Berek sat in the local tavern squirreled away in one of the corners drinking alone. It was not unusual for Berek to find himself his only company. His distrust of others and his overall mean demeanor had a habit of keeping others at arm’s reach. Though Berek did not complain about this, in fact he would rather it be this way.
He had been rolling with this current gang for the past four summers. The hauls were decent enough but with a twenty-man strong gang it meant the shares were small enough not to satisfy Berek. Being a Dwarf his hunger for gold was never really satisfied but a good scratch was not too much to ask for.
Killing, that is where the real money was. But becoming an assassin was not as easy as joining the ranks of a highway gang and robbing poor merchants of their equally poor produce. One had to make a name for oneself, within certain circles that is.
The chair across from him was pulled out from the table which broke Berek out of his idle musings. A gaunt human of about fifty summers sat down in the chair. His thinning grey hair clung to his skull with grease. A narrow face combined with a protruding nose gave him an almost rodent characteristic and his lips were so thin they barely seemed to exist at all. He fixed Berek with piercing ice blue eyes.
‘What the fuck do ya want Sobeil? Can’t you see I was busy?’
‘Busy?’ Sobeil asked with a raised eyebrow.
‘Aye, fucking busy. Now if you don’t have anything to tell me you can fuck off.’
Sobeil was second only to Titus in his authority and rank within the gang, though Berek hated the number two probably more than any other of the honourless curs in the gang. Though Berek wasn’t exactly an honourable paragon himself.
‘Ever the pleasant chap Berek, tell me, are all Dwarfs as friendly as you?’
Berek just scowled in reply.
‘Indeed, anyway moving on, this isn’t a social stop.’
‘Oh no shit Sobeil,’ Berek interjected.
Sobeil hid his annoyance well. ‘I have something for you that I think you might like.’
‘Unless it is some Dwarven mead and big titted elven whore then you can do as I already told you and fuck off.’
Undeterred by Berek’s charming disposition Sobeil pressed on.
‘I have a contract.’
‘Ooooh, good for you Sobeil,’ Berek interrupted, thick with sarcasm.
‘Now that you’ve told me the great news you can piss off and leave me to drink in peace.’
‘The contract Berek,’ Sobeil continued in a hushed tone, ‘is an assassination contract, one that I think you will like. It pays well.’
‘Ah you know what Sobeil, I think I am fine where I am. I don’t need to accept any side gigs from you. Find someone else.’
‘Really now Berek? Because my ears tell me that you are not fine where you are. Not fine in the slightest and even that you would like to get into the killing trade. Or am I mistaken? Your face seems to tell me that I am not.’
Berek’s face was contorted in a grimace of rage. Not only had Sobeil gotten the best of him but if he knew that, it meant that Kath had told him. Kath being the only person Berek ever aired any specific complaints to.
‘Kath the rat tongued bastard! So yeah, what of it?’
‘I can assure you Berek that it wasn’t Kath who informed me. Few things happen within Titus’s Highwaymen without me catching wind of it. And by few, I mean none. Though I think I will be having a chat with Kath after we are done here.’
Berek cursed under his breath. Always so quick to anger, that had caused Berek more complications than he could count, and that streak seemed to have no end.
‘The contract is for somebody in this town. This very tavern in fact.’ Sobeil added in a barely audible whisper.
‘Is that so? So why not take the contract yourself? When did Sobeil suddenly become the altruistic weasel?’
‘Oh I assure you Berek, I have not experienced some dramatic change of character. I am simply too busy to do it myself. Plus, the Highway’s share is still taken regardless of who completes the contract.’
‘Aye, I suppose it does alright. But why me? It is no secret that you hold no favour for me and for what it’s worth I think you are a ratty bastard who I wouldn’t piss on if you were on fire.’
‘Because Berek-’ Sobeil snapped, his even headed demeanour breaking ever so slightly, ‘I wouldn’t trust any of the boys here to complete it. Harvol and Tis are nowhere to be found, up to no good no doubt. So that leaves you my only option, despite my misgivings.’
‘Though I may have some use for you yet, should you succeed.’ Sobeil added with his annoyingly rattish smirk.
Berek pressed his tongue against the inside of his lips in equal parts annoyance and suspicion. Berek hated Sobeil and trusted him as much as full blood Orc in a whorehouse. That being said, this could be a good enough start to the path he has coveted for many a summer.
‘Fuck it,’ Berek exclaimed raising his arms slightly from the table.
‘I’ll do it. So, who is this sorry bastard and why does whoever want him dead?’
’You really are new to this Berek. The whoevers and whyevers do not concern you. Only the how much.'
‘Enough. You will have your due once the Highway takes its share.’
Berek scowled again. Oh, the Highway took it’s share alright and by the time Berek got his share he’d be lucky if he could afford a single night of good drinking. Berek peered into the dregs of whatever piss passed for ale in these parts and came to the conclusion that even with a King’s ransom he would not be able to have a good night of drinking anywhere near here.
‘Just tell me where the fuck this person is that I have to kill and let’s be done with this annoying conversation. I am sick of the sight of you Sobeil.’
Berek punctuated this by spitting into his mug. A common dwarven gesture to signify the end of drinking and thus, the conversation.
'He is asleep in one of the rooms above, third to the right. The barkeep has been persuaded to leave the spare key to the room in an alcove at the top of the stairs, at the base of the banister.'
‘And one more thing Berek, from what I can gather the target is a mage. So, whatever you do, make sure you do it quickly and brutally. Lest you fuck it up and we all turn to ash in mage fire.’
With that Sobeil stood up from the table ans cast Berek one last unreadable look and then headed towards the far corner where the boys were crowded around. They were singing a crude song about some young elf prince losing his virginity to a full blood Orc.
Berek checked what equipment he had on his person. He wasn’t wearing any armour and only had two of his simple daggers. It would be enough. It would have to be. Armour against a mage was as effective as parchment against fire.
Berek hated mages, magic didn’t sit easy with Berek so one less mage in the world was only a good thing as far as Berek was concerned.