Black Desert is currently in the middle of a heavy rewrite. Here’s some additional sceneage I was working on today (I’ll post something with a bit more action tomorrow):
“Mercia’s mother called,” Suha said. She put out the cigarette and stuffed a wad of sen between teeth and cheek. Her teeth were stained bloody crimson from long years of use. Both habits were far healthier substitutes to venom.
“She deposit my fee?” Nyx asked.
“Yeah. Says she’s taking you off her daughter’s case, though.”
“Says she heard we had some trouble downtown today.”
“Fucking diplomats. She should thank me for keeping her daughter alive.”
“I called the bounty note office like you asked,” Suha said. She started the bakkie and turned them out onto south Raban. From here, Nyx could just see the curved amber spire of the Orrizo in the distance – a monument to anonymous dead men. “There’s no record that anybody put out a note on you or Mercia. That bel dame was definitely rogue. Maybe running black work for some Ras Tiegan government official? Somebody who wanted to get to Mercia’s mother?”
“Then at least I’ve got my right ass cheek covered,” Nyx said. The left, she wasn’t so sure about.
Eshe hopped up and down in his seat. Nyx wondered if she was ever that giddy at fourteen. “Does this mean we’re going to the bel dame office?”
“It means I’m going to the bel dame office,” Nyx said. She palmed some of Suha’s sen.
“Thought you made a habit of running black work back when you were a bel dame,” Suha said. “Why do you care so much about turning her in? Burn the head and be done with it.”
“I don’t generally mind folks running around picking up illegal bounties,” Nyx said, “but she made a mistake.”
“And what was that?” Suha said.
“She tried to kill me.”
“You sure they’ll let you in there?” Suha said.
“We’ll find out.”
The bel dame reclamation office in Mushtallah was at the base of the city’s sixth hill, known to many as Bloodmount. Particularly pious Nasheenians paid exorbitant prices to take a brief, musty tour of the interior of the derelict that made up the center of the hill. Most of the hills of Mushtallah were artificial. Their rotting cores were made up of old refugee ships, derelicts from the mass exodus from the moons back at the beginning of the world. Nyx had never been down there – she didn’t much care what came before her – but she heard most of it was sealed off anyway. What was left was just a sterile tangle of old metal, bug secretions, and bone dust.
As they came around Palace Hill, Bloodmount came into view. At the height of the hill, a single tower gleamed a burnished copper color. That was the only visible part of the ship above ground, a twisted metal spire where every bel dame took her oath to uphold the old laws of blood debt.
“You sure you want to do this today?” Suha muttered, and spit sen out the open window.
Nyx stared out at the spire. The bel dame training schools, residences, and reclamation office ringed the base of the hill. From here, she couldn’t see the organic filter that protected the hill, but she’d been through it enough to know that it was the most powerful one in Nasheen. Hard to do, with Palace Hill just up the street. The inner filters were more precise, and more deadly. She didn’t figure she’d get much past the first filter on this little jaunt.
Suha drove to the big, burst-scarred main gate at the base of the hill. This neighborhood was mostly boxing gyms and cheap eateries. There were a few shabby text stores and some bodegas. Nyx stepped out of the bakkie and looked up in the tenement windows above the shops. Teenage girls – bel dame hopefuls and university students – sat around on the tiny balconies. High pitched laughter trickled out over the street. She caught a whiff of marijuana, opium, and the distinctive milky stink of too many teenage women. A couple of leggy girls stood on the stoop of a bodega across from the bakkie. They smoked clove and marijuana cigarettes and wore calf-length burnouses and looked Nyx over with heavy-lidded eyes.
“Can I come?” Eshe asked, leaning out the window. A couple of passing girls turned at his voice and stared outright. One of them stumbled. Her companion shrieked with laughter.
Nyx pushed his head back into the bakkie. “Stay with Suha. This isn’t a good place for boys.”
“You heard me. I’ll lose com with you once I’m inside the filter,” Nyx told Suha. “I’m not back in two hours, you file a report with the Order Keepers.” Not that it would do much good. Bel dames considered themselves autonomous. How they dealt with Nyx and her news was no business of the Queen’s, so far as they were concerned – even if Nyx hadn’t been one of their number in over a decade. At least if someone filed a report her absence would be noted.
Nyx motioned for Suha to pop the trunk. She dug the burnous-wrapped bel dame’s head out of the back and slung it over her shoulder. The burnous had eaten most of the blood, but it was stained a clotted amber brown.
She leaned into the driver’s side window and nodded to the side street. “There’s a good Ras Tiegan place two streets over called the Montrouge. Get the kid a soda and some curried dog.”
Eshe grimaced. “Tonight’s fight night.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” Nyx said. “Save room for rotis and beer, all right? I might be a bit.”
She wanted to pat his head, but he’d been too old for that for a long time. She snorted. Kids belonged at the coast. Nobody else knew what to do with them. She’d always thought it’d get easier as he got older. But it just got more awkward. Some days she wished he’d stayed eight years old forever.
“You watch yourself in there,” Suha said.
“You watch yourself out here,” Nyx said, and waved. She walked up to the front gate, and turned to watch Suha drive back out onto the main street.
There was a young woman at the gate, just a kid, maybe twenty. Couldn’t have served a day at the front. She had clear skin and clear, shiny eyes. Definitely not a day at the front.
“Here to report a rogue bel dame,” Nyx said.
“You got identification?” the woman said. Nyx held out her hand.
The woman pricked Nyx’s finger and smeared the blood on her desktop slide.
Nyx watched her reaction as the file came up. But the girl barely blinked. She raised her head.
“You’ve got level one clearance. You can go as far as the reclamation office without being cleaned.” She punched open the gate.
Nyx slipped inside. The gate clanged behind her. Old metal, the sort of stuff that came off derelicts. She walked across the courtyard, past the bakkie barns. A couple of tissue mechanics raised their heads as she passed.
The bounty reclamation office was a single-story building of amber stone. Most of the original arches had been whittled away by small arms fire, and what remained had been badly reconstructed. Only half of the bel dame oath was visible. The complete line, the heart of the bel dame oath, was “My life for a thousand.” All that was visible above the office was “My life.” Nyx thought that somehow appropriate, knowing what she did about bel dames.
She hesitated at the stoop. It’d been awhile since she crossed one of these thresholds.
“Well, shit,” she said aloud, and hauled the bel dame’s head into the office.