Darrian nodded his head towards the doors. “Come on.”
Emily followed him to the doors and he held one open for her. “Just don’t stare too much” he advised.
Darrian walked in behind his partner and looked around at the soft lit entrance. The sounds of laughter, plates and mugs on tables, and endless chatter wafter like rich perfume from beyond a thick red curtain. Ryna, a flax haired woman in simple green dress sat on a stool behind a desk. She looked up with a tilt to her head. “Darrian?” She asked in bewilderment.
“Yup, me again. It’s good to see you.”
Ryna raised an eyebrow. “So you’re why the the flares went up this afternoon and equally why the mistress is annoyed this evening.”
“Jal is annoyed?”
Ryan put a finger to her red lips pretending to think on the question. “Callie came in a huff about flares and you know the mistress; has to look. Well he got through the show and fumed back to his office. Hasn’t left since.”
Darrian sighed. “I’ve upset him. Here I was hopping that Jal would be in a good mood, or at least passable.”
“Oh no he’s in a fine mood; just annoyed at you.” Ryna looked past Darrian. “You have a new partner? What happened to the wolf? I loved her so much.”
“Cassy is at home in Haven. She retired eleven years ago. No this is young Emily’s first mission.”
Ryna leaned over her desk spreading papers and various clutter every which way in an attempt to offer a hand to Emily. “I’m Ryna Castrel. A pleasure to meet you.”
Emily took the hand and shook it. “Emily Alastair.”
Ryna slide back across her desk to the tune of something falling to the floor. She bent to retrieve what ever had been knocked off and waved both onwards. “Go on in, I’ll see you after closing.”
Darrian nodded and moved for the curtain. He pushed through easily and the noise intensified. Cigar smoke permeated the air and a man called for another drink. Girls all of whom Darrian could named flitted around the room. Some hung on to patrons who had paid for their company, others were searching for just such a person. Irregardless every woman in the room carried two similarities. They were all dressed as provocatively as possible and they were all akyrie.
Darrian could feel Emily brush his shoulder and intercepted the wild eyed question that threatened. “I’ll explain later. Just keep moving.”
A man in a half opened white shirt created a background melody on a piano which sat in the courner. A snow white baulon by the name of Samille leaned on the instrument in deep conversation with the man. Darrian halted to let a drunk man stumble for the bar where Jess, a ghirout of shadowy dark blue stood cleaning glasses.
Jess looked surprised to see Darrian and nodded her head towards the back room as the drunk requested another round for his friends. Only one human girl worked the floor. She had been running around cleaning tables, and avoiding the wanton hands of strangers. She blushed far less than the last time he’d been here but when Elizabeth locked eyes with Darrian the startled girl almost dropped her tray.
Sapphire blue eyes lit up with surprise from under dark brown curls as Elizabeth rushed over. She dodged tables and patrons alike with fluid motions and all but leapt into Darrian’s arms. She buried herself in the man’s coat, her muffled “you came back” sounded almost like a sob.
Darrian patted the woman on the back. “I did. It’s good to see you again.” He pushed her out to arm’s length. “You look so much better now. Working the floor, smiling, Jess watching you like a hawk…”
Liz nodded. “She’s protective of me. Doesn’t like the guys trying to chat me up or more.”
“Good on ya. I’m glad that you found something that fits. Jal treating you well?”
Liz’s smile widened. “Like family.”
“Good. So where is he now? Stuck in the cramped office counting all that money I reckon.”
Liz cast a glance over her shoulder. “I can take you to the mistress if you’d prefer.” She looked to the ghirout bartender. “I can right?”
Jess nodded. “Make it quick. You can catch up at closing.”
“Right! Come on Darrian.”
Darrian urged Emily forward. “Time to meet the boss.”
Emily followed with Darrian as Liz lead them deeper into the brothel. His mind brought back earlier times of these visits. Jal never liked to really change the place much; only kept it in good repair. The girls would always change over the centuries unless they took time to visit in Haven. He reached far back into the memories that drifted around him like smoke, looking for another instance where he’d been gifted with seeing the same employees twice. Only one other time in twenty five hundred and sixteen years.
“We’re here.” Liz announced outside a black door worn by years.
“Thank you Liz, we’ll see you in a bit.”Darrian promised before the girl left smiling broadly.
Darrian looked to Emily. “Here’s hoping he’s in a good mood tonight.”
Emily nodded as Darrian pushed the door open. Beyond was an office decorated in reds and hard woods. Chairs, a couch, and a single large desk took up most of the floor space. A thin white haired man looked up with one green eye and one yellow. He looked overly feminine but then that was the result of Jal’tor’s long ago wishes to be placed in the body of a male human instead of the female one.
Jal rested his chin on top of steepled fingers, a sour grin playing upon the man’s features. “Took you long enough” criticized that smooth voice. “I want an explanation so take a seat the both of you.”
Darrian complied and Emily followed suit without question. Darrian leaned forward, meeting those piercing eyes with confidence. “I don’t know what happened.”
Jal sat back without surprise in the other dragon’s declaration. “Don’t know? I asked for a secret operation. Emphasis on that whole secret bit. You came to my city as I intended but I can’t for the life of me fathom why you would let the city herald your arrival to me.”
“Jal. I didn’t. I played the shadows and kept track of all potential issues. Everything was handled with delicacy as is my custom whenever I’m sent here.”
“Then why the hell did I get dragged on the front streets and have my gaze directed to flares calling for YOUR arrest?”
“Beats me. I just got here.”
Jal cocked his head. “Just got here hey? Already stirring up trouble on an operation in which secrecy isn’t just a recommendation but mandatory. Do you understand that?”
Darrian glared at the other dragon in human form. “I’ve been in this game longer than you have. I know how to keep my head out of trouble.”
“Not very well.”
“We got off the train, we headed for here, and the flares came just past an hour of even being here.”
Jall threw up his hands. “Woah woah woah; an hour?”
Darrian nodded. “I checked the time, one hour and ten minutes when the last flare hit the sky.”
Jal sank in his chair. “That… that’s not even possible. You’re telling me that Vera launched flares after only an hour? No Wardens saw you?”
“Not one; not even yours.”
Jal ran black finger nails through his short white hair. “I can’t wrap my head around it. You don’t lie so I’m inclined to believe you but I still can’t understand this situation.” The man sighed and turned his attention to Emily. “I’ll worry about that later. For now who is this new partner of yours and can she be useful to my mission?”