The Brotherhood of the Blade
By Deuce Traveler
"Deuce Traveler. You're
back." The tall, grim looking woman sat in a dark corner of
the Carrion Inn holding a half empty bottle of the local
specialty. Deuce Traveler, the self-styled 'Fingersmith' wasn't
sure if this was a statement or a greeting. But that's how it was
with Desmer Snakeyes, General of the Dark Army. Deuce found it
strange that she wore a loose green tunic and dark pants. Desmer
was not known for spending her waking hours unarmored. Her large,
trusty sword, SpineThrasher, hung from its scabbard on her side,
and was alone enough to dissuade anyone who contemplated a
violent act against its master.
A mischievious grin spread along Deuce's face as he stepped to the bartender, Filthy, grabbed a bottle of firebreather, and pulled up a chair next to Desmer. "Hello, lass. Good to see you again. I must say you look as stunning as I always pictured you without all that cumbersome armor of yours."
Desmer stared blandly at her new companion as she fingered SpineThrasher's pommel, but a small twinkle of amusement lit the back of her eyes. "You've been away some months, some here in Riversy had thought you to be dead. Caitlyn was looking for you."
His eyes dropped in shame. "I was...detained for some time. It's a long story, but upon my return I had heard that the elves have left this land. I had heard Caitlyn had left with her cousins." Caitlyn Winther was an elven sorceress who had won Deuce's heart long ago. Deuce had met her near the lumber town of Logby, when Caitlyn was part of the Dark Army. Caitlyn and Desmer both tried to recruit Deuce, but he had no desire to be part of a large organization, prefering independance. Also, he didn't believe in the ideals of the Dark Army... to promote themselves and their organization into the subtle and not so subtle taking of territory and land in an attempt to expand their state. Despite their philosophical differences, Caitlyn and Deuce were stalwart companions from the start, and lovers soon after. They had even bought a house in Logby, that Deuce had found himself evicted from after failure to pay the rent during his absence.
"How in the Abyss were you detained for five months?"
"Well, I was in this little rinky dink town called Henn. Anyway, there was this dwarf named Komas that I heard had a hoard of money. I broke..." Deuce frowned at Desmer who was spit up her beer in laughter, tears streaming down her eyes. "...what's so funny?"
Gasping for air, Desmer wiped her eyes and mouth. "Oh wow... that was you? Ha! We heard some low rate thief tried to break into a house in Henn, and was caught by an eight year old girl. The local thieves guilds had laughs on that one all day."
"She wasn't an eight year old girl! She was twelve," Deuce exclaimed defensively, causing another rare laugh to escape from Desmer's lips. "I was searching the place, which by the way, had no friggin' hoard of treasure, just a stupid table and a boring diary, when this little girl, who was house sitting and feeding his plant while he was on some trip, comes in, sees me and screams. Next thing I know, I have the whole town militia on me, and I'm put in a cellar for 5 months to 'teach me the error of my ways'. They even had this Priestess, Precilla, send in her alcolytes to try and make repent my 'wicked' ways."
Desmer was beginning to regain control of herself. "Deuce Traveler, thief of some renowned, foiled by a twelve year old girl."
"I told you before, I'm no thief, I'm a fingersmith."
"You're right, you are no thief." Desmer grinned. "Thank you. I really did need that laugh."
"Is something wrong?"
"That depends on your definition of wrong. No, nothing is wrong with me, young 'fingersmith'. However, I am sad to say I must be leaving you."
"Oh, well it's nothing to be sad about. It is getting late after all."
Desmer sighed and shook her head. "No, Deuce. I'm leaving for good." She fingered her bottle for a moment, pondering how to go on, "I don't recognize this world anymore, and I am tired. It's time to move on, and I've found a way to travel between worlds. I find this world lately.... lacking. You are one I admire, and I don't just say that to anyone, but today's swords for hire just aren't what they used to be, and their weaknesses are beginning to rub on me. My old companions and I tamed this world, and it's new generation of people are too soft. They want everything handed to them, with little desire to accept danger. To explore, to ..." She sighed heavily this time, moved her chair back, and stood up. "I'm talking too much, it must be the alcohol," she said before she downed the rest of her beer. "I've turned the Army over to Solar, and I've left everything behind. It's opportune that you stopped here on your way in. I'm moving on, and it was a pleasure to see you. Perhaps we'll meet again somewhere out there." She looked Deuce steadily in the eyes as he stood up to take her hand, moved away from the table, and walked out the door into the streets of Riversy without hesitating or even glancing back.
Deuce watched her leave in silence and stared long and hard at the closed door after her departure. The alcohol in his hand suddenly tasted bitter. During his absence much had changed. His love had left with the elven kingdom, many of his friends were gone, and he no longer had his house in Logby. Leaving the remainder of his drink still on the table, he got up, pulled his cloak around himself, and walked out into the night.
The next two weeks were spent
trying to find old friends and re-establish old contacts. Most of
his former allies were nowhere to be found, but his friends Saint
and Angeli Halofax were still residing in the Riversy Temple,
where Saint spent his time teaching his student scribes. He heard
Esk, the warrioress, was leading an expedition somewhere outside
Riversy. Rooks, the Mad Hatter, was to be found wandering the
streets of Riversy, playing practical jokes on it's citizens that
seemed harmless to Rooks, but more often than not would scare the
people into calling the guards. He had been arrested four times
in the last month, but since his jokes actually did end up being
harmless he was always released and it became a bit of a game
between Rooks and the city guards.
Rooks had just been released from prison for allegedly setting a torch to the proclamations of King Brind that were nailed to a Riversy board while screaming that he had an army of one thousand lemming liberators about to invade Riversy from the southern gates. He was captured, and put in jail for inciting an uprising, when it was discovered quickly that there was no foreign army anywhere near Riversy, and that the proclamations were safely in Rooks breast pockets, and he had actually burned pages from a book entitled '5 Easy Ways to Start a Fire'.
Rooks bumped right into Deuce on the streets and loudly started explaining his joke and how his day in jail went. "You see," he finished, "the food in there really isn't bad, and I've run into some pretty nice gentlemen in prison believe it or not. I've also run into a few muggers, tax evaders, and the occassional bugger, but I really don't want to talk about them."
Deuce rolled his eyes. This was going to be another long story from his friend that would go nowhere and probably leave him standing outside the Riversy Armory all day.
"...Anyway, I met this guy in there who they let out a few hours before me. He said that he had a job planned, and he was looking for someone who knew how to open a lock quietly. I know you've been strapped for cash, so I told him when I'd find you, I'd let you know about it. He plans to meet a few guys for the job at the Carrion Inn around noon today. He says it pays a few thousand coins. Oh, and then I met a guy who could make whistling sounds with his ears..."
"Whoa, slow down a sec. You told this guy I'd meet him at noon TODAY?" Deuce interrupted his friend rudely, but it took all his energy not to strangle him. By the position of the sun it was a bit past one in the afternoon.
"Yep, I did. Anywaaaaaaay.... as I was saying... Hey! I'm not done with my story!" Rooks yelled at the back of a running Deuce. After his friend disappeared through the crowd, he chuckled to himself and decided to go grab a drink and a breakfast muffin at the Griffin Lounge. Getting out of prison and helping friends always worked up an appetite.
Deuce ran through the streets of Riversy for all he could. It was going to take him about ten minutes to get to the Carrion Inn through this crowd, and he didn't want to pass up a couple thousand gold coins. His stomach grumbled often of late and he was tired of sleeping in the slums. That type of money would have him living decently for months... unless he didn't blow it all in the Carrion Inn or Dominica's Pleasure Palace.
He imagined what type of job this would end up being, too. The Carrion Inn was his favorite spot for a drink, but you also couldn't find a shadier pub in Riversy. It was where the those down on their luck would hit rock bottom, or unsavoury characters looking for a bit of action would find work. Usually fitting into the first category meant you would soon be placed into the second. Someone obviously wanted him to help break into some fat merchants home. Fine with Deuce. All he had to do was unlock some locks and get this man in quietly, and he was set. Low risk, high pay, a fingersmiths dream. And his current dream... if he wasn't late.
He ran into the Carrion, gasping for breath, and quickly scanned the room. Filthy was setting up mugs behind the bar, and Bill, the Riversy gravedigger, was getting drunk at the bar, as he usually did before his grim work. A small, dark haired man sat sat comfortably at a table in the center of the room. Being the only man Deuce didn't recognize, he ran right up to him panting, "I hope... I'm not too late. *pant* I just got told ... by Rooks to... meet with you."
The man looked startled for a moment and then relaxed. His hand came from behind his back and foward into a handshake. Deuce Traveler realized this man probably just had a hand on a knife behind his back, being startled by the large rogues barging in. "Oh...umm, no. I asked your friend to tell you to be here by two in the afternoon. You're actually early by ten minutes or so."
Deuce swore to himself under his breath. He was just on the receiving end of one of Rooks 'jokes'. He debated the different ways he had of getting even with the MaD Hatter in his head as he tried to gather his composure. "Well, I might as well act as if I didn't just make an ass of myself," he thought.
"Deuce Traveler, Fingersmith for Hire," he took the other man's hand and shook it. The man looked slightly familiar to him.
"I am Ratschoon. Glad to meet a ummm... fingersmith such as yourself," the man returned with a grin, "You look familiar to me. May I ask, have you ever lived in Hillby?"
"I was born in Hillby, and lived there until about 10 years ago, how did you know?"
"I was also born in Hillby...I also left it 10 years ago. There was this fire."
"Ratschoon... Rashien? Rashien, is that you?" Deuce stumbled into the chair behind him, and almost fell over. Rashien moved his chair closer to him and steadied him.
"Ha! I thought you were dead, you bastard!" Rashien smiled, glee filling his eyes. Rashien had to be about 18, since the attack on Deuce's home and its burning down happened ten years ago. Rashien was eight at the time, one of over a dozen children living with their foster father, Gilden, the Master Rogue of Logby, as he was titled by its citizens. Until this moment Deuce had thought himself the only survivor of the attack. He was twelve at the time.
"How...," Deuce began, "... how did you survive. I thought whoever was in there when whoever it was that attacked killed not only Gilden, but his children, too."
"Deuce, man, it's incredible to see you. Deuce, just because you were the oldest, did you really think that you were the only one to escape death?"
"Rashien, how many survived?"
"Call me Ratschoon now. And only a few did survive. Most of the children perished. But I was with the survivors, and we grew up around each other. Deuce, you were left alone out there and here you are. This is amazing. Wait until I tell the others! You are not alone, you're one of us now again. Tell me how you have been all these years."
Excitedly, Deuce talked about his life for the last ten years. His dream, zombie-like state he was in for the first three years wandering Hillby. His coming to Riversy, and the adventures he had. His relationship with Caitlyn, and her recent disappearance. Talking about her made him feel lonely again. "I want to see them Ratschoon. Who survived? Where are they? What have the been doing all this time. How come you come to Riversy now?"
Ratschoon put up a defensive hand. "Not yet, Deuce. I'm here on a special mission, that our group is involved in. There will be plenty of time later to tell you everything, but as of right now, I can't talk about them. Once this job gets done, you'll meet everyone again," Ratschoon promised. "Oh come on. Don't look at me like that."
Deuce looked long and hard at his old friend before finally speaking, "You said something about a job?"
"Now you're talking. The two jobs are quite simple, it's a thousand coins for each one. All I need you to do is unlock doors in two different locations. You don't have to steal anything, in fact I'll handle carrying out anything that we find. You can have anything that isn't required for my mission."
"What's your mission?"
"I have to retrieve some documents at the first house."
"Ok, what documents?"
"That's none of your concern for now."
Deuce expected that answer, but still grimaced slightly. "Ok, where are the houses located? Who owns them?"
"You'll find that out when I take you there."
Deuce sighed in frustration and considered for awhile telling this man to stuff it and to hell with the money. All two thousand gold coins of it. Enough for decent room and board for months. His stomach growled. "Hey," he thought, "this is my old friend whom I thought was dead. I should be elated to be with him again. And I could really use the money, so maybe this offer is a gift from the gods. What could possibly go wrong if all I have to do is unlock some stupid doors?"
Deuce stook out his hand and shook with Ratschoon. "You have a deal."
"Great! This will be fun, you'll see! Errr... I have a question for you, though. Are your hands always this cold?" Ratschoon asked of Deuce after shaking hands.
"I have been told that I have some pretty cold skin, but it's never bothered me. Or my hands."
"Well, good as long as it doesn't effect your performance."
"It won't. When do we start?"
Deuce smiled and hesitated before asking his next question, feeling he already knew the answer, "And when do I get paid?"
"After the first job," came the obvious reply.
Onwards to Chapters Three & Four:
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