On the same morning…
A member of the city guard stands watch at the North Gate, ‘stands’ is generous… slouches really, with his curved back leaning against the stonework of the arch. His spear stands guard as well, leaning against the wall beside him; the two cast long early morning shadows in the dust. The guard takes a long slow drink from the rough clay flagon of ale in his hand and wipes the foam from his thick black stubble with the back of a leather-gloved hand. He offers some ale to the spear that stands beside him with a crooked smile.
“Eh? …No?…Well, suit yourself.” He replies with shrug and takes another drink.
A second figure in the arch lets out a judgemental sigh. The man sits atop a high stool at an angled writing desk. The stool and desk are sun-bleached and otherwise weathered from the elements, but the man is well-dressed in brown high-collared jacket and a loosely-woven cravat. He looks up wearily from his bookkeeping, shakes his head and returns to his figures.
An uncommonly tall slender women in a heavily-embroidered thick blue cloak approaches. Her hood is drawn up over her head so that the men can only see the bottom half of her face. The two men look up, simultaneously noticing her presence.
No one speaks. The sentry’s and the the customs agent’s eyes follow the woman as she passes through the gate unchallenged. She smiles at the man at his desk and half-curtseys, barely breaking her measured stride.
Once she has passed several yards into the distance towards the center of Great Harbor the customs agent blinks, clears his throat and narrates to himself as he scratches with a quill. “Time: Five and three quarters, of the Sun. Woman, presumably of noble birth. Nothing to declare.”
The guard speaks up, “Nothing?” the guard smiles to himself “…I don’t know about that. I think she may have been smuggling two great big sacks of flour under her blouse.”
The customs agent shoots a nasty glare at the guard and says “Oh, dry up, you twat.”
Six and one half, of the Sun
The beautiful woman steps over the slumped body of member of the Kingsguard as she turns the bronze handle of a heavy, and finely-painted, wooden door. In the room King Tung sits at a writing desk covered with parchment maps and without looking up groans and sneers, “I clearly stated I was not to be disturbed.”
The woman withers where she stands, writhes in agony and morphs into a man of similar stature but hunched over an intricately carved staff which appeared from the ether. The stranger bangs his staff a single time upon the ground angrily. “Now is that any way to talk to an honored guest.”
The king looks up and the remaining color in his sickly pallid skin drains from his face. “You? I… I told you never to visit me here,” he says hastily in a hushed, fearful tone.
“And I agreed to that request,” the stranger says with venom in his voice without hesitation “…but I cannot honor the terms of our agreement, if you do not honor the very same terms as well. You see,” the stranger paused “there is the matter of a shipment of gold; it’s late. Or from what I gather, not coming at all.” The stranger says eerily with a hint of sarcasm.
“What? I…I don’t understand.”
“Yes… I see that you clearly do not…” continued the strange man a bit discouraged. “You do not understand the exceptional necessity of making these payments… you do not understand the severity with which failure to make said payments will be dealt… and, most of all, it seems you do not understand, or rather simply lack awareness of the fact, that your gold… my payment was stolen right from under your nose. Regretfully I must inform you that the shipment didn’t even make it out of your city,” the stranger sneered.
Some of the kings color returned to his face and he clenched his gaunt jaw slowly mulling over the disturbing news. “I’ll deal with these thieves,” he said though his teeth as he slammed a tightened fist on his writing desk spilling a morning glass of wine. “You’ll get your gold Byrne dun Ming.”
“See that I do, King Tung, or your days are numbered.” Byrne said and, having accomplished what he set out to do, he nodded his head, turned decisively and, scraping his staff on the stone floor, exited the king’s chambers.