Pim’s hands shook as she locked the door behind her. She slid the two deadbolts into place, armed the wards on the door, and sat down on the stool behind the front counter of the shop. Slowly, deliberately, she withdrew a bottle of Trog Sweat and a glass. She poured the spirits into the plain cup, hoping that if she did so slow enough, thought about it hard enough, she could stop the trembling that was making the liquor splash on the table.
She had been followed again, that much she knew. But by who? One of Ghrast’s cronies, maybe, but she had never known the tuskmouth to be so subtle. She wasn’t even sure he knew the word. Who, then? She hadn’t stepped on any toes in the Circles, none that knew it was her anyhow. Or did they? Maybe Lalic was finally getting wise to who her competition was. Still, it wasn’t like her to be so openly confrontational as to send a tail. It was looking more and more like there was an unknown variable in Westside, a prospect Pim liked even less.
Possibilities spun through the halfling’s head as she tossed back the last of the foul liquid. Aptly named, she mused. Maybe it was some visitor come to call from those smoke-stained days of yore. She stared glumly down into her glass. She had always known it was a possibility, but eight years on, she had hoped it was one that would never come to pass. She had let her guard down over the years more than she cared to admit. Not to intruders, mind. She had her security for that, her ear to the ground and her finger ever on the pulse of the city. No, she had dropped her guard to this place. Gotten comfortable. Gotten to like it. Like the streets, like the people. She had let it get its arms around her, making her blind to the constriction for her own happiness. The thought of leaving it all behind, cutting loose and running, was more painful to her than she had realized. There was a bitter taste in her mouth. She chalked it up to the Trog Sweat.
Maybe it’s time to stop, she thought, money be damned. I only need the money for the security and the payoffs, and I only need those because of how I get the money. Maybe it’s better just to cut it all out. She turned the glass slowly on the counter, watching the patterns of soft candlelight warp and shift across the knotted wood. Fears flickered. Maybe they would come for her, any of the numerous “they”s she had accumulated over the years, come and try to burn down what she had. What would she do then? Her hand ran absently through her hair before coming to rest on the table. It had stopped shaking. I’d fight, she thought. She stared down at the counter and took a deep breath. She’d fight.