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       After leaving the temple, Alice walked back to the Bilver district of the city, the crowded slums in which she made
her home. She stopped a few blocks short of her office, and turned into a shadowed alley. She went through a maze of
side-alleys, finally arriving at the back door of a warehouse. Two large, well-dressed men stood guard at the door.
       “I have business to discuss with Hectrin.”
       “The boss isn’t seeing nobody.”
       “Good. Then I can go in.”
       “Are you nuts, lady? I said he ain’t seeing nobody.”
       “Right. Which is a double negative, which means he is seeing somebody.”
       “Just let me in.”
       “You’re not going nowhere.” The man stepped directly between the door and Alice, subtly displaying the gun in his
       Several seconds later he lost consciousness and gained a broken nose.
       Alice glared at the remaining guard while cracking her knuckles.
       “I’m going in.”
       “Right you are.” The guard opened the door and tried to keep up with Alice’s brisk pace while following her in.
       She marched down the hallway inside, heading directly to an office at the end. At the office door stood, predictably,
another armed guard.
       “Hey, you can’t get in here!” he shouted, putting his arm in front of the door.
       “Yes, I can,” Alice said, twisting the guards arm until she heard a pop over the agonized screams.
       The doorknob, however, did not turn so well. Alice pushed the guards away and stepped back, getting enough
space to give the door a good, hard kick.
       Soon, what was left of the door swung inwards.
       “Your door is broken,” said Alice, entering the office.
       A small, fat man in opulent dress stood up from his seat behind the large, ornate desk in the center of the room.
“Now, you can’t just come barging in here...”
       Alice pulled out her gun and pointed directly at the man’s head. “Sit down and shut up, you ridiculous corpulent
       The man chuckled and returned to his seat. “Charming as always, Hellstalker. What business would you like to
       “I was
shot today.”
       “So I see. Tore up your sleeve something awful, too. I don’t see what this has to do with me...”
       “I was shot,” Alice said, pausing between each word as if she were spitting out each syllable individually, “and I
want to know who’s responsible.”
       “You’re in a dangerous business, my dear, I’m certain you’ve made many enemies...”
       “At the moment, I’m only interested in the one who put out a hit on me.”
       “Now, we mustn’t jump to conclusions, my dear. What makes you think your attack was a professional job?”
       “I was shot by a man I’ve never seen before. I think this would be enough to go on. Nobody works a hit in Bilver
without your knowledge. You will tell me who ordered this, or you will find yourself in a state less free of bullet-holes.”
       “Could you describe your attacker?”
       “Ork. Male. Young, maybe mid-forties. Dark hair, fair skin. Dressed in dirty grays.”
       “Hm... I think I remember having an employee of this description...”
       “Remember faster.” She waved her weapon so as to remind the man of its presence.
       “Gruyalk. That was his name... What became of him?”
       “Dead. Head ripped off by unseen forces.”
       “Hm... Doesn’t sound like the sort of working conditions I’d be promoting...”
       “I don’t really care about that, now do I? I want to know who ordered the man to shoot at me.”
       “Forgive me, it seems that having an angry demon pointing a massive gun at my face rattles me a little. Besides,
you should know by now that I don’t handle these things directly. Not since that last time you nearly had me locked up.”
       “Of course,” she sighed, “It would be fitting that you’d have gotten smarter since back then. Who should I talk to,
       “His name is Althas. I’ll have Enneas out there take you to him.” At this, he gestured to the one guard Alice
managed not to injure.
       “Fine. Make sure not to have your business get in my way again, Hectrin.”
       “I shall not forget the experience, madam.”

       Alice was led down a series of corridors, until being introduced to a man she was told was Althas. He was a young
man of a very fair complexion and light hair. He dressed like an official: dull and officious. He contrasted starkly from the
ostentatious Hectrin.
       “Who hired your man to shoot me, Althas?”
       “Well, you’re very direct, aren’t you?”
       “Direct and heavily armed. Answer my question.”
       “He said his name was Gorrath. He dressed in heavy black robes. Didn’t get a good look at him, otherwise.”
       “Did he give a reason for the job?”
       “Nope. Didn’t really need one for a standard job.”
       “Standard jobs involve the assassin being mauled by invisible things?”
       “Hm. Yes, that part bothered me when I heard of it. Such was not part of the deal.”
       “I’ve heard that it’s frowned upon.”
       “It is. Which is the only reason I’m telling you this. I assume letting you get your revenge on our friend Gorrath
would simply save me the time of doing the same.”
       “Very... expedient. Do you know anything other than the man’s name?”
       “Nothing. As I said, I didn’t need much information. He gave a target and a good price, and that’s all I needed.”
       “How much?”
       “Excuse me?”
       “How much did it cost for you to have someone attempt to kill me?”
       “Eighteen hundred.”
       “That’s it?”
       “It seemed like a reasonable price.”
       “You undercharged.”
       “So it would seem.”
       “Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been shot? Stabbed? Poisoned? Quite a few of each, I assure you. As
you can tell, none of these have worked yet. I am incredibly resilient. I’ve lived for longer than anyone in this city. I’m
even older than the city itself. I am very, very old, and quite possibly immortal. You undercharged, and did so greatly.”
       “Hmph. If you’re so hard to kill, why are you so upset about this job?”
       “It’s the thought that counts.”
       With this, Alice delivered a hard, quick kick to Althas’ stomach and stormed out.

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All text 8 2004 R.