Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gods' Game 1.2 - Reunions

Episode 1: Arrival
Episode 2: Reunions
Episode 3: Nigh Watch
Episode 4: Big Dogs
Episode 5: Judgment
Episode 6: On Display
Episode 7: The Uninvited
Episode 8: Departures

In the last episode, Jack Large arrived in Misty Bay. It didn't take long for the brawling Straulian halfing to find trouble. This week we continue the story in part 2, Reunions.

Jack prepared to tumble under the giant human's attack. To his surprise, the the giant stopped. "Its the night watch for you, shorty." The giant helped the fallen drunk to his feet, and the pair walked back into the bar.

A Straulian human, even a drunk one, would have attempted to beat an upstart member of Jack's race to a pulp. Jack has had many such brawls and knew how to handle a human. The halfling humphed, returned the club to his jacket sleeve, then continued toward the Full Tankard Inn. Colonists pointed and whispered to each other. Jack held back the biting remarks he had for the prim and proper residents.

The inn was exactly as Harol Stonefist described it. Jack smiled as he noted the brightly painted, five-foot-tall doorway of The Full Tankard Inn. Any place with a door sized for his race would be difficult for humans and elves and that was fine by him.

Jack entered the smoke-filled main hall. Gnomes and dwarves sat at tables or the bar, smoking, eating, drinking, and breaking into song with dwarven bass or gnomish alto. The dark, wooden, curved corners reminded him of a halfling's inn, but there was ample stone that gave it a dwarven feel as well. The inn was brighter than it should have been with mirrors and polished metal embedded with gems hanging from the walls.

"Well, at least I shouldn't hear any short jokes here," Jack grumbled.

A pretty barmaid smiled as he approached the bar. She had pointed ears and was petite like a gnome. Her nose, however, was small and cute as any halfling maid unlike the typical hooked, beak-like appendage that normally graced gnomish faces. Amethyst earrings sparkled in her ears. Hung from a platinum necklace was a matching amethyst nestled in the valley of her open blouse. Jack's hands twitched desiring both the stone and the marvellous cushion on which it lay. She had beautiful eyes of the same purple hue as the gems. They sparkled when she smiled.

He returned her smile. A pretty face on someone his size was a pleasant change after four months at sea with only large, burly sailors for company. "Hallo, master halfling. Welcome to the Full Tankard Inn."

"G'day, and thank you. A glass of your best, please," said Jack. Her backside was as nice as the front, Jack decided, when she turned to pull the tap on a large keg of ale. Except for her feet, which were unpleasantly small and unfortunately covered, she was a very nice package indeed.

She caught him looking and shook her head as she gave him the a ceramic mug of frothy amber liquid. It was very good ale.

With a slight laugh in her voice she said, "Youre from Straulia, I would guess. That makes you the third that's been through here. Youd be looking for Cornelius, no doubt."

"Third?" Jack asked. "I'd be happy if I left the whole bloody lot of Straulian halflings behind."

"Well, you're out of luck because here comes one of them now" she said. She was anything but happy to see the newcomer.

Jack turned to see a face he'd left half a world away. Lawrence Fast Larry Bungershoal froze when he recognized Jack. Jack watched a combination of emotions, dominated by horror and fear, struggle across Fast Larrys face. Eventually a weak and patently fake smile won the war.

Jack felt only one emotion -- cold calculation. Should he kill Larry here, in front of witnesses, or wait and ambush him in a dark alley?

"Jack Largefoot. Your dad finally let you out of the cobbler shop, eh? Good to see you here." The other halfling took a stool next to Jack and slapped him on the back. "I'll have what he's having, Flat Face," he said to the barmaid, still smiling.
The bar maid brought another ale with a look of cold professionalism. The twinkling eyes and easy smile were swept away. Larry took a deep drink of ale then spit it out. "What in the lower planes is that?"

"Im so sorry Mr. Bungershoal. The keg must have gone bad," said the barmaid. "Ill get you another."

Larry wiped the ale from his mouth with his sleeve, turning his attention back toward Jack. "Bloody ale goes bad here all the time. As I live and breathe, I never thought I'd see you again, Jack."

Jack stared ahead, gripping his mug tightly, his lips locked over his teeth.
Larry continued, his voice getting more nervous as he read Jack's face. "Oh come on, Jack. You can't still be mad about that whole South-side affair, can you? I mean, you understand, right?"

The South-side affair involved Jack liberating a large quantity of gold from a band of smugglers, but he was betrayed by one of his own -- Fast Larry. The smugglers beat Jack to near death then hung him from the city wall as an object lesson to others. They told him Fast Larry betrayed him and left Jack to die.
But he didnt die. He lived. He tried to find and kill Fast Larry, but his betrayer fled for parts unknown. Well, unknown until now.

Jack patted Larry on the back. "Youre right, mate. Lets let bygones be bygones." Just as Larry opened his mouth to say something, Jack grabbed a handful of Larry's black, curly hair and slammed Larry's head into the bar. Jack then pulled back hard, sending Larry to the floor.

"Hey," said the barmaid. "Thats expensive wood. Dont go denting it."
Jack almost smiled. He bent down pretending to help Larry up but put his knee down hard in Larry's nethers. Larry doubled up into a ball.

Jack managed to get the other halfling to his feet and walked him toward the door. Larry stiffened when he felt Jack's knife in his back.

"Sorry," Jack said to bystanders. "My friend here can't hold his ale." To Larry he said, "We're going for a walk, Larry. A very long walk." Jack worked his way toward the door.

An old gnome with silver hair stood, drained his glass, and walked toward Jack. Gnomes and dwarves alike tipped their hats or glasses to the gnome as he intercepted Jack at the door. "Let him go, Jack," said the old gnome.
"He's got this coming," Jack replied.

"He may," said the gnome, "but he works for me. If you want to work for me, then you'll let Mr. Bungershoal go. I'm Cornelius Diamondeye."

Jack considered his options. He shoved Larry out the door. "We'll continue this later, Larry."

"Aye," said Larry. His nervousness was gone. He shot Jack a look of pure hatred. "We will."

"Mr. Largefoot, is it?" said the barmaid who stood next to Jack. He had no idea how she got there. "That'll be two drinks you owe me."

"I just go by Jack Large these days." Jack dumped the contents of the fisherman's coin purse into the barmaids hand. She counted out what she was owed and offered the rest back toward Jack. He waved off the money. It wasn't really his, and she was very cute. A little coin couldn't hurt his chances. The barmaid dumped the money in her apron pocket.

"Is there a name other then Flat Face I can call you?" asked Jack. "That's such an ugly term for such a pretty face."

The barmaid blushed.

"This is my niece, Sarina Diamondeye," said Cornelius who scowled at Jack just the way an uncle should. Jack did the best to look properly rebuked, but his eyes kept returning to Sarina.

Cornelius led Jack as one does livestock, with no politeness or concern, just the simple expectation that they will follow.

"How'd you know my name," asked Jack.

"I've been waiting and watching for you," said Cornelius. "The dockmaster sent word you might be coming. So, you're a fighter are ya? I saw what you did to Fast Larry. Dirty fighting, that. So what do you do?"

Jack sniffed. "I'm good with locks, a sling, knives, rope work, and general sneaking about unnoticed unless theres a noisy dockmaster around."

Cornelius let a grin escape. "We're a small community, son. Not much happens here without just about everyone knowing it."

Jack grumbled, "I can't stand folks who don't mind their own business."

Cornelius stopped Jack, looking sternly into his eyes. "Speaking of business, Mr. Large, I'm chartered by the King of Sun Mountain to clear the ruins and lands around the colony. If you are accepted into my guild your actions reflect on the guild as a whole and on me in particular. You'd be advised to leave your temper outside the colony walls. Our laws are strict here. Your little fight with Larry could very well land you on night watch."

"A little guard duty is a small price for bashing the blokes head in," snarled Jack.

The gnome grabbed Jack by the arm. "Come with me, young halfling. The night watch is about to leave. In the Colony, a little guard duty is almost always a death sentence."

Jack just looked at him dumbfounded. "What in in the lower planes do you guard?" asked Jack.

"Old town," said Cornelius. "Come along, youll see."

(To be continued...)

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