Actions

Work Header

None So Blind

Work Text:

The fake priest started taking his apprentices with him to pay their taxes when Nazca was nine years old. Locke was the first to arrive, and the guards on duty that day did an impressive job not looking too far askance at the small figure stumbling through the door.

Locke mostly looked confused, and Nazca rolled her eyes silently as she worked. He’d notice her eventually, or not. He still seemed to be lacking in observational skills for all his gawking.

"Chains!" Capa Barsavi said loudly, grinning. "You've brought an apprentice."

"Much as I would like for the Lord of the Overlooked to bless me with eternal life," Chains said, "someone's going to have to take this over for me someday. Maybe even just when I'm too old and bowlegged to bother boating my way out here. Just wait until I bring the Sanzas next time."

"I may even humor their delusion that I can't tell them apart," Barsavi chuckled.

“It’s easy,” scoffed Nazca from the corner, finally looking up from the determiner’s box she’d been fiddling with.

Locke blinked at her, his face a squint of confused recognition that she’d seen much of lately. The “you look different but I can’t figure why” face.

“They’re optics.” She scowled at him. “Mother has them and Pachero too and just because you aren’t sophisticated enough doesn’t mean you should stare at me like a jellyfish.”

“Jellyfish don’t have eyes,” Locke said stupidly.

After pausing to contemplate her options, Nazca threw her optics at him. If they couldn’t stand up to a bit of throwing she’d clearly need stronger ones anyway.

--

The Last Mistake was one of Nazca’s favorite places. She got to sit with her father and watch business and wear her boots and drink her brandy until it got taken away. Sometimes if the old man was behind the bar—he was nicer than the young one, not so nice to the customers but she knew he was glaring less when she came up to him and stomped her feet—she could sneak an extra one. On good nights she could sneak in on a card game, and on better ones someone came to take their oath to the capa of Camorr.

When Father Chains brought them another boy a few years after Locke, she was even more pleased.

“Will this one be my pezon too?” she asked.

Her father laughed. “That is up to him, my dear,” he said. “Though your brothers will become even more insufferable about it if they find out you’ve started building your own gang.”

She frowned. “He’s very round.”

“And you are very small and very rude,” her father said. “He will never want to follow you with that attitude.”

Much to her disappointment, Jean Tannen did not want to join her gang. She could tell in the way he squinted that he was having trouble seeing, a problem she was more than familiar with, and he carried sadness around him like an autumn evening fog.

“Do you want to borrow these?” she asked him, holding out her optics, but the boy just shook his head.

--

Tax duty remained much the same even two years later. As the adults’ conversation quickly devolved into business, Nazca pulled Locke aside by his sleeve. "I have a job for you, pezon," she whispered. She enjoyed invoking his title.

Based on the wary look Locke gave her, she assumed he was thinking about their narrow escape from the Order of Sendovani after her last job. He did so love to dwell on past accidents. She had only had to take care of the one guard, and she was sure he’d be fine once he stopped walking funny.

"Meet me behind the temple of Iono an hour before Falselight," she said. "Wear your initiate's robes."

The alley was a convenient meeting place, with a good enough view of the street to catch any passersby but enough corners to hide in so as not to attract undue attention. She popped up next to Locke, pleased with his flinch of surprise.

"Does your father even know you're here?" he asked.

"Not as such," she said. "But that's not important."

They crossed a small footbridge to the south and headed into the Mara Camorrazza, a strolling ground never known for its reputability.

"Here?" Locke asked. "Of all places?"

Nazca nodded. "We're going into the tunnels."

Beneath their abandoned spires, the Eldren had also left in place a maze-like network of tunnels crisscrossing the city. Many of the Right People and other less-right but equally foolish people used them for minor business, but only quickly and if there wasn’t an easier option. There were rumors of people going mad down there, of things that spoke to you in the darkness, peculiar floating globes that men would follow and never be heard from again.

"Why do you think I wanted you to wear the robes?" Honestly, no forethought. "Now no one will bother us."

"I think they all know who you are anyway," he said. "They're more likely to wonder when your family took a turn for the devout."

Nazca shrugged as she bent down to lift up a particularly overgrown hedge and the few small flowers that had managed to grow tried to cling to it desperately. "You also look funny in them."

She finally managed to part the branches enough to reveal the glowing amber mouth of the Elderglass-lined tunnel and crowed joyfully, crawling in immediately. Locke sighed as he followed after her.

“I knew this would be here,” she gloated. “Anjais said I’d never find it.”

“Why are we doing this?”

“Because it’s haunted,” Nazca said gleefully. She could hear echoes of a faint whispering sound in the distance, and the strange carvings on the walls seemed to move sinuously out of the corner of her eye.

Despite its narrow opening, much of the tunnel was wide enough for them to walk without difficulty. There were points where they had to crawl and some holes to be shimmied through, which Locke seemed to have a slightly easier time with given his still-diminutive size, but not a full stop anywhere.

“Be careful with those,” he hissed, the sound echoing off the gleaming walls as Nazca crawled through the narrowing opening.

“Be more careful with your head,” she replied, not turning around. If he thought that she would have taken off her boots for Locke Lamora of all people, he was even more foolish than she had previously believed.

Locke snorted. “I hope you get bitten by a ghost spider.”

“Ghost spiders don’t live in these tunnels,” Nazca said haughtily. “Nothing does. As you would know if you ever came down here.”

“I’ve been busy.

“Busy doing what?” she asked. “Pretending to be a priest and stealing from merchants’ wives?”

She was especially careless with her legs as she climbed over the next ledge.

The rushing sound was closer now and the tunnel was starting to get brighter as Nazca clambered up a particularly steep slope and inhaled sharply when she reached the top. Half the city spread out ahead of her, the eerie colors of Falselight just beginning to seep out of the elderglass and bathing the edges of buildings in their sheen.

She sat on the edge, leaning over far enough that were any adult present they’d immediately grab her coat and pull her back. Locke sat down next to her as she nearly bent double trying to peer over the edge.

Unfortunately her optics were even more interested in the base of the drop than Nazca was and tumbled off her nose and straight into the water.

“Damn it all.”

--

It took a few days after the Orphan’s Moon ceremony before Sabetha came calling.

Nazca assumed she needed some time to calm down.

They met at a small and moderately bustling tavern in the Videnza, frequented primarily by dull, middle-aged merchants who would generally leave two unassuming-looking young women alone as long as they didn’t do anything unusual. Few people in the rich trading district were canny enough to recognize the capa’s daughter and behave accordingly, but still fewer needed to.

They had gone out dressed as boys on a few occasions, but that seemed inappropriate for this particular evening.

“I hate him,” Sabetha seethed across the table. “It’s so godsdamned unfair.”

Nazca made the appropriate sympathetic noises as Sabetha scowled at a very nice cup of orange wine that had done nothing to deserve her scorn.

"He didn't even want to be a priest!" she continued. "Not really, not with that ridiculous tribute, not like I did." She kicked the table leg and made a frustrated, high-pitched noise.

"He's going to take everything, Nazca," she said, putting her head down on the table.

Nazca reached across and put her hand on her friend's shoulder. Locke would have followed Sabetha into Hell itself, but he frequently seemed to forget that it was a human being that he'd be following there, not a distant alien creature, for all that they spent so much time in close quarters. A gracious man, her father had said, but a fool.

"And he's so stupid," she groaned. "He doesn't even have any idea."

Three glasses later, Sabetha was starting to get drunk enough that Nazca decided it would be better for them to depart.

"Where are we taking you," she asked as Sabetha draped herself across Nazca's shoulders and only Nazca’s quick reflexes managed to save her optics from an undignified drop.

"Wherever Locke fucking Lamora isn't," Sabetha said.

--

“There,” the merchant stepped back, proud of her work as she fit the optics to Nazca’s face. "Those should work nicely."

Nazca frowned at herself in the mirror. While it wasn't uncommon for scribes or bankers or even a few older members of the nobility to wear optics, most younger Camorri avoided them. They were unfashionable and, to some, a sign of weakness. You didn’t make it far in Camorr if you couldn't see what could be right in front of you.

Her mother smiled behind her, her eyes pleased behind her own lenses. "Those will suit quite well, thank you," she said, paying the merchant and ushering Nazca out of the shop. Not that the Barsavis necessarily needed to pay anyone, but the best optics were made by generally respectable folk and they considered it a worthwhile investment.

"You'll be able to see through anything now," her mother said conspiratorially. "Someone in this family should be able to."