Chapter 1: One-eye Vasha
Vasha the Red stood facing the inn’s door, staring at the ridiculous wooden sign hanging beside it.
A name was inscribed on the wood, and even though Vasha had read the name five times already, he still doubted his eyes. He could not believe someone would think that was a good name for an inn. Even though he’d lived in Karanas since birth, still the damned place had surprises. Far more surprises than any man would want in a lifetime, or ten.
The Virtuous Harlot. The sign proclaimed proudly.
But that wasn’t all. No, sir, that was not all. The tasteful innkeeper couldn’t restrain himself to only the name. That would show a semblance of sense, a sprinkling of business acumen, which wouldn’t suit the place at all.
Underneath the name was a crude drawing of a woman bending over, with her dress pulled up and two badly drawn buttocks greeting anyone who may want to enter the inn. It almost felt like whoever owned the place didn’t want to get any customers.
The Virtuous Harlot was a wooden building, as most other structures were on Karanas. Three stories high, it would have been a novelty among the packed neighbourhoods further west – no one was so stupid as to keep a Midcity building this low, when building up another two levels would double the price. Here, in Lumber street, the inn was taller than everything else.
Vasha shook his head one last time. He loosened the long knife on his belt, paused for a moment, and decided to keep his hand on the hilt. He stepped through the doorway into a fog of opium smoke and a room filled with drinking men. Way too many men for such an inn.
Someone was playing the flute and a few untalented souls were singing along. Two women – slaves by their clothing – scurried from table to table, filling mugs. The room was poorly lit, full of shadows large enough to house men. The stools and tables were sturdy, well made, and heavy. Not the sort of furniture one could use in a fight. Here and there, there were puddles of ale on the hardwood floors, but a quick check reassured Vasha the wet spots weren’t slippery.
At first glance it looked like any other inn. Perhaps the smell of opium was a little stronger, and maybe the girls were a little prettier than they’d any right to be in a such an establishment, but everything else looked normal. The illusion did not last long.
A muscle-bound giant, who was lounging on a divan facing the doorway noticed Vasha’s entrance, and his knife was halfway out of its sheathe in less than it took to inhale. The other men sitting at the table with him were drawing as well, even though they were facing away from the doorway and could not have seen Vasha. All around the common room, a dozen other thugs had weapons in their hands. The crowd had gone silent.
Something, tension, something, knife. Vasha thought to himself, raising his left hand, fingers extended and palm outwards. His right hand was still on the knife hilt.
“I’m here to talk with Vasili. He has summoned me. I want no fight.”
The large man, the fastest to draw, nodded. He glanced at one of the serving girls and motioned with his hand. She curtsied before walking to a door on the other end of the room.
The big one was high enough up the chain to warrant a curtsy. A good piece of information to have. If getting out proved to be more problematic than entering had been, an important man would make a better hostage than an insignificant one.
The room remained silent. Patrons were not staring at Vasha anymore, but he could still feel their attention. The big man and those at his table were the only ones who looked comfortable.
Perhaps the that particular table was special, with only important people allowed to sit around it. People smart enough to keep their cool when Vasha the Red walked into the room.
I can kill two or three of them before anyone reacts. Then I’ll grab the big bastard and walk right out with a knife to his...
The slavegirl came back and whispered something to the man. He nodded and gestured at Vasha. “Follow her. She’ll take you to Vasili.”
Vasha followed her. Enjoying the near translucence of the slave’s white dress as she walked ahead. Her brown hair was long enough to reach her ass, and the play of the low light was seductive on the swinging hair and half-revealed buttocks.
That’s a fine piece of ass.
She opened the door and gestured the Vasha inside. He paid special attention to her breasts while passing her, trying to catch a glimpse of the woman’s tits. Her nipples were dark brown and her areola larger than expected.
Jester smile on me. I want her.
Inside, the opium smoke was nonexistent. The room was neither large nor small, well lit and sparsely decorated. A desk was at the far end, behind which sat a small mousy man with greasy hair and a wide nose. He was dressed in a well-fitting black coat, bent over a piece of parchment and writing in the candle light. He looked up as Vasha entered and smiled. The sight of the man’s rotting teeth was nauseating.
Even though Vasha did not know much about the Lumber Street Gang, he instantly recognized Vasili, their leader. It surprised him that the man was willing to meet with an assassin alone and unprotected. It spoke of either exceptional stupidity or confidence.
The man gestured to the lone seat in front of his desk. “Please, my boy, Vasha, have a seat.” He did not stop speaking as Vasha moved. “I’m sure you know why you’re here. Yes, yes, I know you’re not aware of the specifics, but you know the general task I wish you to perform, yes? If you don’t then I’m not sure I have the right ma...”
Vasha interrupted the man, “Who do you want dead and how much are you willing to pay?”
Vasili grinned. “Good, good. I do have the right man after all. I was told Vasha the Red’s fee is a daric for a head. Yes? I will pay you fifteen for one man. No normal man, of course, but I’ve been told you don’t know fear. I hope my man wasn’t lying, it’s wouldn’t be good for his health. Lying to me isn’t good for anyone’s health, you see? Yes? Good. So, fifteen darics for Yayim. I don’t need his head, of course. Everyone will find out the man’s dead within an hour, you understand?”
Vasha tuned the man out. Fifteen darics. Four month’s work in a day. He could spend the next sixteen weeks smoking and fucking whores, never leaving his rooms. Just one murder. But the man he would have to kill was Yayim, and Yayim was not someone to be trifled with. Even a Midcity boy like Vasha knew about the heartless scourge of Braka. The man had bribed and murdered his way through the multitude of gangs fighting for control of the floating city in under a year, coming up on top not touched by a single blade. It was said he was now looking to expand west and north into Karanas city proper. Last week, there’d been talk of fighting in Lumber street, with more than thirty men dead before Guardsmen could stop it.
But fifteen darics.
“ ... But you will need to decide soon, and do the job soon too. You see, I’m hiring you because this is a pressing matter, otherwise one of my boys could do the same thing, you underatand? In fact, it has to be done by the day after tomorrow, no coin otherwise. Yes?”
Vasha cleared his throat. The droning man stopped. “By the day after tomorrow? But this night is already halfway done. I will only have a single day to plan it and a single night to execute. Fifteen is not enough for the risk.”
“Well, my boy. You’re being greedy, you understand? I guess throwing in a little bit of extra compensation wouldn’t hurt though, yes?”
“I would much rather be paid in go...”
Vasili didn’t let him finish, instead, he bellowed, “Maria, Maria my little girl, come here.”
A few seconds later the door opened. Vasha turned to find the slavegirl he’d been ogling just a few moments before in the room, eyes on the floor and hands clasped in front of her.
“Maria, my little girl. You will entertain this man tonight, yes? I want him happy, yes, and I want him wanting more, you understand? Vasha, my boy, do this task for me, and I will pay you fifteen darics and give you a room in the Virtuous Harlot for a year, yes? And you can have Maria every night. I’m a generous man, you see? But heed me, I do not like disappointments.”
Maria was pretty. Brown eyes and hair, full breasts, and luscious hair hanging down to her hip. Clears skin the colour of olives and all the teeth in their proper place too. Her use for a year would cost him as much as Vasili was paying in gold, and the Harlot, while not in a good neighbourhood, or near anywhere interesting, looked like a good enough inn to spend the next year of his life, specially if the room was free. The opium smoke in the common room was promising, and the ale couldn’t be too bad.
Fifteen darics and a year of lodging. It was a very good offer.
“Mister Vasili, sir, you already know your offer is very good. But I wonder, will I have to work for you as long as I stay here?
“Work? No my boy, what kind of payment would it be if you had to work for it again? You see? A room here for a year, and not a single request from me in the meanwhile.”
Killing Yayim would not be easy at all. The man was famous for being a merciless, brutal, bastard. And Vasha did not know this part of the city. Braka or Lumber street were not familiar places to someone who worked in Midcity. These western parts bred a different kind of criminal, more ruthless, stronger.
Most Midcity boys knew enough to stay away. But Vasha was not most Midcity boys.
“Well, my boy, what do you say? Maria’s got to get back to the common room if you don’t want to take the offer. I’m already loosing money, her being here daddling.”
“I’ll take the offer, Mister Vasili.”
“Good, yes. That’s very good. Maria, little girl, take him upstairs and show him what kind of benefits there is to being a friend of Vasili, you understand?”
The woman bowed. “Yes, sir.” Then she look at Vasha and gestured with a hand, “Sir, would your please come with me?”
Vasha hesitated for a moment. “Mister Vasili, is this inn yours?”
“Why, yes my boy, why do you ask?”
“Did you choose the name sir?”
The mousy, greasy man’s smile widened and he ran a hand through his hair. Vasha was surprised the hand did not come away gleaming with oil. “Why yes, and sign was drawn by one of my boys too, he’s outside, likes to play the flute. A good artist, he is. At least for one such as us. One of the lower folks, I mean, you understand? I’m sure the Prince has better painters as his disposal.”
Vasha shook his head and followed Maria out.
The prince has better painters? Has he never been to a more civilized neighbourhood? Midcity inns have signs ten times better than that, hell, I can do a better job than whatever Vasili’s idiot had done.
The stairway was narrow, the wooden steps longer than usual in Midcity – probbably because no one here needed to worry about pregnant woman climbing seven floors five times a day. But Vasha wasn’t paying attention to how badly made the steps were.
That’s a fine, fine ass.
Maria’s room, or at least the room she used to entertain, was on the highest floor. It was not large, but there was a good-sized bed in it and enough space around the bed to create a sense of comfort. It wouldn’t serve for lodgings, he hoped Vasili did not mean to house him in a room like this, but it was good enough for fucking. It was more than good enough.
The girl closed the door behind Vasha, and without hesitation, took off her dress in one motion, the flimsy material pooling at her feet. He admired her soft body and full breasts for a moment before grabbing her by the hand and moving her to the bed. He tried to make the movement gentle, but she was pretty enough that being gentle was difficult.
The girl followed his lead easily. Moving to the low bed and positioning herself on all fours without making a sound. Once she was there, Vasha took another few seconds to inspect her form as he unfastened the string holding his pants in place.
What an ass! The Jester smiles on me today.
With one hand he grabbed his cock and with the other he grabbed Maria’s hip, to steady her and because her rather plumb bottom was looking more appealing by the second. His hard cock found a warm, if not completely wet, home.
The girl let out a pain filled sigh and suddenly, Vasha felt bad about the inconsiderate thrust. He knew a little care beforehand could mean the difference between a woman in pain and a woman who wouldn’t mind a long fuck. He always tried to be considerate, because whores who liked a costumer made sure he’d want to come back. So, in the spirit of reconciliation, he decided to wait a little before commencing with the real fucking.
In the meantime, he decided the play with the woman’s tits, which had looked at least as good as her ass. He pulled out and directed her to lie on her side. Vasha flinched at the sight of her brown eyes. There was a little teardrop in her left eye, the sort of teardrop one gets when pain is involved. Despite his day job – or night job in this case – Vasha did not like hurting women. Specially women who were going to sleep with him.
He sat beside her on the bed and caressed Maria’s hair in apology. “I’m sorry. I’m not normally this inconsiderate. But you were just so beautiful, I couldn’t control myself.”
She didn’t say anything, simply keeping her eyes on him as he spoke. Vasha realized she was confused, after all, why would anyone care about hurting a slave?
“I normally like to start with a kiss. Then I play around with the woman’s cunt for a while, with my fingers and hand. To make them ready for my cock. Otherwise I’d hurt them like I hurt you just now. That’s not good. I know you’re probably used to it, I don’t suppose that lot you were serving are particularly gentle, but I still don’t like hurting my women.”
His hand went to her breast and groped it without any input from his brain. She was firm, and her nipples were sensitive to touch, if the shiver which ran through her was any indication.
Vasha smiled. Sensitive women were the best. He played around with her breasts long enough for her to breathing to quicken, and then his other hand checked her cunt.
Wet enough to take me now, but I don’t think she appreciate me rutting her normally after that first thrust.
He lay on his back and pulled her on top of him. “Have you ever fucked this way?”
She nodded. Her left hand steadied his cock as she lifted herself a little and then sat down. Her cunt wet and warm as he preferred. The perfect recipe for an enjoyable fuck.
At first, he controlled the pace with two hands on her hips, to make sure she didn’t go too fast or too slow. But soon it became obvious that she was experienced. Experienced enough to control the pace and move from side to side sometimes and even tighten her cunt around him whenever he seemed to be losing interest. So he let her direct the fucking, and concentrated all his attention on her tits and face.
She was smiling now, not a real smile, but a small grin tugging at one side of her mouth. Her breasts moved with her, up and down, firm enough to not jiggle like jelly and large enough to slap skin with every movement. Her hair was in disarray, strands wet with sweat sticking to her face and back.
Vasha had intended to change his position once the girl was comfortable with his cock inside her, but he forgot all his plans in the throes of ecstasy. What she was doing was far more enjoyable than anything he could do by himself.
Finally, in a few final movements, longer and harder than all those before, he finished inside her. She held her position on top of him for a few moments after, all her muscles tight and her back arched, and then she melted onto him. Her sweaty form lying on top of Vasha.
“Woman, you are a heavenly fuck.”
“Do you think Vasili would sell you to me?”
“No, sir. Other men have asked before, but he likes me warming his bed every night.”
“He fucks you?”
“Every night, sir.”
Shit shit shit. Abyss take me and the Lady be merciful. He doesn’t expect me to survive.
“He’s offered me to other men before, sir. Both times for a year. I’ve never seen them again.”