A Winning Argument
Kincaid shut the door before he turned back down the hallway. The thief smiled, a big, proud, smile that stretched from ear-to-ear. The spring in his step was unmistakable, and so too was the mischievous twinkle in his grass green eyes.
With Aeria safe and sound in the room behind him, Kincaid was in such a good mood that not even the presence of Cnu in his living room could ruin it. Walking past the lizard man, Kincaid grabbed two glasses and filled them with his personal stock of ale. When he returned, he found Cnu looking shifty, as if he wasn’t certain how to take Kincaid’s cheerful manner given their last encounter.
Forcing the mug into the other man’s hands, Kincaid moved to the table and sat down, offering for Cnu to join him as he took a long pull of ale.
“Sit!” Demanded the thief, breaking the silence that had fallen on the room.
Cnu bit at his lower lip, hesitating. Then, slowly, he dragged himself over to the table and pulled out the chair with such care that Kincaid wondered if the man was so fragile he worried about breaking himself.
As the Courier seated himself, Kincaid took another moment to look over the other man. Hunched over either due to heritage or deformity, Cnu’s dry, tan, skin was spotted by patches of reptilian scales the color of rich dirt. His hands were slender with sharp nails, and long canines poked over his lips. His eyes were slits surrounded by gold, and his hair matched his scales though it was thin and wispy.
In a rasping, cautious, voice Cnu said, “You appear... quite happy, Kincaid.”
“And why not?” the thief prodded. “A successful mission is reason to celebrate.”
Cnu shifted, uncomfortable, and replied, “It was a simple mission. Some would not celebrate so easily. I... did not think you to be someone so….”
“Yes, well, you can probably throw away whatever impressions you have of me. I do a fair job of ruining those quite quickly.”
Cnu leaned forward and sniffed at his ale. Apparently the man worried about being poisoned.
Kincaid reached over and took a pull of Cnu’s ale, quickly putting aside the other man’s worry.
“Now, I know you’re not here because I’m to be congratulated. You’ve something to tell me.” He paused and then clarified, “From the Society.”
The Courier nodded, settling himself into his seat before taking his first mouthful of ale. He coughed and hacked, not expecting the drink to be so bitter. “My... employers want you to take another job....”
“I’ve already done my requirement, Cnu.”
“Yes...,” the other man replied hastily, “...but this is a request, and you know how rare those are.” Kincaid to a long pull from his drink, and Cnu waited. “They’d like for you to steal something.”
Kincaid set the ale down, and beneath his breath said, “I bet they would.” Green eyes fixed Cnu with a hard stare as options were weighed. Over the last couple of months, Kincaid had been receiving Cnu as an emissary of the Society. The Courier would come to Semper Mihi with files of different jobs the Society of Thieves wanted done. Some were thefts, others odd jobs that didn’t make sense if they were looked at alone.
“What’s in it for me?” Kincaid finally asked, allowing his curiosity to get the better of him.
Cnu smiled, an act that showed sharp, jagged, teeth and looked none-too-inviting. “F-fair payment,” the serpent-man answered, gulping. Kincaid’s brow furrowed, and he nearly rose out of his seat, angry. Cnu spread his hands to placate Kincaid, adding, “To include information about your brother.”
For a split second something washed over Kincaid, but as quick as it came it was squashed. “If money’s all you have to offer, Cnu, I’ve no interest.”
The other man’s smile didn’t leave. Instead he rose a brow in question, asking, “Even if what was asked of was… ‘impossible?’”
“Nothing is impossible, Cnu,” Kincaid shot back, his voice beginning to drip with irritation. He rose from his seat and walked across the living room, leaving his back turned to the Courier.
“Maybe,” the other man conceded, “for someone as skilled as yourself. For someone who managed to steal from the Society.” There was something to Cnu’s words. A hidden meaning that the thief didn’t pick up on. Not fully, at least. It was dangerous, however, and that alone made Kincaid all the more curious. “But to the lesser thieves it might as well be.”
“Sounds like you need to stop accepting ever thug looking for a job,” Kincaid fired over his shoulder. He didn’t turn to look at Cnu, instead choosing to focus on a picture mounted just to the left of the hallway to his room. It was a fine piece, one with a demvir standing on top of a pile of rubble, looking down at a mass of other machina.
“Perhaps.” The solitary word rolled across the room, again hinting at a deeper meaning than it leant itself to. “But, then again, we’d need a standard.”
Looking back over his shoulder, avoiding looking directly at Cnu, Kincaid replied, “I’d be an unfair standard.”
Again the word, “Perhaps.”
Kincaid refocused on the painting. Something had been bothering him for a while now. Something about the painting that didn’t sit right. He tried to search the details for what it might be. It wasn’t the aesthetics, no far from it. Something in the detail continued to throw him off whenever he looked at the painting. Because of that very reason, Kincaid had decided to buy it.
There was the sound of crumpling paper, and Kincaid had to shake himself from the scrutiny of the painting. Cnu was on his feet, a paper had been left on the table, and one scaly hand was tapping the page. “Please,” Cnu pleaded, “take a look at the very least. I’ll be back with a stack of missions for the next month. You can give me your answer then.”
“It’s no, Cnu.”
The other man smiled, and again it was none-too-inviting. “Just look, please.” He started for the door, pulling his ragged, tattered, cloak closer. The Courier paused to look back at Kincaid and asked, “Will you be able to keep the parcel safe until the pick-up can be made?”
Kincaid spared a look towards Aeria’s room before returning his gaze to Cnu. “No problem on my end, so long as your men do their job and keep the Conexus busy.”
“As we shall.” Something came over Cnu, and he shrank in on himself, saying, “G-Good night, Kincaid.”
The door closed, and the thief was left alone with a smile on his lips, and an ale in his hand. Kincaid finished off his ale and grabbed his cutlass. The night was young and he had more work to do.