The girl had been right, of course. He'd missed this work. Not just the challenge it represented, but the little details that all added up to a success. Any street daemon from the Oh'Pee could be handy with a blade; many of them survived to be deadly. But it was the one in a hundred, that mastered not just blades or fists but the mind to navigate a city, find its secret ways and places, track and observe, blackmail and torture and interrogate and put together the threads of a dozen informants and sources... and then show his quality with a blade. That man, he was valuable. He could be unleashed with but a name and a vague location, and sure as Vri himself, would find that name.
Raggedy Man. You didn't become a legend through sword work alone, old boy. It was more than that.
A pair of feet came tramping along the stone cobbles and he went about shaking his little bowl like a good derelict. He didn't risk looking up out from the hood of his cloak; even in this shadowed alley in the dead of night. His mutations... they were the bane of this kind of work now. Too distinctive, too... flamboyant. He had to wear an extra layer under his cloak, just to hide the telltale blur of that roving Transmutation Spark under his skin. It rarely moved across his face, giving the game away entirely, but still...
Be worth having it tonight.
A couple of coins tinkled into the bowl, and he murmured his thanks in the slurred tones of drunkards the world over. He couldn't keep the smile from his face as he let the words dribble and grind from his lips. Even that little deception took him back. Fates, but he was getting nostalgic in his old age.
But not sloppy, or distracted. Tonight was the big one.
For the last two nights, he'd been staking out The Flying Moon. The streets and alleys surrounding it, not just the tavern. He'd only been inside the once, to survey the layout of the bottom floor and burn it into his brain over a few breaks of watching and drinking. The rest of the time, he slunk from one shadow to another, alley to street, making use of what sparse cover he could. This was the Glass Quarter, after all, not those of Earth and Dust. The streets were well-lit, for the fancy folk feared the darkness. He'd only stayed put with his begging bowl for a little while each time, ears alert for patrols... of which there had been many.
He'd stayed off the street, after the first night. Preferred the alley to the west, and the one running right behind the tavern itself.
That's where he'd got his idea. But before he put it into practice, he needed to be there. In that alley. To... feel it out, as it were. More importantly, he was waiting for-
More footsteps, but even as he started shaking his bowl, coins jingling merrily inside, he stopped. His ears pricked and his head cocked to one side. Ah... that tread... he knew it very well. He waited until the swift, relentless stride was in front of him before he dared look up. One eye shining like starless midnight up out of his hood. Lips curling into an amused smirk, showing off yellow and white to the woman looking down at him.
"Spare sum change fer a poor soul on'is las' coppah, miss..." he voice changed in the space of a breath, from the mangled drunkard miming to his usual harsh tones, words accented but tight. "Or would yeh prefer t'tell me what yeh found out?"