Monday, July 27, 2015


Eritrieu had been lucky.  He was not a pleasant man to look upon; his hollow eye socket was disconcerting.  Several days' beard covered his coarse features.  His skin and hair were burnt brown, like desert.
He was lucky.  He was far from home.  He could barely hear his God amongst these strangers.  Earlier, he had befriended a Lizard Tribe.  Not long ago, he murdered some wayward hedge knight and stole his armor and personal affects.  The knight's horse had been killed in the fight, but he kept the saddlebags anyway.  The shield was battered, bearing three yellow mockingbirds on a green field.  The dark-green cape had gotten torn and muddy.
Amble Edge was, at that time, a boom-town and a haven of debauchery.  Once past the gates, The Eyeless One went straight to the mead hall, which was spacious and loud.  
His feet hurt.  His head hurt.  All he had eaten for three days were the dead knight's dried peas.  He had moved fast overland.  Uphill travel; wending sleeves of fog through the forest, with intermittent showers.
But, the unknown knight had been a rich man.  100 silver Moons in a stolen pouch pleased Eritrieu, and soon his thoughts turned to ale.  He ordered a triceratops steak, hung his shield with the others and surveyed the patrons of the establishment.  A huge, 100-legged furry creature occupied one portion of the hall.  It seemed asleep. Lumberjacks and mercenaries beat & drank each other senseless, dogs & pick-pockets scrabbled on the floor. Wolfmen fought Lizardmen, and zombie wenches danced slowly.  Eritrieu, however, was more intrigued by a Bone-Man, sitting by himself and crying invisible tears.  His skeletal fingers scratched at his skull over sniffling coming from his empty nasal concha.  He was pouring ale after ale down his gullet, as it splashed down through his ribs.  There were many tankards lying empty around him, as well.
Eritrieu greeted the skeleton, making the sign of the Peaceful Cut.  
"What ails you, Bone-Man?"
The Bone-Man looked up, and Eritrieu stared into the rictus.

"I am Dickie-Dee, the Bone-Man.  I have lost my manhood, my flesh, my brain, and the only woman I could ever love, and I can no longer even taste ale."
Eritrieu furrowed his brow.  “How can a simple Bone-Man afford this ale?”
Dickie-Dee collapsed onto the table, sobbing the tears of the dead.  “I can’t.  I’m running out of silver.”
It was then that a fellow caught Eritrieu’s eye.  Standing by the fireplace was an elderly man with swept white hair and an aristocrat’s easy boredom.   As he caught the eye of the Eyeless One, Eritrieu watched him raise a glass of wine in toast.
Eritrieu crossed the hall, making a pretense of drying himself by the fire.  
“Greetings,” said Eritrieu, making the sign of the Peaceful Cut.
Now that he was close, the old gentleman was not as dashing as he appeared from afar.  His clothes were last year’s, and cheap perfume lingered about him.  He looked gaunt and pale.
“Greetings, sir,” said the old man, taking a sip of dark wine.
“I’m looking for work.  I know how to use this.”  Eritrieu patted his sword.
The aristocrat looked startled for a moment.  Then a strange, cold light came into his eyes.  
“Perhaps.”  His voice was phlegmatically lachrymose.  He took another sip of wine.   Eritrieu noticed that his teeth were unusually sharp.  
The old man stepped closer, into the firelight.  “I need pick-pockets.  Alive, or freshly dead.  Their lives are forfeit anyway - you’d be dispensing justice.  Just leave them inside the trap-door to the loft.”
“Is there a reward?”
“Yes - this necklace.”
Eritrieu snatched a pickpocket scrambling by - an urchin of about 14 - and picked him up by the collar.  He stomped over to the trap-door, ripped it open, threw the teen inside and slammed the deadbolt home.
He returned to the vampire.  “Give me the necklace.”
He plucked it from the stunned vampire’s hand.  It was a black cord, from which hung a single onyx and a small, golden representation of a man in a burial shroud.
“It was my father’s,” said the old creature, with the same cold expression in its eyes.
Eritrieu sensed power, and stared deep into the onyx.  A strange feeling came over him - he felt more attuned to death, the world of death, the swirl of metal and anguish and finality.
He put it on (alongside a few goblin ears on a string he’d been saving for a bounty), and turned to get more ale.
In the process, he nearly tripped over a Dwarf.  Both had to move to avoid spilling drinks.  The ancient Hill-Dwarf Blood seemed strong in him, for he was small, pot-bellied, wiry, wrinkly, and his face nutty brown.  In the manner of Hill Dwarves who live among humans, his beard was trimmed.
“Watch it, asshole,” the Dwarf spat.
“Who are you?” growled Eritrieu.
“You address Darvi, of the Crooked-Back Underway. I was a Tunnel-Fighter.”  He wore well-used iron chainmail with a leathern hood and breeches.
“They call me Eyeless Eritrieu, of Barbarian Krax, and some name me Whorebane and Corpse-Reaver as well.”
It was not long before a drinking contest began.  Eritrieu ordered the Purple Death, and the Dwarf took a Spine-Cracker.  Both survived, though drunker than before, and Eritrieu listened briefly to the anatomy of the Zutt before walking away with 5 more silver Moons in his pouch.
Soon growing bored, he sat down on a bench and began idly playing with his dagger.  It was a keen weapon.  
A few mercenaries seemed to have noticed the barbarian’s posturing.  One of them strode over.  “Do you use that often?”
Eritrieu leaned back and looked up at the warrior.  He recognized him - one of the Seven Spartans.  Far Travelers.  They called their band “the Unbreakable Shield-Wall”.  
The barbarian smiled back at him.  “I do.”
Before long, knife games ensued.  Eritrieu began, calling it a “gentlemen’s bet”.  The Spartan readily agreed.  Eritrieu easily took the first game, but the Spartan performed far better when silver was lain on the table.  Eritrieu handily executed a sequence of manuevers, but the Spartan made a serious miscalculation.  During a particularly gallant flourish, he impaled his hand to the table.  All was chaos and screaming as blood spurted and silver jingled quickly between hands in the crowd. The bleeding Spartan returned to his comrades, compressing his wound with his other hand..
Eritrieu sat back, swept his coins into his pouch, and smiled.  
Today, he had been lucky.

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