The Ax and Bow
I was happily reliving the moment when I finally found a family, when Arc interrupted my daydream. A hand collided with my back sending me forward, and nearly causing me to fall face first into the dirt. I glared back at him, and straightened up flashing him a rude gesture. He ignored me, and nodded and towards the door in a silent suggestion. I agreed, and together we walked up to the door of the grimy little tavern. The place looked almost as bad as the blacksmith shop. Arc knocked and a particularly ugly Half-Orc opened the window to the thick wooden door “Password” he grunted. His breath was putrid. I was standing back in the shadows next to one of the pillars that held up the eves of the, I guess you could call it a porch, and I could smell him.
The two of us glanced at eachother in confusion, nobody had said anything about a password. “We weren’t told anything about a password.” Arc said, “Rodrick Bowerstone sent us. We’re supposed to be meeting up with a Jim Butcher.”
The Half-Orc shook his head and laughed stupidly “No password. No entry.” Now I am not a very patient man to begin with and this day was no exception, but I held my tongue and let Arc do the talking.
“Sir, if you could let this slide just he once it would be very helpful. We weren’t made aware of a password, and there’s a gentleman inside waiting for us. If you would like to ask him whether we are legitimate I’m sure he’d be happy to tell you.”
“No password, no entry. Them’s the rules.” The half-orc spat in Arc’s face, but before Arc could retort I intervened.
Stepping forward out of the shadows I let the light fall on my red eye and whispered very slowly and clearly “That was the wrong move my friend. We’ve asked nicely, and given you a chance to be a decent being about his, but now you get to make a choice. You can either open the door and let us in so we can meet with our associate, or I can blow it off its hinges. Take your pick.”
He looked startled by the glowing red eye that looked at him from under the hood, but other than that he was unmoved. Instead he spat again, this time hiting me square between the eyes. “No password. No entry.”
I slowly wiped the putrid smelling substance from my face with a hankercheif, stowed it away, and said; “Then you leave me no choice.” Before he could blink I sent a fireball flying at the door. It flew off its hinges, and both of them went tumbling back into the room. The resulting scorch mark on the door filled me to the brim with satisfaction.
We walked in and Arc looked from the door, now resting on top of a very disgruntled Half-Orc, to me and back a couple times before saying “Really Rook? Was that really necessary?“, picking up the door and propping it up against the frame.
I knelt down next to the spread eagle Half-Orc. Once I had assertained that he wasn’t harmed, apart from having the wind knocked out of him and his pride wounded, I whispered “I did warn you you know. Maybe next time you’ll listen.” I stood and offered a hand to the half-orc, which he refused. I shrugged and began looking around, sizing up the one roomed tavern, and searching for any easy access points that could prove either hindrance or help. It was dark, dirty, and cramped, with no visible access other than the now unhinged door, and boarded and grimy windows.
It was a rough part of town, and the crowd of men left you in no doubts. They were my kind of crowd. Huge Bashtis and half-orcs were crammed into chairs that were far too small for them and arm wrestling on tables that they would probably smash into toothpicks. Gnomes, halflings and dwarfs with scars that disfigured different parts of their bodies egged them on, and right in the middle of the room, was a man who’s biceps were as big as my head, wearing a shirt and vest so tight it looked like it would rip right off of him with one wrong move.
I nudged Arc on the side and motioned in his direction “Arc,” I said quietly “I think we found Jim.”
Arc’s jaw dropped. This man was, for lack of a better word or phrase, a total bad ass. He was sitting at one of the larger tables in the center of the room with his arms folded across his massive chest. His head was shaved bald, and he had a goatee to rival Rodrick’s. He was leaning back in the chair with his legs stretched out in front of him stroking his goatee and looking at the half-orc guard, who was still lying on the floor, presumably lacking the will to get to his feet, seeing as he was otherwise unhurt. The man, who I assumed was Jim Butcher, looked like he was thinking hard about something.
I elbowed Arc in the ribs just in time for him to close his mouth, before Jim looked at us. His sharp, eagle-like yellow eyes locked with mine and he smiled, beckoning us over with one finger, and leaned forward into a more business like position. The first words out of his mouth when we reached him were “Take the hood down son. I like to look the men I’m hiring in the face.”
I smirked and flung myself into a chair like I owned the place before I took my hood down, “Funny you should say that you want to hire us.” I said raising an eyebrow and running a hand through my hair. I took in the look he was giving me, same look as usual, a mild shock, but I think he liked it. “We were sent by Rodrick Bowerstone to find a man by the name of Jim Butcher. That you?”
He leaned back in his chair again and laughed, “So you’re old Rod’s boy’s are ya? Well I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, seeing what you did to that door. Your assumptions would be correct, I am, in fact, Jim Butcher. Does Rodrick know you can do that, shade?”
“No, he doesn’t.” I said, “He’s not going to find out either. Our names and how efficient we are is all the information he needs for now, and all you need to know is this: I am Rook. I am a skilled warlock as well as a master assassin, and truth be told I’m not looking for long term employment, just to ensure a place for my friend here to earn a wage. Arc is a brilliant blacksmith, decorated veteran from the War-forged battles, and an amazing doctor. He specializes in alchemy and he can lift almost twice his weight with that metal arm of his. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s brilliant nontheless and I’d be happy to help him out once in a while if needed. Any questions?” His surprise was more than evident, but he nodded his approval.
“Alright then, I’ll bite.” He gestured for Arc, who was leaning up against one of the pillars, to take a seat and continued. “I’d be happy to take you on Arc. I could use the both of you for this particular job though, would that interest you?” We both nodded, and let him explain.
“Are you two familiar with the name Iados Mortimer?” A low growl of a sound came from the depths of Arc’s chest at the mention of that name. We knew Mortimer all right. He wasn’t too fond of us, and visa versa. We’d had a bit of a run in with him when we had been hired to do a job for him just before meeting Andraste. He had wanted us to guard the chaos shard that I had just taken to the blacksmith. It’s a class 5 black market item, extremely illegal and equally dangerous. We had done a double cross on him and stolen the shard because he’s the kind of guy that stock piles this stuff and makes even more money off of it than it’s even worth. Our thoughts were along the line of ‘he won’t miss one when he’s probably got a stockpile somewhere’.
Needless to say that’s why Andraste found us in as big of a panic as she did. We were being chased by his goons and I was trying to keep her out of all of it. But Arc insisted and I guess you can’t argue with Fate, so there you have it. I hoped that this job would give us a chance to get back at him for the train, I was pretty sure he had caused the wreck that had, had us trekking through the grassy waste lands and almost getting roasted and enslaved by elves, and then it was back to the guild for me. I’d already been away long enough as it was.
“Yeah, we know ’im.” I said quietly, I was hoping to convey just how much we would love to destroy him. “What do you want done?”
A smirk crept across his face, to show he understood, as he said “He needs to be brought to justice for a great number of crimes. Think you can help?” we nodded and he continued “We happen to know that Mr. Mortimer has a vault somewhere in his mansion where he stores a very large amount of chaos shards, and various other, very powerful, black market items. He’s getting a little to big for his britches you see. Encroaching on my turf more and more every day. What we need you to do is find, and expose the vault, and make it look like it was caused by the items inside. Send a message that he can’t ignore from Butcher, y’know?” We nodded our understanding.
“Now, how you do this is your own business, just make sure not to kill anyone. Not on purpose at least. I don’t want any inocent blood on my hands, or yours. Think you can do that?” We both nodded again “Alright. You’ll find his house to the north end of the city. It’s a big hulking thing, you can’t miss it. Report back to me here in two days.” We stood and shook hands “Good luck boys. May the gods be with you.”
I shot him a quick smirk and pulled my hood back up as we made our way back through the maze of dusty tables to the door. The half-orc was now seated on a stool, just outside of the door, looking slightly defeated. I felt bad for him, until I caught a wiff of the left of stink from when he had spat on me. Out of sheer vindictiveness I crouched slightly next to him and said “No password required next time, am I right?”
“Y-yes sir,” he stammered, “I mean, no sir. No password required for you sir.”
“Good man.” I patted him on the shoulder and pulled my hood back over my face. Arc rolled his eyes and gave me a look that said ′Really?′ I just grinned back at him as we took off through the crowded cobblestone streets.