His mop of hair was blacker than black and his eyes nearly as so, they met under brows that just missed touching one another. His nose was smashed back upon his face and just hung in a mangle of flesh. The hands were bound with cestus.1His boots were of finest leather worked with silver gilding. The rest of him was clad in bright silk and furs, dotted with splotches of blood. His walk reminded of a gamecock strutting for a fight. Smooth movement gave away strongly muscled legs that carried his hulking frame. This would be no easy job, for in the short time that I have been observing him, he tested everything around for possible danger. Even his food was tasted for possible poison. At his waist hung a leather pouch filled to capacity with herbs of every kind. The scent of Aaron’s Rod, Adder’s Tongue, juniper berries and woundort could easily be smelled above the stale tavern ale. All those plants were for treatment of wounds, and by the scars that were visible, had been used by him many times in the past.
I staked a claim at a table not in direct torch light in the main room and hailed the serving wench to fetch me supper. While I treated my innards, my quarry indulged in a scuffle with the gaffer2 tending bar, it was something about not enough drink for the price.
I kept my hooded cloak pulled tight so none would see my face. In a place such as the Goath Tavern, none would think it out of place. My features needed to stay vague to those about me, for in an instant they could tell I was an outsider from their planet of Tourlaine, a Class 3 planet of the Dourquine star system. I had been sent to dispose of the trouble maker, Cudge Bloodoath, before he could stir up more trouble and locate our hidden base in the Sesteen Mountains. I was to remain out of sight until the time of his demise by my hands.
Cudge went out to the stable to retrieve his pack. I took the opportunity to secure a room for the night, before his return.
“You, keeper, I want your best room for the night.”
He replied, “That’ll be nine tallies of copper.”
I dug in my hip bag for a silver and flipped it to him, so that he might not catch the color of my hands. From behind the bar he jangled a key off it’s peg and offered it to me. “Thanks,” I said as I plucked the key from his outstretched arm as if the wind of Arnu were pushing me.
I climbed the half rotting stairs to the upper floors to find the room I just threw away a silver on. The room number was seven, a number considered lucky on this superstitious planet of rocks and weeds.
I placed the key in the worn locking system, turning clockwise until the key clicked the bolt back. I pushed the rough oak door aside to reveal what the keeper thought was the best in the house.
The room was a wood walled, one window box, with a double size bed, fur blanket and white linen sheets. At the foot of the bed was an iron bound oak chest with a key inserted, providing a stash for any occupant’s valuables. A painting of a tall man clad in yellow robes hung opposite the barred window. A throw rug was pegged to the floor, probably to hide a blood stain. One chair sat in front of a poor excuse for a writing table. Resting on the table was a low burning oil lamp spewing forth black billows of smoke and providing sparse light.
I turned and closed the door so I might prepare myself for slumber. While unslinging my pack from beneath it’s place of concealment, I opened the draw strings to show a familiar worn leather volume. I pulled out the volume, and turned the pages to the last entry I wrote, which I reread to capture my train of thought.
I LANDED DURING THE NIGHT SO NO ONE MIGHT SEE MY SHIP. SIGNALING TO BASE, I WAS MET AND TOWED TO THE BASE IN THE MOUNTAINS. I REPORTED TO THE CENTURIN COMMANDER ALRAK AS ORDERED. I WAS BRIEFED OF MY ASSIGNMENT AND GIVEN FUNDS AND A MOUNT TO SPEED MY TASK. LEAVING BEFORE DAWN, I TRAVELED TO THE CITY-STATE OF NILEP TO COMPLETE WHAT I HAD BEEN ORDERED TO DO, KILL CUDGE BLOODOATH. THIS I STATE AS RECORD. LT. S. DREF. THE YEAR OF THE ALTOON.
I proceeded to list my events of the day as they came to mind.
SIGHTED TARGET DUE FOR ELIMINATION, WAITING FOR CORRECT TIME SO AS TO ROUSE NO SUSPICIONS. THIS I STATE AS RECORD. LT. S. DREF. THE YEAR OF THE ALTOON.
I replaced the volume in the pack. Next, I removed my pulse blaster from it’s holster to check the charge in the magazine. It read at maximum, so I returned this trusted friend to it’s accustomed spot under my tunic next to my hearts. I threw off my cloak and went to bolt the door. Shuffling noises by my room made me stop for an instant. The noise passed, so I moved to the bed.
I laid down to stretch my body out in order to relieve the kinks of walking around in a stooped position all day so as to guard myself from detection by the townsfolk and Cudge. While comparing the differences of myself, to that of the painting on the wall, I noticed how inferior these humans are to the likes of my race. They have soft skin, small beady eyes, weak muscles, and puny brains. My kind are strong, have leathery skin, dark in color to protect ourselves from the radiation. Our large slited eyes are good for night or day vision, and we have tough sinews that will serve us many years. To top it off, we have very well developed brains. It’s a wonder these humans can survive at all. The only thing they have going for them is their reproduction rate. How can anything reproduce as fast as dubbits?
I drifted off to the uneasy sleep of a warrior. First light woke me and I pulled out my blaster lighting fast, only to chuckle at myself for acting like an old woman afraid of her reflection.
After suiting up, I returned to the main room to await Cudge and to fill my gizzard. While I chewed on stewed lamb, and drank weak wine, Cudge stumbled down the stairs clutching his head between his hands. He was dressed the same as last night, except for more blood stains down his front. Seating himself across the room from me, he tore into a meal somewhat like my own, still shaking his head back and forth, as if he were trying to loosen something inside. He quickly slurped up breakfast, wiped his hands on the girl serving meals, and headed out the door for the city streets. Waiting a moment, I got up so I could tail him from a block away. Catching every action, every move he made, as he headed towards the center of town. I ducked into a silver smith’s shop to avoid a backward glance, and saw what appeared to be his planned destination, a small rundown leather shop that went by the name of the Tanned Griffin.
Running behind the shop, I spied him between the disrepaired siding that once made a proud wall. Inside I saw Cudge give the shop keep a bag bulging with a considerable amount of weight. The shop keep in return gave him a slip of paper. Cudge looked at the paper, smiled faintly, and turned to leave.
I caught sight of Cudge again heading back in the general direction of the tavern we left just a little while ago. I turned into the stable to check my mount, because it would look to obvious if I came in right after he did. My mount, what was it called? A horse? Yes, a horse. It was fine as far as I could tell. Although the dumb thing is not a very effective mode of transportation, it sure beats walking!
I reentered the tavern to greet the mid morning crowd of drunks. Cudge was there leading the crew into oblivion. I made my way up to my room to get free of the main room, now heated with many bodies. A few moments later a loud knock came at the door, followed by the keepers voice. “Hey you in there, if’n you planning to stay in the room past twelve, that’ll be another nine tallies.” I moved quietly and slid out beneath the door another silver, “there!” “Also bring me a flagon of good wine.” I listened as he moved away to get my wine. Minutes later a knock sounded with a “here’s ye wine.” I moved to the door again, opening it to a broad smile from some cutthroat with a drawn blade, poised to remove my head. I moved back, lucky for me I caught my heel on the rug’s pulled up edge and went down on my side. That’s the last thing he saw as I rolled over facing him with my friend, the blaster, hissing at his chest, ripping it open as if it were rotten cheese cloth trying to support the weight of a Nugbuggle. I dragged his red stained, smoldering body into the the room and shot home the bolt to prevent any further prying eyes.
Searching his body, revealed nothing of the reason for his attack, so I hid his body under my bed for safekeeping. Maybe Cudge sent him to kill me? Had he seen me tail him or maybe he saw me spying on him in the leather shop? Tonight he must die! After supper when he’s sluggish, I’ll creep into his room and give him the present his friend intended for me. I spent the rest of the afternoon in careful watch for Cudge to return to his room, damn keeper never did bring me the wine.
Dusk came quickly. I slipped out of my room and headed down the stairs to survey the situation. Cudge was eating a hearty meal of beef roast and bread. I returned up stairs, waiting to give Cudge an eternal nap. I didn’t have to wait long, Cudge soon bellowed to his company of followers to make ready their belongings, because after his rest they would depart.
He topped the head of the stairs and moved down the dark hall, stopping in front of his door to dig in his pouch for the key, pulled it out, unlocked the door and went in the room. I watched this from underneath my door using a simple reflect scope so I could stay hidden. Now was the time for my training for the picking of locks to be of use. I moved out into the hall, scooping up my reflect scope as I passed and sporting the blade of the fool who tried to kill me. I crept down to Cudges’ door, setting the blade against the wall, I went to work on the door lock. Three nicros later the lock was picked, and I was standing at full height ready to push aside the final barrier, when it swung open from the inside. I looked in upon Cudge aiming a crossbow in my direction, if this is when he is sluggish, I’d hate to see him when he’s ready! TWANG! Moving to my left to sidestep the crossbow bolt proved unsuccessful, for the bolt had already bitten into my upper arm. I starting oozing brown blood, imagine that, me ambushed by a mere human! It must have been pure luck! Cudge stormed out with a falchion3 ready to finish the job that he started.
I reached for my trusted friend but found the wounded arm had been broken by the crossbow bolt. Cudge slashed at me, his eyes, beady as they were, flaming with bloodlust. I knew I needed time and distance to kill this ogre of a human. I ran from him as fast as I could. For a large human he could move swiftly. I had a slight lead on him as I came to a second set of stairs leading to the roof. In all haste I gained the roof and made my way to the far side. I turned as I heard a cry for my blood by Cudge. He was on the roof and making a move towards my position. I drew my blaster with my left hand and shouted a curse as I took aim on him. Holding my breathe as I gently tickled my friend, I then squeezed hard. Nothing?!, what’s wrong?! “No it can’t be!” I shouted.
Cudge didn’t slow, he swung his blade high to sweep destruction on my head. Parring his attack with my now useless friend, and stepping to my right to out flank him, I managed to catch the pommel of his weapon and relieve him of his grip. The blade tumbled to the side and off the roof’s edge to the alley below. Cudge charged and grappled me in a suthuse hug. The crushing of the hug was unbearable, how could a human be this strong?! His cestus’s were digging into my back, adding to my increasing torment, my hope started to fade as his grip tightened. I was losing my thoughts, blurry sight, trying to stay conscious. Cudge dropped me down trying to crush me, the move caused my broken arm to fling against his head. He recoiled and grasped his head as if it were going to fall off. The pain I felt seemed to manifest to Cudge.
I stayed down on the roof top for what seemed to have been griblets, Cudge still flailing around beside me. Clutching my arm I forced myself to stand, I realized his weakness, his battered head could no longer take punishment. I limped my way to him and flung out my foot to the left side of his oblong-shaped brain holder. He wailed and squirmed like a wescat in heat! I could not let up, so I gave him another, and another, and another kick to his skull. He rocked and reeled to the edge of the roof and joined his blade in the alley with a thud.
I made it back down to my room to bandage and set my arm and square myself away. My blaster magazine had leaked from the crossbow bolt that smashed it before it broke my arm, possibly saving my life, still my friend!
I hobbled down into the main room and out the door and around to the side to the lifeless form in the alley. Stooping down, I clipped a piece of his hair as a souvenir, as I do with all my kills. This kill I would not soon forget. I then made my way to the stable and mounted the horse, I rode off towards the base in the mountains, once I got to what i deemed was a safe distance out of town, I pulled out my volume, I entered the exacts of the mission. ‘ CUDGE BLOODOATH TERMINATED AS ORDERED, WITH LITTLE OR NO DIFFICULTY. THIS I STATE AS RECORD. LT. S. DREF. THE YEAR OF THE ALTOON.’
Good thing it’s a long way home.
1. Cestus. a device of leather straps, sometimes weighted with lead or iron, worn on the hand. 2. Gaffer. An old man. 3. Falchion. a medieval sword with a short, broad, slightly curved blade.