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Riken called himself a Handler. For certain, it wasn't the most sophisticated title, but until a more prolific descriptor came to him, it illustrated exactly what he did best, the service certain needy clients paid him ample coin for: he handled things. What ‘things' mattered not, as long as the coin was good.
And Riken was good at his job. Far superior to that overgrown pig's snout Hammer Ulrick, even if he was the only one who thought so.
However reluctantly, he attributed no small amount of his successes to a healthy patch of informants he'd nourished over his forty some-odd cycles at the job. Whenever he needed word of seedy goings-on in Winter Moon, enlightenment was but a few meetings and a handful of coins away.
Riken spent the better part of the afternoon trudging about the city, placing feelers with his underground crew for word on an absent rich girl. Five kyn to Dedrick Hosmaste, a butcher in Sackfield Row; five to Teron Blackweather, the palace horse master; another five to a seamstress in Crafters' Row named Abigial Thorn; three to a surly little runt called Sod, whose residence Riken had never been able to ascertain; and an additional twenty kyn to five others spread about all points of the city.
Tired, his pockets lighter, and in grave need of refreshment, Riken could no longer put off visiting one of his least favorite places.
The residents of Saura Row called their dark slice of the city Sorrow, and, like Saffrom Row, the name suited. Where the scenery of Saffrom seemed as if it had bloomed from the blessed paintbrush of some great artist, Sorrow looked like the same guy's most hellacious nightmare. In place of lush green lawns, there was dirt. Instead of finely laid cobblestone roads, more dirt. Both districts had snow this time of cycle, but Sorrow's exhibited more of a brownish tint.
Riken loathed coming down here. It wasn't that this row was poor. There was a plethora of poor districts in Winter Moon, most of which he was only too happy to frequent when low on coin. When down to your last five kyn, a toothless whore and watered down ale could be pretty appetizing. Nay, it was the feel of the place, bleak and contemptuous, like everyone still breathing within its borders had long ago given allegiance to misery. Even for Riken, who labored with his own bouts of deep depression from time to time, Sorrow's despondency was transcendent.
In Sorrow's premiere tavern, the Last Chance, Riken sat down on a termite-infested stool and ordered two mugs of ale. He had to purchase the pair; each one cost only a half a kyn, and the powers-that-be had yet to issue a coin of such trifling value.
"Don't spill any on the floor," a decrepit barmaid with a raspy voice said.
Riken looked down. Aye, wouldn't want to ruin the concoction of blood, piss, and sawdust you got going there. He lifted his new boots to the first rung of the stool.
"I'm looking for a woman named Jatta Marllig," he said. "Any idea where I might find her?"
"Who wants to know?" the old barmaid asked, leering at him with her one good eye.
The moment he'd said it aloud, he wished he hadn't.