"Gone, what do you mean gone?" Edward asked Madam Fiona.
"I mean Lisa is gone darling, she'd been saving up for a time now."
"I don't understand. I thought... I mean," he shook his head.
"You thought she loved you? Come darling, you're smarter than that."
The madam was right, he was smarter than that, he knew she didn't truly love him. But it was fun to play pretend for a time. That didn't mean it wasn't painful for him.
"Did she even leave a note?"
Fiona shook her head.
Edward scoffed, 'This is what I get for loving a whore,' and then left the brothel.
He should have known better, no woman had ever loved him before, not even his own mother. He cried, but stopped soon after and wiped away his tears. He didn't need her, he can do better. He will do better, first, he just needed to get out from under the thumb of the Baron.
'Twelve gold crowns was a lot. It will take me years to pay that off at this rate. But if I leave the city, it's not like he's a lord or anything, he can't get me outside these walls.'
A plan formed in his head, a dangerous plan, but with Lisa gone he had little left to lose and nothing truly keeping him in this city. He would need at least twelve silver bits for it all, though, two for the horse to flee on, and the other ten for the weighed dice. If he played the game right he could make that much silver in a fortnight.
But he would have to go to a new gambling house, one where they didn't know his face. Win a few silvers there, and leave before he got too lucky. He could then move on to a new house, and keep going on like that until getting the silver he needed. Then it would be back to the Baron's gambling house, this time for a dice game of Snakes, Axes, and Crowns.
Every time you rolled a crown you won a gold coin. But the cost per a roll was two silver coins, and if no crowns rolled you lost. If you rolled only axes you then had to pay out five more silver coins in addition to the two to play. Worst of all it was three dice, and of the six sides, only one had a crown on each dice.
In fact, it was that game that got him so far in debt with the Baron in the first place. This was at the height of his gambling problem, and that night he was drunker than he'd ever been in his life. It was all such a haze he hardly even remembered playing so much. Often he questioned if he did indeed play so much, that he managed to get himself into a debt of over twenty golden crowns. He didn't even have that many coins on him, but it mattered not, for the Baron, or his lackey would kill him if he didn't pay the debt off, or, in this case, work it off.
He wasn't going to be in debt to that sleazy fat bastard forever, though. Soon enough he would take him for as much as he could before leaving this city and everything behind him. Moving on was, at least, the one thing he was good at.
Sal came into the alley dressed as a common peasant, and smelling like lemons. The lanky man liked those sour things too much. "Boss wants a word, calling in everyone for something important."
'That was good, or better than just him,' he thought. If it were just him being called in then it was guaranteed bad news. The Baron was like the king of crime for the city. You want a man killed, or stolen treasures sold, hell even want someone to steal something for you, you went to the Baron.
This new treat that was being sold came from nowhere, he wondered if even the Baron knew who created it. Of course, the Baron was the official supplier, but he never took the credit for making it. And when someone asked where it came from or who made it, he had his tongue pulled out with hot pincers, a message to everyone not to ask those kinds of questions.
"Can you believe it?" Edward asked following Sal. "Damn kids trying to buy some Baron Delight. Kids don't be needing this poison, they need real candy like the kind bakers might have, or a puppeteer might sell after a show for some extra coin."
"So why not sell it to them? A customer is a customer."
Edward grabbed Sal by his tunic and slammed him hard against the wall. Even with Sal's dagger pressing into the side of his neck, breaking through his skin, he pinned him against the wall in anger. "Listen up and listen well, I don't peddle this stuff to kids! Got it?"
He let go after that and Sal pulled back his dagger and they continued on in silence. Edward rubbed at the thin cut on his neck, 'Maybe I'll show Sal my dagger before I leave.'
Edward was led to the center buildings in Rats Hobble. Which were formally a group of decent houses build just a few feet apart until the Baron seized them, tore down certain walls and had some builders connect them all into one large single building. This place was called the Warehouse, he stored and distributed almost all of the "treat" in there. It was also ideal for meetings in the closed off area that were originally the first home of the bunch he seized.
He was taken through the side entrance to the Warehouse. Sal told him to wait outside the door before he could come in, then he went inside to Second House. Edward leaned against the wall looking around the Warehouse.
He was annoyed at how much room was used just for storing the crates filled with the "treat". Several homes were taken all just to store these crates and Edward lived in a place half the size of just one of them. He hated it, some days he wished he could set the whole Warehouse on fire, with the Baron still in it.
"Daydreaming of sabotage again are we?" a familiar voice asked Edward.
He turned to see Ron, a plain-faced man with broad shoulders and short, brown curly hair. Ron was the closest thing to a friend Edward had. Ron watched his back when he had the free time, helped make sure Edward wasn't robbed of his cache. Of course, he had a knife, and a decent idea of how to use it, but he was no fighter.
Ron was a good fighter, nothing too special, but having him around made Edward feel at ease. Just knowing someone had his back in case things got bad was comforting. But it wasn't entirely out of kindness, Ron only looked out for him as a personal investment. Every other week Edward would join Ron in going to a gambling house to hustle cards, or dice for some nice coins on the side; Ron took home 8 coppers for every 10 they won.
"One day," he said maliciously, "one day."
"Yea and one day I'll have a wife with a great pair of tits on her, and that can cook me a decent meal."
"You'd get bored of her in a fortnight, well her cooking at least," Edward japed.
Ron got a hardy laugh from that and slapped Edward so hard on the shoulder it was sure to leave a bruise. "Speaking of woman," Ron started.
"She moved," Edward said quickly. "Whore didn't even have the decency to leave me a note or explanation." Edward looked down and fought back the tears threatening to fall. He couldn't cry in front of any of these men, they'd eat him alive if he did. He managed to hold them back as more people came in to line up and wait to see what the Baron wanted with them.
Before too long the others were called in, one by one. After hardly a minute the next person was called in, this process kept up until it was only Ron and Edward. Then Ron was called in next, he said not a word as he went in, but almost right after the door shut there was a loud commotion from inside.
It sounded like a violent struggle, loud grunts, furniture-smashing, then Ron let out a pained yelp. And then it was silent, and the door opened up and Sal came out, huffing for breath. He called for Edward to follow him inside, cautiously Edward obeyed.
The room inside was a mess with the slain bodies of the others lying about, blood splattered on the wall, and all the chairs and tables smashed up. He was so frozen with fear he hardly felt Sal grab his arm and then run the sharp of his blade across his throat.
The next thing he knew Sal was standing three feet from him, snapping his fingers in his face. "Hey stupid, snap out of it," Sal said.
Edward jumped with fear, and a cry of surprise. All his breath was lost and he grabbed his neck, it was unscathed. Sal slapped him lightly on the face a couple times, and Edward was spooked, remembering his weird vision. He panicked and slammed his head into Sal hard as he could.
Sal reeled back and Edward stepped up to him then brought his knee up into Sal's crotch before he could recover. Then Edward shoved him down and ran in a blind panic. He made it far, almost all the way home until a massive shadow beast blocked his path.
Edward was frozen, staring at this thing which was so unreal and yet undeniable. It snarled then lunged at him, mouth gaping open. He couldn't move, hard as he tried, something more than fear paralyzed him. And with one gulp it consumed him, into its dark void.
Edward later awoke to a pounding at his door. He got up, trying to remember what happened after he went with Sal to the Warehouse. Everything was such a blurry haze, it hurt his head to think about it.
He opened the door, on the other side was Ron. "I don't know what that was back there at the Warehouse, but Sal is furious with you. He's looking for you so he can cut your parts off, and then kill you."
Edward chuckled, that much he remembered, hitting Sal in the crotch with his knee. That felt good to get back at that lemon-sucking prick. Although his amusement at it all seemed to almost disturb Ron. That wasn't a good sign, something bad must have happened, and it was more than him hitting Sal.
"Alright, you have more news to share, worse news. So out with it," Edward said.
"The Baron has finally gone off the deep end," Ron said, sounding scared. "He's got all these people, including the ones buying that treat of his we're peddling, arming themselves for a war. He plans to overthrow the entire city guard by ambushing them, and he wants everyone to fight, including you."
Edward muttered a curse to himself, all his plans just went up in flames. He barely had any coins saved away.
"My advice take whatever coins you got stashed away and get the hell out of this city for good. That's what I'm doing."
"When's he planning all of this insanity?"
"He's been planning it for a while, but we were the last to know. It's all going down tomorrow around midday. I'm leaving tonight."
Ron put a firm hand on Edward's shoulder, "It's been nice knowing you, we had some fun times."
Edward grinned, "They weren't boring, I'll give you that."
Ron gave him a last concerned look then turned and left. Edward shut the door, then fell back on it, sinking slowly to the floor. 'What the hell am I going to do now?' he asked himself. One thing was for sure, he had to get out of the city, today.