Chapter I: Ten Gold
It was a dark and stormy night. Or at least it had been. Fuck, it’s hard to put the pieces together. The afternoon had started with a strange type of gnome fungus, led to beers at The Salty Dog, then elf dust — sweet merciful fuck, the elf dust.
I remember the thunder, the closterphobia, the grunting, the great big asshole in the shiny suit of armor. He had me in here, trapped. I had blacked out and when I came to I was stuffed inside this tiny, dark cell. It felt like I was in the wrong half of a coffin. I twisted such that I could reach my light pen and a journal I keep in my boots for just such an occasion. I waited, knowing that I’d have nothing to do but write until they unleashed their unspeakable hells on me.
Suddenly the cell was opened from the top.
“I’ll show these cockbites what happens to people who fuck with me,” I thought to myself loudly as I gripped my pen in my right hand, pointed down like a dagger, before I burst out of from my cell, swinging fists and stabbing wildly, until I connected with the first bastard I saw right in his tiny little head.
“Raelin, you fucker!” Said the gnome, who was violently knocked back in a splatter of blood grabbing at the side of his head where my favorite pen now lay embedded in his little balding skull. I recognized the gnome as a fellow bard in the print shop where I worked inside The Emporium.
His name was Brook. We’d been brought up here from the Isles five years ago as part of a resettlement project when The Dragon Lord (and Supreme Cocksucker) and his minions were brought down and driven out. Paid for by the loot the fuckers had left behind, a lot of us had been brought in and paid well in an effort to recivilize the city. Civilization — fuck, this place was still as much of a shithole as it was the day after the big bastard had bit the big one, except with more drugs and sluts.
In other words, it was my kind of place.
Brook had come in shortly thereafter to “study the sociological and political aspects of a society undergoing the transformation of cross-cultural experience.” He wanted to see how a bunch of races, brought together after the fall of a common enemy, would do when put in a single city together with nothing above them to keep them in check. I reconsidered my surroundings and decided I didn’t know what Brook’s game was, and my only recourse was to go beat it out of him. My eyes narrowed and I hunched down so I could reach the little bastard.
He sat there, sighing and rubbing at his temple as he shook his head. I kept my fists clenched and advanced on him.
“So, you’re in on it are you? You little turncoat gnomish bastard,” I hissed as I raised my fists for another volley.
“I’m not in on it. You got kicked out of the pub about an hour go, came in here muttering something about a temple, your quote, unquote ‘fuck weasel’ and that bitch Heather, and then locked yourself in that trunk to, ‘keep you safe from the spiders.’”
He might have had a point. Smart little cocksucker was rarely wrong; that’s why I kept him around. I have to admit that as the tiny bastard was both smart and clever he wasn’t to be entirely trusted. I fetched a fag out of my right front trousers’ pocket and lit it, inhaling the stale tobacco as I rubbed my jaw in thought, pondering the enigma at hand.
My eyes wandered back over the shop, darting around as I pieced together the evidence. Sitting on a dusty desk next to a mirror and razor were opened letters, some from within the City of Vincinni proper; some from overseas. My collection of literature on strange creatures and magicks — a handy set of tomes in my line of work — sits on a shelf along the back wall. And there, next to my bunk bed with “Home of The Monster” scrawled above it in black paint, was my collection of magick items: Wind boots – check; goggles of true seeing – check; and an enchanted crossbow with enough power to kill a whole troop of orcs that I had won in a card game years ago from an old pirate named One Leg Meig – which I christened ‘The Devin’ – mother fucking check.
I caught the gnome warily eyeing me as he assessed the best way to pull my pen out of his head, and was pondering conceding the point when suddenly there was a knock on my (our? Only if the little bastard was telling the truth…) door. I made my way across the room and swung the door open to find two females standing in the evening air. Standing to the left was a dark tribal with grey skin, frost-white hair and piercing black eyes; standing next to her was a demonkin whose dark hair lay around the ring of tiny horns that crowned her skull.
“HOOKERS!” I shouted to Brook while my face widened to a large grin and my pants hit the ground like a dropped war hammer. “You shouldn’t have. All is forgiven.”
I looked back to the two ladies and motioned towards the ol’ Cunt Bludgeon.
The tribal arched an eyebrow and regarded my naked gloriousness.
“Nn…no, uhm.,… just no. Mr. Saretti, we were told that you were a person who knows things. Particularly…. Mr. Saretti, I’m not a prostitute. Please put that away. Particularly I’m looking for someone who knows how to find a place. My name is Shay’un and this is my partner Milese. We need to…”
I reached down for another fag, but with my pants around my ankles I could only blindly grasp onto nothing. My eyebrow raised I said, “My bed is a place.”
The dark tribal sighed and followed with: “We have money, Mr. Saretti.” The demonkin shot her an annoyed look.
I dejectedly reached for my pants and gestured over to a nearby table. The two ladies took a seat and I pulled a chair around and sat leaning forward on its back. I gave the room a look over and Brook checked the windows, nodding to me before he grabbed a bottle of port and headed down into the print shop’s cellar.
“How much money?” I asked.
“It depends on how far you can get us, Mr. Saretti,” said the demonkin. “We’re looking for The Fence, it’s supposedly somewhere in the wastes of the Skein, and your reputation for knowing this city inside and out is well known.”
“Excellent. We can provide you with the necessary funds to take us there…”
“No, the lizard who’ll take us there — he takes ten gold. He has certain connections with that crowd, and my last trip there didn’t end well,” I said. I had made the bad decision to mix business and pleasure, and orcs are a species with little to no sense of humor. If these ladies were looking to go in there anyways, I might have an angle to get what was owed to me.
“As for my payment, let’s start at favors. I introduce you, you each owe me. Do we have a deal?”
The demonkin and dark tribal looked at each other and muttered in a dark tongue, Satanic if I’m not mistaken, and suggested the entrance to The Academy as a meeting place. I knew the junction. Jaxx, one of our city’s “Great Heroes” had rebuilt The Academy and the lane leading up to it had been labeled “Explosion Alley.” due to the unusually high occurrence of magickal accidents and wizard fights — basically high noon at the Arcane Corral.
I nodded and saw the ladies out to be on their way. Making the deal had been easy, but now there was the matter of finishing it. I lit a fag and sat back in my chair, reviewing the situation in my mind.
Where was that lizard son of a bitch? Normally he could be found in the gutter doing anything and everything for loose change, but lately he’d had money — serious money — and had been dedicated to finding a way to spend it. Like most former servants of The Dragon Lord he was distrusted, hated, and cast out to the dregs of society. But unlike most former servants, he’d found ways and means of showing his value. Nothing was too awful or too easy for his attention, and that had meant big business. Now all he had to do was show these two chicks where the action happened and he’d be in for another score. Kind of made you envy the thing.
When I went out into the Vincinni night I was pretty sure I’d know where to find him. Some place nasty, abandoned. Somewhere outside the scope of the law where he could operate in safety. Honestly, the little lizard had the kind of luck normally reserved for the bastard children of the gods.
I headed north into the city towards the little Skein, a ruined block of buildings and apartments that up until the recent liberation had been used for housing soldiers — orcs, giants, goblins, all the little things that had found meaningful work under his dark reign. Most of them had been burned down after the liberation. Rumors persisted of underground tunnels where the surviving cock slime still gathered. Now and again the town guard would put up a bounty and it was usually one of the first places so called Adventurers headed first. Usually some foolish group of sons of bitches that’d never be heard from again, but that was hardly my problem.
One of the only human occupied buildings was the orphanage. Built of better material it had housed dragons within its great hall. The glass had long since been shattered out and replaced with old wooden boards, and what wasn’t completely rusted or ruined was quickly on its way. I heard the skittering of clawed feet echoing off the buildings, and while following its rhythmic tapping I made my way down a side alley.
When I found him he was dragging a struggling sack of something behind him, heading through the alleys towards The Anvil, a place where dwarves and gnomes dug deep into the earth.
“The fuck are you doing, lizard?” I said as I noticed the bag squirming.
He quickly tossed the sack into a nearby dumpster and swung his attention to me. His knees bent and his head down, the lizard seemed to be gauging me.
I studied the jittering dumpster for a moment and then turned my attention back to the scaly fucker. I gestured down to my hands and asked in Dragon Tongue, “You wanna make ten gold?”
“Ten gold?” he squawked.
“What foorrrr?” he squeaked out.
“Two clients need an escort into The Fence. Lookin’ for something. Easy money.”
The lizard squawked. “Take them. Take them. Ten gold, lots of money…. Ten gold. Where we meet?”
“Be at the print shop in The Emporium come sun up, and leave whatever it is in that fucking dumpster.”
“Ten gold… ten gold…. Yesssssssss, for ten gold, Zavric helps….”
Let me tell you something: When a lizard gives you its word, it’s like a slut telling you that she loves you. It might seem sweet and sincere, but the next second a big dicked big-baller strolls by they’ll forget your name. And this lizard… shit. One single solitary peso more and its loyalty was totally rewritten. Black to white, nothing to infinity, not even a kiss on the lips to full on ass to mouth, this Zavric was only on a side right up until the split second something better came along.
This in mind I headed back home to the print shop and eased my way into a bottle of bourbon. I had the enchanted piano hit up an old, soft number that regaled me before sending me to sleep, where upon I spent hours lost in the dream world connected to the gods, until a pounding once again rained down upon the door.
“Shut the fuck up you god damned sons of bitches and chill the fuck out while I get my fucking self together. Shit and the baby god and all of that.” I stumbled blindly out of the comfort of sleep into a spring morning that was too damned bright for its own good. My head ringing with echoes of a night of the hard stuff, I scrambled into a dirty shirt I had laying on the floor and made my way to the print shop’s large front window, where upon looking out I saw the lizard dressed in a deep, dark-brown cloak, I assumed as to ‘blend in’ with the humans. The more logical side of me would have pointed out the fucktardery of the charade, but come sunrise in Vincinni the much more pressing matter was a pressed cup of espresso, elven style if possible, and quarter-filled with booze if not.
The knocking impatiently continued, so I made my way to the desk, poured out a line on my wrist, grabbed the Devin, snorted the line, and then kicked the door open with my weapon facing out into the world to say hello.
“I fucking heard you, you rat shit little fuck-gecko,” I said into the crisp morning air, and into the face of a rather startled lizard.
“Ten gold! Ten gold! You said ten gold!!!”
I took a half breath and squinted at the little shit. I finished rubbing the rest of the powder into my nose and strayed back towards my bunk for my pants and my dignity.
Pants reattached via checkered suspenders, I made my way over to the kitchen counter where I struck a flame stick and held it below the beaker full of boiled river water and some ground coffee beans I had traded for down on the docks, brewing myself some morning go-juice while the lizard hopped back and forth impatiently.
As the beaker boiled and bubbled I grabbed my backpack from behind my desk and checked for all the essentials: My journal, some coinage, water, rations, rope, ether, elf dust, uppers, downers, self-wrap bandages, pornography, heroin, skinning knife, switchblade, jars of explosive jelly, jars of hallucinogenic fungus, a couple of torches, flint and steel, assorted odds and ends, my goggles of true seeing, and a bottle of rose tequila – I was good to go. I slung my pack across my shoulders and headed over to grab my coffee, where I mixed in some fresh milk and honey (and just a pinch of the dust). With my drink in hand Zavric and I headed to Explosion Alley.
The walk itself had been fine and I had felt myself heading towards a better state of mind until farther up ahead I saw Milese standing outside of a cottage, where the tell-tale signs of death magick were present, wearing a scowl that let me know the hens were up for some cackling. I would have given a shit, except, you know, I didn’t. Resigned to the situation, I motioned to Zavric and continued strolling up, watching as the grey-skinned tribal emerged from the small house.
“You’re late,” said the dark tribal, arms folded over each other. It was going to take more than the cold, stale coffee I’d halfway consumed to get me through the day.
“I’m here exactly when I wanted to be here, cunt. Say hello to the lizard.” She sighed and looked over to my miniature scaled companion. Her eyes narrowing she drew breath to speak —
“Ten gold?” Inquired Zavric.
“This …thing… will take us to The Fence?” The demonkin asked hesitantly.
I nodded my head, trying to ignore Zavric.
“And I don’t suppose you’d mind letting us know of the natue –”
I backhanded the lizard and looked back quickly to the dark tribal.
“ — nature of the favors,” she said as the lizard hopped back and forth, looking stunned but not angry.
I grinned slightly, looked square at the dark tribal Shay’un, and motioned back to Zavric, telling her, “I saw you coming out of the Necromancer’s hut in The Academy. I’m sure we can arrange something. Now on to today — this is Zavric.”
“Ten gold,” said the reptile, his legs cocked and teeth slightly bared as he regarded us both warily and eagerly.
I gestured to Zavric, and Milese pulled out a handful of gold coins, which the greedy little bastard quickly stuffed into his sable cloak pockets, whereupon we made our way Westwards into the Skein in the South Western warren of the city.
To be continued…
Raelin Saretti is a resident of Vincinni and is currently employed as an official Bard and Crier. He has no relatives to bother him, thank the gods, and can usually be found amusing himself in The Dreamscape or at one of the local taverns down in The Emporium. He responds well to cash.