∴ A Dalliance with the Dark∴
You don’t know why you keep coming here – though the Lord knows it’s not for the food. You glance down at the greying globules, more fat than meat, suspended in a dishwater broth, and grimace. No, it’s certainly not the food. Nor the warm, flat ale, nor the sticky floorboards, nor the company of bandits and thieves.
It is – if you are honest – a woman. The Woman, as you’ve come to think of her, for you do not know her name. And not even her, but merely the hope of her. Hope that the heavy door will fly open as it did that first night, admitting a figure swathed in black skirts, black curls spilling from a black wool hood, red lips carving a cruel smile across a swarthy face. You recall how she stalked, catlike across the room, undaunted by the sudden silence or the brigands’ eyes boring into her. How amidst the rustle of skirts cold steel flashed: a dagger, dark and lovely, the great curling bars of its basket kissing in the semblance of a heart.
“Danger,” the dagger whispered.
You don’t know what she said to the brute in the back-most booth, or what he hissed in reply, but you saw his great ham of a hand sweep outward to grasp her wrist and, faster, her own hand slip into that black sweetheart basket and bring it up, hard and blunt, against the blaggard’s face. As he slumped to the bench with a groan she turned to take in the room, the dagger’s blade extended, issuing a silent dare.
And just like that she was gone, a flurry of skirts and steel, leaving the dank hall in disarming quiet – and you well and truly stricken.