A world attempting to stereotype someone trying to break out of a stereotype.
| “ Morning, Miss Gull.” Mr. Marshall’s greeting reached my ears as I made my way down Fellow Street. Frowning, I ignored his ear to ear grin, too wrapped up in my own thoughts. “ Something wrong, Miss Gull?” He trained his eye on me as I tried to figure out what other choices I had before I made a bad decision. Did I really want to betray Vallick to a bunch of greasy villains just for information on a man that a noble was interested in?
I shook my head, my hair obscuring my left eye before I quickly tucked it behind my ear. Mr. Marshall’s probing gaze remained on me as I noted the usual morning plagues of the street glaring at me for daring to invade their sanctuary against women.“ Nothing of real importance, Mr. Marshall. I was thinking about what I read last night in the Journal of Scout Borough, the Elite Warrior of the Ressine Army Generals. Something about how he mentioned the Sword of Justice.” I couldn’t quite place my finger on it, but I had a feeling I had heard about the sword before. I just didn’t know where, which was more frustrating than unwanted ignorance.
Mr. Marshall chuckled. “ Well, Miss Gull, Scout Borough was a very focused man. It was why he was such a reliable and skilled tactician. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book.” Tucking his hands in his pockets as a gust of wind whipped past us, he smiled at passing men and few accompanied women. The smile barely noticed, even less reciprocated, he glanced across to see me unflinchingly meet the disapproving stares.
A faint smile shaped my coral lips seconds later. I would show them someday just what a real woman could do in the market place. “ As am I, Mr. Marshall. I just wish I knew more about this sword. It’s very intriguing, and I want to know what magic made it.” His eyes strayed to my waist, rested on the scimitars for a second, before returning to my intense gaze.
He nodded and returned his focus to the sidewalk in front of him. “ It’s quite a subject, and I believe I have a book that covers all the human legends. If you’re interested, I could reserve it for you.” Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed me tense as a two men brushed past me, both shouldering me back a step. Gritting my teeth, I told myself to ignore it and keep moving.
I wrapped the cloak closer to me, glancing at the rosy cheeked book keeper. “ I would love for that to happen, but I’m low on funds at the moment.” One hand moved to pat the small leather pouch hanging from my belt before I pulled the cloak tight again with both hands. Another gust of cold wind sent a shiver down both our spines. One thing about fall was the horrible winds that made the cold even colder.
He nodded as we passed several cobblestone and cement buildings. “ It wouldn’t be a problem. The book is relatively inexpensive compared to the others you purchased. Only a few silver coins.” His hopeful stare made me feel guilty, but what could I do? I had already stretched myself thin, and any thinner I wouldn’t have my business.
Still, I cocked an eyebrow to lift the disappointment evident in his eyes. “ Not in good shape? Not a credible author?” Gritting my teeth as another man shouldered past, I clenched my hand into a tight fist. One more person to bump into me, and I would show them just what I made of, I promised myself.
He frowned, stepping aside to avoid a dog laying on the doorstep of York Chetsire’s upper class clothing shop. “ Not quite. The author is Maltissa Laurren, and as we all know, women authors are not highly valued at the moment.” Women were never highly considered since the beginning of Vimouf’s existence. Halfar The Conquerer, first king of Vimouf made sure that it would never take seed in the society’s thoughts by forbidding all women the right to unnecessary knowledge and much more.
I scoffed, a disgruntled expression transforming my displeasure into irritation as another man jostled past me. I knew for a fact they wouldn’t dare try that if it were nighttime. “ Yet, we women raise the children, cook the food, maintain the family and home, and comfort those who are in great need. It’s very unfair.” My bitter tone only rewarded me more dark stares from passing men.
Mr. Marshall nodded gravely as we crossed Grimmoir Street and kept along Fellow Street. “ As it is with today’s society, Miss Gull. Not all women are brave like you.”
I scoffed before shame flittered across my face and disappeared. Sighing, I banished the thought of turning time back and murdering every man enforcing the rigid view. Luckily for me, I wasn’t a Ressine citizen, or I would have already been killed for defying the government. “ Defiant and bold is the description more fitting. I was not raised to be a timid child, Mr. Marshall. My father was never the man to back down from a challenge, much less an accusation unbefitting him. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps, and in ways I have. Acceptable ways of course.”
“ And we see how that turned out.” He met my eye, smiling sweetly. The growing anger melted away and was replaced with gratitude towards him. He was a wonderful man. While he wasn’t much of a handsome or physically desirable man with his plump figure, he had the biggest heart. He accepted everyone, but he wasn’t perfect. With a tendency to dislike the other races of the land because they were his main competitors with literature, I accepted that just as he accepted I was independent, carried weapons at my hip whether society liked it or not, and most importantly, that I was a Gull.
Blushing, I looked away. “ Yes, so it has. Well, it’s here we part, Mr. Marshall. It was a pleasant conversation.” I stopped on the corner, meeting the intense glare of an armed man across the street. He raised his hand and pointed to Hallow Street before walking away. I frowned, a queasy feeling rising in my stomach. Was I about to betray one of the most dangerous mercenaries to men who he could easily manipulate information out of?
“ Likewise, Miss Gull.” Mr. Marshall returned, temporarily snapping me out of the horrifying thought and then turned left onto Helms Street. I continued along Fellow Street and stopped on the corner of Fellow and Hallow. Holding my breath, I studied the empty street before spotting three men lingering in the shadows of an abandoned herb shop entrance. Hesitantly placing one foot in front of the other, I took a deep breath and walked towards them, shivering when the shadows obscured the sun. Was Lord Remus Fawce really worth the risk, I asked myself again.
With each step I took towards them, a sinking feeling in my gut warned me to stay away. Finally coming within six feet of the three armed men, I crossed my arms and waited. The middle man, tall and lanky, unsheathed a long, ornamental dagger and met my glare with an equally intense glare. “ We had a deal, Miss Gull. You would give us Vallick for the information on Maximus Wallman. Where is Vallick?”
Uncrossing my arms, I reached into my cloak pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper folded into a neat square. “ Just don’t mention I gave a helping hand, and I won’t mention you to the policing investigators.” Doubting that they would have a choice in the matter once Vallick outmaneuvered them all, I cursed myself. Was Lord Remus Fawce really worth my life? Would he spread word of my excellent results, or would he just ignore the hard work I put forth as almost every other noble had?
Elton Garson’s silent, chunky companions never took their eyes off me, their hands wrapped around the hilts of their short swords. “ My pleasure, Miss Gull.” Their leader replied brightly, studying me closely for any sign of deception. He wouldn’t find any, because I wasn’t so stupid as to lie to my customers. It was a no-no when one was trying to gain trust.
“ And not mine, Mr. Garson.” Without another word, I turned and walked away. Turning left back onto Fellow Street, I came to my office and unlocked the door. Glancing around the nearly empty street save for the baker’s wife selling baskets of bread on the corner of Fellow and Jiffaw Street, I sighed. It was going to be a bleak day, but at least I had held my end of the bargain. Now I had to wait for the consequences of the bad decisions to find me, then beat me to a bloody pulp.
Closing the door behind me, I rest my forehead against the black wood and closed my eyes. “ It’s been an interesting morning, hasn’t it, Miss Gull?”
Clenching my fist, I sighed heavily. “ What do you want, Investigator?” Didn’t the pain in the asses ever leave me a moment to rest? Elton Garson was a persistent man, and it took me a week before I decided I wasn’t going to deal with him anymore and gave him what he wanted. Some compromises and deals I could do without, but my business would suffer if I didn’t make them, leaving me in a very uncomfortable position.
A tall, bearded man rose from the couch, dropped a book onto the table between the two couches, and cleared his throat. “ I happened to hear the exchange between Garson and you. All I want is to know who Vallick is.” I wasn’t stupid. He knew powerful men were connected to me, whether they tracked me down or visa versa, and it was these people he used to climb the ladder of power.
“ Why?” Glancing sideways at him, I wished his cloak would catch fire, then the insufferable cologne he was wearing would assist the fire in spreading till it engulfed him in deadly flames. Clearing my mind of all ill will, I clenched and unclenched my fists. First Garson, now Yveon. If my day continued to the pattern, I’d have a nasty run in with Vallick too.
He smirked, causing the bitterness to spread through my veins faster than I thought possible. “ I have a special interest in your affairs, Miss Gull. You were fortunate to have such a wealthy raising,” His smile only heightened the loathing in my heart. Wealthy raising? Is that what he called a home that was more like a prison, and a life filled with very dangerous people that could have ended my life if they cared to?
Straightening my spine, I walked past him, slipping my hand around the hilt of a scimitar. The feel of the worn weather in my gloved hands was reassuring. “ I suggest, Mr. Yveon, that if you want to live, you will leave.” My tight voice was more than enough warning for most people, but not him. The foolish man.
He scoffed, a confident grin on his face. “ You won’t kill me, Miss Gull. You’re too good to kill a man of the law.” That didn’t mean I would treat him to a few bruises and muscle aches.
“ Get out.” I gritted out, inches from giving him the treat he thought so wealthy.
“ As you wish, Miss Gull, but I will be back.” His threat lingered on my ears as he moved across the room and left, closing the door with a gentle click. The pain in my tensed fingers reached my senses seconds later, and the bitterness faded into shame as I realized I had sunk to the level of the very people I wanted nothing to do with.
Life wasn’t fair to me, and complaining wasn’t going to make it better. If I solved a few long term information cases, it might, I decided heading to my office.