“Raise you ten.” Lens leaned back on his chair with a smile on his face. “Is that your hands trembling, Al?”
The man to his opposite frowned and tightened his grip. He glanced from his cards to Lens, then back to the cards—brows furrowed, wrinkles forming up his forehead.
And still the fool tries to read me. “Come, Al. There’s a lot at stake here. We’ve raised too far out for the day.”
Al watched him intently, wrinkles furrowing deeper on his temple.
Go on, then. Lens’ lip twitched slightly at the corner. Try to read my face. More the attention there, the better.
“Sharks!” Al cursed, letting his cards fall. “Fold.”
“Aw, come, man, Al,” some brown-haired boy said. One of the many spectators. “He is only bluffing. You know that!”
Lens lips curled to a crooked smile.
The big man snorted. “Well, yes…” He set his jaws tight. “But he could just as easily be telling the truth. There’s no reading this man. And I’ve just lost too much today.”
“Wise man, you are, Al.” Lens spread out his cards.
“Three wizards!” Al gasped. “That’s a bit too much luck for a day.”
Lens collected his coins with one swipe of the table and stuffed it into his leather bag. “Have some spirit, Al. Now, we’d a great time, no?”
“Yenh—” The big man shrugged. “Easy for you to say. Don’t have no woman waiting up for you to bring some riches back home, eh?”
“Uh-huh. No home. No woman. Lots of women, though.” Lens swung the bag of coins across his shoulder, hitting the folded cards and scattering it all over in the process. “So long, then. Meet ye when I do!”
He whistled to low note as he turned to leave.
“Now, wait a fuckin moment!” Al’s voice came from behind.
“Enough with your complaining, Al,” he turned back sharp. “What did I say about—”
Two wizards looked out at him from the big guy’s hand. He took a quick glance at the table and found the three that he showed still lying there.
Al furrowed his brows. “Looks like two wizards went astray from the folded set to the playing set, neh?”
Lens clicked his tongue. “Well, you know what they say in south—never trust them fuckin wizards.”
He darted toward the nearest door.
“Come back’ere,” Al roared. “Bloody cheat!” He followed after Lens.
Lens danced his way around the crowd of people, jumped over a table…grabbed a piece of meatsauce from one of them…and skittered out past the door.
“Here, boy. Here!” he screamed, hovering the meatsauce in air.
Five large stray dogs came galloping toward him.
Al arrived right on time. “I am taking them shiny coins for my wife tonight, Lens.”
“How very unromantic!” Lens threw the meatsauce at him. “Try some meatsauce instead.”
The dogs jumped at Al, bringing him down along.
“Fuck! I’ll skin you, Lens. Get’em off me.”
Lens smiled with content and darted away.
He walked a narrow path in the Silk street. The busy evening market flanked his way and he blended among them like shadows blend to night. Safer that way. When you’re Lens Ryk, there’s no telling who might decide to show up and put a steel inches deep into your gut.
“Hey, Lens!” A honey-coated voice stopped him on his tracks. He followed the sound to find a young girl standing, leaning against a pillar.
“Well, hello, there…” he said, an eyebrow raised.
“Long time, sweet,” she said, eyes flickering.
“Indeed. Two weeks, is it?” He put his fingers against his stubbles. “No, wait. That was someone else.”
The girl rolled her eyes. “Let’s just…” She put her smile back. “Let’s just head over to my place, what do you say?” She pressed her soft delicate finger against his chest.
“What do I say?” He grinned and raised his arm up in air. “I say haa-ooh, girl.”
Lens leaned against the wall with his hand as he watched the girl unlock the front door.
“Colored it again, eh?” Lens remarked. The color of the house definitely had been different last time around.
She narrowed her eyes with a hint of a smile. “So you couldn’t place my name but remembered the color of my house?”
“Yuh, no. Actually, the paint got on my hand.” He placed his hand before her, blue as the house.
She crackled softly and rolled her eyes.
The lock clicked and she opened the door. “Shall we get inside?” she said.
He shrugged. “Well, that’s the whole point of the door, right?”
She sighed, then stepped closer and kissed him on the lips. A deep, passionate kiss. The likes of which he’d never received.
She pulled him in, slammed the door shut behind her, and locked it. “I’m so going to miss you.”
He breathed in as much as possible. “I get that a lot.” Then blinked hard. “Wait, what?”
She snapped her fingers in a loud click.
Ten armored men stormed out. Weapons at the ready.
“Lens Ryk,” one of them said, voice heavy. “You have the orders to surrender to our custody. Any reprehension would be taken as criminal offense against the state and the King.”
He spread his arms out. “Hmm, I get that a lot, too.”
Lens watched around the room. No windows, no access to any other rooms or the roof, no furnitures, no chances of managing a make-shift weapon, no speaking your way out of it, and just one exit that was already locked. Also, no instrument for the make-shift key.
Sweet Crackles! The house was redesigned to be Lens Ryk proof. “So, I guess no haa-ooh, then?”
The man with the heavy voice handed over a bag to the girl. Lens resisted a serious urge to ask the price at which he was rated.
Why go to this length for me? Thousands of answers surfaced his mind.
Alright, who could be most desperate?
Lens pursed his lips. “Very well, brave people. Legends will speak of how you used a fragile girl to get to me.” He tried mustering as much of a guilt-laden face as he could, and raised both hands in air. “I surrender to your custody, or whatever it is.”
The men brought out a thick steel chain, some six feet long and possessing several locks.
Lens frowned. “Oh, you overestimate me.”
But the heavy armored men were having none of it. He was tightened with chains all over, save for his head and legs—and that too in a fashion that he couldn’t move freely more than a yard.
“God, we’re going to move slow. Hope you’ve brought chariots, eh?”
Someone pushed him from behind. “Move, thief.”
“Master,” he said. “It’s master-thief.” He bowed to the girl as much as the tight chains allowed. “Well, meet ye’ when I do…erm…” He squinted his eyes, hard. “Some girl.”