Anya returned to the inn in upper Nexus. As she stepped into the room she had rented, her heart sunk. Jalmar was nowhere to be seen. She sprinted downstairs and ran to the innkeeper. â€œDid you see the man I arrived with leave?â€ she asked desperately, out of fear for the city.
â€œYes I did,â€ the old man nodded and replied, â€œthe large fellow right? He left while you were gone, headed off to the lower districts without so much as a word.â€ He rubbed his faintly-bearded chin and tried to remember anything else. â€œOh yes,â€ he said just as Anya was about to leave, â€œhe put down a jade bit to pay for your room before he left.â€ Anya thanked the old innkeeper and rushed out of the building.
â€œOh gods, please donâ€™t let him be leaving!â€ she thought as she charged down the crowded streets of Nexus, knocking a few people over as she passed. â€œAnd please donâ€™t let him be looking for a fight!â€ As if in answer to her prayers, though not as she hoped, Anya heard a loud crashing of stone and wood halfway across the city. â€œOh no,â€ she thought, and raced off after Jalmar.
Meanwhile, in the slums of lower Nexus, Jalmar stepped over the shattered bodies of a dozen thugs. He was surrounded by a cloud of dust and small debris from the wall he had just crashed through. More of the thieves were outside, with small blades ready but without any desire to fight. They began to scatter as Jalmar appeared through the smoke and haze of the collapsing tenement behind him. A few of the thugs stood to fight, but even they were wracked with fear. One of the thieves blindly charged Jalmar and stabbed at him with a large knife. The blade bent and crumpled against Jalmarâ€™s chest, and the thief dropped his ruined weapon in shock. Jalmar reached out lightning-fast and grabbed the thug by the neck. â€œYou fought for your life,â€ Jalmar muttered, â€œgood.â€ He threw the man back, and he rolled across the cobblestone street until he struck the building across the road and stopped. While not dead, the thug did not get back up for a while. â€œWhere is your leader?â€ Jalmar demanded of one of the few remaining thieves. None of them answered, so Jalmar added motivation. He lunged at the next closest thug, and dodged past him. Right behind the thief, he spun on his heel and put all of his momentum on his right fist. In one wide arc, he brought his fist against the back of the thugâ€™s skull. Bones shattered, and the man fell lifeless before he realized he was under attack. Blood dripped from Jalmarâ€™s right hand, and he approached the next thug.
â€œIâ€™ll take you to her!â€ the next thug shrieked. He scampered away, and Jalmar followed behind. The thief lead Jalmar to an abandoned blacksmithâ€™s shop in the middle of the slums. He then knocked on the door in a particular pattern to signal his allies inside. A slot in the door slid open, and a pair of eyes was visible on the other side. â€œSomeone here to see the boss,â€ the thug said sheepishly. The slot closed back up, and the thief looked to Jalmar. â€œWeâ€™ll have to wait a moment for approval,â€ he said. Jalmar almost chuckled. He swung one large fist against the door, and blasted it off its hinges. The flying door caught the thievesâ€™ door guard full in the face and bowled him over. Twenty more thugs inside the building drew their weapons immediately. Jalmar stepped inside unafraid, and saw that the thieves were using the old building as both a hideout and as a forge to make weapons.
From the crowd of thieves, a young woman of finely athletic build and graceful posture slinked forward. Her short red hair framed a deadly serious but somewhat amused expression. She wore a long black dress, cut high up her right leg. She was about to speak to Jalmar, but stopped suddenly. The smile left her face as she stared him down. â€œI know you,â€ she said breathlessly. Jalmar somehow recognized her as well, but couldnâ€™t place how. â€œOr maybe, I knew you once before,â€ she said with more composure. The thieve all stood motionless and silent as their leader and this new arrival stared at each other. Faintly, an empty circle of golden light glittered on the womanâ€™s brow. Jalmar recognized that as one of the symbols of the anathema, much like the mark he bore. This display drove the thieves around the smithy to back away slowly until they reached the outer wall. They knew the nature of their leader, but they had not seen any others of her kind before. â€œWhat do you want here?â€ the woman asked Jalmar, with genuine curiosity.
â€œI heard in the bar that you were one of the exalted, I thought you might be terrestrial or know where I could find someone.â€ Jalmar spoke very straightforwardly.
The woman nodded, â€œI can find almost anyone, but why should I help you?â€
Jalmarâ€™s eyes narrowed, â€œWeâ€™re kin, and I will kill you if you donâ€™t.â€