Master Jorn smirked triumphantly when the haughty lady Mina turned her head away. He had her right where he wanted her.
“Rewards come only after results,” she huffed and turned her back on him.
“As you wish, My Lady,” he said with a mock bow, then backed out of the room, shutting the door behind him. His vicious grin grew an additional inch, thinking about the lady of the Purple Palace, soon to be at his beck and call.
Although she was surely older than he preferred, her beauty was only matched by her tenacity. The one thing he enjoyed more than a young body, was breaking the will of a woman with an unbending back. He withdrew the flask from his chest pocket and took another deep draft, enjoying the invigorating tincture he had spent a decade developing. It was his pride and joy, and the only source of drink he trusted, as his paranoia drove him to mistrust anything he had not prepared himself.
Licking his lips, he put the flask back into his chest pocket and then looked left and right for the women who had been ordered out, to see if he could conclude his business with them first. The sun had only just set, so they would not be too busy at this hour, perhaps…
No, no, he thought, shaking his head before resuming his smile, My dear Mina is correct; rewards come only after results.
He could always enjoy the lesser women afterward. For now, he was aiming for something greater.
As he walked down the stairs toward his laboratory, he was already thinking up the ways in which he would break her, using what he knew about her history. The Dun family was originally led by the male side of the family, who assured the protection of the whorehouse while the females administered the business.
Mina’s father was said to have been as strong as a bear, and just as vigorous in the rites of fertility. The man had adored his daughter, to the point that rumors were flying about his love being a little too strong.
He had her locked up on the upper floors, never allowing her to be seen by anyone, as he bought her dresses and beautiful trinkets from far and wide. He, alone, had been allowed in her room, aside from a single servant who was both mute and deaf.
When her father had been found dead in Mina’s room, stabbed through the eye with a hair-pin he himself had acquired from an Eastern trader, the rumors only intensified. With her father dead, the young Mina had assumed command of the whorehouse with an iron grip, thoroughly cleansing the place for any gossip, as well as anyone who did not agree with her replacing her father. Only after her authority had been establish, did she go as far as to rename the house as the ‘Purple Palace’, and taking on the moniker of a lady.
Rubbing his hands against each other, master Jorn was already planning out his first night with his dear Mina as he stepped into his laboratory. Locking her up would be a good start, turning her back into that helpless girl who mustered the courage to stab her own father to death.
The thought of breaking that unbending will made him shiver with delight. It was inevitable that she would be his, after all, as he was alchemist boasting of a royal commission.
A former royal commission, perhaps, but it was irrelevant. He would regain his glory in time, starting by dominating the Purple Palace, and after that, the entire town.
Retrieving the powder he had received from Mina, he sniffed at it again, marveling at the product. He could produce something similar, of course, with the right instruments and time, but finding another with skills like his own in this small place made him excited.
It was almost a shame that he had to destroy such a talented individual, but only almost. Master Jorn saw little to be gained in having competition, and had no scruples about ending the threat, especially not when such an act would provide delicious benefits.
He was so engrossed in analyzing the mixture, interspersed with wicked fantasies, that he did not notice the small white rat crawling up on his table. It skittered through his instruments, stopping periodically to sniff at his tinctures, as well as drop a small packet into the mixture on the stove, which was always kept on a simmer in master Jorn’s laboratory.
Distracted, master Jorn retrieved his flask again, taking a final draft of the tincture, emptying it. With a grunt, the alchemist shook the flask, as if to ensure that it was as complete empty as he suspected, then sighed and walked over to the stove.
Using a ladle, he scooped up the simmering mixture, sniffing it to ensure it was ready. Satisfied, he poured another serving into his flask, and immediately took a sip. The mixture reinvigorated him, and using the prized formula he had come up with himself, it would prolong his life and virility.
Sighing with relief, master Jorn returned to his analysis. After tinkering for another hour, he came to the conclusion that the one who had concocted the offending drug was at the very least a budding alchemist, and the processes through which the mixture was made had to require some very specific instruments.
Using this information, he would be able to track his opponent back, simply by inquiring into any recent purchases by those in the vicinity who had the coin to procure such expensive toys. Any of the other two families were suspect, although he had heard the Marn family had recently taken a very serious hit by some obscure figure.
What was his name again? Haflin… Hanle…? Well, it doesn’t matter. Master Jorn shook his head, grinning to himself. Whatever mess the Marns had brought upon themselves, it did not matter to him.
He walked out of his laboratory with purpose, intending share his news with the mistress and soon-to-be his personal toy. On the way, he returned to his fantasies, allowing his feet to lead him forward while his mind wandered off into a brighter future.
Only, when he arrived at the door to Mina’s parlor, he was alerted by the muffled sound of voices coming through the door. Except for the mayor and himself, the mistress of the Purple Palace did not entertain guests in her apartments, and he knew the mayor was too occupied to visit.
Narrowing his eyes, master Jorn leaned forward and put his ear to the door, trying to make out the words spoken from within.
“…You can’t seriously expect me to—”
The sound of another voice interrupted Mina’s familiar voice. It was too low for Jorn to recognize the words, but the threatening tone did not escape him.
“That’s preposterous! Stop your baseless accusations and get out of my house!”
An intruder! Master Jorn’s eyes went wide. Murderous intent filled him, as he thought about the chance that someone might be attempting to sully his possession. Stepping back, he kicked the door open and entered the parlor.
Inside, lady Mina turned toward him, her large eyes filled with thunder and surprise. Master Jorn surveyed the room, finding no trace of anyone inside.
“What the hells do you think you’re do—”
“Who was it?” Master Jorn said, turning his head back and forth in a fury, “Who was in here?”
Furrowing her brow, the mistress of the Purple Palace said, “No one.”
“I heard it. Someone’s here — who is it! Who dares to enter the room of my woman!?”
The sound of a slap resounded through the room, and master Jorn staggered backward, holding onto his cheek.
“I am not—” lady Mina towered over him, looking down on his smaller frame with both scorn and anger, “Repeat— not your woman. I am nobody’s woman but my own. If you ever dare enter my rooms again, unannounced, I will have the boys downstairs flay you alive. Is that understood?”
Cheek burning from the brutal slap, and the humiliation stinging even harder, master Jorn gave curt nod. For now, he would let her have her say, but he would repay this favor a thousandfold in the future.
A thousandfold, woman. I swear it!