Thursday, February 18, 2010


Garenol walked silently across the peaked roof of the Bloody Fist, balancing himself effortlessly at the seam where the two sloping sides met. He leaned against the chimney closest to him, still thinking about how best to approach this last job of the evening. A target that had to be accessed without incident, in a presumably locked room of a public house, that was still crowded with guests. Not impossible, but challenging nonetheless. Garenol crossed his arms, lost in thought, as the noises of the crowd rose to him from the first floor windows.

After a few moments, he walked carefully down the sloping roof to the back of the building. He leaned out and looked down into the alley behind the Bloody Fist. The back area was a jungle of empty ale barrels and loose, empty crates from local butchers and farmers. A small improvised pen held a number of small young pigs, gently snuffling through their straw bedding, blissfully unaware of their role here at the tavern. Garenol looked up and down the length of the alley, confirming a lack of people. He dropped over the roof’s edge, coming to light without a sound, his soft boots muffling contact with the wet cobblestones.

Rising from his crouched position, Garenol walked over to the back door of the tavern, which was propped open with a burlap sack of ruddy red potatoes. A cloud of fragrant steam drifted from the door, and Garenol’s stomach rumbled in recognition. He was officially famished. But, he thought to himself, business first. He stuck his head around the door, looking in on a bustling kitchen staff, cheerful men in puffy hats and well worn aprons moving efficiently around a number of thick wooden tables and carefully controlled cooking fires in metal boxes. One of the cooks walked by slowly, cradling a number of eggs in his gathered up apron. Garenol recognized him as one of the pig bearers from earlier that night.

He gave a low whistle, getting the cook’s attention as he stepped fully into the doorway of the kitchen. The cook looked at him confused, “Sir, the outhouses are down the alleyway to the left,” he said in a tired voice, gesturing vaguely with an elbow as he clutched the eggs.

Garenol laughed, producing a gold piece from his cloak. “Ah no, thanks though. I was hoping to get ahold of Dorick, straighten some things out from earlier?”

The cook narrowed his eyes slightly. They widened again quickly, as the young cook recognized the man he had served earlier, whom all the other cooks had been talking about. The one who put the whole tavern to sleep earlier trying to avoid a brawl. A mage, and an elf to boot. He swallowed nervously, shifting the eggs in his apron carefully over to one hand as he slowly extended his free hand to take the coin. “Give me just a moment, sir,” he replied quietly as he moved to place the eggs in a large, round bowl on top of a nearby table. “I’ll go up front and get him. You just wait here.”

The cook walked off towards the swinging doors that entered the bar proper, wiping his hands briskly on his apron. Garenol watched him go. He then turned back to the room and walked quietly around the busy kitchen, peering into pots and watching the brigade of cooks getting ready for morning, and the appetites that come with the dawn. The smell in here was intoxicating. He slipped a hand onto a table and grabbed a crust of thick brown bread that had been cut from a loaf as long as his forearm. Following his nose over towards the large pots bubbling over the coal fired metal boxes, he quickly dipped the crust into a thick brown stew that smelled of roasted onions and garlic. He quickly ate the bread. Garenol then looked up, hoping to be able to anonymously grab another bite. He saw Dorick, standing near the swinging doors, watching him with a bemused look.

“Perhaps you have missed your true calling in life, Garenol,” Dorick said good-naturedly, walking around a long table towards Garenol. “As long as elves live, you could be quite the master of the kitchen after the right training.”

“Perhaps,” Garenol replied, looking back over at the bubbling stew wistfully, “but something tells me my current occupation is a touch more lucrative.”

“And driving you into the bottle, it would seem,” Dorick replied carefully, ladling some of the thick stew into a carved wooden bowl. He stepped closer to Garenol, handing him the steaming bowl and a pewter spoon. Garenol accepted it with a gracious nod.

“Oh no, that’s not the job, it’s just Malus,” Garenol said, between spoonfuls of stew. He moved back to the large loaf of bread and deftly pulled off a healthy sized piece. Between grateful mouthfuls, he continued, “I swear this is the last time I let myself get cajoled into wet-nursing him through an operation. He has his uses, but he is getting more unpredictable every time we use him. I’m not even sure why he has agreed to continue on with us. Tacit wants him dead, he’s the reason that we lost Joseph and that elf with the wooden frogs. . .”

“Toads,” Dorick interjected, nodding along with Garenol’s rant, “she carved little wooden toads. Hell of a shot with a bow from what I heard when I was still in Allthoria.”

“Toad, right,” Garenol said, “Gods only know where she went after she failed to stop Malus that night in Porl.”

“Still in Allthoria, if the tavern grapevine holds true,” Dorick said, thinking about his extensive correspondence. “Still whittling, still making coin with her bow.”

“Shame, really,” Garenol said around a bite of bread, “she and Joseph both. We could have used both of them here for . . .”

“Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.” Dorick cut him off brusquely. “Whatever happens, at least thirty people out there saw you here tonight. I don’t particularly relish an appointment with the Ivory Council if they start looking for witnesses. Just keep it to yourself. Now,” he finished, picking up an olive from a bowl at his side, “why are you back?”

“Need a room for the night,” Garenol said, “And I didn’t figure you’d want me walking back through the bar after tonight’s fun.”

Dorick rolled his eyes and sighed, “No, Garenol. Under no circumstances is Malus coming back in here.”

“Not him, just me,” Garenol said with a conciliatory tone, “We got split up, so who knows what he is up to. I just need a few hours, then I’ll get up, collect him from whatever rough joint he winds up in, and we’ll be gone.”

Dorick’s mouth twitched at the corner as he studied Garenol’s face. “You pay double,” he finally said, breaking eye contact.

“Of course,” Garenol replied, wiping his hand off on his cloak and moving it to his pocket.

“The service stairs are there behind you, next to the larder door,” Dorick said, taking the coins from Garenol as he pointed over his shoulder. “Just take the first room at the top of the stairs, I know it’s unoccupied.”

“Wonderful,” Garenol said, relief spreading over his face. “Send up breakfast in four hours?”

Dorick laughed, “Sure, why not? Any requests?”

“No more wine,” Garenol said, already turning to the stairwell. Doricked laughed again as Garenol disappeared quietly up the wooden stair.

At the top of the stairs, Garenol turned into a dimly lit hallway. Two modest candelabras hung suspended from the ceiling, their small lights calm in the still air of the hall. Six doorways ran down both sides of the hall, leading to the stairwell at the opposite end that was intended for guest use. Garenol could here the din of the downstairs crowd emanating from the far end. He reached to the handle of the door nearest him, on his left. He looked down the hallway once more as he stepped in the door of his room, analyzing the layout and trying to gauge general distances.

He closed the door to his room behind. The room was modest but clean. A feather stuffed mattress, covered in clean linen sheets and down quilt stood against the far wall. The bed was book-ended by two nightstands, one supporting a brass candle holder with three lit tapers. The other held a crockery pitcher and small drinking cup. A polished metal mirror was affixed to the wall over a sturdy dresser of oak wood and brass fittings.

Garenol walked the floor of the room from one wall to another in measured steps. He then began to remove his equipment, casting his cloak over a post of the bed’s headboard. He unbuckled his pack and sword belt, throwing both onto the bed. He then looked up at the ceiling, hoping it was how he had remembered it.

And indeed, there it was, a ceiling tiled with thin copper sheets, patterns stamped into the squares and cheerfully painted. Garenol stepped onto the flat surface of the bed’s footboard and reached up, pushing gently up on one of the tiles. Sure enough, it came loose, and he was able to push it aside, on top of the tile next to it. He peered up into the pitch black of the crawlspace, thanking his luck that the plan he’d conceived would work.

Stepping down off the bed, Garenol hefted his sword belt, drawing his curving dagger from its scabbard. He looked at the blade, holding it up in the light. He set the naked blade on the bed. Reaching for his pack, he began rummaging through its pockets, finally finding what he sought deep in a side pouch. He drew out a thick crystal vial, its contents a solid black. He placed this next to the dagger and put back on his leather gloves before pulling the cork from the vial. A sticky, viscous tar-like substance oozed forth slowly from the vial as he held it over the dagger’s blade. The substance slowly made a dark, staining steak down the blade’s side as he move the vial, being careful not to pour over the side of the blade onto the bed. Halfway down the blade, Garenol stopped pouring, and quickly shoved the cork back into the vial and replaced it in his backpack. He let out a long breath that he’d held for the entire application.

Garenol fished around in his shapeless cloak for a moment and pulled out a long silk scarf. He began to carefully wrap it around his face, his eyes catching the shine of the deep purple silk threads that were woven through the tight black fabric. As he did this, he walked to the mirror and stopped in front of it, ensuring that only his eyes showed through the cloth wound carefully around his features. He crossed back to the bed, gingerly lifting the dagger, now shiny wet and black. He stepped back onto the footboard of the bed, the soft soles of his boots letting his feet grip the thin platform. He began to chant quietly under his breath.

As the murmur coming from his mask died off, Garenol floated slowly up through the gap into the space above his room’s ceiling. His eyes quickly adjusted to the dark here in the rafters of the Bloody Fist, and he alighted silently on a beam running the length of the inn, his balance holding him crouched and alert. From this vantage point he could see the tiles carefully arranged over each of the eleven other rooms.

Quietly, his toes gripping the rafter below him through his thin boots, Garenol began to move from room to room, bending low to listen at the tiles. At a few stops, he would life a tile delicately, creating an imperceptible slit through which he would look into the room below. At the fifth room he tried, he stopped. There, sitting on the bed underneath him, slowly stretching to remove a finely cobbled set of tan dress boots, was the night’s final target, Antonin Karderek. Garenol let the tile down slowly, leaving it open just a crack to let light through. He then leaned back and rested his legs, waiting for the light in the room to be extinguished.

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