Isarn smelled of blood. Old rotted blood and fresh spray both, he could smell it even through his mask. It was the kind of place that had predators and prey, victims and victimizers. So many opportunities were here, but one should stay focused. There was a goal rather than just the work, the work could wait. The job always came first, and it was a pretty big job. He wasn’t sure what the others really made of Isarn, however.
Mallory was born here, but it was obvious she hadn’t been raised here. There was always optimism in her eyes, that flickering flame that the world hadn’t extinguished yet, a flame he was certain that would have been burnt out here in this bloodsoaked capital. Miri was in her element, that element being improbable chaos, somehow convincing the multiple xenophobic Isarn natives to adore her. Her plays really were excellent, Sharpe had to admit, but he felt he needed to be a contrarian to the whimsical kitsune. If only to make sure her ego didn’t get to the size of Golarion. Bolke and Glaz would be fine, he felt that he understood Bolke, a little. As well as Glaz. Out to find something, have fun, enjoy the adventure that was life. As it tended to be violent adventure, which they both excelled at. Larch was a different story, the plant based shaman might need someone to ground her.
As she immediately latched onto Mallory, it was a good thing. Something was wrong with him, he was certain, in Larch’s eyes. His thoughts went back to the conversation they had, her strange laugh. It was in her eyes, her voice, her actions.
He’d seen similar things in a number of the experiments that he’d performed with his mentor. Trauma, both of the physical and mental variety, though one tended to lead to the other. An amazing process, he had to agree with his mentor on that. But unlike his mentor, he would not push. He would not dive into that pit, dragging Larch down with him to discover what fascinating bits he could. As much as he’d like to, he had rules.
And it was those rules that led him into the back alleys of Isarn. It was a delicate balance of what you needed to do to make sure you weren’t attacked, but also not scaring off any potential sources of information. Gold attracted, certainly. The look, the weapons and the strangeness warded those away, but there was always something about him that attracted the worst in people. And always found the worst.
He walked in on a murder, two robberies, and a very poor attempt at bribing one of the Grey Gardeners as he asked around about a family, a specific set of siblings in fact. Most didn’t know anything, but paid in silver to thank them for their time. Those who did received gold for their efforts, discreetly as possible. And it wasn’t the worst, as he expected. The two hadn’t gone diametrically opposed to Mallory, no horrendous story of the fearsome Grey Gardener siblings Quinn and Vanessa., or that they’d become cannibalistic serial killers protected by the wealth and power of their family name.
No, one was a respected, if trapped, Guardsman. Some of the courtesans bemoaned the fact that the man had strict limits on what he could and couldn’t do, unlike some other corrupt town officials.
The other, a teacher who tried to keep her students free from propaganda. Alsan, a bouncer (and contract hit man if Sharpe’s analysis of the man’s hands was correct) whose thigh muscles were almost as thick as Sharpe’s torso, said that she was one of the nicest teachers to his daughter, and helped her learn to read. “She’s gonna help get her outta Isarn, just by bein’ smarter than her Pa.”
Well, he guessed that not all the lurid story tropes he read about were true.
But this could just make it harder. Well, harder for the others perhaps. If the children didn’t believe Mallory, or thought vengeance was necessary for the death’s of their parents…
It was a good thing his mentor had taught him that whenever family was involved, you cleared the entire tree, from the branches down to the very roots.