Mr. Prince was actually not that fond of the Succubus Club Inn. The inn's theme, as displayed by its wait staff, got on his nerves. He had enough troubles with one particular demon without having girls who did their best to look like more demons in his face, offering food and drink and asking if he wanted anything …. else.
The reason he still kept coming back was simple and twofold.
His first reason, the one he had no trouble sharing with others, was that the Succubus Club Inn had a good kitchen and beer cellar, and it enforced a hard rule that all weapons should be checked at the door. It might not always be cheap to get a meal there – like most places in Caymore's low-rent district, the Succubus Club Inn's menu was directly tied to the fluctuations in supply and demand at the marketplace – but at least the owners always made sure that the food and drink they served was wholesome. Some of the dive bars served food that had maggots boiled along with the millet, and beer with rat's droppings. Places in the low-rent district where weapons were not demanded at the door often had corpses carried out the back door and dumped in an alley after hours.
The other reason, the one he kept to himself like a shameful secret, was that he sought out the aggravation of the inn's wait staff on purpose. It was like wearing a hair shirt under your day clothes; if you did it long enough, hopefully you got used or at least desensitized to the discomfort.
So far, Mr. Prince had not succeeded in becoming insensitive to demonic aggravation.
He had, however, eaten most of the things on the Succubus Club Inn's menu and he was familiar with most of the drinks on their menu as well. He knew what to order on a morning like this one, when there was a contest going on between his head and his stomach as to which hurt worse.
'Getting too bloody old for those damned Festivals,' Mr. Prince thought as he carefully sipped from a mug of scalding tea.
The brew was bitter at first, but the flavour expanded into a mix of herbal flavours as it cooled on his tongue. Not necessarily a pleasant mix, but he knew the tea would soothe his stomach shortly. Once that was done, he could eat his breakfast, which would hopefully do for his pounding head.
Mr. Prince took another sip of tea – and someone sat down next to him at the corner table.
The corner bench creaked under their combined weight, and Mr. Prince heard a dull clank of metal when the newcomer leaned on the table.
“Hello, Sly,” he said without turning to look at the other man.
“Mr. Prince,” Sly replied.
The man's voice sounded hollow due to the helmet he wore everywhere.
When they had first met, Mr. Prince had dismissed Sly as a fool for wearing a full suit of armour under his clothes all the time. Now, he had a scar down his left upper leg to remind him that Sly might appear foolish, but he was not to be trifled with.
If Mr. Prince had been just a little slower, that scar would have been the wound that killed him.
“Did you come here for breakfast, Sly?” Mr. Prince asked.
In the back of his head, he felt a subtle pressure; a scratchy, unclean feeling he associated with his constant irritant. He did his best to wall it away from his conscious thoughts.
“I might have a meal before I go,” Sly said. “Thank you for asking. But I actually wanted to discuss some business with you first.”
“Well, I'm at your disposal,” Mr. Prince said, “I'm sure. My food still needs to cool a bit.”
He felt ill in spite of the tea. Business with Sly could only mean one thing.
“The chandlers' warehouse on Three Hen Street was hit last night,” Sly said. “My patch. I offered the owner my protection. This makes me look bad, Mr. Prince.”
“I imagine so, Sly,” Mr. Prince said.
“The night watchman's mother is blessed with a coward for a son,” Sly went on, relentless. “When he noticed thieves breaking in through one of the side doors, he hid himself in a supply closet instead of bothering them. He gave a pretty good description, all the same.”
“That's fortunate,” Mr. Prince said, even though he suspected it was not. Not for him, and not for the thieves who had broken into the chandlers' warehouse on Three Hen Street.
“Those two girls you ran with when I first came to Caymore,” Sly said. “What are their names again?”
Mr. Prince took another sip of tea, rather than pinch the bridge of his nose like he really wanted to do.
“I do apologize for my daughters' misbehaviour,” he said after he had swallowed his tea. “It's awfully bad form, poaching on someone else's territory. I shall go and have a talk with them.”
He let one hand slip under the table and grasped the hilt of a hidden dagger while he spoke, just in case Sly chose not to be reasonable. (He was well in favour of the rule that weapons must be checked at the door, but he had survived too long to ever be fully unarmed.)
Sly shifted a little on the bench. Mr. Prince was gratified to note the armoured thief was edging away from him. Of course, he had given as good as he got on that rainy night in the alley, five years ago, when he got the scar on his upper leg.
“I would appreciate it,” Sly said.
“And of course I would like to …. compensate your …. friends' losses,” Mr. Prince added.
“That would be awfully good of you,” Sly said.
He stood up and placed a slip of paper beside Mr. Prince's plate of cooling fish and rice.
Now Mr. Prince had no choice but to look at the man. He looked as odd as ever; an armoured warrior with a dun-coloured cape over the metal, the hood up over his helmet. If not for the will-o'-the-wisp eyes staring out of the visor and that scar on Mr. Prince's leg, he would have looked laughable.
“You can imagine that I would like this matter resolved as soon as possible,” Sly said, his hollow voice so deep that it made Mr. Prince's mug hum. “But as the sum is on the large side, shall we say that you have until the new moon is in the Toad?”
“That is very generous of you, Sly,” Mr. Prince said, nodding pleasantly and faking a smile. “Enjoy your breakfast.”
“And the same to you, Mr. Prince,” Sly said, nodding in turn. “A pleasure doing business with you, as always.”
Mr. Prince watched the other thief walk away and ask one of the milling waitresses for a table.
Only when the other man was seated did he glance at the slip of paper – and he almost cursed out loud. The girls must have hit the chandlers' warehouse just before payday, or maybe after the chandlers had closed a lucrative deal.
This was a lot of money....!
Muttering under his breath, he swept the paper off the table and tucked it into one of his sleeves. Where was he going to get this much....?
”I know some excellent people for you to rob, master,” a cheerful voice whispered in his head, all enthusiasm and helpfulness.
A whisper, and still it made his skull hum and set off his headache, making it pound.
”You can do it! It's an easy break-in, maybe a few stabbings, and you'll have all the money you want and more!”</b>
Again, Mr. Prince forced the demon's voice out of his thoughts.
He sipped his tea and, after a few minutes, started in on his breakfast.
No good trying to come up with a solution on an empty stomach.