Rotblossom Rose (1.70R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Past and present collide as Stethrey, a boy of ten years steps forward to face his father’s killer just as Rose’s own son, Gared, had tried to protect his own family that day on the road to Avalain.

“I will kill you, villain!” snarls little Stethrey, brandishing a small rapier.

Where he found the sword, Rose can not say, but he holds it well and even though there are tears in his eyes as he advances toward her, there is steel in them as well. She can see his father in the set of his jaw and nimble footwork, but the look in his eyes reminds her of his grandfather.

“Heed you mother and walk away, boy,” she says coldly, pointing the tip of her coilsword at him. “My blade still thirsts.”

“Never!” he says, hesitating only briefly.

“Nooo!” screams Amelia, a wrenching sound that seems directed at reality itself as much as her son.

By now their drama has gone on long enough that it has even disturbed even the cynical denizens of the city called The Scab; Rose can here the sound of booted feet running behind her. She does not bother turning, it will be over before they can intervene.

“Come at me then, boy,” she says, taking up a stance that is familiar to them both, circling so she can see both sides of the bridge. “Give the depths their due.”

He obliges. Stethrey’s thrust is surprisingly good, even to Rose. It reminds her of another little boy, so long ago, trying in vain to save his family, somehow striking a true villain. She smiles behind her silver skull mask as the tip pierces her jerkin; her nephew’s eyes are wide as his blade pulls free, stained crimson. Rose plays her role well and she feels no pain as she falls back against the railing where the last name on her list was crossed off moments ago. Her body slumps over the cold stone barrier and then plunges into the waiting abyss. As the shadows take her, Rose closes her eyes, picturing the little boy returning to his crying mother, a hero now, relief washing over them both.

She does not scream on the way down and her body is lost to the depths.

<>

Later, Geb will be standing by the gate with Scarab. He will have heard of of all that has passed, but faith and loyalty will keep him waiting.

He will catch sight of a face in the crowd that is both familiar and yet strange to him, bereft of both the outward ruin and the brooding weight of vengeance. He will call out.

And if I told you then that it was Rotblossom Rose and that she came to him and they laughed and embraced, would you believe me then? Or would you just tell me that I was seeing what I wanted to see?

<>

Thank you for reading. Let me know what you think!

 

Advertisements

Rotblossom Rose (1.69R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Rose waits for Edwyrd on the little stone bridge that he always takes when returning from his expeditions into The Hive. One would think that after so many ambushes he would alter his habits, but then again in days he had always emerged victorious thanks to her unseen hand. If only she had known…

Was this part of her brother’s game? Was he some deviant genius on the order of Lawch, or even the Spider, letting her ‘save’ him as a kind of sick joke, all the while knowing that he was the source of her misery?

If that is true, he certainly does not care for Jillia or Stethrey, who are bound and gagged near the bridge, plucked from their beds at sword-point by the skull-masked villain whispered of in lower wards that theirs.

Rose times her arrival at the bridge to coincide with Edwyrd’s, scouting in carefully in case someone else decides to lurk. Satisfied, ignoring the pleading groans of pretty Jillia and young Stethrey, she takes place on the bridge and waits, hand on the hilt of her coilsword, ready to cross the final name off her list.

Edwyrd spots her immediately as he climbs into view. He’s drunk as usual after a night of gambling, but that is not her concern. His gait before he sees her indicates that he had a good night, long confident strides and ease with his own inebriation. When he stops, sighting her, that pleased confidence vanishes. People have heard of the woman in the silver skull mask, and here she is, barring his path, staring at him like death herself.

He hesitates and then walks forward. She knew he would do this; Edwyrd was always overconfident, never understood what a flaw that was in a duelist. She draws her blade, leaving him no illusions as to her intent. His flashes from the scabbard in answer; their father’s old sword.

When he is a few paces away from the end of the bridge, she steps to one side and lets him see the tangled bundle beside her. His frightened wife and their defiant child cry out as best they can with the gags in their mouths.

“Unhand them, Villain!” he shouts, not even slurring his words a little. “Whatever you want from me, they have no part in this.”

Rose keeps her sword leveled at the pair. Part of her simply wants to ram the blade into one of them and watch Edwyrd break and she visited red ruin upon them. Would he drop his sword in anguish or fly into a mad rage? How would he act in the same situation that he had put her in when he hired Lawch and his band twenty years ago.

“No, don’t,” he pleads as she considers, and it is the sound of the boy still in him, her brother that stays her sword for a moment. “I am a man of means, tell me what you want!”

“Revenge,” says Rose. “To cross the last name off a very old list.”

He licks his lip, talking a half step toward her, eyes bright in the dim light. At Rose’s feet, young Stethrey is struggling mightily, as young Gared had when Morn had been reduced to screaming and dying, on that day.

“What do you mean? How have I wronged you?”

“You signed my death warrant, Edwyrd.”

He looks at her, memory blossoming in him. His eyes dart to the coilsword and recognition washes over him.

“You can’t be her, she is dead,” he whispers.

“I have been to the depths and back, brother,” sneers Rose. “I’ve killed Lawch and all of his band, and now I have come for you. But first, I think I will kill your wife and your child so that you can know the despair I felt. I wonder little blade, if you could have cut off your own arm to escape the slave pits or survived the machinations of the spider.”

Rage burns through Rose, like wildfire on dry grass, and she raises her metal arm. Edwyrd stares at her aghast, his face pale like a dead man’s. She savors his tortured expression, knowing that, at last, she has him where she wants him.

And then, unceremoniously, Edwyrd drops his blade. The priceless weapon clatters to cobbles, thunderous in her ears.

“I was never a fighter like you, Rose. You’re right. I would never have made it past all of the trials that you have survived,” as he speaks he walks past the blade and onto the bridge, lingering near the thick stone railing, eyes darting for a moment to the abyss below. “I could never beat you in a duel, and as long as you were alive I was second best. I won’t watch them die. If you want to kill me, you will have to be fast.”

And he was up and over the railing, leaping into the dark below.

“No!” howls Rose, flashing toward him with desperate speed.

But as fast as she is, the depths are faster. She catches a brief glimpse of him as he is swallowed into the dark and that was it. She listens but does even hear him strike the side or scream on the way down.

“FATHER!”

“Stethrey, no!”

Rose, tearing her gaze from the spot where Edwyrd dissappeared, turns. And there is little Stethrey, sword in hand, advancing toward her, vengeance in his eyes.

<>

[One more to go, folks]

Rotblossom Rose (1.68R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

“It was my brother Geb, it was Edword,” Rose is drunk on expensive wine, the stuff she used to drink in the Bedrock wards, at the house she shared with her fathers and brothers. She is not certain why she is even telling him, old faithful Geb, who has saved her life in the deeps a hundred times. The again, who else would she tell? Her life has been about subtraction, not addition, since that day on the road to Avalain.

“That is a right fucked up piece of business,” says Geb. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to do what he did to me…” says Rose. It is left unsaid that she also means Jillia and Stethrey, Geb knows this, but is too loyal to say what he truly thinks of that kind of murder.

“I’ve been thinking of leaving the city, Rose,” says Geb. “Just for a little while… maybe you should come with me, think about your… project. Live life a little.”

She wants to yell at him, to scream, to wail about the dreams that eat at her every night, a torment that only stops when she crosses a name off the list… or, when she is in the depths, with him, searching for Wraithstone under the city.

“I’ll think about it,” she says with finality.

“If you change your mind, Rose, I’ll meet you at the Merry Shank by Beggar’s Gate, I’ll be there for a few days,” and with that, he stood, flashes her a tired smile and walks out of the Rippershead.

Rose wants to say goodbye, but it catches in her throat. She has one last name to cross off, the most painful of them all. She lingers for some time, drinking, but the Ripperhead has lost its charm without Geb, without Ogre…

<>

She watches Edword that night with new eyes. How many times has she saved him over the years? She had thought that it made her a good person, a kind of hero instead of yet another stone-hearted murderer seeking revenge. But there were few heroes in The Scab, and maybe she had just been seeing what she wanted to see.

Edword dined with Jillia and Stethrey, eating the kind of meal that would have driven men in the slave mines wild. Unlike Rose, Edword had enjoyed that kind of cuisine all his life. Even with his penchant for drunken gambling, he never wasted enough money to lose station. There was always a rich boy who wanted to be tutored in the way of the coilsword.

She knew that it was only a matter of time before he went out again. he would walk across the same bridge into the lower wards as he always did, even though he had been ambushed there at least three times. She could meet him there, end it quickly… decisively. Even meet up with Geb after.

But she wanted him to suffer. She needed him to understand the full depth of his betrayal. Morn nailed to the flagstones outside of his own forge. Little Gared thrown screaming into a cesspit to drown in shit and piss after watching his father die. Janiye raped and sold to the slave mines to be used by men like Kragorr, fading away until at last she ended the pain herself.

She needs to take something from him before he dies, Rose decides darkly. And after she did what she had to do to come full circle, Rose doubts that she could ever look someone like stalwart old Geb in the eye again. Better to end it after that; to expose the lie of Edword’s life with her own blood and begone from this damned world.

And so she watched as Edword left his lovely manse to gamble and drink, but instead of following him, or confronting him, she put on her silver skull mask and crept toward that house, quiet as death, coilsword at her hip.

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.67R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

We are in the past, but not so far back now, to the Sorceress naming names.

“I should have known it was The Spider,” sneered Rose, after the Sorceress revealed his true identity and how he had hypnotized her.

“I will help you strike him down,” answered the Sorceress, sitting back in the luxurious room where Rose had first awakened after killing Lawch. “He won’t be able to resist so bloody little trophy from me, if it promises my death. I will regrow it after he dies or maybe keep it as a reminder of my part in this ordeal.”

“And what if he doesn’t?” said Rose. “He lives in a mad maze of traps with a moving entrance.”

“Do you think we are the only enemies that a man like the Spider has?” asked The Sorceress. “You and I will only be gaining entrance for a group of people who have the power to see him dead.”

“Who?”

“The Syndicate.”

“You can do that?”

“I have some contacts within the Synidcate, but you have all the evidence you need to bring them down upon him, and with a little piece of me, you will gain them access to his lair.”

“What evidence?”

“Your blood, Rose. He has reconstituted your body. That stuff is forbidden even within the Syndicate. That kind of blasphemy has brought war in the past. They will be very eager to… question… him.”

Rose laughed. It was a mad plan, but a good one.

“Fine. What about the surprise name. The one you say I got wrong.”

We see what we want to see, until the truth forces itself upon us giving us the choice between stark, spoiled reality and mad, but comfortable dissonance. These moments of truth are profound, but rare. Beliefs are challenged, faith is lost or becomes fanatical, the armour of innocence is breached.

One such moment for Rose, came when the Sorceress uttered that second name, the one that she got wrong.

“No, you’re lying,” spat Rose, but it was too late. She could already see it, feel the ring of truth in it, feel her faith wither. How may times had she cursed her father in the last twenty years for dying before she could sink her blade into him? How many times had she saved her brother from death or dishonour in the shadows of the city?

And yet, now this strange woman, Lawch’s Sorceress, who had been on her list was telling her that her own brother, little Edwird, had been the one to hire Lawch and his band of bastards to come to the house of the road to Avalainn. Her faith in him was not strong enough, and the truth bit deep, ripping away the illusion of his innocence in the matter.

“Edwird. His name for mine, Rose. His and the Spider’s.”

“Edwird,” said Rose, crying at last, broken and remade by the truth.

“Edwird.”

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.66R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Time collides as pain washes over Rose. She lives the present and the future as one long skein of agony, punctuated only briefly by moments of happiness that serve as the counterpoint to highlight the longs, dark lows.

But, she thinks, self-pity would have seen me dead in the slave-mines, twenty years past.

“Pain is a friend, girl,” he father’s voice comes to her, after knocking her down with a practice blade. “It teaches us when we have made a mistake and it also reassures us that we are still alive, and have room to correct our ways.”

“What does it teach those who are crippled by it father?” young Rose had retorted angrily.

“I’ll let you know,” he said simply. She never understood, still doesn’t. Maybe the Spider messed with her memories, didn’t Lawch say something to that effect?

How she had hated the old man, felt cheated that he died before she could feed him her steel. Rose now knew that it had not been him behind Lawch’s attack on that day in their little house on the road to Avalain. The Sorceress had revealed that it was someone else. The Sorceress had told the truth about The Spider and The Syndicate. Freed of Lawch, the Bleedweaver had no reason to lie…

There is still time to correct that mistake. Still time to fix the name on the plate in a mausoleum that she had scratched with an angry blade. Still time to write the correct name on that list and to cross it off. That is what the pain is telling her. That is the lesson.

So she accepts the pain, and she struggles.

<>

A hard-eyed woman stands over her. Lithe and and vicious as the whip at her side, Mrs Lash, looks down her and smiles.

“Well, well, that did not take long at all.”

Rose sits up, ignoring a sudden moment of nausea. She is pleased to feel her metal arm back on her shoulder, where it belongs. She looks at Mrs Lash, short dark hair and luminescent blue eyes, a killing blade on her hip across from the whip.

“Where are we?” asks Rose. Part of her expects that they are in the syndicate, that she might not be free. Yet.

“In a little inn, south of the Hive,” answers Mrs Lash. “My associate, Mr Hale is not here. He tends to unsettle the folk.”

Rose laughs “I think he came close to making The Spider soil himself; I will treasure that look so long as I live.”

Mrs Lash smiles appreciatively. “If he didn’t then, he will certainly soil himself once he understands what The Syndicate is going to do with him.”

“I won’t ask,” says Rose. “But be careful with him, he is a clever one.”

Mrs Lash laughs now. “Not clever to realize that he would be better off with The Syndicate than against it. Men like The Spider have escaped the Syndicate before. We always get them back. His little lair kept him from them, but they understand it now. I made certain that it was thanks to you.”

“Why?”

“I like a woman who can laugh in the face of such a wretched death.”

“Am I…” the words almost stick in Rose’s throat. “Free to go?”

“Yes,” says Mrs Lash. “I am to deliver a warning to you not to talk about what you saw in the Spider’s lab, even what you understand of it. The syndicate doesn’t want people to experiment with that kind of thing. The Spider was very close to unleashing something that would have killed both of you and half the people of The Hive, or so I’m told.”

“Understood. I know better than to pry in the Syndicate’s business.”

“Smart. I’ve left you some of the Spider’s money, and bought you some nice clothes in your size. Your wounds are healed and no one knows that you led us to the Spider.”

“Thank you.”

“Before I go, one last thing; if you get tired of Scabbing or killing people from your past, seek me out in the Syndicate wards, you have talents we can use.”

And with that, Mrs Lash turns and walks gracefully from the room, pausing only to nod at Rose as she passes through the door.

Her exit leaves Rose alone, thinking of the future and the last name she needs to cross off her list.

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.65R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Darkness swam at the edges of Rose’s vision, hungry and inevitable.

The Spider was panicking now, his composure broken, fear making him darkly comic rather than repulsively monstrous.

The dark did not intimidate her though, because she and it were old friends. She’d grown used to death in dealing it, crossing names off her list,  and also in dying many deaths down here in The Spider’s disturbing little playroom. Nothing to fear there, either.

Best to just hold on and enjoy the show, she thought, as the Spider scrambled, pulling levers, staring at distant parts of his lair through a periscope.

“No, no, no,” the word tumbled from The Spider’s mouth, pained and despondent. His fear and panic was a balm to her as she bled out. If she was to die here, what a way to go! She did not really want to learn the truth behind the other name that the sorceress had given her, to be honest.

Rose was getting cold now, not a good sign. Still, she clung to consciousness, spurred by the desire to see her design come to fruition and end the bastard.

“No, NOOO!” shrieked The Spider. How often had his victims, Rose herself even, screamed as shrilly only to be met with his scorn as they met their end strapped to his torture table.

Distantly, even in her sorry, state heard the sound of metal shrieking.

“Won’t…,” she rasped, turning to spit, tasting blood in her mouth.  “Womn’t be long now.”

The Spider looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. Had he forgotten that she was there?

“You…” he said. “You did this to me!”

“Yes,” snarled Rose. “I am your doom Olias Neatze. I killed you while I was strapped down to a fucking table in your rape dungeon.”

And she laughed, and her scorn hit him like a fist, shocking him into silence. Behind him Rose saw the door buckle inward and something, huge, shaped like a man but not man, nor wrongblood push the door off its hinges with the strength of an avalanche in slow motion.

“No…” whispered The Spider and the enormous, inhuman man took hold of him, a single hand around The Spider’s head, like Rose might hold an egg.

“My my, look at this place, Mr Hale,” said a woman’s voice. A slim fighter in black leather armour emerged from the giant’s shadow. “You have been doing some very naughty things here Mr Spider.”

“Please–” begged the Spider, his voice muffled by the giant’s hand.

Rose, fading, could barely follow the movement made by the woman as she lashed out striking the Spider with a fist and driving the win from him.

“Easy, Mrs Lash,” said the giant, his voice low and calm. “They want him alive, for now.”

“Oh I won’t kill him,” said Mrs Lash. “But I will hurt him if he speaks again.”

“That one is still alive,” said the Giant, his pale green eyes flicking to Rose. “What should we do?”

Rose could not even muster the energy to speak, but she smiled, looking at the Spider. It did not matter if she died here, now that she’d engineered his death by leading the Syndicate to him.

“This one lives,” said Mrs Lash, walking over to Rose and grabbing her jaw. “Someone with real sway wanted her to keep breathing. Quite frankly I’m relieved that we don’t have to get ugly here to work his magic to make sure she’s alive.”

Mrs Lash, blue eyes piercing Rose, pulled her jaw open and uncerimoniously dumped a vial of The Clear and a vial of the Green down her throat at the same time.

“No hard feelings, Miss Rose,” said Mrs Lash as the mixture brought life to Rose’s battered body. “We don’t have time to fix you gently, so its going to hurt.”

But pain was an old friend too.

<>

Rotblossom Rose (1.64R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

“They say that those who go against the Syndicate are lighting their own pyre,” began Scarab, his tone hush and subdued as if they might be listening even in the depths underneath the Scab. “You’ve seen their enforcers, of course.”

“Yes,” said Rose, everyone knew that the Syndicate had an army of peacekeepers that patrolled the territory they claimed and guarded the many trading stations where the Syndicate Alchemists traded for raw Wraithstone, sold purified extract and other Wraithstone products, and purified the copper, silver, gold and other metals that absorbed the Bleed emanating from the Gash.

“And you’ve seen how their are far more Wrongbloods and bleedwarpt things underneath Syndicate territory?”

“Yes, yes, I assumed that was why they needed so many guards,” answered Rose. “You’re not telling me that you believe that the Syndicate actually employs assassin death squads that kill any alchemist who defies their will, are you?”

“What’s you’re explanation for why there are no alchemists operating outside the Syndicate then, bedrock? Surely you don’t think reputation is enough to overcome greed in a place like this…”

“Economy of scale,” said Rose. “The Syndicate is so big that they just drive everyone else out of business or force them to come to terms.”

“What about the stubborn ones who go missing?”

“This is the fucking Scab scarab, Wrongblood ghouls pull people out of their backyards and devour them with alarming frequency. Thieves are attracted to Wraithstone.”

“And what about the five kingdoms?” said Scarab. “They used to have their own alchemist’s guilds, and yet now they use those provided by the Syndicate or none at all.”

Rose fell silent. That was far harder to explain.

“You can think what you want boss, but if you ever cross the Syndicate count me out,” said Scarab. “I love you like me own sister and you’re a stone-cold scabber, but I’ll not end up like those poor things that we hunt under their wards. Hear me out, now, and judge for yourself.”

“I was delving with a crew out of South Tailings. This was before I got my debt to the Spider. The crew was good and the boss weren’t bad. Certainly not a cheap fuck who sends us down the worst lifts.”

“Was their Sniffer as good as me?”

“No. but they weren’t bad. The crew used two and we always broke even when we delved. I don’t think you appreciate how rare that is. We were getting rich. I was still young, thinking of buying my way into a good ward and settling down with a nice, ripe girl who would smile at all my stories with light behind her eyes…”

“Bit optimistic for a Scabber.”

“Aye, its true. You would not have recognized me then. So we was getting rich, slowly but surely. Thing is the boss of the crew, a man named Pythius Dram, was getting richer, faster. He started flaunting his wealth. Moved out of the hive and right to the Pinnacle Ward one day.”

Rose whistled. That was beyond even her crew, and they were among the most successful operating today. The Spider had enough money, to be certain, but no one would want him as a neighbor.

“Yeah. I found out later that ol’ Pythius had acquired an alchemist of his own, captured by Wikenish raiders. I don’t know if he kept the man as a slave or if he legitimately financed his operation, but I do know that they made a batch of the clear.”

“That’s crazy,’ said Rose. “I would have heard of that.”

“They only made one batch,” said Scarab. “We came up after a Delve one day and a Syndicate rep with some heavies were waiting for us at Pythius’s warehouse. Boss was gone, they said. They were real interested in what we knew. A few of the boys tried to flee the city that night. My old crew boss and the sniffers were among them. The Syndicate caught them and burned them to ashes with a flame lance in sight of the city walls. I talked to some watchmen who saw it. They were my mates, Rosie, but I knew better than to ask after them after that.”

“I’m sorry about your friends.”

“Yeah, that’s not the worst of it though. A few delves later my new crew killed a tough wrongblood, big bloody red. Came right for me, even though I was at the back. It was wearing the same fucking bracelet that Pythius always wore, one I’d never seen the like of elsewhere. I don’t know what to believe. Maybe it was him, maybe the Syndicate put it there as a warning to me, or maybe it was just coincidence. All I know, it that you don’t mess with the Syndicate.”

<>