October 17, 1973 – Measure twice, rob once

I rummaged around behind the bar looking for the bottle of vodka “You are giving me such a headache.” 

Blue put down the gun he was examining “You always have a headache.” 

“We can’t rob a bank, we’re the good guys!” 

Martialla and Blue glanced at each other and then spoke simultaneously “We are?” 

“Of course we are!  Why would you think that we weren’t?” 

Martialla frowned slightly “I sank a whaling ship the other day.” 

I grabbed another caffeine (or some other stimulant) berry to add to the vodka “Whaling is immoral, so that’s fine.” 

“Most of the people on board probably died.  I certainly didn’t rescue any of them and I didn’t see any other water people in the area.” 

I waved my hand as if I could wave away her point “Sure that’s more of a grey area but collateral damage and so forth. . .” 

Blue snorted “Don’t you watch movies? People like me are always villains.” 

“What movie has someone like you in it?  Creature from the Black Lagoon?” 

Martialla raised her hand “Wouldn’t I be the one from the Black Lagoon?  Because of the gills you see.” 

I pressed my palms to my eyes “You two are giving me such a headache.” 

Martialla looked at Blue “I heard somewhere that you always have a headache.” 

“Why would you even want to rob a bank?” I pointed furiously “And don’t you even say ‘because that’s where the money is’ or I swear to god I will throw someone into the ocean.” 

Martialla looked like she was going to crack wise again but Blue put a restraining paw on her shoulder.  Do lizards have paws?  What do they have?  Hands?  That doesn’t sound right.  Claws?  He has claws but what is the whole thing called?  It can’t be a hand right?

“Ela take a breath, you’re getting all worked up over nothing.  Serenity now.  After you disappeared we paid a visit to the harbor ourselves and found out that the Shadow Lords have Martialla’s niece.  So we need to get her.  That means we need to go to war with the Shadow Lords.  That means we need guns.” 

I gestured to the pile on the table “You have guns.” 

Martialla grinned with her sick fish lips “More guns.” 

Blue flicked his tongue sideways “Yes, more guns.  What we have here is a good start but if we’re going to take on the Shadow Lords, we need a lot more.  And not just guns, also grenades, body armor, communications equipment, the whole nine yards.  We need to put together an operation, like in the old days.” 

Is it possible for a lizard to be wistful?  He sounded wistful.   

“Well where did you get the money for these guns?” 

Martialla jerked her thumb over her shoulder “There’s like a million shipwrecks out there.  I found one that had a waterproof safe in it and Lucien ripped it open once I brought it up.  Inside there were a bunch of papers – insurance documents, Alojzy’s friend said.  Someone wanted them really bad and they paid us, and then we got the guns.  And now we use those guns to get money for more guns.” 

“Why do you need to rob a bank?  Just dive back down for more treasure, there’s probably gold down there!” 

Martialla snickered “Gold?  Why would there be gold?  Those aren’t 16th century Spanish galleons down there, they’re container ships.  There’s not a lot of resale value for boots with seaweed growing on them and crates of potatoes infested with eels.” 

“You found a safe though, there has to be other valuable stuff down there.” 

Martialla shook her head resolutely “It would take too long to check them all, I got lucky with that safe.  I need to get my niece now.” 

“Okay.” I thought for a moment “But why a bank?  I’ve never even seen a bank around here.” 

Blue piped up “They’re all downtown.” 

I gestured “Exactly.  Downtown is where all the police are.  And by police I mean dudes with machine guns who have no compunctions about shooting anyone they don’t like.  This isn’t the RCMP we’re dealing with here, these guys are serious.” 

Martialla cocked her head “Machine guns?  You mean sub-machine guns.  I doubt very much anyone down there is lugging around an RPK.” She and Blue laughed like that was the height of wit. 

“Whatever!  Men with guns is the point.  You want to go downtown and start a firefight?  How do you think that’s going to work out?  Even if you get away with it, you’re not going to get away with it.  How many other eight-foot blue lizards do you think are in town?” 

Blue set down a handgun he had been fiddling with “That’s a good point actually.” 

I scowled “Actually?  What do you mean?  I’m always making good points.  Look, I’m not saying that we couldn’t use some cash to fund our league of heroes, but we need a more palatable target.  Why not go after one of the Shadow Lords operations?  We get the funds we need and we hurt our enemy was well. It’s a two for one deal.   They must have casinos or drug-holes or slave auctions on creepy yachts or something.  We make one of those the target.” 

Martialla set down another weapon and glanced at Blue “That actually is a good point.  My only concern would be tipping off the Shadow people that we’re after them.” 

“They’re already after me, and they already took your niece, I feel like the cat is out of the bag on that score.” 

After some consideration, they agreed that robbing a bank was not the best first step.  Martialla went to scout some potential non-bank targets while Blue stashed and organized the small arsenal they had acquired.  Not sure that the owner, who is totally not laundering money for some other criminal syndicate, is going to be okay with that, but one problem at a time. 

Blue tossed over his shoulder “By the way, we talked to some other people from the ship.  The word is the people that experimented on you and then sold you to the Shadow Lords are a group called the New Founding Fathers. 

“Who the fuck are the New Founding Fathers?” 

Montresor 29 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar) part 2

You cut one guy’s face off and all of a sudden people look at you strangely.  You’d think that the Duke’s personal guard would be made of sterner stuff.  I’m sure they’ve done all manner of depraved things in service of their lord and master the Duke.  Who are they to look askance at me for one defacing?  It wasn’t like the guy didn’t deserve it.  Everyone deserves it.  Justified or not (it isn’t) Bolbec and Cavnas are eyeballing me like a dangerous forest cat.  Finchley would occasionally grin at me like we shared some private joke.  The other guy whose name I don’t know and never says anything was the same.  I guess I can take comfort in that. 

Eedraxis’s . . . compound I’ll call it, was much the same, the tree looked a little more sickly and burned perhaps and there was some manner of glowing weather-vane thing sticking out the top of the main building but otherwise it looked like the same madman’s workshop was I visited almost two years ago looking for poisons.  I think that if I had found a normal black market alchemist instead of this lunatic things would be much different now.  I made a lot of mistakes in those early days.  With a reliable source of drugs and poison I think I could have handled my business much neater and more quickly.  The Duke would probably be dead by now.  Maybe I should learn alchemy myself.  You know, in my spare time.

While the compound itself was the same the surrounding area was much different.  There was a large bonfire nearby and a roped off area with several wagons.  Big wagons.  Big wagons heavily laden with junk.  It was as random as collection of junk as you’d ever want to lay eyes on.  There were a couple of ruffians listlessly guarding the piles and up “front” was a battered table where a dozen or so people were queued up to hand over their junk.  Manning the table was a brawny scruffy looking fellow who looked like a lumberjack but was dressed like a prosperous merchant.  He had on a tight cap that was pushing out a mass of hair at the edges like a reverse muffin.  With him was a female gnome with eyes that bulged out like those of a tree lizard and who had an extra joint between the elbow and the wrist.  I haven’t seen a lot of gnomes but I don’t think they’re supposed to look that pale and glistening.  Kind of like a slug’s flesh.  Brawny was examining whatever the people brought up to him and the gnomette was freaking everyone out with her weirdness and then handing them a couple bricks of wandermeal. 

If you don’t know what wandermeal is consider yourself lucky.  It’s an edible rock made of flour and water with some other surprises.  It keeps for months without spoiling.  People say that it was invented in the Shire but that is utter bullshit.  Shirefolk would never create a foodstuff so terrible.  The best wandermeal is bland and tasteless.  The worse has all kinds of flavors.  Fun fact about wandermeal, it fills you up but it has little to no nutrition in it – if that’s all you eat you have zero energy and eventually you die for malnutrition.  The scheme playing out was as simple as it was obvious – the war is starting to make things scare so come trade all your worldly possessions for a couple handfuls of what is technically food.  An alchemist can turn out wandermeal by the basketload easily.

The ruffians by the wagons looked over incuriously as I headed for Eedraxis’s cottage but bustling out from the front door (inasmuch as the random collection of wood and iron can be said to have a front) was the gatekeeper – a Kostelos man dressed in the motley of a renegade.  He was a tall fellow with a tall hat that made him seem even bigger, although he was skinny as an elf-maiden.  He had a hatchet on his belt that his hand strayed to touch for comfort every few moments.  When he pointed at the table and its two odd inhabitants his arm wasn’t quite straight – like it had a little crook in it from being broken and not healing correctly.

“No one is allowed inside, if you want to sell something you go over there.”

“Oh I’m not here to sell anything, I just want to chat with my old pal.  He used to get very upset if people came around here, looks like he got over that huh?  Commerce can do wonderful things for people’s attitude.  Some say that war profiteering is bad but look what it’s done for Eedraxis and his social anxiety.  Marvelous isn’t it?”

“Eedraxis isn’t seeing anyone.”

I moved to walk past him “I’m sure he’ll be happy to see me.”

Put his non-crooked arm out to block me “No one is allowed in.”

I gave him a cool look “Take your hand off me sir.”

The Duke’s guards weren’t right there with me but they were nearby, and they look like some bad men if you don’t know better like I do.  The Kostelos man looked at them nervously but he didn’t back down.  He did draw his hand off me though.

“I can’t let you in.”

I snapped my fingers “Hey, I know you don’t I?  You’re Grey Horse right?  You’d skulk around on the edge of town selling phony charms and potions?  I remember Augrim talking about what a disgrace you were.” I chuckled “Man did he want to kill you.  The whores used to talk about you too, you’re the one with the dick that . . .”

“No one calls me Grey Horse anymore, my name is Sartorious now.”

“Wow, that’s about as un-Kostelos a name as you can conjure up now it’s it?  Decided to join the winning side huh?  Good luck with that.  Look Sartorious, I don’t want to get into a while thing with you here, can you just go inside and ask Eedraxis if he wants to see me?  I’ll just stay here and wait.  Maybe I’ll check out those junk wagons, perhaps there’s something I’d be interested in buying.”

He seemed dubious but I convinced him with my winsome smile.  I can winsome as fuck you know.  A moment after he went inside I turned to the Ducal Guards and gave them wink before disguising myself as the merchant woodsman and going inside myself.  The inside of the complex had been altered radically – I get the feeling that Eedraxis is constantly changing the place up to facilitate whatever crazy stuff he’s working on.  I’m sure he’s got body parts he’s trying to reanimate in there somewhere.  I didn’t see Eedraxis but I did see a couple more weird looking gnomes – I didn’t get a good look but I could swear that I saw one that had a carapace like a beetle.  I give wizards a hard time (and rightfully so) but alchemists are into some pretty freaky shit as well.  Let us not forget that Eedraxis was chased out of Graltontown for kidnapping and experimenting on dwarves.

Grey Horse was surprised by the appearance of whoever it was I appeared like and was about to say something when I grabbed one of the many flasks of bubbling shit the gnomes were working on and hurled it into a small fire that was in the middle of the room.  It exploded into a cloud of choking vapor because what else was it going to do – explosions and poison are what alchemy is all about.   That and addictive drugs and graverobbing and turning people into weird bugs.  I held my breath and covered my eyes and knocked over more stuff until the place was well on fire.  When I finally ran out noxious smoke was pouring out of Eedraxis’s hut.  But it wasn’t going up into the air, it was creeping along the ground like animal.  It was pretty strange.  Bolbec and Cavnas had their swords out as I ran over to them and started coughing like an old man.

“What happened?  What’s going on?”

Eye burning eventually I was able to speak “Wrong house.  I think my friend lives north of here.”