“Ugh.” I scowled. “Official writ or not, fourth Bell, Dawning seems monstrous early.” 

The runner didn’t notice my irritation. If anything, his smile grew wider. He produced a small slip of paper and a stylus, which he handed over, along with a thick packet of papers. “Make your mark for me?”

“Of course.” I scrawled my name as best as I could with the gaslight spearing me in the face. The young man’s bright attitude felt unbearable in the face of how awful I felt. 

Yet, by the grace of Elsador, I refrained from murder.

“Thank you, Judicar.” He took the slip and stylus, and then stood expectantly.

What did he want? Oh—

“Right, yes.” I felt as if I had mud for cerebra. I rummaged in my pockets, until I found a few silver pennies. I tipped the youth, who nodded at me before jogging off.

I rifled the papers.

“Rutting damn.” Just a glance told me the lot might be one gigantic headache. Words like requisition of services and notice of expectation of duty lay scattered throughout the packet. 

“I’ve been almost set on fire too many times to read this just now.” I muttered and winced as I recognized the crest on the front page.

It’d just gone from bad to worse.

An embossed seal had been prominently displayed on the front page. A large hammer superimposed over an anvil. Beneath the crest, three words had been pressed into the paper:

Duty. Devotion. Discipline.

I held requisition forms from the Temple of Altheus.

“Tainted night, no.” My heart sank into my chest. Few things were worse than working with the fanatical inquisitors. They saw taint in every shadow and had the power to make life in the city grind to a stop whenever they discovered it.

I’d seen firsthand what their fanaticism could do. 

I scanned the papers, searching for the bit that would make me curse:

Requirements include performance of all due diligence. In this, we require the professional courtesy of one Thomas Havenkin, Das judicas. Notification has been provided also to Willem Sommers, Das judicas, so that appropriate scheduling arrangements may be undertaken. 

Thomas Das Judicas shall appear on the date and time as follows:

Ripened week, Delving

Fifth Bell, Morningtide

This appearance will be within the outer offices of—

“Today?” I exclaimed, livid. Wil already juggled training Kælia along with our increased duty from the reap. If I was taken off the board…

He’d have to requisition Guildmen. I sighed. I knew that Malthers  and the Saltmen would be more than willing, but that missed the point.

“We’re a bit busy for this, just now.”  Today held a full docket, even before Miss Crucian poked her nose in. 

Because yes. That had to be who requisitioned me. 

Even though the gaslight felt like knives in my eyes and the early morning sounds of the city ground like burning glass in my ears, I briefly fanned the pages. I had to find the one signature that would simultaneously prove me correct and make all this worse.

“Yep.” I grunted. “There you are.”

Lilah Das Inquisitus.

“Fecking damn—!” I bit off the curse and tried to focus.

“I do not need this.” Grumbling, I fumbled open my door and shambled up to my flat. “You’re the last person I need involved with this,” I grumbled as I read her official declaration of interest.

She’d already requisitioned me once, and that had been too much, in my mind. I’d been clear as glass: all was resolved. Everything was well. The Matter of the Red Hand involved Alchemy. No taint here, Miss Inquisitor.

When I tossed the papers onto my sidetable, they scattered on the floor.

I didn’t care. I needed sleep.

Lilah and her damned inquiries could wait.

Next 

Missed the beginning? Here's Part One.