I have to touch on the spin-off with an excerpt from Quest of the Brokenhearted. I decided to show a little of what Kira Grasdon has been up to since the battle with Baron Kernaghan. I’m hoping I took enough to show the proper context. The full section was too massive to put here, so I’m working a lot on faith and hope. All I will say is that the setting is a brothel/tavern and that doesn’t explain nearly as much as you might think. I mean . . . Well, you can read and see what’s really going on here.
Kira takes a seat at the vanity with the least amount of clutter in order to tie up her hair in a way that the crimson line coils like a serpent. “Everyone seems to have more faith in me than I do. As much as I appreciate the encouraging words, I just want to take life day by day and see where it takes me. That’s progress since it was only six months ago that I was barely eating and trying to get myself killed. Have to give me credit on deciding to continue living. By the way, is there anybody I should give special attention to?”
“Most of the customers tonight are our regulars.”
“Then, I’ll stay in my spot unless I’m needed.”
“Too bad because we sell more drinks when you mingle.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that my walk is rather attention-grabbing.”
“Not to mention people consider Bor’darukians . . . Well, you know.”
“Sadly, I’m all too aware of that stereotype.”
After putting on a pair of matching bracelets, Kira gives herself a final check in a full-length mirror and lets her words linger in the air. She waits for Lady Dawnlove to leave, the elf knowing that she should give the young woman some space. The music gets louder with the addition of several drums, which shake the entire building. Knowing that she has to get to the main hall quickly, Kira grabs a pair of slippers from a cleansing rack and snatches a sapphire necklace out of a crate near the door. Hopping from foot to foot, it takes her a minute to get her shoes on and she repeatedly fumbles with the jewelry that does not match very well with her shirt. She hurries down the hallway where several doors have already been closed and locked by girls who have claimed a customer for the night. A scream causes her to stop for a moment, but a pleasure-filled moan follows right before she goes to investigate the noise.
Hearing shouts from the distant customers, Kira breaks into a sprint and leaps over a cart of drinks in order to burst through a curtain. Only a few people notice her as she stands next to the bar, everyone more interested in the dwarf dancing on stage. The red-haired girl juggles axes that she occasionally uses to slice away a piece of her clothing, the dangerous performance one that always makes Kira a little nervous. Stepping behind the bar, she pats a brown-scaled fireskin on the shoulder and tends to half of the customers. Unlike her fellow bartender, she is not flashy with her display and focuses more on speed while smiling as warmly as she can. At most, she moves with an exaggerated sway of her hips, which repeatedly come dangerously close to banging into the pyramid of bottles sitting against the back wall. It is when she fills ten mugs and carries them stacked five high in each hand that the crowd cheers, the noise giving her a momentary sense of pride. Handing out the frothy ale, she repeatedly stops to catch gold coins that are slid to her by the drunks.
Kira is about to take another set of orders and head for the kitchen when a towering warrior catches her attention. The man is roughly holding onto one of the younger girls, the tawny-haired calico openly struggling to get away. He grabs a drink off a passing waiter’s tray and takes a sip before pouring the rest down his hostage’s throat. Gasping for air, her cat-like tail puffs out and thrashes until he catches hold of the sensitive body part. A booming laugh nearly disturbs the two dancers on stage, the pair at the top of their poles and using their legs to subtly point at the problem. The other customers begin to give the man and his two equally large friends some space, their movements becoming faster when they spot Kira quietly stepping out from behind the bar. The sight of the woman causes the warriors to chuckle, only one of them glancing at how her right arm is thicker than the left and covered by a dirty cloth.
“Is this where you tell me the rules?” their leader asks, his grin revealing that half of his teeth are missing. He squeezes the calico’s thigh with enough force to make her yelp and licks his lips at the noise. “I’m paying good money to do what I want here. Not that it matters since all of you are property anyway. Once I put down my gold, I’m the one in charge. Come to think of it, you look pretty nice too. What about joining us in the back rooms? I assume you’re more expensive than this little thing.”
“You couldn’t handle me on your best day,” Kira replies, licking her own lips. Even though it is the same gesture as the man, her version comes off more predatory and causes the band to finally stop playing. “I’m going to give you one warning. Put my friend down, take half your money back, and leave under your own power. Otherwise, the bouncer will be called to remove you by force.”
“Like I’m going to fall for that one,” the warrior declares with a disgusting snort. He pushes the girl off his lap and stands to tower over Kira, his large gut jiggling a little beneath his stained shirt. “There’s nobody here that could take me on. Unless you mean that scaly woman behind the bar, but she’s keeping her distance. Seriously, you whores need to lie better. I mean that in every way possible. Now, how about you shut your mouth, get naked, and show all these people what kind of girl you really are, Bor’darukian?”
The man grins when Kira’s hand goes to her shoulder and her fingers graze the strap that keeps her shirt on. He fails to notice that everyone is backing away, all of the regulars taking their chairs with them. Feeling a draft on the back of his neck, he turns to see that one of the girls has opened the front door. The sense of danger growing in his brain fades away when he feels discarded fabric touch his hand. Quickly looking back in the hopes of seeing a naked woman, his jaw is shattered by a punch that he thinks is with a gauntlet. As he stumbles back, the warrior sees that Kira has a chain coiled around her arm, which is no longer covered. A short, metal club is clenched in her fist and her other hand is gripping a connected sickle that he realizes was hidden behind her back. The man reaches for his sword and nearly draws it before the strange weapon is unfurled to wrap around his wrist. His friends finally jump into action, but are felled by two quick kicks that leave them curled on the ground holding their bruised groins.
“Now, you’re leaving without any of your money,” Kira whispers while the girls toss the injured men into the street. She swings the sickle at her side, occasionally lashing out to skim the man’s shirt without cutting the fabric. “Thank me for letting you leave in one piece. Don’t talk though because you’re spitting out what few teeth you have left. Just nod and walk away once I release you.”
The instant the warrior is free of the kusari-gama, he lunges at Kira and catches her by the shirt. Fabric tears as the unsurprised woman jumps back and makes a quick slice across her attacker’s outstretched arm. The shock of pain and sensation of dripping blood is enough to sober the man up, but his attention is on the wrong end of the weapon. With a loud and meaty thud, the blunt end of the kusari-gama is driven into his temple. It is not enough to kill him, but his eyes immediately glaze over and his body jolts as if it has been struck by lightning. The warrior topples over and remains splayed on the floor until Kira finishes wrapping her weapon around his ankles. Accepting a strength potion from Lady Dawnlove, she drags the heavy load outside to where his friends are getting back to their feet. She whips the man over her head before loosening the chain and sending him crashing into the whimpering pair. All three land in a pile of crates across the street, the expired ale inside washing over them.