So letʼs continue with Judahʼs reminisences as to how he came to get attacked one dark night in Sepharad, to be rescued by a new friend, Søren the barbarian. the earlier portion of this chapter is here, and the entire Sepharad saga, so far, is here among the longer Items.
continuing Chapter II of “Mistakes by Moonlight”
But two days ago, hope had appeared in the form of his least pupil — a dull, surly troll child, son of a medium-time gangster bullying and conniving his way up the informal echelon of power in the Blue Quarter. The illiterate brat came bearing a note scrawled on wellused antique parchment.
“What’s it say, Pedro?” he had asked, knowing the obnoxious dimwit had taken almost nothing from Judah’s instruction.
“You read it, Jew. Youʼre the smart one.” The kid tossed scrap at Judah. “It’s from Papa,” he added archly and fled.
Papa owed him money, not palimpsest, but one such as Judah did not attempt to extort what was legitimately due from one such as Pedro’s papa.
The note read: “Qabbalist — you need money. I have a task that will reward you richly, if you are as brave as you say you are learned. Come tonight to the Pomegranate after matins.” No signature, but the sour boy had identified the sender: Reynaldo the Persuader.
Judah did not list courage among his attributes (although others — even some who disliked him — did), but curiosity defined him. Curiosity dragged him to the tavern after dark, where Pedro’s father, at ease in this dive whose owner he owned, nodded the failed pedagogue to his table with a sneer.
“Jew, I have a client, an important — but anonymous — man, who wants something. He has asked me to get it for him, and I wish the deed done to put this nobleman in my debt.”
“A clever relationship. For you.”
“Yes. For me,” Reynaldo agreed. “I think from what I have heard about you that you may be the man to get this thing.”
“The thing is in the possession of that witch in the Red Tower.”
“Larissa,” Judah breathed the name lightly, as curiosity opened catlike eyes of interested surprise in his soul.
“Exactly, the godawful Green Witch…”
“Sorceress of the Red Tower. What’s she got that a nobleman wants?”
“A statuette of some kind. A green one, all of some Asian stone.”
“Jade. It’s the name of the stone.”
“You know of it then?”
“No, but I know what the Chinese call that stone. I learned in the East. Waterstone — Jade. And I still don’t understand what some petty lord wants with a witchʼs magic statuette.” For it had to be magic. If it were hers.
“What’s it matter, Jew? Youʼre to get the thing and bring it me. I’ll pay you. Well. And that’s the end of it so far as you’re concerned.”
“Sure. But… I am curious…” Always curious.
“Ah, well, the little lordling’s got a friend. You must have heard of him. Came to town months back. That wizard fella —”
“The Necromancer.” That explained much. This dark sorcerer had arrived in the city not long before Judah, so he and his reputation were still news for Judah’s ears to drink. A cruel wizard lately come from Christendom, exiled thence for his black magic. Reputedly avaricious and desirous of power and fame. He would desire anything to undermine the Green Witch. Indeed, some claimed he had come to the city intending to defeat her in supernatural conflict. Judah, a Kabbalist, however fallen from that true path, knew little of such things and thought sorcerous challenges silly, was curious about wizardry and its practitioners. Everything about this task intrigued him.
“So. How ʻwellʼ will you pay me?”
The gangster named a sum so princely Judah could remain at his ease here for a year or more — or travel in elegance and comfort. How could he resist?