His left hand was singed and flaming pain ran up his arm. It was burnt terribly and stung viciously as every second passed. He ran to the sink to run cold water over the frying oil burn, leaving the battered sea bananas in the deep fryer. The skin on his hand smouldered and turned red, with welts forming from his palm to his wrist. The workplace casualty was a serious one and the pain pounded up into his ears and he couldn’t see straight. His coworkers Dyle and Selmy, with their blank stares and mindless demeanor, failed to notice him scream in pain and curse the Landers for his injury. He knew that his hand would need serious treatment, but he couldn’t go to the hospital. Not after what he had done.
Francis knew the hospitals checked the wanted posters at the door and notified the guards. That was one of the few places he knew they would find him. The hospitals were run directly by the crown and the king’s cronies. When they took in a patient they checked the police records that Frandor Pine provides them as another one of the Lowborn King’s men and the Captain of Police. Francis could not afford to lend his face to an organization that spread to every city in the Newlands. He had to flee a few of them already, and the police were anxious to have a visit with him, especially if the hospital told them exactly where he was.
He never seemed to be able to keep the police from needing a chat with him. The Landing was one place he could not go anymore, on account of an accusation of theft from a reputable enough source. The lord of the Oasis seemed to be raising a few extra children from their mistresses. Even some officers in the Bullet would like to stop him for his troubles in banditry. There was also that affair in Kingsport. He shook that out of his head whenever he could. Francis did not love the authority of his kingdom, and certainly did not respect its laws. He just seemed to have his own proclivity to deviance. Besides, he was lowborn scum from the slums of Nicoli. No one loved his kind anyway, why not do as he pleased and forget the consequences.
Francis, now in a misanthropic malaise over a workplace injury, resolved to treat his own wound. The diner’s bathroom would do nicely for an emergency room, he decided. He turned the knob of the sink to stop the water. Sharp pains cascaded from his hand and overwhelmed him. He put his good hand on the counter and closed his eyes. He took deep breaths and grunted through the pain. After a few seconds of that, he grabbed the first aid kit from the wall in its overly apparent position and pushed open the heavy kitchen door with the same hand he held it. He took the kit and his singed hand to the bathroom sink in front of a dirty mirror, stained with Landers know what. His face stared back at him angry and distorted by the pain and the stains of the mirror. His golden curls were held by an under serving hair net and looked uncomfortable and awkward constrained by it. The deep green eyes that glared at him were full of pain and anger.
The first aid kit was nearly impossible to open with one hand. Eventually, he managed to pry it open with his good hand to see the inappropriate lack of aid in the first aid kit. That’s just fucking perfect. He cursed to himself. It contained a pair of scissors, a needle, with no thread, a small roll of medical tape, and a small tube of creamed herbs for infections. He sighed and resolved that he had to make do with what he had if wanted to keep his freedom. He ran his hand under cold water once more and winced at the flaming pain. The red bubbling burn spread from his thumb to his wrist. He took off the “Old World Food” branded apron and tossed it on the dirty tile floor. He was supposed to have cleaned it already. He took the scissors with his good hand and struggled to cut a piece of cloth from his undershirt, where no one could see the missing cloth, big enough to cover the wound. He dried off his hand and spread the creamed herbs all over one side of the cloth. He plastered the mashift bandage over his hand with a pain that rivaled a bullet wound, of which he had experience with. Francis unraveled the medical tape and wrapped the wound tightly with a clumsy hand. Francis was proud of the work that he had done clumsily in the dirty fast-food restaurant bathroom. He had too much practice with the healing arts on himself and his friends in the criminal world. He still felt pain surging when he had finished the bandaging and picked up the supplies from the kit.
The door swinging into the bathroom startled Francis alone, not to mention who was walking through the door. Solomon Yavi strode through the doorway. The flamboyant man from New Arabia wore an ill-fitting purple fur coat that hung down to his knees. He wore leather boots up to where the coat hung so that none of his other clothing could be seen. That and the sword belt Francis knew he carried beneath the coat. His excessive jewelry and long braided dark hair did not represent his temperament, however. The chilled out Newlander could kill a man with his shortsword while smiling at the joke that same man had just told him. Although he was as ruthless as a ripper in the heat of a New Arabian summer, Solomon was friendly and accommodating as anyone Francis had met. Friendly enough, the man himself did not scare Francis but his connections did. He shouldn’t be in Nicoli, they were not supposed to be here.
The moment Francis put together that the bronze skinned gangster was a former accomplice he was stricken with a fear that could cause armies to shatter. Francis was stuck head on with his worst fear of the last six months. They found me. They’ve come to bring me back. He thought. Francis couldn’t think of anything he could do other than take what was coming head on. The pain of the memories and from his hand surged through his head so that he could hardly think. Soon he realised that it had been a strange amount of time he spent standing in front of Solomon since he had walked in.He tucked his things under his arm, as to keep Yavi from realising that he worked in a fast food restaurant. Let him start. He coached himself. Solomon smiled at Francis before saying in a calm tone, “Hey Man! It’s been a while!” He stuck out his hand to shake Francis’. Solomon spoke with the smooth accent of New Arabia. His face welcomed Francis’ company even in the disgusting fast-food restaurant bathroom. Francis responded only with a shy smile that said, “No, I would not like to talk to you.”
Yavi proceeded to ignore his facial response and obvious discomfort. He continued by asking,”What are you doing in Nicoli, man?” Francis worried about the answer when he saw him notice the apron under his arm. Solomon put together what it was, and an honestly concerned face appeared on his face. “You’re working here? I can’t believe this, man. You were good with us out there. We’ve missed you since you went missing. What was that, after the Kingsmen?”
“Yes, after they got Jonah I left. I kinda meant for you not to find me.” Francis was surprised by the lackadaisical energy about his disappearance from the gang. He even feared they might hunt him down for abandonment. He left the shattered chain, walked through the Seven Deaths, traveled the Brightroad to escape them. He expected some bad blood between them. Francis forgave Yavi, he had no idea what happened on that day, besides the death of Jonah. Francis managed, “Hey, I just can’t do it anymore. It’s too much. I got this steady job and I’m making some good, safe money, and I’m laying low. There isn’t anything wrong with that.”
Solomon seemed shocked by this. Maybe he didn’t even know about the day with the Kingsmen. “Hey, I’m sorry about what happened. He was a good guy and I know you were close. Denys was real torn up about that too. He really doesn’t know how they knew about the raid. Anyway, we’ve moved the gang up here due to some other… business complications. If you ever need some side work, you are still welcome with Denys. There’s no bad blood between the gang and you. He understands you jetting off like that.” Solomon forced an address that he wrote onto a torn piece of paper into Francis’ hand. He told him that it was their new hangout if he ever wanted to come talk. They exchanged pleasantries and goodbyes and Francis managed to squeeze his and out of the bathroom.
He found the dining area of Old World Food filled with thick black smoke. He realized immediately what it was with the overbearing stench of the burning sea bananas. His lungs filled with the dark smoke and sent him into a coughing fit. He cursed himself and ran into the kitchen as fast as he could, breathing in the dark cloud that surrounded him.
By the time he cleared the smoke from the restaurant he was coughing and spitting up black phlegm. The fire was out under the hot oil and the kitchen stopped smoking. He wiped his hands on the apron he put back on in embarrassment. Then he saw out the window the patrons standing outside when they had meant to be inside getting a quick meal or drinking a nice wine. Thankfully there were only a few of them at the time. He saw the triplet of Nicoli guardsmen in their dark blue cloaks and grey armour. They chatted seemingly unbothered by the fire. There was also a few dirty peasants, surely paying their month’s salary for a stiff drink, and a priest of Nic straightening his golden cloaks angrily. The only other person he saw outside the “Old World Food” was the owner, marching back at the door with a furious look that could curdle milk.
Francis braced himself for the fit of screaming and spitting that epitomized his boss, Nathen Bloodsworth. The big red faced bull of a man had a keg for a belly and often filled it like one. He claimed descent from a great knight, and named himself like one would, although most people knew he was the bastard of a whore in Nicoli. Despite this, he was indignant and self-righteous and frequently furious with his employees and customers in his own version of a castle that he wished he had. He speaks with the voice of a warrior, but his face jiggles like a hog. Nathen kicked open the door into the restaurant and nearly stumbled over himself with all his anger.
“You dirty scum! You no good weasley criminal! I ought to tear those pretty blonde curls off your head and make you eat them!” Nathen screamed at him. His jowls wove through the air as he flapped his fat lips. His face was a deep red and he was sweating so much his hair was wet. Francis kept his cool although he was obviously of a mind to slice open his throat. Francis knew how to deal with blind anger, it was the calm collected kind he was scared of. “What the hell did you think you were doing? Are you so damn stupid you can’t handle the simple bloody job of frying some damn food? Those damn lackwits Dyle and the other one can handle it.” He continued to shout as his red face jiggled vigorously.
Francis gave his humblest, most innocent, subservient voice he could muster. The want to be knight would appreciate that at least. He knew he needed this job. There were a lot of people in this city who knew who he was. He was lucky to find one that didn’t. “I sorry, Mister Bloodsworth. I burnt my hand and forgot…”
The angry man looked for an excuse to get angry. “You forgot? Of course you did. You probably also forgot that you were born in this city? I heard a nasty little rumor about you that the city guard would love to hear…”
Now Francis was scared. The dungeons were not the place for someone like him. Nor the execution block for that matter. “No! I mean,... I’m sorry m’lord. I’ll go now you’ll never see me again if that’s what you want. Just don’t, please.” Francis frantically wiped wiped his good hand on his apron and focused on the pain of his left.
“You don’t tell me what not to do! You get the hell out of this place and make sure I never see you again. I’ll see if I keep these rumors to myself.” He said with a disdainful point at the door.
Francis tore off the apron, only causing him to squeal a little from the pain in his left hand. He marched out the door, at least relieved that he wouldn’t be escorted by the three guardsmen he was passing. He confidently pulled out the piece of paper that Solomon had given him. At least I know I have somewhere to go. Although a voice in his head told him not to, he pictured the money he could make and how good it would feel to swing a sword with his brothers in the gang that loved him so much.