It was a dark and stormy night
Bingus again fell himself falling through some ethereal space and finally landed in a chair in a desk where he saw Aenied walking into an office. Bingus rose to speak and called out to Aenied only to realize that he was merely a watcher. Neither Aenied nor the other person in the room noticed his presence.
I knew she was trouble when I walked into my office. The first thing I noticed were her long slender legs that were bare from the ankle to the knee. It struck me that it wasn’t right for a nice girl like her to be showing off her glam so easily. She was sitting on the corner of my desk crying. I’m a sucker for a dame that drips a tear. As I got closer I could almost sense a palpable aura of moisture surrounding the kid. She wasn’t really a kid, but I’m older than I look and she could easily be young enough to be my daughter. The moisture seemed to be a result of her tears. I was hooked. Regardless of what she said I’d help her.
Looking up with doey eyes, “You have to help my father.”
Before I realized I was saying it I found myself telling her that everything would be all right and that I’d help her father or die trying. On reflection probably not the best choice of words.
She told her her story, “You see, he’s a gangster. Well, former gangster really. He was a bandit and he served his time. But the other bosses they don’t want to let him go that easy and they’re threatening him with my life if he doesn’t do what they want him to.”
“And what would that be?”
“They want him to kill my boyfriend, Kenny.” I thought sure that she was about to tell me her name was ‘Barbie’ but she went on. “Kenny he’s just a simple trader but we’ve fallen in love. But he saw some of the gang bosses doing something they shouldn’t and he’s gone to the constables. Plus, I just know that once my daddy does this job for them they aren’t going to let him go free. I think they mean to kill him too.”
The little voice in my head told me that something wasn’t quite right here, but I couldn’t resist a crying dame.
“Tell you what I’ll go talk to some of my friends at the constables and see what they can tell me And once I found out anything how do I contact you, Miss…”
“Lonnie, Lonnie Apple, I’ll come find you.” And with that she walked out of my office and left it a drabber place.
Closing my door I smiled as I saw the freshly written words, “FFR Aneid.” I had gotten my Fantastical Flatfoot Registered license back just last week and was able to legally practice my craft. As I headed out for the lockup I reflected on her father’s plight. I too had run with the wrong crowd on occasion. And more recently, I’d fought a battle with the demon bottle. Not a real demon but real none the less. I had been riding around town on my high horse telling of the end of the world when really I was just an old dinosaur tiltng at fantoms. A priest had pulled me out of my death spiral and got me in a program. One day at a time. I was on day 465 dry and fighting every day.
Once at the jailhouse I greased a few palms and went in to speak with Kenny. He was an average sort perhaps a little chubby like some merchants can get. He couldn’t have been more than 19 years old. He looked a little nervous when I walked into the room. The badge left me alone with the man they were guarding. They knew I wasn’t the one after this kid.
“So kid, got yourself into a spot of trouble have you?”
He sighed, “Yes, I’m afraid so. I was just trying to hel p Lonnie. I thought that if I got some dirt on the people her father had worked with I could get them locked up.”
“Didn’t work out that way did it.”
“No, instead now I’ve got some sort of death threat hanging over my head.”
I paused, “Kid, I think the only way that this is going to work is if I kill you.”
He jumped up out of his chair and backed away. He was about to call for the fuzz when I waved him down, “Settle down boy. I don’t mean really. I mean that the people your Lonnie’s dad has crossed will only stop when you are dead. If you want to get away with your lady friend then you’re going to have to trust me.”
I knew that I had read him right. He’d do anything for the girl. Heck, I probably would have too. He was going to be easy to work with. Simple but not too simple.
We discussed the plan and I headed back to my office. On the way back one of the Overlord’s sentinal’s stopped me. “Well, well, look who’s walking away from the jailhouse. Are you supposed to be out or should I take you back?” The elven sentinal and I had gotten off on the wrong foot back when I was under the sway of the bottle and he wasn’t going to let me live it down.
“Look, Mantir, I don’t want any trouble. I’m still clean and doing honest work I had Registered business at the jail.”
“Well, see that you keep it that way as I’d be more than happy to put you into solitary if you cross the line again.” As he walked off he called out to some lord lost in the crowd to me.
Back at my flat I thought about the plan that I had laid out with Kenny. As long as he and the girl did everything exactly as I said, everything would work out and they would get to live happily ever after. I took the next two days setting thigs up. I was locking up my place late that evening getting ready to head back to my dismal hole I called home. As I turned around two big brusers and a little weasel stood a little too close behind me. How I hadn’t heard them come up I’m not sure. I’m normally a pretty perceptive guy.
The weasely one spoke for them all, “We hear you been asking about our boss? See, Mr. T, he don’t take kindly to people asking about him without an introduction. So, you are going to come with us to get properly introduced to the boss.”
It didn’t look like they were going to give me any choice. Suddenly one of the brusers punched me in the gut. The wind knocked out of me I fell to the ground where the other bruser placed his boot in my ribs. They backed off as the weasel said, “You’re taking too long to answer. You say, ‘Yes, sir, I’ll go anywhere you say.’ Got it?”
I considered trying to fight them but realized that given the drop they had on me I’d quickly get my self killed if I tried anything smart, so I did the smart thing–I said I’d go.
As we exited the building I noticed that a fog had settled in on the city.
I considered what story I was going to tell the gang boss as we walked. By the time we got there I had my plan worked out; it didn’t take us long to get to the building where the gang leader was holed up. My “companions” escorted me in and took me to a dining room. Mr. T was human though he had a bit of elvish airs about him. He was wearing a robe the identified him as some kind of acolyte though I couldn’t recognize the markings which was a little odd as I had some familiarity with most religious symbols. As he spoke I noticed that his eyes were not normal–they were just blank spots where the night sky peered out at the world. He also had a signet ring that indicated that he might have some actual noble ties.
He whispered, “I understand that you are looking for me. Who are you and why should I care?”
I answered, “I’m just looking out for myself. I’m looking for an amicible solution to what appears to be a problem that you have. Someone came into my office and told me that you are trying to kill Kenny. I can kill him for you if you make it worth my while.”
“I am a simple businessman not in the business of killing people. And, why would I choose to avail myself of your services even if that were my intention.”
“I’ve got connections and little to loose. I’m planning on leaving town and figure that I can score a quick bit of gold by helping you out as I leave.”
He seemed to consider for a moment, “Well as I said, I don’t deal in wet work. But if I hear of anyone who might be I’ll send them your message.”
And apparantly that was the end of my audience with the boss. The big brusiers shoved me towards the door and then out the building. I headed back to my place to see if he had taken the bait.
Later that evening I was awoken to find someone sitting in my room. The figure was clad in dark clothing and clearly had skills to get into my room without my noticing. This was becoming a bad habit. I reached under my pillow for my dagger only to find the visitor playing with it. This guy was good, only he wasn’t a guy.
When she spoke it was so quiet that I could barely hear her, “If you want to deal in blood you will meet my employeer under the bridge in the Alley of Bleak Hope within the next hour.”
With that she started to move towards me but as she got close enough for me to smell the clear fragrance of lilacs she disappeared.
I shook my head to clear the cobwebs of sleep and considered my options. I hadn’t expected them to respond so soon. I wouldn’t have time to get to Kenny to implement our plan. I decided to find one of the street urchins that lived nearby and gave him a copper to deliver a message to Kenny. I picked one of the kids who was friendly with the sentinals so that he’s have a chance to get the message to Kenny and then got dressed to meet this employeer.
When I went under the bridge I found Lonnie and Kenny already there. I looked around confused. Slowly Mr. T and his men stepped out of the shadows.
I looked at the girl. It was clear, she’d double crossed me. I just couldn’t figure out why?
She looked at me kind of apologetically, “I’m sorry, Aenied. I didn’t tell you everything. You see, it was actually me that was being asked to kill Kenny not my dad. And it was my dad that Mr. T was threatening. The only thing I could think of was to give Mr. T something that he wanted more than Kenny and that, it turns out, is you. No hard feelings I hope. I’m doing it for love.”
Kenny looked up, he had been looking sheepishly at his feet, “I’m sorry too. I knew that you made this plan and all and its a good plan. Me and Lonnie are still going to use it. If there was something I could do to help I would. Like she said, we’re doing it because we’re in love, all you need is love, and you can probably take some small comfort in knowing that we’ll be living happily every after thanks to you.”
I looked at the boy, too young to know what he was doing, but thinking that perhaps he knew better after all, “I’m so tired of being here. If you have to leave, I wish you would just leave. ‘Cause you’re presence still lingers here. And it won’t leave me alone.”
Kenny got a curious look on his face and he started to cry, “Now I will tell you what I’ve done for you–50 thousand tears I’ve cried, screaming, decieving, bleeding for you–and you still won’t hear me…”
I interrupted, “Don’t speak! I know just what you’re saying so please stop explaining.” I knew that what they were doing was for the best, but it still hurt. Of course he would choose the dame over me–can’t live with them, can’t live without them. I turned from the two young lovers and nodded to Mr. T.
Mr. T and his men smiled and the two young lovers ran off behind me. As they left Mr. T and his goons advanced on me. I wasn’t being caught by surprise this time and so while I maneuvered to get them separated, I didn’t want to get caught between them, I called out to Mr. T who was standing back observing, “I don’t get it? What do you want from me? And why didn’t you take it when I was in your office?”
As the goons got within striking range, they had almost caught me twice between them. Mr. T replied, “As to the latter, I didn’t want your stinking blood to infect the smell of my home. As to the former, you have some information that I need. Information that belongs to me.”
I prayed to Majere to guide my hand and in a sickening flash, circled one of the goons and with a series of deft slices, left him standing in a pool of his own blood. It took a moment for him to realize he was dead and then he fell over, “I don’t think that I have any information that belongs to you, but if I do and it does, then I’m willing to negotiate without this need for bloodshed.” As I said this I felt a tingle at the back of my neck and just before a knife pierced my heart from behind, I dodged and was only gifted with a punctured lung. The assassin had been hiding on the bridge and had descended while I was distracted by the goons and nearly gotten the drop on me. Dames, can’t live with them (sticking daggers in your heart and lungs), can’t live without them (‘nuf said).
Mr. T continued, “I know you’ve decieved me. Now here’s a surprise, I know because there’s magic in my eyes. While you were at the Rock you were bunked with, Slim Teglim. He was an employee of mine. I understand that before he died in that unfortunate accident at the prison, he told you where he had hidden a ritual that belonged to me. You will tell me where that ritual is located either before or after my people place your deplorable life in the Dark Queen’s hands.”
It finally started making sense. Slim had been a half-orc curier who died an “accidental” death while in prison. I had known that someone had arranged for his death, but didn’t know who or necessarily why. He had known something was up and had confided in me to a degree…apparently to a greater degree than I realized at the time. He had asked me to take something that was confidential. He figured that if whoever was after it didn’t find it on him they would let him go. Instead they had killed him. He had transfered it to me using some courier related magic so that neither he nor I would be aware of the information he had been carrying. He had said that the recipient would have the key phrase that would unlock the information. I had pretty much forgotten that he’d even given me the package.
While all this had been resolving in my mind the remaining goon and the assassin were wearing me down. He had managed to get in a lucky blow that had my head ringing while she was doing the same thing to me that I had done to the first goon, only slower. If I didn’t do something quickly I’d be lying in a pool of my own blood next to the first goon.
“Hey!” I yelled, “Just say the phrase and I’d be happy to give you the package.”
“Ah, yes, ” started Mr. T, “if you think I don’t know about the little tricks you play. I see the little things you put in my way. You see I don’t have the phrase so I’m going to need to use a rather bloody ritual to extract the information without it.”
Now the last piece fell into place. Mr. T wasn’t the intended recipient. ‘His’ information wasn’t really his.
Wait, what little tricks was he talking about? Does he know? It occured to me that something was not right with the scene before me. The image of the woman changed to become an old crone and the goon in front of me flickered in and out of existance and in his place was a fancy golden gnome. A brown leaf fluttered down, a chill wind began to blow ushering in winter and the sky turned a hazy shade. From somewhere down the river I heard a band playing. I stood still as the two attackers resolved into the forms of the old woman and the gnome.
“How can you see into my eyes like open doors?”
Bingus heard a pair of voices in his head, but it didn’t come from the visoin in front of him.
A plaintive quite voice, “Wake me up…”
The second voice was stronger, commanding, “Wake me up…inside…”
Voice one, “I can’t wake up”
Voice two, “Wake me up inside”
Voice one, “Save me”
Voice two, “call my name and save me from the dark”
Voice one, “Wake me up”
Voice two, “bid my blood to run”
Voice one, “I can’t wake up”
Voice two, “before I come undone”
Voice one, “Save me”
Voice two, “save me from the nothing I’ve become”
Appruptly his attention was drawn back to the vision…
I just had to laugh; I took my crossbow and raised it to my temple. As I pulled the trigger, a crowd had formed on the bridge, they just stood and stared. I didn’t notice that the light had changed and darkness was falling. The witch said, “I’ve seen his face before…is he from the house of…” she trailed off as a new creature appeared.
In my place stood a creature, perhaps a man. It was completely black and its skin was covered with flickering lights as if it were covered in the night sky. I turned to run but found myself frozen in place. My body wasn’t responding to the increasingly frantic commands I was trying to give it; that happens when you put a crossbow bolt through you brain. As the creature came closer it seemed to be purring.
I could feel the creature slide his hand into the front of my head. As it touched my brain I had a brief epiphany and it all made sense. I could feel it stirring around in my head looking for something. Thoughts and memories came jumbling about. I looked down to see my hand had turned to a patch of snow on the ground and was beginning to blow away in the slight breeze. Then the cold embrace of oblivion took me and I was gone. At least Kenny and Lonnie were safe and free.
As Bingus took in the scene he realized that something wasn’t right. Time seemed to have stopped and the creature was looking at him–looking at him as if it could see him for who he was. The creature began to move toward Bingus and as it did the witch gasped with a surprised look on her face as she too realized that it appeared to be aware of their presence. Somehow this memory was interacting with them in the now.
As it advanced, the creature spoke without using words. “How curious, there are little minds that weren’t here before. Perhaps they have the secret. Come here little minds…”
Bingus began to bring words of power to his mind to defend himself and if necessary attack this thing that appeared aware of his presence. But as he did so the creature flicked his hand in Bingus’s direction.
Abruptly, Bingus found himself being jostled by Bairdyn on the streets of Overlook, his head splitting from the worst headache he had ever had, “Bingus, what happened to you? Where have you been for the past 3 days? And, where is Yu and why are you lying in a puddle of smelly liquid in the middle of an alley?”