Tuesday, February 2, 2010


“So, where do we start?” asked Garenol as he pushed his mostly full plate of food away from himself. “We probably need to spend tonight on the four nobles, get that out of the way. Polk is going to take some planning.”

“The nobles are easy. We can leave now and do them.” Malus was working his table knife in between two of his teeth, squinting as he concentrated. “We’ve have to watch Polk’s movements for a few days, look for a vulnerability.”

“Why? You don’t just want to run up the aisle of the Crystal Cathedral during the dawn services and run him through at the altar? I mean, how many people could be there? A thousand? Maybe fifty ranking clerics and a few dozen armed and armored Silver Eagles? Surely you can just knock that out tomorrow morning,” Garenol replied as he rolled his eyes. He leaned way back from the table, lacing his fingers behind his head and putting his feet up on the chair that the messenger had vacated.

“Think you can teleport me out fast enough? We could try that.” Malus said thoughtfully, removing the table knife from his mouth and stabbing it purposefully into the tabletop. “Can’t exactly say anyone would expect that approach. I’d have him skewered before there was any real reaction. How fast can you teleport? Wouldn’t do to just be standing there waiting for the spell with a dead archbishop convulsing at my feet.”

Garenol looked at neighboring tables to ensure that no one was listening. Thankfully, most of the other patrons were as drunk, or even drunker, than he was. “I was being sarcastic, loon. We need to be able to dispatch him quietly. Plus, if we can get deep enough into the Cathedral to get to him, then we can . . .”

“Get to the vaults.” Malus cut him off. “Yes I know, Garenol. I share your enthusiasm for a side project that involves making us both absurdly wealthy. But the vault would probably be better guarded than the archbishop, after all, this is the church of Lor.”

“We would need a distraction. And subtlety, Malus. You do remember subtlety? That annoying little feature of most of our jobs that seems to elude you?” Garenol asked.

“You’re still alive, Garenol. I’ve never cost you your life yet.” Malus replied, irritated by Garenol’s taunt. “Besides, distracting the whole of the Lorian contingent won’t require subtlety, it’ll require noise, and probably an explosion, maybe some fire.” Malus’ eyes twinkled. “If we are going to draw them away from their precious gold coffers, it’s going to have to be something pretty damn big. Like the body of the archbishop being discovered aflame in the narthex of the worship space.”

Garenol leaned back in close to the table, again scanning the other patrons for anyone paying attention to their now treasonous conversation. “So your well-laid plan is to abduct the archbishop from his quarters, march him into the large, open part of the cathedral where there is little cover or protection, and set his body on fire?” Garenol let loose with an incredulous laugh.

“Well, not his body. He wouldn’t make enough noise if we set him on fire after dispatching him quietly.” Malus smiled as Garenol stopped laughing and coughed violently.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that suggestion,” Garenol said testily as he fidgeted with the ribbon from the second empty wine bottle. “We’ll come up with something. We need to go.”

Garenol stood up from the chair, and weaved slightly as he stretched his arms up above his head. He reached into his cloak, bringing out a small stack of gold coins. Throwing a few on the table, he turned to his partner. Malus had also arisen, and was buckling the brooch that kept his cloak in place over his armor.

“Thanks for dinner, Garenol,” he said as he began walking towards the door.

“Like you’ve ever paid,” Garenol said in a sing-song voice as he turned to follow Malus to the door. As he walked, he looked over to the bar, and spotted Dorick, who was watching Malus leave. “G’night Dorick, always a pleasure!”

Dorick nodded and waved a bar towel at him, “Leaving so soon? The place isn’t on fire or anything!”

Malus stopped when he heard this. He turned back to the bar and said, “Well, I would hate to disappoint you.” He began striding towards the bar. Garenol intercepted and put his arm in front of Malus, pushing with his body to keep Malus moving towards the door.

“Good ol’ Dorick, never know when to keep your damn mouth shut!” Garenol yelled as he continued to push Malus towards the door. “Couldn’t just leave well enough alone!”

Dorick smiled as he slowly slid one hand off the bar and underneath the counter. He nodded, “Cut him loose, Garenol.”

Malus lunged against Garenol’s arms, one hand flying to his weaponless belt. A low growl escaped his pursed lips as he continued to struggle. “I should have hamstrung you and left you to burn in Fauston!” he screamed. The music died as the patrons began to turn in their seats, watching the huge armored man struggle against the arms of the tall elf. Dorick continued to grin, one hand out of sight under the bar.

“Don’t make me knock you out!” yelled Garenol as he struggled to hold on. He was being slowly dragged along the wood plank floor towards the bar, step by contested step. Malus now looked crazed, his face blood red, and his eyes gleaming. He was slowly winning the brutally physical contest.

“Just a bit closer, you deluded fool,” Dorick said.

As Malus cleared the scattering of tables and came within just a few yards of the bar, Dorick removed his hand from under the bar and pointed it up towards Malus. In his outstretched hand was a two foot length of dark wood, polished and smooth. It was delicately carved from one end to another with a spiral of stylized flames. He pointed the wand at Malus as he laughed to himself.

Garenol cursed, letting go of Malus and pushing a hand quickly into his cloak, his speed speaking of his elvish heritage. Before Malus had taken the three steps it would take to wrap his gauntleted hands around Dorick’s neck, before Dorick commanded what was sure to be a deathly powerful fireball to consume Malus where he stood, Garenol’s hand flew out from under his cloak, as he threw a small gray ball onto the wooden floor. The ball shattered, releasing a fast spreading cloud of dust.
Wherever the dust fell, people fell, all around the bar. Patrons pitched forward onto tables, or off of chairs, limp as dolls. Barmaids and cooks fell where they stood, trays of meat and drink crashing unnoticed onto the floor. A thumping noise announced the unconsciousness of the porter, tumbling down the stairs across the room, a leather-bound foot locker tumbling beside him. Malus fell face forward onto the floor, his momentum carrying his body into a number of barstools, where his limbs tangled up among their legs. Dorick fell over onto the bar, the wand bouncing harmlessly off the polished counter and onto the floor next to Malus’ now peacefully sleeping visage. Dorick’s head and torso slowly slid backwards off the top of the bar, disappearing from Garenol’s sight in a clatter of plates and glasses.
In less than three seconds, the Bloody Fist was silent save for the wheezing breath of a flushed, drunk, and tired Garenol Crynus.

Garenol walked over to the sleeping form of Malus, where he grunted with fatigue as he knelt down beside him. He fingered the wand thoughtfully before shoving it into a large pocket. Then he straightened up and looked around. He walked to a nearby table and grabbed a pitcher of ale from the clutch of a sleeping mercenary. He proceeded to throw the pitcher’s contents on Malus’ head.

“Wake up, you ass. We need to get out of here, now,” he hissed as he went ahead and threw the pitcher itself at Malus. The pitcher bounced off the slowly rousing man’s breastplate, clanking loudly and the spinning away under the tables. Malus pushed himself up on one arm, blearily looking up to the thoroughly disgusted expression on Garenol’s face.

“Did we win?” he asked groggily.

“Idiot, get up,” Garenol said angrily as he leaned in to kick Malus in the shin. His foot bounced harmlessly of Malus’ armor. “We have to leave.” Garenol fished around under his cloak for a moment while Malus got off the floor, shaking his head clear. Garenol quickly produced a small cloth pouch bound at the top with a twine drawstring. He loosened the string and looked inside, he eyes quickly surveying the pouch’s contents, which clinked together as he handled it. Nodding in a satisfied manner, he tightened the drawstring and stepped up to the bar and peered over the edge.

“Sorry, Dorick,” he said resignedly as he gently tossed the pouch over the bar where Dorick had collapsed. “See you next time.”

When Garenol turned back to the door, Malus was upright again, dusting himself off with a severely irritated look on his face. He looked at Garenol, “Give me that wand,” he said.

“No way in hell, Malus, now move before someone outside notices that this whole place just went crypt quiet,” Garenol replied as he shouldered past Malus and headed for the door. “Grab your belt and let’s go.”

Malus looked around disappointed. Then he moved quickly over towards the door, where the series of pegs on the wall stood testament to the generally armed nature of the Fist’s patrons. Finding his belt of weapons, Malus quickly strapped it on while glancing at the now undefended selection of murderous implements. He judged the merits of each as he buckled the steel loops of his belt, mouthing to himself the advantages and flaws of each weapon. Seeing nothing that particularly stirred his fancy, he nodded to himself and proceeded out the door, following Garenol out onto the porch.

“So, where to first?” Malus asked Garenol, who was busy putting the unconscious patrons on the porch back into their chairs and posing them in the manner of coherent, awake people.

“Whichever’s closest, let’s just go,” Garenol said as he stood back to judge the arranging job he had done. “There, they ought to at least look normal from the street until the dust wears off.”

Malus was nodding as Garenol spoke even though he wasn’t paying attention. He was looking at the list he had now brought out. He stepped over to one of the torches that lined the walls of the Bloody Fist and began to read. “Closest is Morgan Thelius, should be a few blocks down the street,” Malus said, gesturing down Meridian Street to his left. “Small family compound, walled with a front courtyard, set back from the street. Two houseservants, no armed presence. Master bedroom is on the second floor, with a window overlooking the courtyard. Has a balcony. Should be in and out.”

“A quicky to start the night, then,” Garenol said appreciatively. “Let’s get started then.” He gathered his cloak around himself and put his hood over his head. He walked down the steps of the porch, and veered left into the shadows under the eaves, almost disappearing.

Malus followed him down the steps, clanking with purpose, and he turned left also, into the middle of the street. Under the first streetlamp he stopped to remove his cloak. The black enameled armor shone with the luster of polish and care as he rolled the cloak tightly, to place in a small knapsack over one shoulder. Checking by touch, and comforted by the weapons as the hilts encountered his careful touching inventory, Malus walked confidently down the street, whistling tunelessly and looking at the mostly darkened buildings.

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