I love these nightly trips into the living blood of the city, Arashimura. All these people with their various hopes and dreams, sins and schemes, how they plan ill on each other, and are shocked and angered when the same is done to them. I find this sweaty soup delicious. I move through its underbelly without causing a stir in this shape I have made for my Ka.
I meet a fellow who has directed me to a fair number of adventures. Corbain is the name by which I know him. Tonight we sit at table in a dank tavern I frequent. Corbain knows the place well, but tonight he is nervous.
“Look, I told you I’d get you in touch with someone bigger and I have.” The creature sweats, he intends to betray me, he has contempt for me, and yet my reputation, the scary bits, proceed me. He sweats more than the closeness of the dark tavern requires. I smell his fear, ripe and acrid. “So, when do I meet this person, Corbain?”
There is a commotion at the entrance to the Thirsty Troll. I follow Corbain’s eyes from where we sit to where the commotion seems to originate, the entrance. The rabble parts, scurrying from the murk into deeper shadows of this most disreputable of establishments. When I glance back, my contact, my betrayer, has fled.
The crowded bar has cleared considerably when I look back. I see it is for good reason. Approaching is none other than the Lord High Captain of Arashimura, the City guard. How very odd. I think I shall reward my betrayer. I feign effort to escape which elicits the desired effect.
I see Allston Soulaucy is an angry man, passed over twice for command of the King’s Guard. His mailed fist and armor wrapped arm slam me back into the corner and he sits in his gloriously shiny armor upon the filthy bench. I think he looks ridiculously out of place, glittering here amongst the squalor of the Troll. The armor however is exquisite, I realise my danger too late, I must have it. Everyone has their own particular vice, chief among mine is an inordinate affection for shiny things.
I can actually see my reflection in the brave captain’s breastplate, remy blue-gray eyes in a crestfallen face, thin lips from which blood now trickles. I lick up the bloody spittle with a tongue nearly as red. My hair, my beard, such as it is, is dirty grey. I look a proper mess. Especially next to noble Allston.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He fairly shouts. It is a voice for the parade grounds of the royal palace not for the Thirsty Troll.
“I’m sure my lord knows. I am here to meet someone. It is what I do.”
He scowls. He is unable to make much of what I’ve said I’ll warrant, not over bright this one, a man of action and not of thought. I flatter myself that I am both, though I don’t look it. I see the symbol of the king of Arashimura, Ah look at that golden dragon, proud rampant on the breastplate, why I do believe it might be solid gold. I seem to grovel, not meeting his eyes, but how can I with the glittering splendor of his armor?
“I was told “the Worm” would be here.”
I chuckle. The Captain tenses, his mailed fists rise from the table. “Calm calm, there is no need of violence.” I’ll play the weakling that he believes me. He believes. I speak soothingly, “I too am called the worm by many. If I be but a worm, still a worm I am, and THE worm, THE Wyrm at the heart of Arashimura, well, big worm, small worm, we worms keep together.”
“You will take me to your master at once.” Ah the arrogance. I bow obsequiously and obsessively. Again this is behavior out of the proud Captain’s experience, he looks uncomfortable.
“My lord may wish to slay me now then.” I cringe, I grovel, inside I laugh, “This worm would be a poor servant if I came for no good reason to the master. He would kill me for less and not so quick.” I bear my thin chest as if I expect him to draw his longsword, as if he even could. Look there in the reflection, why I can count my ribs and look at me, so pale, my fishbelly whiteness. The breastplate must be silver plate. I glance up to gauge him, he looks disgusted. Now I notice that he is wearing the most exquistite helm, polished golden and surmounted by a dragon much like the breastplate. I know bliss.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he chides me. The oaf is thick of neck holding up so rich a helmet I shouldn’t wonder, but his head is mostly bone. I do believe the dragon on the shining helm is solid gold as well. We have negotiated, I have won, that I never doubted.
“If there was some urgent matter of import to my lord, The Wyrm, he might not strike me down out of hand. What matter might I bring to the Wyrm at the heart of Arashimura that would preserve my poor life?”
Such a highplaced official will be hard to explain, especially one who is so indescrete as to invade the dark alleys of the capital city. My mind is awhirl with the delicious danger and. . .
“There have been dreams. A force that threatens the king, that threatens all Aerenor. . .” My lord Captain has learned some descretion, this passes to me at a whisper and I confess, I lean closer for more of this delicious tidbit.
“A dream? A nightmare? Why I dream fearful things almost on a night. . .” I lie with conviction. I do not dream, neither do I sleep.
My lord of the Guard is not pleased, his eyes narrow as if he has detected mockery, but he will never realize that this all, this of my shape, this of creeping among the dregs is all mockery. It amuses me. “No ordinary dreams, nay, these have fallen on the high priests of the one true church.”
“Truly? Even those mighty in things divine?” I seem to ponder as if I am as dull witted as he. Oh, what can this mean I seem to think?
But I know now what this means to Allston Soulaucy, the past-over, this would undoubtedly be the concern of his superiour, the Commander of the Kings guard, and if indeed it threatened all Aerenor at least the Marshall of all the armies not to mention Lyemis himself. My glittering friend would upstage everyone and so earn the advancement that he has failed to achieve so far.
I feign resolution, as if a dull mind has finally come to some understanding. Uh, but now it slips away into some concern. I watch my prey’s face fall as he sees a question rise to my lips, “but isn’t this the purvue of the Lord of Whispers. . .” I say and then I pause as if a completely new idea has just sprung to mind, “. . . or surely Tolver Maldrace, the Lord Commander of the King’s guard?”
Allston glowers predictably. Just as predictably he says, “The Lord of Whispers does not have the confidence of our Righteous King, and as to Maldrace, well, I do not doubt his loyalty, but I fear this might be beyond him. My concern is for Lyemis, for Aerenor.”
“Still, it might be that the Lord of Whispers should be consulted, not bother you with such as th. . .”
“NO no,” The Captain glances around seeking ears that may betray him when the ears that have betrayed him hang on either side of his pea brain. “I seek confirmation outside of the palace, clarity that will preserve our King.”
“Oh yes, long may he live.” Again the wheels seem to churn slowly behind my eyes. I will take him by way of my favorite brothel and by secret ways to my lair. Allston will never get his promotion, but then what he will learn will be of little use to Lyemis anyhow. And now I come to a firm decision and the words form and I say, “This must come to my master as soon as can be.”
There is delight that shines on Allston’s face almost as brightly as his glittering armor. This will be enjoyable. I do so love surprises.