The Brotherhood of the Blade
By Deuce Traveler
Ratschoon had to go to the inn
he was staying at in merchants square, while Deuce Traveler went
up to the small hovel he called his room on the top floor of the
Carrion Inn. He wore a tight fitting black suit, and then
pondered what to wear for street camouflage. He figured with the
clothes he had laid out, he could dress like a bum living on the
streets (which in actuality he was close to becoming), or as one
of the labourers over at the lumber mill who frequently hit a pub
and walked home drunk. He decided on the labourers outfit, since
there were enough of those workers for him not to get noticed,
the clothes were loose fitting, he could wear it almost anywhere
in the city, and since he splashed the outfit with alcohol, he
could always act drunk and incoherent if the guards stopped him
for any reason. He followed this up with loose sandals that would
lighten the sound his steps would make. His lockpicks he wrapped
in thin cloth so they didn't clink against each other and placed
them comfortably in his pockets. He also grabbed his two lucky
knives, two slim dark daggers he picked up once in a nightmare of
a mission he was a part of in the dark elf fortress of
Nengtaroth. The quality of these daggers were almost worth the
pain he went through to survive the fortress. Tucking the blades
into sheathes he had sewn and hidden deep in his sleeves he went
downstairs through the bar. Some of the patrons glanced up at
Deuce, and seeing him looking dressed as a labourer, wisely
turned their attention to a mug or the walls and pretended they
never saw him walk out the door.
Deuce stepped outside and into an alley between the Carrion Inn and the Riversy Theatre. A few minutes later, Ratschoon started to walk past, when Deuce hissed at him, causing Ratschoon to pause and walk towards him. Deuce could see in the darkness that his friend was wearing a dark ringmail under a tunic.
"Expecting a fight, Ratschoon?"
"I just don't like to be caught unprepared. I guess some don't have the capacity to anticipate trouble," Ratschoon returned snidly.
Deuce just shrugged and stated, "I figure you shall lead, I shall follow."
"You are quite correct. Come on."
They walked past the Riversy common area, went west of the Riversy Temple, and headed into Merchants Square with hardly anyone giving them a second look. They kept a few dozen feet apart the entire way so not to arouse notice. Finally, they stopped in front of a house in the merchant square. Except for the two of them, the streets were empty.
"So this is why you were staying at the Merchant's Rest Inn in this square. To observe your mark. So can you tell me who the rich bastard is now?"
Ratschoon smirked and said, "Well, it's a bit late for any more secrets. This is a Dr. Jonas' house I am needing you to get me into. Can you pick the lock?"
Deuce walked up to the the front porch and examined the door. Ratschoon walked more towards the center of the street to keep a lookout. It only took three minutes and the door was open, and Deuce was signalling Ratschoon to come back. Ratschoon patiently walked over to the front porch and slipped inside the house. Deuce hid in some shadows near the porch, ready to act if anyone should approach the house.
A few minutes later, Ratschoon stuck his head out the door, "Psst! Deuce... I need you in here."
Deuce whispered back, "I'm right here, five feet to your left. What's going on?"
"I think I found what I'm after, but it's locked in a drawer in a desk and I think that Dr Jonas has the key. Unfortunately, he's asleep in his chair and so I can't search his pockets very easily. It would be easier if you just slipped inside and opened it for me."
"Ok, so you watch the front and I bring the documents to you?"
"No, screw watching the front, man. I'm the only one who touches those documents. No one's walking the streets. Just get in here."
Deuce's temper rose a few notches. He hated it when extra work would suddenly appear during a job. It was all the reasonable requests that added up to the unreasonable. Right now he was entering the house he didn't think he would have to enter. Not unreasonable. He had to pick a second lock, one to a desk drawer this time and not a door. Also not unreasonable. But despite the extra work he would be paid the same, more often than not. He pushed dark thoughts aside, as he entered the home of Dr Jonas.
The elderly Dr Jonas was snoring in a large, velvet chair. Ratschoon motioned Deuce to sneak across the room in a doorway he was standing in. In the next room was a desk Ratschoon started to point at. Slipping quietly past the smaller rogue, Deuce approached the desk drawer and sighed inwardly. He could already tell this lock was going to be a problem. The lock was a lot smaller than the one on the door, he had a lot less light to work with in this small room, and the lock looked newer and therefore probably more complex than the one on the front door. Deuce removed his smallest picking tools, kneeled, and got to work.
The minutes felt like an eternity as Deuce worked by the feel of the lock picks, his movements punctuated by the loud snores of Dr Jonas. Sweat began to bead on Deuce's forehead, and every moment that the sleeping doctor tossed in his sleep made his heart leap. The stress wasn't just getting to Deuce. Ratschoon eyed the doctor, nervously fingering a knife he carried behind his hip, dark thoughts in his eyes.
Mercifully, the lock clicked open. Deuce exhaled a sigh of relief despite himself. Ratschoon quickly opened the drawer and took some papers out, looking pleased. Taking the papers close to a candle that the doctor never blew out, Ratschoon scanned the documents over and over again, reciting details of it to memory. With a satisfied smile, he finally placed the documents back in the drawer and closed it. Ratschoon gave Deuce a happy wink and a thumbs up and motioned for the two of them to quietly slip out together. They both went out the door together, gently closed the door, and almost walked into a Riversy guard as they stepped off the porch, smiling triumphantly.
The smiles disappeared as they noticed the guard start to speak, "What in the hell are you two doing in Dr Jonas house, and slipping out like thieves in the night?"
Deuce tried to think quickly, "Sorry, but I don't feel so good. I think I drank too much, and I thought Dr Jonas could help."
"Bah! You smell like a brewery, no wonder you feel like...hey, aren't you Rooks friend, Deu...gack!" The guards words were cut short as Ratschoon cupped a hand over his mouth and stabbed him in the back. The guard fell, trying to speak, but blood filled his lungs and he began to cough up instead. Ratschoon grabbed the fallen guard by his hair, while his other hand twirled the knife in his hand. The guard looked up at Deuce pitifully, not understanding what was happening.
Deuce reached for his companion's arm, "Ratschoon don't..."
Unheeding of his friend's words, Ratschoon brought his knife down, slicing the guards neck, and dropping him like a sack of meat. He met Deuce's eyes unflinchingly and simply said, "Let's go."
Deuce stood in stunned silence for a moment, but snapped out of it as a hoarse yell pierced the air. "To arms! Guard down in merchant square! Guard down in merchant square! To arms!" The yeller was another Riversy guardsman, who spotted the two rogues standing over his fallen comrade.
"Well hell, nothing is ever easy," Ratschoon complained and headed straight at the new guard, two razor sharp daggers in his hands. He started to meet the guard head on, but at the last minute, spun out of the way of the guard's falling sword, kicked him in the ribs, and ran down the street without so much as a glance back.
The guard quickly recovered and blocked Deuce's path with his shield. Deuce let his dual daggers fall from their sleeves and took a step back away from the guard, saying, "I don't want to fight you, I had nothing to do with your fallen comrade."
The guard looked surprised for a moment the scowled, "Deuce...Deuce Traveler, isn't it? You're a friend of Rooks, but unlike that scoundrel you have a reputation for being involved in some dirt. Well, you're half right, you don't want to fight me!" So saying he swung his sword at Deuce, missing him by inches as the rogue ducked under the blade. However, a kick to Deuce's ribs caused the rogue to lose his breath, and a shield bash to the rogue's skull felled him.
Deuce gritted his teeth in anger, hand clenched around some soil at the base of a city planted tree. He tossed the soil into the guard's eyes as his adversary approached to finish him, blinding the man temporarily. The rogue took advantage of this moment to bury a dagger into the bicep of the guard's swordarm. His second dagger sliced a gash into the guard's calf, and the muscular rogue's slamming of his own body against the injured guard was all that was needed in bringing him down. Deuce whispered quickly into the fallen guard's ear, "I'm sorry," and then he ran for all he was worth. The guard screamed curses at him and tried to chase the rogue, but Deuce was too fast and unhampered by a leg injury. Deuce wondered if his escape really mattered. Deuce knew the city guard would not sleep until they avenged their fallen comrade. His days in the city he began to feel was his home were numbered.
Ratschoon looked flustered as
he ran through the Riversy City slums. Small cuts lined his body
and he bled slightly. He must have felt that someone was watching
him, because he looked around nervously and dove inside a small,
"Good," thought Deuce about Ratschoon's frightened expression. "I hope he pisses himself."
Deuce entered the house Ratschoon was in, silently slipping through the doorframe and almost right up to the small rogue before the man knew he was there. It was easier to use the shadows now with the all black jump suit he had on, after ditching the labourer clothes in an alley. Ratschoon yelped, and swung his blue steel dagger in front of his body, looking visibly relieved when he saw it was the bigger rogue.
"So you escaped too, Deuce."
"Yes, Ratschoon, we make survival a habit."
"Ha! That we do! I've had some pretty close calls with the city guards, but I suppose with you living here so much longer, you know the hiding spots a bit better."
"True, I knew you would have to evenutally come this way, Ratschoon, if you had any chance of keeping alive for long. The guards are always wary to come down this way."
"Get me out of this city, old friend, and I'll double your pay."
"No? And why not?"
"Because I have no reason to. You still owe me a thousand coins for the first job, and in addition you have ruined my reputation in this city, not that it was doing overly well in the first place. And I have a serious issue with you killing that man. That wasn't part of the job you hired me for."
"How about for old friend's sake?"
Deuce laughed bitterly, "Old friends sake? I don't even know who you are or what in the hell you're doing in my city, and you want me to do you favors? You're out of your fucking mind!" Deuce's voice rose as he fought to get his anger under control.
"Alright! Alright! I'll explain a bit of this, just keep your voice down," Ratschoon said nervously. "I didn't lie to you when I said that some of the children you grew up with survived. I'm one of them, and three others lived, too. We are part of an organization called the Brotherhood of the Blade. We have some influence in every major city on the continent. Lately, our connections in Riversy have ceased to hold us in the awe that we once controlled them with. I'm here to gather information on them and help them see the error of their ways."
"So the documents in Dr Jonas desk are something you can blackmail him with to get him to do what you want?"
"Well...no. Not Dr Jonas, the information that he had was on someone else. That was the beauty about sneaking into his house instead of that of the mark. We have to teach our puppets a lesson that they won't forget soon. I have a few other operatives working with me here, also gathering information. No one you know, just some hired help from Seledorn. I killed the guard because I can't be caught, since if I was caught some high level officials may recognize me as their blackmailer, and I don't even want to think about the lengths that they would go to turn the tables on their masters. Now...I answered your damn questions, can we go?"
"Not yet, something just occured to me. Ratschoon, how did you come to join the Brotherhood of the Blade? It seems odd to me that all four of you survivors would have joined the same organization. Were you really that close for those long ten years?"
Ratschoon sighed and started rubbing his temples, "You really don't want to know this."
"Does it have to do with how the four of you survived the fire when everyone else was cut down, including me? I still have the scar on my chest," Deuce said quietly, his voice almost a whisper.
"Yes to whatever odd thoughts are going through that damnable skull of yours. Yes, we four were spared and taken by the Brotherhood. They took the four of us and shaped us, taught us, molded us to be their lieutenants when we came of age."
Deuce's voice got even lower and calmer, "You mean you work for the same people who came into our homes and killed a dozen of our fellow street urchins? The ones we were growing up with?"
Ratschoon had to strain to hear Deuce's next words as they were but a whisper, "The same people who killed Gilden, our foster father?"
"Ha! Gilden? You know what he was? A two bit crook, a charlatan. He ran the smuggling operation in Hillby, and when the Brotherhood of the Blade came and offered to help him expand his operations in exchange for his loyalty and a percentage of the profit, he refused. He couldn't see that the Brotherhood was the force of the future. He was too weak and dimwitted an old coot to..."
"You son of a bitch!" Deuce's backhand surprised Ratschoon, causing the small rogue to stumble against a rotted wooden table, which collapsed under his weight. A stunned Ratschoon laid entangled in broken wood, as Deuce fell on him, punching Ratschoon across his nose and cheeks as he screamed, "Gilden was the only father we all had. He took all of us in! He fed us! He clothed us and protected us! And I couldn't protect him from the bastards you're working for now. I couldn't protect those poor kids who looked up to me! I was the oldest, I should have protected them!" The punches lessened, giving Ratschoon a chance to start protecting his bloodied face. "And I couldn't even protect you! Oh, how you all looked up to me, and I couldn't protect any of you!." The punching stopped, and Deuce looked into Ratschoon's stunned face. "I couldn't do anything, and look what we have become."
A disgusted look crossed Deuce's face and he climbed up, walking away from Ratschoon. "What have I done? I'm sorry Ratschoon. I need to just get away from you. You're not what I thought you were when I met you yesterday." Deuce looked away from his former friend as and stared out the doorway into the slums. All he saw in the slums was emptiness. All he felt inside was disgust. Looking at the moon, he tried to think what his last words to Ratschoon should be, "I'm so sorry I wasn't there for you ten years ago. I was too small to do anything, though. And to help you now would be to deny who I am. I guess I was worthless to you my whole life. Goodbye, R- uhg!"
Deuce stared in shock as a cold sensation shook his body, and inches of a blade poked from his left breast. Ratschoon was behind him hissing in his ear, "You touched me! You dared touch me you ungrateful sack of shit!" He was working himself in such a rage that Deuce felt spittle on the back of his neck when he spoke. "You feel that, you bastard? You're dying, feel familiar?"
"It does look familiar," Deuce thought, "stabbed in the same exact place when I was twelve. When Gilden died next to me. Stabbed on the left side of the chest, where the heart is. No, wait, I was stabbed on the right side, if I got stabbed on the left side I'd be dead. Am I dead? Dead, dead, deed, read, red... ... Snap out of it....you're going into shock do something."
"Do something," Deuce murmured.
"What was that worm? What was that pig? Pleading for your life?" Ratschoon leaned closer, driving the dagger further into Deuce's body.
"I said... do something!" Deuce exclaimed, snapping his head back. He felt a sickening crunch and felt blood spray onto the back of his neck as he broke the smaller rogue's nose. Ratschoon took a step back in surprise, removing his dagger from Deuce's body in the process. Deuce pressed the advantage by driving his elbow back into the neck of his assailant. Ratschoon fell to his knees, grasping his barely intact windpipe as Deuce threw himself foward out into the slums, stumbling in a blind haze. He told himself not to pass out, as his vision kept blurring. He had to get distance from the other rogue if he was to survive. He would go out in the city, but that would mean instant death, too. The Riversy Guards would chop him down in no time, in the mental state they were in after their comrade's death.
Deuce stumbled past dozens of shanty houses, fell into a pile of rubbish, and awoke in a puddle of blood, facing down. "Passed out...get up, damn it," Deuce thought as he almost passed out again just from the effort of getting to his feet. He had lost too much blood to go much further, he had to hide now. Looking around, he saw he was near the Riversy Dump. Making the last fifty yards to a pile of trash took all his remaining energy. Hiding in it was disgusting, but Deuce felt he was out of options. Also he really didn't care anymore. He snuggled up, hid, and closed his eyes knowing that he would die with just the rats and roaches to know him.
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