Rat & Will Chapter 11: Contracts & Cutpurses
Urden Longbough stared at the contracts. “I can’t believe she signed this.” He reread it. “I can’t believe you wrote this.”
Rat shrugged, dropped ten coppers on his desk. “Any Guild reason to disallow?”
He glared at her. “You know there isn’t. But if you talk, this hall doesn’t have 600 coppers, much less gold.”
Rat met his angry look. “We won’t. But if we die and Tremant figures it out, take her and the contract to the Hall in Gandarn. They’ll pay.” She shared a look with Will. Turned back to Urden. “But if we don’t die and didn’t talk, you best hope your sister is tight lipped. We find she talked, I’ll take that bar. And then her tongue.”
Urden waved that away. “She won’t.” He eyed them. “Gandarn will cover this? Seriously?” He waved the contract. “Who are you two?”
“Mercs.” Rat sneered. “Good at what we do.” No way she was volunteering any more than that.
“I guess so.” Urden shook his head. “Fine. Consider this filed. Got any idea how you’re going to do this?”
“A few.” Rat didn’t blink. “Got any suggestions?”
The man laughed. “I’d have suggested you not sign this and just leave. But, since you signed it…I’ll tell you that his best men are kept around the palace. Most of the men on the walls are idiots or not trusted by Tremant.”
Rat grinned. “Any way to tell the difference?”
“The ones that rush the two of you are probably the idiots.” Urden’s voice was dry. “Guards about the palace are decently trained. Nasty sorts. Rumors of disappearances among the locals. They say not all are for Lord Tremant. Course, there’s also the rumors of blood magic. Even though everyone knows that magic users don’t come this far north anymore.”
Will and Rat exchanged glances. Rat asked. “Tell me about those rumors.”
He glanced at them, saw something in their faces that made him swear. “You’ve seen magic users? This far north?”
“Fought them a few times. Fought beside a couple once or twice.” Rat shrugged. “What about those rumors?”
Urden grimaced. “People say that a few weeks after Tremant took over, he pulled a few men at random off the street. Disappearances been happening since. Men, women, children. Odd noises from the palace.”
“Not much to go on.” Will leaned in.
“There’s the feeling in town.” Urden looked uncomfortable. “This town looks like he’s been here for years, but truth is, it’s been only a bit more than a year. Town looked perfectly respectable, neat even, two years ago.”
“Ah.” Will considered that. “What’s the suicide rate like?”
Urden stared at him. “How did you know?”
Rat and Will looked at each other. “Shit.”
The Guild Master looked from one to the other. “What?”
Finally, Rat just shrugged. “Maybe nothing. Maybe we didn’t ask enough in that contract.”
Urden asked more questions, but neither merc was interested in giving any answers. Some things, especially dark magic things, were better left unsaid.
Finally, Will just sighed and shook his head at the concerned Guild leader. “We might be wrong. But if we aren’t, talking about it makes it worse. Leave it be.”
Having filed the contracts, they took their leave. On the way back to Morgan’s Keg, they picked up Rat’s repaired saddlebags. The work was nice enough that Will convinced Rat to pay an extra silver, leaving the craftsman nearly tearful in gratitude. They stopped for dinner at a stall that was closing up as they walked by. Glad to be making an unexpected sale, the stall owner included enough pocket pies for breakfast as well, making Will grin.
They walked back to the tavern in near darkness. When a frightened voice from an alley near their destination rang out as they passed, they looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Will mouthed the word “trap” and Rat simply shrugged. They pulled steel and entered the dark space.
At the far end of the alley, a lantern lay on the ground, highlighting a prone form, melodramatically weeping and clutching at her side. Will moved slowly towards her, talking a bit too loudly. Rat sidled into the shadows on his left. When two men in black jumped out halfway down the alley, swords drawn, Rat was on the first man before he could warn his friend. The second was soon fleeing from Will’s prepared attack. At the end of the alley, the woman began screaming in actual terror as Rat took down another hidden man and jumped at the fleeing actress.
When Will grunted in pain after another man attacked him from behind, Rat left the screaming woman and ran back to her husband. Before she could get there, he’d killed the man and stood holding the arm the dead man had sliced. Rat checked again, carefully, for any remaining thieves, then went through the effects of the three dead men. She pocketed a few coppers, two silk kerchiefs, two decent knives, one necklace, a pair of worn, but excellent quality leather gloves, one not too terrible knife with a large fake ruby in it, and a knitted scarf.
“What are you going to do with the scarf?” Will asked, slight confusion on his face. Rat hated such scarves - she called them death leashes and refused to allow either to wear them.
Rat shrugged and said too casually. “Might be worth something. In the light. If not, Fro could probably use it…”
“Ha!” Will grinned. “You liked the kid.”
“Tough enough, for his size. Not too stupid.” Rat glared at Will. “Might survive if he stops letting the old man run him.”
Will didn’t say anything more as Rat considered the coat on another of the men she’d killed. Pulled it off him. But he smiled knowingly until Rat threatened to gut him as well. Then he chuckled and took the resulting elbow to the gut complacently before settling his face to more serious lines. They left the bodies where they were and walked back to the tavern in the scant light of the stars.