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Subject: Thaw?

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Date Posted: 21:26:53 10/05/03 Sun

“You again?” the doorman looked vaguely surprised, then a little impressed. “I wouldn’t have thought a lady like you would venture in these parts more than once.”
Noryn smiled at him briefly as she stepped under his arm through the door. She wondered if he would still think she was a lady if he knew what her evening occupation was. Probably no different from the dirty, squawking women he continuously let in and out of this place.
“Do you have a password?” the doorman asked as he closed the door and replaced all the bolts and chains.
“No, do I need one?” she asked, slightly confused. “I didn’t need one last time.”
“It just means that the Prince trusts you enough to let you pass easily.” He looked at her blank face. “It means I don’t have to search or escort you.”
“Oh” Noryn understood instantly, she shook her head and held her arms out. “Get it over with.”

The main hall hadn’t changed much from last time. There were still groups of people sitting round filthy tables, piles of coins, purses and gold watches changing hands over the table. She heard a clatter and a roar as a man angrily turned a table over, sending alcohol, cards and coins crashing to the floor. He swung his fist wildly at the pale, slimy looking man who had obviously just won all of his money, still sitting where the table used to be. The man was so drunk, that his blow never hit the target. His body just kept spinning and he tripped over his own feet, crashing his head on the table and knocking himself unconscious. The pale man heaved the table back into place and started shuffling a different pack of cards.
“Anyone else?” he asked with a smile.
Noryn glanced around the room and noticed that no one else had taken any notice of that little disturbance. It was obviously a common event here.

Tyram was sitting up straight on his throne, eagerly talking with some of his men. He halted and looked up when the doorman approached. His glance slid across to Noryn, and a charming smile played across his lips.
“I’ll be with you in a moment” he promised, then returned to his conversation.
The doorman returned to his post and left Noryn standing alone in the middle of the Hall. She glanced from person to person, keeping her face expressionless. Most were so engrossed in their business, they didn’t even notice. Then she caught the eyes of someone watching her.
Instantly, Noryn lifted her head straight and a cold, hostile look fastened over her features. There was a movement in the shadows, and the girl moved out into the dim lamplight, her eyes still fixed rigidly on Noryn. It was the red headed woman that had been draped over Tyram on her last visit. Noryn recognised the mass of auburn curls, and the same dark roots just beginning to show on top. She was smoking, holding the pipe with dainty painted fingernails, slowly blowing out clouds of bluish smoke, her eyes never leaving Noryn’s face.

“Can I help you”
The voice by her ear took her by surprise, but she refused to let herself jump.
“Another message?” Tyram continued with a grin, “Or did cold, hostile Noryn from the Tavern want something else?”
“Tavern?” she asked puzzled, trying to make it sound like a foreign word to her. How did he know... or was it coincidence?
“The Rusty Chain” Tyram grinned as he watched the concern in her eyes. She could hide her emotions on her face quite well, but reading her eyes revealed a different story. “Name: Noryn, Habitation: The Rusty Chain Tavern for the last 5 years, Work: Barmaid by day, but by night...” he grinned some more.
“How do you know this?” Noryn burst out before she could stop herself.
“I have my sources” Tyram laughed, “You were obviously so relieved to get out of the Underworld, that you didn’t notice my man following you.” He saw the suspicion in her eyes start to change towards concern.
“Of course I had to check you out” he answered her unspoken question “I can’t have strangers wandering through my domain at will. You could have been a spy from one of my rival gangs. How did I know you weren’t going to return with an army to assassinate me?”
She could see the sense behind this logic, but still didn’t like the idea of people following her.

“The message” she remembered, handing it over and effectively changing the subject. “I’d better go”
“Returning to anything nice?” Tyram murmured, his eyes scanning quickly over the parchment. Noryn laughed, picturing the mountain of washing up that would be waiting for her return.
Tyram raised an eyebrow as he folded the letter.
“So you do have a human side? I was beginning to wonder if you’d been carved out of ice.”
“I have to protect myself” she argued, her arms folded in front of her.
“Indeed... from me?”
‘Yes’ she thought secretly, but decided not to voice it.
“From everyone... I don’t really fit in around here.”
He glanced her over quickly
“I suppose not” he murmured, pocketing the letter and turning on his heel. “Perhaps I’ll see you again” he called as he headed back to his throne.
“Alright” she replied as she made her way towards the door. ‘...and perhaps not’ a voice in her head added.
He turned thoughtfully as he mounted the platform,
“Next time, tell the doorman ‘If it rains any more, you’ll start floating.’”
“What?” Noryn had to fight in order to keep the baffled expression from flooding over her face.
“Unless of course you like being searched on every visit?” Tyram winked before turning to speak to one of his men.

“That’s it now” Noryn muttered to herself as she wandered slowly home through the narrow, grimy streets, constantly checking over her shoulder for a stalker. “I’m not risking my life again, not for any amount of gold. Forget it.”

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