DraqAttack's avatar


  • 2023-04-10 19:42

            “Wake up, you short, balding, homunculi.” I burst through the front door of Vorc’s house in Sorhiryth. I might be a little tipsy, and I might have sent somewhat less than a platinum back home.

            Vorc is snoring in his favorite chair as usual. Which, also as usual, is an act. The old man gets plenty of rest, but I’m not sure he ever gets any sleep. One of his many lessons is that you need to be most aware when you’re the least aware. I take a few steps to cross the small room, lean down and then let out a lengthy belch in his ear. He cracks an eye open and grins at me.

            “You’re getting better at that.”

            “I’ve been holding that one in since I left the tavern.”

            “I meant the sneaking, but that too. I didn’t hear you cross the room. If you hadn’t burst in here like the Silent Wraith himself, you might have actually surprised me.”

            I grin and then belch again. Vorc rolls his eyes.

            “C’mon, where’s your halfling nature? You’re serious all the time, just like my brother. I’d swear you were his father if you weren’t so ugly.”

            “I stabbed it in the back and threw it into the ‘Pond. Just like my mate tried to do to me when I was your age. And just like-”

            “-You expect me to do to you someday.” Now it’s my turn to roll my eyes. I take out the large bronze coin that the elf woman threw at me and flip it into the air before catching the disk on the back of my palm. “I etch silver, Vorc. I don’t stab people.” I roll the coin across my knuckles a few times before putting it away again.

            “Speaking of which- that is speaking of etching, not stabbing, I do have some good news - well I guess that depends on your definition of good - I still haven’t decided, yet...” I trail off as I notice Vorc’s demeanor has changed.

            “I need to see that coin,” he says. His fingers are wrapped tight around the arms of his chair.

            Vorc is always relaxed and easy going. His drastic change causes me to take a half step back out of instinct, but I flip the coin toward him anyway. He makes no move to catch it and the medallion lands right in his lap without a bounce.

            “Some very roguish looking elf gave it to me and told me to find the South Wall. Whatever that is.”

            “It’s a who,” Vorc says quietly, then jumps up, dumping the coin out of his lap. He often acts frail, but he can still move with as much grace and agility as most other halflings.

            I grunt in irritation, scooping up my coin before following Vorc to the back of his little house.

            “A who? Like it’s someone’s name?”

            Vorc doesn’t respond. He opens up a cabinet and reaches inside while I catch back up to him.

            “Do you know where- whoa!”

            The old rogue whips out a long dagger from somewhere in the cabinet and lunges at me in the same motion. His own lessons take over and I dodge to the side without even recognizing the danger I’m in. My shock and the evening’s earlier celebration slows me down and I miss out on an opportunity to retaliate. I just stand there swaying for a second as he repositions.

What is up with that coin? I never really took him seriously all those times he said I would kill him one day, and I’m certain he didn’t either. Vorc is a born killer, but I am not. Sure, I’ve battled my fair share of wraiths, but those Unmortals don’t count. So what about this coin caused the bastard to force the issue?

Vorc flips his dagger to his other hand and turns forward momentum into a spin and swipe. This time I’m ready for him. I step into his attack and duck under his dagger, then grab the arm and spin around so we’re both facing the same direction. Except now I’ve got the wrist holding the dagger in a tight grip and I’ve twisted his arm around behind him. I give Vorc a strong shove, adding to his velocity and slamming his ugly face right into a table.

That’s not the first or even the tenth time the short, homunculi looking creetin has been slammed into a table, though. He shifts his body to lessen the impact then delivers a vicious kick right into my stomach. I stumble backward and fall. Instead of landing on my butt, I turn the fall into a roll and end up right back on my feet just in time to almost dodge a thrown chair. Instead of tangling up my legs, the sturdy wood cracks across my shin and knocks my foot out from under me.

I regain my footing but Vorc is already on top of me, his dagger aimed right for my heart. A wild arm thrown out at the last second pushes the knife to the side. Vorc is ready for that, though and he grabs my arm with his free hand to create an opening. Instead of waiting for his attack though, I drop to the ground, pulling on his arm with both hands. Then I get my feet under him while he’s falling toward me and kick away with everything I’ve got. A sickening snap fills the house as his arm dislocates so I let go and he drops to the ground with a thud.

Another quick roll has me on my feet again ready for Vorc’s next trick, but he is slow to move. When he does, he slumps over on to his side with the hilt of his dagger sticking out of his stomach. Did he land on his own weapon? He had me practice falling with my weapon out a thousand times.

“You twice damned wraith,” he says in a weak voice. A little blood trickles out of his mouth. “Worthless fool. All of that talent and you can’t even stab me in the back properly.”

My mouth hangs open a little. Then I gasp as my brain lets me realize what I’ve just done. My stomach churns, threatening to expel the several mugs I had imbibed earlier.

“What did I… I- I can get you to a healer,” I cry out and kneel down beside him. “There’s one only a few streets over-”

“Don’t get my blood on you, stupid back country twit. Did I teach you nothing?” Vorc pulls open his torn shirt to reveal black veins spreading out from the knife wound. Poison.

“I… wasn’t really listening.”

“Now you’re calling me stupid. You heard every word, even if you didn’t like it. You’ve got more talent than a hundred of me.”

“I can’t go down this path-”

“You’re already on it, stupid girl. You might think you’re approaching a crossroads and that you’ve got a choice in the matter but you’re wrong. You flew right past that moment with a ruby whistle. Life decided for you the moment that coin came to you. Drop it in the ‘Pond, bury it in the Moor, or melt it down. Doesn’t matter, it will come back to you. And anyone who knows what it is will kill you on sight just for the chance at what it offers.”

Vorc coughs, a bit of blood spraying out.

“But what is it?” I ask.

“That’s for you to find out,” Vorc pauses to cough again. Black veins spread across his neck. “Now shut up for a minute. I’ve got a cleaning kit in the closet. You’ll need that. There’s a hatch under the bed. Once I’m safely at the bottom of the ‘Pond, go to Fortress Deviare. There’s a silver-tongued fool who owes me a favor…”

* * * * *

            The cracked light from Lauta the lesser moon shines down on the Wellpond, broken by a slight ripple as Vorc’s corpse slips under the surface. I stand there numbly, silent as a Wraith, until the water falls still again. I think there’s only a few hours of night left. I should get back to Sorhiryth if I want to find a ship heading to Fortress Deviare, but I can’t bring myself to move after the frantic activity of covering up my first murder.

            I feel like I should say something for a man who guided me almost as much as my brother did, but the words dry up on my lips and my thoughts flee into the shadows. Lauta moves across the Wellpond and the only thought I have is whether Vorc has reached the unexplored depths and met up again with his old friend.