, then why didn't they ask the Rogue for help? That's how it was in Scanra.

Then I remembered the scut sitting on his make-shift throne looking down at everyone as though he were a true king. His aging features were killing his affect on his own people - well, that could have been from his superior attitude. He was overweight, making it obvious that he hadn't done anything crook-like in years. There was a possibility that he had never really done any crime if you don't count over pricing items and trying to make ridiculous bribes to get out of trouble that the people of his court did.

As though reading my thoughts, Kora asks, "When are we going to pay the Rogue another visit?"

"Before the sunsets," was my only reply. "But for now, we have some more exploring to do. We need to know this place just as well as any Dog, possibly better than any Dog." My companions nodded. We spent most of the afternoon exploring, looking at every eating house, tavern, and crime ridden areas as we could. We stopped at a few vendors, getting a good midday meal in before we set off to see the Rogue.

The Court was flooding with mots and coves, both Rogues and the common folk. Aniki, Kora, and I were checked by personal guards of the Rogue's and admitted to see the presence of his royal cuddy. Just looking at his gaudiness made me dislike the man even more. I watched him bribe others, cheat others, and eliminate others. Well, I couldn't give him the credit for any of that, as he wasn't the one who did them. It was the people of his court that did them, he just issued them.

It wasn't until later in the night, there people caught my attention. Two Dogs from the night before, a strongly built woman with short brown hair, and a rather tall man, who had the longest arms and legs I had ever seen. Not too far behind was their puppy. She was holding herself up strongly, her face was set. Her eyes casting an icy glare at the Rogue. There seemed to be a personal grudge there.

Kayfer seemed to have been expecting them. It wasn't too odd, I guess. He was the Rogue after all, Dogs were bound to come and go especially during the evening when the crooks were all ready to do some business.

"We get to wait," the tall man whispered to the Puppy. "It's how he proves he's still the Rogue."

Unable to contain myself, I say, "Some Rogue." The three of them look toward where we were, against the wall. I could see the recognition in the Puppies eyes just by the sound of my voice. I couldn't help but feel impressed with her keen senses. "Sits on his arse like a sarden king and bribes others to stand for him. I'd hope for someone livelier in charge here."

The woman glanced at Kayfer who was too busy whispering to one of his chiefs to care about what just spilled from my lips. The tall man, ambled over to the Carthaki woman, that I recently discovered her name was Ulsa. The woman sat in front of me before I tore my eyes from the man. Kora fingered her gown as the Dog sat before me. She was getting ready to drag a knife of the Dog if they decided to start trouble. Aniki was more relaxed than Kora, with her arm propped up against her bent up knee, leaning back against the wall as if she didn't care.

"Now, laddybuck," the Dog said with an obviously false friendliness in her voice, "why don't you tell me what kind of lively you're looking for? I'll direct you where to find it, away from Corus." She smiled, resembling a dog baring its teeth at me. I returned the smile then averted my eyes to the tall Dog as he made Ulsa laugh. Then, I looked at the Puppy. Her icy glare caught me for a short moment before she looked away.

Kora nudged me with her shoulder. "Stop it, Rosto," she said, knowing that I was trying to make them uncomfortable. "Fidget someone who fidgets you back." She nodded to the Dog. "He's Rosto the Piper," Kora began to introduce. She was sometimes too friendly. "I'm Kora, and that's Aniki." Aniki raised her hard lazily as though she didn't care. "We heard life was more...interesting...in Corus, so here we are." Kora gave her a truly kind smile, better than the one that the Dog was giving her.

"Scavengers always come looking where they hear of a feast. So far it's been long put off," the Dog told us. "Kayfer - his chiefs - have done away with any challengers."

"Oh, we're not looking to challenge," I assured her. "We hope to be entertained. Scanra was that bare of entertainment."

"Here's a fine looking cat," Ankiki said, not listening to our conversation. A black cat sauntered up to her and she stroked his fur. "A very handsome, elegant -" she stopped, gulping a little.

"Purple eyes," Kora said, observing the cat from across me. I too felt a little odd about the purpled-eyed cat. "Odd-colored eyes in a creature mean it's god-marked." Interesting. A god-marked cat. She reached over to pet him as he butted his head to her palm. The cat seemed to really like Kora.

"He's the Puppy's" the Dog said, not faltering her gaze. "He's a clever beast." The cat gave a few mrts. The Puppy gixie rolled her eyes at the cat as though she understood what he was saying. I looked pasted them, noticing an odd presence of a gaunt, unshaven man. His hollowed eyes looked about the room. The wrinkles in his leggings made it look as though he slept in them, though his tunic of knee-length was in a better condition than his leggings. His knotted black hair made him look slightly like a cracknob. Two of his menservants followed closely behind him with empty scabbards attached to their belts; the guards must have taken their weapons.

The tall man came to stand next to us, making the other Dog stand to her feet. The Puppy stood next to the woman's elbow, not blocking anyone's view. In the corner of my eye, I saw Aniki wink at the gixie.

"Kayfer, you two-faced scummer, we was partners!" screeched the crazed looking man. "Even a sucking leech like you shoulda been content wi' your share, you greedy-gutted spintry!"

The Rogue stood on his platform - by far the most movement I had seen him do since I arrived. He rubbed the top of his head as he said, "I beg you, Ammon, calm down," he said, his voice was trying to be soothing as though he were trying to coax a baby. "Whatever your grievance wi' me, we can surely sort it out."

"Grievance? You call my great-grandson's murder a grievance?" the man hollow-eyed man yelled, pointing an unsteady bony finger at Kayfer. "What kind of monster takes a wee child from his family and murders 'im for profit? Did you think you could hide behind notes smuggled into my house and I would not suspect you?"

The Rogue stepped down from the raised platform. Both of his hands were out, his face was filled with sorrow as though he practiced for years. "Ammon, I know it is your grief which makes you say these things."

"Butter just melts on 'is tongue, doesn't it," I murmured, finding myself rather irked with the Rogue.

"Bad laddie," Aniki said to me. "Hush. Listen to a master work." I continued to watch the show.

"Of course it's my grief, Stormwings take your eyes!" screamed the cracknob. Something in me twitched. I noticed a shape in the man's clothing that resembled a knife of some sort. I readied myself. I didn't want to interrupt the show until I was needed. "Your Shadow Snake murdered my Rolond, when he was not in our business!" Tears trickled down the man's gaunt face.

"Ammon, the Shadow Snake is a bogey to frighten children." I sure had never heard of such a 'bogey' though, it was probably just a Corus tale. "You must be cracked spun with grievein', to say I'd deal with a monster out of tales. And as for me of all folk sendin' anyone t' harm a child..." His voice creaked when he said child. "Ammon, I swear on the name of my own grandbabies, I did not do it." Kayfer's eyes held steady. My eyes kept going back to the man named Ammon. I was wondering when he was going to use that weapon he had concealed. "In the name of Bright Mithros and the Goddess herself, I swear it. I would never bring such harm to any family of yours. We depend on each other, old friend. I never conjured up a nightmare like the Snake. I never gave the task of murderin' your little cove t' any of my chiefs. My chiefs would never do such a thing at my biddin'"

"Crust right we would not!" exclaimed a redheaded chief named Dawull. The Rogue glared, obviously not expecting anyone to say something, but Dawull just smiled at Kayfer.

The cracknob spit at the Rogue's feet. "Liar!" He glared at everyone in the room. "You're leeches, living off the rest of us and feeding oathbreaker!" The man was exhausted, I could tell by his voice. "Look at the lot of you! Sitting here lapping up drink and food like caged birds. I curse him. If you take his orders and protect his throne, then I curse you in Roland's name. You best mind your children!"

"Crookshank, you're mad!" Ulsa cried. "There is no such creature as the Shadow Snake!"

Just then, Kayfer sent his rushers to seize this man called Crookshank and his guards as he stepped forward. "It is terrible, what's happened. We all are sick with sorrow for it," his voice was quiet. "But why you, Ammon? Why might someone callin' himself Shadow Snake target your house, your family? What tidbit has come into your hands of late? Why have you not offered a taste to your Rogue?" Now I was curious as to what they were talking about but it was also the moment I saw Crookshank twitch. He plunged into the folds of his tunic and pulled out a knife. He lunged for the Rogue. The Rogue's chiefs ran to protect the man, but I was already there. I had been waiting for my time.

I plucked the dagger from Crookshank's hand and glanced back at my ladies. They were talking about me, I could tell. I handed the knife to Kayfer and checked to see if the cracknob held any more weapons but I found something more interesting in hidden. I snatched up the pouch and bent down to slip it in my boot, pretending to help the scummer to his feet.

I was making my way back to Kora and Aniki as I saw the tall man shack Aniki's hand. I had my hands in my pockets looking casual. I saw the short Dog whisper up into the Puppy's ear. The gixie took out her baton and spun it in her fingers. I was level as she went to put it back in her belt and she dropped it. I was confused for a moment, but in the moment she lunged for it across my shins. She placed the blasted thing between my feet and made me tumble on top of her. We ended up in a clumsy tangle.

"Dear, if you'd asked, I'd've considered it," I muttered as I tried to break free of our mess. "You're a pretty thing when you look a cove in the eye." I was being honest at that moment. She untangled herself from me, apologizing as she grabbed her baton from my legs. I was rather frustrated with the gixie though. I almost managed to free myself before she did but she would move and get me into the tangle even more.

The woman Dog came over and straightened her clothes as Kayfer's guards dragged Crookshank away, screaming. The Dog scolded her Puppy for being clumsy.

"Now, Clary, the Pup can't help it," the tall man said. "Her second day, after all. She's yet to get used to things breaking out sudden-like."

I paid no more attention to them. The Rogue himself was making his way up to me. He nodded at the Dogs as he passed them and extended his hand to me. Kora and Aniki fussed over my clothes but when Kayfer was closer, they stood behind me. I took the extended hand. "The least I could do, Majesty. I saw the knife's shape against the old cuckoo's tunic. Sad work your guards done searching 'im you ask me," I said. I looked down at my boot and noticed that leather wrapping I had taken from Crookshank was gone. Oh that gixie was good. I wondered if she had experience thieving before the life of law took over her.

Kayfer's smile was friendly to my surprise. "You've a good eye. Are you and your gixies here lookin' for work? My gate crew goes for a swim tonight unless they convince me they can make their way back into my good graces as wounded mumpers." I didn't really like the choices but it was something to start myself with work.

Before I could answer, the male dog stepped in. "Majesty, you're not talking of breaking the law in violence before three Dogs, are you?" The politeness in the man's voice was impressive.

"Never a bit, Mattes Tunstall," Kayfer laughed. I felt a bit relieved that I found out his name. I was getting a bit annoyed as he knew mine yet I didn't get to return the favor. "Why don't you and Goodwin come settle our business. Young Rosto and I can talk later." Goodwin - the other Dog's name. "Maybe extra sweetenin' will make it into this week's Happy Bag, to assure you I'd never do violence with the Dogs out." He glanced at the Puppy and pinched her cheek. She looked far from amused with his action and seemed as though she wanted to bit his hand off. "Leave the Puppy. She doesn't look like she'll last."

The Puppy clenched her jaw tightly. I thought she was going to be breaking her own teeth but my mind was set on something else. As her Dogs went to the throne, she stood in what Dogs call the "rested position" with their baton held in both hands before them with their feet braced accordingly.

"A nice trick, lifting that pouch from me." I was at her elbow, bending a little to talk in a low voice. "If you're a Fishpuppy like the gossip says, it's because you're so slippery." I had heard the gossip as I was eating my breakfast, though I thought nothing of it at the time. I might have to look into it one day. "I don't suppose you'd take a silver noble to tell me what it is, once your Dogs have a look? From the feel it's gems, but it never hurts to be certain." She didn't answer me, just looked into me eyes. "Not taking offense over a bit of bribery, are you?" I mocked. I was still a bit miffed at her for that trick she pulled. "On the very night your Dogs are here to collect their bribes from the Rogue?"

She glared at the floor. "That's different. That's for all the work everyone of us does to keep the streets orderly. You're asking me to sell out my Dogs."

I rocked back on my heels. "Hel-lo! It has a bark and a bit!" She was a shocking little gixie. I found myself intrigued. "Here I was think you're a mousy little bit. But you're not mousy, are you?" I raised a hand, going to give her a slight tap on the face, nothing too hard, but hard enough. She blocked my hand before I touched her face. She was fast. She turned her hand around to grip my wrist and dug her thumbnail deep between the tendons.

Damn that hurt.

"Ow," I say trying to get my hand back but the harder I tugged the deeper her thumb went and the more pain I felt. Oh the Puppy was a tricky one.

"Rosto, you take shy as fearful," Aniki said as she propped herself on my collarbone. "Why would a coward become a Dog? There's easier ways for a pretty gixie to make a living." She pressed her elbow down on my collarbone as she smiled at the Puppy. "Normally he's not thick about mots, but he's slow when they're not in love with him. Me and Kora as to knock him around until he got us figured out. Say you're sorry, Rosto, and don't try to bribe the nice Puppy again."

I looked down at my arm as I felt something trickle. I was bleeding. "I'm sorry, all right? I'm bleeding." The feisty Puppy broke skin. She took hand away and observed my blood on her thumb before wiping it on her black breeches.

She looked into Aniki's blue eyes, which were smiling at the girl. Aniki was already taking a liking to the new Puppy. "Two days as I Dog and I've my first bribe offer. I think it's a record," the Puppy said with a small smile playing on her lips.

Ankiki laughed and punched my arm lightly. "She's shy, cabbage head, not stupid."

I took out a handkerchief and pressed it against my wound. The blood was starting to get to me. "So I'm learning," I told the gixies. "What's your name, then shy-not-stupid Puppy."

"Beka Cooper," she told us with a shrug.

Kora was soon at my side, holding that strange cat. "I heard folk say last night they your mother was an herbalist." Last night? In the eating house perhaps? "So then you might be able to tell me where I could get good dried and fresh herbs, the reliable sellers? We're still learning our way around. With so many markets I hardly know where to look." She held a good point. We would need those herbs sooner or later. I seemed to surprise Cooper with my knowledge of herbs. Aniki left to go play dice.

"So, Cooper," I said after Kora thanked the Puppy for the suggestion, "how quick is this Rogue to wield the whip?" She looked at me, waiting for an explanation. "That Crookshank fellow. What did the Rogue call him?"

"Ammon," she said. "That's his birth name, Ammon Lofts. In the streets he's Crookshank, scale and landlord."

"Ammon Lofts," I repeated. "Him. Your Rogue daren't let him go unpunished, can he? Not after Master Lofts called Crookshank spits at his feet in front of his whole court." I wanted to know how the Court worked here.

"You'd have to ask the Rogue," she said after a long pause. "How was it done in Scanra?"

"Right then and there," I told her. "The one time I saw it done. Poor fool was drunk. Not that it stopped our Rogue." I continued on with the story, Kora putting her bits in as I went because I hadn't remembered them or I didn't want to add them in. Cooper looked interested in our tale but it only lasted until her Dogs came with a hefty bag. We said our goodbyes to them and the cat as they fell in behind the Dogs.

"She's far more interesting than I thought," Kora said. "I like her."

"So does our Aniki," I said. "She isn't that friendly with everyone." I looked over to where Aniki and a rusher played dice. Just at the moment, Kayfer made his way toward us.

"So what do you say?" he asked looking at the three of us with great interest. "Will you be guards for the rest of the night?"

I looked at my ladies. Aniki smiled and nodded. Kora, I knew didn't want to but we needed the money. She wanted to get started on her own work soon enough. "Just for tonight," I told him. Kayfer clapped his meaty hands and had his chiefs show us were to settle ourselves. The night was boring, though I did pick a few pockets while I checked the comers but I didn't do it too frequently. It was only those who were giving me a hard time. I tried to keep my mind but it kept wandering to the leather wrapping Beka had taken from my boot.

At nights end, Kayfer paid us for our services. It was a nice size purse. "Come around again," Kayfer offered. "My chiefs might want to make use of you." That was promising. I looked at Ulsa, who winked at me. Dawull looked at Aniki, measuring her. Kora wasn't interested and she let it show. Kayfer thanked us and we took our leave, back to the inn.

"We will need to find a permanent place to stay," Aniki said. "If we are going to get some work here then I'm assuming that we are going to be here for good." She looked at me expectantly.

"We will," I assured her. "I'll go searching for something tomorrow."

"Tomorrow I'm going to be look for my own work and buy a few herbs," Kora announced as we walked through the Cesspool. I hid the purse of money in my tunic, so I knew exactly where it was.

Once again, I thought of the leather wrapping. I have my mind set. I am going to look for Beka tomorrow morning to see if she will tell me what I had originally taken from Crookshank. It was I who rejected the gixies tonight. I have too much on my mind. I don't know if I'll be able to sleep with so much going about my head, but I have to wake up early so I can catch Beka.