Wednesday, August 20, 2014


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 3

Robin got home and closed the door behind her.  Or rather, she arrived back at the unused wooden dumpster behind the abandoned alchemical warehouse and shut the lid after she climbed in.  It wasn't a gorgeous place, but it was a place she could call home.  At least to herself.

She lit the lamp that had been given to her by a pitying merchant.  The light fell upon her one other shirt, a box with no lock, and a pot next to a sack of whatever edibles she had managed to scrounge up.  Crouching, since there was not enough room to stand, she moved over to the box.  She had once heard a story of a box with no lock yet could not be opened.  There was no key, no password, and no hinges, yet something rattled within it, so the story went.  Robin didn't keep a lock on her box because she hadn't found one that worked.  She opened it up and took out a dull knife.

Robin opened the sack and put the pot on top of the lamp.  It still had a bit of rainwater in it.  She dumped some of the contents of the sack into the pot; turnip stems, potato skins, and the rare slice of carrot floated in the murky water.  She took a brown apple core and began cutting it up with the knife.

She sighed as she prepared her supper.  She wondered how her life had reached this point, and how she was doomed to live like this for the rest of it.  It had seemed so simple; you take what you want and enjoy yourself.  It got more complicated, however, when you factored in the degrees to which people go to hold on to their things.  Thievery was her loftiest goal, but it wasn't her only option.  Street performing had gotten her nowhere.  Of course, no gang would let her join, even just as a messenger or lookout.  She had even tried begging, but that got her more kicks to the shins than iron coins.  It was a matter of her dreams and her talents not matching up.  She had dreams, but no talents.  She finished dicing the apple core and watched the perfect cubes bobbing in the stew.

Robin had just turned to her collection of discarded pamphlets when a dull, scraping sound caught her attention.  Robin looked back at the pot.  It was where she left it, the occasional bubble rising to the stagnant surface.  Another scrape thrummed down her spine.  It was the kind of sound only something terribly heavy could make.  Robin pressed her ear up against the side of the dumpster that was touching the warehouse wall.  When another scrape came, it pounded her ear, dragging it down into the depths of pitch where you could feel sounds.  Long, painful, dragged-out sounds, coming from the vague direction of upwards.  Then it was suddenly cut short.

Robin grabbed the pot and threw herself against the side of the dumpster just as an anvil came crashing down through the lid.

The cloud of dirt that the anvil had shuddered from its rest made Robin cough as she checked herself over to make sure she was still alive.  Her stomach was in her feet.  Her heart was in her throat.  Her brain was running around in circles, screaming.  Everything was where it should be.  Somehow, the stew had not spilled, and Robin only realized now that the pot was burning her arms where she was hugging it as if it were her newborn child.

The remnants of the dumpster's lid moved, and Robin blinked in the sunlight.  A hand reached down and picked her up by the collar of her leather shirt.  Someone did this about every other day, so Robin had patched up her collar so that it was baggy and easy to grab, but didn't tug on her neck when it was pulled.  The hot water sloshed as she shook and looked into the eyes of the three-quarters-orc from the Bloodroot gang.

"Hallo, there," he said.  "Member me?"


"Fought so."  He grabbed the edge of the wrecked dumpster and effortlessly tore down what was left of the wall.  "Nice place you got," he said with a toothy grin.  Of course, it was hard for a half-orc not to have a toothy grin, what with the tusks and all.

Robin shivered.  " was, I guess.  Can you?"

"Oh, why, yeah, you kin help me, all right."  He now grabbed her with two hands.  Her neck remained unrestrained, but it still had the intended effect of making her even more terrified than she thought she could be.  "The Bloodroots are great.  You made us look like dingbats."  He leaned in, and Robin could smell his breath.  It was like a bouquet of flowers and a mug of apple cider were mixed together with a slab of three-week-old venison.  Robin tried not to look down at the chunky water she held.  "We don't like looking like dingbats," the half-orc snarled.

Robin swallowed, which she quickly regretted, as the smell was then turned into taste that slid down her throat.  Her brain, at least, had stopped running into the walls of her head, but it was now shrunk down against her temple.  It wasn't focused enough to prevent her from saying, "It wasn't me, it was King Dom!  He made you look like dingbats!"

"Did you just call us dingbats?" the half-orc grumbled.

Robin whimpered.

"Listen," he said, shaking her once.  The water sloshed again, and a bit landed on Robin's arm.  It was still hot enough to sting.  The half-orc continued, "You may think you're great, you may think you kin keep getting away with whatever you want because King Dom took some sore of shine to you, but I'm not letting it slide.  Broos may think it's good for us to listen to him, but I'm gonna give you the biggest pounding you ever had."

Robin sighed.  "All right.  But I just want to say one thing before we get started."

"Wuss that?"

"Hope you like garbage stew."

Robin thrust her arms forward and dumped the hot water over the half-orc's head.  He shouted and loosened his grip just enough for Robin to swing the pot, knocking it over his head, then slip to the ground and run like a devil that just found out it committed a virtue.

Robin instantly remembered that she had gotten no sleep and her legs were still sore from being chased halfway across town the day before.

She turned a corner and began to climb up the wall of the warehouse.  There were enough windows and loose bricks to act as footholds.  Robin grabbed onto the ledge above, tried pulling herself up, and found that she lacked the upper arm strength.  Her foot found a hold, and then her other foot found a higher one.  Her right hand shot up without a thought and reached for the slot of a missing brick above the window.  She heard heavy footsteps from the back of the warehouse.  When she looked down to see how far she had gotten, she froze in fear.

The half-orc came charging around the corner and picked her up from her spot three feet up the wall.

"Wait!" she shouted, squirming against his pincer-like grip.  "We can work this out, I can make it up to the Bloodroots!"

"Yeah, you can," the brute replied, "by sitting still and mergede-burg."

Robin took a few shallow breaths.  "Uh...can you repeat that?"

"Mordaga-ferv..."  A look of confusion spread across the half-orc's face, but it was quickly replaced with unconsciousness as his eyes rolled into the back of his head, his tongue lolled out of his mouth along with white froth, and he and Robin both collapsed onto the ground.

She twisted her body until she was free from his arms.  He didn't seem to mind.  Robin heard someone else click their tongue.

"Well, that didn't happen in quite the manner I expected," a voice said.  Robin looked up to the top of a shorter building next to the warehouse.  A man was lying on the roof, looking over the edge with his head in his hands.  When Robin looked up, he waved.  Not knowing what else to do, Robin waved back.  "Busy day, then?" the man asked.

"I...I suppose you could say that," Robin replied.  The figure above got to his feet and jumped, stuck to the opposite wall for a brief moment, launched off again, did a front flip through the air, and landed on his back on the alley floor.

He got up and brushed himself off, as if he had planned the whole thing.  Robin got the impression that it wasn't an attempt to cover his mistake, but rather a routine that happened so often he had forgotten he was striving for something more elegant.  The man himself, however, was incredibly elegant.  He was an alfar, a high elf, the ones you read about in stories who built towers that touched the moon, traveled the world through magic portals, and made faeries weep when they laughed.  He had straight, golden hair that framed his face and brushed down his back, with a single strand resting against his chest.  His ears were tapered, rising all the way up to the top of his head.  He wore sleek black leather, covered in buckles and studs, that displayed his thin but muscular torso.  He was the kind of thin you would call lithe, as opposed to Robin, whom you would merely call skinny, if you were trying to be polite.  She couldn't help crossing her arms in an attempt to use her pointed elbows to increase her visual width.

"Greetings," the alfar said, holding out a gloved hand.  "My name is Gwyntmarwolaeth."  Robin noticed a dagger sticking out of the sleeve on the arm he had held out to her.  She stared at it until he lowered his hand.  "Everyone just refers to me as Gwynt, though," he added, without losing a hint of cheerfulness.

"Did you have something to do with him?" Robin said, pointing towards the pile of half-orc.

Gwynt nodded.  "I was testing out a new sedative of mine.  I found a lovely little pot of water and thought, no better test subject than homeless dumpster-dweller whom nobody would miss, ha ha!"

"Ha ha!  Ha," Robin said, an octave higher than usual.

"So, it didn't work out exactly as I had planned, but the potion was tested in the end!"  He grinned at the unmoving body next to him.  His smile filled his whole face, causing his solid green eyes to squint.  Alfar didn't have crow's feet, for their skin never wrinkled, but no human could have put on a happier expression.

Robin coughed.  "So, he's just asleep, then?"

"Oh, no, he's clearly quite dead.  The potion was a complete failure as a sedative.  Of course, I should have known when I added another dose of deathvine."  Gwynt laughed, and while Robin didn't hear any faeries weeping, perhaps a crow did make a garbled attempt at singing.  "That's just the ups and downs of being an assassin, though.  Sometimes a sedative turns out to be a poison!"

"Of course."

"But you're not a helpless, homeless cretin after all!" Gwynt said, looking her up and down from head to toe.  "What is it you do for a living?"

Robin shuffled her feet.  "I've been told it's not true, but I consider myself a thief."  She wasn't too worried about confessing her illegal profession to an admitted assassin.

"Say!" Gwynt clapped and pointed at Robin as if he had just noticed her.  He then looked back and forth between her and the dead half-orc.  "Does this mean you can't work with him anymore?"

"Well, I wasn't working with him, but I do find myself without employment at the moment."

Gwynt raised his hand to his chest and his jaw fell open in shock.  "Employment?  You are too good to be merely working for another group.  You should be the one calling the shots!"

Robin couldn't remember ever being praised before, so at first she thought that Gwynt was demeaning her.  "Well, we can't all be fan-tratten-tastic assassins, as you so clearly are," she snapped.

"I'm honored, my lady," Gwynt said, a shade of pink creeping up his cheeks.

Robin closed her mouth, then opened it again.  "Wait, were you serious?"

"Absolutely."  Gwynt motioned for Robin to follow him, and they walked back to the rear of the warehouse.  Gwynt waved his hands over the scene, replaying Robin's daring and short-lived escape in his head.  "The way you ingeniously escaped that brute's clutches, adroitly evaded him for quite some time, and then cleverly stalled until my poison took effect...It was like watching a work of art spread across the canvas by itself."

It was Robin's turn to blush.  "Gee," she mumbled.

"I think you would fit right in with myself and my cohorts."

Robin's eyes turned into double moons.  Yesterday she (technically) stole something for the first time, and now she was being asked to join a gang!  It was almost too much excitement at once.  It was too much when you considered she hadn't gotten any sleep.  Robin staggered, then fell into a sitting position on a crate propped against the warehouse wall.

"You  To be a professional thief?" she said.

Gwynt shrugged.  "Well, it's not up to me, but I can introduce you and offer up my recommendation.  And you won't start with a leadership position, of course, since Anzo is...well, you'll meet him, and the rest."  He smiled.  "But, yes!  We're sorely lacking a good thief at the moment."

Robin looked over at the dumpster she had privately called home for the past three years.  It was now just a pile of wood surrounding an overturned anvil.  A ragged strand of blue cloth that she had used as decoration flapped uselessly in the breeze.  It was beyond repair, especially because no one else even remembered it existed.

"I'm in," she said.  Gwynt laughed again and cheered.  "What do you call yourselves?" Robin added.

Gwynt bowed formally, with an odd flourish of his hand.  "I am but a humble servant of the group, destined for greatness, known as...Bedlam."

<< Prologue, Heroes

<< Chapter 2, Schemes
Chapter 4, Clues >>

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