Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Last Game In Town

A Bad Start

May 01, 2011 14:42
There was a knock at the door upstairs, muffled through the walls, and Esteban came down a minute later with an envelope in hand.
“Uh, there’s a letter for you.” He handed it to Drew, who dangled it suspicously.
Drew mused, “I wonder if it’s poisoned?”
Brug, the half-orc with a stick of jerky in his mouth, reached for it. “I’m good at this stuff. Leave it to me to-” but he was cut off by the stocky arm of a rather dwarvish-looking man across the cheap plank table. The envelope was snatched out of Drew’s fingers before Brug could take it, and the stocky man tore it open. “It’s from your cousin.” he spat.
Drew squinted at him. “You’re… that was pretty reckless, Merik.” he said. Merik shrugged indifferently, and spun the paper to Drew, who missed it, and had to pick it off the floor.
Esteban asked, “Well, what, uh, what does it say?”
Drew looked it over carefully before reading it. Brug shook in his chair, and stood up, leaning over the table. “Let me see it!” and reached for it.
Drew held it away. “You can’t read anyway! Knock it off.”
Brug sat down but continued to fidget.
Drew finished reading. “Says we have work if we want it. It’s from my cousin. Says there’s a good ‘harvest’ this year. Must be a pilgrimage, maybe.”
Merik snorted. “Whatever. If it’ll keep my belly full I don’t really care. Let’s do it.”
Drew twirled a twig between his fingers on the table. “Doesn’t add up.”
Esteban said, “Well, if you have work you’d better get out of my mom’s basement. You’ve already cleared out our cupboards, and you know she’s sick. Come on, man.”
Drew pursed his lips. “Right. Let’s get a few coins together here and head South.”
Merik scowled. “We’d have enough coin, scrip and anything else we’d need if you could just keep a lid on your purse.”
“It’s a man-bag, shorty, and just you remember who paid for lunch yesterday.” Drew folded up the letter and shoved it into his tunic.
Merik stood up and slapped both hands on the table. “You paid for it with MY MONEY.”
Drew smirked, “See? You admit it. I paid for it. I did.”
Merik felt his collar becoming hotter and tighter as blood seemed to boil in his veins.
Drew knew he’d have to diffuse the situation. He said, “Fine fine. I’ll pay you back the moment we make some money. Esteban, get us some grub for the road.”
Esteban stammered, “Uh, I don’t uh… don’t have any more food. Like I said.”
A muffled yet grating voice clattered down the stairs. “Are your friends still in there? Tell them I said they have to go!”
Esteban looked pale. Drew sighed, got up, and snorted, “Thanks for everything you’ve done, good buddy. Pal.” and slapped Esteban on the back as he passed him, ascending the stairs to the main floor of the house. Brug was close on Drew’s heels and looked at Esteban apologetically. Merik gritted his teeth and walked up the stairs with his eyes closed, feeling his way up. He managed to close out the world just long enough for the rage to pass.
The moment Drew opened the front door he knew he’d screwed up.
By the porch, which led directly onto the cobblestone street, stood a man in what looked to be a lightweight suit of plated armor, shining even on this overcast afternoon. He smiled, his imperfect teeth marring his otherwise handsome, if bald, face. “Are you Drew?” he asked.
Drew hesitated, “Yes?”
The man bowed deeply. “Then please, allow me to introduce you… to my sword!”
In an instant, a radiant, oversized broadsword appeared in his hands, and he was somehow leaping in the air before Drew could respond. The blade nicked Drew’s leg on the downswing. “Where did you get that?!” Drew demanded. “Brug! Merik! help me out here! Kill this Vecker!”
Brug scrambled out the door, swung over the banister, and swatted the back of the bald man’s head with a blunt object, having taken advantage of the man’s slowed swing. Drew gasped, “Is that a spoon?” Brug ducked the massive broadsword. “I grabbed it from the kitchen!”
The bald man shrieked, “Shut it! Why do you defend this sinner?” and lurched for Drew again. Merik had shuffled out of the house, and walked casually down the front steps to the street, taking up a defensive position with his shield and sword. Seeing the reckless swinging of the man in front of him, who appeared to be some sort of holy man, he saw an opportunity and jabbed forward, cutting into the man’s side. The man shimmered out of vision, and reappeared a few steps away.
“Don’t you know who I am?” howled the holy man.
Drew sneered, “Uh, I slept with your mom? Are you my son?”
“Bahamut damn you!” the man retorted, swung wildly at Drew, and missed entirely, much to Drew’s relief, which lasted half of a second when the man teleported behind him, reached his arm around Drew’s throat, and pulled him across the knee, slamming him into the ground face-first. Drew coughed blood into the dust. Brug twirled the ladle in his hand and slammed it with all the fury a half-orc can muster, knocking the avenger to his knees, breaking the ladle at the handle.
“Damn.” Brug grimaced. The wind was picking up.
Across the street one of the neighbors, an alchemist, came out of his front door nonchalantly, caught notice of the mayhem occurring at the porch across the way, muttered, “Oh, HELL no.” then went back into his narrow, towering apartment, locking the door with a heavy CLICK.
Back across the street, Brug searched through his own pockets and finally found his small mace. The avenger got back to his feet and wedged his sword into Drew’s leg, only to take the flat side of Marik’s own blade across the chin. Brug motioned to Marik frantically, trying to communicate a plan for a quick attack, and leaped as he noticed a sweeping kick dart out from the avenger. Drew mumbled, “Whuuutrrr you waaaiting forrr kill emmm…”
Marik and Brug nodded to each other, and swung down hard, simultaneously, crushing the bleeding avenger to the ground. He croaked out a brief squeal, choked, and stopped moving entirely.
Marik sighed, not so much in relief as in exasperation. Brug tried to help Drew to his feet, and was shoved away rudely by Drew. “Korddammit! How the Vecna am I supposed to do this on my own, huh?”
Brug stammered, “But I was-”
Marik reached out and slapped his face. “A ladle. A LADLE.”
Drew got up to a knee and gasped out, “What were you going to do? SERVE him?”
Brug stopped shaking and started to smile a little as he said, “I think I served him up pretty good.”
Marik and Drew paused in their chiding, noticing that for once Brug had stood up for himself, and started laughing with him, and then all three were laughing. They felt slightly awkward, with that odd feeling that one is being watched. They looked to the window and saw Esteban clutching his hair, as pale as whitewash, mouth agape in horror at what he had just seen.


Brug wasted no time in searching the avenger’s body. Drew wiped the blood off his own cheek, and said, “It’s pretty clear what this fellow was: light armor, angel wings on the collar, massive sword, and a pernicious penchant for killing a man when he’s out with friends…. MINDING HIS OWN BUSINESS!” He shouted, and kicked the face of the corpse in front of him. The lights of the street started to turn on. It was only too lucky for the men that most of the neighbors had gone a few blocks eastwards to the central plaza for a public execution.
Drew, filled with delight and a sick adrenaline rush, kicked the face again. Then again. And again, and again, trying to smash it with his scrawny legs. Marik noted, “Um… We’d better go inside. That alchemist across the street has to have called the authorities by now.”
Drew was positively manic. “What are they going to do? Self-defense, baby! WOO!” and stomped on the head; the skull was finally giving way. Brug felt a sickening feeling in his stomach at the sight of it. “Drew, maybe you’ve had enough.”
“GO INSIDE!” Drew barked at him, then took a suddenly weary look around him, half-smiled, half-winced, and shuffled indoors.
“Get out of my house! What- what did you doooo?!” Esteban howled. “Morons! All of you!”
Drew riposted, “You just called us morons. Let me make this clear: we just killed a dude outside your house, and you think you’re going to talk to us that way? Brug!”
Brug stood to attention, uncertain but ready to smack Esteban with his mace.
Esteban tore at his hair, and psychotically minced aroud his living room. “Idiots! What do you think? Do- do- do you think that b-body is just going to disappear? By the gods! Agh!” He heaved himself around the room, and Marik took one step back cautiously. Esteban shrieked, “I promised, I PROMISED I would never go back. Oh! Okay. Okay. Okay.” he cradled himself.
Drew eyed him.
Esteban looked up, arms crossed. He looked less like the weakling they had pushed around for the past week and seemed oddly… what was it?, Drew tried to figure. Uncertain, he took the initiative. “Look, we’ll cut up the body and shove it down your toilet.”
Esteban stood upright, suddenly, his arm bolting towards the door with a finger pointing, shaking. “Go. Go to the mason and get lime. And… cover up the blood on the porch. Brug, help me bring the body out back. We have pigs that’ll take care of him. Vecna’d illegitimate sons of…” his lip quivered as he shoved his way past the much-shorter Merik, and picked up the body around the torso. “Merik, go get the lime. NOW!”
Merik looked to Drew pleadingly, with a look as if to say “You’re not really going to let him tell me what to do, are you?!”, but Drew was occupied, looking in a dusty mirror on the wall, examining his increasingly-puffed lip. Drew shot a glance of wonder at Esteban, and said to Merik, “Well, you heard the man. Mush!”
Merik buttoned his lip, clenched his fists, and walked out. He didn’t even look at Brug nor Esteban, who were hoisting the body like professionals.

Merik stormed down the street, huffing each half-mumbled curse he could think of to condemn Drew for even permitting Esteban to talk to him like that.
A block down the road he noticed a shadow keeping pace with him. He looked down and to the right, and a pug-nosed dog kept pace with him. Its feet were moving in rapid succession in order to keep up, and it panted, looking up at him. The light was fading from the sky, but the street-lamps kept a decent yellow glow in the increasing fog. The stone buildings on either side of the street echoed with each of Marik’s booted footsteps. Ahead, from the warm glow of an alley, a weasel stepped into the street, holding a nail in its paw. The dog barked at it. The weasel spoke, almost in a high-pitched man’s voice, “Sonofabitch! You screwed my sister!”
The dog barked back, “So did you!” and it bolted right for the weasel. The two fought furiously, immediately, and their scuffle carried them back down the alley. Marik passed it, wondering to himself that there must be a wizard down there. “And now damned talking animals. What’s next?” he grunted. He could feel his hatred for spell-slingers turn his own body temperature up, and his vision was darkening to a cheap, wine-stained red. “Now all that’s missing is a dwarf.”
He hated dwarves. He’d been kicked out of the Fallcrest Military Academy four months ago, after spending a month in the brig, for attacking his dwarven staff sergeant with a shield over the head. The sergeant had simply been asking why Marik was such a short, stocky man, and repeatedly insinuated that a dwarf had cuckolded Marik’s grandfather.
Tonight, the dwarf at the masonry shop was working late. When he opened the door he asked, “Why, you’re rather tall for a dwarf, ain’t ye?” he asked in that ubiquitously Scottish Dwarven accent.
Marik shoved a pouch with a few coins in it in the dwarf’s face. “Lime. Now!”
The dwarf scowled at him. “You’ll be respectin’ yer elders, ya hear?” and trundled off to get a sack of lime. He returned with a massive bag of white dusty lime. “Who was yer mum? I’d like to give her a talkin’-to fer raisin’ a surly pup like yerself.”
Marik barely contained the seething rage. His lips pursed angrily, jaw clenched, and his pupils shrank to pinpoints. He grabbed the sack fiercely and choked out the words, “I. Am. NOT. A. DWARF.”
The little dwarf was taken aback, and Marik strode off in a huff.
“Poor poor lad’s in denial.”
Esteban heard Marik coming up the street before he saw him. “What in the nine hells are you DOING?!” he demanded of Marik. Marik hoarsely croaked, “WHAT!”
Drew poked his head outside. “You know, you’re swearing at a guy who just dismembered a body not-” and Esteban shoved Drew’s face back in the house, cutting him off mid-sentence.
“You’re leaving a trail of lime, you Vecna’d imbecile!” Esteban whispered, at the maximum volume a whisper will allow.
Marik looked behind him, and dropped his eyes for a second, then looked up at Esteban and said, “I need a broom.”
Esteban retorted, “Ohh, like you’re just going to sweep it up for two blocks!?”
Marik paused, then grinned. It was a grin that should have sent shivers down Esteban’s spine, but didn’t. “I have an idea.”
Esteban disappeared for a moment, then returned with a wide, wicker broom. “Get to it.” he hissed.
Marik scooped a sizeable lump of lime from the ripped bag, grabbed the broom, and proceeded forwards to the alley in which he saw the fighting animals disappear. The trail of lime started just a few feet before that on the road. Marik looked up the alley, and reaffirmed the wizard’s signpost on the side of the building on the left side of the alley, from where he stood. He pulled out the pouch and sprinkled a trail of lime generally towards the door, stopping when he ran out, then traced his steps back to the street without disturbing the lime, and swept the trail, what little of it there was, roughly in the same direction. When the authorities investigated, they would find a trail of lime leading back to this hive of spellcasters. “Disgusting vermin. Get what you deserve.” he grunted, and went back to Esteban’s house.


Brug was awakened by a sharp sensation in his foot. He opened an eye and saw every half-orc’s nightmare: an elven Guard. Elves were known for their racism against half-orcs, even more than the usual racist human. The elves insisted that all orcs, even half-orcs, had a bad smell about them, and generally insisted that they could do no good.
The elven guard poked him again with a dull dagger. “Wake up boy! I said wake up! Rise and shine, you lazy bastard!” the elf ordered. He was prim and proper in dress, and twirled his badge around on a string. “Neighbors have reported a disturbance.” He drew the word out long and loudly.
Brug rose up and bowed plaintively. It wouldn’t take much for a ‘civilized’ town like this to gather a mob together for a good old-fashioned lynching. While most Orcs kept to themselves and tended their flocks, the more notorious ones (read: the ones that didn’t want to be run off their ancestral grazing grounds by other races) had become raiders and pillagers in their own right. Even the word “orc” was an Elven swear-word that referred to the demon-lord of undeath. The Orcs called themselves ‘Menintah’ which is to say, ‘The People’. However the case may be, the general opinion of Orcs in Fallcrest didn’t exactly require an altimeter to measure as much as it could, metaphorically speaking, use a shovel to find it under the dung-heap. Brug, being a half-orc, was despised as the illegitimate son of a raped Orc woman, and as his superhuman strength fell well beneath that of other Orcs, he couldn’t find his way in Orc society, which primarily valued strength. Now he found himself at the apparent mercy of something worse than the mockery of other Orcs: he was being picked on by an Elf. He could never let any Orcs find out about this. Where was Drew when he needed him?
“You done it. Now admit it. You done it, ain’t ya boy?” The Elf looked over his dark glasses at the squirming half-orc. Behind him, on the street, a Warforged corporal mechanically stepped, in slow-motion, from point to point, looking through a wooden box that was festooned with an array of lenses that whirred, whirled and clicked. It was examining the lime trail that led to the point. Another one with absolutely vicious weaponry stalked around, its metal head snaking around on a long neck, watching the perimeter. The elf held a riding crop up to Brug’s chin.
“You done it. It’s alright, you can admit it to me. I know your kind.” The Elf said.
Drew looked through the blinds, being careful so as not to be seen. “Ohhhhhhhh ogreshat. Esteban, come here. Come here
“What’s that?” Esteban shouted from the back yard.
“Ssshshshsssshhhhhhhhh!” Drew blasted spittle all over his finger as he held it up to quiet Esteban.
“What?! What you say?!” Esteban shouted while wiping blood and pig feces off of himself.
“Korddammit, Esteban!” Drew snapped.
The Elf deputy looked towards the house when he heard all the shouting. “Looks like you got yesself some friends, I’d wager. Corporal!” He spoke over his shoulder. The one with the nasty blades strobe-stepped forwards. The Elf continued. “Keep an eye on this one.” he said, motioning to Brug.
Drew opened the door quickly. The Deputy reached for his sword instinctively, and Drew said, “What the ogreshat is going on?”
The deputy glared at him, sized up his scrawny frame and smirked. “Now looky here! You care tellin’ me about the body that was dee-posited here last night ’round sundown?”
Drew was nonplussed. He’d dealt with meat-heads like this before.
“What are you doing to my friend here?” Drew insisted.
Brug cowered and scrambled into the house, ducking the deputy’s riding crop and gibbering, “Please don’t hit me, don’t hit me…”
The deputy had to re-evaluate the circumstance. He saw in this skinny young man’s eyes the unmistakable glint of mad genius, the sort where the madness is clear, crystallized, and cold. He licked his right gums, where some teeth were missing. A warm breeze stirred some papers along the street. The sun was out, and the alchemist from across the street was standing in his doorway, arms folded, frowning at Drew.
Drew knew he didn’t have much time. Disposing of the body had taken longer than he’d thought it would, and he thought the alchemist would be smart enough to keep his fat mouth shut. Drew’s mouth might be able to buy him some time.
“I screwed your mom. Vec you, little girl.” he spat at the deputy. It backfired.
The deputy grappled for him, shrieked, “Corporal!” and growled, “You’re under arrest for public misconduct, assaulting an officer, and suspicion of murder!”
The mechanical corporal moved forward and grabbed at Drew with strong metal fingers.
Drew twisted out of his grasp. “You mean I screwed your mom?” he laughed at the deputy.
The Warforged corporal lunged again. It realized it had underestimated the agility of the waif ahead. This time it grabbed one of Drew’s arms near the elbow for better control, and saw the tattoo on Drew’s arm, which marked him as a member of the local military academy. “You ought to know better than to behave in such- OOF!” Drew twisted again and used the momentum of it to shove the Warforged corporal through the wooden bannister of the porch, over the edge and onto the street a few feet below.
“My leg!” it shrieked. Oil was leaking from a gash in its wood.
The deputy hadn’t been waiting. The moment the corporal moved in to accost Drew, the deputy moved in for the kill. Its blade arched through the air and missed Drew, becoming lodged in the door-jamb.
Drew howled back to the house, “Men! Get out here and kill this Vecqer!”
Brug was coming up the stairs with Marik, who was in full armor, ploddingly coming up the stairs. Brug snuck past the wedged blade and got behind the deputy, who was struggling to reclaim his sword from the wood, and Brug smashed the back of his head with his mace. The deputy dropped to the unfinished wood of the porch. Drew half-giggled, and Brug’s eyes widened in amazement at what he’d just done. “Oh, Vecna, I’ve killed a Guard!”
The Warforged corporal in the street rose up, focusing its right eye-lens on the deputy, making sure that the recording imp in his eye could illustrate it quickly and get a good description of the suspects.
Marik stormed out the door and saw the deputy on the ground, then looked at Brug in exasperation, who looked back helplessly. “You killed a Guard?”
The deputy rose up to his elbows. “Not dead yet…”
Marik, in sheer surprise, plunged his blade into the deputy’s spine, severing it, as he leaped from foot to foot. “Oh Kord.” he said when he realized what he’d done.
There were two Warforged on the street, but one was still faithfully recording every grain of lime on the road. The other Stood with its weapons brandished in as aggressive a stance as it could muster. It ordered Marik, “Drop your weapon!”
Marik looked at his blood-stained blade, and back at the Warforged corporal. The alchemist across the street was whirling his hands in the air and making a racket with his mouth.
Drew stood on the porch with his arms raised, palms up above his shoulders, and shrugged. He had the look of a little boy who’d been caught. Marik looked back to the corporal, who was advancing. Marik sighed, and walked down the steps.
DROP YOUR WEAPON” the corporal ordered. Drew said, “Kill it! Turn him into firewood!”
Marik raised as if to slice, feinted, dodging the corporal’s massive, jagged sword, and stabbed his blade straight through the corporal, but to little effect on the intelligent machine. Marik drew back. Brug had sneaked off the porch, trailed around the side, and gotten behind the Warforged corporal with the Recording Imp Box, (or R.I.B. for short) and nonchalantly readied his mace for some serious impact. The corporal with the R.I.B. stood up just then and said to the other one, “I think this trail leads back to the Wizard’s shop. We had better question… Oh.”
It turned around to survey the situation, just in time to see a spiked mace strike it with such force as to remove it from the shoulders. Oil sprayed as the head hit the ground, though the body stood, slightly crouched, motionless. The other corporal shouted, “Drop it! Drop it!” to Marik, then scuttled over to the head of its comrade, picking it up and stashing the head under its arm. The alchemist finished his incantation, and hurled a quavering energy wall into the street exactly adjacent to the Warforged corporal. “Fall back, officer! Come to safety!” he said.
Brug saw the opportunity first, and motioned for Marik to shove the corporal, and Marik obliged.
With a single, potent shove from Marik’s shield, the corporal slid into the energy wall, glowed for a milisecond, and exploded in a shower of cinder and wood, metal and gears. The high-pitched screaming of the recorder-imp in its eye buzzed past Marik’s ear as a chunk of hot metal embedded itself into his unarmored thigh.
Brug clapped. “Not bad!”
Drew snapped his fingers at the alchemist to get his attention, and made kissing motions.
The alchemist’s jaw dropped. He dismissed the energy wall, and slammed his heavy metal door shut. A glowing sheen of energy encompassed his tower. Drew was grinning wildly. Esteban’s voice came from inside the house. “What was it you wanted, Drew? You know my mom’s sick and I had to take care of the last of…”
Esteban stepped onto the porch, saw the shrapnel on the street, the blood and the deputy’s body to his right.
He sat down and cried.
Marik mused, “Time to go!” and started running. Brug and Drew followed suit.

As they ran down the street, they saw the weasel with a dog's skin in its one paw, an iron nail in the other paw. The weasel was drenched in blood. It sneered at them, "Yeah, keep running, ya cowards!"


Drew's attitude went from furtive, fakely casual and falsely wry to stone cold in a second. In the tavern the trio stopped at for supplies, the imp-view expander was running as fast as it could over a the stone mouth in the wall. Voices continued to change as the swiftly-animated, torch-lit panels scrolled from one roller and onto another, behind the wall. Recorder imps were furiously sketching, so fast that their drawings looked to be in real time, although their interpretations were a little... artistic.
It was only lunch time, and the nightly news should have been a long way off, but here, at the last watering hole in Fallcrest, Drew, Brug and Marik found themselves looking at an emergency broadcast of charicatures of their own faces.
The recording continued,
"...Witnesses say the trio murdered a helpless holy man in the street last night, and when police came to investigate, they found a half-orc resting casually on the front porch of this seventh-district neighborhood. He savagely murdered all three of the police as can be seen on this recording..."
The scroll of paper continued to roll, and the recorder imps made a facsimile of a recorder imp, drawing frantically. The effect was very crude, but dashing illustrations of a handsome half-orc graced the screen between slashing blades.
Brug muttered, "But... But I used a mace!"
Drew slapped his hand over Brug's mouth. "That damned recorder imp must have made it back to the precinct. We don't just have to get out of town, boyos. We need to come back and tear it apart, brick by brick. At least the Academy."
Marik looked at him, dumbfounded. "You're and idiot, do you realize this? You've lost it. Hmmm The Adacemy, you say?"
Drew waved his other hand at Marik, brushing off the commentary. One of the patrons at a nearby table looked at the scroll on the wall, then back to the trio, looked like he thought the better of it, and returned to his quart of mead.
The recording continued, "Investigators followed a trail of lime powder back to the laboratory of noted professor Willow Demarqueue, whose assistant Thorn had this to say..." The screen swished to a sketched view of a weasel, who wags a nail menacingly, and says "I ain't no snitch! Smoke you!"..."No further comment was available from Professor Demarqueue's lab. If implicated, it could mean that his race for mayor is compromised. Locals commented..." the screen changed to the animated face of the alchemist from across the street. He spoke, "They broke into my lab, ruining thousands of Marks worth of equipment, and stole multiple items. I'm sure you'll see in your recordings an energy wall that I was experimenting on. They took the scroll for it and murdered at least seven police with it. I saw it myself!"
Drew muttered, "Mother..."
The screen droned on... "Be on the lookout for a tall, athletic half-orc wielding weapons of mass destruction, a thin human and an overweight dwarf."
The handle of Marik's stein shattered in his fist.

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