Veluriya absently transformed the puzzle box this way and that as she waited. Angelique's agent was late, but Angelique ran her whole organization close to the mystical edge of sanity, and the sense of time was always the first to go.
The alleyway she had found herself in was tight twisty, and stank of wild things parasitizing the edge of the city. No cobblestone was more than a decade old, indicating frequent replacement. The walls had been restored twice, with the first restoration using harder brick than the original, lasting a few centuries, and the second restoration using something modern and sturdy but without keeping a proper edge. Pieces to the puzzle awaiting trained eyes everywhere.
Despite the maintenance pattern of the cobblestones, there wasn't a car in sight, and there hadn't been so much as another pedestrian for the whole twenty minutes Veluriya had been waiting. However, that was less of a clue than it seemed. More than once, Angelique had pre-emptively obscured a meeting spot, lest the sane be able to find it in time.
Angelique's agent gave plenty of warning before his approach, steel-toed boots ringing out and then inelegantly silenced against the cobblestones. He arrived with two musclebound thugs in tow. His build was lanky and hungry and ready for a scrap, from his shins to his cheekbones. A few locks of hair curled gracefully out of place against the fluffy shock of black, cropped too close to get a grip on, but long enough to encourage a bully to try. His pale skin contrasted nicely with his black synth-leathers. He swaggered to a stop just over nineteen feet before Veluriya, probably a round six meters, with a nonplussed eye towards her fidgeting. "Y'aren't Valerie, are ya?"
Veluriya grinned. "Not quite. Simon, I presume?"
He nodded once, sharply, without taking his eyes off her. "That don't matter so much, but I represent Angelique here."
She nodded, gracefully, standoffishly. "Of course. Now that that's out of the way…" She folded up the puzzle box like a flower un-blooming, and held it out to him. "I assume you have your own ways of detecting these things, but I'd be happy to describe the merchandise."
"No need." Angelique's agent held out a hand to the smaller of the two bodyguards, who placed a loupe in that hand. The agent tucked it against his eye and examined the puzzle box, at first leaned towards it, by the end leaned away from it. "It's, ah, a fair sight stronger than Angelique was led to believe…"
"Is that a problem?" She drew it back to cradle it protectively, and resume idly switching its piece this way and that.
"Well, you gotta understand, the budget allocation was made for a weaker puzzle box. I can't pay you extra for extra power."
"Oh, that's fine." She gave him a graceful smile. "I need to move it quickly, I can't afford to wait for a suitable price. That's why I didn't emphasize its power in the first place." This was a calculated risk; he could try to haggle her hard until she pushed back, but Angelique's reputation was thus on the line. Veluriya was deliberately accepting a price below market, which didn't leave him the wiggle room to bargain her down further than that.
Both froze as another voice boomed out and then trailed off. "Haec figura, dolor…" They slowly turned to look at the bodyguard who had spoken, and who was beginning to look quite sheepish.
"He's right, you know." Angelique's agent was the first to resume the conversation. "You've got that accursed thing in the Pain Configuration, but… nothing." He nodded to the puzzle box inert in her hands, decoratively unfolded and with the old ideograms arranged in a multi-symmetrical pattern. "I thought I saw some shadowy configuration earlier, but nothing, so I figured I was wrong. But I wasn't, was I? Does it work, or what?"
Veluriya looked down at it, but was already grinning, as she knew what she'd find. Ideograms in three languages, all older than the Pyramids, emphasized with gold leaf against the black lacquer, and rimed with blood. Together in sets of four they described three intersections of suffering, and those intersections overlapped at grief, pain, and resentment. She gave it a twist, taking the main ring out of alignment, and then tossed it to Angelique's agent. He caught it effortlessly… but spent considerable effort to avoid aligning it. "Why don't you finish it and see?"
He looked at her as if she were easily the craziest here. "First 'cause I can feel it crawling with power, and second 'cause I got no intention to open a gate to Hell, Ms. Veluriya." Gingerly he folded it back up, taking his time to avoid even a single intersection, until he had it back to cube shape.
She nodded to him gracelessly. "It works fine. I didn't get into this business without learning to handle these things safely. `