His talents lay in blending into populations and fulfilling clandestine tasks assigned to him. He could be a farm-boy today and an ordinary trader the next.
He could be a member of the Town Vigil, patrolling the streets one day, and be a petty thief on the other.
He could be a wealthy merchant this day and a beggar the following.
Damon was eighteen years old but could pass as a younger or older person with ease. Disguise and deception were his modus operandi. He had no elemental powers as such but was an undeclared peculiar of a high order.
Damon could manifest small, handy items out of thin air. The conjured item could be a weapon, a tool, a pouch of food, a few coins. As long as he could imagine the object, the boy could successfully produce it.
However, he had realized through terrible experiences that using the ability took a toll on him.
Once, during a drawn-out battle with a group of mercenaries, Damon had summoned twenty-one weapons within an hour. In the aftermath, he had lost vision in his right eye for an entire week!
During a whimsical experiment of his powers, he had tried to summon a horse cart. The attempt had failed, and Damon had blacked out, waking up half a day later. Thus, the boy had learned to rely on his street skills over time rather than on his conjuring ones.
Damon’s father, Dmitri, a drunkard, had been abusive to his mother, Nadja. The latter had run off with a traveling merchant, abandoning her family. Dmitri had sold off five-year-old Damon into slavery. Little Damon had suffered little, having discovered his powers at a young age. He had grown to secure his freedom and later establish himself as a sought-after mercenary. The prodigy had gained favor with Patricians and Magistrates alike. His father had been found, one day in the sewers, mysteriously dead.
At the moment, Damon was on an undertaking to find a runaway lad- the son of an eminent Patrician. They would pay him the kid’s weight in silver if the latter were returned to the father alive. However, a spoiled patrician child was unlikely to have survived the trip to Pago.
Dressed in a grey toga, which hid his thin frame effectively, Damon looked like a young traveling merchant. His hair was brown and short-cropped.
After asking around in a few shops, he deduced that the tavern- PIG AND WHISTLE, was where local sleuths gathered. These were lowly, dubious men who knew the area by the grass and could provide news of value for silver.
Damon headed towards the north gate.
The surrounding noise of the main path annoyed him- goats bleating, ironsmiths hammering away, horse-hooves clopping, customers bargaining, dogs barking, cartwheels rattling. At one point, he crossed a patrol of the Vigils- the town’s enforcers of the law. They were the magistrate’s men.
Vigils’ duties included apprehending thieves and robbers, capturing runaway slaves, guarding the baths at night, and stopping disturbances of the peace. They primarily dealt with petty crime and were pretty harmless to a seasoned mercenary like Damon.
The ones to be wary of were the Prefects, an elite unit, second only to the Magistrate and who carried the will of the Ascendancy. They comprised retired army veterans, rejects from the Labors, glorified peculiars. The unit had gifted individuals who dealt with the more severe crimes. They mingled among the commoners and came to the fore only according to the demands of the time. Damon had luckily never met a Prefect and did not plan to meet one.
Peddlers and hawkers huddled on either side, calling out to passersby.
“Ruby tomatoes from Fugi!”
“Pan free with two pots!”
“Magical charms to woo your lady!”
“Saffron! Fresh saffron from the outlands!”
“Know your mortal fortune!”
Damon saw a lithe young man carrying a bison carcass on his shoulders.
‘Definitely a peculiar,’ he surmised.
The hulk took a right towards the butchers’ enclave. Damon watched the peculiar walk away for some time, then shook his head and continued on his path to the tavern. He had no interest in the secrets of others unless someone paid him for it.
On his way, Damon passed several brothels. Women of sundry ages stood by the gates of each, calling out seductively to men.
A hustler approached Damon and walked alongside him.
“Ave, young man! How would you like to lie with an exotic peculiar? She gives off lightning sparks when you make love to her! It is like having the goddess Elektra in bed. Just one silver for an hour. What do you say?”
Damon disregarded the offer and walked on. The last thing he needed was a local whore remembering his face.
He reached the destination. A sign hung low at the entrance.