Chapter III: The Lady Is A Tramp
I had no time to waste, my lack of pants be damned.
Magick is often unpredictable, and there was no way to know how long the passageway would stay open. What I did know was that Erik had gone through it, and that meant I was going to have to follow the motherfucker and beat my money out him tooth-by-god-damn-crooked-tooth.
I slung my pack over my back, scuttled up and over the railing, and shimmied down the pillar towards the magickal opening. Running as fast as I could in heels using the tips of my toes, I charged my way in.
I was greeted by a sea of utter darkness, broken only by a few faint islands of light coming through here and there throughout the tunnel’s roof. Adjusting my glasses to the dark, I looked around at what appeared to be a ‘dry’ sewer leading away from the dead end where the portal had sent me. I looked back and failed to find any semblance of the portal — apparently my trip was going to be one way. The sewer itself had a scrubbed look and the ground was dry. Someone or something had put some effort into cleaning up this section, but there’s only so much effort anyone or anything puts into shit detail.
Beyond the look of the place the first two things I noticed upon coming through were the aromas hanging quietly in the air and the sound of music. The air was lighter, I was close to the surface, and there were just the right notes of shit and piss from the surrounding sewers to stop me from breathing easily. Like coming across a beautiful woman with syphilitic sores on her crotch hole, my emotions were mixed at best.
The music, however, was much better. The tell-tale sounds of lighting and sonic magick-backed musical instruments playing at full speed was filtered through wooden floorboards and echoed into the sewer chamber. The rhythm was fast and furious and the female vocals behind it screeched out angry and defiant lyrics. A heavy metal band; and from the sounds of the lead singer I figured she was either a human or half-human, half-whatever. I made my way up to a grate in the ceiling to see if I could get a better grip on my location, but as I approached the music came to a halt.
“Alright ladies and gentlemen, that’s good. You still need practice. Take a few minutes, grab an ale or a bite to eat, and we’ll do another take. I want you guys to sound more together before I give you a gig here,” said a male tone that was close to, but not quite, cheerful.
The sounds above sounded like they could have come from any number of clubs, pubs, and drug dens that littered the Dreamscape. However, if someone was taking time to nurse a group of greenies into a real metal music outfit then I was probably below Kilmister’s. I put my face up to the ceiling grate, and was pleasantly surprised to encounter the faint smell of freshly smoked halfling-weed mixed with tobacco. It was good shit, too. I thought to try for a good inhale when the sounds of a single pair of footsteps started echoing their way toward me from down the chamber.
The deep bass of the footsteps gave away the creature’s large size, and the clicking of claws on concrete told me it was some fucking thing not shaped to wear boots. I looked around, but any plan to run or hide was insta-fucked in this place. Thinking quick on my feet, I checked my titties and straightened my wig.
“Wwho ggoes therre?” Growled the beast as it turned down the hallway to look at me. It was a gnoll — a humanoid, wolfish mixture obviously created late on a Friday afternoon by gods more interested in getting off work and making it over to Heavenly Happy Hour. Standing on her hind legs let me know it was a she-gnoll, and a great big bitch at that.
Did I know anything about she-gnolls? Whatever disinterested god had made that race hadn’t done a particularly good job in the brains department on at least the males, but what the fuck did I know about gnoll sexual equality? Either way, I didn’t have time to think about it. She had a huge polearm with an axe at the head in her hands and her huge mouth featured rows of badly decayed, but still very sharp, teeth. With her eyes narrowed, she tightened her grip, and moved down the hallway towards me with bad thoughts in her furry little mind.
“Annnswer me or die!” She growled, moving swiftly to within a few feet of me. Her words descending into growling she reared back to show off her massive frame, her head forward as her neck bent against the six foot ceiling. I raised my hand, palm up, and motioned for her to come closer with my index finger.
“No one talks to a lady like me like that, you over-sized tampon! I’m the evening’s entertainment. I’ve been promised three hundred gold as long as I let them do ‘the weird shit,’ and if you don’t fucking back off there’s going to be all of the nine Hells to pay, you great big bitch,” I said as I put my hands to my hips and clicked the toe of my stiletto on the sewer floor.
“Entertainment, you ignorant chihuahua. It’s a human thing, you wouldn’t understand. Now show me where the fuck I’m supposed to be going in this fucking maze so I can get paid, or do I have to report you?”
“Repor…” She began to say, the flare going out of her voice.
“Report, you stupid cunt of a furball. Never mind; that’s too complicated. You just stand here and count every brick until I come back,” I said sharply as I sauntered off in my high heels. Apparently she-gnolls were as stupid as their jackoff boyfriends and husbands.
The sewer system itself had only been cleaned down a single path, although the occasional boot and paw prints strayed off down different corridors. It was only a short walk before I found myself in a large, round chamber shaped slightly like a beer bottle. The passageway I had come through led to an opening in the base of the neck of the bottle where a metal staircase circled down to the bottom. Tied up next to the opening was a rope which led up to a pulley near the top of the ceiling and then back down to a very large, wooden chandelier that hung over the room. Up near the pulley was a series of metal rungs that led up to what appeared to be some kind of trap door. Peering out into the room the only ways out were climbing up through the neck, going back the way I’d come, or a door below the top of the staircase leading to fuck-knows-where.
The people below me were engaged in their own business. I carefully climbed up the rope and then quietly swung myself onto the chandelier. Laying myself on my belly around the lamps of the chandelier I peered down into the room below.
There was Erik, the red-haired breed from the Armory; a large, bearded dwarf wearing what appeared to be a very expensive suit of plate-mail and smoking a pipe; and finally a tall, lanky human with a handle-bar mustache and a monocle. Laid out in front of them were various maps, unopened letters, and a few magickal odds and ends.
“Gentlemen, we must move quickly. We’ve kept security light in the hopes that we can act swiftly enough and disappear fast enough that no one needs know we were down here,” said the skinny man with the kick-ass ‘stache.
“Le Sa –” started the breed before he was quickly cut off by the skinny man’s snap of his fingers into his face.
“No names. I’m Human, that’s Dwarf, that’s Orc, and you’re Filth Blood,” said the man authoritatively.
“Why do you have to use that slur with me?”
“You would prefer The One Who’s About To Be Dragged Into The City Dungeon And Slowly Tortured To Death?” Asked the human calmly.
“You fuc — I mean, fine. Human,” said the breed, catching himself as he deflated. “What’s your plan and what do you need from the Armory?”
The mustachioed man with the monocle laid out some papers onto the desk. As quietly as possible I switched my goggles to record and zoomed in on the documents.
The first file held inked drawings of five individuals. The four smaller pictures were of a blonde human (knight-looking mother fucker); a human female (a brunette; she seemed fuckable enough); a wild looking male half-orc (definitely not fuckable); an elven mage in the traditional garb of the nearby forest tribe; and finally a larger, magical portrait featuring a beautiful elven female of some significance. The magickal portrait rotated slowly and changed periodically, showing the beautiful elf from various angles and occasionally switching her outfits into various tribal outfits and armors. Her beautiful blue eyes enchanted their way off the paper; something I’d heard was true of the so-called “higher bloods.”
“This is Princess Amadara of the wood elves,” said Mustache, clearing the other pictures out of the way. “She is your primary target. Currently her and her nature-worshiping clan have taken exception to us clearing the land for food production. This, of course, will not do. Orc, the kidnapping of the princess is your highest priority. Now Orc, what is your highest priority?”
“Get th’ princess,” he chortled.
“No, not ‘get,’” said mustache calmly. “If you tell your clan of half-wits to ‘get’ her, they’ll kill her. If they kill her, the elves won’t meet our demands so much as declare war. And I won’t so much as give you the compensation I’ve promised you so much as order that you and every other one of your kind be fed to the Count’s war beasts feet first. I hear he has had them altered so that they can finish you off down to the hair, bones, and teeth. Now, again, what is your highest priority?”
“G.. kidnap, not kill ‘r get, but jes’ kidnap this ‘ere princess.”
“’R else yeh feed me ‘n meh kin’ t’ th’ beasts.”
“Down t’ th’ ‘air, bone, ‘n teeth.”
“Good. And because I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, not even a miniscule smidge, that you and your idiot brothers will kill her anyways, I’ll need some very special weapons from you, Filth Blood.”
The breed sighed and a worried look grew over his face, “Hey man, I didn’t sign up for this kind of shit. What do you mean you’ll, ‘feed him to the beasts’?”
“Your part of this is to bring my orders and eventually payment to the blacksmith. If you feel the need to interrupt or delay my very busy schedule even one more time then I’m afraid I’m going to have no choice but to feed you to the beasts, my fragile young Shit Breed,” said the ‘stache. “Now, what I’m going to need are three Soul-Thief Daggers. Normally that’d be a tall order and would take some time, but I’m sure the Blacksmith can make them fairly quickly since my price is right. When, not if, the orcs get reckless I want to have someone in place to steal her soul before it has a chance to join the elven angels in their magickal tribal choir above or whatever. Do you understand me?”
The breed, looking increasingly worried, nodded quickly and developed a slight tremor to his demeanor. Hell, the kid looked scared shitless.
“Now, Dwarf, you and your six friends will receive two of the blades. You are to escort the orcs and make sure my instructions come to fulfillment instead of their instincts. When, and again not if, the orcs kill the primary target you personally will be responsible for soul retrieval and bringing back both the soul and her body to the temple. Additionally, you are in charge of mop up. The ruins in that area should be unspoiled, so take what you can grab, bring it back, and we’ll divide up the loot appropriately. Succeed, and you’ll be allowed to discuss with the Count your personal matter.”
As I reached to adjust my glasses my weight shifted slightly and the chandelier let out a quick, but noticeable creak. Son of a fuck monkey! As all four heads pivoted back to look up at me I scrambled onto my feet and grabbed hold of the rope.
“Who’s that ugly bitch up in the ceiling?” Inquired the dwarf.
“I’ll show you an ugly bitch, you misogynistic fuck sticks!” I shouted as I whipped out the ol’ Long Sword and rained down piss upon them.
“Either he’s dead in the next ten minutes or you are, gentlemen,” said the monocled bastard as he quickly took cover under the table. The orc, dwarf, and breed raced for the stairs, so I gave ol’ Flesh Missile a quick last shake and began to make my way up the rope for the top of the chamber.
I scrambled up the rope and just reached the metal rungs as the rope was cut loose and sent crashing into the room. Hanging from the rung, I turned my attention downwards and waved the four of them a goodbye middle finger.
Mustache emerged from under the table, wiped his hands on his pants, closed his eyes, and began uttering an incantation as the other three started glowing. Eyebrow raised I watched as they began to lift off the platform, floating towards me. Shit! I raced up towards the trap door.
Luckily the son of a bitch was open and I scrambled through as quickly as I could. Emerging from the cellar and closing the door behind me I took a quick scan of my surroundings – on my left were numerous glasses and bottles of liquor stood up in front of a large mirror with all sorts of tacky shit put up on the various shelves, on my right was a bar top with a few scattered drinks and snack plates, and right in front of me was a fat, bearded angelkin with a just-lit cigarette dangling out of his lips.
His name was Athus, which meant I was in Duke’s — a little whiskey bar just outside the Napier Ampitheatre in The Dreamscape. The entrees at Duke’s were mediocre at best, but the appetizers were decent enough with a good ale or stiff whiskey.
They mainly made their coin from people going into or out of the theatre. The Napier Amphitheater itself was huge, and outside of the Royal Palace was the most impressive, and thus best preserved, structure in the city. Built back in the time of the elves long before anyone thought to build a city here, its beauty had withstood the test of time. It could seat up to six thousand people, and was built so that the sound could be heard clearly in every part of the city.
“Excuse me ma’am, I don’t know how you got down there, but there’s…. oh shit it’s you,” said the fat man as his bewilderment settled into deep resignation. “I’m not going to ask why you’re in drag, or what you’re doing in my floor, or why you’re grabbing that bottle of everclear…. And pouring it all over my floor. Actually I’ve changed my mind. Why are you –”
I grabbed the cigarette out of his mouth, took a deep drag, and leapt up onto the bar, ignoring the cries of the local drunk whose mashed potatoes were now squishing between my toes and the stilettos I was wearing (and getting more comfortable in).
“Again, why did you –” started the barkeep as the hatch reopened. I flicked the cigarette down and set the ground ablaze as the oddly orchestral sound of different species screaming in pitch began to echo around the room. I grinned and let the smoke drift from the corners of my mouth. The few people sitting up at the bar had given me a wide berth, and I took the opportunity to run for the wooden cafe door.
I must have taken quite a nap earlier at The Red Rooster. It was already dusk and the first stars of night were beginning to show their faces. Darkness would throw off Dwarf and Breed, but Erik –curse his fucking nocturnal, orc eyes — would have no trouble navigating around here once the sun was down. Immediately ahead of me was a large, square opening into the otherwise smooth stone wall and I recognized it immediately as one of the gates built into the circular outer barrier of the ampitheatre, leaving me three options: To my right was the Dreamscape and the crowded city streets full of workers getting off their shifts and looking to start the daily ritual of drinks and poor decisions, to my left was an alley leading past the new library and back around to the backstage of the Ampitheatre, and ahead was an unmanned entryway into the seats. I chose left and made my way out of sight down the alley.
“Which way did th’ god dumn son of a goat feckerr go?” Asked a growly, orcish voice behind me.
“We’re fucking dead. We lost him!”
“Now lad, we didnae lose ‘im. I’ll go search th’ crowds and see if I cannae maybe grab th’ other Takers t’ ‘elp out. Yeh go take a look in tha’ there music box, and we’ll sen’ the orc down th’ las’ way. We’ll meet back at meh ‘otel room win ‘r lose a’ midnigh’, and if’n yeh don’ show up I’ll fin’ yeh ‘n cut yer balls off.”
Good. Three was too many, but one fuck nut cum dumpster ass-fuck-orcish bastard I could take. I considered my surroundings and hatched a plan: Out here too many people would see me, but who the fuck would be in a library at dusk? I raced into the recently renovated adobe building and took a place behind the ‘H’ stack, getting comfortable somewhere between Halflings in Love by Iangu Swiftpen and How to Remove Poison Needles From Places You Can’t Reach and Other Pieces of Good Advice For the Would Be Dungeoneering Party. I reached into my pack for a jar of explosive jelly and cocked my arm as I watched for the door.
“If you insist on throwing that jar of fire in here I’m going to throw you into my pit of monster leeches so they can suck the library fines out of your life force,” said a stern, raven-haired city tribal. Her tattooed arms were crossed and the look she was giving me from behind her glasses made my balls shiver just a little. I considered the situation and, not wanting a good explosion to go to waste, threw the thing right out the front door and onto the street.
“AAAIIHHAHHHHAAAA,” screamed the orc as he scrambled to put out the fire. Covered in burns and smoking clothing his eyes raised up to look at me. He growled and charged in through the door as I grabbed the book on the end of the shelf and ran off towards the back.
“Yer feckin’ dead, bitch!” He shouted as he charged through the library and out the back door after me. Stupid fucking heels; he was making good time on me as I raced for the backstage area of the Amphitheatre, leaping over the small metal barricade kept up to deter foot traffic. Trying to avoid obstacles and taking the path of least resistance I found myself charging up and onto the main stage where the crowd of five hundred or so beings, Breed amongst them, was about to get a much different show than the one they were expecting.
There, coiled up on the middle of the stage, sat a strange magickal being with the torso of a naked human female, the body of a snake, and glittering white wings, playing softly on some kind of harpish-stringed instrument. Her playing came to an abrupt halt as she looked over at us just as the orc dove and took a hold of my feet, tripping me. I scrambled back onto my feet before he did and began bludgeoning him about the head with my book. I have to admit I never cared much for short poetry, but Halflings In Love was definitely having the kind of impact I’d hoped for on my target audience. I pounded and pounded his head with the tome as the serpenty, naked-chick thingy looked on in distant horror. Somewhere around the twenty-third stanza there was a final, blood chilling CRACK!
Standing up straight I looked into the faces of the shocked audience, straightened myself up, and finally said, “What the fuck are you people staring at? Official drag queen literary business, fuck you very much.”
As I was about to turn and head out my shoes bumped into the body and I heard the distinctive jingle of glass and metal clanging off one another. What the hell?
I pulled the orc’s cloak open and found a plethora of things that an orc-fuckling shouldn’t have. Daggers, devices, potions — all of it in very expensive, and very magickal-looking, glass and metal containers. This shit was worth a small fortune. What the fuck had those green junkie bastards been up to?
I heard a heavy, scraping noise moving towards me and I turned around face first into the bosom of the musical creature as she said in a soft, sweet voice, “That’s angel’s blood in the blue vial, probably quick silver in the red, but I don’t quite know what the other things are. What kind of a foul little creature would have access to such rare and evil things? Surely such foulness is a blot on this world.”
As the guards were beginning to move past being stunned and coming towards us I turned to her and said, “Bitch, I don’t know. But I want to find out. If you can fly me out of here and down to The Academy I know someone who can at least tell me what all this shit is.”
“If you use that language with me again, human, I’ll sauté and eat your tongue while it’s still in your head. None the less, yes, I’d rather unravel this mystery myself before any of these lesser species get a hold of it. If you know someone, then let us depart. I can always haul you back myself or drop you to your death mid-flight if I find anything out that isn’t to my liking,” she spoke before looking over to the guards. “Guards, I will take care of this matter personally. No one except either myself or Kal Meli is to have access to that body until I return.”
The guards nodded in quiet understanding and positioned themselves between what was left of Erik and the audience. I stripped the green son of a bitch naked and grabbed up all his gear (not like the fucker was going to need it anymore), hopped on the lady-thingee’s back, and with that we were off into the air. As I gazed below I caught a quick glimpse of the breed; he was looking somewhere between rage and shitting his pants in fear. The flight itself was a short one taking us up from the Dreamscape, over the Casino District, past the prison, and finally into the Academy and down to the Necromancer’s front door.
I hadn’t gotten a good look at the hut earlier this morning, but now that I was up close and personal with it I noticed all kinds of interesting little details. The dark, wooden door was etched with small, white, magickal runes encircling a larger symbol on the middle-right, just above the handle. This strange, central symbol showed a flaming-skull rising upwards over a horizon, a skeletal fist secured with a chain below it.
“This represents ‘victory over death,’” she said, her face frowning and her eyes narrowing. “You have taken me to a house of death magick.”
Picky, picky, you serpenty cunt rag.
Grabbing and turning the handle I broke into the entry way. Shay’un was sitting there, laying on the black leather couch near the fire place reading a tome of some kind and looking alarmed at our presence.
“Get out of here lady! This ain’t no public hotel… oh, Raelin, that’s you. Why are you dressed like a hooker?”
“That’s none of your business. Now it’s time for that favor,” I shot out as I laid down the orc’s things before her. “I need to know what this shit is.”
Putting her book down and walking over she took a look at the various vials and instruments saying, “I don’t know off the top of my head. But the head teacher has an alchemy lab in here if you and your — um, friend — want to give me a second, I can find out.”
We followed her down the hall and into a medium-sized room that was just barely comfortable for the three of us. Piece by piece and vial by vial she analyzed each object, running it through various magickal devices and beakers full of fuck knows what.
“The artifacts are extremely powerful. Like, only Jaxx or Treinen or maybe-the-local-royalty-should-be-in-possession-of-it type of powerful. This equipment can’t even get a reading on it. Where did you…?”
“Never mind that. What’s in the vials?”
“This one looks like angel’s blood. This is bile from the stomach of a green dragon. This is quicksilver. The other one is some kind of metallic intelligent slime. They’re all very rare.”
“What good are they? Why would anybody need any of this shit?”
“The vials at least can be used in alchemy and metallurgy. Weapons, shields, wands, portals, and things like that. But no one I know would have any idea how to work with this kind of stuff. Maybe that big guy down in –”
“That’s enough,” I said, cutting her off and looking over to the winged, tittied-serpenty lady. “Well… um, you. I’ll split the find with you. You can take the artifacts, and I keep the vials?”
“My name is Ellamin Lore Weaver, not ‘uhhm you’ human, and I want to know why this orc is in possession of these finer things, why he was chasing you, and why you beat him to death with a book.”
“Him and his fuck-slime bastard friends are thieves who stole from me; I don’t know how he came into possession of this stuff, but my guess is that it’s stolen. He’s chasing me because I confronted him about stealing from me, and I beat him to death because why the fuck not? He’s an orc – fuck him.”
“Language, human. Your words will get you into trouble some day.” If this crazy bitch only knew. “For now I accept your deal, but you will report to me what becomes of those vials in one moon cycle’s time. If I don’t hear from you, I will send people to hunt you and bring you back. Do not let me find out that it has been sold to someone of poor reputation or put to some foul purpose.”
“I wouldn’t dream of such a thing,” I said, not entirely sure whether I meant it or not.
Looking satisfied she slithered out of the hut and took flight. I took hold of the vials and put them into my pack, and on the way out I could swear that I heard the dark tribal quietly say something like, “Who just breaks into someone’s fucking house? That asshole’s on the list.”
Previous entries in this series:
Raelin Saretti is a resident of Vincinni and is currently employed as an official Bard and Crier. He has no relatives to bother him, thank the gods, and can usually be found amusing himself in The Dreamscape or at one of the local taverns down in The Emporium. He responds well to cash.