Friday, June 28, 2019

Retribution Pt 4 - Infiltration and Rescue


Next installment in Retribution.  It's the longest chapter so far, but hopefully it's got enough action to not get boring.  Let me know what you think.

-Tole

Valsh had one of his scouts lead me to where the Goran was holed up.  Turns out it was right in the middle of the village of a rival clan. Orc villages are interesting places.  They’re all laid out in a similar fashion.  There’s usually an earthen barricade surrounding it topped with either a wooden fence or wooden pikes protruding from the wall.  This village opted for the pike version.  Inside of that the huts are usually arranged by rank in the clan.  The lowest members live at the edges of the village in the smallest huts.  Usually young, unblooded warriors hoping to gain glory in defending the village from attack live there.

The next layer will be the merchant caste, the ones who make weapons, armor, food, and other things to keep an army and a village moving.  Orcs are pretty much all fighters, but there are things that must be done to keep things moving.

After that comes the seasoned veterans and their families. This will be the biggest part of the village.  The vast majority of the clan falls into this caste. These will be some of the largest huts because orc warriors tend to have more than one wife and hordes of children.  Only thing an orc likes as much as fighting is fucking and they do a lot of both. Sometimes they do both at the same time.  Orc women are…feisty. Don’t ask me how I know.

Finally at the center of the village will be the feasting hall, the hut of the clan shaman, and the home and hall of the War Leader.  All three of this building are huge. If I were a betting man, I would put the Goran and his acquisitions in the feasting hall.  Seems obvious to me, and orcs aren’t the most creative thinkers on the known worlds.  Obvious would be the safest bet.  Not to mention that by the time an attacking force got that far into the village, IF they got that far, there’d be plenty of time to slaughter the captives. Since scouting the village beyond learning the guard rotation isn’t really necessary, I guess that will be the first thing I do. 

Oh, there’s one other thing all orc villages have in common. They are all designed to defend against a mass assault.  The thought that someone might sneak in under the cover of darkness and slit their throats while they sleep never even enters their minds.  Their sense of honor would never allow it.  Personally, I’m just as happy to sneak in, put a mother fucker down, and sneak the hell back out again.  That’s why I have been so successful here.  If I’m being totally honest, I don’t really even have to try that hard.  Just stick to the shadows and be aware of my surroundings.  They just…don’t…get it.

It takes me all of about twenty minutes to find my point of entry.  Orcs are all huge so their fortifications are built to stop orc sized things.  I found a human-sized gap pretty quick and had the timing of the guard patrols clocked shortly after.  Once it’s dark, I’ll be in their camp without any of them even knowing I exist, or at least that’s my plan.

I make my way back to my hiding place in the brush about a half mile from the village and settle in to wait for night. While I’m lying there, I run through the scenarios of what I am planning to do.  If those pups are in the main hall, it’s gonna be bloody getting them out.  I’m not here to fight a war.  I’m here to gather intel.  If Valsh wants those squalling little shits taken out of there, he’s going to be the one to do it.  I’m just after the Goran and whatever information I can extract from his little armpit brain. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll give Valsh and his people any information I gather on defenses and what not, but as for standup face-to-face combat…fuck a whole bunch of that noise.  That’s for him to handle.

Somewhere around mid-day I started getting a little restless.  Time to get up and move around.  I have to piss anyway.  I’m not holding a sniper position so no need to do it in a bottle.  I stand up and walk about twenty yards from my hiding place. I’m rounding a rather large tree to take care of what needs taking care of and I find myself face to face with the biggest goddam spider you can imagine.  This thing is about the size of a really big dog or a really small horse.  Valsh warned me about these things.  Venomous as hell and aggressive to boot.  Like I said before, this world is a gloriously brutal place and everything on it is designed to kill everything else.

What I couldn’t afford right now was to get bitten.  I don’t have time to go home to recover and get back here while this is all going on.  Once that thought finished going across my brain, my long dagger was in my hand and headed towards the critter’s cephalothorax.  Spiders’ anatomies are a little off from what I usually kill, but I’m pretty sure this will be the right spot.  Luckily I realized he was there before he decided I looked tasty, and this win went to me.  That being said I didn’t take my eyes off of those finger-length fangs until it had curled up and quit twitching.

I did what I came here to do in the first place, and once that was done I went back to my kill.  I’ve eaten spider back on earth.  It tastes surprisingly similar to crab.  I hadn’t planned to eat on this scouting mission, but hey never take an opportunity like this for granted.  I might need the calories before this is all said and done, so I take off one of the legs to take back to my camp.  Hell, they’re as long as mine and as thick as my forearm.  I also cut a piece of the exoskeleton off of the back of the abdomen to keep as a trophy.  First giant spider I’ve killed.  I think that deserves commemoration.

I get back to my camp and start a fire just like I was trained back in Boy Scouts.  The flame is only about the size of the flame from a can of sterno which makes it consume very little fuel and produce very little smoke.  It’s plenty hot enough to cook the meat on this leg though and in short order my belly is full, and yes, it tasted like crab meat.  If I had only had some garlic butter…there are somethings I do miss from my life back on Terra.

Once my meal is done, I put out my fire and lie back on the grass.  I still have a few hours until night fall, so a quick nap is in order.  I pull detritus from the jungle floor over me and settle in.  I sleep light even when I’m at home, so I’m not too worried about something sneaking up on me while I’m out. Best to be as fresh as possible when I’m sneaking about.

A short time later the sun goes down.  You know when it happens in the jungle without even having to see it. The sounds start to drop off as the predators come out to do what predators do.  No one want to attract their attention.  I wake from my little snooze as it happens.  I’m just another predator ready to go out into my element.  Night in the jungle stirs something in my hindbrain that really makes me want to hunt, but tonight is about stealth.  In and out as quietly as possible and get back to Valsh with what we need to get what we both want. Time to move.

It doesn’t take me long to cross the half mile or so back to my chosen point of infiltration into the village.  They’ve lit torches along the barricade, but I planned for that when I picked my spot.  There’s a nice shadow from a tree that they left too close to the wall.  So I use that shadow and the gap in the pikes to slip in unnoticed and start making my way to the center of the village.

Once I’m past the patrols on the exterior wall, there’s really nothing between me and the great hall.  Consequently I really have no problem stealing all the way to the back wall of the hall.  The building is made of baked mud bricks and wooden planks.  I’m pretty sure I could hear a mouse fart through the walls, but there’s nothing coming through.  You’d think a gathering of twenty or thirty orc pups would make some kind of noise like sobbing or even defiant little orc roars. There’s nothing though. Not a peep comes out. Gotta risk a peek, so I pull up to a window ledge and peer over it trying to not present enough of a target to catch an arrow.

The place is completely empty.  What the hell?

That’s when I hear a roar that could only have been issued by an angry War Leader, so I drop into a guard stance and scan my surroundings.  Ok, it wasn’t aimed at me, so I relax and start to make my way to his hut...quietly.

Just outside of the War Leader’s hut I can hear the argument clearly.  The Goran, the War Leader, and the shaman are have a spirited discussion about the hostages.  Luckily for me they are speaking a common tongue I am familiar with.  I guess the Goran hasn’t leaned orc.

The shaman is advising that they set them free to try and recover some of the honor he sees them as having lost.  He warns that the gods may choose not to side with them should battle come. Interesting.  If the battle comes, the shaman may not feel the need to defend his War Leader.  The Goran is arguing to just kill the whelps and be done. He says that their whole purpose was to provoke a conflict and that will surely happen anyway.  I get the feeling he’s tired of babysitting a bunch of young orcs.  I can’t imagine that is an easy job. The War Leader will not hear of slaughtering pups, but neither is he in favor of releasing them.  He sees an opportunity to raise them as warriors for his own clan once the Valsh’s clan is gone.

He finally slams his hand onto something, and I can hear it smash under the force of the blow.  That pretty much silences the whole room.  He orders the shaman out with instructions to go read the omens regarding the battle he is sure is coming.  Then he orders the Goran back to where they are holding the pups. This is my opportunity to find out where they are, so I grab a dark corner and wait for them to leave.

The Goran leaves through the main gate with an escort of two orc guards.  He doesn’t look happy about it either.  The trail is easy enough to pick up once I’ve made my way back out of the village.  They have no reason to be stealthy, so they’re not even trying. I, on the other hand, am doing my damnedest to be one sneaky sonofabitch.

About twenty minutes or so out from the village we come to a cave.  Must’ve been the Goran’s idea to keep the pups outside of the main village.  Although why you’d give up the defense of the village escapes me.  Oh well, all the easier to take it back.  I can’t imagine the War Leader would put more than a handful of his warriors out here and probably young ones at that.

A quick recon of the area confirmed my suspicions.  Only one way in and it’s guarded by a couple of warriors who are barely more than pups themselves. This really isn’t even fair.  Time to go get Valsh and let him be the hero of his people…again.

I lead Valsh and a small contingent of his warriors to the cave where his pups are being held.  After a brief but spirited discussion I convince him to let me pave the way for his people.  I know how the Goran work, and if he sees the situation falling apart, he’s just as likely to kill the pups as not.  While I don’t do rescues, I also don’t see the need for unnecessary bloodshed…especially if I’m not getting paid to shed it.

After I settle my party into a spot just over the hill from the mouth of the cave, I stalk off into the underbrush to do what I do.  I take a spot off to the right of the cave and start scuffing my feet around and snorting like a hog in rut.  I can hear the two young orcs arguing.  Soon one of them rounds the corner where I’m hiding. One of my daggers takes him in the throat preventing him from making a sound, and the other goes in just at the base of his skull.  I give that second one a twist and scramble his cerebellum.  He goes limp like a rag doll, and I lay him quietly on the ground.  I’m glad they’re young warriors.  I would never have been able to handle guiding a full grown orc down quietly.

I ease up to the corner of the outcropping that forms the mouth of the cave and crouch down into a sprinter’s starting stance.  I’ve adjusted the grip on my daggers so they’re pointing back in my hands.  I count slowly down from five, and when I hit zero, I take off at a dead sprint.  The young orc looks up when I round the corner exposing his throat.

I ram a dagger through his throat between his esophagus and spine. It holds firm, and I use it to swing up and onto his back. As soon as I settle, I plant the other dagger firmly into his left ear. He falls forward, so I pull both daggers free and tuck into a roll. I come to my feet just as Valsh’s warriors come through the underbrush.  The two in front are newly blooded and have never seen me work before. They just kind of stand there all slack-jawed as Valsh steps into the clearing.

He sends one of the group to carry the corpse into the underbrush.  Now it’s their turn to help me.  My new companion yells into the cave in orcish sounding like he’s in dire need of help.  It only takes a couple of calls before we can hear the Goran headed our way stomping a cussing the whole way.

“You incompetent imbecile! You know I don’t speak your primitive tongue! Didn’t you listen when your chief was telling…”

His words fall off abruptly when he steps into the light and sees the damn-near seven feet of greenish muscle waiting for him.  My buddy grabs the Goran by the face and bounces his head off of the rock around the entrance, and he goes limp.  The orc drops him, and I tie him up.  We signal the rest of the group. When they arrive, they head into the cave to pull the pups out.

My new best friend and I each take a guard and prop them up beside the cave entrance using some branches we cut down from some nearby trees.  The orc scarecrows aren’t going to fool anyone for long, especially if they come very close, but a casual glance from a distance made by a passing patrol should be ok.  We don’t need a permanent ruse.  We just need it to last long enough for us to be well and truly the hell out of here.

When they finally come back out of the cave, I noticed that Valsh has a bloody nose and a small cut just under his right eye.  I glance around and notice that several of the others are scratched and bleeding as well.

“Were there more of them in the cave?” I ask.

Valsh grumble/chuckles and shakes his head. “No, the pups were waiting in ambush for that little bastard to come back.” He puffs out his chest and continues with obvious pride in his voice. “ They jumped us before we knew it was coming.”

Heh, no wonder the Goran was so eager to be rid of them. I turn to look and now I see that his clothes are torn in several places, and he is covered in a lot of small cuts and scratches.  Note to self, never volunteer to babysit for an orc.

Valsh turns to the pups and gives them instructions to stay close and keep quiet. He uses a tone that lets them know it’s serious, so they all nod.  He then turns to one of the warriors and orders him to carry the Goran.  Once all of that is seen to we take off through the jungle at a trot.  Well, they trot, but I damned near have to run to keep up.  Luckily I’m already used to running in this jungle, and I got the chance to eat a ton before we set out.  I should have the gas to get me back.  It would be embarrassing to be carried into the village on the back of one of Valsh’s men.

At some point during our run Valsh turns and looks at me.  There must’ve been a look on my face as I was calculating the caloric requirement to make it the rest of the way to his village because he reaches into his pocket and tosses me a piece of dried meat of some sort. He follows that with some kind of bar made of various nuts and berries all mashed together. I give him a nod of thanks and scarf it down while I continue to run.  About five minutes after I finish it, I have to take a pretty good pull from my water skin.  All of the dried shit sucked the moisture right out of my gut.  I should be good for the rest of the way back now though. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

This About Sums It Up

I found this in one of my groups on the book of face. Pretty well covers it I think. 

-Tole


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Small Town Sometimes Equals Small Government

and that's a good thing.

Back in February I put up a post called Small Town Fun talking about how bureaucracy was alive and well even in a small town. While that may be true, it's not as pervasive as it may be elsewhere. We have been working on a garage enclosure, and we are done with the exception of carpet installation. I want to move the kiddo into his new digs as soon as we can, so I called to have the final inspection done this morning.  It went something like this:

The inspector walked into the room and said, "There's the door and there's a window so you won't die if there's a fire. Looks like a room to me." and then he left.

That was it.

Now my house if full of happy people.

I'll put together a little photo montage this weekend and throw it up for here for anyone who's interested.

-Tole

To Be More User Friendly

Ok, so I have had a few new visitors lately thanks to NFO and that got me to thinking. A new visitor would have to dig through a bunch of posts from the last year or so to try to put anything together that even closely resembles a story. That is just flat out unacceptable, so I set about to compile links to everything grouped by story and put it all in one post.  Here goes nothing:

Amazon Listings

Birth of an Assassin

Here There Be Pirates

Short Stories

Welcome to the Bar at the End of Everything

Starlight Shines on an Idiot - Published on Amazon as part of Birth of an Assassin

Professional Courtesy - Published on Amazon as part of Birth of an Assassin

One of Those Days

Working on Terra

Here There Be Pirates - Published on Amazon

To Kill a War Leader

1-Meet Valsh

2-Journey to Orta'ahn

3-To Be an Orc

4-Ambush

5-Into the Jungle

The Affairs of Dragons

1-The Offer

2-Mikey

3-Communion

4-Time Spent on a Hill

5-A Visit in the Woods


Retribution

1-Downtime

2-Terran Beer

3-Back to Orta'ahn

4-Infiltration and Rescue

6-The Box

Mikey

1-Meet Mikey

2-Hephaestus

I will update this as things are added. However, if I ever publish any of this stuff, I will have to take them down.  Never fear, there will be plenty of warning before anything like that happens.

-Tole

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Snippet 3 - Back to Orta’ahn

It's amazing to me how a character that I expect to be a one and done finds a way to just keep coming back. It shouldn't surprise me. I hear other writers talk about it happening to them all the time. Also it should just stand to reason that a person in Tole's line of work would need a network of associates he can trust and go to for information and what not.

Anyway, hope you enjoy. I am working on some more short stories as well, they're just coming along painfully slow.

-Tole

Ok, time to make a phone call, well the interdimensional equivalent anyway.  Valsh and I set up an arrangement a couple of years ago.  I can drop a totem at a prearranged location letting him know I want to meet and he can do likewise.  He’s got the metaphysical muscle to come to The Bar if he wants, but considers it rude to come uninvited or unannounced.  Honor is a big deal to orcs, so I observe the formalities as well.  Helps me keep my head where it belongs. I may be crazy, but I don’t have a death wish.

In a small chest under my bed is a totem with a stone base that was given to me as a sign of respect after the very first job I did for my big, green friend.  It lets me open a very small portal over a small altar in Valsh’s tent.  The totem, its base, and the altar are all linked.  I don’t understand how it works, but it is pretty damned cool.  I just hold it in my hand, think of my need to meet, mutter two orcish words, and a little glowing hole appears in from of me.  Simple.  Orcs may be brutes, but their magic is still awesome.

Once I have the little portal open, I take a couple of bottles of Shiner and a small box filled with bones from various worlds and set them through on the altar.  Valsh collects bones. I don’t question it.  Some people juggle baby geese.

My gifts having been delivered I let my concentration slip and the portal closes with a light pop and the smell of ozone.  Nothing to do now but wait.  Time for food and beer, so I head down into the bar where Bobby already has a bowl of stew and a bottle of dark waiting for me. My hero.

I sit down and dig into my food.  Walking like that burns a lot of calories anyway but I did a little interdimensional travel and for some reason that always leave me famished.  While I’m eating, I notice something getting warm in my pocket.  Oh yeah, the silver box I found on Terra is in there.  I take it out and set it on the bar. Bobby is at the other end of the bar, but turns around as I set it down.  Like he felt it or some shit.

“Where did you get that? You pick up a job while you were out?”

I tell him about my trip to Terra, and he comes over and picks it up. “Do you know what this is?”
I say, “Uh...a box?”

“Wow, your detective skills are really coming along, smart ass. Yes, it’s a box, but it’s so much more than that.  Know those orc memory totems you have up in your room?  This is a similar thing, but crafted by a race of...you’d probably think of them as elves, but that wouldn’t do them justice.  These people would think of Tolkien’s elves as uncultured savages. Yes, I’ve read the books.”

“So it’s a memory recorder?”

“I said it was similar.  The blue gem means it has a recorded message that’s keyed to a specific recipient. Usually  keyed to genetic coding.  Drop of blood goes in the hole above the gem and the message will transfer into the mind of the intended person. Very elegant magic. Very expensive and very hard to craft. Worth a damned fortune on some worlds.” With that he sets it back down on the bar and gives me another beer. “You’re probably gonna need that,” he says as he walks away.

I’m not in a big hurry to see what’s in this box, so I finish my food and a couple of more beers staring at that faint blue glow almost the entire time. If this is from her, I’m going to have to really brace myself. I’m not really even sure I want to see her. I almost broke when she died. Seeing her now, even after all this time, is going to be hard. The blackened grass under my hand still has me worried. I know what caused it.  I lost control of my focus that controls the anger in me.  When that happens, some of the magic I carry around in my various tattoos and embedded gems can bleed out through my hands.  I usually feel it happen and put it away. That day I never felt anything. Might be worth going through the process of deactivating all of my magics before I open this can of worms. Don’t want to risk damaging The Bar.

Well, as the old saying goes “there’s nothing to it but to do it.”  I head upstairs to my room.  I have enough beer in me that my walk has turned into a kind of John Wayne swagger.  Makes the stairs interesting.  I open the door to my room and starting running through the preparations to deactivate my shit.  I don’t do this very often for a couple of reasons.  First, it completely discharges the storage gems in my skin which takes a couple of days to recover from.  Second, it stings like a mother fucker because I basically have to ground myself out and set them off. Kind of like sticking your tongue on a nine volt battery only instead of just your tongue, it affects your whole body. Kind of sucks.

I’ve stripped down and filled the little water basin that passes for a bathtub in my room with about two inches of water.  Like I said, I have to ground myself out when I do this.  I’m just about to step into the water when I hear a little crack of micro-thunder and smell ozone. Ah, that would be the reply from Valsh. I step away from the tub and turn around to see my totem on its base and the empty tin box on the table beside my bed in the center of the carving on its top that the totem is tied to in my room.  Guess the message box will have to wait.

I open up the cabinet where I keep my memory totems and put the box inside. I close the door and reactivate the wards. I hear a scraping sound from the cabinet and look through the glass on the door.  All of the orc totems on the shelf where I put the memory box have slid away from it to the other side of the cabinet.  Huh.  That’s interesting. The magics must conflict with each other.  Makes sense I guess...elves and orcs are never buddy buddy in any story I’ve ever read. File that way for later.

I pick up the totem and what I thought was my empty box. The rattle it makes tells a different story.  I open it and find a coin inside.  Means Valsh has work for me. Cool.  Information and a job all in one fell swoop.  I do feel the need to kill something.  Fortune favors fools. Looks like I’m headed to Orta’ahn. I’d better get some pointy things to take with me.

I open up my equipment chest and start trying to decide what might come in handy on a planet where everything wants you dead. Armor for sure. Dragon scale chest piece and the accompanying neck guard definitely.  I’m not an orc so there’s no lost honor in shooting me in the back with a crossbow. Terran guns don’t work on Orta’ahn, so they can stay here.  Would be awesome if they did though. I don’t want to take too much so no axes or long swords.  I’m not stout enough to go toe-to-toe with an orc anyway, so big stuff is pointless. I strap my spring loaded stiletto to my right forearm, shove a couple of daggers through my belt in the back and hang a tomahawk from its loop on my belt. The belt does have a lot of small slots on the inside for my mini-daggers and some flechettes, so I take a second to load those up as well. I don’t need to take my money box with me.  I trust Valsh to pay what we agree to.  Besides, he’d probably deactivate the explosive runes in about six seconds anyway so why bother. Saves me having to lug it around and stay on guard for incoming death anyway.

Now that I feel sufficiently pointy, I take Valsh’s coin in my right hand and focus my intent on traveling to Orta’ahn. Once I feel the appropriate amount of energy has formed I reach out and activate the runes carved in my door. When I open it, I can see the inside of Valsh’s tent.  I grab the cases of beer I am bringing as tribute and step through, closing it behind me and feel the heat of the jungle on Orta’ahn where Valsh’s people live. Feels good.

Once the initial dizziness cleared, I noticed that Valsh wasn’t alone.  He was flanked on either side by royal guards who didn’t look all that happy to see me.  I mean, I did punch a hole or twenty in their last War Leader that one time. That was a long time ago. Surely they can’t still be mad at me about that.  Just to be on the safe side, I lower my head slightly in deference to Valsh who, I now notice, is wearing the sash of a War Leader.  The crafty son of a bitch.

I raise my head, and look Valsh in the eye. “Greetings, War Leader. May the day bring you glory.” It never hurts to be nice when you’re dealing with someone like Valsh.

He stares right back at me for what feels like five days and then his face breaks into a big smile around some pretty impressive tusks and serrated teeth. “Tole. Truly the god of death has brought you to me this day.  Our enemy has brought an outsider into our conflict and he has shown himself to be without honor.  None of my warriors would risk tarnishing their place in the gloried Halls of War by killing the little lizard, so we have entreated on our gods to bring us one who can deal with it. He has sent you to me just when we needed you most.”

This was very odd coming from Valsh.  In the past he was more plain spoken.  This sounded almost formal.  I raised an eyebrow and said, “I’m glad I can be of service War Leader.  Please tell me how I may serve your tribe.”

It was getting obvious that he was not enjoying this meeting.  I saw him decide he could still trust me and he turned to his guards and said something in orcish to them that I took to mean “leave us” because the one who’d been giving me the stink-eye protested.  Valsh reached out with his right hand and picked that guard up off of the ground and pitched him out the door of the tent.  The other guard followed his compatriot without comment.  I tried really hard not to laugh. I failed, but I tried.

Once the tent was clear, I reached into the open box of beer I took my original gift out of and pull another three bottles out.  I crack them open and pour them into the mug Valsh is holding out to me. It’s made from what looks like a piece of bamboo about six inches in diameter and about ten inches high. It is also very artfully inserted through an orc skull with gold tips on the tusks.

“The skull is new,” I say. “Anyone I knew?”

He chuckles under his breath which for a creature his size sounds a lot like a rumbling growl. “Yeah. You ended him.” With that he drains the mug in one long pull.

“Cool. Ok, so you said your enemy is using an outsider? A lizard?” I really hope fortune has favored this fool and this lizard is a Goran.

“Slimy little Goran shit. Smells like bad fish. Comes into my camp in the night and takes our pups. Sneaky little bastard.  My guards can’t seem to trap him.” Valsh seems like he’s on the verge of violence, so I crack open three more bottles and refill his mug. All the while I am thinking to myself that today just keeps getting better and better.

“Valsh.  I am hunting one of the lizard’s people.  Not a particular one.  I just need information about his world and his people.  I have a blood debt with them.  One of their kind ended my wife.  I handled the one who did it but his line is hunting me.  I am going to burn them all, but before I can I need to learn my enemy.”

Valsh had been walking back to his chair but stops and turns back to me. He stalks back over to me and puts his face close enough to mine that I can smell the rodent he had for lunch.  He looks in my eyes, mutters something under his breath and the world kind of swims for a second. Fucking orc magic.

The spell calls up my memories of that autumn day when my life went pear shaped.  Only difference is that this time I’m an observer to the events from the outside and Valsh is standing next to me.  He pauses the action in several places asking me questions about the scene as is goes by.  He finds my Hawaiian shirt particularly funny, but once the bloodshed starts he gets very serious.

“She died well...for an Altanian,” he says as the world comes back into focus inside of his tent. “You avenged her that day.  Brought honor on you both.  The Goran don’t follow the rules.  That should have been the end of it.  So if they hunt you now, they deserve the end you will bring them.” He followed that with spitting put a glob of snot into a bucket on the floor that would have drowned a small dog. Might have been a little gross, but it was also damned impressive.

I’m going to have to ask Bobby about the Altanian thing.  Find out if that’s the ‘elves’ he was talking about.  Meantime though I need to keep my eyes on the target. I turn to Valsh and ask, “I gathered from the offered coin you have a job for me? I’m guessing it’s get this Goran out of your ass.”

“Pups…” he starts.

“Stop right there friend.  You know I don’t do rescues. I kill things. I don’t save things. If you want me to kill a rival leader consider it done, but I don’t put myself into harm’s way to save people.  That’s how killers get killed. Tell you what I will do though.  I’ll kill a path to your pups and take that Goran out of the mix.  Your people can follow me and save your pups. Deal?”

He sits and chews his lip a second and takes another pull from his mug. “Done.”

“Alright then,” I say. “Give me two days to scout and then we go end some sonsabitches.”

Pickup Progress

So I spent last weekend out at my friend's house and shop.  When we moved my truck, it would just flat fall on its face and die. I knew ...