We arrived at the capital, Trisfall, at around noon the next day. Now something about the Trisfall you should know is that surrounding the outer wall of the city are a few farm houses and slightly smaller markets. The people running the stands in these markets were the farmer’s wives, daughters, crazy old grandfathers, and young children. Who, when you walked by, gave a new meaning to the term ‘hauking’ your wares. When an apple hit me broadside the head, I picked it up and dusted it off. Then; looking the old man who threw it straight in the face; took a bite, and said “Thanks for the free sample. Got one for my friend here?” He flashed a rude gesture and I kept walking.
The actual city was slightly less... fruity. There were merchants everywhere, but nobody hauked their wares with quite the same... vigor. I have to say, I was happy about that. The apple hitting my broadside had given me a headache. Which, to quote Andraste, makes me “Really cranky and mean”. Though, thankfully, my mood was greatly improved a short while after entering the gates.
We hadn’t been in the city for fifteen minutes when low and behold, who should we run into but old Rodrick himself. Leaning up against one of the tall, stone buildings with that long handled pipe between his teeth and a smug little grin on his lips. I had a sneaking suspicion said grin was caused by the fact that every girl that walked past him, no matter what race they were; Human, Half-Orc, Elf, Half-elf, Gnome, Dwarf, Hafling, or even Minotaur, and Bashti; were going all giggly. Said suspicion was confirmed when he turned to a particularly pretty elven girl, and winked. This sent her into a tittering frenzy, and caused his grin to widen still further.
I rolled my eyes and laughed, he and Arc were cut from the same cloth. Then again, I had no room to talk. Before I became a shade, I used my unusually good looks; blonde hair and vibrantly blue eyes, from my Fae mother; to snag many a girl in my earliest years.
Rodrick took a long draw on his pipe and looked up. When he caught site of the two of us he waved us over. Straightening up, he adjusted the old military jacket, still draped around his shoulders like a cape, and threw out his hands in welcome. “Ah ha!” he exclaimed, “I knew the two of you wouldn’t let me down!”
“Rodrick! You magnificent bastard!” I said shaking the hand he held out to me, and keeping my red eye shadowed because he was still not used to it and I could see he was having a hard time deciding which eye to look at. “It’s good to see you.”
“And you as well, my friend.” his grinned widened “I must say, the way you two do things is nothing short of amazing. Nobody even knew the gold was gone ’til they got to the destination. How would you boys like to continue doing work like this huh? You’re naturals.” after a few minutes of fake deliberation, simply because we wanted to make him sweat, Arc and I agreed that we might benefit from a good paying job for a little while.
We both nodded “We would love to.” Arc laughed
“This is going to be fun.” I added rubbing my hands together. It had been a long time since I had really gotten to put my true skills to the test, even if I probably wouldn’t get to assassinate anyone, a shame too because I was rather good at it.
My grin must have stretched from Hell to Breakfast because Rodrick looked at me, laughed and clapped me on the back, before saying “Alright then my good men. You’ll be meeting with an associate of mine by the name of Jim Butcher. You’ll find him in a bar called The Ax and Bow. It’s a bit of a rough place, nothing you can’t handle though. Just remember that this is still a test run. He calls the shots. You’ve proved yourselves to me, now you just need impress him. You do that and you’ll be added as a permanent member of the team.”
Arc nodded “Alright sounds good. Just one question..”
“How in the hell do we know who he is?” I finished
Rodrick ran his hand through his long black hair and laughed “Oh, you’ll know. Trust me. He isn’t exactly easy to miss. Well gentlemen I must be off. I have places to go and people to see. Good luck.”
With a quick shake of our hands and a tip of his hat he was off down a side street. I saw him stop to talk to a nice looking strawberry blonde human girl, who he had in a fit of giggles within a minute. At that moment I couldn’t help the feeling that even Andraste would go googly eyed over the guy, and she wasn’t exactly easy to please. In all the time I’ve known her, only two men, even as I write this, have ever made their way into her bed.
Arc and I started walking again. We had two places to find: the tavern, and the blacksmith. I was getting more and more nervous by the second. The city was huge and the buildings were built close together making it easy for someone to hide and not be seen if needed. Most of the shop owners lived above their stores and had large balconies with thick stone walls that could hide anyone. I felt my hand go to the scar on my throat left by my master after he’d made me his apprentice. He had tried to strangle me with a rope, to prove that I was weak. I surprised him by pulling his arms forward instead on tugging at the rope. His voice rang through my head and sent a shiver down my spine “Looks like I was wrong about you boy. I’ve never seen anyone override instinct like that.”
Arc grabbed my shoulder with his normal arm and I jumped about a foot, “So where to first?” He asked looking a bit worried. Understandable, the look on my face couldn’t have been a very good one.
“We’re going to split up.” I said quietly “you find the tavern and I’ll go to the blacksmith.” I looked back at him to find him scowling.
“Well what if I want to find the blacksmith? Ever think of that?” By the gods, it’s like working with a child. I rolled my eyes and stopped in the middle of the packed cobblestone streets, and turned around to face him. This was one of those times that I remembered how much bigger than me he was. I only came up to about his shoulder without my hair. I had to remind myself not to back down, after all, he wasn’t the first man larger than me I had killed.
“What the hell do you need with a blacksmith?” I asked, pinching the bridge of my nose. “You are a blacksmith! The only reason I am not having you do this is because you already told me that you don’t know how, or even want, to work with this material. We’ll save a lot of time just splitting up, and if we don’t we at least get a little break from each other. Alright?”
“Fine. We’ll do it your way. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” We agreed to meet at the tavern and went our separate ways. The problem with being alone is my paranoia worsened. In a group you’re less likely to be attacked, whereas alone... Well, you get the point. The one drawback to my line of work, is you learn to fear everything and everyone, while at the same time fearing nothing. Weird way to look at things I know, but it’s worked so far.
It took me a while to find the blacksmith. The city was huge and the shop was less so. “Finally.” I muttered when I found it. It was a rundown building, patched up with metal and different types of wood where it looked like things had caught on fire from the inside. I noted as I turned the handle, that even the door was patched up. The inside wasn’t any better. If anything it was worse. Burn marks everywhere, as well as the marks left from some of the customers either trying out their new weapons, or not liking them. It made me wonder what the blacksmith looked like.
When I entered, I appeared to be completely alone with nothing but some half finished swords, a few broken axes, and some bugs for company. I relaxed a little, thinking that maybe I could just wait around for a few minutes for the owner and began looking for a note or something saying where they had gone, when out of nowhere there was a bone rattling bang, followed by a very loud, and very squeaky, ” SO CLOSE!! SO DAMN CLOSE!!!” The blacksmith came around the corner. He was a really tough looking gnome, with a bit of a pot belly. In the back of my mind I wondered if it was some kind of occupational requirement for blacksmiths to have a gut. His face was black from whatever had blown up in it, until he took off his goggles. They left white rings around his eyes and made him look like some kind of reverse raccoon. His pointed features, and whisker like eyebrows added to the effect.
He looked me up and down, with his hands on his hips and an, annoyed on expressionon his mousey features “Fer god sake laddy!” He squeaked “There’s no need ter ge’ yer nickers in a twist. Pu’ the swords away ‘n’ tell me wha’ ye need done.” For a second I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. Then I looked down. I had somehow pulled out my swords without realizing it. I looked from him to the swords a couple times and put them away. He clapped his hands together once and climbed up onto a step stool behind the counter “Thank ye laddy. Now, wha’ can I do fer ye?” He squeaked.
“Um,” I couldn’t remember what I came in for. Then I felt the weight of the chaos shard on my back. “I need a weapon made.” I took the case holding the shard off my back and handed it to him. He looked confused, but opened the container. His eyes nearly fell out of his head. “What can you make with this?”
He stared at it open mouthed for at least a minute. I was wondering if he was going to start drooling, or possibly make love to it. “H-h-How” he stuttered looking up from the shard with an expression that could be described only as love sick, “How did ye ge’ this laddy?”
“Never mind how I got it.” I snapped “Just tell me what you can make with it.” I wasn’t too keen on telling him that I had stolen it from a tiefling who bought it off of the black market. I had a feeling that story would not go over very well. He narrowed his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was going to go with it, or keep asking questions. In the end he looked back at the shard and started stroking his beard.
“I can make a small sword, or a couple o’ decently sized knives. It all depends on what ye prefer laddy.”
“Well, ye see lad. The chance t’ work wit’ this kind o’ material, it does ney come ‘round ev’r’ day. If ye were t’ give me the opertunity t’ work with it, I’ll do it all fer free.”
“Free?” free sounded good. I like free.
“Ey lady. Free. Wha’ ever ye wan’ me t’ do.”
“Works for me. I need as many cookery as you can make from the one shard, and as many small knives as you can make from what’s left. How soon can you have them done?”
He looked up at me unwillingly and sighed “Gimme a couple days. This is ney easy material t’ work with. Anythin’ else I c’n do fer ye?”
“Nope. That’s it. I’ll be back in two days.” he gave me a quick nod before taking off to the back of the shop, Caressing the shard like a beautiful woman. I rolled my eyes and walked out into the busy streets.