Taking Care of Business is a story stemming from an email game I've been running since thi

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Taking Care of Business is a story stemming from an email game I've been running since this summer. The only player in the game is Karl Friesen (krf@purdue.edu). His character, Silk, was one of the characters in the first WFRP adventure I ran (four years ago?) He has survived to this day and, although he spent a good deal of time in limbo, was brought out this summer to give both Karl and I something to do (yeah, right). We have made exchanges almost every day; however, email between Clemson and Purdue is almost instantanious, thus there have been days were more than a half dozen turns were exchanged (one-player pbem games are great!) I didn't actually write this story; I just concatinated the messages we've exchanged, tidied them up a bit, and filled in the gaps. So most of Silk's orations were writen by Karl, not me. Also, he had almost as much of a hand in the development of Altdorf as I; when Silk asked the bartender if the back room was in use, that meant to me that the tavern had a back room. As for the shorts I promised, they're coming. I had some problems last week and was pretty much out of school the whole time. Be patient. Jeff Stehman Path: pdxgate!ogicse!ucsd!swrinde!zaphod.mps.ohio-state.edu!sol.ctr.columbia.edu!emory!hubcap!stehman From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business Keywords: A stroll through the city Message-ID: <11724@hubcap.clemson.edu> Date: 19 Nov 90 19:57:22 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Lines: 200 Posted: Mon Nov 19 11:57:22 1990 A Stroll Through the City Ah, Altdorf in autumn, the best time of the year; the coolness of the day kept the stench of the city down to a minimum, yet the bitter chill of winter had not set in. Silk was enjoying his stroll down the walk, window shopping and, out of force of habit, keeping half an eye open for potential customers. It was the latter that saved him, assuming the goons truly did have hostile intentions. That he was their target was in no doubt; one of them was even so kind as to take a step in his direction to indicate that he was not passing by unmolested. Thus it was that Silk stopped a dozen paces short of the pair and made a show of suddenly remembering some errand or another that led him the other way. However, he had not yet put his plan into motion when he was accosted from behind. "Excuse me, sir, would you come with me please?" Silk turned to appraise the sharp dressed man blocking his path. "To small to be a grunt," thought Silk as he took in the younger man. "Looks about my equal. Must be the brains." Then he noticed the matchlock stuck into his antagonist's belt, revealed through a slightly parted jacket. "Hmmm..." Silk reached easily for his hat and doffed it. "But of course. Lead on, good sir. But may I first have the pleasure of making your acquaintance?" The gunman turned and indicated that Silk was to walk beside him. Silk, complying, noticed that the two thugs followed along behind them. After a moment the gunman decided on the matter and spoke. "Well, I don't see why not. I mean, there's really no reason we can't be civil about all this. If we are in error, you will have our apologies; if not, you will be dead. I am is William; William the Sharp." "Well, William the Sharp. I can't say I'm terribly pleased to make your acquaintance. I was rather enjoying my stroll." "Understandable, understandable." A coach pulled along side them and jerked to a halt. "I think we've walked enough," said William by way of explanation. Silk opened the door and climbed into the coach, seating himself in the center of the back bench. He watched as William climbed into the coach and sat across from him. The thugs started to climb aboard, but Silk protested, asking William, "Would it be possible for these fellows to ride outside? After all, if I am traveling to my doom, I would prefer to do so in comfort." William shrugged and ordered one of the pair to sit up front. The other climbed aboard and sat next to William, scowling at Silk as he did so. The coach moved along at a leisurely pace, eventually arriving at a house--a house in name only; since it bore no noble crest it did not qualify as a mansion. Silk was ushered into the house, through the main hall, and then to an office. William frisked Silk, removing his knife as well as his prized walking stick and setting them on a table off to one side. He sat Silk down in a chair in the middle of the room, facing a desk, and stood behind him. One of the thugs remained, leaning against the wall near Silk's weapons. Momentarily, a richly dressed businessman who was moving on in years entered the office and seated himself behind the desk. "Fetch the mistress." The thug left and returned shortly with a woman who was apparently the merchant's wife. She was very nervous as she walked around Silk. Pausing for a moment in front of him, her eyes widening, then she scurried behind him, out of sight. The merchant looked past Silk and his eyes narrowed. Silk heard the door close, not unlike the sealing of a coffin, as the thug resumed his place. Silk's one good eye could not help but glance towards his walking stick. The man behind the desk sighed and steepled his fingers. "I don't suppose you would care to return my wife's jewels before I have you killed?" Silk cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I must confess sir, that I am at somewhat of a loss. I know nothing about you or your lady, and I can assure you that I am not responsible for the loss of her jewels. If I had wronged you or your house, I would gladly make amends, but I cannot answer for any actions other than my own." He paused for a moment. "Now then, the recovery of your wife's jewels is another matter. I may be able to help..." "Silence! I did no bring you hear to babble on about nonsense. Two nights ago you were here on a perverted errand that you call business. If you will not return the jewels, that is fine; they are replaceable, if expensive. However I will not tolerate the loss of face at having some petty hood waltzing through my home, stealing what is mine and terrorizing wife..." Silk's own blood heated. "You will not tolerate a loss in face. But you are perfectly willing to have your honor bought by the death of an innocent. I am not an honest man, sir, but I swear to you by whatever gods there may be that I have never been in this house before. How can you be so certain that it was I who was seen, and not another? What did you see? A man in a coat with an eyepatch?" William set one hand firmly on Silk's left shoulder and a knife point about halfway between his neck and his right shoulder. Silk took the hint and forced himself to relax. "She saw you!" the merchant hissed. "Not a man with a patch, but you! She collided with you in fully lit corridor; she could hardly be mistaken. Enough of this." Both the hand and the dagger were removed. Silk spoke quickly but quietly. "Sir, any thief of average intelligence would avoid a lighted corridor at all costs. Whoever it was who was here two nights ago wanted to be seen, and wanted you to believe that the intruder was I. It appears that they have succeeded. I am at your mercy." The merchant scowled for a moment, then nodded. "Only a fool would do such a thing. William?" he inquired, looking past Silk. After a moment the merchant's eyes hardened and he looked back to Silk. "Only a fool..." "But he doesn't have a rep as a home invader," William added. The merchant nodded to the side and, as William moved across Silk's sight, coiling a length of cord and heading for the chair his employer had indicated, the merchant leaned back in his own chair. "It was you my wife saw. Exactly you. Talk to me. Quickly." Silk took half a moment to organize his thoughts, wishing he could have the other half; however, "There are those who are skilled in the craft of making things appear other than what they are. A battle with one such illusionist cost me my eye. While I am not wise in the ways of magic, I imagine that the creation of a magical disguise would be a mere parlor trick for one who has practiced the art. "Given that it was a disguise that your wife saw, the question is `Why was I chosen?' I have two explanations for this. First, if the thief knew of your sense of honor and justice, he, or she, knew that you would easily locate and apprehend me." Silk gave William half a sidelong glance. "Once captured, I would be disposed of, and you would resign yourself to the loss of your valuables. Thus, the burglar would escape with his loot and he would no longer be hunted by you. This is the simplest explanation, but it is a complicated operation for the theft of some jewels. "I believe that it was not by accident that I was chosen as the one to take the fall. I do not know how much you know of the black market, but it is structured in a manner similar to merchant cartels. There are several houses or guilds which ply their trade, competing for shares of the market. Competition is intense, and cities rarely support more than one or two houses. I belong to no house, and as a free-lance, I am disliked by the guilds. Even though my cash flow is small, they see it as cutting into their profits. If I were dead, then I would no longer be a nuisance to them. "Finally, this thought has occurred to me. Perhaps this is also an attempt by a guild house to strike a blow at you. Have you ever been approached on the subject of `protection' or `insurance' for your goods? Some merchants concede to such blackmail. Those that do not cooperate are targeted in order to bring them around. "There may be other explanations. To me, these are the most obvious." The merchant gave Silk a hint of a smile. "Protection? You apparently do not know me. I am in the import/export business. I own a score of riverboats. If anyone goes against me, I have the man-power and the money to go to war; and if I must fight, it is to the death. I protect me and mine; that is well know. And careful with your 'givens,' but I'll let that pass for the time being. "As one you has purchased magic from time to time, I do not think that what you are contemplating is a mere parlor trick. Indeed, I do not know of a single person who is practiced in the arts necessary for such a feat, and I believe that would make such wizards few and far between in these parts. "It seems to me, my dishonest man, that your rivalry hypothesis is the most probable. However, strong magic would put a high price on snuffing out a single small fry in a larger game." The merchant paused for a moment. "Hmmm, let me correct myself. I'd say that probability is on the side of you having stolen the jewels. Now then, any ideas, notions, or propositions?" "Sir," Silk replied, "I am eager to discover the perpetrator of this hoax, and to recover your jewels. There are two ways to approach this undertaking. The first is to let `them' think that they have succeeded in their plot. This would require that I `disappear'; abandon my trade and not be seen in public. However this would make it quite difficult for me to make the necessary contacts to recover the jewels; indeed to discover any useful information at all. "Another way to deal with the problem is to let `them' know that their plan has failed. I would carry on my business as usual, with a bit of additional flair. I would explain our meeting as a business meeting, to obtain some rare commodity; asking for the jewels might be a bit obvious. While I search for your valuables, `they' may try again; either to kill me, or to pull off another robbery such as the one two nights ago. I would be the bait for the trap, and your men would provide the steel. "I am not particularly fond of either of these measures. The first kills me financially, and the second may simply kill me. However, desperate times call for desperate remedies, and until I know more about what is happening in the underworld, I don't know that there are many other options." The merchant was silent for some time, then, "Theoden, escort this gentleman to the gardens. Perhaps he might find something there to interest him for a span of time." The thug muttered a reply and took Silk away, obviously disappointed that violence was not immediately forth coming. However, once in the gardens he was kind enough to point out to Silk that the back wall was all that stood between him and the river and that he should feel free to try and escape. This particular thug had a particularly evil chuckle, but then, Silk recalled, grunts usually consider themselves to be quite witty. Half an hour later yet another bodyguard arrived to take Silk back to the merchant. William was standing behind him. "Looks like it is going to be business as usual for you. William will be in touch. The coachman has instructions to return you to your abode and publicly treat you higher than your station demands. Good day then, and remember; a man who is in the import/export business is likely to have a very long reach." Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Mon Nov 26 21:17:21 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (ii) Keywords: Taking Care of Business Date: 26 Nov 90 18:02:40 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Taking Care of Business The coach came to a stop and Silk climbed out. He had chosen this place as it was near his apartment, but still had heavy traffic. "Good day, my lord!" called the coachman. "Has been an honor!" With that the coach rolled away. Silk allowed himself a secret smile, then took a deep, free breath. "Ah, back on the streets again," he thought happily to himself. "Gods, how I hate this part of town! Well, first things first." Silk entered the closest tavern and, after a pint and some grub, headed home. He gave his apartment a very thorough search and rigged a few complications on the door and shuttered window, then allowed himself a bit of a nap. As evening approached, it was time for his rounds. O'Malley's Place topped the list. "Silk! I really wasn't expecting to see you tonight, 'cept down at the Moor's to identify the body. We was told about your coach ride this morning." Bartenders, like thugs, always seemed have a strange sense of humor, recalled Silk. He proceeded to the bar and ordered a jar of house wine amid, "good to see ya" and "glad you made it" from several of the patrons. As he took a drink Slick walked in with one of his light-fingered girls; an occasional source of business for Silk. "Silk!" called the bawd. "I heard you was dead!" Silk shook his head and muttered to the bartender, "And I thought none of you cared." "Actually, we have been discussing who we would let take over your turf." "Already, huh? No matter, your just doing what you have to. Nevertheless, it sounds like an interesting topic of discussion. Let me rephrase that; I would like to know what individuals you find acceptable, and why. Please continue the discussion, by all means." "Sure," replied O'Malley. "First off, we like you, we like your style... we like the fact you only have one eye. It gives you a blind spot and makes ambushing you easy, should we ever have to take you out." Before Silk could react to that revelation, O'Malley continued. "Now then, Oglethorpe here has been contemplating a step up in life. He seems to think you have things fairly easy, not actually having to do any of the, ah, manual labor, if you know what I mean. He's pretty sure he could gather a few clients to start life off, and go from there; and we're pretty sure that, what with his gimpy leg and all, we could run him down if need be. "On the other hand, there's Narts the Flea from dockside. He's got the experience, got the connections, and is real easy to intimidate if you can catch him alone. "Buster nominated Rasputan, who pretty much works Broadway and also has a few connections around the university. Terrence here doesn't like that one though; said he's been overworked and acting a bit quirky of late. Besides, I don't really like his name; something in my gut tells me this guy would be hard to take out..." When that seemed to end the list of prospective freelance fences, Silk turned to Terrence, for whom he occasionally moved goods. "So what are your connections with Rasputan? And what do you mean by `overworked and acting a bit quirky'? I don't like the sound of that." "My connections are just that," replied Terrence as he took a sip. "And by overworked I mean that he has been running around a lot lately; always in a hurry, has more drops than usual, etc. As for quirky, maybe he's just sucking on zip. I had a drop with him the other day and, well, he was acting paranoid. His eyes were jerking all over the place and he was very tense. I didn't get a good look at his tongue to see if it was blue, but that's the last time I'll use him; zip makes people crazy and I don't like having meets with crazy people. Things are dangerous enough as it is." He gave Buster a bit of a nasty look across the room. Taken back, Buster wandered over. "What's your problem, boy?" Buster inquired of Terrence. "My problem is your anchor, flicher. He's a freaked out, drug-sucking, worm of a fence who's gonna' burn himself and take all his contacts down with him..." "Why you..." Bam! Poof! Bip! Pow! Oof! Pop! Ow! "Whap! Whap! Whap!," replied the bartender's stick, and order was soon restored. Buster's face was kind enough to open the door for Terrence, though not wide enough to keep his shoulder from ramming the doorjam before he rebounded into the street. "Hotheads," grumbled Silk. "Hmmm..." Narts was believed to be family in one way or another, although nobody really seemed to know how, or even which family. He lived among the docks, near the western bridge between the mercantile district and downside. Silk lived near the eastern bridge; on the good side, like Narts. Contact between the two was practically nonexistant; Narts did not walk Silk's streets, and pretended not to see Silk when he was down dockside. Not that fences were all that territorial; Narts just did not like stepping on people's toes. As for Rasputan, he worked a piece of the Emperor's Highway and bits of the university; a fair distance from Narts and Silk. Back in his bawdish days, Silk had worked with Rasputan, once. One of Silk's clients had the misfortune of being mugged in a back alley (he had the strange notion that it was the best way to get to Betty's Place). There had been a bit of argument over the split, but it had been resolved nonviolently. Shortly after that Rasputan started selling insurance to shopkeepers and that was the last of their relationship. Silk turned his attention to Oglethorpe. Once a burglar, and supposedly a clever one, although somewhat lacking in skill, Oglethorpe had broken his leg. Now he was little more than an opportunist; he did not get too many opportunities, either. Oglethorpe had always had bad luck. "Is the back room in use?" Silk asked. "Nope." Silk tapped Oglethorpe's arm lightly with his walking stick. "Follow." The fence took a lamp from its hook and led the way into the back room. Once inside, he closed the door and set the lamp on the table. Seating himself on a bench, he and motioned for Oglethorpe to do the same. "I prefer to stand, thank you very much." "Very well. Then I suggest that you start by telling me why you think you've got what it takes to take my place, Oglethorpe." "I think you've let all this attention go to your head, Silk. You may be street wise, but you're not too smart. I don't think it would take too much to take over your operation. If I set up shop next to you I'd put you under in no time, especially now. Your base is home grown, yet you let yourself to be seen doing business uptown. Now, merchandise has to be moved, but the locals don't want to know about that part. To them you should be nothing but a sinkhole; the simpler it is, the more comfortable they are." "You have just stated the ideal business practices; lemme see, do I have a feather for your cap? I am well aware of the risks of being seen. We live in an imperfect universe, Oglethorpe, and as you said, merchandise must be moved. "It sounds like you have been thinking of this career switch for some time. My demise could have been quite a break for you. As it stands, you are back to square one. Almost. I can see that you have figured out the strategy of the business. The hard part is in the execution, the details. If you want to put on a new hat, I can help you along, teach you the fine points, but I will require a price. Interested in hearing more?" Oglethorpe sat down with a sigh. "I'm listening." "That's better. As you have noted, there are drawbacks to doing everything yourself. Notably that the exposure necessary to dispose of goods is a liability when it comes to acquiring the same, and vice versa. A two man arrangement can work much better, with one person devoted to servicing the supply and the other satisfying demand. If a person was motivated to learn the trade, such a person would be useful as an assistant. Furthermore, as the assistant became more experienced, he would make a valuable partner, associate, or contact, whichever was most acceptable to both parties. Of course the down side is that you have to trust somebody other than yourself." Silk was silent for a moment, then prompted Oglethorpe; "Your move." Oglethorpe took a deep breath and gave the cord a couple of tugs. A moment later O'Malley stuck his head into the room. "Set 'em up again, please." Oglethorpe wore a blank stare until the drinks were brought in. After draining half of his mug in one pull, he smiled a bit. "Right, I'm interested, but I want to know a few things. Which end do I work? What is my cut in the beginning? What is my cut in the future? How much do we divorce our ends from each other? I mean, we are going to have to find a line that satisfies trust and security; does the right hand wash the left, or does it not know what the left is up to?" Silk looked Oglethorpe over; the thief had a few hard years on Silk. "You got much coin Oglethorpe? One of the harder things about starting out is having an adequate supply of coin." "I have next to nothing; this extra drink was a splurge," Oglethorpe said with a shake of his head. Silk nodded. "That would tend to suggest that it would be easier for you to sell than to buy. However, selling requires a more delicate touch with customers; a touch that matures with experience. Thus, I should work the sales end of things. Picking up goods tends to be easier. You have some clients lined up? I mean, I am capable of working both sides of the street. Hmm, looks like there are a lot of reasons to set things up either way." "I was thinking of having a chat with a few of the boys here. I know a few other petty thieves; worked with a fair number of them in my day. None of them were big time, but then, I'm not fool enough to try and start out big. A rep is important, and that takes time. Hmm, if you are wanting to kind of fade out of the business, perhaps I should 'steal' your clients; that was my original intention." "Sounds like you have a good start on acquiring sources. Just be careful. If you plan on `stealing' my feeds, make sure you do it when I'm not around, and don't do it in this tavern. I know I don't need to tell you this, but I will anyway: be discreet." Silk took a few moments to think things through. "I propose that I dispose of merchandise, and that you work acquisitions. I think that the easiest way to exchange material will be for you to continue your guise as a thief in these parts, making drops like we have always done. Agreeing on a price for goods could be the difficult part. The problem is one of trust or security, however you wish to view the problem. On one hand, I can pay you at the time of the drop. You would then be sure of your profit, and I would be speculating on the outcome of my later deals. The price you would receive would reflect the size of your cut. The other way is to split the price of each piece once I had disposed of it. I tend to prefer the former, even though it may pose problems for me later. It encourages excellence in both of us. Even so, the latter scheme would probably work well while you are getting set up. "In the beginning, you will probably need money. I will supply you with a reasonable amount until you are established. Until then, and until you have paid off the advance, your cut is nix. You can pay off the advance with coin or with time. Your `wage' would depend in part upon the volume of business you bring in. After the advance is paid off, you would receive a fifth-share of the take while we operate closely. Once we split and start negotiating prices instead of splitting the total take, we would aim for a price that would double your share to two fifths. "I think that I will have to continue working both sides of the street for a while, but if you are right about how people view my visibility, supply should switch to you naturally." "Can you give me some kind of time table?" asked Oglethorpe. "Also, are we ever going to be looking at a fifty-fifty cut someday? I mean, to stay competitive you don't want to have us doing much haggling; it would add yet another middleman to the line." "I have no objection to a fifty-fifty split with an equal. Make it that far, and we'll have another little chat like this. And I think that you're right about haggling. It adds overhead and fosters mistrust. The efficient way to do things would be to work together. I plan to start out that way in the beginning; we'll see how it works out. Now then, before you go, one last question: How well do you know Narts or Rasputan? Have you had many drops with either of them?" "I have had a couple of exchanges with Narts. Nothing really notable. However, I have heard that if you need to get something out of the Empire, or even Old World in general, he is the man to see. One thing; I've heard him, drunk, uttering oaths that were not of our tongue. Perhaps he has a run to Araby? Hmm, that makes me think... have you ever heard of him moving slaves? That would make the connection a sure thing. If you're serious about checking up on him, you might look into that. As for Rasputan, I don't know anything about him. I guess I've heard that name once or twice before, but that's about it." Silk filed the information away for future reference. "Well, that should do it. I'll see what kind of cash I can put together for you to get you started. I'll let you know when its ready." Silk made a final round through the tavern and then went home. It had been a long day. That night his sleep was filled with dreams of garrots and jewels. "William said he would be in touch," muttered the fence to himself. "Let's just hope that the touch won't be the hilt of a blade... or worse." Silk sat on the edge of bed (or so he prefered to call it) and rubbed his throat uncomfortably. With such pleasant thoughts in his mind, he began to plan the day's events: "Lemme see. I have to scrape together some cash for Oglethorpe. Shouldn't take long. Problem is that it will require most of what I have just to convince him that I don't need him as badly as I really do. That's the easy stuff, though. I've got to find out who set me up and fast. Rasputan looks to be the likeliest candidate, but if he has strong magic on his side, I could be toast in short order. Looney too. Just what I wanted, another chaos illusionist." Silk's mental ramblings were quickly interrupted by a growl >from his stomach. He rose and seized his coat, patting down the places where he kept his wares to reassure himself of their presence. After disarming the door, he gripped his walking stick tightly and left the room to begin the day, immediately setting out for the main market of Altdorf. There he would not only find good food, but it was also the most likely that place to find a mark, er, customer. He hoped be able to liquidate some of his holdings without being bled to death by those vampires in the jewelry stores. After obtaining some bread, fruit, and cheese for his meal, Silk wandered around the marketplace, paying some attention to those hawking semi-precious goods and to their customers. He took the time to look over goods that they were peddling, checking for anything out of the ordinary, or anything that might actually be worth purchasing, impossible as that may be. The market was business as usual; too many people and nothing worth buying. However, after a couple of hours of milling about, Silk did overhear interesting tidbits of conversation between a hawker of cheap jewelry and a man who, by appearances, was a moderately successful artisan. The latter was apparently inquiring about higher quality and discount prices. Disappointed, he was forced to move on. Silk followed the artisan discretely, checking him out. When his quarry came to a usable spot, Silk bent over, pretending to pick something up from the street. "Sir, is this yours?", asked the fence, flashing a broach. After only the slightest hesitation, the man slapped a hand to his breast, and looked surprised at not finding a broach their. "Why yes it is!" he declared, reaching for the broach. "Thank you my good man." Silk closed his hand on the broach. "Such a beautiful piece of decor must be worth at least a hundred crowns," he said in a quieter voice. "Hmmm, it was a gift and I am not aware of its purchase value. And it seems I have taken it so for granted that I cannot recall its exact composition. A reward is understandable, but I must refresh my memory," replied the artisan with a hint of a smile. "'Tis truly a thing of beauty. It would have been a shame to lose such a lovely gift," Silk stated as he opened his palm to reveal the trinket. He paused and then continued, "If I might make bold to suggest the amount of compensation, 50 crowns seems not unworthy." "Hmmm, why don't you bring it by my shop in about an hour. I'm a tailor on Straight, just off the Emperor's Highway. The Gin Emporium is on the corner; mine is the next shop. In good faith, you may keep my broach until then. At that time perhaps I could study it further and we could reach some agreement. And if you happen to find my necklace, that would be of even more interest to me, I think; especially if it matched my broach. Good day, then." With that the tailor turned and again entered the crowd. "What a stroke of good fortune!" thought Silk. He passed the time until the meeting wandering around the market, although all he found worth purchasing was a brace of apples. Silk arrived at the tailor's a few moments before the appropriate time and examined the layout. Then he entered the shop. Up front was a work area that was arranged somewhat for show; an apprentice sat in each corner, tailoring away. Beyond that were many bolts of cloth and three full-size mirrors. There was a curtain wall between the two areas, although the curtains were only pulled halfway; just enough to give the apprentices a good backdrop without closing off the rest of the store. There was a doorway in the back wall with a curtain across it. Silk was greeted by the tailor and ushered through the curtained doorway; the fence noted a real door on the far side, although, judging by the junk in the way, it apparently stood open all the time. Through the doorway was a more serious workroom, plus a desk, a couple of doors in the back wall, and a staircase leading up. The window behind the desk was shuttered, but three lanterns sat atop the desk, illuminating it well. A small strongbox sat on one end of the desk. "Let's see what all you've found, shall we?" inquired the tailor as he sat behind the desk. "I regret, good sir, that I was unable to find the necklace to match your broach," Silk explained as he took his seat and set the broach on the desk. "However, this pendant is quite striking. It has always been a favorite of mine." He unfolded a piece of black velvet and held the prize up to the light. "If you feel that the combination might be too bold, then you might consider this ring in combination with either the pendant or the broach." The tailor showed little interest in either the broach or the ring, but seems quite taken with the pendant. Silk caught a momentary gleam in the artisan's eye before he put on a mask of indifference. "I seem to remember this piece," he said as he examined the pendant. "Now then, about the reward..." "But of course. I think that 75 in gold should be adequate." "Hmm, I had a cutting retort all prepared, yet you start off at a reasonable price. Less than a gem merchant at least, but still a bit high. How about 50 crowns." Silk smiled. "I like to think myself a reasonable man. Even so, I was hoping for a bit more than 50... What say you to splitting our difference? I would still be doing you a service at 65." "How about a even split, say 63? That will even give you an half crown." "Agreed. Might I do you another service in the future?" "Unlikely," replied the tailor as he opened the strongbox and produced a pouch. Dropping the pouch in front of Silk, he took out another, opened it, and began counting out more coins. "Unless you have another type of service in mind. Still, if you drop by from time to time to make use of my services, it is not inconceivable that you may again catch me in a mood to please my wife. Ah, thirteen," he said as he dropped the last coin in front of Silk. "That, plus the fifty in the pouch, settles our account." As he closed the strongbox and took possession the pendant, adding, "I shall hardly be disappointed to see you; 'twas a smooth deal." Silk scooped loose coins into his own pouch and took a brief look at the contents of the other pouch. As things appeared satisfactory, he doffed his hat saying, "The feeling is mutual. Until we meet again." With that he stood and made his way back to the front room. The tailor followed him through the curtain, calling out, "I am sorry about the delay, sir. It is the first time I have failed to complete an order on time in years. Please try back next week. I assure you there will be no charge." Silk nodded and left the store, smiling; he loved the antics of amateurs. Twas a smooth deal indeed; Silk had nearly recovered the value of the pendant, yet it had cost the tailor half what a jeweler would have charged. Silk liked making money and he liked making friends; good business. Silk gave the streets a quick once-over, looking for Buster and Oglethorpe. Not finding either one, he stopped in at O'Malley's to rejuvenate his strength. Buster was there, and Oglethorpe hobbled in while Silk was still order his drink. "Wouldn't you know it," thought Silk. Drink in hand, he took a seat at Buster's table. "G'day. Mind some company? Ooh, how's the head?" Noticing that Buster was getting a bit dry, Silk signaled the bartender to bring another of whatever it was that Buster was drinking. "Murmur, murmur, mumble, mumble..." was Buster's only reply to Silk's questions. "Heh. I'm not surprised," said Silk. Then he cut through the crap, "You throw most of your stuff Rasputan's way, don't you? I'm just curious to know why. Does he pay better than me, or what? Mind you, I'm not trying to muscle in on his business, but I've been wondering why you work for him, yet spend most of your time hanging around here." "Truth be known," Buster replied in a rather cold fashion. "You folks around here are slower and dumber than most. Your purses tend to dangle free and the strings cut reeeal easy. Oops," he added as he nonchalantly knocked over the drink that had just been served to him. "So clumsy for a flicher," he added as Silk leaped to his feet to avoid the flood. "Is there something that you want to say, or are you finished dicking around?" Silk demanded loudly. Buster glanced past the fence, carefully set the mug upright, stood, and walked out the door. As Silk's eye followed him, he notice that O'Malley was not polishing a mug, but his stick. "What was that all about?" asked the barkeep as Silk wandered over. "Buster exhibiting his usual good manners," replied the fence. "I don't mind him being rude, but dumping a perfectly good drink like that is downright immoral. I do despise waste." After taking another pull from his mug, Silk indicated his need for more. "And draw yourself one, O'Malley. I won't have my generosity spoiled by the likes of him." Another pull. "Hmm. Just got an idea. I get tired of going for my purse every time I get thirsty. How 'bout I pay you in advance and you just tell me when it runs out?" "Suits me," replied O'Malley after downing a pint with one pull. "And I don't think you have to worry about Buster's bad manners for a while, least not in my dive." "Good. Here's two crowns for grub and ale. Stew smells good today. I think I'll have a bowl." When the food brought to the bar, Silk took the bowl and his mug and headed for a table near the back. As he passed Oglethorpe, Silk gave his partner a nod. "G'dafternoon Oglethorpe. How are you today?" Finding a table to himself, Silk sat down and commenced with his supper. Oglethorpe lightheartedly limped over and plopped himself down. "I'm doing okay," he said with entirely too much chipper. "You, on the other hand, are another story. Judging from all your scampering around in here the last few days, I'd say you have more oars in the water than you know what to do with. Careful; if you try to use them all you'll tire yourself out and not go anywhere." He paused to take a drink, then added in a quieter tone, "Or sink." "Much as I hate to admit it, you're probably right; now that I think about it. That's something that I haven't been doing much of in the past couple of days: thinking, except about one thing. I've got to find out who arranged for my little ride the other day, before they arrange for another..." Silk looked at his stew, then forced myself to take another bite. "I hope O'Malley never quits brewing beer." After a few more bites Silk decided he could not handle it on his own. "I could really use some help with this. There's only so much I can find out with my own eye and ears without losing them. And I could use someone with brains." He paused a moment over a troublesome piece of meat. "Grissle. Yum. Got something for you." "Surely you're not refering to the grissle. I was hoping for something more clinkish." "Oh, that too," Silk replied with a smile. "Is this sufficiently private? If not, I'll join you in back after I have finished my supper. You said something about starting small; how small is small?" Oglethorpe just shrugged and rose from the table. "I'll see you in the back room." "I was hoping for a couple hundred crowns. Considering how I'd like to start out, that should get me through five or six buys, but I want to be able to cover a couple of larger ones, should the opportunity arise." "A couple hundred?!? You planning to give it away?" Silk buried his head in his hands. "Sorry about that, I sometimes forget what it takes to get started. Truth of the matter is that I can't spare that kind of gold right now. I can sell off more of my stock, but as you pointed out, I'm making a spectacle of myself as it is," he finished with a sigh. "So, six buys. How much time is that? I can give you what I've got now: 30 crowns. That should get you one piece easily, two if they're small. I might be able to get more, but I don't want to hang around the market; too much visibility." "I'll take the thirty, but you gotta' move your stock, 'cause when I start making buys I'm going to be turning the merchandise over to you, right? Surely you have a way to move bulk." "Yes, I can move bulk, but that cuts into my profits. Our profits, I guess. Profits, right. Did you have any clients in mind when you started thinking about taking this up as a career?" Silk asked, trying not to sound to hopeful. "Yes, I had clients in mind. I gave you a general run down yesterday, as a matter of fact. Silk, I think you need to take a vacation." "Okay, okay! But I can't take a vacation, now can I?! Gods." Sigh. "I remember you talking about who you were going to buy from, but not who was going to buy from you. If you give me the names again, I'll make a round tomorrow, and then dump whatever doesn't sell itself. Are you going to be able to do anything with the thirty, or should I hold on to it?" "As for who I was going to sell to, that's the one part I never really got around to figuring out. It was next on my list, though. I thought you where asking for who I was buying from." "I didn't think that I was that far gone. We've been using the word `client' in different ways. I think of those who I sell to as clients, and you seem to think of those you buy from as clients. I guess they're both clients in a sense, just on different sides of the fence." Silk tossed his purse to Oglethorpe. "Here you go. I think there's a sixpence in there too. I'll have enough tomorrow to bring you up to a hundred. You should be able to acquire some decent pieces then. Once stuff is flowing, increasing your base should be no problem. Oh, before you go, would you mind telling me how much this is worth, and what you would pay for it." Oglethorpe studied the ring for a moment, then, "It is worth sixty, sixty-five crowns. What would I pay for it? Twice that from a jeweler, but if you mean as a fence, twenty crowns, hoping to get forty out of it at the other end." Silk nodded. "Right. Now then, we need to meet sometime tomorrow so that I can get some more cash to you. Here is nice, but three days in a row might attract attention. Is the east bridge okay, or do you prefer another location?" "The bridge will do just fine. As for time, I got no plans at the moment; simply name it." "See you at sundown." Silk sat in Jonathon Livingston Steinman's plush office, awaiting the merchant's verdict on the merchandise. Jonathan's brother, Richard, had once occupied this same house, but had swapped estates with Jonathan the year before; why, Silk never found out. A few days before the move, Richard called a meet with Silk. The merchant had burned Silk, robbing him of nearly eight hundred crowns, the largest sum Silk had ever had at one time. "Nothing personal, my good man," Richard had said as they parted, "But I could use the extra coinage to help in the move." The next night Silk, along with a few acquaintances, had infiltrated this vary house, pulled Richard from his bed, and dumped him in the river; sink or swim, the gods could decide. Silk had also collected what was due him. "Nothing personal," Silk had explained. "But I can't have my rep ruined like that, now can I?" Knowing good business sense when he saw it, Jonathon's first move upon reaching town was to make contact and peace with Silk. Since then, the two had been good for each other. "Hmmm, I make the total value of all five pieces to be 330 crowns. I'll give you 150 for the works." Steinman had an excellent eye. He also was not much on negotiation, but it was worth a try. "150? Let's try a different combination. I'll keep the gem and the chain; they might be useful for bribes. That leaves you with the necklace, broach, and ring. Given your previous offer, that scales down to, um, 110." "100 even." "I hate going to another fence," thought Silk. "Deal." Later that day two rogues met on the bridge. "Ah, sir Oglethorpe," Silk called to his partner. "I have something I believe you will be interesting in. 'Tis a book of considerable enlightenment, 'though 'tis nearly a hundred pages in length," Silk explained as he handed Oglethorpe a small, flat bundle of carefully wrapped coins. "Enjoy." Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Mon Nov 26 21:18:09 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (iii) Keywords: Night Life Date: 26 Nov 90 20:09:32 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Night Life "Oglethorpe was right, I do need some rest," Silk sighed to himself. "Two days and nothing. I can feel the garrot already." He swallowed hard as he tromped down the alley that led to his apartment. Kachunk! The bolt, coming from above and behind him, buzzed past Silk's head. Kachunk! Kachunk! Silk staggered forward as a bolt slammed into his back. Warmth spread through his back; a heat that hovered between pleasure and pain. As he regained his balance he heard someone drop from a roof into the alley behind him. His eye, however, was occupied with two shadows moving towards him from up the alley; between him and home. The shadows blurred a bit as he heard a second assailant join the first behind him. Silk touched both studs on his walking stick. As three small blades on the side of the stick sprang from hiding and a larger one lanced out from the end, Silk charged straight ahead, swinging the staff in a murderous rage. He caught his assailants' off guard, slamming his walking stick into the first attacker's right arm, burying one of the smaller blades. Ripping it free with a vicious twist, he then plunged the front blade into the wounded man's abdomen. Even as the footpad fell, his partner set upon Silk with cloak and club. As Silk warded off the blows, and footsteps bore down on him >from behind, he suddenly realized the extent of his wound; warmth turned to fire as pain burned through him. Silk pressed forward, trying to win past the footpad in front of him. A quick thrust with the point of his walking stick drew blood, but Silk's leg was struck by the club mid-charge. Toppling, he crashed into his assailant and both men went down. In the scuffle, the quarrel in Silk's back was bumped. Screaming in pain, he managed to scramble free just as a club whistled by him and slammed into the gut of the footpad on the ground. Amid the cursing and confusion, Silk tried to flee, but he could hear a footpad overtaking him. Suddenly more shadows arose in his path, and a crossbow was leveled at him. Silk threw himself to the ground. Kachunk! The bolt whistled overhead as the footpad pursuing Silk tripped over him and went down. Kachunk! Kachunk! came from ahead. Oaths of considerable volume, if not binding, came from behind. "Owl! Chigger's still on the roof! Snipe him! Come on, lads!" came the cry from ahead. Footfalls charged Silk from in front and behind. "Eight?" thought Silk as grabbed a handful of dirt and scrambled to his feet. "Six would have been plenty." The footpad who had tripped over Silk had already gained his feet, so Silk cast the dirt at his face; or rather, he realized too late, the back of his head. The dirt had an amazing affect; the man's head snapped backwards, towards Silk, and the footpad stumbled. Catching himself, the footpad raised his club and he swung at a target in front of him. Ignoring that battle, Silk turned just in time to dodge a blow. Somewhere overhead the discharge of a crossbow was closely followed by the scream of pain. "Dammit Silk! Get over here! Smash, grab him!" Hoping beyond hope that he was about to be rescued, Silk backed away from the thugs in front of him, twisting his weapon back and forth suggestively, ready to parry any attack. Movement flickered on his left. A quick glance revealed a masked attacker swinging a club. The weapon was not aimed at Silk, but landed with a bone-chrunching wump on the man at his back. As the footpad fell, Silk's savior latched onto the fence's arm. "Come on!" Silk was dragged up the alley as two more footpads fell in behind him, facing the would-be murderers. "Owl, let's hear that crossbow!" one of the pair called out. Then Silk blacked out. He came to as he was pulled to his feet. "Where are we... where did you..." He was dragged past his apartment, around another corner, and soon onto a main street. Two footpads helped him along while two others followed with loaded crossbows. On the street, they paused under a lantern long enough to pull out the quarrel. Silk passed out. "Silk!" Silk came to as a footpad slapped him repeatedly in the face. "Come on, Silk, this ain't no time to be timid. You got a big hole in your back and you're breathing blood. You want us to get you to a cutter? There's one close we can trust. Come on, Silk! We've run into Chigger and his boys before. They wouldn't have come near us just to find a mark; they were after you. We got to get you off the street!" Silk's eye cleared enough to show him that Bash was the one making the speech. Bash. Footpads. Leader. "Cutter? Yes. Please. Quickly." They hustled Silk into another alley, around a few turns, then to a door just off the street. Banging on the door eventually resulted in muttering on the other side. Bash said a few words through the door and it is soon opened. A servant with a lantern hurried off and soon returned supporting the surgeon, who was glaring about at imaginary points of light. Eventually he gathered his senses enough to take Silk's head in his hands, look into Silk's good eye, then lift his eye patch. "Too far gone. I can't do anything about that." "No, doc, it's his back, not his eye. He took a bolt in the back." "Well why didn't you say so? Strip him to the waist and put him down on that table." The physician went about collecting various odds and ends as Bash and Crash got Silk into position. "Sunter, pass us that bottle." The servant handed over a bottle, which the physician promptly uncorked and jug-a-lugged. Coughing and hacking, he recorked the bottle. "Alright, I'm awake!" Cough, cough. "I'm awake!" The physician gagged and coughed some more, then stared across the room at Silk. "So, is this your first child?" "Sir, that was this morning," Sunter told his master without seeming too shocked. "Oh gods, is it bedtime already?" Eventually Sunter got the doctor into place. "This might..." "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!" "...hurt a bit. Hmmm, I thought I had some finer thread than this. Oh well; Sunter, hand me that needle. No, no, the bigger one." Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Mon Dec 3 15:25:37 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (iv) Keywords: healing, a bedroll, and prose Date: 3 Dec 90 07:01:31 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Healing, a Bedroll, and Prose "There were a lot of splinters I had to take out, which made things worse. I'm afraid you'll be out for a while. If you stay here I think I can have you moving about in a couple of days, but it'll be sore for a few weeks. Well, Sunter will get you tucked in and discuss financial arrangements." With that the surgeon went back to bed. "Five crowns for the late night treatment, plus three for spending the night. After that you become a regular patient at three crowns a day. Shave and a haircut is two shillings," Sunter explained. On Silk's instructions, Smash went through Silk's purse and paid the servant eight crowns. Sunter left without another word. "Don't worry. I'll have one of the boys stay with you," Bash assured Silk. "You want us to get you to a healer tomorrow, or what?" "I would be much obliged for the bodyguard, and if you know a healer that is discreet, we can go there in the morning. Otherwise, might as well stay here to recover, but only if doc promises not to work on me again..." Bash nodded, then, "So, you got any idea what's going on? We was just out cruising, no particular mark in mind, when Owl spotted the crossbowmen on the roof. I sent him off to investigate and he tells me it's Chigger and four of his boys. They had three high and two low. It was obvious they were waiting for something in particular. See, we gave Chigger what's for a long time ago. I mean, I'll let some solos float through, but I don't want no gangs on my turf. I didn't think he'd ever dare to show his face around here again. Anyways, so we figured we'd watch him and see if we couldn't spoil things. Naturally, when Owl told me it was you they's after we came right in, although if you hadn't taken that bolt I think I would've let you handle it. You gutted one and bloodied another, all with a span of lumber in your back. And you always use us for muscle! For a little guy you sure can fight." Bash paused for a moment. "So, like, you need us to make a hit, or something?" Silk bent forward with his head in his hands, and let go an ouch as the stitches in his back tightened. "Does one of you have my walking stick? I'll be wanting that for later." Silk tried to find a more comfortable position. "Yes, I have a pretty good idea what's going down. This is the second time someone has tried to hit me in the last week. The first was much more subtle. Four days ago, someone scooped one of the big hats in the import/export business. Made a big haul. The merchant's wife saw the culprit. Said it was me. Almost got croaked before convincing the man that it wasn't my style, and that I was smarter than to try something like that. He gave me the chance to clear myself; not so much because he wanted to give me a chance, but mostly because he wants to take out whoever visited him. So, I'm the bait in the trap," Silk finished with a sigh that turned into a cough. "As for killing someone, that time may soon come. When I find out who's behind this, I'll want you with me. Hmm, where is Chigger's turf? I don't have any beef with him, so someone must have hired him to come out here. I figure it was someone in his neighborhood." "Don't know where Chigger hangs out now," Bash shrugged. "You boys?" "Last I heard he was up by the university, beating up students," Owl answered. "That fits," Silk said with a nod. "Okay, tomorrow morning, early, I'll go to the temple of Shallya. I'd like a hooded cloak, if you could manage it. I think that my coat is a bit too distinctive, what with all the blood. If you don't have a cloak that will fit me, then be resourceful." The next morning Bash entered the infirmary with a cloak and hood, as well as a shirt. "What's this stain inside the hood?" Silk asked as he was trying it for size. "You going to stand their nit picking or are you going to get healed?" Silk dressed and, accompanied by Bash, stepped into the alley. "Not too fast, now. I still have a rather painful knot on my leg," Silk said as they started for the temple. "I didn't ask for your help last night, but I am very glad for it. However, I am still in need of some assistance. If you or a couple of the lads could spare some time during the next couple of days and give me a place to hide and heal, I would be much obliged." Silk finished by clinking ten crowns in his hand and giving them to Bash. "No problem," Bash said. "You've always given us easy work at good pay. Better than that, when we're working for you, we're not knocking heads; the fewer heads we knock, the safer people feel. You know what I mean?" At the temple, a priestess took Silk aside. After examining his wounds she inquired as to the type of ministering he needed; magical or mundane. "Magical," Silk answered, nearly swallowing on the word. The priestess engaged Silk in some rapid conversation. She was obviously quite practiced at it; before Silk realized exactly what he had said, she had a pretty good idea as to his resources. "Forty crowns will allow you to walk out of here with your body repaired of all damage, although there might be a twinge or two. If you do not have the coinage with you, I will agree to heal you if you will agree to bring a donation of at least forty crowns to the temple by tomorrow evening." "Lady, I do not have forty crowns on my person. However, I value this chain at thirty crowns, and have coin to bring the sum to forty. If you do not find the chain worthy, I will do what I can to bring a donation here by tomorrow evening." Silk removed the platinum braid from around his neck, and held it out for her to examine, meekly awaiting for her reply. The priestess did not even bother looking at the chain. "I'll take the ten now and await the rest tomorrow." That agreed upon, she gathered a few things, said a few prayers, and wove her spell. As she had promised, Silk felt fine except for a slight pull and occasional twinge of pain. She assured him that it would be gone in a day or two. Silk paid over the ten crowns, thanked the priestess and the grace of Shallya, and promised to return by sundown the next day. Stepping out of the room, he donned the hood and located Bash. "Lead on." "So what all do you need?" Bashed asked when they were settled in to the footpads' hole-in-the-wall lodgings. "First thing, I need some cash to pay off the healer. Take this gem to a man named Oglethorpe. He owes me a favor, and should give you a reasonable sum for it. Tell him that you got his name from a half-blind man who was near death. He is the only one that should be told that I am still alive. You can find him at my usual haunt." Silk handed the gem to Bash. "Next thing, I strongly suspect that Rasputan is behind the events of the last couple of days. I need someone to locate him, and preferably keep an eye on him. He works near the university and the Emperor's Way. I know it's Chigger's turf. Be careful, he's probably not happy at the outcome of last night's scuffle. Rasputan's been acting paranoid lately, or so I've heard. Whoever goes should probably have something to drop, in case they should come face-to-face with him. I can supply something when the time comes." Silk yawned and stretched. "The rest will keep for a while. Right now I need some rest." As Bash turned to leave, Silk asked, "Could you bring some fruit or something with you when you return? I don't want to go out again until tomorrow morning." When Bash returned he had fruit, a few sweet meats, fifty crowns from Oglethorpe, plus Owl and Crash. Crash was to keep Silk company. Owl was to ferret out Rasputan. Bash had also brought a small pot of a rather potent wine. "It is best to mix it a bit, but I thought you might want it straight. It'll definitely help you rest. Oh, Oglethorpe says that, although he hasn't quite finished the book, he can return it if you'll be needing it. O'Malley's Place was filled with interesting speculation. It seems that the man you gutted last night was left behind. He was found this morning by a patron of the tavern. Since no one has seen you since yesterday, and the body was found near your place with plenty of other blood..." Bash finished with a shrug. "Oh yeah, one more thing. There was a well dressed man hanging around O'Malley's. He seemed intensely interested in the stories. Oglethorpe told me to tell you he had been inquiring after you before the stories really got started. Claimed you were expecting him." During the account Silk had been busy reducing the fruit to a pile of rinds, stems, and seeds, occasionally muttering and nodding. "Thanks, Bash. I'd call you a prince if I knew that it wouldn't offend you. I'm glad that Oglethorpe has his wits about him. They may be all that he has to rely on before all of this is over. The other man that you saw, the well-dressed one, is known to me. His name is William the Sharp. Dangerous, very dangerous. I don't think that he bears me any ill-will at this point, but I'm not ready to stake my life on that, something that I would certainly be doing. If he's anywhere as good as I suspect, he'll find his way here. If that happens, whoever is here with me should stay his hand until we know what his game is." Silk gave Crash a meaningful look. "Owl, you've drawn the more exciting task. I need to know where Rasputan hangs out, and where he sleeps. The easiest way to find him and get close to him is to proffer some goods. Here.." Silk took off the chain and handed it to Owl. "If you need to sell it, go ahead and do so. You should get be able to get ten for it. Good luck." As Owl left the apartment, Silk tossed down some of the wine. "You weren't kidding about this stuff. I'll be in dreamland in no time." Reducing his intake to sips, he continued, "I suspect that there will be a couple of visits to my place today or tonight. William will almost certainly stop in. As for others, who can say? Could you or Smash keep your eyes on it tonight?" "Smash," Bash said with a nod towards the door. Smash left immediately. Silk was thoroughly enjoying his drink by this time. "Umm, that should about do it. Any questions?" Bash shook his head. "Crash will be here with you, but I have some matters to attend to. So if that's it, g'day." Later that night, Crash answered the door. Owl burst into the room and leveled a loaded crossbow at Silk. "Don't move!" Owl ordered. "Crash, has he been here all night?" "Yeah. What's up?" "And you were with him?" "Of course." Owl moved closer and looked Silk over. "Breathing is normal and no sweat." The same could not be said for Owl. "Okay, now all you have to do is convince me that you are the Silk that is on our side. I just saw you meet with Rasputan." At that moment Bash walked in the door. Owl explained the situation to him. "Well?" Bash asked of Silk. "I seem to remember going through this once before. It was not pleasant last time, and I suspect that the same will be true of this ordeal." Silk took a deep breath. "What's it going to take? A list of jobs I've hired you for? Goods I've moved for you?" He heaved another sigh of dispair. "No, you want me to prove that I'm on your side. That's different. You can devise any tests that you want, and I'm willing take them, but even then you won't really know if I'm on your side or not. At least, not until this is all over." He paused for a moment, then, "Owl, was the man that you saw with Rasputan wearing a coat or a cloak?" Owl frowned a bit, thinking. Suddenly he relaxed and pointed the crossbow towards the ceiling. "He was wearing a coat." As he unloaded the crossbow he continued, "Your coat. The one we left at the barbers. Silk's sigh of relief was echoed by the others. "Silk," Owl continued, "This guy was you in every detail I could make out in the dark, and you know I deserve my name." Silk nodded. "I don't doubt you for moment, Owl. As I said, I went through this once before. So, he doesn't know everything. That at least is encouraging. As for him looking like me, we'll have to do something about that. I'll continue to wear the cloak. In case I lose the cloak, I will also wear a sash. That should be enough for you to recognize in the dark. Wait a moment. Crash, how much coinage do you have on you right now? I mean exactly." Crash looked a bit puzzled. "Well, I've got the two crowns Bash gave me for last night, plus... let's see... 3 shillings, 9 pence. Why?" "I don't know what this imposter knows and what he doesn't, Crash. I just wanted there to be something that we both could be certain of." "Oh," Owl added, "If it is of any interest to anyone, I found out where Chigger is healing up at." Owl turned to Silk with a smile, "I buried one in the meat of his leg last night during the fight." "If you guys want to go out and make Chigger uncomfortable, by all means, don't let me spoil your fun. You've earned it. If you do pay him a visit, please make it clear that the bolt got the lung, and I drowned in my own blood. See how much he got for the job, and from whom. Other than that, have a good time." "If you want us to pay Chigger a visit we will," Bash said coolly. "But it is not appropriate to kill opponents when you've already put them in their place; people are less likely to let you live when you're the one on the other end of the crossbow. Chigger will nurse his hatred; however, he won't do anything about it. He will allow revenge to temper any future encounters, but such is life. That is how we play the game in these alleys, Silk. Even we have rules, and the vast majority of us abide by them." Bash thought for a bit, then smiled. "However, gathering information is an excellent excuse for a raid... if we were so instructed." "Hell, Bash, I wasn't telling you to go kill him. And the information would be useful... Make sure he gets the idea that I'm dead and that you're looking for the goon who hired him." Silk thought for a moment, then smiled himself. "Pretend that William sent you." Smash burst through the door, barely allowing Crash the luxury of unbarring it first. Silk scrambled for his walking stick. "Silk's building was just firebombed!" "Damn! That was a nice location! And my good clothes were still there, too. Someone is obviously trying to eliminate all traces of my presence in this city, and doing a good job of it. Did you see the dog who did it?" "Sort of. He was a pretty big guy, but that's all I know. He was wearing a large overcoat and a big hat." "You want us to go after Chigger now?" Bash asked. "It'll take the four of us," Owl added. "Go ahead. I should be fine, as long as nobody followed you back here. Do you still have my chain, Owl? I'd kind of like to have it back." "Well, that worked out amazingly well." Bash was washing up at the basin while Owl examined a half-dozen quarrels he seemed apparently picked up in the raid. Meanwhile, Crash was checking a newly acquired bedroll for fleas; "Didn't think you'd care to sleep wrapped in your cloak," he explained to Silk with a smile. "'Sides, I don't think Chigger will be getting too much sleep tonight." Smash, on the other hand, was already asleep. "He knows you're alive," Bash began after silencing Crash with a wave, "Which isn't good. He did give us the location of Rasputan's townhouse, which is good. He agreed that Rasputan has been freaking of late; he thinks it's zip. Doesn't know why the man has taken a dislike to you. Doesn't know anything about any fire. Turns out that Rasputan ruled the gang in which Chigger got his start, which I personally found to be interesting. When the gang scattered, Rasputan took to selling insurance to some merchants with very fragile merchandise. Now a'days it seems that he is just a strong arm fence, if you could imagine such a thing. And doing very well, if he actually owns that house, wouldn't you say?" "Very interesting. Thank you, boys. And thanks for the bedroll. I do appreciate the thought. Good work! Go ahead and bed down. I plan to be awake for a while, pondering this information. In the morning I need to take care of some unfinished business at the healers." Early in the morning, Silk woke Smash. "Care to accompany me to the temple of Shallya?" At the temple Silk expressed his appreciation to the priestess for her patience and to Shallya for her mercy. He also contributed another thirty crowns to the goddess of mercy. But as he left the temple his ears caught a bit of verse. "Yea, even the rogue, caught in a moment of despair, doth cry out to the gods, 'mercy!'" Silk cast his eye sideways to see what kind of fool would be spouting off such nonsense at this time of the morning. There, standing as a statue, was William the Sharp, one hand raised to the sky as he recited the prose. Suddenly he turned his head and winked at Silk. "You know," William said in a philosophical manner, "I've often wondered if that line, in all its truth, does not provide some insight into man. Care for a walk in the park?" William appeared to be goonless, but Silk noticed that the vagabond had not lost his fondness for firearms. "Oh, uh, hmm. Good morning William. A walk in the park? What would you say to grabbing some breakfast on the way? Oh, this is Smash. Smash, this is William the Sharp. You don't mind if Smash follows along, do you?" "Smash. How quaint. Occupational nickname I take it? Never put much stock in acquisitions through force, myself. Breakfast? Yes, there is a bakery near the park. I'll treat." "Very well. I was pretty sure that you'd find me. Didn't see much point in making it too easy though. You been hanging out here long?" William ignored the question and continued in his flippant oration, "So, now I find myself asking, 'is someone trying to kill Silk or is Silk just trying to make it look that way.' I've been leaning towards the latter; however, the pretty young lass inside the temple said that you'd been wounded in the middle of the back, left side. If you were going to have yourself shot, that would be a poor selection for a wound site." William paused to insert a theatrical sigh. "I'm afraid I find myself believing in you more and more. So tell me, what have you been up to? Found any jewels?" "Jewels? No, nothing that would be worthy of your employer's interest. Actually, I have been rather distracted during the interim." Silk filled William in on the ambush in the alley, and of Owl's scouting reports while they selected from some fresh breads. "So, for the most part, I have been trying to plan my next move. I think that I'm nearly ready to go. Interested in a little freelance work?" Silk asked with mischievous smile. "Freelance? No, I'm not allowed. However, do you think our enemies are one and the same? If so, I might be able to help you out. What is your plan?" "I believe that we do have a common enemy. My double is certainly the one who violated your master's home, and is probably almost certainly the one responsible for my discomfort over the past few days. He or Rasputan, at this point I don't much care which. However, of the two, Rasputan is easier to locate, and I suspect that where we find one, we will find the other. I was thinking of helping Rasputan wake up tomorrow morning. You are quite welcome to come along." "Thanks, but I think I'll pass." "Suit yourself. While you're here I would like to know what your goals are, and what its going to take to get you and your master out of my life. No offense intended, but I will sleep much easier knowing that our paths were not likely to cross again after this matter is settled. And I do plan to settle it, one way or another." "My goals are to avenge my employer and to return his wife's jewels, in that order. Even if he was absolutely sure that you were not involved in the affair, we would not let you go. You are an obvious connection to the thief and we have no intention of losing our best lead." "You misunderstand me, William. I am resigned to working with you for now. I was thinking of the future; I am somewhat of an optimist when it comes to that subject." "I find that to be healthy habit when taken in moderation," William replied. "Now then, if you will let me in on what exactly your plan is, I might be able to direct you to various useful people." "As I see it, I have two choices. I can try to track down my double and bury him. That would leave the world with one Silk, which is the way I like it. However, I suspect that my double is of a magical nature, and arcane creations make me uneasy. My other choice is to deal with Rasputan, whom I believe to be the cause of my problems. At least he is flesh and blood, and I have some idea of what will and will not work against him. My information has it that it will not be an easy fight. And I would like to avoid killing him just long enough to get some answers out of him. Alas, I feel that I shall have to deal with both of these problems eventually. Well, if you have know of some dependable muscle that can move early in the morning, I would consider that to be useful. "Hmmm. Are you looking for a trouble causer or a trouble shooter. The latter is considerably more expensive, but her skills sometimes border on magical. Quite something to watch, really. You know, if the jewels are returned as a result of all this, I could probably get my employer to cover the expense." "Trouble shooter? I assume you mean the kind that locates the trouble and then shoots it. Or did you have something more subtle in mind?" "Well, the one I have in mind isn't much on shooting; however, suffice it to say that, if you hire her when you have trouble, you won't have any when she's done. To tell you the truth, though, I think your fight is a little... hmmm, how should I put it?.. insignificant for her. Perhaps I should just direct you to the trouble causer." "Trouble causer? That doesn't sound encouraging, but I suppose it can't be any worse than Ardak was. Please tell me more." "You want trouble caused, you hire him to do it. Professional bully if you will." "Got it. Doesn't quite sound like what I'm after now, but he may be useful later. Where do I find him?" "Well, he pretty much floats the city, although the Rat's Nest is his most common haunt. His name is Freedman; no hair, all muscle and scars." Silk swallowed hard. The Rat's Nest was downside; way down side. "You get around. Just a couple of other things, William. Where can I find you should the need arise? And what is the name of your boss, anyway?" "Just leave a message at the side gate of the house. If I'm home they will fetch me. If not, they'll see to it that get the message as soon as I get back. The head of the estate is Georing, Fredrick Georing. "I shall do that. Well, I should be getting back before the others decide to come looking for me. Thank you for breakfast. And if you catch word of who torched my place, please let me know. I have a score to settle." Silk collared Smash and headed back to the apartment. "Well, at least he didn't blow my brains out," Silk muttered. "This time. Does everybody know that I'm still alive? It's getting to the point that a guy can't sneak around the city without someone getting nosey..." Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Fri Dec 14 22:58:20 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (v) Keywords: negotiations Date: 14 Dec 90 20:20:10 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Negotiations "I have decided that it is time to take the fight to the enemy instead of sitting here waiting for them to bring it to us. If you guys are up to it, I want to raid Rasputan's place tomorrow before dawn. I aim going to put a stop to these attempts on my life. I am also not very happy about my place being torched. I plan to repay the favor after we are done there. Have any of you been by the townhouse? Are we going to need anything to get in?" Bash had apparently taken his own look at Rasputan's abode. "It is a three story job; real skinny and real long. There is an narrow alley down one side, but the other is butted up against its neighbor; so much for the torch. You know anyone who does explosives? Anyway, the doors look pretty tough. If you want to get in quiet, I think you're going to have to bring in a second story man to open the door for you. As for manpower, I don't know what he has in there. How early are you planning on hitting it? That'll make a difference for us." "Gods. You make the place sound like a fortress. Probably is, with the way he's been acting. Any chance that there is a vacant place next to the building? If I'm going to hit the place, I'm going to need to know more about who goes in, and who comes out. And I am curious as to how the time affects you guys. Do you not like to be up early?" "If we're going to hit a house, I want it to be dark." "I see. Well, I want some more information on Rasputan and his home. Need someone to take care of that. Myself, I'm going to try to flush out my double. Any of you care to take a walk with me downside to the Rat's Nest? I hear there's a guy who hangs out there who would be good for the job." "I'll go with you," Bash replied. "Owl, take Smash and Crash on a little recon work." On there way to the Rat's Nest, Silk explained his plan to Bash. "I was just thinking that it might not be a bad idea to soften up the opponent a bit. My double has performed deeds that are not socially acceptable, knowing that I would get blamed. I plan to see that the tables get turned around a bit. It should be a simple matter get someone to pose as an angry customer looking for a refund; someone who would prefer to take part of the refund in blood. If my double gets it bad enough, who can say? Anyway, William gave me the name of one who sounds like he might be right for the job." Silk and Bash were well received in the Rat's Nest; almost >from his first words Silk had the barkeep and a couple of the customers in stitches. Wiping his eyes, one of the yokels went off ot find Jubal. While Silk waited, the barkeep filled him in on Jubal's story. Jubal was a pit fighter, a very good pit fighter. So good, in fact, that he had won his freedom. However, Jubal liked to hurt people, so he continued to fight in the pit. He sold his muscle because, quite frankly, fighting once a week was not often enough for him; that, and the money was good. The yokel soon returned with the ugliest mass of scars Silk had ever seen; Jubal Freedman, better known in these parts as Jubal the Ugly, even to his face. "I have a business proposition for you, Mister Freedman. Care for a drink while we discuss it?" Jubal nodded and Silk led him to a table as Bash brought along three pints of grog. "A problem in my family has gotten out of hand," Silk explained to Jubal by way of lying. "My brother has apparently cheated some very powerful people out of a sizable chunk of their fortunes. Nothing wrong with that, in my eyes, but he has cast the blame on me, which has put in a very uncomfortable position in a number of ways. He thinks that he is quite clever. I think that he has underestimated my anger. I would like you to pay my brother a visit and break a few of his bones. Unfortunately, I do not know of his exact whereabouts. He can sometimes be found around the university and that stretch of the Emperor's Highway, sometimes in the company of one Rasputan. He is my twin, and has dressed himself to look like me to the last detail. You'll know him when you see him. Of course I will compensate you for your time and effort. What do you say?" Jubal furrowed his brow for a bit, trying to remember all the words. He pondered at them at length before speaking for the first time. "Ah, now I see the problem. What happens if I beat up you?" "Yes, that would be a problem. I don't want to be beaten up. I want my brother beaten up. Hmm. How does this sound; if you see me or my brother anywhere north of the river, go to it. If I have to go north of the river, then I take my chances." "North," Jubal said slowly, thinking. "Other side. Oh, okay, that's simple enough. Now then, five crowns to rough him up, ten for him to hurt for a couple of days. For fifteen I'll crack a few ribs. You said broken bones; that's twenty, twenty-five, depending on how many you want broken. The neck costs you fifty. Now then, how much are you going to pay and when do you want it done? By the way, payment is in advance. Oh, you're not from a family or anything, are you? That doubles the price, at the least." "What do you mean? You give family discounts or something?" Jubal burst out laughing, and continued to do so for quite some time. "No, no," he said, shedding a tear. "If the guy you want hurt is connected, the price goes up." "No, nothing like that," Silk said impatiently and with some alarm; Jubal was slow, but his mind covered all the possibilities; a very dangerous man. "Tell you what. I'll give you fifteen now, and if you lay into him real good, I'll have another ten brought around. Can you do it tomorrow afternoon?" "That's not the way the game is played, but..." And there he sat for a long time, not responding to any outside stimuli except the taste of his drink. "Ah, there it is. You said he hangs around the university. You said you want it done tomorrow afternoon. You want it done tomorrow afternoon, you'd better give me a more specific local. However, if you want it all to hinge on me finding him, I'll be happy to work on a half now, half later, no refund basis." Silk counted out some coins onto the table. "Here's fifteen. If you will be here at noon tomorrow one of my friends or myself will tell you were to find my brother and give you an additional ten crowns. If you are here for an hour and nobody tells you where to find him, do your best. If you don't find him by sundown then you can keep the gold, but you'll miss the fun." Jubal was silent for a few moments, then, "Da', okay. But only if you buy me another drink." "You drive a hard bargain," Silk said as his motioned for the bartender to bring another tankard for Jubal. Silk then excused himself and Bash. "Come on, Bash. Let's make some tracks. This area always gives me the willies." Silk headed for O'Malley's, with Bash tagging along. Oglethorpe was there and, judging by the way he was sighing and staring into his beer, he was apparently waiting for Silk. Cloaked and hooded, Silk approached him. "Shall we walk, or would you like to go somewhere and sit down?" "The back room not good enough? I'd much rather sit." "I suppose the back room will do." Silk followed him in back. Once there he caught Oglethorpe up on the events to date. "Sorry I've been out of touch for so long. I am currently planning to take out both Rasputan and my double tomorrow, if that is possible. I've hired a man who should do a good job of beating the tar out of my double. However, in order to get at Rasputan, I will need some help. We have located his home and are currently checking it out in more detail. We hope to hit it the morning after next. We need a good second story man to get us in. Who do you know that would be up for the job? And please tell me if you have any better ideas. Sometimes you are able to see things better than me." "Terrence is pretty good. I also know of an elf that is supposed to be real good; has to be for an elf to get away with it. As for plans, if you tell me what you have in mind I might be able to come up with something." "The plan so far is to have a thug break a few of my double's bones, then hit Rasputan's townhouse that night. The second story man will let us into the place. We will then take Rasputan and attempt to find out why he's got it in for me. If he doesn't want to talk to me, he won't talk to anyone again. Oh, `we' means myself, Bash, and his lads. Now then, I know that Terrence has no love for Rasputan, but has had some dealings with him. He would be useful if he was interested in helping. Even so, he's somewhat of a hothead and not great at keeping his mouth shut." Silk turned to Bash. "Would you care if an elf did the job?" Bash shook his head. "Your gold, your choice." "Sounds like a good sketch," Oglethorpe said thoughtfully. "But tell me, how are you planning on getting the thug and your double together?" "He was last seen hanging around with Rasputan. I suspect that we should be able to pick him up again. Bash has two men scouting the area around Rasputan's for a place to keep an eye on Rasputan. If we are lucky and find such a place, it shouldn't be as difficult to spy out the surrounding region. Unfortunately, a lot depends on my double showing up again," Silk finished with a sigh. "I'm afraid that I'll need some more cash as well," he said after a moment's silence. "I hope that we can get this cleared up soon so that we can get back to business. Speaking of which, how have you been doing?" Oglethorpe showed Silk a silver and gold braided necklace. "Paid fifteen for it." As Silk examined the necklace, Oglethorpe continued, "I can give you forty crowns or so, but that's about the last of it." As Oglethorpe spoke, Silk nodded. "Nice," he said of the necklace when his partner had finished; Silk estimated the necklace to be worth sixty crowns. "I need gold for the second story man. Hmm, how much? Depends on how interested he is in picking up a blade, I guess. If you give me twenty, I shouldn't need to bother you for more. And tell me where to find the elf. I'll probably use Terrence, but I'd like to know; just in case." Oglethorpe began counting gold. "The elf's name is Shadowchaser. Don't laugh, you should hear his real name; and, no, I can't pronounce it. Anyway, he hangs out at the Tree and Leaf. That's a tavern on the other side of the emperor's palace. Lots of elves and minstrels and such. I've only met him once, but his personality did not match his reputation; frolic is a word that comes to mind. His rep is that he is very serious about his work." "Thanks much, Oglethorpe. Watch your back." Silk rose and exited the room. He stopped a moment to survey the bar. Slick was there, although looking a little blurry-eyed. Oddly enough, he did not have any of his women with him. Neither Terrence nor Buster were there, but... "Well, well, well, if it isn't Narts; and two body guards," Silk said to himself. "What are you up to, my little mouse?" Narts was making a point of not looking at Silk, who had left his hood down. Silk moved carefully across the room, heading for the door. "What's the matter, Slick? You don't look so good," he said in passing, keeping his eye on Narts. "Uh, well, only one of my girls got any action last night, and, well, the others kind'a decided that I needed to try out my wares, and, well..." "It's a rough life, isn't it? Looks like O'Malley has some new customers. I don't want to scare off his business, so, later..." Silk continued on, muttering, "Beg pardon," as he passed by Narts. Narts, who had been watching the door, turned to watch the bar as Silk passed. Outside, Silk arched a brow. "Curiouser and curiouser. Well, let's get over to the Tree and Leaf. Shall we stop on the way and see if any of the others are back?" "No," Bash answered. "Lets go straight over. Its quite a walk and we might as well get started. Besides, Owl can keep things in line." "Very well. Let's get moving." There was some excitement on the other side of the street. An armored man, older and rather gruff looking, sat astride a horse, watching the entrance to a cheese shop. Two members of the city watch stood on either side of the door. As Bash and Silk looked on, another watchman exited the building, woman in one hand, child in the other, and gave them a shove up the street. "Be gone!" The gent on the horse sighed in disappointment and looked around. Spotting Silk, he brightened somewhat. "You there! Yes, you, with the patch. Be a good citizen and come over here." Not having any immediate exits, Silk had little choice. "Closer. There's a good man. Now then, lets see what's under that patch, shall we?" The armored man leaned over and lifted Silk's quilted patch, only to scowl. "Well, you're ugly as sin, but your not hiding any mutations. Be off!" Just then two of the watch pulled a man out of the building. "We found the mark on him, sir." "Right, he burns." As Silk headed up the street, he overheard, "And burn the shop, as well." "But sir, what of the adjoining stores?" "What? Oh, bother. Well, get some axes, cut the shop out >from between them, then burn it." "I certainly feel safer knowing Larry the Witchhunter is on the job," Bash said with considerable sarcasm. "Don't you?" "Huh? Oh yes, quite," Silk said with an edge in my voice. Memories of Red Sheol came back to him in a rush; Hell literally breaking loose as that scruffy halfling smashed Red's helm, or was that Ardak who smashed the helm? "Much safer," Silk said tensely, and quickened his pace. They arrived at the Tree & Leaf a little early for dinner. As they walked through the door it was obvious that they did not fit in very well. Not only was everyone else better dressed, but they all looked... flighty. There were a half-dozen elves in the place, and nearly a score of humans. "Aren't they precious," Silk thought to himself as he took in to clientele and the expensive looking bottles of wine on some of the occupied tables. Silk summoned what few manners he had and, stepping up to the bar, hailed the barkeep, who was entirely too slender for a human barkeeper. "Excuse me, sir, but I am looking for an elf that goes by the name of Shadowchaser. Would you be so good as to point him out to me?" "No. Would you care to buy something to drink before you leave?" "My errand is of some urgency, and you do yourself a disservice with your welcome. I shall be happy to rid you of my presence if you will first direct me to Shadowchaser. And no, I shall not require a drink." The last line was added somewhat coldly. The tavernmaster sighed apologetically and backed down. "Very well, he's not here; and that's the honest truth. Now then, I don't believe you belong here." "Oh, I can tell that I don't belong here. I'm not completely blind. And I'm not just real comfortable here myself. However, this is the place where I was told I could find him. If you tell me when and where I can find him, you may see me once more, and never again. Otherwise, I may have to return several times to look for him, and I don't think that either one of us enjoys that prospect." "If he comes in tonight, it will probably be in an hour or so. If he doesn't come here, I don't know where to find him. You want to order something to drink and wait? Have venison for dinner," the tavernmaster offered. "It's a bit early for me for dinner, but I think I could do with a drink now. A pint of mild ale perhaps? And one for my silent friend here." Silk collected the overpriced but excellent drinks, and he and Bash adjourned to a corner table. An hour went by and their drinks had long since been sipped away, when the tavernmaster caught Silk's eye and nodded towards an elf coming through the door. About six foot in height, the slender fellow was actually rather tanned, and, strangely enough, it did not appear to be makeup; however, his long hair was far from natural, being white flowing into silver. He was smiling and laughing and dressed in black with lots of silver buttons and studs. Silk acknowledged the proprietor's signal with a slight wave of the hand, then slowly approached the elf. "Excuse me, but are you the one that is called Shadowchaser? If so, would you do me the kindness of joining me for a drink and some conversation?" Shadowchaser immediately lost his smile. "Oh bother, work again? Why is it always work?" he cried, placing the back of a hand to his forehead. Then he flung himself into the nearest chair and stuck out his lower lip in a pout. Almost immediately he burst out laughing, snatched the nearest glass and took a sip. "What can I do for you?" Silk smiled. "It's rather straightforward actually. I need a door opened. The door is barred from the inside, and I cannot get in. The lower windows are shuttered. The only way to get inside is to break the door down or to climb through an upper story window and open the door from the inside. I'm not much for heights, but I have heard that they don't bother you." "If it is so straightforward, I doubt you need me... or cannot afford me; if it is a boring job, it has to pay well. Still, I'll take your drink..." Shadowchaser ordered up a glass of wine that cost Silk a crown and moved to the corner table. "Objectives are straightforward, but realizing them is often another matter," Silk countered. "The job is not without its risks, and if excitement is a prerequisite, that probably could be arranged. As you say, there is the matter of a price. You are likely right in saying that I cannot afford you. However it may be equally true that I cannot afford not to have you. Best tell me how coin you normally would ask, and how much of the rest of the story you care to hear." "Well now, I'll have to think about that. You see, I don't normally do contract work. I have cleared over 1000 crowns on a single hit; and that was my take, mind you, not the value of the stones. However, my all-time best work netted me nothing more than a merchant's belt purse; 47 crowns I believe it was. Might even have been a shilling or two thrown in. Do it again in a heartbeat, too; bastard deserved it. Now then, how much to open one door? Well, I really don't know. 100? 200 maybe? It will really all depend on who it is and where it is and how much of a challenge it is." That Shadowchaser spoke so freely of his occupation, Silk took as a measure of the elf's skill. "Impressive. Well, the story goes with the drink. Recently I seem to have acquired a double; a twin if you will. Looks like me down to the last detail. Disturbing, but not as disturbing as the way that I found out about it. One day I was picked up off the street and taken before a merchant who accused me of stealing his wife's jewels. His wife confirmed that it was me she saw, and I was nearly killed on the spot. I was released on the condition that I find the jewels and return them. Just two days later, I was ambushed by a group of footpads under suspicious circumstances. Further investigations confirmed the existence of my double and that he was working with one Rasputan. Coincidentally, Rasputan has been acting erratically of late, and is quite paranoid. Rumor has it that he is on zip. It is he that I wish to visit, to determine why he has taken such a sudden dislike to me. He lives in a three story townhouse and would not be likely to greet me pleasantly at the door. You see now why I require the services of someone like yourself." Shadowchaser arched a brow. "Interesting, I must say," he said sincerely. "Well, I wish you well, but I do not do drugs, I do not do blood-vengeance, and I do not do dopplegangers. Thank you for the drink and the story, but if you will excuse me..." With that the elf departed, apparently intent on starting a party. "I should have known better than to come chasing all the way out here," Silk said to Bash while rising from his seat. "Let's get back." "We saw Rasputan once today," Owl informed the pair when they had returned to the apartment. "In the company of four bodyguards, no less. No sign of you though. Smash and Crash are still keeping an eye on the place. We found some good spots to watch from and I'm certain we have not been made. I just came back to report. Any instructions?" Silk made no attempt to hide his frustration at the day's events. "Can't find anyone to take the door for us, no line on my double, and four goons around my target. The gods are trying to punish me... Ah, well, I'll see if I can find Terrence again tomorrow. Otherwise, I'll just buy a ladder and do the job myself. I don't believe I just said that. Um, instructions... oh yes, if any of you see my double, stick with him. I hired a man to do a number on him, and I want him to be able to perform his job expeditiously. Report back to me here just before noon tomorrow even if you don't find him. I plan to spend most of my day tomorrow in the Low Quarter. One of you should meet me here an hour after sundown tomorrow and we'll head over to Rasputan's place. Can I get any of you anything whilst I'm about tomorrow?" Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Fri Dec 14 22:58:33 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (vi) Keywords: the tables turn Date: 14 Dec 90 20:43:38 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC The Tables Turn Mid-morning, Owl burst into the apartment. "Found him! He is sitting at a table outside a little eatery not that far from the temple of Sigmar. Whatever you are going to do, you'd better act fast. Rasputan gave him a throwing knife and a small jar when they parted this morning. I think he is waiting to kill someone." Silk jumped to his feet, grabbing his cloak and stick. "Good job! Come with me, both of you. We've got to get to Freedman right away!" They left the apartment and hurried towards the Rat's Nest, but as they crossed over the bridge, they ran into Terrence. "Half a moment, guys," Silk instructed. He strode over to Terrence. "I've been looking for you. Got a job that suits you well; short and sweet. If you are interested in some quick cash, meet me at the Rat's Nest in an hour." Without waiting for a reply he returned to Owl and Bash. "Let's go." "Good day, Mister Freedman. My twin has been located. Owl here will guide you to him. There is some need for haste, as he may not remain at his current location for long. Here is the remainder of the sum that we agreed to. I feel obligated to warn you that he is armed." Silk handed Jubal ten crowns, trying to conceal the amount from Bash and Owl. "Da, okay," the pit fighter replied. Without another word, he stood and exited the establishment with Owl. Terrence showed up shortly after Owl and Jubal left. Looking unsure of the location, he joined Silk and Bash just as they were starting on a beer and a bowl. "Glad you decided to make it," Silk said, happy for a reason not to take another bite of his meal. "As I said, the job is short and sweet. I need a door opened. It's probably barred from the inside and the only other ways in appear to be through upper windows. I think that you and the job are a good match." Terrence looked at Silk out of the corner of his eye. "What's the catch? What's waiting for me inside? Is this the emperor's house or something?" "Catch? Oh yes, there is one problem. The person living inside is a drugged-up paranoid. He was last seen with four bodyguards, and there is also at least one other person living the house." Silk paused from his meal and look Terrence directly in the eye. "I'm going to hit Rasputan." Terrence smiled. "I'm interested. What is the pay?" "I'll give you five now, and at least ten afterwards. I will probably be feeling generous if this matter is concluded to my satisfaction." Silk was also caught Bash's eye upon saying 'generous.' "I'll do it. Are you expecting me to do anything else?" "Are you any good in a fight? There's going to be action and I won't be sorry for another arm on my side. Even if you don't care to bash some heads, it wouldn't hurt to have someone to do some scouting. If you just want to open the door and leave, fine. I'll tell you what happened with Rasputan afterwards." "We'll see. When and where?" "Be at O'Malley's just before sundown." Silk handed him the gold and Terrence hurried out. Silk tried to choke down the rest his meal. Supposedly it was beef stew; he knew it could not be dog, because no dog could produce that much gristle. After his stomach was satisfied and the beer had washed some forgiveness into his tongue, Silk and Bash spent the the afternoon carousing with the locals. Their stay at the Rat's Nest was not as fun-filled as their last; everyone could tell they were waiting for something big, but after buying a few beers they were made welcome. Silk was trying to get some rest when Owl, Crash, and Smash entered the apartment. All three were looking pale. The latter two collapse onto bedrolls, obviously traumatized. Owl dropped into a chair and stared into space as he spoke. "Well, it's done. You don't have to worry about your double any more. Just as Jubal and I were coming up on the scene, you... your double jumped up and threw a poisoned blade at a high-ranking priest of Sigmar. I... well, it wasn't easy, but I got Jubal to kill you. I didn't think having you hunted by the law throughout most of the Old World would do anybody any good." He paused for a moment. "After... after you died, well, you... no, 'it' changed. It grew taller and skinnier and... lost all its skin. Disemboweled thugs are one thing, but I hope I never see anything like that again. It had no eyelids. It just kept staring. Jubal seemed to take it pretty well, although we had to scrape up another 20 crowns between the three of us to pay him for the job. He killed him in an alley. Not too many people were around, but enough that the word is already spreading; I don't think you're in danger from the watch or anything, even if any witnesses knew your face. I didn't hear anyone talking about you." Owl closed his eyes, but quickly opened them again. "I hope I don't sleep for a week." Silk listened in horror as Owl described the obviously inhuman creature that was committing atrocities in Silk's guise. As Owl narrated the demise of the demon, Silk breathed a sigh of relief and offered a short prayer of thanks to whatever gods might be listening. But realization came suddenly, "No, it's not done. My double was just a piece in the game, albeit a powerful one. The one responsible for bringing that obscenity to Altdorf is still playing, and we are the only ones that know what is happening. You all have done so much for me already, but I still have need of you. Take whatever time you need to pull yourselves together. We have to go out again as soon as you are able." Silk rapped on the side gate of Goering's estate. "William the Sharp, please," he said to the gateman. William soon arrived at the gate. "Can we talk inside? Unsettling things are afoot," Silk said quietly, but in great earnest. When Silk and Owl were allowed inside the gate, Silk instructed the footpad to fill William in on the happenings at the eatery. When Owl had finished his account, Silk turned to William. "The poisoned blade was given to my double by Rasputan. Owl here, saw the exchange this morning. It is clear to me that a plot is in motion; one that seeks to make an impact beyond that of my demise. I didn't expect your help when this was a personal conflict of mine, but now the game is more important. I need help." "Hmmm..." William hummed thoughtfully. "I don't see that as the obvious conclusion... about the game, I mean. However, what did you have in mind?" "Rasputan either knows what is going on, or has the information that will lead to those responsible. He must be found and pumped for that information. I had originally planned to hit his place tonight. I still think that is the best course of action, especially if there are people present that can better deal with things like the lads saw this afternoon. I would be satisfied if you were along, even if you didn't take part in the fracas. Naturally, you could bring whomever you wanted to support you. Also, it would give you an excellent opportunity to identify your master's gems, should they be in Rasputan's possession." Stepping closer, Silk whispered, "If you could see your way clear, I could use some cash to pay the lads. They've been working for me for days out of the goodness of their hearts. Sixty would do, A hundred would be nice. We could call it a finder's fee." Stepping back again, Silk added, "If you need to verify my story, just ask Freedman. He'll tell you right enough." William was silent for a while, then, "Wait here." When he returned it was with a smile. "I'll go with you. As you said, it will make for an excellent opportunity to identify my employer's gems." "Very good. We'll stop to get Terrence, and then go over to Rasputan's." Silk surveyed his little army with more than a little pride. "Terrence," he said with as much authority as he could muster. "When do you want to start? I suspect that our chances will improve as the night grows old, but you will be the most exposed, so you call the shot." "Three hours before dawn," Terrence replied, obviously pleased to be in on the decision making. Silk nodded, then left to have few words with O'Malley. Upon returning to his band, he quietly announced, "O'Malley has been gracious enough to grant us use of a little place out back, so come on, I want everyone get some sleep." Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Fri Dec 14 22:58:58 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (vii) Keywords: tooth and claw Date: 14 Dec 90 21:54:07 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Tooth and Claw "I don't remember that door looking so tough," Smash said as the six would-be assailants hid behind Rasputan's townhouse, the four footpads wearing their customary masks. "Don't worry," Bash replied. "Terrence should have it open any moment now." "He's probably already dead," Crash muttered. "You shut up!" Smash hissed. "You shut up!" Crash retorted. "You both shut up!" Owl put in with a cuff to both of them. Bash just shook his head, while William looked quite certain that he had made a mistake in coming on the expedition. The door opened, with a faint light coming out. Terrence stuck his masked head out the door, tallow candle in hand, and beckoned. Then he disappears inside. Silk, followed by the others, quickly moved to the door and entered the house. "We have a slight problem," Terrence whispered in Silk's ear with a gesture towards a corner of the kitchen. There an apparently terrified servant huddled. Silk motioned for the footpads to keep watch, approached the servant, and hissed, "Be smart. Don't scream or try to run, and nobody gets hurt. How many in the house? Quietly now..." The poor bugger appeared to be to scared to talk. Silk was not even sure the servant understood what was being said. Speaking softly and slowly, Silk continued, "We aren't going to hurt you. Where do you keep the spirits? You look like you could use a good, stiff drink. Can you stand? You don't have to get up, just point the way. Shhh! We aren't going to hurt you..." With a whimper, his first sound, the servant buried his face in his hands and hid. Silk stepped back and whispered to Bash, "This isn't going to do. Knock him out. I don't want him raising an alarm until we've gone. Try not to let him see it coming." Bash stepped forward with his club and gave the servant a glancing blow to the head, sending the servant sprawling. "Owl, front door," Silk instructed. The footpad left in search of the exit. "T, stairs?" Terrence pointed. Silk nodded, then asked in a whisper, "Did you find anything else on your way to the door that might be helpful?" When Terrence shook his head, Silk led the way to the stairs, using a lantern for light. He held a cloth over much of the shield, so most light was cast only before him. The stairway was for servants; very narrow and steep. It led to a small landing with a doorway, then continued up. The doorway led to a hallway, with several doors along it. Silk continued up. Suddenly there was a seemingly booming voice from below, "What the... Hey!" "Uh, Silk, would you step down here for a minute," William whispered from the rear. Silk raised the lantern to shed a little more light on the situation, then closed his eye in frustration. William, still on the landing, had the barrel of his matchlock firmly planted on the nose of a nearly naked man holding a sword. Silk edged down the stairs and, trying to sound menacing, whispered to the newcomer, "Try to be clever and there will be a new color scheme for this area. Hand over the sword." The man did not make a move. "If you're thinking of yelling out," William added. "Don't bother. Just nod and I'll blow you away. That should wake everyone up." The man handed over his sword. "Now then," Silk went on, "How many people are in this house, and where are they?" The prisoner slowly shook his head. "I don't know why I bother asking," Silk grumbled, stepping past the prisoner. Setting down the lantern, Silk took off his cloak and used his knife to cut two strips from it. "Open up," he instructed the prisoner from behind. Stuffing one strip into the man's mouth, he used the other to tie it in place. "Downstairs, quietly. Bash and William come with me. You two, check things out and come down. Don't go into any rooms if you don't have to." Silk returned to the kitchen, followed by the prisoner, William, and Bash. With a nod to Terrence, Silk turned to the prisoner and said, "You can answer a couple of questions, or you can end up like your friend." He gestured to the servant sprawled on the floor, careful not to shine the full light of the lantern on the body, lest the prisoner realize that the 'corpse' was still breathing. Silk removed the gag. "Now, talk to me." "You want me to talk? Sure. The emperor eats prunes and pisses on his wife. How's that?" "You know," William said thoughtfully. "If I put the barrel in his mouth and make him close it, it would muffle the shot." "Of course, Heinrich is sleeping in the boss's room tonight," the bodyguard replied, suddenly loosing his nerve. "For those of you who don't know what that means, Heinrich will have his bed up against the door. Fritz will be on the third floor, too, but in another room. George and I were sharing a guest room." "Much better. Perhaps you'll even find work again someday. In the meantime, I'll have to tie you up. Hands behind your back, please." Silk bound and gagged the bodyguard, including binding his legs. "Go to sleep. That would be the best way to make certain that you don't see us again. If you can't sleep, I'm sure one of the boys will help you." With that, Silk took Bash and William back to the second floor. Smash was waiting on the landing. "All the doors are closed, but we did hear snoring coming from one." "Right. There is one guy on this floor, and two on the next floor. One of the two upstairs is with Rasputan, and has his bed against the door. We can't get in there without making noise. So we are going to arrange things so that noise doesn't matter. Let's take care of the heavy sleeper first, since we know where he is. Knock out, bind and gag, leave." Smash stalked off, returning shortly with Crash and giving Silk a nod. Silk smiled and led them to the third floor. "Let's work our way down the hall. I'll hold the lantern high, and one of you open the doors. That way more of us can see into the room, and the one opening the door has a better chance to get out of the way. Remember, at least one door is blocked by a bed. If the door doesn't give, we'll assume that it belongs to the boss-man. We'll come back to it after dealing with the other guard." "That one should be the master bedroom," William whispered, pointing towards a door at the end of the hall. Crash put his ear to the nearest door, then waved Silk over and pointed at it. Silk pointed to Crash and then to the door, then pointed to Crash and Smash and made a swooping motion with my hand toward the door. Finally Silk pointed to himself and made the same swooping motion. Holding the lantern and his walking stick ready, he waited. Crash nodded and put a hand to the latch. It clicked, but the door did not open. The footpad gently put his shoulder against the door and slowly applied force. When that failed, he look to Silk questioningly and went through the motion of bashing his shoulder against the door. Silk held up his hand. After thinking for a moment, he waved them away from the door and back towards the stairs. There he whispered new instructions. "We'll go after the boss instead. We'll break down that door if it won't open easily. Smash, you stay behind. When we start to make noise, the guy in the room we just tried should come running. Drop him. Has anyone seen anything that could be used as a battering ram?" Crash patted his shoulder and smiled. Silk moved down the hall to the end of the hall and pointed at the door to the master bedroom. The others gathered around. Without further ado, Crash crashed into the door and the house was suddenly filled with sound. The door popped open a crack with much splintering, but went no further. Inside, the crash was followed but a thump and much scrambling. As Crash pulled back and threw himself at the door again, the door Smash was watching was pulled upon. A guard charged out, sword in hand and nightshirt on person, only to be brained by Smash. The guard went down hard. Crash hit the door, doubling the opening and revealing a splintering bar, but he also broke out a plank in the top have of the door, and his shoulder momentarily became stuck in the opening. With a cry of pain, Crash pulled himself free and fell back, pursued by the point of a sword and bleeding from the shoulder. "Together!" Silk shouted at Bash. The pair slammed into the door simultaneously, tearing it away from its morings and sending it into the room; that is, at least the top half. The bottom half of the door was initially stopped by the bed that was across the doorway. Still, not one to be a stick in the mud, it cheerfully lifted itself into the air and followed along behind the top half. Unfortunately, this sent both Bash and Silk over the bed in a horizontal position. The door came to rest propped up on the bed, forming a nice ramp exiting the room. Silk and Bash tumbled down the ramp, even as it was formed with a jarring thud, and onto the floor. The lantern Silk was holding gracefully arced through the air, described no less than three complete flips before shattering on the hardwood floor, making a lovely pattern of fire and igniting a partitioning curtain in the back of the room. Bash recovered quickly, and Silk was soon on his feet, himself. The bodyguard had been knocked aside by their entrance and sent sprawling. As Silk stood, the bodyguard regained his feet and scrambled after his sword. Silk flicked open the main blade of his walking stick and charged. The guard reached the blade, but even as he turned, Silk planted a boot in his chest, sending him tumbling. The bodyguard rolled quickly to his feet and squared off with sword in hand, but he was gasping for breath. William leaped into the room, followed momentarily by Smash. Bash grabbed the burning partition curtain and ripped it halfway down, but suddenly sprouted a quarrel in his right shoulder and went down. Teeth clenched, he scrambled back, towards the door. "William!" Silk shouted, pointing to the guard. Silk jump backwards to give the gunman room, and flipped open the other blades on his stick. William stepped forward, pistol leveled at the bodyguard. The guard hesitated. "On the floor! Now!!" Silk shouted at the guard. The guard went down. As Silk moved forward to disarm him, a ceramic pot was lobbed into the front half of the room from behind the burning curtain. It broke against the floor, spilling its contents, and the previously small fire suddenly doubled in size. Keeping low, Silk disarmed the man on the floor. "Smash!" he called. "Like the other ones!" Smash smashed, apparently successfully, and Silk took stock of the situation. Aside from the bed and a few clothes in a pile, there was nothing on this side of the curtain. The other side of the curtain seemed to be stocked much better, but Silk could not see any movement. There were still two meters of curtain, now fully engulfed in flames, hanging. William caught Silk's eye and inquired with a gesture if he wanted a chance shot through the curtain. Silk nodded to William. William waved his arm back and forth, as if allowing his gun to find its own target, then settled on a spot, sighted, and squeezed the trigger. The shot was deafening, but so was the bellow that followed. The bestial scream of rage was still echoing as Silk, eye wide with fear, leaped forward and slashed at the top of the curtain. Then he hooked a spike into it and tore the curtain free. It tumbled into a pile, smoothering most of flames, and Silk stepped back, walking stick held in both hands. Through the haze Silk saw the hulk of Rasputan. He was clutching a pouch in one hand and holding a wavy, wicked-looking dagger in the other. At his feet was a crossbow, and around him were trunks, racks, and a huge wardrobe. There was a hole in his left arm >from William's ball, but Rasputan did not seem to notice it. "Give it up, Rasputan! It's over!" Silk shouted. Rasputan, whose face had previously been hidden in shadows for cinematic effect, suddenly leaned forward into the light and hissed cat-like at Silk, baring a rather handsome set of fangs. Silk screamed and slashed wildly at Rasputan, opening up his right leg. With a maniacal scream and eyes bugging, he lunged with the dagger. The point just missed Silk's head, but the guard struck Silk's leather coif with considerable force. Momentarily dazed, Silk backed away as quickly as he could, yelling at the top of his lungs, "Shoot! Dammit, shoot!" No shots, be they pistol or crossbow, were forth coming; however, William was immediately at Silk's side, short sword in hand. Rasputan circled right, putting his back to the wall. Bash, hurt, but club in hand, flipped the bed onto its side to block the doorway, and stood ready to cut off escape. Smash was at his side. Silk moved forward slowly, moving away from William somewhat. Rasputan attacked, charging through the flames, slashing for Silk's face. Silk dodged back and retaliated, but Rasputan batted the blow aside and ducked under William's thrust. Rasputan's blade slashed open Silk's left leg as the latter put his stick upside Rasputan's head. Silk fell back in pain, but Rasputan only growled and pressed the attack, pausing long enough to kick William's sword thrust aside. Smash won Silk a brief respite when he brought his club down with all his might atop Rasputan's head. Rasputan growled, shook his head, and leaped after Silk. Silk heard Bash yelling something to Crash, but was otherwise occupied and paid it no mind. Again Silk's blow was brushed aside, and William, his heart not in the fight, had yet to draw blood. Smash was not having much luck, either, but for the moment Rasputan seemed confused about who to attack; every time he went for Silk, he had to make a fancy move to avoid William or Smash. Again Silk's blow was brushed aside, along with William's, as Rasputan became more and more agitated and his growls became more and more bestial. Like a bear to a dog, Rasputan sent a vicious swipe Smash's way, but the footpad danced out of reach. "Cover!" Smash dove clear of the battle, and Silk, momentarily confused by the shout, quickly followed his example. William crossed blades with Rasputan. A quarrel narrowly missed William and tore into Rasputan's right arm. With a screaming hiss he ripped it free and charged Silk. Silk took the charge on his blade. The point of his weapon entered Rasputan's gut, as well the body of the walking stick up to the side blades. However, Silk did not have time to rejoice; Rasputan crashed into him and together they went down. The wind was knocked out of Silk, but Rasputan quickly heaved himself back up. He looked about frantically, realizing he had lost the pouch he was carrying, then made a beeline for the door. After three steps his legs buckled under him and he crashed to the floor. Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Fri Dec 14 22:59:45 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (viii) Keywords: the payoff Date: 14 Dec 90 22:29:33 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC The Payoff Silk slowly got to his feet, keeping his eye on the body. He picked up his weapon and held it ready as he approached Rasputan. "Load one," Silk said to his companions in the doorway. When they had quarrels at the ready, Silk extracted the dagger from Rasputan's hand and turned the body face up. Rasputan's eyes were open and clear. Startled, Silk worked up his courage and checked for signs of life. There were none. Silk gave the body a quick search, but turned up only a purse with a few keys and thirty to forty crowns. He examined the wavy dagger, checking it for quality and waiting for the tingling that would alert him to any magic. After a few moments he gave up and dropped the dagger. "Smash, you might want to check on those guards that were taken out earlier. Make sure that none of them are thinking about waking up any time soon. You can fetch Owl, too." Then Silk turned to William. "Now to find those jewels..." William lit two lanterns in the back of the room, then picked up the pouch that Rasputan had been clinging to and opened it. Puzzled, he jiggled it a bit. Silk's eye widened as traces of white dust floated up from the bag. "Huh, no jewels here," William said. "Doesn't look like any drug I know of, either." He pulled the strings and tossed the pouch aside. "Uh oh," Silk said quietly to himself; he appeared calm to the others in the room, but only because he was completely stunned by William's discovery. Suddenly Silk snatched up Rasputan's dagger and inspected the blade, then pulled the coif from his head and examined it closely, looking for any trace of the white dust. His mind was racing; "Warpstone would explain a lot of things! Did William come in contact with any of it? Damn!" Silk tossed both the dagger and his coif aside. Only then did he notice how much smoke was in the room. The fire on the floor had burned down; however, it had managed to start a small, more serious fire in the floor. Smash was attempting to stomp out the flames. The curtain was smoldering badly and the cause of most of the smoke. Silk glanced at William, who was quickly searching through the wardrobe, just in time to see The Sharp's eyes light up. William quickly covered his momentary lapse, but Silk knew better. "Are these the ones?" he asked William, moving over to his side. Silk took a good look at the jewels while waiting for William to reply. "Yes, it appears to be all here..." William ended with a cough, and the curtain suddenly burst into full flame. "Bash, grab a basin and get some water to put out that..." Silk stopped as Bash, quarrel firmly embedded in his shoulder, gave him a very cold look. "Never mind." Then he turned his attention back to the jewels. "Here let me help you with that," he said politely as he gathered some of the goods William was trying to pocket. After the jewels had been collected, Silk found a pitcher of water near the bed and poured it over the flames. More smoke billowed up as the water hissed over the fire, extinguishing much of it. Owl and Crash arrived and immediately helped Bash out of the room. Coughing, William followed them. Smash waited by the doorway while Silk made a quick search of the bedroom. The biggest key in Rasputan's purse fit one of the trunks, but Silk found nothing of interest as he threw the contents onto the floor. Pulling open a draw on the nightstand, he found a pouch containing what felt like coinage, but his eye was watering so bad he could do little more than grab the pouch and leave; down the stairs and to the front room. "Let's get out of here and get some help for these two," Silk said, indicating Bash and Crash. "There will be plenty of time to return the valuables later." William hesitated, about to object, but then followed Silk out the door. Terrence disappeared as soon as they were outside. "Something wrong?" Silk asked of William, but without really waiting long enough for a response, he turned to Bash. "You want the same guy that worked on me, or are you two going to be okay?" "Doc," Bash replied through clenched teeth. "Not liking the idea of following you all over this city," William said irritably. "Isn't there a closer place where we could go over the loot? They could go on ahead to find surgeon. And we're going to have to stick to back alleys if you don't want more trouble; look at you, you're covered with blood. And he's got a bolt sticking out of his arm! I'm not interested in chasing down alleys." "All right. Smash, you accompany Bash and Crash to a place where they can get patched up. And take this." Silk tossed the purse that he had recovered from Rasputan's corpse to Smash. "Owl, I'd like to have you around, if that's okay with you." The last was directed at William. "Is your spy-hole reasonable for the two of us?" Silk asked Owl. "We might make a division of the valuables there." "Wouldn't work," Owl replied as the others hustled off. Silk gave William an inquiring look, but he only shrugged and shook his head. "All right," Silk said with a sigh, looking at the building. "Let's put some distance between us and this place first. Let's head south toward the docks. We'll borrow a warehouse for the split. It'll have to be back alleys, but it won't be as far as to Georing's." "Good enough." Twice they had to stay in an alley to let the watch go by, but they made it to the docks. Owl forced the back door on a warehouse that did not seem to hold anything worth guarding, and in they went. Owl disappeared into the darkness and soon returned with a lantern. It was lit, but the footpad kept the fire low. Silk indicates a large crate and Owl places the lantern on the makeshift table. "Before we dump everything on the table, suppose you describe the jewels that belong to the mistress," Silk suggested coolly. "In detail. That way Georing will be satisfied, and you and I can be civilized about dividing the spoils." William's face was a mask for a moment, then he smiled and described the jewels in moderate detail. "So," William finished inquisitively. "I assume we're setting my mistress's stuff aside. How do you plan on cutting up the rest?" They turned up the lantern and set the jewels on the table. Silk, taking William at his word, and hoping he had not had time to examine any of the jewels, separated out Georing's stones. It was close to half of what they had; the better half, with several matching pieces. However, there was quite a little bundle of jewels remaining. Silk pondered the treasure for a while. "Well, your information has been useful. And you did come along on the raid. On the other hand, I did all of the dirty work, and had to fund this venture myself. How about this: one share for the lads, one for my expenses, two for me, and two for you?" "I can live with that." The two of them set about dividing the loot into thirds, with William putting considerable trust in Silk's evaluations. "You can mess with the rest of that," William explained, selecting and gathering up one of the three piles at Silk's request. Silk took note of Owl for the first time. He seemed to be salivating. Silk gave him a wink and scooped the remaining jewels into large pouch. "I would like to see Georing once more. I want to hear it from him that this business is over. I shall call tomorrow around noon, unless you can suggest a better time." "That'll do." Carefully exiting the warehouse, William and Silk parted company. "Two questions," Owl said when William was out of sight. "Where to, and are you ever going to dress that leg?" "We'll go back to the apartment. As for the leg, I had forgotten about it, but it's starting to feel stiff. Half a moment..." The wound was not too bad, although it looked messy. It had stopped bleeding on its own, but now that it was all behind him, Silk was feeling a light-headed. "Yeah, I'll make it to the apartment." Silk went over the goods thoroughly and with great care. The light was not good in the apartment, but he could not sleep without at least getting a rough estimate. He put the worth of the jewels in the one to three thousand crown range, and had another dizzy spell as he momentarily pondered the worth of the entire stash. "That's a nice range," Owl said with heavy breath when Silk informed him of the take. The purse from the nightstand held fifty-eight crowns, and two score in assorted shillings and pennies. More expenses covered. Silk slept until noon, and when he woke, all the footpads were there and asleep. He rose and did his best to get the worst of the blood stains out of his clothes. His leg was stiff and the wound was somewhat swollen, obviously in need of treatment. Silk woke up the boys and informed them that he was going to the temple of Shallya. Bash and Crash both looked at him with puppy-dog eyes, though neither seemed worse off than Silk, the surgeon not having been drunk last night. "Come on then!" Bash and Silk were fit and well when they left the temple, though Crash was still a little sore and Silk was thirty crowns poorer. "I'd like you two to accompany me on a little errand," Silk told the footpads. "I want to make certain that this matter is settled. We can even grab breakfast on the way." Silk purchased some bread, cheese, and fruit on their way to Georing's. Silk desperately wanted some new cloths, too, but did not feel he had the time. The footpads were rather proud of their badges and showed no interest in such expenditures. At Georing's, they went to the side entrance and asked for William. He arrived shortly and ushered them towards the house. "Anything on your mind before you see the boss?" he asked. "Nothing in particular. As I said last night, I just want to confirm that our business is at a close." As an afterthought, Silk added, "Although if any of those toys are unbecoming of you, I may be able to find new owners for them. Just keep it in mind; you know where to find me." Georing was waiting in his office, standing in front of his desk. He got right to the point. "Mister Silk, I do not like your business or what you represent; however, I offer you my apologies for having you abducted and nearly executed. I also offer you my thanks for returning my wife's jewels, along with this finder's fee..." He handed Silk a full purse. "Thank you, and I hope our paths do not cross again," Georing finished, offering Silk his hand. "I understand your position, and am glad this matter is closed. I too, will be happier if we do not meet again," Silk said in a manner that was not unfriendly. Shaking his hand, Silk gave Georing a nod, and allow myself to be ushered out. Silk smiled slightly as William suggested that certain jewels in his possession might have less appeal than others. Using a connected fence could cause William some obvious problems. Silk asked Bash and Crash to meet him at O'Malley's at their convenience, then turned to William. "What exactly do you have in mind? Funding this effort has drained my cash reserves considerably. It may be a while before I will be able to provide, umm, adequate compensation. If you wish to entrust me with your problem, I should be able to take care of it in a couple of weeks." William gave Silk a very long, hard look. "Hmmm. If you had a reason to stay in this city, I'm sure I could run you down again. However, considering your potential gains if you skipped town, I think it would be best not to test our relationship just yet. Send a message round the side gate when you feel you are better equiped to deal with my problem." Silk shrugged. "As you like. Until then." He gave William a slight wave and left the premises. He immediately headed for a tailor's shop on Straight. Jeff Stehman From stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu Mon Dec 17 15:18:39 1990 From: stehman@hubcap.clemson.edu (Jeff Stehman) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp Subject: Story: Taking Care of Business (ix) Keywords: epilogue Date: 15 Dec 90 06:26:38 GMT Organization: Clemson University, Clemson, SC Epilogue Silk smiled as he breathed in the chill air. Life was looking good. He had gotten back from Nuln only two days ago. Already he had a new apartment and was well on his way to having it comfortably furnished for both himself and his bodyguard, Hans Millerson, formerly known as Bash. Nuln had been very profitable. Silk had journeyed there, accompanied by Hans, to show the jewelry to a merchant Silk had done business with previously. He had given Silk eleven hundred crowns in gems, along with letters and seals proving Silk to be the merchant's agent in Altdorf. A good deal, as Silk had estimated the value of the jewelry to be around eighteen hundred crowns; it was rare to get better than fifty percent from legitimate jewelers. Of course, the merchant would turn around and sell the lot at twenty-five hundred crowns or better, but, as Silk knew well, that was business. The letters, evil though the written word was to Silk, had allowed him to sell the stones at white market value, which he had done within three hours of stepping off the coach in Altdorf. He had passed two-hundred crowns on to Oglethorpe, which should keep his junior partner in business for some time. Even with the three-hundred crowns Hans was currently dividing up with his former gang, Silk had arranged for a comfortable, if not flashy, life. Indeed, his resources were now adequate that he intended to call on William the Sharp and perhaps do a little business to the tune of four or five hundred crowns. It would require another trip to Nuln, as he had no desire to move Rasputan's stash within Altdorf, and the rewards would not be great percentage-wise, but there was something to be said for moving goods in bulk. He even contemplated dropping in on Steinman, informing him of the trip and inquiring if he cared to add any goods to the store. Silk liked that idea; it would let Steinman know that they were back to business as usual, although perhaps on a slightly higher level. Silk enjoyed the stroll back to his new apartment. Hans had asked for the day off, intending to visit his family when he had finished dividing the take, and Silk was looking forward to spending the afternoon alone, getting used to his new surroundings. Of course, O'Malley's was a must, but that could wait until later. The only catch was the pouch of skaven-processed warpstone. He was not sure what to do with it. Destroy it came first and foremost to his mind, but he was not even sure how to do that. Anonymously turn it over to the proper authorities was a thought, too, but Red Sheol had been an authority, a recognized witchhunter. He had also been a chaos-serving holy warrior. Silk thought back to his world-traveling days with a shudder; debt could make a man to do such strange and foolish things. His past had its benefits, that was true. How many in this city would have recognized the processed warpstone, or even knew what skaven were? How many had actually seen the goblins and trolls everyone told stories about? "How many have lost an eye to a chaos-serving madman of an illusionist?" Silk thought bitterly. No, the city was where he belonged. He had enjoyed the last few weeks; at times they had been terrifying, expensive, painful, and deadly, but he remembered them with fondness. The same could not be said about battling with a chaos beastman frothing at the mouth in a blood-rage. Ah, to retire to the good, if exciting life; filling his allotted niche in life as the mover of lost goods. Spirits high, Silk unlock his apartment and stepped inside. Suddenly a heavy hand latched onto his shoulder, pulling him into the apartment, whirling him around, and slamming him into the wall, causing him to lose his walking stick. A mailed fist landed in his gut and he doubled over. Then his assailant grabbed both his shoulders and slammed him into the wall again. Silk looked into the grinning face of Larry the Witchhunter. "The warpstone!" Silk's screamed in his mind. "Good afternoon, Mister Silk," Larry purred, obviously pleased with himself. "I've been waiting for you. You see, I have this problem. I find myself wondering how a doppleganger would come to know your body so well as to take its shape. Tell me, did you know that chaos-formed chunk of filth and pestilence on a first name basis, or was it a more casual relationship?" The witchhunter chuckled evilly, but he was not done with his charges. "When the report of the doppleganger reached me, I recalled seeing you at the cheese shop. 'Coincidence,' they said. 'You're reaching,' they said. But you know what? I don't believe in coincidences. Not only that, but you're going to help me teach them not to believe in coincidences." Silk was certain that the glitter in the man's eye came from a burning stake. His mind scrambling, Silk's salvation appeared as quickly as his damnation had. His eye narrowed as he held the witchhunter's gaze, forcing himself not to look past him. "You've made a mistake," Silk said coolly. "Oh, have..." Kachunk! Launched from no more than a span away from its target, the quarrel ripped through Larry's throat. Clutching his wound, the witchhunter stepped back and turned towards the door. Then he fell to his knees and toppled over. In moments he was dead. Bewildered, Silk could only stare as tell-tale blood filled his apartment. "I wasn't expecting you back today," Silk finally managed, still staring at the corpse. "My little sister has a touch of second sight," Hans said absently as he closed the door and joined Silk in staring at the body. He spoke slowly and did not seem to be in the present. Silk's mind was racing, but his body felt numb. He looked at Hans; looked into his eyes. "You have a reason to know his name, don't you." It was not a question. "Yeah." "Whatever the reason, he was wrong about it, wasn't he?" It was not a question, but a plea. Witchhunters be damned, but Silk's preference was for them to be preceded to Hell by chaos. "Yeah." Silked breathed a sigh of relief, then looked at the body. It would be a tricky mess to clean up, assuming that members of the city watch would not be after them by nightfall. "You think the doc would have a use for a cadaver?" Hans shifted his gaze to Silk for a moment, then back to the dead witchhunter. Finally he nodded, coming back to the present with relief. "Yeah." -- This story is a good example of a problem in pbem: consistent mood. It started out very serious, and Karl admitted to being a bit worried during Silk's first meeting with Georing. However, you will note that at times I become a bit silly -- Tooth and Claw had a few good examples of that. It depended on the mood I was in that particular day. The story took seven months of gaming by email; I'm pleased. Like I said before, one player pbem games are great. Jeff Stehman

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