Location within Solis
The clunk of the lock mechanism yielding to a professional touch and slight groan of rusted hinges sounded as thunder in the ears of Strat, the foremost spy in the city of Solis.
Dark as it was in the shadow haunted stairwell that led from Black Court down into the bowels of Curio, Strat felt strangely visible. He never liked visiting Curio in the day, let alone at night. In the day he could at least melt into the crowds that thronged the place, haggling over pennies for curios from distant lands or rooting through crates of oddments, dusk laden and dirty. But at night, Curio Court was empty. Dead. Silent. Only the shadows and his own guile could protect him from watchful eyes.
"Ideal for a spy, Strat! No-one to disturb you eh? No-one to dump you in the briny!" He was talking to himself again, never a good sign. More squealings and groanings from the old hinges were soon pacified by the application of Strats specially prepared mineral oil. A few seconds later and the shadows at the bottom of the steps under Black Arch were home to more than just rats.
Peering from the dark into the gloom that was Curio Court, sunk deep into the city like some dark well whose sheer sides were a multitude of dwellings, shop fronts, workshops and residences, Strat watched, and waited. And waited some more, as there were more than the eyes of rats to avoid, for Curio Court was a strange place and no mistake.
Far too late for the Watch now, Strats heart beat faster. He could hardly contain himself. Then it started. The strange, sonorous voice he had heard a few nights previously, floating on the night breeze. It transfixed him now as it had then, he could hardly move. Slowly, he regained his composure, breathed again and peered into the dark.
The beauty of the enchantment wound itself around him, caressed his cheek, filled his very heart and mind, drawing him into the Court, into the open. Caring not for hidden watchers, Strat stepped out of his hidey, darkness falling away from him like a cloak discarded.
Strat froze, his mouth open, his eyes wide. There before him, wrapped up in her own sweet song, was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She moved slowly, swaying in time to her own music, her face hidden from him. Around the well she went, carefree and winsome, and very, very naked. And as she sat on the well edge, her toes making circles in the cold, clear water she turned to see the unwanted guest. Her singing stopped of a sudden, her face a visage of alarm. A heartbeat they stared eye to eye, a heartbeat that would haunt Strat the rest of his life. For a heartbeat later, she was gone. Simply gone. No more of her remained than a song in the memory of Strat the Spy and a ripple on the water in an old, old well.
And from a window in the Grey Lady Inn, hidden in the shadow of the vines, an old man watched with tired eyes. He managed a thin smile as he watched Strat steel into the night, wiped a tear from his time worn cheek and sighed a longing sigh that faded into the dark.