Vog held out his arm, inviting the woman over. She was much shorter than he, and gracefully slid under his arm. He let her show him up the stairs even though he was well aware of where they were going, and waved over the guard once they reached the rooms.
The guard was a short, round man who sat on a stool at the far end of the loft. He was there to make sure no one got any extra time or services they did not pay for. Vog made a habit of tipping him in order to get a little leeway with the girls, and was going to need to do just that for what he intended on this night.
The woman stood, leaning against the doorway of a vacant room and looked on as Vog whispered to the guard and handed him a whole fistful of coins.
“Paying off a gambling debt?” She inquired upon his return.
“No, that was for you.” Vog replied, guiding her into the room and closing the door behind him.
“You just got took, fella. He’s not the one you pay.”
“I understand how this works.”
Each space was made up like simple bedrooms with changing curtains in one corner that concealed a chest filled with garments to accommodate a number of fantasies.
“I paid him extra to look the other way while I do whatever I want to you.”
She laughed. “That’s the whole point!”
“Not like this. What I’m planning on doing will be… painful.”
His voice was calm and he crept toward her with a dead look behind his eyes. She indulged him.
“You have to hurt me, huh? I’ve seen your type enough times to know; the only way you can make that work is if I scream.” She turned her back to him and fiddled with her corset. “Let me loosen this a bit before you go tearing it off.”
Vog grabbed her wrist and twisted her around, holding her up by her arm up, nearly lifting her off the floor. She gasped as if she had been splashed with ice-cold water.
“I guess you’ve seen it all, haven't you? Tell me this, if you’re such an expert; what happens next?”
“You’re going to take out on me, whatever frustrations you had today.”
“That’s very good. What else?”
“Sounds to me like you wanted to sleep with a woman who wouldn’t have you.”
Vog sneered. “You might be charging for the wrong thing, gypsy!”
With that, he hoisted her onto the bed and towered over her.
“There are ropes in the chest, aren't there?” Vog asked, moving toward the changing curtain.
“Why did she turn you down?” The poor wench interrupted. “Could she see your hatred for women?”
Vog halted, he shook his head, and blinked rapidly as bad liars do.
“No. I have information she wanted, but she was too proud to pay my price.”
“It must be highly valuable information.”
The woman rolled onto her knees and crawled across the bed, beckoning seduction. She was gaining control over him.
“Maybe to them. Who knows? They were desperate to figure out who my supplier is.”
“A powerful man, no doubt.”
“That’s the best part! He’s just some peasant farmer named Orri! It would have been worth giving up his name to have a taste of that harlot.” Vog paused to imagine what Signey looked like under her furs. “I almost had her. Oh well, you’ll do just fine.”
With his chubby fingers outstretched, Vog wrapped his hand around the woman’s throat and began to squeeze. He didn’t see the changing curtain pull back behind him as a mallet swung around, cracking him on the back of the head, knocking him out cold.
“Are you alright, Nadya?” Signey asked, emerging from the curtain, still clutching the mallet.
“I’m fine. He’s not as strong as he thinks.”
Signey opened the door and signaled down the way to the guard. He, in turn, knocked on the entrance of the far room and out came Wary and the twins. They all congregated around Nadya as she gathered herself.
“Did you get the name?” Asked Una impatiently.
Signey replied with disgust. “Orri.”
“That weasel!” Wary grunted. “He never listens to anyone but the King! He's greedy and he’s rotten!”
“Easy, Wary, we’ll deal with him later.” Inga said as she patted him on the back.
“Did he say anything else?” Una wanted to know.
“There wasn’t time, he was about to snap Nadya’s neck.” Signey pointed and leaned in to see if she was bruising.
“The plan worked well enough, anyway.”
They all looked at Vog, still passed out, face down on the floor.
“I have to say, it was remarkably easy to hypnotize the oaf.” Nadya said, pulling two stones from her pocket, each with a slight glow about them, one purple, one orange. Their light faded in her hand, they looked like nothing more than black stones.
“What are those?” Inga asked, wide eyed.
“Energy crystals. They let me connect with the subject, to… persuade them.”
“Crystals? They look like rocks!”
“Ah, yes.” Nadya held one up for display and tapped on the stone. “The crystal is on the inside, but what surrounds it is hardened lava. The lava traps the crystals energy; with nowhere to go, it becomes concentrated and powerful. The hard part is learning how to pull the energy out through the stone’s pores.” She pointed out the tiny holes in the lava.
“It’s a scam, Inga. Just a trick they do to get people to give them money.” Wary blustered.
Nadya sat up straight and raised her chin to him, wearing a gleeful smirk. She was more than used to the ridicule her kind often faced.
“But I saw the energy myself.” She argued.
“It was only glowing!” Wary slapped the stone from Nadya’s hand and examined it. “I bet it’s a chemical reaction or something. This is how they get you. Next she’s going to want us to pay her.”
“Well, we have to pay her. She got the information we needed.” Una pointed out.
“See!? That was her plan all along!”
“No, that was our plan! You’re being paranoid!”
Nadya took back the stone and held it, her palm flat, to show that she was not concealing anything.
“Many grifters have passed themselves off as Gypsies, but make no mistake, Wary, the powers that we wield are real.”
With that, the purple glow began emanating from the stone again. She closed her hand over and placed it back in her pocket.
Orri returned to his hut after another late night of losing everything in his pocket at a card game. The sun was starting to peek over the top of the mountain and shine rays of lights through the fog down into the valley. He had built his home at the far corner of Wilverth facing away from the rest of the village. He kept mostly to himself, except when he somehow came into enough money to get belligerent at the pub and pick fights with anyone he sized up as someone he could beat.
He plopped down into a chair in his dark hut and contemplated the headache he would soon face. The throbbing in Orri’s head would come faster than expected, however, as his door flung open with a loud crack. His senses heightened, but too much ale kept him from getting to his feet. Una entered, upright and tall, with a long stride she placed herself directly in front of him.
“I know what you’ve been doing, Orri, and you’re going to stop immediately.”
“I haven’t been doin’ nothin’” He slurred.
“You’re making trades outside the village arrangement, which jeopardizes everything we’ve worked for!”
“I just wanted some for myself. You can’t control it all, it’s not fair.”
“We’ve given the whole village equal shares. Tell me how it’s not fair!” She was growing angry and spoke through her gritted teeth. “You just want to gamble it all to try and get more. You’re greedy.”
“No!” He shifted in his seat and waved his finger around drunkenly. “It’s too much power for one person.”
“You can’t even count! There are four of us.”
“But you struck the deal. You’re the smart one, Una; you’re the one with the vision. But if only one person controls something as important as a trade route, that person will be succepppable…”
The ale would not allow him to mouth the word.
“Susceptible.” Una corrected.
“Yeah… to corruption.”