It was a word that the Tav nobles used quite frequently. Apparently it was made to describe the lower class that lived in the Capitol's slums. Of course, the Tav slum-dwellers had taken to using it against outsiders as well. They were an odd sort, but that word...
Zane liked it.
He had entered the massive metropolis that was Tav's Capitol City just hours before. Of course, he had introduced himself as Arch to the guards at the gate. Unlike Faerein, this Capitol City has little walls defending it. It was laughable, honestly. They were supposed to be aggressive towards Faerein. Did they know most of the soldiers in their enemy's army could tear down this wall by themselves? Hah! Filthy idiots. That had a nice ring.
Zane sipped on his wine and looked around the bar he was now in. It was in the Slums, so he wasn't surprised by the rough look of the common room. The people were loud and mostly just men getting off their measly jobs. They flirted with the waitresses - who were all mediocre in the looks area - and drank like they had just won a fortune. Fools. Wait, filthy fools.
A smile cracked along Zane's face. He was here for information, not to exercise his new curse. The barkeeper, who had a massive body and an overly smiling face, walked over when Zane beckoned him. This was a bar that many had said he could find 'anything he wanted' at. Well, hopefully that filth in rags had been right about that.
"I'm looking for someone who can track," Zane told the barkeeper, keeping with the phrase that same man in rags had told him. "I am willing to pay whatever is needed."
The barkeeper seemed thoughtful for a moment, then smiled widely. "You'll be needing Thorn, then. Best tracker in the whole of Tav! Some say she does better than Murdos' trackers, even!" He laughed as if he had told a great joke. Zane wanted to believe the idiot had just laughed to cover their conversation, but the man seemed to laugh every two seconds at every damn thing.
"Where can I find this Thorn?"
"Oh, you'll find her."
The barkeeper walked away, yelling jovially at another customer. Damn sandreaver. What had he meant? How would he find her without knowing where to look? Sands! It was like he was being played with by that fat idiot. Filth!
Zane dropped a few silver orbs in the collection bowl next to his drink. The man didn't earn any gold orbs, let alone copper! Zane made sure to slam the door as he left, letting the fat barkeeper know he was angry. Serves him right.
It was an hour before Zane found the next bar. The way this filthy city was set up was much like Faerein, just on a smaller scale. The only difference was that the Slums had NO damn map or signs that made sense! He had only found the first bar because of that idiot in rags. Finding this next one was just a matter of overhearing some people.
The sound of a knife leaving it's sheathe caused Zane to slow to a stop. Around him, the fools kept walking on, though most of them seemed aimless. Which one had removed a knife, then? Where was the threat? Zane tried to turn around, as if he had forgotten something, but was stopped by the feeling of a knife against his back. Sands! How had...
"I heard you were looking for me," a very feminine voice said. Zane thought about creating a Point with his Flame Mystic, but knew it wouldn't be enough to save his life. Alchemy wouldn't do much, and Air would only leave Zane defenseless and choking to breathe. Damn! So, who was this woman? She couldn't be the tracker, Thorn, right?"
"I am looking for someone called Thorn," Zane said softly, trying to sound nice. It failed.
"Ah, so you need Thorn, do you?" Zane felt the knife slide upward and a body press against his. "If you want to do business, then let's go into that alleyway. Alright, pretty boy?"
Around them, men snickered and one even cheered him on. What did they think he was doing? Hiring a prostitute or something? Then again, that's what this whole damn situation looked like! Sands!
Zane could do nothing, so he nodded and let himself be guided into the dark alleyway beside the bar he had been heading for. Hopefully, this woman would bring him to this Thorn so he could get out of this filthy city. And that wasn't a curse, it was just the damn truth!
Once they were alone, Zane was shoved - rather hard, surprisingly - toward the wall. He turned, instinctively pulling his knife from under his brown cloak and preparing Flame Mystic. Nothing like a molten knife stabbing into-
The woman who had held him was maybe a head shorter than any other woman Zane had ever met. Of course, the blood of the Frae family ran along many families of Faerein, giving them taller woman and bigger men, but even in Tav there was no woman this small! How old was this damn girl! A hood hid the face, but there was a little swelling in her chest that proved she was at least in her adolescent years.
"Where can I meet the Thorn?"
The girl removed her hood, revealing an actually pretty face. She had short hair, oddly enough, and the color seemed to blend with the darkness of the alleyway. It was rare that people cut their hair in Faerein, but in Tav people could choose to do so and not seem odd. Sands! For all Zane knew, this woman could be anywhere between just past a child and almost an adult!
"In this alley," the girl said, a small playful smile spreading across her small face.
"When?" Zane said, starting to get annoyed even more. That fat sandreaver had already made him want to hit something.
"Well, whenever I'm here of course!" The girl observed Zane's face. "You have a nice tan. It's not something seen here in Tav, really."
Zane gritted his teeth. "Let me meet Thorn! Sands!"
The girl laughed. "You really should watch your mouth, Zane."
"How do you know my name!?" Zane snapped, still ready to pounce on this filthy girl. Well, he couldn't call her filthy with those clean leather clothing... Wait, that is armor. Damn.
"Well, NOW I know it's your name," she said, "But before you get angry, like you usually do, let me give you advice." She held up her finger. "One, never say curses from Faerein and expect them not to reveal your origin. Two, try to get some makeup to lose that tan." She paused, then flexed her wrist. Zane had no time to react as a knife flew by his face. Only a stinging sensation in his ear told him it had cut him. "Lastly, never threaten me with a weapon I use much better."
Zane cursed and put his knife away. He prided himself in fighting, but not when it came to this way of combat. He was at a disadvantage. Damn... "May I meet with Thorn now?"
"Well, I guess you can." She looked him up and down, then giggled. "I mean, you did dress up all nice and totally not suspicious. It's not like you WANTED every guard in Tav who is looking for 'Zane, the possible killer of King Saeron,' to look at you with suspicion"
Zane paused. "What!?"
"Why, dear, didn't you know?" She pointed to the street, where Zane saw a guard in silver armor pass by. "You are a suspect in the murder of the king of Faerein that occured last month! And... it takes almost a month to reach Tav on foot... Hmmm, so why would they be looking for you now? I just don't know!"
Zane would have cursed this little girl if he had not realized the truth of her words. His disappearance and what his damn sister had said... Of course they would suspect him even more now! Damn! Sands! Scarred Father! Filth! Whatever curse else that existed! How could he have not thought of that!?