The next part of this whole deal is how to acquire my targets and then to decide the best way to end them. I give a brief thought to just taking the BMG .50 cal and popping holes in them all from a distance. I dunno. Still seems so impersonal and killing someone is a very intimate thing for me. I like to look my victim in the eye and watch their reaction to the realization that they’re done. It’s very fulfilling. Besides, if dragon fire won’t penetrate his armor and warding, I’d be willing to bet a projectile is gonna bounce off his gear as well. Might work for the minions though. No need to individually stare twenty men in the eye…although it would be a new personal best. That settles it…pointy things at hand-to-hand range it is.
That choice makes packing easy. I walk over to the armoire on the wall opposite the entrance to my room. It’s a gaudy, overdone thing with relief carvings on both doors of scenes from Greek mythology. One door shows Perseus’ battle with the Kraken and the other depicts Hercules’ battle with the lion. The center of the two doors has a snake carved into it that begins on the leftmost door, winds through the handles, and ends on the right hand door. The snake not only locks the handles together, but it is also the security system that prevents forced entry. Touch the snake and it will hiss as a warning to the would-be intruder. Pull hard on a handle or try to break the snake. and it will pull its head free of the door and strike. The venom it carries is deadly and fast. Once its job is done the head will reattach to the door, locking them tight once again. It was a gift from a grateful client, and it’s very cool.
I put my index finger lightly on the head of the snake. When it hisses, I speak the Greek word for peace, “Eiríni.” As the last sound of the word ends the snake crawls out of the handles and coils itself on a rock in the carving of Hercules. Now I can open the door and not die. Funny thing is that’s not even the coolest part. What’s inside is the part that’s truly mind blowing to someone who grew up on a world completely devoid of magic.
If you look around the side of the cabinet, there’s a space between it and the wall. From the outside it’s about thirty inches deep and about fifty four inches across. Inside though…that’s something entirely different.
If I had used a different password it would open up to an standard armoire with my clothes hanging neatly in a row on one side, and shelves with folded items and boots on the other. Like so many things here in The Bar, when opened correctly, the door to the armoire is actually a doorway to somewhere else. The particular password I used to soothe the guardian opens a doorway to my armory. There’s a slight tingle as I step through into the armory which is a room roughly twenty feet by thirty feet. It is lined on both walls with weapons of every kind imaginable. There’s even more than a few that were purpose built for me to use on specific jobs. I never throw anything away though. I mean, you never know when a wrist mounted scorpion launcher will come in handy.
In the center of the room is a forge, a workbench, piles of raw materials, and Mikey. Mikey is my weapon smith, quartermaster, and one twisted piece of technology. Mikey’s an intelligent automaton. At one point in his existence I think he may have been flesh and blood. Never really got him to commit on that but some of his stories lead me to believe he hasn’t always been a mechanical being. He’s got a sick sense of humor and has created some of my more sadistic weaponry. A tendency to violence like he has can’t be programmed. It’s got to be nurtured and grown in a life of tragedy…ask me how I know.
Now though, he’s a clockwork man. Reminds me of some of the things from steampunk novels I read in my youth. He stands about four and a half feet tall and kind of looks like an old pot belly stove with arms, legs, and a head. There are no real servos or anything anywhere on him. His arms and legs are literally metal bars with a hinge where the joints would be. In all honesty I don’t know how he works. Nothing about him looks like it should function the way it does. He came with the armoire, so I don’t question it too much. He’s handy to have around though.
“Morning Mikey,” I say as I walk into the room. He’s jumped me before when I snuck up on him. Punches from a metal fist hurt, so I’m careful to announce my arrival now.
He looked up from his workbench and said, “Hey Boss-man! Since you never come in here just to hang out and shoot the shit, I’m guessing it’s time to do bad things to people again. I’ve been working on a small, wrist mounted dart gun that uses those neat little compressed CO2 canisters you brought me to fire little metal darts laced with your choice of substances from poisons to hallucinogens and anything in between. It’s really quite good…if I do say so myself, and I do.”
“Thanks Mikey, but I think this one is going to be a strictly pointy things into other people kind of job. Problem is the intended target is magically armored and warded. Impervious to just damned near anything a dragon can throw at him, so it might come down to catching him taking a shit or bedding a woman, so I can sneak up and stab him somewhere soft. Although I do have to deal with about twenty henchmen along the way. Tell you what. Load it up with some kind of sedative that will keep a big man down for a couple of hours. This could be fun after all.”
“SWEET! I’ve got just the stuff for you!” he squealed as he started rifling through things on his workbench pausing to look up each time a new idea hit him. “ I was looking at that vial of liquid you brought back the last time…what did you call it? LSD? That stuff shows some potential. I mixed it with a small amount of venom from that spider from Orta’ahn. Should make the victim very calm and open to suggestion if it doesn’t just kill them outright. Might even make an orc a little woozy for a good while. Heh…yes, that will do nicely…” Mikey was bouncing up and down and clapping his little metal hands. I swear he’s got to be every bit as psychotic as I am.
He spent the next few minutes demonstrating the dart gun. The darts were lined up in a little five round magazine that ran the length of my forearm. They were made of surgical steel and had a cavity that held about half a milliliter of the drug he had come up with. There are several other magazines on a harness around my forearm that can be rotated around and loaded into the gun without pulling up my sleeve. The CO2 cartridge inserts into a small tube on the underside of my wrist, and he’s made a pouch for my belt that holds several more. The gun itself was uses a spring to load the darts and is fired by pressing a small button that rested in the palm of the hand. It could be reloaded and cocked by flexing the wrist back and then forward. I spent about an hour practicing with it until I could hit a target the size of a gold sovereign consistently from about twenty feet away. This thing might be fun after all.
I also chose a couple of medium length daggers, a short sword, a pair of bracers that were enchanted to make them all but impervious to steel. I’m pretty sure they won’t stop a weapon designed to pierce a dragon’s hide, but then again I’m not planning on giving him the chance to bring that particular weapon into the fight. Lastly, I load my trusty, spring loaded stiletto onto my other forearm. I’ve only not had it with me once and I wished I had. When it comes to the choice of pointy things I take on a job, I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
As I tuck the last of my weaponry into place I turn to my twisted little friend and say, “Mikey, I’ve been thinking maybe I should start wearing something a little more protective than a loose fitting shirt. I don’t want to go to plate or even scale mail armor, but I’m getting more and more scars every time I take a job. Give it some thought would ya?”
“Sure thing boss. I’ll have a few ideas drawn up by the time you get back. Try to not get dead before I get the chance to…” His voice trailed off as he walked back over to his workbench and started sketching on a notepad. I stood there for a second waiting to see if he wanted any input from me, but he never looked up again. He just sat there scribbling, muttering, and tearing pages off of his sketch pad and wadding them up. Nutcase…dedicated nutcase but a nutcase nonetheless.
With that I closed the door to the armory and put my finger on the head of the snake again. I felt it move a little under my finger, so I said, “ Prostatévo,” the Greek word for “protect” to lock the cabinet and reactivate the security system. It crawled across the door from the rock it had been resting on to wind itself around the door handles once again.
As I turn from the door to the armoire I glance at the carvings. The one of Hercules has a grapevine in the background on it. The image musty have touched some back part of my brain that handles hunger because my stomach started to grumble that it was empty. That thought leads me down another rabbit hole wondering if the world I’m about to go to will have anything I can eat there. I’d better grab some road food from downstairs. Bobby makes a mean energy bar out of grains, nuts, and dried fruit. Packs a lot of calories into a small package.
I grab a small pouch that ties onto my belt and head down stairs to load up. While I’m there, Bobby puts a sandwich, an MLT...mutton, lettuce & tomato on rye just the way I like it, where the mutton is lean and the tomato is ripe, along with a bottle of dark. It’s like he knows me. While I’m eating my sandwich, he fills up my pouch with his energy bar creations. I take a second bottle of the dark and head back up to my room.
Just as I’m about to open my door I hear Bobby say, “Have fun storming the castle!”
I laugh, shoot him the finger, and head back into my room shutting the door behind me. I turn back to the door and activate the runes that shift its purpose from a doorway to The Bar to a portal to my intended destination. I put the dragon scale in my palm and press it to the last rune in the center of the door and picture my new employer in my mind. I feel the magic of the portal connect, so I open the door, draw daggers, and step through.
After the momentary dizziness of stepping through a dimensional gateway clears, I take a look at my surroundings. I’m standing in a hut. Looks like a two roomed building with a thatched roof, daub walls, cobble stone floor, and a cozy little stone fireplace. The furniture is rough construction and simple but looks study and comfortable. There’s a trap door in one corner that likely leads to a root cellar. It kind of reminds me of some of the old country cottages in the British Isles back home. Well, this is not what I expected at all…