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Dragonett is a Wood Elf Rogue (Scout)/Ranger

Physical Appearance[edit | edit source]

She's 5'8", wears black leather, carries a longbow, a shortsword, and probably hides a few knives somewhere on her. She has copper skin, dark brown eyes and long raven-black hair.

Personality[edit | edit source]

Let's say that Dragonett is going through her emo phase. After all, she's 25 years into a 750 year lifespan, so that's like 2 in human years - so...a two-year old with a grudge and deadly weapons.

Languages[edit | edit source]

Common, Elvish, Thieves' Cant, Sylvan, Undercommon

Powers and Abilities[edit | edit source]

Roguish - Rangery type things. Badass commando stuff.

Attacks and Weapons[edit | edit source]

Longbow. Lots of Longbow.

History[edit | edit source]

Trigger Warning: This backstory involves depictions of extreme violence.


Dragonett was born to Wood Elf parents, who had originally been part of the small Elven community of Silvi located in the far northeast of Cauldomo, near the border of greater Galik and closer to Abzcar Canyon than most were willing to travel.  The Wood Elves tended to keep to themselves, focused on self-sufficiency and fending off the raiding bands of gnolls that would pour from the Canyon foothills.  Following a plague outbreak in 850 PR, or about 20 years before Dragonett was born, the Wood Elves decided to cut off all communication with the small human population that surrounded them and forbade any member of the village from interacting with them.  

“But we make our living from them,” complained Dragonett’s father Peren to the village elder.  Peren’s skin was tanned with a hint of green and his brown eyes and copper-colored hair complimented the colors of the forest that surrounded the village.  “We’ve been the liaisons between Silvi and the local human villages for centuries.”

“And you know what that interaction has brought upon us,” the wizened elder responded.  He was stooped with centuries of life and his face was covered with wrinkles.  “There are so few of us left.”

“We don’t know where the plague came from,” interjected Dragonett’s mother, Lia.  Her long black hair was braided into a ponytail and lay on the copper skin of her neck.  Her hazel eyes flashed.  “None of the human villages were affected like we were.  It could have come from the gnolls, or perhaps it was a curse from Xevriss himself.”

“Invoke not his name!” shouted the elder, wincing at the reference to the legendary orange dragon.  “If it was a curse, then it was for interacting with the humans.  We must tend to ourselves and none other.”

“But we depend on the humans for trade,” Lia pleaded.  “Where will we get our rare herbs?  Without access to the outside world, Peren and I are useless to the Elves.”

The elder shook his head.  “Our decision is final.  If you leave Silvi, then you leave it forever.”  Peren looked to his wife of three centuries and together they made what they would laugh at later as a very hasty human-like decision.

*             *             *

Two decades later, the elven girl who would become Dragonett was born - in the year 871 PR - on a small farmstead located about halfway between the Wood Elf village and the nearest human farming hamlet of Toohey.  Her parents had only fleeting interaction with the Wood Elves of Silvi, mostly by supplying black-market items that were smuggled back into the village. The majority of their interactions were with the local humans, as Dragonett’s parents provided the services of a hedge wizard and a hedge druid to whomever could barter food or clothing for a minor spell or potion.

Dragonett’s youth was spent as one would expect of a child growing up on a meager self-sufficient farmstead.  In addition to her daily chores, she learned common and elvish from her parents and practiced archery with a shortbow that fit her still-growing frame more like the longbow fit her mother’s.  They did not prosper, nor did they starve, and the slow passing of years saw Dragonett grow to be a healthy -if impetuous- young elf maiden with copper skin, deep brown eyes, and flowing raven-black hair.

This idyllic peace was broken shortly after Dragonett’s twelfth birthday with a sudden ferocity. “Get into the loft,” her mother said, bursting through the front door.

“Why?” Dragonett responded, looking up from the sweeping that she had been pretending to do.  “What’s going on?”

“Just do it!”  There was fear in her mother’s eyes and Dragonett heard sharp words being exchanged outside.  She scrambled up the ladder to the loft and tried to push her hands through the roof thatch to see what was going on.  Her efforts were interrupted when her father rushed through the door, slammed it shut, and barred it behind himself.  

“Grab the bows, Lia,” he said, pointing to the corner where both longbows rested.  “Prepare yourself.  They are coming.”

“I can fight too,” Dragonett called down from the loft.  “I know how to shoot.”  

Her father looked up at Dragonett and she was shocked at how frightened he looked.  “No,” her father said. “You need to stay quiet.”  He glanced meaningfully at his wife without speaking and then continued to Dragonett. “Give us your arrows.”  She ran to her bunk, grabbed the quiver, and threw it down to him.  Lia handed her husband one of the bows and they each took a place next to the two front windows, peeking around the frame to catch a glimpse of the yard.  

“Come out and nobody gets hurt!” a voice called from outside.  There was some laughing that followed.  

“I told you,” Dragonett’s father responded without showing himself. “We don’t want any trouble.  Just pass us by.”

“I’m going to count to three,” the man’s voice called again.  “And then bad things are going to happen.”

Dragonett’s father gestured for his wife to lower her bow, which was aimed through the window.  “They may just be bluffing,” he whispered to her.  “I don’t want to provoke them.”

“One.”

“Please!” her father pleaded to the men outside.  “We have nothing of value.  Leave us be!”

“Two.”

“We should shoot now,” Dragonett’s mom suggested.  “We could take three or four right away.”

“And what about the other ten?” her father asked helplessly.

“Three.”

*             *             *

In later years, Dragonett would remember little of the battle.  In truth, she saw only one side of it - her parents firing arrows from the windows while the sounds of yelling and the incantations of spells echoed from outside the walls of their home.  A few crossbow bolts flew through the windows and the cottage shuddered several times under the impact of a spell, but Dragonett could see nothing at all from the loft.  As they fought, there was nothing said between her parents.  They were methodical and unhurried as they aimed and fired but Dragonett could see in their posture that they had little hope of prevailing.  Their limited supply of arrows was soon exhausted, and she knew that most of the spells they used were for healing and aid rather than retaliation.  Dragonett guessed that less than two minutes had gone by before they had shot their last arrow and cast their last spell.  Both of her parents pulled their daggers and backed up from the door, preparing themselves for melee.  Just before the giant hairy bandit - the one Dragonett would later call The Bugbear - smashed down the door, both of her parents looked up at her - still crouching in the loft.   Her mother muttered an incantation and waved at her while rubbing a bit of fluff in one hand.  Her father waved his dagger at her and simply said one word. “Freeze.”

Dragonett was paralyzed.  She could not move or speak, and she recognized that her parents had cast spells on her.  All she could do was watch as the bandits quickly smashed down the door, overwhelmed her parents, and bound them to chairs.  Dragonett counted ten who entered the cottage and almost all of them were wounded - a tribute to her parents’ accuracy with the longbow. One of them still had an arrow lodged deeply into his arm.  He had a bald head and had a dozen daggers in sheaths strapped all across his body.  He stumbled to a corner and slumped against the wall. A ghost-white albino man started tending to his wound.

“Spead out and find anything valuable,” one of the bandits said to the others, his face was craggy and unshaven, but his long curly black hair was neatly tied up in a ponytail.  His bloody hand was pressed against his side where an arrow had pierced him.  The way he carried himself suggested to Dragonett that he was their leader.  The others started ransacking everything.

“What do we do with Copper, Edge, Crackers, and Smoke?” another bandit asked.  He had short black hair tucked under a tricorn hat.  He wore an eyepatch and gestured with his thumb toward the front yard.

“What do you think, Jack?” the leader responded with a sneering smile.  “We leave their corpses to the dogs and split their share.” A bandit searching near the hearth erupted into gleeful laughter at this. His messy mop of brown hair was uncombed, giving him the appearance of a madman.  Dragonett broke into a sweat as one of the marauders crawled up the ladder into the loft and started searching through her belongings, tossing them everywhere in a useless search for valuables.  She watched him out of the corner of her vision.  He was a dark-haired man with watery eyes, a pointy nose, and buck teeth.  

You look like a rat, Dragonett thought as he turned toward where she was crouched.  He did nothing.  How can he not see me? I’m in plain view. He even leaned over her back, and she could feel his breath on the back of her neck.

“There ain’t nothing up here,” The Rat called to the others as he crawled back down the ladder.  

Dragonett realized that her mother’s spell must have been an illusion that completely masked her.  Since she was inside it, she couldn’t see what it was but guessed it was a broken chair or a piece of useless furniture.  

“There’s nothing here either,” a man with black-brown skin called from Dragonett’s parents’ bedroom.

“They must have a hiding place,” suggested a blonde fancy-dressed man who was sitting at the dining table instead of searching.  “All of these peasants do.”  The funnyman who had been near the hearth laughed at this.  

“As I recall,” a ghost-white albino man muttered while he treated the leader’s wound.  “You are a peasant yourself.” The jester laughed again - cackling insanely.

“Bah!” the pompous man replied, with a dismissive wave.

“Shut up, all of you!” roared the leader.  He turned to Dragonett’s father.  “Where is it?”

“We have nothing!” he cried.  “We barter for food, clothing, and herbs with the locals.  We have no need for valuables.  Please!”

The leader turned to the hairy ogre of a man who had broken down the door.  “Convince him.”

What followed were the worst moments of Dragonett’s life.  Paralyzed by the spell, Dragonett could do nothing but watch as the bandits took turns beating, cutting, and maiming her parents in a pointless attempt to have them reveal the location of treasures they didn’t own.  Feeling the rage boil within her, Dragonett took notice of each of these marauders, committing their appearance, mannerisms, and ways of speech to memory.  She vowed revenge and tried to tense herself to leap at these monsters as soon as the spell that held her was released.  Instead, the spell held.  Her parents were slashed, battered, and bled but still Dragonett was held motionless.

When the bandits grew tired and realized their efforts were in vain, they gave up torturing her parents.  At a gesture from the leader, the man Dragonett would call The Knife eviscerated both her mother and father alive.  The marauders put the cottage to the torch as they departed but her parents still maintained the protective spells on Dragonett.  Only after the fire engulfed the first floor did her father turn his bloody and swollen face to look at her.  “Jump out of the back window,” he called to her.  Compelled by this new spell, Dragonett crawled across the floor of the loft, coughing and choking on the smoke that billowed around her.  She leapt out of the back window and rolled on the ground to break her fall. Finally released from the spell, she tried to rush back into the flames to save her parents, but she was blocked by the raging inferno.  Soon the house was completely engulfed in flames and her parents were gone.  

*             *             *

Following the trail of smoke, human farmers found Dragonett hours later, covered in soot, ash, and dirt and wandering in circles around the yard next to the smoldering ruin of her home.  For a long time, the only things she spoke were the mutterings of oaths under her breath.  “Crush your skull…choke you to death…gut you…tear out your eyes…”

After burying her parents’ remains, one of the farmers handed her a gold ring.  “It belonged to one of your parents,” he said to her, hanging his head in pity. He had thinning grey hair and his face was streaked with ash.  Dragonett took the ring and held it up to her eyes, staring at it intently.  It looked exactly like the gold wedding ring that her mother wore but it had an odd sigil carved on the inside.  Dragonett had put that ring on her own hand a thousand times when her mother wasn’t looking and there had been no sigil.

“What does this sign mean?” she asked, pointing out the etching on the ring to the farmer.

He shrugged and shook his head.  “Dunno.  To be honest elf-maiden, I can’t read so good, even in common.  It might be elf-writing.”  He left her to ponder over the ring and huddled with the three others. Still staring at the ring’s sigil, Dragonett did not recognize the writing at all – either in common script or in elven.

After a short but heated exchange of words, the four farmers decided to return her to the wood elves of Silvi and they all set out together.  Besides her mother’s ring, Dragonett had only the ash-covered and smoky clothes she was wearing.  There was nothing left to salvage from her home.

As they approached Silvi, they were met with arrows at their feet from unseen archers instead of being welcomed.  Hastily making a retreat, these farmers brought Dragonett to the small village of Toohey instead.  There she was fed, clothed, and sheltered by the charity of the local trader.  

It was a week before Dragonett talked to anyone.  The trader, whose name was Dona, had volunteered to watch after her and was finally able to break through the silence.  “I’ll give you another helping of bread if you tell me your name,” Dona said as she held a half loaf out enticingly.  The human woman was in her twenties and had deeply tanned skin and hazel eyes which made Dragonett wonder if there was elven blood in her ancestry.

Dragonett shook her head, but she could smell the freshly baked loaf and her stomach growled, giving away her hunger. She looked down at the floor and muttered a word in elven.

“I don’t know elven,” the trader replied.  “What does that mean?”

“Child of Xevriss.”

Dona laughed heartily.  “I guess you were quite a handful, little dragon,” she said and then handed over the bread.  “Then I shall call you…Dragonett.”

Yes, Dragonett thought, stuffing the still-warm bread into her mouth.  The elven girl is gone…and no one shall use that name again.  I shall be Dragonett and those who cross me will feel the wrath of the dragon.

Over the following weeks, Dragonett started working for Dona, doing odd chores, cleaning the shop, and making herself useful.  Her days passed without event, and she settled into a numb haze, her mind still trying to process what had happened to her and what would happen next.  

“I understand there is an orphan living here,” a man said to Dona on a warm Foursday morning nearly a month after Dragonett had arrived.  She was in a back room restocking some goods that had recently arrived from Galik and peeked around the doorframe.  The gruff-looking man was dressed in a dark cloak and his boots were covered with mud from long traveling.  

Dona nervously glanced at the back room before responding.  “Aye,” she replied.  “What about it?”

“I’m from Galik,” he stated.  “I work for the Lord of Woodworkers, one of the Burghers that runs the city.  Oversight of orphans and orphanages is under his purview, and I’ve come to take the child into the care of the city.”

“First off, we’re in Couldomo, not Galik, so you’re out of your jurisdiction,” she replied.  “Secondly, I thought that orphans were under the Madame of the Merciful Touch. Since when does childcare fall under woodworking?”

“I don’t understand the politics,” the man responded, putting his hands in the air defensively.  “I just follow the orders that I’m given. We’re much nearer to Galik than to Nestle, so the city has been given authority over this area.  As for woodworking…well, none of the Burghers stick strictly to their titles.  After all, the Madame has more on her plate than just the houses of pleasure.”

“What if she wants to stay here?” Dona protested.  “It’s not illegal for me to keep her.”

“Actually…,” the man started, reaching into his bag for a document, “...it is.”  He handed the parchment to her, and she took a moment to read it.  “It’s not all bad,” he continued as he saw the comprehending look on her face. “We do compensate you for your trouble.”  He took a small bag filled with coins and dropped it on the counter.  Dragonett heard the sound and shuddered at what it meant.

*             *             *

The city stunk of refuse and bilge water and the smell clung to Dragonett like wet clothes. She longed for the quiet peace of Toohey, but she had been a prisoner of the Home of Orphaned Children, or as the children referred to it - ‘The Hook’ - for nearly two years.  The orphanage, dependent on the charity of others, was woefully underfunded and overcrowded with the unwanted youth of the burgeoning city.  Children were constantly coming and going, and having been raised in relative isolation from others, Dragonett did not make friends.  Instead, she quickly learned to lie, cheat, and steal to supplement her meager rations.  She also learned - after experiencing a thorough thrashing - to keep a careful eye out for the headmasters while she did it.  It was during one of these excursions that she made a decision that altered her path in life and made her become who she was destined to be.

“...but I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” Dragonett overheard a young man’s voice through an open window as she crept across a low roof of the orphanage toward the part of the building that held the kitchen.  She paused, not because she was curious, but because she didn’t want to get caught again.  It was past curfew, and she had been out at night before to steal a few mouthfuls of stale bread, but the moonlight threatened to give her away if she wasn’t careful.  She hunkered down and tried not to make a noise.

“Look, you know who I work for,” a menacing voice hissed.  “You know what they do, and you know what will happen to you if you make trouble. The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep your mouth shut, take the money, and we all go our merry way.”

“Except the children,” the first voice whimpered.  Dragonett recognized it as the youngest of the headmasters - Marcon - the one she hated the least.  “What happens to the children when they become slaves?” he asked.

“Trust me,” the other man replied.  “They’re taken care of. This ain’t that kind of backbreaking labor if you catch my gist.  Most of my clients like ‘em plump anyways.”

“Oh dear…”

“Like I said,” the stranger cut Marcon off, “now that you’re in it, you’re in it through and through.  And if you ain’t then you get run through, if you catch my gist.”  Dragonett heard some whining from the headmaster.  “You just keep the kids flowing in and I’ll take care of what flows out.  Have the next batch ready tomorrow night or something will be flowing out of you, if you catch my gist.”

Dragonett heard them moving away, but it was a long time before she dared to move.  Finding her appetite gone, she snuck back to her room and stared at the cobwebs on the ceiling as she worked through what she had heard.  That’s why children keep disappearing from here.  Who does the whispering man work for?  What’s going to happen to the children that are leaving tomorrow night?  What if I am one of them?  When she rose in the morning, bleary from a lack of sleep, she decided to pack her bag for a hasty departure.  If it comes to that.

When she returned to her room after a day of mandatory housework, Dragonett found Tana, the girl who slept in the bed next to her, busy preening her long blonde hair while others were gathered around talking excitedly.

“Shondri, you’re just jealous,” Tana said to a mousy-brown-haired frail girl.

“Shut up, Tana,” Shondri responded.  “I just don’t understand how you got chosen first.  I’ve been here longer.”

“It’s because she’s prettier,” one of the other girls sneered.  The redhead had a large, bulbous nose and was horribly racist. Dragonett had not bothered to learn her name.  “They always get picked first.  Like puppies.”

Dragonett spoke up.  “What’s going on?”

“Oh!” the redhead feigned surprise. “The elf queen speaks!”

“Shut it,” Dragonett responded and then turned to Tana.  “What’s this about you leaving?”

Tana beamed and turned to her.  “Yes,” she replied.  “Six of us were selected to go to a party this evening.  There’s a noble family that is looking to adopt children and we’re to go meet them.  I do hope I make a good impression.  Not that it hasn’t been nice here with you all.”  

Dragonett thought that she meant it and felt sorry for her.  “What if I told you that you weren’t going to be adopted.”

“What are you talking about?” Shondri interrupted.  “What do you know about it?”

“They’re selling us into slavery for money,” Dragonett responded. “I overheard a conversation about it last night.”

“You’re out of your mind!” Shondri exclaimed, throwing her hands into the air.  “Is this from one of your dreams?  You’re always screaming about bugbears and ghosts in your sleep.  It wakes all of us up.”

Dragonett clenched her fists to keep from throttling the girl. “No,” she replied, feeling the anger surge inside her.  “This is not a dream.  This is about some group using the orphanage to funnel children into slavery.”

“Really, Dragonett,” Tana said, continuing to brush her hair. “That’s preposterous.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were just trying to scare me into refusing this chance for adoption.”

“Listen to me…” Dragonett started.

“No,” the racist girl interrupted.  “We’ve had enough of your stories.  Go weave your elven nonsense somewhere else.”  Dragonett glared at her, wondering how much punishment she would accept for punching her in the face.  She took a deep breath and then walked away to the far side of the room to cool off.

While she was pacing, a young blonde boy who couldn’t have been more than eight approached her.  He had a birthmark across his neck that had an uncanny resemblance to a unicorn’s head.  The boy must have been a new arrival since he still had baby fat around his face.  “Excuse me,” he said quietly.

“What?” Dragonett snapped at him.  

“Am I really not going to be adopted?”  

She stopped mid-stride and turned.  “What do you mean?”

“I got invited to the party to get adopted, but I heard you say that wasn’t true.”

Dragonett stared at the floor.  “I don’t think it’s going to go the way you think it is.”

“So, what should I do?”

She stopped and realized that she hadn’t considered that part.  What should he do?  What should all of them do?  “Run away,” she blurted out.  “Run away and don’t ever come back.”

“But where would I go?”

“Anywhere,” she replied.  “Anywhere but here.”

“Are you leaving too?”

Now that Dragonett realized what was going on, she knew she couldn’t stay.  “Yes,” she replied.  “I’m leaving.  Tonight.”

“Take me with you,” he said.

Gods be damned, she cursed to herself.  What in the nine hells do I do? She stared at this little pudgy boy who probably lost his parents and his whole world just weeks before.  How can I say no?  How can I say yes? Deciding that the problem would resolve itself later, she made her decision.  “We go in two hours,” she told him.  “Pack your stuff now.  When they call us to dinner, excuse yourself to use the outhouse, and meet me there.  I’ll have your bag.”      

She snuck out of the dormitory shortly after talking to the boy and made her way to the kitchen where she was able to steal a couple of loaves of bread and some dried fish.  She hid them in a small sack near the outhouses where they wouldn’t be noticed and then made her way back to the dormitory to collect her and the boy’s belongings.  When she got there, the room was empty and two of the headmasters were waiting for her.  

“We heard that you were making trouble,” the fat one said.  His name was Progflak, but everyone called him Porkfat behind his back.  Dragonett hated him the most.  The other headmaster was Marcon, the one who she had overheard the night before.  

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dragonett lied, backing away.

“You were planning on sneaking out,” Marcon said.  “But we don’t care about that.  It’s what you were saying that’s the trouble.”

“I won’t be a slave,” she spat.  She tried to keep her distance as they closed in on her, but she could tell they were backing her into a corner.  

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that, elf,” Porkfat sneered. “Nobody wants an elf, nor half the waifs or idiots who end up here.”

“You can’t get away with this!” she yelled, hoping that someone - anyone - would come.

“Yes,” Porkfat replied.  “Actually, we can.”  He maneuvered to one side and then yelled to Marcon.  “Grab her!”

Their first mistake was to believe that Dragonett was not nimble as she deftly dodged away from Marcon’s grip.  Their second mistake was to believe she was not agile as she landed a swift kick to Porkfat’s groin, doubling him over.  Their third mistake was to believe she was not desperate as she ran headlong toward the second-story window, jumping through it into the night.  After a too-long fall, she landed on grass and rolled, twisting her ankle in the process.  Hobbling away, she soon lost whatever pursuit might have been mounted but now she had nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on her back and her mother’s gold ring on a chain around her neck. She found a doorway and nursed her ankle until she could walk on it and then, when she couldn’t stand shivering anymore, started to roam the streets. She wandered aimlessly, going over everything that had gone wrong. Someone had talked - most likely the boy; someone had squealed - most likely the redhead.  Dragonett had been stupid and impetuous, and it had cost her almost everything.  A short fight, a leap of faith, and a stumbling run through the streets of the city can do wonders to start a new life.

She wandered all night, sneaking from building to building and avoiding the few souls that were out on the street.  She hurried when she could, hoping the exercise would fend off the chill of the night, but she soon saw that someone was trailing her.  No matter how many times she turned or ducked in this street or that, her glances showed she was not alone.  Finding herself in a dead-end alley she desperately looked for anywhere she could hide.  She saw a second-story window shutter that was slightly hanging open and hurriedly scaled the wall, nearly falling off twice before she was able to reach the window.  She was barely able to squeeze herself through but finally wriggled free, falling headfirst into the room.  

The room was unlit but with her darkvision, she was able to tell it was a child’s room, complete with miniature chairs, a desk, and a small couch, low to the ground.  Exhausted, cold, hungry, and with nowhere to go, she curled up on the couch and fell asleep almost instantly.

*             *             *

“How in Carceri did ye get in here?” a voice roared at her.  

Dragonett bolted upright and stumbled off the couch, putting up her hands to defend herself.  The room was brightly lit with daylight, and she looked at the small, rotund boy with sideburns who had woken her.  She had to shake her head to clear her vision.  It was not a small boy at all.  The creature was about three feet tall, but he had a round belly on him.  His brown mop of hair was streaked with gray, and he carried a cane.

“Are you a halfling?” Dragonett asked.

“Some balls on ye, missy,” he replied, pointing his stick at her. “Ye’re in my gods-damned office sleeping on my gods-damned sofa and ye’re the one asking questions?  Nae.  I’ll ask again.  How did ye get in here?”

“The window,” she said, pointing to it.  “I was being followed last night and this was my only escape.  I…” she hesitated before continuing.  “I had nowhere else to go.”

The halfling walked across the room, not turning his back to her until he stood next to the window where she had snuck in.  “That’s naught but six inches,” he said after he had looked at the shutter, pointing to the small space she had squeezed through.

“I guess,” Dragonett answered weakly.  “I wasn’t measuring.”

“And up a sheer wall too…” The halfling looked at her keenly.  It made Dragonett uncomfortable, and she fidgeted with her crumpled clothing.  “Ye say ye’ve nowhere to go,” he finally said to her. “No parents?” She shook her head.  “Ye weren’t at The Hook, then?”

She was surprised.  “You know about The Hook?”

He nodded.  “Aye, I know what goes on there, too, and I’m nae too keen on it.  Can I take ye’r reaction to mean ye know too?”

“That’s how I ended up here,” she agreed.  “I was planning on running away but…”

“But ye’r plans went to shite and ye were almost crimped by some Jack Tar as ye wandered through the worst rookery of Galik?”  Dragonett didn’t know several of those words, but the first part was true so she nodded anyway.

“I’m wondering,” the halfling said as he walked across the room to lean against an ornate, halfling-sized desk.  “Ye’ve shown some skill that we could find useful.  What I’m wondering is if ye would be willing to do a little second-story work for me and the crew in exchange for room, board, and a little something extra for ye’r trouble.”  

“You mean like climbing on roofs?” she asked, hopeful that she would not sleep in the street that night.

“Aye,” he replied with a warm smile.  “And a bit more than that, but first thing’s first.  He walked over to her, extending his hand. Dragonett took it weakly, but he gave her hand a firm shake and introduced himself.  “Finnan Blackgallow.  Rogue extraordinaire and head of the Black Brotherhood…at your service.”

“Uh…I’m Dragonett,” she replied.

“Well met, Dragonett.  Ye look famished.  How would ye like something to eat?

Dragonett smiled.  “I would like that very much.”

*             *             *

Dragonett became the newest member of The Black Brotherhood, which was a small thieving guild that focused mainly on breaking and entering jobs. She was quickly put to work getting herself into places that only she could reach and after demonstrating her skill at deftly and silently getting into and out of tight spaces, she was made to feel welcome among them.  Dragonett also appreciated that they were not involved in human and drug trafficking which she learned was the territory of the Shadowguild.  She also learned that the Shadowguild had been the ones behind the collection of orphaned children from the countryside, into The Hook, and from there into slavery throughout the city.

As soon as Dragonett made her first payday and Finnan Blackgallow dropped a few silver coins into her outstretched hands, the first thing she did was find a tattoo artist.  Her dreams were still haunted by what had happened to her parents.  At the tattoo stand near the docks, she had ten names tattooed on her forearms – swearing to herself through the pain that she would ensure each of those bandits went into their grave.  The names she had inscribed were the ones she had given to them:  on her left forearm were Midnight, The Butcher, Knife Man, The Bugbear, and One-Eyed Jack.  On her right were Jester, The Rat, The Ghost, Royal Highness, and The Last One.  

Over the following years, Dragonett learned the skills of the profession from the best the Brotherhood had to offer.  Phyxias, a deft female halfling and a favorite of Finnan’s, taught Dragonett how to sneak silently and use thieves’ tools to open locks.  Himar the Maniac, a crazed, but friendly half-elf taught her how to blend in with a crowd, carefully freeing coin purses from their owners. Smolder, a gruff half-orc, taught her how to cheat at cards, and Nendra Silvertongue, a beautiful chestnut-haired human showed her how to use weapons of all kinds.  Under her tutelage, Dragonett learned the use of swords, rapiers, and crossbows, but unlike Nendra, she always chose the longbow as her weapon of choice – a skill at which she was especially adept.

Working for them, she would sneak into homes and estates all over Galik, relieving the wealthy owners of their jewelry, gold, and gems all the while keeping an eye or ear out for any clue as to the whereabouts of the ten targets on her arms.  Over time, Dragonett became extremely adept at burgling and was assigned more and more prestigious contracts.

“I’ve got a doozy for ye,” Finnan told her one warm summer day near her eight-year anniversary with the Brotherhood. The halfling had slowed significantly since she met him and rarely took jobs of his own, but Dragonett had seen him move like lightning when he wanted to.

“I’m up for it,” Dragonett said, feeling cocky.

“Ye are goin’ after the Commissioner of the Docks.”

“I’m not up for it,” she replied.  “Are you mad?  The Commissioner of the Docks is one of the twenty most powerful people on the continent.  He’s on the Council of Burghers.  They run the city…and the city runs the region…and the region runs the continent.”  

“I’m not mad,” he replied.  “Just wanting to leave my mark before I fade away.  I’ve got a lead that says five of the Burghers will be out of the city and we’re going to hit all five on the same night.  It will be a caravan of plate…the stuff of legend.”

“Are you sure about this lead?” Dragonett had been burned on bad leads before, but luck and skill had pulled her through.  This, however, was on a whole different level.

“Aye,” he replied.  “It’s from Phyxias and I’d trust her with my life.”

*             *             *

Dragonett dropped to the floor of the Commissioner’s bedroom. Everything had gone smoothly, but she was on edge.  This was too easy, she thought.  She hesitated for a moment, thinking about just bagging the job, but she knew this was for Finnan.  He needs this job to retire, and who knows, maybe I could lead the Brotherhood.  She spied a desk on the far side of the room and made for it, knowing that the key to the coin chests would most likely be there.  Her thoughts were interrupted by a single word.  

“Freeze.”  

The spell hit her like a maul.  She was stuck in place and couldn’t even turn her head to see who had cast it.  A person came into the room, carrying a lantern and he set it on the table in front of Dragonett.  

“Too bad you didn’t see my wizard,” he said to her.  “It seems the luck of the Brotherhood has run clean out.  Now the Brotherhood is going to be out a sister if you catch my gist.”  

Something about this man triggered a memory of The Hook in Dragonett’s mind, but she couldn’t place it.  She struggled against the spell but was still held motionless.  She couldn’t even grunt in disapproval.  

“Don’t worry,” the man continued.  “By the time we’re done tonight, Finnan will be down to an only child, if you catch my gist.”

If you catch my gist...  This was the son of a bitch at The Hook who was buying children.  This is the Shadowguild!  

Moments later, the Sherriff arrived and put Dragonett in chains just as the spell wore off.  The Shadowguild man thanked the Sheriff for coming so quickly but Dragonett knew that the Sheriff had to have been summoned well before she had even set foot on the Commissioner’s estate for him to be there that fast. As she thought through the events later, she realized that the whole thing had been a setup from the beginning.  

She had plenty of time to mull over what had happened as she spent the next week in a solitary cell at the city prison.  Her only entertainment was the daily hanging that happened in the courtyard outside her cell - and that was over in minutes.  Every day, four individuals marched to the gallows where the noose was placed on their necks and they either cursed, begged or cried.  Then they hung until they were dead.

The guards, when they would exchange a word with Dragonett, confirmed what she already suspected.  Every member of the Brotherhood had been caught in the act of robbing the estates of the Burghers.  Every member except Phyxias, who had mysteriously disappeared.  Even Finnan, although not directly involved, had been arrested and placed in a cell just a day before.  

The next morning, she watched helplessly through the bars of her cell as Finnan Blackgallow, Himar, Smolder, and Nendra were all hung from the gallows, bringing the horror of her parents’ death back to her anew.  Finnan’s last words, yelled as they placed the rope around his neck, were a mixture of curses toward the Shadowguild mixed with a message in theives’ cant that Dragonett understood clearly enough: “Traitor dead by my hands.’  Finnan’s last act had been to kill Phyxias – his favorite – who betrayed him to the Shadowguild.

Dragonett did not sleep that night, knowing that the next dawn would be her last.  Several hours past midnight, when the city of over three hundred thousand souls was as quiet as it ever was, she heard the lock on her cell click. She turned to see the heavy wooden door drift open, the doorway empty and the torches that normally lit the hall extinguished.  She crept over to the open cell door and looked one way and then the other.  Nothing was to the right, but at the far end of the stone passage to the left, a lone figure, draped in a dark hooded cloak, gestured to her, and then hurried through an archway.

Well, I’ll be dead by noon anyway, so I guess I have nothing to lose.  Dragonett crept noiselessly from her cell and followed through the opening where the person who had sprung her had led.  The cloaked figure stayed just ahead of her, gesturing, and then disappearing down another hallway and another set of stairs and then another long passage.  There was no other sound and the halls were dark and empty.

Continuing to follow the cloaked figure, Dragonett stopped at a doorway that led into a large room.  She saw the shadowed person standing next to an open hole in the floor, their gloved hand holding up the grate cover.  With a gesture, Dragonett was invited to enter the open hole in the floor.

Before taking a step into the room, Dragonett glanced around, surveying her surroundings.  There was a wooden rack with straps and a table with an assortment of knives, pliers, and saws to her left and to her right was a human-sized box leaning up against the wall.  The box had holes drilled through the bottom and a trail of red liquid led from the box across the floor and into the hole next to the shadowed figure. The smell of blood caught in her nose and throat, and she fought the urge to spit. The torture room, she thought.  Thank Lady Luck I haven’t seen this place before.

“Who are you?” she whispered at the figure.  The hooded person shook their head and pointed at the hole in the floor.

“I’m not going down a blood-filled hole in the floor of a torture room without a good gods-damned reason.  Now who in Gehenna are you?”

“I’m a friend of Finnan’s,” a man’s voice whispered back.  “That’s all you need to know.”

“Like Hades,” Dragonett continued. “All Finnan’s friends are dead and that from the betrayal of another friend.  That term doesn’t hold much weight with me anymore.”

The man sighed.  “I owed Finnan a great debt, built up over many years, in many ways, but it was never repaid.  I spoke with him the night before he died, and he made me swear an oath to repay that debt.  I’m doing that now.”

“Bullshit,” Dragonett swore. “Finnan was in a solitary prison cell the night before he died.  “Only someone on the inside could have gotten in to see him.”

“Yes,” the man replied.  Dragonett waited for him to continue, but he just stood in silence.

“So why the hell didn’t he get himself out?” she asked.  “You could have done for him what you say you’re doing for me.”

“You’ll have to ask Finnan that,” he replied.  Dragonett wasn’t sure, but she thought she caught a smirk in the darkness of the hood.

“Since he’s dead, you aren’t making me feel any better about going down in that hole.”

“Very well.” He shook his head. “Seeing as how you won’t move without some reassurances; I’ll tell you this much - I am on the inside.  Let’s just say it helps to have friends in low places when you’re trying to hunt down criminals across the city.  Regardless, recognizing the debt I owed him, I went to him last night.  He looked tired and haggard - not from ill treatment, but like he’d lost the will to live. I offered to help him, but only him, escape - as there was no way I could spring everyone without being caught. He refused, telling me that I was to get you out at all costs.  I did not ask, but knowing him, I believe he could not go on living if he knew his own choices had cost the life of his crew.  He chose you to live in his place.  Satisfied?”

Dragonett thought for a moment.  “No, I’m not satisfied with the situation, but you’ve given enough explanation for me.”

“Then get the fuck in the hole and get out of here before the guards tear this place apart looking for you.”

She approached and looked down.  It was a drop of about eight feet and appeared to be a sewer.  The smell of blood and rotting viscera was even stronger standing above the entrance. “Where does this go?”

“It connects to the city sewer…and the undertunnels.  When you get down, head toward where you walked into the room.  You’ll come across the slave pit and on the far side of that will be a larger sewer that will lead to the docks.  Get passage on a ship that departs at dawn and disappear off the face of Amusa.  Take this. The ring you wore around your neck is in there.”  He handed her a bag that jingled with coins which she took with a nod.  Then Dragonett saw a flash of metal and he held out a dagger, hilt first.  “For the rats.  They grow large off the pit.”

“Will I know the slave pit when I see it?” she asked, taking the dagger, and sitting down on the edge of the opening.

“Oh yes,” he replied.  “Just follow the smell.  It’s where the bodies of all the starved and murdered slaves are dumped. You can thank the Shadowguild for that…and many other things.”

“Thank you,” Dragonett said.

“Thank Finnan,” he replied shaking his head.  “I’m just paying off my debt.  Now go.”

She nodded and pushed herself off the edge, dropping into the sewer below.  Almost instantly, the grate slid back into place above and she turned in the direction she needed to go, hurrying along the tunnel.

As she approached the end of the sewer passage, the rotting smell that had caught in her throat in the torture room now seemed to assault her every sense.  Her eyes watered and she tried breathing through her mouth, but the taste of decay was just as overwhelming as the stench.  The sewer she was walking through opened into a large octagonal stone space.  There was a two-foot drop onto a slippery slime-covered stone floor.  The other walls that she could see also had pipes of various sizes that were discharging liquid – Dragonett could not call it water - into the space, each of them as fetid and putrid as what came from the torture room. Her eyes turned to the center of the room where a pile of bodies was stacked dozens deep.  The slave pits were horribly easy to identify.

Dragonett guessed that there were more than twenty corpses in various states of decay, but all relatively fresh. Dragonett guessed that the room was flushed clean with each rainfall and any corpses dumped here would be periodically washed out to the harbor.  She started making her way around the room toward where the hooded man had told her the exit would be.  Trying to keep her footing on the treacherous stone floor, she half-slid and half crept around the room until she saw the large diameter pipe that she knew led toward the harbor.

Her foot slipped and she caught her balance grabbing onto the leg of a body.  The corpse slid down the pile and flipped face-up at her feet, staring sightlessly from hollowed eye sockets toward the domed roof and grate high above. It was a young man, perhaps only eighteen or so with blonde hair.  It was clear from his ribs that he had starved to death and clear from the lack of decay that his death was recent.  Dragonett’s attention was drawn to a birthmark on his neck.  The birthmark had the uncanny resemblance to a unicorn’s head.  Recognizing this was the boy from The Hook - the one she could not save - she turned and vomited violently.  Everything came rushing up and splattered across the ground, adding to the horror of her experience.  She ran across the floor, slipping in the muck and dashed through the exiting sewer, not stopping until she could smell the salt air and the tunnel ahead grew brighter from the moonlight.

Once free of the sewers, Dragonett easily found a ship that was leaving at first light, and she paid enough to ensure no questions were asked.  Finding her hammock below deck, she crawled inside and passed into a restless sleep, not bothering to watch Galik, her home for the last decade, disappear below the horizon.

* * *

Dragonett’s journey was uneventful and the boat, while not speedy, kept a steady pace over the next month sailing north, then east, and it had just turned south toward their destination. One day, while the boat slowly rocked in the doldrums waiting for a breeze, Dragonett was lying in her cot when she overheard a conversation among the crew.  

Four of them were sitting around the galley table, drinking their grog.  The only one talking was Grog, a young, green-skinned half-orc.  Grog was hardly old enough to shave and he ran his mouth constantly but he was a whiz with a knot, so the captain dealt with his constant chatter by putting him to work.  Today, with no wind, there was no work and so he talked…endlessly.  Dragonett was trying to ignore him, but she shot upright and nearly fell out of her cot when she heard him talking about someone that she recognized.

“…the guy wore knife scabbards strapped all over his body and his bald head was shinin’ in the sun,” the half-orc said to his fellows. “Looked like he was a peddler with a poor selection of goods, or maybe he had a fetish or something. Har! Har!  Anyways, he comes up to me and asks which way to the docks. Mind you, we was standin’ about a block away and you could hear the seagulls squawkin’ and see the masts of the ships above the shops.  I mean, how dumb can you be?”  The others burst into a loud guffaw at this.  Grog continued.  “Then, I looked at his eyes and they were all yellow-like.”

“Your eyes are all yellow-like,” one of the sailors pointed out.

“Yeah,” Grog agreed, taking a swig of grog.  “But he weren’t no half-orc.  He looked sick.  I wouldn’t take him on board my ship like that.”  The four of them rapped on the table with their knuckles twice and spit on the floor to ward off bad luck.

Hearing this, Dragonett approached Grog. “I think I know that man.  Was he alone? Where did you see him?”

“Warukami,” he replied.  “A couple a’ months ago before we sailed.  Aye, he was alone.  Why?  He owe you money?”

“Worse,” Dragonett replied.  She walked to the hogshead and grabbed her own share of grog, setting it down in front of him.  “Thanks for the tip.”        

* * *

It had been two weeks since the ship docked in Warukami.  Dragonett had re-equipped herself from the remaining gold that the cloaked man had given her when she left the prison in Galik. Then she wandered from Drihaol tavern to the Dragontooth Arena, then to the market, followed by the temple of Mielikki and back again.  She was mostly listening, but occasionally asking about a bald man who wore knives strapped all over his body.  She handed out coins to anyone who would talk.  Most of the information was useless.  Yes, they had seen him months ago walking through the streets, or they knew of someone who had seen this man.  No, they didn’t know where he went.  Nobody had heard or seen anything useful until she found the old man.  Three meads had gotten him friendly and a handful of gold had loosened his lips.

“Are you sure?” Dragonett asked.  She was leaning over the table in Drihaol tavern near the docks, talking to this toothless man whose sailing days were long gone.

“Sure as leaves is orange,” he replied.  “Bald feller, wearin’ a bunch of knives strapped all over hisself.  Looked like a damn fool.”

“Where did he go?” she pressed.

“Well…I can’t quite remember…”  Dragonett sighed and passed another few coins across the table.  The man greedily scooped them into his mead-stained shirt.  “Ah, yes,” he replied, smiling.  At least, Dragonett thought it was a smile but without the teeth, she couldn’t be sure.  “I saw him get on a ship.”

“A ship to where?  What dock was it?”  

He pointed an arthritic finger over her shoulder and out of the grimy front window.  “It was that one.”

Dragonett thanked him and quickly made her way to the docks.  “Where does this ship sail to?” she asked the mate of the deck.

“Scoville,” he replied.  “In the Gulfithorp Isles.  We leave in an hour.”

“How much for passage?”

“Ten gold,” he replied.  “Plus half that for baggage.”

Dragonett walked up the plank.  “Here’s your ten.”  She had been stealing back the gold that she had been handing out all along, so she was just as well off when she left Warukami as when she arrived.

Once she reached Scoville, the man she was looking for was not hard to find.  His passing was marked by the locals, and they told her he had headed east toward the “Abbey at the end of the world.”  Following the directions of the locals, she followed a small wagon path that wound its way out to the cliffside at the very point of a peninsula jutting out into the Great Eastern Ocean.

She approached the abbey, a rough stone and wood structure that lacked any creature comforts whatsoever.  She spent only a few minutes looking around before she found him sitting on the front steps of a small hovel that was attached to the side of the abbey.  He had aged significantly since his bald-headed image had been burned into her memory.  He wore the simple robes of a monk, and he looked like he had been waiting for her.  His eyes flashed as she approached and he rose to face her, palms out and empty.

“End this quickly, please,” he said as Dragonett got closer.  She noticed there was something not quite right about him but couldn’t put her finger on what it was.  She felt white heat building in her chest.

“So, you know why I’m here?” she replied.  

“Yes,” he sighed.  “I thought I had made penance for my ills, but it seems the fates have chosen otherwise.”

“Where are the others?”

“What others?” he said, confused.  “It was just me.”

“There were nine others,” Dragonett replied, feeling her rage boil as she had to explain. “The Bugbear, One-eyed Jack, the Rat, the fucking Jester. You know gods-damned well which others.”

“One-eyed Jack?...” he trailed off for a moment.  “Wait.  Who are you?”

“I’m the twelve-year-old elf maiden who watched you and your band gut my mother and father in front of my eyes before you burned my house to the ground and left me with nothing to keep me alive except vengeance.”  She pulled a shortsword from its scabbard and took a step toward him.  “Now where are the others?”

“Wait!” he said, holding his hands in the air.  “I’m not who you think I am!”

“You’re the gods-damned Knife Man,” she hissed at him.  “Where…are…the…others.”

“I’m not him,” he cried.  “That was my brother!  I swear it!”

“What in Hades are you talking about?”

“Wait, please!  I can prove it to you.”  He pulled up the sleeve on his left arm and Dragonett tensed, thinking he was going for a weapon.  He froze and put out his hands.  “He had a wound,” the man explained, pointing to his left bicep.  “Just here.  He told me an elf shot him with an arrow.”

Dragonett raised her shortsword again.  “Wounds can easily be covered,” she said warily, but she was not as confident as she was before.

“If you want to be positive, we can dig up his grave,” the man replied. “He died last week.  His body may still bear the mark.”

Once exhumed, the body was a stinking mess of rotting flesh, but the brother had been telling the truth.  Dragonett cut away the worm-ridden meat of his left arm and found the tip of an arrowhead that had broken off in the bone.  The Knife Man was dead.  “Did he suffer?” she asked.

“Verily,” the brother replied.  “He came in hopes of a cure, but we are a monastery, not a temple.  He lingered for almost two months.”

“Could you leave me?” she asked.  When he had walked some distance, Dragonett picked up the skull of the Knife Man and set it on the ground next to the grave.  Hopping out, she stared down at it, remembering everything that he had done…everything that he took from her.  Then, using all her strength, she crushed it with her boot, fulfilling one of the promises she had made a decade before.  The rotten brains squelched across the grass, and she nearly vomited from the stench, but several deep breaths cured her of that.  She walked back to the brother.  “Who did you think I was?”

“Someone else,” he replied.  “Someone who wanted me dead.”  He stopped and looked back at his brother’s grave.  “I turned a corner in my life that my brother did not, but everyone’s past can sneak up on them.”  Sighing, he turned back to Dragonett.  “Still, it would be better if my presence remained a secret.  I don’t suppose you would be willing to keep silent about me being here?”    

“What’s it worth to you?” she asked, not caring what he did to deserve his own death sentence.  Her vengeance was satisfied.

“Considering what will happen to me if they find out I’m alive – everything.”

“Then here’s my price,” she replied.  “Passage back to the mainland…and some information.”

* * *

Her quarry was difficult to track even with the information she was given, and it took Dragonett months to find the trail of the ones she knew as One-Eyed Jack, the Joker, and the Butcher.  She had traveled to the Kingdom of Xender Pleth and found herself a long way from civilization.  She followed rumors and hearsay deep into the interior of the kingdom.  The trail ran cold in the small town of Ymbtrymman.  As her money ran low, she tried to find work as a rogue, but the town wasn’t large or wealthy enough to support a guild.  Wanting to avoid another run-in with the law, she took to the woods instead of burglary.  To survive, she had to fall back on the lessons in foraging that her parents had taught her more than a decade before.

After weeks of failed tracking, Dragonett came upon Elven Rangers from the small Wood Elf village of Baum.  They brought her to the village and there she was welcomed among her kin.  It took a while for the elven language to come back to her, having not spoken it since she was twelve, but soon she felt welcomed among them – if still seen as an outsider.

While there, she would make excursions into the surrounding forest to search for any sign of her quarry, but without luck.  Rather than leave the area, Dragonett stayed with the Wood Elves of Baum for the following months.  There, they taught Dragonett more skills with her longbow, improving both her skill and her accuracy.  They taught her about the forest and gave her an introduction to their deep understanding of the natural environment and how to survive in it - identifying both sources of food and poisonous species to avoid.  They taught her to speak sylvan – the language of the fey creatures of the woods - as well as undercommon, the Drow language used by a local trader who frequented visits to Baum with exotic goods and trinkets.  Finally, the Wood Elves introduced her to spellcraft, and helped her master her first arcane magic.

Dragonett spent many months with the Wood Elves of Baum and had almost given up on finding the quarry that had brought her there in the first place. It was in a discussion with the Drow trader, Vierna Hun’ate, that she picked up the trail once again.

“Can I help you find something?” Vierna asked in the harsh accent of the underdark.  The drow had grey skin and shock-white hair that hung in a bedraggled mop on her head.  Vierna was curious in that she only sold her goods at night.  Troubled by dreams and unable to sleep, Dragonett had gone for a walk and was looking at one of the nasty serrated daggers that Vierna liked to display – more to discourage young elven children from approaching than to sell.

“Nothing today, Vierna,” Dragonett responded absentmindedly, twirling the dagger in her hand to check its balance. “Not unless you can track down three human men who disappeared in this area nearly a year ago.”  Dragonett meant it as a joke, not only because she didn’t expect Vierna to know anything about them, but also because even if Vierna did know, she was not the type to share information, being secretive about most everything having to do with herself and the other Drow.

“And what would you do if you knew where to find these humans?” she responded.

In surprise, Dragonett nearly dropped the serrated dagger and fumbled it back onto the tabletop.  “What?  Do you know something?”

“I asked what you would do if you found them.”

Dragonett considered her answer for a second.  “I have to kill them,” she responded honestly, knowing that detecting deception was a keen skill of Vierna’s.  “They tortured and killed my parents.”

Vierna nodded and started rearranging the goods on her table.  “Then perhaps we can help each other.  Three men - one with an eyepatch, one madman, and a large one with a leather apron – happened upon a Drow trader not a tenday ago.  They attacked him, wounding him severely and stole all of his goods, leaving him for dead.  The Drow lived just long enough to tell of his misfortune to another trader who found him. There is discussion among the clans about whether we should openly reveal our presence on the continent to exact vengeance.”  Vierna paused and turned her piercing gaze at Dragonett.  “If you were to find and kill these men, the Drow would be indebted to you.”

“Just tell me where they are.”

* * *

A frail elven man entered the tavern, leaning heavily on his cane. His skin was a tone of bronze, and his silver hair was pulled up into a bun. He took a seat at the table nearest to the bar, which happened to be occupied by three brutish figures hunkered over a set of worn, greasy playing cards.  “Just need to rest my weary legs for a moment, fellows.  I’ll be on my way shortly.”  He gestured to the barkeep and waved him over.  “An ale for a parched throat, my friend,” he said, pulling out a coin purse bulging at the seams.  The others around the table exchanged glances and one of them giggled.  

“Fancy a friendly game of cards, sage?” one of the men asked.  He wore a patch over one eye and his short black hair was plastered against his head from wearing a hat all day.

“What’s that?” the old elven man said and squinted to look at the men at the table.  The man on the elf’s left had his hood pulled over his face and he wore a leather apron.  The muscles on his arms and shoulders suggested he was familiar with manual labor.  The man with the eye patch was to the elf’s right and next to him, on the far side of the table, was another with bedraggled dark brown hair and a strange look in his eyes.

“Cards, elf,” the man with the hood said.  “Do you want to play a hand or two?”

“Oh,” he replied.  “Why, I haven’t played in years.  That sounds like fun.”  

With a smiling glance at his colleagues, the man with the eyepatch began to shuffle and deal.  No one was surprised when the elf won the first hand.  They seemed confused when he won the second.  And they grew anxious when he won the third.  Mumbling and cursing followed each loss, and the three others were growing increasingly agitated with each failure.  

“Do I win again?” the elderly elf said. “What luck!” He shakily stood and leaned across the table, accidentally bumping the mug of the crazy-eyed player in his effort to pull over his winnings to an ever-growing pile.

“I think I’ve had enough of this.” The man with the apron stood up menacingly and threw his cards down. “I think it’s time some bad things happened.” He cracked his knuckles into his opposite fist.  The crazed man laughed at this, taking a deep draft of mead.  The man with the eyepatch put on his tricorn hat and adjusted it.

“No violence!” the bartender called, seeing what was about to happen.   

The hulking man in the hood and apron scoffed at him. “If you don’t want violence, then you’d better disappear.”

“I’ll get the constable!” the bartender threatened and disappeared through a door behind the bar.  The rest of the room cleared quickly.

The elf had been ignoring them and was busily stacking his coins.

“We’d best get this over with quickly,” the one-eyed man said, reaching for something at his side.  “We’re expected back in Galik soon and we won’t run as fast with a heavy purse.”  The jester laughed out loud and started violently coughing.

In one quick motion, the frail elf grabbed a fork from the table with his right hand and jabbed it into the single good eye of the man with the patch.  With a slash of the other hand, a hidden serrated dagger cut open the midsection of the man with the apron, gutting him and spilling his insides.  The laughing man on the far side of the table was now foaming at the mouth, holding his throat, and thrashing about in his chair.

The frail elf spun out of his seat, except that all frailty had vanished.  The voice that he used was not the one he had used before.  Speaking in Dragonett’s voice, the figure approached the blinded man, now stumbling around the room.  “Tell me where I can find the other members of your crew who you ran with ten years ago.”

“I ain’t telling you nothing,” the man cried, swinging blindly at where Dragonett had been speaking a moment ago.

She used the bloody dagger in her left hand to cut his throat and he fell to the floor gasping like a landed fish in a puddle of his own blood. “Then you are of no use to me.”  She turned and walked around the table and past the Jester, who had fallen out of his chair and was now scratching at his throat as his legs kicked helplessly under the table.  She stopped near the man with the apron, who was rolling on the floor in agony and trying unsuccessfully to hold his intestines in.  “I can make this quick,” she said to him.  “Just tell me where I can find the others.”

He pulled a hidden knife and slashed at her, barely missing as she jerked away.  She kicked his hand, and the knife went skidding across the room.  “Go to the Abyss,” he spat.

“I’m kind of hoping for Ysgard, actually,” she replied.  “But honestly, with all the justice I’m dishing out, who knows where I’m going?”

He looked at her intensely.  “Justice?  Who are you?”

“I’m a twelve-year-old elf maiden who watched you gut my mother and father in front of my eyes before you and your band burned my house to the ground and left me with nothing to keep me alive except revenge.”

“Gods have mercy,” he winced in pain.

“They may have mercy, but I have none.  Where are they?  When did you last see them?  What are their names? Who…”  She saw him grab a second knife from his boot and she deftly jumped back, prepared for another swipe, but instead, the man slashed his own throat, and a jet of blood shot across the floor.   He fell on his back and lay still, gasping, the blood gushing like a wellspring from his neck.

She stood over him until the last twitches of movement had stopped. She carefully cleaned her boots and dagger, re-adjusted her disguise, and then took just enough of the table money to get her back to Galik.  Without looking back, she walked through the back door and into the night.

* * *

She returned to Galik through a small side gate hidden by a heavy cloak and heavier rain.  A few well-placed questions in the right taverns let her know that she was no longer wanted by the local authorities.  It appeared that her escape had been covered up, either by her benefactor or out of embarrassment.  Either way, it meant that she could now walk freely through town.  However, she needed some employment while she searched for any sign of the remaining six murderers.

Grabbing something to eat from a local food stall, she ate it while she gazed at an airship floating in the gloom nearby.  They were everywhere on the continent now, but she remembered the day when she was six years old and the first one had flown over her farmstead.  Her mother and father had held her hands and together they waved to the cloud that you could ride.  You will be avenged…I swear it.  Four down and six to go.

As dawn broke, and the morning sun began to peek through the clouds, she walked to the gate where the airships were floating and read the sign. ‘Tempest Brothers Expeditionary Company.’  Well, she thought.  It’s as good a place as any other to make a new start.

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