There were multiple routes to leave the House of Sighing Shadows. Lucas took the one that would keep his face from being seen by any of the clients who wandered the halls of the brothel. From his room he opened the hidden door that led into the servant’s passages behind the walls. It allowed the servants to go from room to room unseen by clients, and it also allowed for guards to keep an eye on the courtesans and their clients. One never knew when a client might decide that their wealth and influence would allow them to get away with more than was contracted for.
Lucas passed by the stool which sat below the peep hole into his room. He rolled his eyes at the sticky stain which had been left on the wall. He would need to have a word with the Captain of the House guards. While he was flattered the man had enjoyed the show, he wasn’t there for that. He needed a guard who knew when to keep his mind on his duty and hand off his dick. If a guard needed relief after then he need only ask. Lucas was more than willing to let rougher hands touch him. He rather enjoyed the occasional tumble with House guards.
At the top of the stairs he paused to listen. No one could be heard on their way up so he made his way down. The walls were narrow enough that he could slide his fingers along each wall as he hurried down the steps where they spiraled from one floor to the other. At the ground level he did not leave the passages though. His destination was the basement which meant he passed by the ballroom where he could hear Courtesans at dance practice while the House musicians played a slow waltz. At the next set of spiral stairs he descended into the basement which was divided into two sections. One for the Courtesans and their clients to use as play space, stocked with all manner of pleasurable sexual torture devices. The rest for such things as laundry, storage, and other things the Courtesans needed but were kept from the eyes of their clients.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs there was a door ahead of him and a hall that stretched off to the right and left. Lucas turned to the left without hesitation. Unlike above there were no light crystals set into the walls to banish the shadows. He’d brought his own which he pulled from his pocket and rubbed his thumb over to activate. It was not a bright light, at best only equivalent to a single candle. But it was enough that he could make his way down the hall without a stumble.
At the end was another door. This one heavy oak, banded with iron upon which a variety of wards had been etched, and was locked. He did not need a key though as he placed his hand upon the door. The magic which kept it sealed recognized his touch and swung open on well-oiled hinges. There were few courtesans who were allowed to use this route without an escort, Lucas was permitted due to the special nature of the work he did for the Mistress. A client who used this route would be escorted by a guard.
On the other side of the door, down another set of stairs, was a platform. At the platform, a cart waited. The tunnels he was about to enter were once used by the nascent Miner’s Guild back when the Empire was still young, before this land had been designated the Capital. Now the Miner’s Guild sought the Dragon Stone ore elsewhere and most of the tunnels had been closed off, collapsed, or used for other such things like part of the sewer system for the city above.
Lucas stepped into the cart, thankful for the plush seats. A special crystal set upon a plinth on the platform was colored green, it meant no one waited at the other end. With the way clear, once he was comfortable he touched his foot to the pedal and the cart began to roll down the tracks. It was paired with a second cart at the other end of the tunnel which would have also started to move at the same time so that neither end was without a cart for too long. The ride was smooth, the tunnel lit with larger more powerful light crystals than the one he’d tucked back into his pocket. The crystals lit as he approached, and winked out once he was past. When the cart switched to another set of tracks he could hear the second cart approach and watched it pass by on the second set of tracks close enough he could have reached out to touch it if he wished.
The ride only lasted ten minutes. As the cart came to a stop at the second platform he took a moment to adjust his current disguise. He did not wear his fine silks and velvets today. He looked more like the orphaned beggar he’d been than the pampered whore he’s become. The homespun shirt he wore was clean, but ragged and repaired many times to stretch its lifespan. His brown hemp pants were worn at the knee and ended far above his ankles as if he’d outgrown them long ago but lacked the coin to replace them. He wore a stocking cap which he could tuck his hair under. The shoes he wore were too tight and looked as if they were going to fall apart at any moment, not to mention the hole in the sole of the left one. Lucas hated every moment he wore those clothes, too many memories of winters where he had been too cold and too hungry to think straight.
He could feel the minds of those above. It was only late afternoon but the Inn over his head already did brisk business. The Inn catered to those well-heeled travelers who did not have a home within the capital walls. It certainly gave adequate cover to those House clients who did not wish to be seen at the brothel gate. Just off the platform were stone steps that led up. At the top was a wooden door, concealed from the outside, and a peephole he could peer out of. No one was currently in the tack room and those who worked the stables attached to the Inn knew better than to question who entered or left the tack room.
Lucas stepped out of the hidden passage as he paused to listen to the sound of the stable workers and the horses they cared for. He closed the door behind him as he pondered his best route down the cliffs from the Zenith to the Gulch. Dressed as he was he would stand out like a sore thumb on the streets of the Zenith. A sure-fire way to catch the attention of the city guards, or the private guards of a noble family. Not a hassle he needed. The Inn wasn’t close enough to the cliffs to take the switchback trails down, and he would never be allowed on the sky lift in his current attire.
That left him with one choice. One he had to be careful when he used less he attract the attention of the College Arcane. His minor use of telepathy and telekinesis within the warded walls of the brothel were not powerful enough to alert any nearby members of the College. But the ability which he needed to use was powerful and would be felt by any nearby gifted when he activated it. So powerful even when he was within the walls of the brothel it could have been sensed from the street, which was why he made the effort not to use it often, nor in the brothel. When he had assured himself that no one was about to enter the tack room he took a slow deep breath, his eyes closed. As he exhaled Lucas opened himself to the ability he didn’t use often. It was a strange sensation teleportation. It felt like he took a step sideways even as he stood still.
When he opened his eyes once more the walls of the tack room were gone. Gone were the scents of horses, hay, and manure. In its place he could smell fresh baked bread and the nearby river. He stood on the roof of his favorite bakery from when he’d been a child on the streets of the Gulch. As the largest section of the Capital that straddled the Dragon’s Tears river and hugged the Dragon Stone Cliffs, the Gulch occupied the space between the foot of the cliffs where the massive waterfall roared, and the freshwater inland sea. The Capital city which at the formation of the Empire had been little more than a miner’s camp, now held hundreds of thousands of people.
No one noticed a boy suddenly appear on the roof. And no one noticed when he vanished from the roof to appear in the alley that ran behind the bakery. At ground level the scents that assaulted his nose were nowhere near as pleasant. Garbage rotted where it had fallen. An open sewer was nearby as it waited for a heavy rain to wash the waste into the river. A stray dog growled where it crouched over the corpse of a dead rat before it picked up its meal to trot off so it could eat in peace. There had once been a time when Lucas would have fought the dog over that rat. He was so glad those days were long gone.
Before he could get to work on his mission from the Mistress he needed to speak with an old friend. At that time of day Lucas knew the best place to look would be the marketplace near the docks. The young man set off at a brisk walk so he could get to work. He only had three days to work, and he had no time to waste.
He found the object of his search sitting on a box at the corner of the marketplace next to a vendor selling cast iron cookware, and another selling glassware. Both vendors bore the vests of their respective guilds, and thus the quality of their goods assured. Even if they sold only the work of apprentices to the people of the Gulch.
The man he sought had a strip of cloth over his eyes as he played a mournful tune upon the battered guitar he held. His clothes were worn and tattered, looked like a rich man’s cast off’s. A hat with a dingy feather which adorned the band lay on the ground at his feet, a few meager coins rested within as the blind bard continued to play. Lucas approached where he pulled a copper wyrm from his pocket to let it fall into the hat while he paused there. He tilted his chin up so his face was plainly visible to the supposed blind bard.
“A thousand blessings upon you gentle soul.” The bard said as he lifted his face, his head turned from side to side as if he searched for the source of the coin. But even as he seemed to search he stopped and for a moment it appeared as if he stared at the blonde youth. Lucas winked playfully before he turned and walked away. He paused at the mouth of a nearby alley and just waited. The young man leaned against the wall as his toes scuffed the ground in his too tight shoes.
Lucas didn’t have long to wait. The so called blind bard soon scooped up the coins he’d gathered and tucked them away in a pouch inside his shirt. With hat on head, guitar across his back and a staff in his hands he hobbled down the road in the direction Lucas had gone. “Does the blind bit really work all that well?” Lucas asked when he was close enough.
“Works well enough,” the tall young bard said as he pulled the cloth from his eyes and looked upon Lucas with merry brown eyes. “Though for a second there I thought I was seeing things. Surely beautiful Lucas hasn’t come back down to slum in the streets with me? He’s moved on to bigger better things.”
The youth shrugged as he motioned for the bard to follow him deeper into the alley, “Oh you know me. I can’t get enough of the dirt and the truly horrifying smells.” He made a face as they passed by a pile of rubbish which he was certain hid something dead. “How have you been Casey?”
Casey laughed at the face Lucas made, “Making do. Staying mostly out of trouble. Yourself?”
“The same.” When they walked out of the other end of the alley he fell into step beside the taller and slightly older young man. “I need to ask a favor.”
“As if I could deny you anything,” Casey said as he dropped a companionable arm across Lucas’s shoulder, “You’re not running away from anything are you? Because if you’ve pissed off the Mistress you know I can’t help you there... she holds my leash too.”
“Dragon’s Tits no, nothing like that.” He shook his head, smiled up at his friend. “I was hoping I could borrow a couple of your thugs. About my age… bigger, stronger…. and they better be able to run fast if they don’t want to spend a night or more in the city dungeons.”
Casey rubbed at the spotty goatee he sported upon his chin, “I might have a couple of someones working for me that fit that description. Do I want to know what you need them for?”
“Oh, just pulling a damsel in distress. Gotta get someone’s attention and figure this would be the fastest way.” Lucas grinned, “Oh and I’ll need a black eye… for effect.”
“Of course... for effect.” Casey intoned solemnly, “Should I be worried about your safety? You always were too prone to risk Lucas. You never stopped to think about the dangers but jumped in with both feet.”
Lucas leaned into the man he’d known for most of his life for a moment. He enjoyed the warmth and affection he felt from his friend would had been a Minnow under the control of a Street Shark with him back when they both lived on the street, “I promise I’m not taking any unnecessary risks. I just have to do this thing for The Mistress and I don’t have much time for being subtle.”
Casey sighs, “It always boils down to her pulling our strings. Alright, Lucas, when do you need to do this?”
“This evening, when the soldiers from the Gold Gate are getting off shift and looking to slake their thirsts.”
“Oh fuck me sideways…” Casey breathed, “You never do anything half way, do you?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t be me.” Lucas grinned up at him.
“No, you wouldn’t. Okay, let’s go figure out the where and the when and you better damn well play this safe. I’m not ready to visit your unmarked grave just yet.” Casey chided.
“I promise to be as safe as I can.” Lucas swore as they wandered the streets to plot their nefarious scheme.