Chapter the Tenth: The Search For Wages ContinuesBlack Root was a refreshing change from the stagnance of Dernholm. It was no Caladon, or even Tarant, but it was a sight better than anywhere else I'd been in the last several weeks. The breeze that rolled in off of the sea was so much fresher than the sea of Dernholm, though that was hardly surprising.
The mayor's house was situated in the far corner of town, a grandiose monstrosity that exuded arrogance with its very presence. The half ogre servant that let me inside gave a clear message to potential thieves, too. Why does it always have to be half ogres? The bloody things are everywhere lately. The mayor himself tried to be charming, but I wasn't about to be fooled. I could see where his tax money had gone and it certainly wasn't to his citizens. "I am here on behalf of King Praetor."
He half snorted as though I'd just told him some kind of joke, the expression on his face growing darker and the tone of his voice firmer. "What of King Praetor?"
"He sent me for the taxes that Black Root owes." If any of that money yet remains. If not, I wonder how many pawn shops I'll have to visit to sell off the contents of your mansion. I'm not taking no for an answer.
Damnation. Bloody politics, always when I least expect it. Why couldn't you just be a greedy sod? I wasn't scared of trying to steal behind his half ogre's back, but I had a feeling Praetor wouldn't be terribly happy if I gave him the tax money and he later found out it was stolen and Black Root had defected to Tarant. "King Praetor would disagree."
Well I'm not fond of you, either. Especially since you're a bloody idiot. "So the Tarant guards are keeping Black Root secure?" I already knew the answer, no matter how badly the mayor tried to hide it.
I wanted to laugh in his face, but I restrained myself. He almost sounded as if he truly believed Tarant gave a damn about his pathetic little town. Whether his allegiance lied with Tarant or Cumbria didn't even matter, it was on its own regardless. Tarant will only start caring about your little town when it goes to war with Caladon, and that's precisely when you don't want to be involved with it. "Within their capabilities?" I enjoyed taunting him. "What does that mean?"
His excuses were like music to my ears. A selfish bastard like you deserves what he gets. Even I don't steal from the poor. I much prefer stealing from people like you. "Is there some difficulty they can not deal with?" Is there some difficulty they CAN deal with? I thought not.
So there are thieves in these parts, eh? I ought to go introduce myself. "I shall rectify any thievery problem you may have." I idly wondered if the mayor saw through my thinly veiled lies or if he actually intended on telling me where to find the local thieves.
"I accept your quest, my good man." Oh goodness, he actually believes me. That's it, just tell me where the thieves are so I can help them the next time they come this way.
Jackpot. "I'll go find them right away." I hummed a merry little tune as I left the mayor's house. It would've been nice to have the tax money straight away, but another detour was tolerable if it brought even more profit. Thieves always knew where to find profit.
Jayna suddenly realized what I was doing when we crossed the train tracks towards D'ak Taan's camp and she whispered to me nervously, "Madam, are you certain of this? I don't know that I like walking straight into the local den of thieves."
I tried to choose my response carefully. Jayna simply wouldn't understand my desire to rob the greedy old mayor blind and I honestly didn't want her to understand. Her innocence is what made her so charming. "I... er... I'm familiar with these types... I know how to handle them." She didn't seem convinced. I'm starting to sound like Virgil. Hmmm.
There was only silence as we continued onward, and Virgil's voice echoed in the back of my mind, "I've, uh, dealt with buggers, er individuals like this before." Before long we reached the thieves' camp. Oh just great, more bloody half ogres. Everywhere I go more half ogres. "Hello, friends. Just looking for some friendly company."
I didn't traipse all the way out here for the view, idiot. Don't you recognize your own kind? "Yes, I know of you. I seek D'ak Taan."
He eyed me up and down carefully, only now noticing the tears in my muddied old dress. "And what business would you have with D'ak Taan, if he were here?" Please tell me you were reconsidering my skills. Damn it all, I need to sew this thing back up again.
"I was hoping for a conference among thieves." Either he'd believe me or he wouldn't, but if he wanted to keep what was in his pockets it would be the former. I especially hoped things wouldn't come down to stabbing. I didn't like stabbing when it didn't have to be done.
Fancy is such a fickle word. Was robbing the Shrouded Hills bank just a romantic dream I had? I think not. "You're lucky you've anything left in your pockets." It was true. I was trying to behave with Jayna around. If I'd been alone I might've just stabbed him and ran off with the loot. No. I'm better than that now. I'd have at least stolen it behind his back instead of stabbing him to get it.
He was trying to manipulate me into doing something for him and I didn't just fall for his trap, I dove in with both feet. "A test, then?" Well now I've gone and done it. I can be a real bloody idiot sometimes.
"I've no doubt I'm up to the challenge." Whatever it is has to be better than getting pounded by half ogres... yours or the mayor's. At least I had the sense to accept my fate. Trying to back out now would've only undermined the image of confidence I'd been projecting.
Of course there is. One winds up behind bars when she flubs up. The other doesn't settle for cheap pawn shops when getting rid of a large quantity of varied goods. Take a wild guess which one I am? "There's no better thief than I." That was a damned lie if I ever told one (and I told plenty), but a lack of confidence never got you anywhere when dealing with the local scum.
D'ak Taan and I were thieves, and though we might share plenty of words our only true language was the language of money. "What's in it for me?" The thief's motto.
"Done." I held my laughter for the time being, waiting until I was back beyond the river before letting loose. "I can't believe he's going to pay me with exactly what I need to blackmail him!"
Virgil chuckled alongside me, "Not every thief can be a smart thief."
Jayna was merely confused. "What? You mean you're going to double cross him?" She was far too sweet of a girl to be traveling with the likes of me. I resolved to drop her off at Tarant before going any further. I couldn't bear to be the one to shatter her childlike innocence.
"Nevermind, Jayna. It's not worth worrying about, I've got time to think about how I want to do this." My excuses were quite transparent, but only because I found it so difficult to lie to Jayna. I hoped she wouldn't see through them, though.
She seemed a tad confused, but she accepted my explanation readily enough. Good. Now let's get out of here. The train didn't leave for another few hours so I had plenty of time to kill. I wandered into the inn for a drink or two, and naturally all of the gossip that came with it. "Good day, bartender. I'd like a shot of whiskey if you would, please." The shot glass was empty mere seconds after he had filled it. "Anything happening hereabouts?" I asked.
That's a fantastic idea, my good man. Brushing up on my stabbing skills sounded like a wonderful way to pass the remaining couple of hours before the train departed. Isn't that what I came here for in the first place? I don't even remember.