…one person I really hate (or persons if you count his second Jimmy), is Malik, that thankless mother-son. During those three months, he made my life a living Abyssus. I’m glad he isn’t around anymore. The Dock Boys who I once feared have now become a source of jokes. I wonder after two years if they are still around?
“Look what we have here, boys.”
Malik, that son of a motherless goat! Even with his steel grey hair and stubbled face, he is still a young-looking man. Healthy muscle on his big frame and thick-knuckled fists he loves to use.
“Where you be going, me boyo? Don’t you owe me boys some money, and interest to boot? Jimmy, how many slips does this fine gentleman owe us?”
Jimmy is Malik’s second, and as black-hearted as his rotting teeth. I’m not sure what sewage pipe he spawned from, but he smells like he looks.
Jimmy starts to speak, and I am nearly knocked out by his putrid breath.
“Boss-man, this white-bred owes you three gold slips, eight silver, and five copper, plus forty percent,” he says, smiling at Malik.
Damn, damn, damn! That’s everything I have on me. Most of it was going to pay for my registration in the Hall today.
“Come on, boyo, cough up now or … well, I don’t need to tell you what will happen.”
Surrounded by these grinning fools, my stomach rebels at the rancid smell of their tightly packed bodies. Need room to think. Wish I was a more quick-witted person. Just need some more breathing room.
I need to keep him talking as I figure a way out. “Do you really want to do this on the street, Malik? There could be an honourable Charter, or a patrol comes along, and they might help me.”
Jimmy laughs at that. “You hear that boss, he thinks ‘heroes’ will save him! A bit of gutter white-bred trash like him.”
Edging a little more away. “That isn’t nice, Jimmy. We have truth-spawn in our gang too.” Malik says.
“Sorry, Boss, just a slip of the tongue.”
“Where are you going, boyo?” Malik noticed me backing up. “We haven’t finished our chat.”
“I’m off to find a permanent job, Malik. Next week you will have everything plus another forty percent.”
Malik scoffs at my request. “Jimmy.”
Jimmy walks up and smiles, then punches me in the gut. I drop, trying to catch my breath. My hand instinctively heads to my dagger, but this is not the time to lose control.
As I look up, everyone is avoiding eye contact. Jimmy and another two thugs pick me up. Malik comes over and brushes off the dirt. “See I let you go, boyo then some other poor sod who owes me money will want a break too.”
Why today of all days? I look Malik dead in the eye. “I do know why you have to bring most of your boys with you. A bit scared of me, Malik?”
All his Dock Boys held their collective breath. Malik looks a little shocked. Even Jimmy has loosened his grip on my arm. This is my chance. Out of the corner of my eye, the half-breed brute and rat-face come out of the alley where I left them. Time to move.
Looking around, the crowd parts, and I catch a glimpse of a watch patrol walking towards me. Oh, what luck! The Trinity smiles upon me today!
Yanking my arm out of Jimmy’s grip I moved toward the patrol. “Malik, I understand that you might have felt I have been giving you the slip, but as you can see I am a poor man and do not wish for any trouble—”
With that, I do what army men call a ‘tactical retreat’, which in layman’s terms is running the Abyssus away.
The closer I am to the patrol; the sooner Malik isn’t a problem. Now they come into sight. Only now I understand why I saw them through the crowd. They are pushing the citizens around, and the large woman looks familiar. Oh no, it is Zlata Madyson! Such a corrupt bitch! That lady’s stare can make a bull stop charging. She would pin me down, allow these lads to kick me within an inch of my life, then throw me in jail and call me a public nuisance.
Being a half-breed like Zlata, I can understand what it feels like to be hated by your non-elven parent. My father was a human merc who knocked up my mother during those magical two weeks of fertility with elves—and voila, me.
Zlata is a half-breed I don’t easily recognise, wish my pedigree wasn’t so slutty. She is broad, as tall as I am, with a nose that some would say is ‘cute’ and upturned, but makes me think of wild boars, framed in a shock of pale yellow hair that trails past her shoulders and hangs from her head like straw slopping up last night’s vomit. I hope she wouldn’t take her aggression out on me all the time—we are both elf bloodline!
As I sprint off, I hear someone yelled behind me. “We’ll get him, boss!”
That voice sounds familiar, I have a quick look back, and it is those two that I accosted in the alleyway, and rat-faced thug joined in too, oh great! Now, where should I go?
After what I did to them, they have the incentive to catch me, but I haven’t done anything to Ratty. Well, there was that one time… Nah, must be something else.
With the people in their way, I have a little breathing space. Guessing plan B is in order, the back streets of the craftsmen’s district. A place is so thick with shops and work areas that walls close in. A great place to get lost in. Saying a quick prayer to the Trinity, I push through the crowd.
I run across Route, dodging where I can, barrelling through where I cannot until I make it into the maze of streets. Turn left, jumping a fence, run down an alley, turn right, and cross another street into—damn it—a dead end. Should this be called Dead-End Place?
When will it be my lucky day?
Some heavy feet are pounding the paving stones behind me. As I turn, I didn’t lose those three Dock Boys from earlier. Why me? They must have been close on my tail. I am not sure of their names, but I can tell that I had an impact on them. Ha, impact, I kneed one and sucker punched the other.
They run down the side street, and they corner me. The grinning brute half-breed in the middle is first to speak.
“It seems you took a wrong turn! I owe you for that cheap shot from before, lucky us that you found such a perfect place.” This gets a laugh out of the other two.
“Come on, dung-head, give us your money, and we’ll let you off with just a beating!”
A beating? “And if I don’t?”
I leave the question hanging. Another of the Dock Boys responds, with a high squeaky voice to match his pinched rat-like face.
“Well, you see, we might just kill you a bit.” Now I remember him, I stole that bar wench from him.
Help me, Trinity, these thugs are some street jesters.
“So if I give you money, I get a beating. If I don’t, you are going to kill me a little bit. I know this is a stupid question, but how do you kill someone a bit?”
The half-dwarf with a swelling cheek looked at me and drew his knife. Lucky me, the Brute will just go ahead and show me. Such a fortuitous day!
“Okay, okay, let’s slow this down. I really don’t need to see what being killed a little bit looks like,” I laugh nervously. “I have some of the money. I’m heading off—”
The last one interrupts. He is about as beautiful as my morning movement. Yes, now they have all spoken. I wonder if I win a prize … I hope it’s not a stabbing.
“Well, dung-head, I don’t think Malik would be happy with a part payment. We will have to bring him your ear, nose, and … Say, one of your hands as well. How does that sound? That might pay back my issues for the pain you caused.”
Okay, I kicked you in the Hammers, but really! With the other two drawing knives, I think to myself; I’m such a dead man! This blind alley is hopefully not my end.
A glint of metal—I sense it more than I see it. Throwing myself out of the way, the brute still manages to stab me! Not feeling the trickle of blood or lightheadedness, I realise it must have been blocked by the Jack of Plate—my incredible armour!
The half-dwarf boasts with his ridiculous looking beard, “See, boys, he is quaking in his boots! Dung-head, you got lucky that time—”
Seeing an opening, I lunge, smashing the side of his head with a hammer-like strike. He falls to the ground in a stunned heap. Regarding the other two, I growl at them, hoping to scare them off. They counter my growl with more intimidating noises, akin to alley cats fighting over a five-day-old fish.
“You fell for another sucker punch?” I gloated at that white-back.
They weren’t impressed by that line. Drawing my knife. No time to think. It is time for me to go on the attack. Ratface jumps over his comrade at me! Foolish. Something the sergeant taught me flashes in my mind: ‘Always have your feet on the ground!’
Moving forward, I take his attack on my forearm and return a straight stab to his gut. That’s right piggy, squeal! If it weren’t for rat-face, I wouldn’t have wasted an ale!
One dead at my feet, the other slumped against the wall, looking down the alley at Mr Third. I point my knife at last. Heart racing but my knife hand is steady. I show no weakness. I ask him, “So, are you going to use that or just stand there pissing yourself? Or are you just waiting for your Hammers to drop again?” I see his raw anger. I don’t care if he calls my bluff!
Backing off, he says, “Okay, dung-head, you win this one. But next time I won’t go easy on you!” He quickly turns and runs away.
Well, that was easy enough. Then again, it was too close. So, this is what luck feels like. I assess the cut on my forearm. Need to patch this up. It’s not too deep, that’s good. Just a piece of cloth to tie it off.
Looking at the two on the ground, I wonder what they have on their persons. Rubbing my hands together. Spoils of war and all. Two good knives and some slips. Such a lucky day. Enough to pay off Malik and a little more to get a room, so I’m not stabbed while I sleep. Just have to figure out a way to pay Malik without being killed in the process.
Now, where am I? A sudden smell burns my nostrils. There’s nothing that quite compares to the smell of a blacksmith shop. It’s there in the air; a distinct odour that hangs thick, singeing my nostrils with the distinctly industrial stench of coal dust and molten iron.
Good, I am close to Blacksmith Place. Shouldn’t take much to get to the Bazaar and onto Market Place. After that, the Hall.