“What?” the man recomposed himself as Markus laughed lightly.
“Oh come now,” he grinned, leaning forward in his chair. “It’s one of the best selling stories in the entire Empire. Thought of yourself as a roguish and dangerous bandit, did you? Enamored with ‘Le Renard,’ and his swashbuckling adventures in the alleyways and gutters of the big city? It was probably Klaus who hired you, wasn’t it? He never could resist that old romantic twaddle. I, unfortunately, can’t afford to live in the realm of fantasy–I imagine it must be quite addictive.”
“I could still put a knife in your eye,” the man hissed.
“Impressively too, but that’s hardly the style you’re after though, is it?” Markus clicked his tongue in patronly disappointment. “Le Renard would never do that, no. He would sit down and talk with me to discern what I have to offer you instead of the Spider. The cure, for example.”
“To the poison that is working through your veins.” Markus shrugged. “If you touched the Spider and weren’t wearing thick enough gloves, that is. The barbs were said to be incredibly small, and sharp–just enough to scratch the skin.”
The man’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly, and then quickly narrowed as his body crouched like a cornered animal.
“You’re lying,” the man spat. Markus closed his eyes tightly as he leaned his head back.
“Yes, I could be,” he sighed. “And even if I wasn’t, the poison was said to be quite slow. It’s hardly impossible for you to get to someone who might be able to work up an antidote before you died. I’m sure you have at least a day or two. Of course you’d have to go to one of the less reputable surgeons, wouldn’t you? And they’re not known for their delicate touch–I’d imagine they’d probably break something on the Spider getting a sample, and you’d have to explain to your employer not only why you were late, but why you brought damaged goods–I shouldn’t like to be in your shoes for that conversation.”
“Why are you telling me this?” The man snarled. Markus smiled with his eyes still closed.
“I just wanted you to know that I have more than money to offer. Now… I take it you’re at least willing to bargain?”
With a soft sigh, Markus heard the man sink down into the couch, facing the fire.
“Excellent,” Markus stood, his eyes still shut tightly as though keeping out a strong wind, and walked around the chair to the fireplace. “You know, the stories of ‘Le Renard’ have drawn more people into banditry than the threat of poverty or the promise of riches ever has. It is a wonder that no one has arrested the author for his efforts.
“Enough,” the man snapped. “What is your bargin?”
“First, let me begin by mentioning that the room directly above this one is the Grand Bathroom.”
“What does that matter?”
Markus reached out with his hand and felt along the side of the mantle until he found the small risen switch, carved to look like the eye of a roaring lion.
“Because just above the Grand Bathroom is the Cistern.”