Have you ever wondered what the point of gaining more followers is? Part of the reason is so that you can engage with incredibly talented people. Talented people tend to be creative, and one of our recent batches of new followers included some great creatives. Among them was the author of this short story, which we thought we would blog in four parts. Enjoy!
The rest of the Patron’s workroom was similarly appointed. Ancient wooden bookshelves lined the walls, alternating with arched windows and panes of stained glass. On the shelves were spellbooks and other reference texts, including Orobus’s own Books of Shadows and the myriad spellbooks taken from defeated wizards. Here and there odd pieces of furniture, each with some obscure and exotic origin, held artifacts and equipment of an equally bizarre nature. One small roll-top desk contained an assortment of human skulls, while a twisted, wrought-iron holder supported a glass cylinder containing a strange, writhing plant. A globe of the world (with the city-state of Dynasty City properly highlighted in brass on its surface) spun quietly in one corner, its rotation held constant by some minor spell. Opposite the globe were the mummified remains of a Roach, the eight-foot insectoid warrior posed to look menacing as it held its barbed pike between four limbs. On a table made of birch, its bleached-white wood the pallor of human bones, a strange collection of tubing, beakers, and glass globes distilled a foul liquid. The constant drip-drip-drip sound was hypnotic.
Steven himself looked and smelled considerably better. He was not sure when it had happened. He’d been choking down the offered meal, desperate not to offend Orobus, when he realized his clothes, skin, and hair were clean again. The fabric of his tunic and pants had faded to a dull gray that matched the stone of the Patron’s estate. That was enough to worry him.
“Uh… Patron,” Steven finally ventured when he could stand it no longer, “I still do not know what you want of me.”
The Patron looked up from his scroll. “Oh, yes. That. I should think that would be obvious.”
“I want you to kill a man.”
“But, Patron, I am… well, look at me. I am nothing.”
“You are a knight of the Remnant.”
“You are,” the Patron stood, placing his gloved hands on the surface of his desk and leaning toward Steven menacingly. “I am, as well. I am the leader of one of the Blood Clans and hold my membership in the Remnant by right of birth. I am as much a fellow knight to you as those who trained you. I know what the Remnant means to you, what it meant to me before… well, before I had to place it in its proper perspective, given my other… aspirations.”
“Stop mincing about,” the Patron said in disgust. “You are Dagger Diorr, are you not? Remnant functionaries have spoken your name to me more than once. Stories have been told about you. You are bold, you are fast, and you don’t give a damn for authority. You should be telling me to get to the point or go to Hell right now.”
Steven said nothing.
“Well, man? Are you an assassin or aren’t you? The Remnant has made killing its profession for a thousand years and more. Who are you to cut short your career?”
“Let us say,” Steven said haltingly, “that I am still the knight I once was…”
“And let us further stipulate,” the Patron said, his eyes sharp, “that the years of drink have not taken their toll. Let us remember that at one time, you were Dagger Diorr, the man who never failed to complete an assignment. Let us forget that your rise through the ranks of the Remnant was halted by a fondness for drink and a disastrous marriage – the disaster fueled and the aftermath salved by the very drink that caused all of your problems in the first place.”
“You’re a drunk, Diorr,” the Patron laughed, leaning back in his chair. “Do you think you’re the first to be laid low by so small a thing?”
Steven put his chin on his chest and sighed. So small a thing, indeed. So large a life lost because of it. It… galled him, when he let himself think on it.
“Why me?” was all Steven could ask.
The Patron stared at him for a long time. Finally, he said quietly, “I have my reasons, Diorr. I’m willing to pay you to kill a man for me. Many a former knight has made the short journey to the rolls of the world’s mercenaries. You’ve already fallen into the muck. Crawl out half a step and do a job for me.”
“I have my reasons. They are my own.” The Patron’s voice was flat. “Yes or no?”
The Patron blinked, then – and laughed. He roared, in fact, so amused was he. “Now that,” he said, his cruel face split by an impossibly large grin, “is Dagger Diorr talking. You may be a homeless drunkard, but you’ll still negotiate price with me! Ha!” He stopped laughing as abruptly as he’d started. “You’ll be fairly paid. Yes or no?”
“Good. I trust you still remember how to use a weapon.” The Patron gestured, two fingers on one hand barely moving. The door to the chamber opened silently, admitting a man. He was obviously from the Southern Coast, bearing the dark skin and stern features of his kind. He wore a simple black and red uniform, over which he had strapped on a leather battle harness. In sheaths on his back he wore two short swords, hilts over his shoulders.
“This is Horus,” the Patron said. “He is the captain of my personal guard. Horus, this is… or was… Dagger Diorr.”
“Patron,” Horus nodded. “Mister Diorr.”
“See that he is equipped properly. Whatever he requires.”
“Come with me,” Horus said.
They made their way to the base of the tower and through adjoining corridors. Horus finally pushed aside a heavy oaken door (the doors did not open by themselves for Horus in the absence of the Patron, Steven noted). The chamber within contained a variety of display tables and cases.