by John Kell a.k.a. Kwiksylver
Doors of weathered oak creaked inwards as a stranger entered the Tavern. A chilled tendril of opaque sea mist follows as the stranger glides into the room like smoke on glass. The mist shrouds him in silent shadows while he weaves his way past uncaring or unknowing guests to pre-occupied in their own drudgery and drink. At a table near the crackling blaze of the stone-cut hearth, he stops and for the first time his silhouette becomes more than just an outline of mists and shadows.
Deep angular lines cut through an otherwise pleasant and boyish face with twin pools crystalline emeralds that glow alight with an inner fire as he gazes darkly at the occupants of the table. His platinum hair cascades down past slightly arched and pointed ears that mark him neither man, nor elf, and shines like molten silver in the flickering firelight. Dressed in the worn black leathers of some forgotten freelancer company the man shifts his tall lean frame over the table and rests both of his black mantled hands on the edge to wait patiently for the one-eyed man to acknowledge him.
The tensions begin to rise as the stranger casts a mocking smile at One-eye’s two behemoth, ebon-skinned bodyguards who wait for their signal to rend the stranger into scrap with their bare hands for disturbing their client in an important meeting. One-eye’s hand quickly flashes out to halt his two war hounds before it becomes too messy and smiles at the dark statue leaning towards him.
“Bout time half-breed.” He sneers. “I was afraid you might have lost your touch after so many years as a respectable citizen.” The last was said almost maliciously towards the immobile shadow.
After several uncomfortable moments of silence from the man One-eye leans back slightly and looks side to side to his two guards to reassure himself before glaring at the man.
“Well, where is it half-elf? You were paid a goodly sum in advance so you better have it on you.” Then with a grin, “Or would you rather have my two hounds throttle it out of you? If they only knew who you truly were, I’m sure they do so anyway and for no extra charge.”
Without a word or a glance, the half-elf reaches into the invisible folds of his cloak, just brushing the silver and emerald griffin pommel of his rapier then stops at the sound of one-eye’s nervousness.
“Easy there Tarif, you’ve been out of the field far too long, there needn’t be any mistakes to regret about later on. Just relax and hand over the Egg to Kithaiel over there.” He points to one of his guards who in turn takes pleasure in a fanged smile as his black gaze searches hopefully for any fear he sheds on this insolent insect. The smile falters slightly when he finds none.
The half-elf known as Tarif slowly retrieves a black velvet pouch and sets it on the table besides the towering deodanth guard. He covers it with a gauntleted hand and looks to the one-eyed man who licks his taunt lips in silent anticipation. One-eye leans father back in his chair and signals with a slight gesture of a silk covered arm. The deodanth known as Kithaiel looks at Tarif who removes his own hand and allows the Deodanth to take the prize.
One-eye, without looking away from Tarif’s gaze tells the deodanth to check it out. “Well Tarif, looks like you came through after all. Perhaps this will be the start of great partnership. After all, with my contacts and your skills, we’ll own every kingdom here, even Lord Elric’s decrepit little hovel.”
“You forgot Sidierion.” Tarif whispered like the drawing of steel.
The grin left one-eye’s face to be replaced by not a little apprehension. “What was that half-breed?”
Just then, the deodanth who reached a hand deep into the black bag screamed; first in pain, then in horror, when he pulls his hand out of the bag to see a small, pea-sized spider the color of a ripe plum lodged between forefinger and thumb. Before the deodanth could finish his scream he slumps over dead, the ebon flesh of his hand still holding the bag swelling as it turns the same color of the spider that bit into him. The creature itself, gone, without a trace. Before anyone can react to the horror just witnessed, Tarif swings his arm towards the other bodyguard palm upwards, and flicks his wrist in a downward movement. The Deodanth’s right eye blossoms into a green feathered shaft that pierces the inner membrane wall and lodges into the brain of a very surprised, very dead deodanth.
One-eye just blinks and shakes his head in amazement as both his high-priced bodyguards lay dead and still within a moment’s time. He looks up to find the black edge of Whisper pressed not to gently against his throat, preventing the sudden taste of bile to not rise any further.
“I said you forgot Sidierion.” Scratched Tarif. His cold, haunting eyes reflecting violet flames from the huge logs burning in the hearth near-by. Not a sound was heard as all eyes in the tavern waited for an ending to this horrid tale they were witnessing.
“Anything Quicksilver!” One-eyed pleaded, “Anything you want, just name it and it’s yours.”
“The money, where is it?”
With a slow deliberate motion, one-eye reaches in to his wrapped bundle that sits upon his lap and pulls out a small pouch, placing it on the table.
“Open it!” Tarif snarls as he prods the man with his rapier.
One-eye pours the contents of the pouch on the table. The money appears to be cube-like pieces of metal of a blackish silvery content. Not a person in the tavern even so much as looking at the strange coinage, not after hearing a name long thought dead and shrouded in myths that always seem to end in death.
“That’s half.” Tarif whispers while drawing the black edge of his rapier lightly across one-eye’s neck, spilling crimson blood. Before one-eye can even blink at the pain, the point of the sword snakes upwards to rest just below his good eye. “I want Sidierion’s share too you bastard! Elsewise I’m going to make you the ugliest beggar boy around.”
“Alright Tarif, fair’s fair. I tried for the inside card and came up missing.” One-eye reaches once again into the small bundle and pulls another pouch, identical to the first and empties its contents too. “Its all there, go ahead and count it. I swear it is.” The last was said more as a plea rather than a statement.
“Something about you and honesty just don’t seem to mix well. Count it!”
One-eye empties the other pouch and begins to count quickly sweat rolling heavily off his forehead into his eye. He looks up to see Tarif’s own pale violet gaze dance back at him coldly and knows without a doubt this half-breed is the same one the legends foretell. “Done.” He says wearily.
Tarif tosses him a thick leather pouch. “Put them all in One-eye.”
Scraping all the coins in, one-eye exhales softly, “Okay Tarif, whatever you say.” His eyes dart to and fro in hopes of finding help from the other tables, then sighs in resignation as he puts the last of the coins in, knowing nobody would be fool enough to try. “What happens now?” He whispers.
“You walk one-eye.” Tarif whispers, leaning closer while sliding the razor sharp edge of his blade to the hollow of one-eye’s neck. You get up, walk through that door, down the main path, through the city gates, and don’t stop to turn around.” Tarif grins for the first time yet it has little to do with any mirth he feels. “You wouldn’t like what you see.”
“That’s it then? You letting me walk out, no trouble or hassle from you?”
“Alright Tarif, fair enough.” He reaches for the sack containing the egg. “I’ll go and get rich elsewhere. It’s all the same to me and you’ll never be seeing me again.”
“Leave the sack.” Came the emotionless reply. The increased pressure of Tarif’s blade accents the demand.
One-eye shrugs, drops the sack and mumbles, “There are other riches to be had Tarif, guess I can lose this one.” He gets up slowly and begins to walk to battered doors of the tavern, to freedom.
“Enjoy them while you can.”
One-eye stopped just as he reached the door. He craned his neck slightly and waited for what fate has in store for him.
“I stopped by Sid’s cousin’s house earlier. He was a bit upset about Sid’s death and was quite interested to know who may have done so. I’m sure by now he’s borrowed a few dozen Dragon Lancers to seek out the ones behind it. They’ll probably question them first to see who they got their orders from.” Tarif smiles genuinely this time as he looks upon One-eye’s face as it drains of all color. “Just thought you might want to know.”
Without another word One-eye bolts through the door and disappears through the mist-covered streets of Melkalund.
“Have a good life One-eye.” Tarif whispers, “All three hours of it.”
Tarif signals the tavern keeper, a good friend for many years now, to get the bouncers to remove the bodies and dispose of them through normal channels. He then makes his way towards the back where his normal table awaits him as usual. The patrons try their hardest to ignore and forget what just happened, and those that don’t have discovered more pressing business then to sit around and drink. The keeper returns with a frosted mug of Mist-Tide Ale, one of the most expensive, and finest ales in the land, to his now silent friend and shakes his head in sorrow for him. The keeper heads back and tells a server to just keep Tarif’s mug fresh and to make sure nobody bothers him.
Throughout the rest of the dark night and into the silent gray morning, Tarif just sits and thinks to himself. A lone and silent figure masked by shadows and fears of becoming once again, that which he was born to do.
“Am I ready to face my demons yet? To face the world once again?” He muses. Then laughter erupts as he continues his thought. “Better still, is the world ready to face Tarif Quicksilver, ‘The Silver Ghost!’”
By John Kell