The WIP is getting closer with another chunk of editing checked off.
I’ve introduced the main character, Raze.
Also Danzell and Johzar.
I hope you enjoy getting a peek into Sajem (from Johzar’s perspective).
The Black Gull’s door stood ajar, and in contrast to the sea’s fresh scent, the tavern reeked of spilled ale, rancid grease, and sun-ripened sailors. The stink didn’t bother Johzar as much as the sight of Sajem and six slavers deep in their cups. One of the man’s crew, a woman with serpents inking up her arms, spotted him. Heads turned and Sajem laughed, a calloused paw beckoning him in. “Ah, my friend, join us. How went your travels in Tegir?”
Johzar ambled to the table and claimed a seat across from his quarry. Finding Sajem had proved easier than expected, but the conditions didn’t befit murder, a point working equally well to his advantage. “A troublesome time for the empire. I would have thought you knowledgeable of all the sordid details.”
Sajem grunted. “Tegir’s bloated with rules and soldiers. I like the Vales. The law here is like water, fluid and easy to direct.” He growled at a server for another pitcher. “The raiding is healthy for the purse, and the ladies and lords look the other way as long as we don’t get personal. Our Governor Benjmur hasn’t forgiven you for stealing his daughter.”
Johzar shrugged. “He wrote the rules.”
“You got caught.” Sajem cracked his knuckles. “Out-matched by a girl.”
“True.” Johzar let the taunt slide. “Speaking of getting caught, eventually those ladies and lords will tire of you. And when they tire of you, they’ll tire of me.”
“Then we kill them in their sleep.”
Sajem’s smile thinned at the slip. “Capture them, sell them.”
“How’s our friend, the governor?” Johzar topped off a tankard. “Are you still his dog?”
The slaver’s red eyes tightened. “If the chits are the right color.”
“So, you’re an assassin now?”
“We’re not assassins,” the woman said.
Johzar arched his eyebrows. “Who benefited from Ezalion’s death? Who gives Sajem his orders?”
“I don’t take orders,” Sajem snarled.
“Unless the chits are the right color.” Johzar chuckled. “Still hearing voices? How many souls is it now?”
Sajem’s lip rose at the corner, baring a filed fang. “Enough to get what I want.”
“Here’s my problem.” Johzar leaned forward. “You’re a slave to the madmen in your head. They may bear the skills you desire, but they’re impulsive and thick as planks. Your rampages through the Vales don’t go unnoticed, even in Tegir. I made a mistake with Benjmur’s girl, but she lied about her identity. You don’t care if your victims are political, and we always stayed out of politics. It was cleaner that way. Follow the laws, keep our knives belted. Remember?”
“Times change,” one of Sajem’s men said.
“You know how many of my crew I’ve lost in the past ten years?” Johzar asked. “One. How about you?”
None of the slavers replied, and Sajem emptied his tankard down his gullet.
“I’ll warn you once.” Johzar addressed all seven of them, “My crew and I don’t appreciate change. We plan to go on living and getting rich. You make that difficult for us; we’ll make it difficult for you.”