Thursday, November 05, 2009

Across World Bubbles, Pt 5

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

At the corner of Cash and Whore, in the city of Lankhmar, there stands a tavern seedier than most, known to its patrons as the Golden Lamprey. In nearby Plague Court, a shadow passed unnoticed in the dark and slipped up Bones Alley, skirted a drunk (or perhaps it was a corpse) and stopped outside the door of the aforementioned tavern. It dodged aside as a man in browned-iron cuirass staggered outside, cradling a jug of fortified wine and mumbling to himself.

Strangely, the drunkard appeared to sober instantly upon breathing the fog-shrouded night air. He unbent his back, whistled thrice like a shrieking night hawk, and darted down Bones Alley where his whistles had been answered by two hoots of an owl. After observing this odd assignation of bird imitators, the shadow ducked through the curtained doorway and revealed itself to be none other than Tasslehoff Burrfoot, though being unfamiliar with the kender race, at first no one paid him any mind.

The common room was thick with the smoke of a dozen different fires, be they candles or torches or strange, water-bubbling pipes smoked by dreamy-eyed men of the Eastern Lands. The air reeked with centuries of sour wine, sourer beer, and spilled blood. A dancing girl, clad in nought but a girdle of copper coins, sauntered past the kender, causing his eyes to start from his head (to think of Tika so dressed, or undressed). She gave his pouches an appraising glance as she fingered the tiny, razor-sharp blade secreted in her limited attire. A score of villains sat about the room in various stages of debauchery, from roaring to snoring.  Tas scanned the room, finally spotting a pair of men closeted in a far corner booth almost hidden within the pall of smoke. They perfectly fit the description given to him by Ninguable of the Seven Eyes.

One was a big, strapping fellow with coppery-red hair and ominously bulging biceps. He wore a barbaric assortment of piecemeal armor, thick copper torcs on his arms, and a big, dangerous sword almost as long as the kender was tall. His companion in wine was a short, wiry chap clad entirely in gray, from his ratty gray boots to his mousy gray hood. At his side he wore the slimmest of rapiers, likewise sheathed in furry gray, and between pulls on a leathern jack of red wine, he fiddled with a needle-sharp dagger. Tasslehoff instantly recognize the twin expressions of monstrous boredom upon their faces - an affliction he soon hoped to remedy.

During his brief stay in Ilthmar, Tasslehoff had picked up a basic grasp of pigeon Lankhmarese, and so as he strode confidently across the room, he called out to the two heroes in the corner booth, "Ho, Fahrad! Hist, Mouser Gray! I've wizards mentorly from your greetings!"

But the objects of his greetings understood him well enough to know that their respective sorcerous grandfathers had need of them, probably to perform some impossible quest of derring-do which only they could do. This small, elfin creature with its bulging pouches, atrocious grammar and barbaric accent was obviously a demon conjured from some diminutive hell and sent to retrieve them.

Fafhrd broke for the front door while the Mouser dove for the back. Tasslehoff nearly split himself in two trying to chase them both. But the Mouser found his exit blocked by a crowd of club-wielding thugs, while Fafhrd escape was similarly stymied by a gang of sword-brandishing bravos.

"By Cat's Claw," swore the Mouser, "what have we done to earn the Guild's ire this time?"

"By Heartseeker, I know not, but they've employed the Slayer's Brotherhood to make us pay for it," Fafhrd replied.

Tasslehoff, with his limited understanding their language, was rather slow in responding. "By Rabbitslayer, take us not alive they will!" he cried. Before he could further declaim his warrior solidarity, the twain crushed him between them, as they took up familiar positions back-to-back and prepared to face the onslaught.

"Who the devil was that small chap, anyway?" Fafhrd asked as he drew his sword.

"Mog only knows," Mouser said as he brandished his own. "Some imp of Ninguable's sending, I deem. I don't see him anymore, but I feel his hands in my pockets."

"Likewise. He must have more arms than were first apparent." Now completely surrounded, their stalkers prepared to attack. "On guard, Gray One, they seem to have some grudge against us."

And so began one of the more terrific battles in recent Lankhmar history, during which those two most notable swordsmen, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, barely escaped with their lives. But they gave better than they were dealt, littering the floor with corpses and filling the night with screams. For some months afterwards there was a noticeable shortage of brawny cutthroats for hire, as well as a sharp drop in muggings, burglaries, and midnight robberies. As for our two heroes, an otherwise boring evening had taken an exciting, if mystifying turn.

For Ninguable's imp had vanished as quickly as he'd appeared.

Read Part 6

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