You are all also probably familiar with Jakkard... Since the thread for the Style Guide is on the front page. Well, long story short (er, maybe not, this is a long story) Fisco goes to Jakkard. This is still a work in progress, so I will be updating it regularly and will be mentioning so in future posts as I do. Feel free to comment and discuss; I may steal any idea I find sufficiently valuable. Not without permission, of course. Ehehehe...
The main reason I wanted to post this right now is, with the style guide getting typed up, it would be good for a story to have the plane as a backdrop so that it can be developed more fully. Let me know if there is anything wrong with the story/setting so I can make changes, or if something needs to be expanded upon more, let me know. Interesting locales, people, creatures, or whatever are fair game to be added in, so if you want something from the style guid to be featured in the story, let me know. (KEEPER)
I'm sorry to say that I have kept fishing puns at a minimum. The Fisco you are going to see today is rather, uh... Vindictive.
Two Bullets and a Pocketful of Hate
Fisco stared at himself in the mirror, idly thumbing one of his tracking coins. The little gold circle had materialized earlier today, indicating that someone was in need of his services. He had not been much in the mood for business lately, and had spent the last month on Dominaria after a promising deal had fallen through on Ravnica. Again. He hated that plane. He could not help but take another shot at the place every decade or so, though. Too profitable. Ravnica was not exactly on his mind right now, however. When he had retrieved the coin from the golden bowl in his personal chambers – where all such coins appeared after their counterpart was lit – a vision of a windswept city, the blazing sun, and an endless wasteland had filled his mind. A vision of a cemetery, an abandoned building, and a man with one eye.
There was a knock at his door, but Fisco did not turn. After a moment of silence, the door opened behind him and Diana entered the room, folding her wings behind her so she could fit. The angel carried beneath her arm a small gold and silver lockbox. He had sent her to the vault to retrieve it for him while he dressed and prepared to leave.
“Fisco.” Diana nodded in greeting and deference. Fisco glanced at her reflection. For a moment he thought she would say something else, but she simply stepped over to his lush bed and placed the lockbox upon it and took her leave silently.
Diana was a willing servant; she owed him her life, after he had bought her from an oppressive demon-run slave trade. He had decided that angels made excellent housekeepers, and so had positioned her here to watch over his manor while he was away. He had made it clear to her that her service was mandatory, but he did not have time to keep track of her, nor the wherewithal to hunt her down if she ran away. Three decades later, and she was still here. She made for chilly company, however.
Fisco felt a sudden rush of gratitude for the angel, and grimaced. It was Jakkard. Making him sentimental. He straightened his coat with more force than necessary, and finally turned from the mirror. He approached his bed. The weight of the lockbox pressed down upon his down and satin bed sheets, sinking a full inch into the plush surface. Fisco touched the lock, a little spark of power leaving his finger. The keyhole was for show; the box would not open unless he wanted it to. He flipped the latch, and opened the box.
It was a gun.
The handle was polished ivory. Elephant tusk, something he had brought to Jakkard long ago when he had this weapon crafted. The chamber and barrel was made of burnished iron, and five gold studs ran along the back. It was about a foot long. He picked it up; popped open the chamber, spun it, and peered into the barrel from the back. The runes on the inside still glowed with a pale gray light, as though untouched by time. He locked the chamber back in place. Next to the gun were two bright, golden bullets. Fisco clenched his teeth, and loaded the bullets into the gun.
He was going back to Jakkard, and there was going to be hell to pay. Fisco was just going to make sure hell got what it was due.
Fisco remembered vividly his first visit to Jakkard. Word had reached him through the eternities of a plane with a desert that drained people of life; that there was a city there that was run by money and crime, and no one could complain because there was nowhere else to go. Not even ‘walkers could get in or out from anywhere else on the plane but the city. It was dangerous, rife with corruption, and there was always either an ambush or an opportunity waiting around every corner.
It sounded like his kind of place.
Fisco had come to Jakkard for the express purpose of selling cigars; he had a hunch that they would be a hit there. Any other business he conducted would have just been a bonus. He stocked up in Fyurlien, hauled the merchandise to Jakkard, and set up shop. With space at a premium, finding a location was not only expensive, but difficult. He ended up hiring some thugs to muscle a brothel owner out of one of the better parts of the city. He had counted on locale being hard to come by, and planned accordingly. He had planned difficulty from crime rings, petty thieves, and assassins. He had planned on expense, supply, and demand.
He had not planned on Cosette.
By the time she set foot into his slightly illicit establishment, Fisco had already absorbed most of the culture over the course of the month he had been selling his cigars. He’d just named the place “Smokey’s Cigars”, so most everyone called him Ol’ Smokey. He’d never bothered correcting them; better to keep a low profile anyway. He’d had a gun made, and he was ready for trouble. The bell above the front door rang. Fisco glanced up, took one look at the woman who was walking into his shop and immediately checked to make sure his gun was still below the counter.
He looked her up and down, taking in everything quickly while she gazed around idly. She was a looker, and Fisco frowned slightly at that. Pretty women did not smoke; not on Jakkard anyway. His product had not become that popular – yet. She wore all the fine trappings of a wealthy young woman. The dress was the finest of cotton, and embroidered slightly with flowery designs. Her corset accentuated her impressive bosom, and the dress was cut low enough to remain acceptable, but make it obvious she was almost completely without shame. Her lustrous brown hair was curled perfectly, and hung down to the arch of her back. But her eyes… They were as blue, cold, and dark. Like the depths of the ocean this plane did not have. Fisco’s mouth tightened.
He checked to make sure his protective wards were still in place as well. They were receptive things; set to summon some of his... employees should certain conditions be met.
“Good evening, lovely lady!” Fisco exclaimed, and she finally deigned it necessary to acknowledge his presence. “How can I help such a beauteous creature on this fine day?” He was cultivating a reputation as a kind, rather doting gentleman; half the things he said while keeping up the display made him sick. She sauntered over to the counter he stood behind, and idly picked up one of the cigars that were on display. Fisco commended her on her choice, and began to describe the various assets of that particular cigar – the aroma, the thickness of the smoke, the flavor – but she cut him off.
“You must be Ol’ Smokey, then.” She smiled at him sweetly. “I was told you like to talk.” While speaking, she reached down her dress and revealed a folded piece of paper from in between her breasts. Fisco kept his face placid and unassuming as she placed it surreptitiously on the counter, all the while asking him if you really lighted the cigars on fire.
“Oh, yes, ma’am.” He assured her, picking up a cigar of his own and unfolding the paper in front of him in one smooth motion. Anyone watching from outside the store would not have seen him do it; and the fact that someone was watching was the only reason Fisco could imagine this woman was being so secretive. He grabbed an oil lamp that he kept lit and off to the side, and raised it to the cigar. He made a show of lighting it, and glanced down at the page.
I’m being followed by men who want me dead. I need your help, and you will be handsomely rewarded for it. Can you protect me?
At the bottom of the page, written slightly larger than the rest of the message, was a YES and a NO. Fisco lit the cigar.
“You see, it smokes, and lets off a rather heady aroma. Good for the senses.” He told her, and took a drag. He breathed out as she watched, intrigued.
“My. That does not seem very healthy.” She noted. Fisco shrugged, and placed the hand with the cigar down on the counter. He nonchalantly burned out the YES with the lit end of the cigar, leaving his answer on the page.
“I can assure you that my cigars are perfectly healthy. Ma’am.” For the first time since she walked in, her composure broke a fraction and he registered fear on her face. A ploy? He was not sure what game this woman was playing at, or why she would ask him for help. He was able to reason that she must have somehow discovered his ability to ‘walk, for that was the only thing that differentiated him from the rest of the less-than legal merchants around. Either that or she was a front from one of the bosses around here to make him drop his guard.
The bell above the front door to his shop rang again.
Fisco sighed deeply.
See, while there was the sort of dangerous person like Cosette, who was only dangerous if you knew what to look for, there were also the sort of dangerous people who needed no special training to identify because they just oozed an aura of menace. The two men that stepped into his quaint little shop were of the latter variety. Fisco saw the woman pale for a half-second before she spun around. It seemed he was going mostly unnoticed, so he took that opportunity to read up on the situation. A subtle surge of sensory magic let him know the woman was afraid, but the thugs were not. Her claims appeared to be genuine, then, but that did not mean there was not some other scheme going on here. He resolved to sit back and watch for a little longer.
“Hey there, Miss Desandro.” The thug who spoke had a noticeably unattractive mustache. They both wore long coats that concealed their hips. No doubt they were armed.
“I can’t imagine how you know my name.” The woman replied. “But I’m certain I haven’t the need to know yours.” The mustached thug frowned and nudged his companion, and they took a menacing step forward. Fisco clicked his tongue. He just had the floors cleaned.
“I’m going to have to ask that you take this outside.” Fisco said, stepping out from behind the counter. The shortest goon was a full head taller than he was, and Fisco noted he was rather good at looming.
“Pipe down, Smokey. We ain’t got business with you.” The second thug, who wore a bandanna, ordered. Fisco frowned.
“I’m just saying that- now don’t do that.” Fisco sighed heavily as the woman maneuvered herself behind him faster than he thought it was possible to move in address, let alone a corset. She grabbed on to his shoulder and made it appear, for all intents and purposes, like he was a trusted bodyguard of some sort.
“You protecting this broad, Smokey?” The mustached thug demanded. “You know who we work for, little man?” He reached beneath his coat, and Fisco narrowed his eyes.
“I wouldn’t do that…” He warned slowly. The thug just gave him a black-toothed grin and revealed a gun from beneath his coat. He leveled it at Fisco, and opened his mouth to speak…
“Does that look like iron to you, darling?” The mustached thug looked around in confusion, not seeing who was talking. Beside the two thugs, a man and a woman had materialized. They were both dressed in tight leathers and short coats in dark colors. The dark man had spoken, leering down at the thugs. He was taller but leaner, with a crooked nose and eyes like flint. He gave a smile to the thugs like he wanted to light them on fire. The mustached goon growled, backing away from the dark man, and bumping into the dark woman. The thug in the bandanna pulled his gun out as well and stepped away from both of newcomers, brow furrowed.
“Seems like iron to me, dear.” The woman noted sweetly. She smiled a loving smile at the mustached thug as he spun to look at her. Fisco always found the hollow cheeriness that pervaded her words to be creepier than the open malice that her counterpart showed. She regarded the two unfortunate goons like a wolf pretending to be a cat. “Though I’m not certain he drew it.”
“That struck me as sort of a ‘pull’ as well, darling.” The man replied. “Maybe-” The mustached thug, obviously fed up with the games, leveled his weapon at the dark man and pulled the trigger. The dark man stared past the barrel and at his would-be attacker as the gun jammed. All levity was gone, and his eyes shone with an inky blackness.
“Gods…” the mustached man swore. “His eyes! Oh, gods, no!” The thug in the bandanna took one look at both the dark man and the woman before making for the exit. He did not get far. Swirling black tendrils appeared from the shadows in the room and whipped around the necks of both the unfortunate thugs. They screamed for help and mercy, but neither Fisco nor his employees were inclined to give it. The shadow ropes lifted them into the air, gagging them, and looped around the beams of the ceiling high above them.
Fisco watched their feet kick placidly until they stopped moving.
The dark man turned to Fisco and yawned.
“That was fun.” He mentioned. “Though a tad easy.” He glanced at the Desandro woman standing behind Fisco, and Fisco remembered suddenly that she was there. Fisco stepped away from her and gave her a withering look. At least she appeared to be rightfully terrified.
“You want her too, boss?” The man’s counterpart asked, cracking her knuckles.
“Easy, Lucy.” Fisco told her. “You and Mal be on your way; take the stiffs with you. You’ve already got the souls, may as well put the body to use.”
“Awfully generous of you, Vane.” Mal noted icily. Fisco bared his teeth at him.
“Get.” He ordered. Lucy cackled as the bodies of the thugs dissipated into smoke, and his two employees with them. Fisco stepped up to his windows as soon as they left and shuttered them. He locked the door, then turned to glare at the woman.
“I-” She began. Fisco cut her off.
“Name.” He ordered. She swallowed.
“I’m going to need some of your blood.” He told her as we walked behind the counter once more. He rummaged beneath it, looking for his toolbox.
“What?” Cosette exclaimed. “Why?”
“For payment.” He told her tersely. No way was this woman that stupid.
“Payment… for what?” Fisco found his toolbox and slammed it on the counter before regarding her with a great deal of wrath.
“For what?” He demanded rhetorically. “For saving your life, perhaps? Think of it this way; I bought your life, and now you have to pay up. Of course…” He opened his toolbox and produced a scalpel. It glinted in the half-light of the lamps. “I could always give you a refund.”
“But you didn’t do anything.” Cosette pointed out. “It was those… things.”
“My employees.” Fisco told her. “The end result is the same; you owe me your life, and I’m collecting. Right now. Get over here.”
“Vane. Mr. Vane.” He pounded his hand on the counter. “Here. Now.” Cosette made one sideways glance at the door, and Fisco genuinely hoped she would try for it. In the end, though, she made the better judgment and walked up to Fisco. “Give me your hand.” She did as she was told. He ran the scalpel across her palm in a practiced fashion, and she inhaled sharply. He caught the falling blood in a shallow container, and then capped it quickly. A small spell healed the cut on her hand with little effort, and he busied himself labeling the ounce of blood. She remained silent throughout the process. Fisco put the blood beneath the counter, on top of a special silver dish. Mal would pick it up later.
“What are you going to use my blood for?” Fisco had to hand it to her; she was reacting to this turn of events with more poise than he usually credited her sex with. At least she was not crying all over the place.
“I’m no good at sangromancy.” Fisco grunted as she gave him a puzzled look. “Blood magic.” If she was disturbed by the phrase, she did not show it. “But Mal’s got uses for it. He’ll be able to keep track of you, and since the blood was given willingly, technically, he can use it to control you or kill you.”
“I belong to that thing?” She exclaimed, horrified.
“No, you belong to me.” Fisco snarled. “Because Mal does exactly what I tell him to, to the letter. It’s in his contract. He wouldn’t cross me; I’d kill him.”
“Who are you?” Cosette asked quietly.
“A cigar salesman.” He told her, and motioned for her to follow. He led her to the back room, rubbing his temples. Things had gotten complicated very quickly; he needed to take stock of the situation. He sent a mental command to Lucy to dig up any information she could find on this Cosette Desandros. In the meantime, he told her to sit on one of the crates that littered the backroom.
The area was mostly just a glorified storage area. Fisco lived upstairs, and the only way up was through the hidden ladder he kept concealed back here. He kept his stock of cigars back here in a fairly orderly fashion; he did not want to run out if someone called in a big order, after all. You probably had over three dozen crates, currently, with a myriad of different smokes in each one. He was satisfied with the breadth of his product, but he knew he would have to expand soon to take advantage of the growing market.
That, of course, did not mean much if wildcards like this woman ruined all of his plans. He paced the room, letting her stew for a few minutes, before finally addressing her.
“Alright. Tell me everything about you. Leave something out, and I’ll have Mal pull it out of you.” He sat on the crate across from her and smiled pleasantly. “Literally.” Cosette searched his face, no doubt for some form of compassion. He imagined she found none, and then began to talk. It took a while, but Fisco learned long ago that time was money; you had to spend some to earn some.
Fisco came out of the ‘walk with a sense of unease. Coming here the first time had been a chore; as had getting any good inside. There was something about the plane that wanted to keep ‘walkers like him out. The enormous crystal barrier did not help, but the only actual entrance had been Verkell; and even then, it took a special kind of willpower to get through. There was something off about the plane; Fisco had discovered that when he arrived before. But he was not concerned with the plight of the people. He was there to make some fast cash.
And this time, he was here to roll a few skulls and collect on a debt. That was going to be difficult, though. It appeared as though a lot had changed since he had been gone.
It took him all of five minutes to understand that the wastes had suddenly become more hospitable. That would explain the sudden decrease in population density. That newspaper being hawked by a small foxkin kit helped clue him in as well. He flipped the kit a coin and took the paper. He skimmed it swiftly. Railroads. Bandits. Rattlers. He cocked an eyebrow. Dragons? Crystallized energy? This was new.
He did not really care, but he was glad to have some of the new information. He made his way to the designated meeting area.
He felt a slight pang of regret as he approached his old shop. It was all boarded up now; he had… insisted upon preventing people from taking over the space after he left. But the sign had fallen off. The area around the shop had become derelict. This was no longer a high-end part of the city. This was a gutter. Fisco walked up to the door and opened it with a touch. Still locked. Good.
He walked into the dusty building and was greeted by a shadowy presence.
“Hey, boss. Long time no see.” Fisco shut the door behind him as a demon stepped into the sunlight that escaped through the boards. Her inky black eyes gleamed as she smiled with no warmth.
“Lucrecia.” Fisco greeted, watching her carefully.
“Aw, come on. Whatever happened to you calling me ‘Lucy’? That was sweet.” She took a step forward. Fisco held his hand up, and she froze.
“I’m not here to be sweet. I’m here on business.” He glanced around. “Where’s Malzeth?” Lucrecia backed away from him slowly and pouted.
“Busy.” She replied vaguely. “Besides, we aren’t under contract anymore.”
“Then why are you here?” He demanded, growing impatient. Of course they would know when he ‘walked back, despite the lack of a mana bond. He was just hoping they would not care. His nose twitched in irritation. Demons.
“Can’t a girl just-”
“Why are you here?” Fisco put emphasis on his words, looking her dead in those soulless, black eyes. The smile froze on her face and then melted away.
“You’re a powerful man, Fisco. Our last arrangement left Malzeth and I in an excellent position of power; but the status quo has been upset, and the foundations of that power is shaking.” She explained formally.
“The Wastes?” Fisco asked. Lucrecia nodded.
“Yes. The crystals are a powerful commodity, Fisco. Anyone who control the ley-lines controls the plane… Surely you already know this?” She gave him a searching look. Fisco remained silent. “…Why are you here, Vane?”
“For revenge.” He replied shortly. Lucrecia watched him, and he knew she was trying to glean truth from his words. He had not lied, however.
“I had thought you were more enterprising.” She noted. “I will tell Malzeth you were not interested in our offer, unless…”
“I’m going to kill a few people and then leave… Lucy.” He pulled a cigar out of his jacket. “Tell Malzeth I’m not here to threaten him, either.” Lucy cocked an eyebrow at him and smirked slightly. Fisco shrugged. “I know he’s worried; no reason to send the best he’s got to greet me otherwise.”
“Flatterer.” Lucrecia snorted. “Alright, Fisco. Have it your way. But…” Lucrecia checked around, furtively. Fisco lit his cigar. “You know where to find us.” She disappeared into the shadows and Fisco took a drag. Getting them involved would complicate things. Better he do this on his own.
Fisco walked over to the counter and hopped on top of it. He let the cigar hang from his mouth as he drew his gun. He checked it over again. It was still loaded. The runes still glowed. Fisco exhaled a puff of smoke.
He waited another fifteen minutes, and then the door opened. Light flooded the shop as a shadow figure appeared against the sunlight. It threw a burning coin onto the floor in front of Fisco. He ignored it; his cigar was already lit. He leveled his gun at the shadowy figure.
“You’ve got thirty seconds, Tirk.” Fisco reminded him.
A tall Viashino stepped into the shop, his tail closing the door behind him. His scales were red, black, and yellow, and he eyed Fisco with a look of exhaustion and fear. He hissed slightly, but wasted no more time. A chunk of glowing rock followed the coin onto the ground. When it touched the flame, it began to hiss and sputter. Steam bellowed forth from the crystal, and Fisco heard a voice. His eyes widened, and he lowered his gun.
The steam cascaded upwards, and formed a ring. The crystal grew smaller and smaller as more of it evaporated into the air. Then, he saw her. Her face; she was afraid. Terrified.
“Fisco!” He heard her shout, a ghostly noise. The steam dissipated, and the image with it. Cosette was gone, again.
“…Ssshe is trapped, Fisssco. Where ssshe died.” Tirk hissed. “Ssshe may ssstill be sssaved. Thessse cryssstalsss pressserve her. I have no magic.” He held up his clawed hands, pleading. “But perhapsss you…” Fisco’s nostrils flared. Tirk’s thirty seconds were up. He stood up from the counter and walked towards the Viashino. Tirk closed his eyes as Fisco spoke.
“I’ll see what I can do, Tirk.” Fisco pointed his gun at the Viashino’s head.
“Thank you, Fisssco.” He said, eyes still closed. “And… I am sssorry.”
“Me too.” Fisco pulled the trigger.
He left an unlit cigar by Tirk’s body, and locked the shop up behind him as he left.
Squeezing information from Cosette had been a trying experience. No doubt she had a lifetime worth of practice hiding things. It was only through the constant threat of summoning Mal that Fisco was able to get anything from her at all. Mostly, her answers were intentionally dodgy, vague, and designed to irritate him or try his patience. She wanted him to lose his temper and do something drastic, he could tell. It was a ploy he often used himself. Unfortunately for her, she was dealing with someone four times her age that had playing the same game for three times as long. Fisco always got them to talk, in the end.
As it turned out, she had been noting Fisco’s quick rise in wealth and had simply deduced that he was a man of means. Because he was also mostly off the radar while still creating a market, she had assumed there was something going on behind the scenes that she was not seeing. She informed him that she had entered his shop blind, not knowing what he was capable of, but since she had nowhere else to turn to, she did not have much of a choice.
Fisco asked her if she was satisfied with the results. She did not reply, but would not meet his eyes.
The conversation turned then to why she needed his help in the first place. Surely, he insisted, she did not need some savvy merchant with limited gun skills to protect her? There must be some other hulk of a man whose arm she could hang from, with a body like that. She took offense to that and slapped him. Fisco grinned like a wolf at her. At least she had fire; but striking him was not something he let just anyone get away with. He feigned anger to put some fear into her. A little shadow magic to make her think Mal was on his way. Some groveling never hurt anyone. She begged him to have mercy.
The conversation after that went more smoothly. She had gotten on the wrong side of Don Marco; a big shot foxfolk whose family had been getting fat legally and illegally for generations. Cosette told him she had worked the aristocracy since she was younger. Fisco knew how it was. Pretty young girl with little means just needs a wealthy suitor. Does not really matter what he is like, she just needs the support from him. One night last week, though, she declines Don Marco’s advances. He was coming on strong, she said. She did not want anything to do with him, she said. He had a reputation for being dangerous, and Fisco berated her for being stupid. She got sullen at that. Told him he did not understand.
He supposed he did not.
Don Marco was not the type to let something like that go, and she had been dodging his goons ever since. Everyone else but Ol’ Smokey was on his payroll for miles. Closest refuge she could take was down in the Yolk District, but the minotaurs there would not likely treat her any better. Vaik Four-Horns was not exactly lauded for his gentility. When the goons caught up to her, she had to make a choice to die in the street or run in to Ol’ Smokey’s for a gamble.
Which left them where they were now.
Fisco pulled a cigar out of his stash and lit it. That was one of the better things about cigars, in Fisco’s opinion: Breathing out the smoke meant no one knew when you were sighing in disgust. He paced the room once more, and Cosette remained silent. He had to give her credit; at no point in her story, which was admittedly sad, did she break down and cry. That lent some credence to her argument. Most broads trying to pull a trick turned on the waterworks as soon as they found a plausible mark. She had nothing to gain from trying to appear strong in front of him, except maybe his respect. And respect was not a currency women of her occupation often dealt in.
As for Don Marco… Well, that was more of a problem. Marco ruled his turf fairly liberally; as long as he got money and no lip, things ran fairly smoothly. He crushed any opposition with the overwhelming weight of hired muscle; and one did not simply outbid the Don. Fisco had set up shop here for that very reason. He had met with envoy’s from Don Marco while setting up shop, had paid the necessary ‘protection’ money. When his business started expanding, and they had come again, he had politely declined to become part of the Don’s empire, playing the fool. They were probing to see if he was a threat. Technically, he was not. He just wanted to sell cigars, make a massive profit, then pick up and leave.
Of course, he had recently killed two of Marco’s men. That would leave a sour taste in the old fox’s mouth, and Fisco was not sure he could wiggle out of this one without more bloodshed. He did not have any special desire to get into it with this kingpin, but he had planned for the contingency. Don Marco had a personal army’s worth of hired muscle, true. But Fisco was one of the only people on the plane wealthier than he was, and Marco did not even know that yet.
He turned his attention to Cosette once more.
“You work for me now. Is that understood?” She had been lost in her own thought, and started when he spoke. She nodded, regardless. “Since you are in my employ…” He approached, taking a drag from his cigar. “You are under my protection.” The relief that was evident on her face disconcerted him, and he frowned. “That is to say, I’m the only one that can hurt you. Since Mal has your blood, he can whisk you away from harm at a moment’s notice, or he can stop your heartbeat whenever he pleases.” She paled considerably, although she still appeared more relaxed.
“What if… What if he just kills me?” She asked slowly. “I understand you are his employer, but something like him…”
“Do you know what he is?” Fisco questioned, twirling his cigar in a circle.
“I’ve heard stories, but…”
“He’s a demon, doll.” Fisco grinned. “He’ll do anything for souls to turn into his little ghoulies. He wants to make people like you and me suffer, because that same suffering gives him strength. Him and Lucy, though. They weren’t in such a good position when I showed up. The market for souls is… cutthroat, to say the least. I made a bargain with him.” He chuckled lowly. This sort of superstitious bunk always tickled his funny bone. Of course, with how powerful ley-lines were on this plane; it actually had a rather powerful basis in fact. It was still funny, though. “At the crossroads.”
“You sold your soul?” She whispered, eyes wide. Fisco gave her a full belly laugh at that.
“Not a chance.” He told her. “Just the soul of anyone who crosses me.” She fell silent, and look towards the front of the shop, swallowing. “He’s under contract. I’m good at negotiations. He can’t break it without getting torn apart.”
“I… see.” She cleared her throat. “What happens to me now?” Fisco thought about that, and let her think about it too. Not much sense in sending her back out onto the street. Any belongings she did have were probably seized by Don Marco. If she had a place to stay it was certainly being watched. Fisco shrugged.
“Suppose I could sell you back to Marco.” He mentioned.
“You wouldn’t-” She panicked, eyes going wide.
“Wouldn’t I?” He stepped closer to her, threw his cigar on the ground, and stepped on it. “You charge in here, not knowing the first thing about me, and expect some knight to save you from the big bad Don? Lady.” He shook his head. “You made a mistake. And now I got to pay for it out of my pocket. Easiest way to settle expenses is to just give you to him.”
“He’ll kill me.” She whispered, looking down.
“And I won’t?” He spat, nostrils flared. She did not look up at him, but hunched her shoulders. “Give me one reason; one good reason why I shouldn’t just turn around and make a profit right now.”
He stood there in silence, and she sat. He pitied her, though. He had no reason to help her; life was tough for people like her. He still remembered what it was like. Clinging to strangers for sustenance. For money. Having to rely completely on the semi-compassionate whims of the aristocracy. He had dragged himself up from that by himself, though. Of course, the spark had helped. She did not have one of those, he was fairly certain. She, unlike him, had no way out.
“…I can’t.” She said finally.
“Can’t what?” Fisco asked, smirking.
“I can’t give you a reason. Not a good one. You should give me to the Don. I’m just…” There. Now Fisco saw it. The shoulders slumped, her head hang low. Her hands relaxed, no longer clasping tight, or wringing with worry. And the tear. The single tear that fell on his dusty hardwood floor. True defeat. “I’m just asking you not to.” She had been completely dependent on him for the past hour; now even she realized it. He turned around.
“Pull that rope over there; ladder’ll come down. Leads up to my living quarters.” He gestured to the hatch in the back of the storeroom. “As long as you stay in there, the Don can’t find you. Mal and Lucy keep the place safe.” She finally looked up, but it was just with confusion. “Don’t touch anything if you don’t know what it does, otherwise make yourself at home. You’ve got anything on the outside that needs fetching?” She shook her head. “Then get. I have to go run interference with Marco’s men to see if I can’t throw them off the trail.”
“Why?” She demanded, suddenly. “Why the whole speech, if you’re just going to help me anyway?” Fisco’s face went grim.
“Don’t get uppity, doll.” He warned. “When you first came here, I’d bought your mind; though I didn’t know it. You sold it to me because there was no other logical choice.” Fisco stuck out his thumb. “You gave me your blood, so I own your body too.” He extended his pointer finger. “Owning someone’s body and mind is pretty good, but not good enough.” He raised his middle finger slowly. “Just now, when you realized I can kill you, sell you, or save you on a whim? Well, you sold me your spirit, too. I’ve got you on lock, Cosette Desandro. You belong to me, mind, body and spirit.” He lowered his hand, and stared straight into her eyes. “And don’t you forget it.” She held his gaze for as long as she could, but this battle was already won. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.
“I understand.” She spoke softly as she exhaled. Fisco nodded tersely.
“Good. Now, up you go. I’ve got business to attend to.” She did as she was told, and opened the hatch. She eased the ladder down. “And see if you can’t make up something to eat by the time I get back. I’ll be hungry.” She raised her eyebrows at him.
“Right away, Mr. Vane.” She said. Fisco grinned.
“There’s a girl. If I’m not back in two hours I’m dead.” And with that, he turned his back on her and exited the storeroom. He saw potential in Cosette. She was not above bootlicking, though she had difficulty learning her place. But she was shrewd, and was able to read situations well. She could prove useful. But useful enough to start a blood war with Don Marco? Fisco smiled slowly at the thought. He could not say; and the gamble felt good. Real good.