As the sky grew darker the barmaid went around lighting the torches around the tavern. The orange glow from the lamps should feel warm and welcoming, however, it felt anything but.
The raucous crowd got drunk by the minute leaving Danika at her seat as an odd anomaly amongst others. She stopped the barmaid lighting torches, a woman showing far too much cleavage and her blonde hair in a bun that did nothing to hide it, to ask for another whisky. It’s an acquired taste, something strong that burns the throat but Danika liked the odd sensation.
Unclear on how many hours had passed, Danika grew tired of waiting when finally the tavern door violently swung open and shut with a clang. She caught sight of the familiar face – Jed. He trudged past the drunken men with women on their laps whose shrill laughs shook the place.
He dropped into the seat opposite Danika accompanied by a toothy grin. He waved a sealed envelope in the air then put it down onto the table sliding it to her. She kept her eyes on him for a few more seconds before snatching it up and breaking the wax seal.
"He wants the job done tonight." Jed spoke.
Danika looked up with a mixture of surprise and annoyance. "Tonight?" she asked. "If he wanted it done tonight he should have sent this days ago." Scanning her eyes over the letter it told her to infiltrate an illegal Opium Den operation in an abandoned flour mill. She knew exactly where the mill was but it left little time for strategy.
"Oh and another thing," Jed said and cleared his throat. Jed had a lazy eye so it looked like his focus was elsewhere. He also had stubble and bruise along his jaw, probably from harassing women and getting a beating from Officials. "He told me to go with you."
This made Danika clench her teeth and ball her fists. She worked solo most of the time or with someone who was experienced which Jed wasn't. It took everything in her to keep herself from launching herself on him to shake some sense into the fool. "I didn't know the Boss was so eager to see you dead," she managed. "Even if he wants you to go with me, no way in hell am I letting that happen." She said, stuffing the paper into her cloak pocket. She waved away the barmaid with her whisky whose scowl didn't go unnoticed.
"Er, those were his strict orders. He remembers what you did at the Royal's Ball." Jed counted looking very pleased with himself.
"That was not my fault," Danika wanted to scream, one mishap and it makes her look like an amateur. She's ten times more skilled and the Boss's most valuable asset yet the Royal's Ball but a damper on that. She'd been in perfect disguise, had even managed to get a dance with the General to erase any suspicion but because one guard she put out cold regained conciousness, her whole plan fell apart and the mansion was in flames by the time she made it out. Next time she's have to be extra careful and maybe even crack some skulls so no-one wakes up. "I can do this on my own Jed." Danika stood, pulling on her leather gloves.
"I don't want to die tonight much less by the Boss's hands." Jed stood too.
After a few minutes and with much contemplation and conflict Danika agreed, letting Jed follow suit as she placed some gold on the table and left the tavern. The night was cold and bitter. It was close to the end of November but thankfully no snow yet. Danika pulled her cloak around her tightly to retain heat. With a sidewards glance at Jed in his thin coat and torn gloves she walked. "You better not get in my way, Jed." She said firmly.
The mill was away from the city, a perfect place for Opium addicts but the contents of the letter didn't care about the Operation but the leader who owed the Boss some money and if he didn't pay up Danika had to destroy the Opium as payment. It seemed fair, from what she'd heard the Opium leader had used the Boss's ship to import the goods and that took a lot of effort from the Boss's side. For a second Danika felt the need to defend the Boss but all she was doing was his dirty work for him yet it paid for her clothes, cottage and food.
Shaking away the guilt she crouched down beside a wooden wagon. Jed noisily joined her and she rolled her eyes, regretting the decision to let him come. If he messed up this would be repeating the disaster at the Royal's Ball.
She squinted her eyes, focussing her attention on the front door of the mill and the windows. These were all entrances and her exits. From the windows she could hear murmurs and smoke seems to be billowing out and surrounding the mill. Danika turned to Jed, "Can I trust you to circle the mill carefully and tell me if there's a outdoor entrance into the basement?" He seemed to straighten now that he'd been given an order and with a salute he scurried off.
Finally with a chance to analyse her way in, she opts for the window as her best shot for now but that all depends on the basement and in no time, Jed is back to inform her that there is a route into the basement. Leading the way, he shows her the two wooden doors; the obvious place to have opium addicts gathered would be the basement but most of the sounds came from the upper level. They must be so sure they're safe out here. Brushing her chocolate coloured hair out of her face, she walks to the doors; taking the silent basement as confirmation, Danika breaks the lock with the hilt of her dagger and muffles the sounds by bunching her cloak over the metal.
The doors easily swung open and her suspicions were confirmed, this is where they stash the Opium. Smiling at how simple this was she turned to Jed. "I'm going up to get the money, if I'm not back in fifteen minutes with the money, burn this all."
"Alrighty, I think I saw some hay out there, I'll get that and surround this stuff. Sure we can't keep it and sell the stuff? It's better than burning it and the Boss would get his money back."
"Well don't ask me, I only got the notice tonight. God knows why he isn't just selling it back than burning it." And to be honest, Danika didn't care. This job would get her enough gold and that's what she needed. Leaving Jed, Danika headed up the steps, ears and eyes on alert. There was no need to draw knives yet but as she climbed more stairs the moaning and laughing became clearer. On the first floor behind a door must be were addicts were getting high so the second level must be where leader's office is.
He heard the muffled cries and thuds outside his door, however, he had his best guards on watch but even then the chilly air and advancing footsteps terrified him. The next thing he saw was Philip being dragged in by a headlock and that his captor was a girl. Also from Philip's purple face, he was losing air quick but that didn't matter because in a swift movement with her arms, she snapped his neck. "That'll teach you to sneak up from behind," she said to the corpse and shoved it aside.
He held his breath and straightened to stand his ground because this girl was not going to make a fool of him. She stared at him with grey eyes, her face splattered with blood but she still had a smirk plastered on her face. "The Boss wants his money and he wants it now. You have fifteen minutes until your Opium and this mill are burned down."
"I told him I'd pay, I just need more time." He ground out. "And is this a joke? He sent a girl to get his money?"
"You said you'd pay two months ago," she breathed, wiping her dagger in her cloak then sheathing it. "And yes I'm a girl, thank you for noticing," she grinned. "Oh and the reason he sent me is because I can guarantee promising results which is either getting the money he's owed or burning the mill."
He said nothing, staring at the dead body of Philip instead of looking her in the eye. Knowing that he was unable to arrange the payment, the only route was escape but before that, perhaps this girl could show some mercy.
"If you need any more proof that the Boss is no fool in sending me, how about you take a look at your fallen guards in the hallway?" She drawled, folding her hands in front of her followed by a sneer.
"Please," he chocked out. "I have a family, a little girl I have to feed."
"And you feed them using money from an illegal Opium den. How is that honourable?" She countered removing a glove and nonchalantly picking at her nails. Beads of sweat ran down his face; glancing at the window he saw his way out.
"You're fifteen minutes are almost up," she said, walking over to the window and looking down. "Make up your mind."
"Do you have no mercy? My wife and child will starve." He pleaded, calculating his chance to run to the door and past the dead bodies. She was quite small meaning fast and not to mention very skilled with a knife.
"Then I suggest you pay," She said mirthlessly. "I'm not going to kill you, not if you escape the fire, I'm just going to ruin this little business of yours and we'll see where you go from there. That's as much mercy as I can show."
"He hired you!" He practically yelled. "The Boss hired you and no doubt you're getting money for this. Just think, the same reason you're doing this is why I run the Opium Den. We need the money to survive. Don't tell me that's not even slightly true."
The snide look faded from her face and suddenly she gazed off into the distance looking rather lost. The man, feeling like he may have gotten through to her, bravely took a step towards her, however, in seconds her sword was out, pointed right between the man's eyes whom in shock stumbled back. Without another word, the girl walked out.
"You're back. Did he pay?" Jed enquired with a match box ready in his hand.
"No," Danika replied monotonously. She fixed her knives and pulled her gloves on tightly.
"Then why the hell are you down already. The Boss wan-" Danika quickly hit him with the hilt of her dagger and he dropped like a stone. Dragging him by the leg, she hid him within the hay he'd spread around the Opium stash.
"I've had enough trouble from you Jed." she whispered and searched for any valuable items on him. Looking through his pockets she found several pieces of paper from ship journeys aboard The Dommel, all from Northern Dock to Jewel City or vice versa.
Jed was like the Boss' messenger but it's unlikely they've met considering Jed plays the middle man.
Stuffing the papers in her own pocket, she took off towards the stable she'd seen before arriving at the mill. There had been horses, good strong horses that could easily get her where she needed. The man was reluctant to sell one of his best steeds but after offering five pieces of gold he easily complied. Mounting her horse she took off, reaching the Northern Dock would take at least a day and a half and from there she could pay for the passage to Jewel City. That man was right, there was nothing honourable about what she was doing either but the Boss' missions and gold had persuaded her, she'd never questioned it but that was going to change. It was time to meet the Boss himself who could very well be an enemy than an ally.