(Some of this piece may appear in another work, because I like parts of it. For now, it’s a brief exploration)
To the untrained eye, the main floor of the Luna Nova was a chaotic mix of people and species. However, an experienced patron could read the topography and tectonics of the room.
Jastian Wells was hip deep in the second group.
With that knowledge, a person could, he knew, see the enforcers and the normal joes, the Almasti and the shtriga, and read the affiliations, alliances, and feuds. Reading the room was, therefore, reading the city.
He visually swept the room, taking note of who and what was there. The Carusos and Narvos had half the room between them, which meant their short lives alliance was dead. And that meant Torvald lost the bet and owed him.
Jastian unconsciously, and subtly, checked the handful of knives about his person as raised voices came from the bar. He glanced over . . . a big shifter, who’d obviously had a few too many, looked about to go furry on a skinny Black guy, whose bearing and eyes screamed shtriga. The Luna’s security was already closing in, a mountainous gargoyle and her whipcord Almasti partner. The Luna’s strict policies on magic, bronze, silver, and long blades kept damage to a minimum, but the staff liked to stop trouble before it got too far.
As he relaxed, a heavy set, middle aged man stopped by his table. Smelled like a werebeast, canine probably.
“But, the barman . . .”
“Well, he was wrong.”
He must have still been able to pull off the ‘bad ass’ face because the were only paused a second before muttering an apology and beating a hasty retreat.
Jastian made a mental note to speak with Kira, the bar manager. He hadn’t used the Marcus alias in several years. Not since changing his calling and profession. A lifetime ago.
Besides, he was waiting on a probable client, not on the market.
The Luna Nova had started its life as a werebeast bar. They liked the joke in the name. Within a year, he’d heard, it became the place all the local beast changers hung out. Then all the changers. In a few years, Luna had acquired a reputation as the place to go to hire freelance changer talent. Pretty soon, the entire community began frequenting the place. The once little werebeast bar became a major night spot for all magical peoples in the city.
His reverie was interrupted by a trim, fit man just starting to go grey around the temples. Meeting his eyes, Jastian decided the man had been starting to go grey for a couple centuries.
At the man’s nod, he gestured toward the empty chair.
He waited for Cutter to get settled, and let the other man start.
“Mister Wells, are you familiar with Bareth Oren?”
“The number two man in the Three Horns’ presence in Caerik? Somewhat.” The man didn’t smell dead, so not a vampire. Didn’t smell of blood either, so not shtriga.
“The people I represent wish to meet with him face to face, not through intermediaries, to discuss business.”
“And? I don’t know him well enough to introduce you.”
“Not to worry, Mr. Wells. We will arrange a date through other channels. I require someone to ensure my arrival in Caerik, to the meeting, and back to Earth again. Someone familiar with Faere, Caerik, and our counterparts in that city.”
“And you don’t want the families, houses, et cetera on this side, or the authorities on the other, to know about this trip, I assume.”
Cutter nodded, almost imperceptibly, “Of course.”
“So the Talville gate is out on this side. The major players monitor it constantly. You have a gate opener?”