In the corner city of Winter Moon, when those in the know have a problem that needs handling, they go to Hammer Ulrick. If Hammer is indisposed, the next door they knock on is Riken Snowtear's.
Riken makes a good living on Hammer's scraps, enough to keep him out of the game for months at a time and encased in the one place that truly gives him pleasure: a brothel. Therein, he'll remain, sopping drunk from a wide variety of vintages, neck-deep in flesh of even greater variety, in a state of eternal delirium, at least until the coin from the last job runs its course.
Even if Hammer declines, a needy party would be hard-pressed to coax Riken out of bed if his pockets still clink in the least.
Fortunately for Jillian Dumay, as she ascended the dithering staircase leading to the third floor of Wicked Delight-Winter Moon's eighth most prominent brothel-Riken's pockets were barely registering a whisper.
Min Dumay rapped lightly on the door the crotchety madam downstairs had said was Mon Snowtear's. A muffled growl and the sudden thunk of something thrown against the door gave her pause.
"Morning, Hagatha, you simp," came a high slurring voice from beyond the door. "I'm paid through till morning. Do you see sunlight? Nay. Get the bloody fuck away from my door. It's my door till morning."
Jillian heard a few other low vulgarities, but couldn't make them out. Not that she wanted to. Even before something else shattered against the other side of the door, she was beginning to second-guess her rationale in coming to a place like this. But after retreating halfway down the creaking balcony, she stopped. Sage needed help, and she'd been told that Mon Snowtear was the man to see. Begrudgingly, she returned to the door.
She knocked a little more forcefully this time, meeting the same uncouth opposition.
"I don't know of this Hagatha you speak," she said. "My name is Jillian Dumay, and I'm in need of your...assistance."
She heard a moan, then creaking floorboards. The man on the other side of the moldy wall cursed a few more times for good measure, and from the noise, Jillian figured he toppled over a few pieces of furniture before inching open the door.
"What?" the man she could only was Riken Snowtear snapped.
The foul aroma drifting through the small crack in the doorway offended her nostrils, but she tried not to show it. She needed this man's help. Sage's life might depend on it.
"My name is Jillian Dumay."
"Said that already."
"Aye, well...I'm in need of your..."
"Said that, too."
Flustered, Min Dumay asked, "Are you Riken Snowtear?"
"Depends who's asking."
"I already told you..."
Jillian had the burning desire to reach through the flimsy oak door, snatch him by the neck, and wring every last ounce of arrogance out of him. For Sage, she fought the urge, but it took some doing.
"May I come in?" she asked.
The crack in the door slowly widened, and Jillian stepped through, clanging together a collection of empty bottles strewn on the floor.