Arturo tumbled into the street, breath evacuating his lungs and back screaming out with every bounce. He came to a stop after a few feet, and he lay there for several moments, overwhelmed by the pain that told him he’d be far better off unconscious and the world that wouldn’t stop spinning even after he closed his eyes. He was faintly aware that Mercer had appeared at his side, but that detail seemed trivial under the present circumstances.

“If I catch you prowling around here again, I’ll slit your throat before I dump you in the street,” said one sneering man whom Arturo had crossed only minutes before. The man gestured to Mercer, as well. “Either of you. I’ve got my eye on both of you.”

His lungs must have been working, because Arturo could feel a clawing pain each time he drew a breath, and soon he realized Mercer must have been trying to help him to his feet, because everything else hurt at the same time. Other than to shudder with pain, his body was singularly unresponsive. Arturo just wanted to lie there for a bit and let the pain subside before doing anything.

“Come on, lad, we need to get out of the street before one of their patrols shows up. They’ll need no excuse to pummel you any more, and you don’t look like you could take it, either.” When Arturo failed to answer, Mercer spoke again, urging him to get to his feet. “You have some powerful gods watching out for you, you can’t disappoint them like this.”

“Powerful gods indeed,” said Arturo, spitting the words like he’d bitten into something rotten.

“Don’t test their patience. Why don’t you just look at it as a gift that you’re still alive,” said Mercer, “and get on your bloody feet already!”

“Oh, are they?” asked Arturo in a faraway voice. “I hadn’t noticed with all the running, and the falling, and the not-getting-back-up.”

“What are you going on about now?” said Mercer. “You can mope all you like when we’re indoors, but we need to go. Now!”

Mercer was still trying to haul Arturo to his feet when they were approached by a group of enforcers for the Gilded Flame. Seven or eight of them by Arturo’s count, but he could only see their legs. They were, all of them, armed, and not very sociable-looking.

“Taking out the trash?” asked one of them. He was tall, at least from where Arturo was lying on the ground. “Maybe we can help.”