Orty paled when the blood splattered across his leg. He'd seen death plenty over the year he'd been away from home, but none of it had been shed so callously. He felt a chill in the room. This man, though jesting as he sounded, was serious.
But no sooner had Morin's poor body fallen to the ground, than a strange high pitched whirring sounded from outside the tower. An alarm.
The boy's eyes betrayed more worry. The casual pace Endymion was taking would doubtlessly speed up now that the dark haired man knew his coin was missing. "Look, you have your precious coin. Job done. Finished. I'm just a boy. Nothing.. special. Leave, now, before the guards find you. I'm not sure what that man wants with the coin, or what it does, I mean.. besides glow.. but he was very anxious to have it. So I suggest you run."
“Haven’ta ya been listening? My job is ta kill you, you bloody fool. A black hand musts fulfill his duty, ya know for marketing reasons.” Endymion took a step forward, but only one. As if it had a will of it’s own the coin chest he was carrying slipped from his grasp and burst asunder.
The coin dropped, rolled, and landed in the pool of blood. Suddenly it started to glow, and pulse. Endymion took a step back watching the coin carefully. The skull on the coin, was it always open like that, had it always been smiling? Suddenly, and with increasing terror, he realized that the pool of blood was getting smaller.
It was drinking the blood.
“By the Gods…” He gasped backing up, “That thing…it’s evil…even compared ta me.”
This left Endymion with a choice. Kill the boy and take the coin. Kill the boy and leave the coin. Take the coin. Or bugger them all and kill his employer for not indulging all the details. Even still he was no great a fool to think that that evil coin wouldn’t be useful.
He snatched the coin carefully, and ran to the open window. “Find out how many of these there are. Or something, anything at all. Meet me three days hence at the broken sword tavern. If you find something useful I will let you live, but t’would be wise to get far away from here. If you fail to show, or learn nothing I will hunt you to the ends of the earth.”
And with that he climbed out the window, and vanished into the night.
Orty was left staring out his empty window. A dead man and a pool of blood on the floor. The whirring continued, loud and ragged, as if it were being cranked by tired arms. No sooner had he recovered from the beating, living coin than his door was burst open. Two guards dove in, ready to attack, a very distressed dark haired man in the middle, and two more angry guards bringing up the rear. The five of them halted in surprise at the sight of Morin, but the shock was quickly reverted into deeper sets of eyebrows and frowns.
"Where is it boy?" Roared Master Rothgart. His normally combed hair was now ruffled from sleep, his eyes betrayed exhaustion, and his fine apparel hung limply on his frame. "If you value your life..."
Just then, Louie scampered in through the window. "I heard the alarm! I was-"
One of the guards snatched up the poor mouse and held him tight in his fist, holding him up to his master.
"Ah! I knew it." The dark man nearly spat as he spoke. "You probably had your rat friend steal it for you. Tell me, where did you expect to go once you had it? There are guards posted around every corner."
"You promised me a reward!" Orty shouted.
“So you thought it wise to steal from me? Did you think to teach me a lesson, young one?”
"I may be a thief, but when I steal something like that, I own up to it. Trust me, if I had, I'd have waved it in your face and you wouldn't have been able to stop me from leaving.” Orty narrowed his eyes. “Why are you keeping me here?”
Master Rothgart scoffed. “I knew just how valuable to me you'd be once I'd seen your power. It would be a waste to let such talent go. I'm greedy, not foolish, boy." His eyes shone bright then, as if all the gold he was seeing in his mind's eye was being reflected through his pupils. “I could teach you great things here.”
"Hmm... you really had me going there for a moment. You sound just like Vader. 'Join the Dark Side!' I'll let you in on something, the bad guys never win. Sheesh, I almost wish I had stolen the coin." He shrugged his shoulders and looked around. "You can search, but you won't find it here."
"You little..." He took three large steps toward Orty, his hand outstretched reaching for Orty's neck. "You'll tell me where it is or..." He only got as far as the rug.
The young boy willed the carpet to slide out from underneath the master, causing him to crash down on his backside, his head audibly cracking on the hard stone floor. The guards were on Orty in an instant. Books flew from shelves, landing themselves in tender places on the heads, necks, knees, and groin of each of the guards. One unfortunate guard was whacked in the face with a loose stone found among the books on the floor. He released his hold on Louie, who thankfully landed on his feet and scampered into one of Orty's jacket pockets.
The young magician summoned his hat as an idea dawned on him. The rug caused another guard to lose balance and fall before it swooped back and headed for the open window. Orty jumped and let it carry him through the opening. He paused to look back only once. Master Rothgart was rubbing his head, looking dazed and thoroughly hurt. “Hey!” Orty called back. “It could have been worse! I could have been a six year old!”
He laughed as he flew away, hovering on his best idea yet. But his joy was only short lived. Endymion's warning echoed in his ears. “Louie, I think we need to go find out about these coins of Alamire.”
“We'll be in trouble if we don't. Any ideas on where to start?”
“I really should have thought this through.” Endymion mumbled to himself as he struggled up the sheer tower wall. Sure, disappearing out a window sure looked dramatic, but the boy’s tower was really high up, and without a clear way down. Swearing loudly as his finger caught a sharp stone, his off hand struggled to keep himself stead. Swinging his other hand back onto the stone wall to steady himself, it left a smear of red. “Bugger this”
Leaping sideways he caught onto an overhanging flag pool, and swung himself onto a nearby roof. “Well, that sucked.” Somewhere in the complex he could hear yelling. Always with the yelling. He didn’t let it bother him though, as there was no way they even knew he existed. He was obviously too good to be caught like that.
It was slow going to find his way to the wall. He could have moved faster, but considering the rushed panic of the estate slower was better. Rushing people don’t notice shadows, but they do notice strangers running over rooftops. He finally made his way to his wall, where his ladder was waiting.
“Hey buddy,” He patted his gargoyle friend on the head, “You’ve been good, thanks.” He tugged on the hook that was latched around the stone beast’s neck to make sure it was tight.
Halfway down the ladder the beast’s head snapped. The ladder failed. And Endymion fell.
It was a long time before Orty finally landed, too tired to keep the rug in the air. Now sitting behind a large building, he rested his head against the stone wall, breathing heavily. It must have been far past midnight. He shivered as the cold night air brushed against his cheek. He hugged his coat tighter, still panting and hating every large gulp of cold air that entered his lungs.
"Okay," he said to his friend. "New trick: very cool, but very hard."
"Do you have anything left for food?"
"We never got anything to eat today, did we?" He felt his stomach rumble. The boy dug into his jean pocket, fished out the remaining silver coin and the blue button, and made a face. "Not if we need to pay for information." He mentally kicked himself for not asking where the Broken Sword Tavern was. "I wish we still had the coin. Maybe then we could ask around for things that look like it."
"Would they have a book on it in the library?"
"...Do they have libraries out here?"
Louie scoffed, offended.
"Sorry, sure. Let's try that. But I don't think they'll be open this late. Maybe we should get some sleep. I haven't gotten a wink since the train ride."
The pair brainstormed where they could stay for the night. There wasn't much they could do if they wanted to save their last coin. They agreed that they should find a cheap Inn and start their search in the morning. Besides, Orty could do a few side tricks. It was a new city after all.
It took four tries, but an inn-keeper finally accepted the small silver coin at an inn called the Pig's Rump. It'd taken a few knocks, but a large, surly man answered the door. "This'll get ye a bowl of soup and a bed for the night," he growled through his dark beard. "But ye gotta be out by the morning."
Orty, with Louie perched on his shoulder, was shown to a table. Or roughly gestured to one, was more like it. Several minutes of awkward waiting later, an older woman, who Orty assumed to be the inn-keeper's wife, blouse brought Orty his soup. He nodded thanks to her and stirred the soup curiously, unsure what was actually in it. Louie scampered down his arm and helped himself to the slice of crusty bread that had come as a side.
As they ate, they looked around the room. The inn-keeper was organizing a few things behind a counter. Locking boxes, closing draw stringed bags, winding clocks. His wife, it seemed, had gone back to bed. Beside him, they were alone in the room. That is, he thought they were until the inn-keeper voiced a question that wasn't to him.
"How much longer do you think you'll be, sir?"
Orty was about to answer that he was almost finished when a man, hidden by the shadows in a corner of the room, turned and beat him to the punch. "I've just a page or two more." When the man moved, he revealed a small lantern and a series of books and maps. The light had been obscured by his massive shoulders, but now framed him slightly.
"Ye can't read in the morning? You've used enough of my wick and oil."
The man's response was to simply turn back to his papers. "I'll be gone by the morning, and I'll need to have studied every part of this map. I won't have time then." He called without looking back.
"Well, do be quick about it then."
Orty finished his soup but continued to sit and stare at the back of the stranger. His curiosity would be the death of him some day. Without warning, the man addressed him, still turned away. "Best be on to bed, boy."
The twelve year old boy jumped and tried to hide the movement in an effort to clear his plate. But he didn't know where to take it, so he let it be and headed for the stairs. Louie scampered after him. Mid-way up the stairs, Orty glanced back and thought his saw the glimmer of gold in the dim lantern light. But it was brief, and hard to see. So the young boy continued up the stairs to where a yawning girl with dark braids led him to a small room and left him without a word.
Of that he was sure. How he was sure he couldn’t quite say, but he knew it to be true. Maybe spending so much time dealing out death maybe him more attune to it; More knowledgeable about death. Or maybe all men knew when their time had come. It didn’t matter in the end, when the reaper came calling.
“Man,” Endymion drawled, “What an anticlimactic way to go,” And yet strangely appropriate. How else was an assassin to go? In a grand battle for good and justice and all that crap? Not bloody likely. Being assassinated in turn? While Ironic Endymion would rather fall on his own blade then by another’s. This way at least it was the gods what brought him low, not another human. “The gods themselves fear me,” Endymion laughed into the void, “That counts for something,”
“Gods fear nothing.” Nothing nothing nothing nothing… He turned, or would have if he had a body to turn. The voice echoed and bounced off invisible wall surrounding him.
“Now now, another soul lost in time?” Not a soul Endymion realized. There was a body, a young woman’s in a black dress. Though she had no face, Endymion could not find himself to be creeped out. He was dead, who care about faceless dead women? “Shall we make love until time ends? Or are you here to kill me…err…kill me some more?”
“Gods fear nothing,” Nothing nothing nothing nothing. The woman said again.
“You already said that.”
“Gods fear nothing, for they do not exist.” Not exist not exist not exist not exist.
“Dear god,” Endymion growled, “Get to the bloody point, or I swear I’ll kill meself again just tog et away from you,”
“Do you ever shut up?” up up up up up. Much better.
“Only when I’m killing,”
“Do you want to live?” To live to live to live to live?
“Does a wolf **** in the woods?” The woman moved closer, and closer until he could feel her breath on his shoulder. Which was strange given the lack of breath and shoulders.
“Finds the coins.” Coins coins coins coins. The phantom body of the princeslayer shivered at the voice, “Resurrect me,” me me me me me me, “Promise, and you live,” Live live live live live…
Endymion did not pause to think. He simple said, “Okay.” The faceless woman kissed him.
Then he woke up. Cold wind blew trough his hair, and sent a chill up his body. He was alive. His neck was sore, but he was alive. “Ha.” Find the coins; stay alive. He was going to get the coins anyway, as for resurrecting that woman.
Endymion laughed harshly, echoing through the dark streets. He was a notorious liar after all.
OoC: So I posted a week ago, but I took too long and my entry was deleted when ZU signed me out. I finally found the time to try it again. This one turned out better, though.
Orty slept fitfully on his thin mattress, tossing and turning. Eventually he accepted that he could not sleep, and stared out the window at the moon, which loomed in the corner of his window; setting now that dawn was approaching.
“Louie,” the boy whispered. “Hey, Lou. You awake?”
The mouse grumbled in his sleep. He lay curled at the foot of the bed, his tiny pink tail covering his brown nose.
“What do you think that man was looking for? I bet he's a treasure hunter. Or maybe he's after a monster of some sort.” Orty's curiosity level was only paralleled by his wild imagination. In his mind's eye he watched the stranger as he jumped over canyons, fought off two headed dogs with the light from his books, and fenced off a swarm of ninjas. “Do you think we'll meet a ninja?”
Louie stifled a yawn. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, we've met just about every thing else I saw in the theaters. That... that guy we met in the tower. He's an assassin, right? Isn't that like a ninja?”
Louie was silent. Back to the heavy breathing of deep sleep.
“Don't you want to know what that man is looking for?” A snore, whether real or fake, was the mouse's only reply. The corner of Orty's mouth rose in a half smile. “Guess I'm on my own then.”
He swung his legs quietly over the side of the bed and crept across the room to the door. As he walked through the hallway, silent as a ghost, the boy poked a nose through every open door, and many of the closed ones; the ones that weren't locked or broken. He was about to close the door of another room, when he noticed a pile of books near the bed inside the room. Propped against the books was a tan colored satchel. A scroll peaked out from under the flap. The map the man was studying?
The young magician, too curious for his own good, lifted the scroll from the bag, causing it to drift toward where he sat in the doorway. The man, hidden by crumpled blankets and pillows, let out a loud snore that made Orty nearly loose concentration. He caught the map before it could fall to the floor. He briefly considered borrowing the books too, but if he dropped one it would make a louder noise than a scroll. So he took off as quietly as he could back to his own room.
By the light of the moon, he studied the map, but he suspected that he would have been able to make do without the moonlight. There were five yellow-gold pinpricks of light on the page that seemed to cast a very faint glow on the area surrounding them. One was moving slightly. Surprised, the boy flipped the map, but the back was dark, dry, unblemished parchment. Orty couldn't help but wonder.
The following morning, Orty and Louie were downstairs before the sun had fully risen from over the hills. Orty recognized the man by his satchel as he came down the stairs. He got a better look this time. The man was tall, thin, but nicely built. Under his traveling cloak he wore a white collared shirt and dark trousers that covered most of his boots. The books were stuffed in the crook of one arm, and the satchel hung from the opposite shoulder. His hair was a sandy blonde color that reminded him of a girl he knew back at school. His brown eyes seemed warm, but guarded. He took a seat and waved to the bartender, signaling that he was ready for his morning meal.
“Where did you get those books?” Orty asked from across the room. He'd just finished breakfast; a bowl of gray mush and some almost ripe fruit.
The man looked up from one he'd just cracked open. “The library, just down the way there.” He waved a hand toward the door, not being very specific at all. “There are at least two here in Elstrom. Are you new here?”
Orty nodded his head. “Got here last night.”
“Ah, a runaway, no doubt.” He nodded to the serving girl, the one with the long dark braids who'd shone Orty to his room the night before, by way of thanks for bringing his meal. He winced at the taste, but ate anyway.
Orty changed the subject. “Where are you going?”
“You always ask this many questions?”
“You ask just as many, we're two for two now.”
“A clever runaway! That changes things.”
But he didn't continue, so Orty wasn't sure if it did. “How so?”
“Well anyone clever as you would eventually weasel the tale out of me anyway, and since I seem to be in good spirits this morning, I'll tell you. But first, your name?”
Orty abandoned his empty bowl and came to sit closer. “Orty Chance. You're an adventurer, aren't you?”
The brown eyed man laughed. “Nice to meet you, I'm Shaw Leir. Ha, but don't get too excited. I wouldn't call myself an adventurer. I'm here by request. You see, I've been trying to track down some very valuable, but very dangerous items.”
Shaw gave Orty a sideways smile, “You're up to seven now.” The boy huffed, but let the man continue. “Have you heard of the story of the King's Curse?” When Orty shook his head, Shaw whispered under his breath something about being too sheltered. “King Tirum, may he rest in peace, used to rule this land, long before you were born. He had a son and a beautiful wife, but his most beloved was his young daughter. One day, she'd fallen ill. None of the royal physicians could do a thing about it. Desperate, the King summoned a witch known for using powerful magic. He promised her anything she desired if she would save his daughter.
“Now, the witch saw in the King's heart that his love ran deeply, but that he would not be willing to part with what she wanted, namely, his kingdom. She named her price and he swore that he would make her a dutchess, to have power that would only answer to him. It was not what she wanted, but accepted and healed his daughter.
“Days, weeks, months, the witch waited. But in all their joy and celebration, the king and his family forgot their promise and the witch became cross. She sent a curse over the household and every eligible male in the family line died that very night. There would be no heir to the throne, the King's reign would end. Outraged, the King had the witch captured and imprisoned in five small coins.”
“How'd he get her into five coins?”
Shaw chuckled. “Not physically. Her mortal body died when this took place. But one cannot completely kill a witch's soul. It took all the magic users in the kingdom to cast the spell that imprisoned her, but it was finally done. The king cast the coins out in every direction, to be buried or hidden or tossed into the sea. Before the body was burned, a very skilled map maker kept some of the witch's blood and used it to create a map so that the king could keep track of the coins, to make sure they never got close to each other. But for some reason, they have. I've been sent to make sure that no one is trying to collect them.”
“And if someone was?”
“It would be very bad for everyone involved.” Shaw finished his breakfast and began to pack his things. “You know why a Lord rules this land, right? Because of the curse. Ha! The royals were too scared after that to continue to rule, and no one else had the guts to claim the title.”
Orty stood up and followed the man to the counter where Shaw gave the owner a few coins for the meal. He knew an opportunity when he saw one. “I want to go with you.”
Shaw shook his head and smiled down at the boy. He tapped the brim of the boy's hat affectionately. “The journey I take is no place for a lad. Maybe when you're older.”
Orty frowned and watched Shaw through an open window as he climbed into an old coach and headed out of sight. Then he pulled the scroll out from his coat sleeve. “Think he'll need this much?” he asked Louie.
The mouse grinned and scampered up his leg and into his coat pocket. “You'll be a master thief yet.”
ooc Sorry for the wait. Cut to the Broken Sword Tavern and their meeting. 'Single Quotes' is for the woman in the coin and "Double Quotes" endymion thinking to her.
Endymion Princeslayer, the Bowreaper, Merchants bane, and of course Blackknife the bold sat at the bar of the broken sword tavern completely bored. You’d think for a man with so many names he makes himself seems a crowd would be used to being alone. It wasn’t really the being alone part that war boring, it was the not being alone that was running everything.
’Do not drink that swill,’ The voice in his head chided. Normally he wouldn’t mind a female voice, and frankly her voice was as lovely as a birds. Of course said bird was a vulture, but the point stands. It was all his fault for waking her up with that servants blood. Wait no it wasn’t: that was totally an accident.
”Why?” he asked internally, though he already knew the answer. For a dead woman she never seemed to stop talking.
’The alcohol will destroy your liver, and kill you.’ the voice said impassively, ’I need you alive for as long as possible’ . He drank the whole cup anyone if only to spite her. He was an assassin, not some child and he would do as he pleased. No matter what he did the voice seemed to disapprove. Don’t climb that wall. Don’t threaten that merchant. Don’t kill the welp who tried to steal from you. Don’t don’t don’t. No he was to sit and do nothing until she was freed. Endymion had never had a conscious, and it seemed she was trying to make up that lifetime deficit. It was only to keep him alive so she could use him, any fool could tell that, but it was still bothering him.
The other day he tried to get a whore, and she objected then too! Something about diseases, and deadly infections or some such. He tried to ignore her but the act was far less enjoyable with a voice yelling in his head so he left halfway through.
A soft giggle wafted over the bar. Looking up Endymion the cutest girl. All dolled up, with bright red hair and a corset that was a few sizes to small. She even blushed when Endymion gave her his best smile. A perfect conquest. ’Don’t even think about it. The boy should be here any minute, and I wont have you distracted,’
He growled and slammed his dagger into the bar counter. “He better get here soon,” he growled as the girl across the way gasped and ran away, “He better”
There were a few neat tricks to the map, as Orty discovered over the two days that followed since the map's coincidental discovery. One; the lights helped you to locate where each coin was, and in which direction it was headed. Two; because it was a map for a hunter who needed obvious help, the names of towns and cities appeared upon request.
It was the night of the third day that Orty had been given to seek out information. Though the coins were easy to follow on the map, he young boy and his friend were only able to recover two such coins. Each took an entire day of travel and sneaking around. Collecting them from their owners was no picnic either. One man he'd had to distract with a vision of a beckoning goddess just long enough to sneak into his camp site. The other had been trickier, as he'd been caught and had to flee before much harm could be done.
The Broken Sword Tavern, he found, was in the same town as the man who'd sought after the coins to begin with. Orty glanced in the direction of the manner's tall gate, hoping that if there was a search for the boy or the assassin, they weren't looking close by. He entered the Tavern, a dirty, nearly run down place filled with giggling girls and rough men. The stench of alcohol was thick enough to cut. Up at the bar, he spotted the assassin, digging a knife into the wood. Orty clambered up and perched on the tall stool next to Endymion and slapped down his two coins. “There's two more out there still. This is all I could grab.”
Without half a thought Endymion snatched the coins, putting them in his pocket before the boy had a chance to react. “Where are they?” he said mimicking the annoying voice in his head.
'If he doesn't tell you slit his throat,' The voice said but The Princeslayer ignored it. “A better question be: How da'ya know where to find'em? I am running out of patience, and time.” Endymion wrenched the dagger out of the bar and pointed it at the boy, “I'd rather you alive then dead, but dead you shall be 'less I get what I want.”
Orty jumped slightly, startled at Endy's outburst. The boy hadn't known what to expect; suspicion, praise, joy for having recovered two, despair and anger for the two left to find... The venom in his voice made him unsure about telling him about the map.
"I found help," was all he let on. "But good luck trying to find the others when I'm dead." He raised an eyebrow as he put his arms up on the counter. It was a bold move, but he wanted respect. "We find these coins together, or not at all."
'Kill him' The voice growled in his head. Much to his credit Endymion did no such thing, and instead slid his dagger back in his belt and chuckled. It was rare that someone actually stood up to him, and a boy at that.
“Clever boy, claim knowledge but not the source. Then say I must simply trust that youse know where'ta find these coins. Thats not how I work, ya see.” Endymion gave the boy his very best smile, “Don't go assuming death is all I have'ta offer. I've seen stronger men then you crack under questioning...Now we wouldn't want that would we?”
The boy worked hard to keep his face solemn. It helped that the assassin, deadly as he looked, sounded like he'd never opened a book to save his life. Though, because of that, Orty couldn't quite tell just how clever Endy was. Regardless, he doubted his life was in as much peril as Endy threatened. He'd cooperate, no problem there.
"Chill out, dude. I'm only making sure I'm not left behind again. Everyone does it," he complained. "My dad, my uncle, the guy who I stole the map from..." He cut himself off, knowing he'd given himself away, but not fully caring. He would have told Endy eventually. "Besides, why are you so interested in these coins?"
Orty wondered if he should mention the story he'd heard about the witch... enchantress... whatever... that was rumored to be trapped inside them. But how could someone live inside a coin? Dragons, witches, assassins, talking mice... they all made sense. But not this; at least, not yet.
“Magic is as magic done. You seem not to unfamiliar with magicks and the likes, and such powerful ones that can be seen here, even to the untrained eyes, interests me. Moreover it interests those whom I am under the employee of. Assassins like ta have every advantage...” Endymion stopped to give the boy his best malicious smile, and his was a beauty. Learning how to smile threatening was one of the first things he learned when training for his profession.
'Kill the boy, take his map' the ever impatient voice in his head chided. Not that it was at all a possibility, as Endymion could not read to save his life. He needed the boy, but needed to make sure the decision seemed like it was his alone. “You shall come with, if you must. Be helpful, or I will be forced to kill you, “ Endymion said waving his hand dismissivly.
"Deal!" All too eager, as young boys tend to be with adventures involving treasure maps, he pulled his out, glad to be along for the ride. He began to unfold the map on the bar but then hesitated. "Is there another place we can look at this?" There were too many wandering eyes here in the tavern.
“Subtle,” Endymion rolled his eyes already regretting his decision, “I am staying at the draygon inn down the way,” he said pulling the boy not roughly from his seat, “Follow me, and stop talkin' so much, you're libel ta give me a headache.” he didn't wait for a response, and stormed out the tavern exit, completely aware of the half dozen or so eyes watching his back.
The boy followed of course, and if he was talking Endymion could not hear him over the din of the city streets. Squinting Endymion could see the the sign of the Draygon inn hanging over a simple looking two story building. Right before they reached it however the prince Slayer grabbed the boys shoulder and quickly ducked into a back alley. Not bothering to explain he led the boy through half a dozen twisted alley ways before stopping and putting his hand over the boys mouth.
“Wait...I do not think we're followed,but can never be to careful,” He whispered.