Kasoria listened to the woman expound and hypothesize. He knew she had the larger picture at her disposal, but that didn't mean she'd share it with him. Then he was proven wrong again, when she did, and Kasoria had to struggle to keep the surprise from his face. This... Oberan, was known to the Powers That Be? Some sort of malcontent from foreign lands, pursuing a grudge against the naerikk? Well, he was hardly one to take issue with that: most of the shadow-bitches he'd met had been hateful, bloodthirsty beasts who treated humans like walking racks of lamb. But this was business, not the idle ruminations of personal intolerance and prejudices. This was of coin and reputation, not just his but his master, and Kasoria would not have an outsider jeopardize them (even if he did prove useful).
Something is brewing in the Underground... and your dumb arse walked right into the middle of it, boy.
That's what the killer concluded when she'd launched her last questions and waited for him to answer. He'd assumed that powerful, shadowy forces had been at work that day. He knew that was the case now, but the focus of them... he'd been completely wrong. In his arrogance and blindness, he'd assumed that they'd been moving him and Oberan and Charone and even the man he was hunting around, pulling strings and nudging all concerned as they needed. Just pieces on a board, sliding and jumping to the whims of unseen players.
Now Kasoria knew different. He hadn't acted in accordance with the great and infallible plan of some higher intelligence. It had been the complete opposite. He was the only one who was not meant to be in that room. Oberan, with his power to nullify the Gift of Shadows. Charone, the target of the trap. The Girl, leading Oberan to where his power could be put to use. Even his Target, who existed just to draw Charone to a killing ground that had already been chosen. All that was missing was the True Killer, the assassin that was supposed to walk in that room, pick up the ward, and use it to kill her.
They never meant it to be you, he thought, pieces finally coming together clearly in his mind. You came too early. Did everything their killer should have done, used every asset they'd put in place, and done everything except what mattered: kill the shadow-bitch.
"You know 'bout us, 'bout me," he said eventually, picking up the ward and twirling it between his fingers as he spoke. Using a runic talisman like a cheap child's fidget toy. Still, no naerikk in the room, so what else would he use it for? "So y'know that I had trouble with Charone a few arcs back. She sent a clutch a' boys at me, just t'wear me down. I killed the lot an' then she hit me wiv' that Gift. Coulda' killed me. Didn't. Wanted to deliver a message instead."
He shrugged, then waved a dismissive finger. The killer understood that they were both telling tales out of school, now. If either of their masters knew such information had been exchanged, there would be... consequences. Probably not mortal, given how useful they both were and how loyal they'd been, but their respective lords were not men who let their grip loosen on treasured intelligence. So Kasoria told a tale, without names or places or admissions a court could use.
"Topped the wrong cunt, s'put it that was. The Fence didn't like that. Sp, I got a spankin', and Mister Vorund, he backed off." The little man's face twisted up in distaste, but only or a moment. He knew the realities of Etzos, and of... well, reality itself. "We got steel an' coin an' muscle an' reputations, but we ain't got much magic. No fuckin' way were we gonna go to war with a shadow-bitch and whatever else The Fence had held back. So, since they, we avoid each other. They stick to the Underground and a few key places they use as links t'the city proper, an' we... well, you know where we are."
The second question needed more rumination. Would Vorund take him into his confidences? He didn't see why not. He'd proved himself loyal, these last eleven arcs. He's sworn his soul and his strength and his sword to the man. As long as Vorund lived and kept their accord, he would serve him. Many had approached him, in those early arcs, seeking to turn him. It wasn't surprising: oaths of loyalty were common in Etzos, mainly among the younger criminal ranks. The elder echelons realized how fucking worthless they were, and relied on fear, self-interest, blackmail, or a combination of the three. Kasoria had given his word alone, and this man him a freak among the criminals of Etzos.
Because he had never broken it. But Vorund had not grown old or powerful in such a world by taking anything on faith.
"Something like this..." he said carefully, shaking his head. "I don't think he could do it without me gettin' a whiff. He'd need men he could trust, t'do everything. Reaching out, setting a meeting, sure, he could do that... but protection? Nah... he'd take me wiv' him." He nodded firmer as he remembered their meeting with Noth. Only he had been trusted to be at his master's side that night, with the Prince Of Scary Bollocks opposite them. "I don't think he's dealin' wiv' The Fence. But the Keepers, they don't have the muscle fer that kinda move. They're gutter thieves an' pickpockets an' flim-flammers..."
Kasoria flipped the ward like a coin and caught it.
"... so they'd need some kinda backin'. Someone supplin' stuff like this thing in me hand." He quirked an eyebrow and nodded at Sima. "Maybe someone from the Tower, eh? Your end a' things. Could be that Prince Birdman an' his lads, but... nah. They'd want people t'know it was them. Boost up their legend in the bad circles." Kasoria sighed and scratched under his beard, a nervous habit he'd adopted when he felt the waters rising above him. "Too much I don't know t'make a decision, woman. Yuh've played me fair, so I ain't got reason not t'give yeh the truth a' me thoughts... but that's all I've got for ya."
He waited for her to digest this. A respectful amount of time. A polite length, but only the bare minimum. He had his own questions, and some corner of his mind had been churning on them while the rest of it had been focused on this skulduggery. Abrogation. He knew what the word meant, at least. He'd read it before, but he had no idea it was also a magic. It was to abolish, to repeal, to... destroy. A fitting term for what it could do. Kasoria's gaze slid to the coin dancing over his knuckles.
It's like this, but you can conjure it. You can pull it from your body and make shields. Stop the magic before it gets to you, and not have to rely on some trinket that could be damaged or stolen or turned against you.
Kasoria liked the idea. Magic, magic, magic... every the bane of his breed. Them that excelled so brutally with all physical means of destruction, capable of laying waste to mobs of enemies, and they were helpless as blind mice when it came to one soft-palmed cunt with magic crackling from his hands. He'd had to flee and hide from men like that before, his corporeal abilities useless when confronted by arcane lore. But now, with this, he could negate that power before it could threaten him.
The killer smiled softly to himself at the possibilities, and another unspoken law he'd observed.
Wizards don't know fuck-all about real fighting. Take their magic away. Make them useless. Force them to rely on their hands and blades... and see how fast they fucking fold.
"How do you learn Abrogation?"
When he finally spoke, there was a bluntness that spoke more of eagerness than a lack of manners. A need to know, to learn. Sima looked into black eyes like tar pits and saw sunken treasure gleaming in the muck. A thirst invigorated them now, and Kasoria let it seep into his words.
"Can you learn it? Y'don't have to be... born with the ability?"
Should have read more about this shite.