Rat & Will Chapter 3: Stupid is as Stupid Does
Working together, it still took more than two hours for Rat and Will to collect all the possible valuables and dispose of the bodies of the guards. The remaining horses were chased further into the woods, though they’d likely return to the city when they got hungrier than they were scared.
Rat took an extra moment to wrap and hide any weapons the guards had been carrying, before burying another stash of jewelry (which might easily be recognized by people in the city) under a large rock she was sure she could find again. They’d met back at the scene of the fight, which was mostly hard-packed earth and rock and bore few signs of any disturbance. Good.
The sun was still relatively high as they set off again, even after Rat took the time to coach Will on the lie she hoped would get them through the front gate of Morgans Reach. “You did pretty well today. But they are totally gonna ask about the missing guards.” Rat sent him a warning look, as if he’d argue.
He grinned back at her, ready. “Right. So I tell them the truth about our conversation, including the merc part, then mention that we all heard a disturbance further away. They told us to wait, but after a couple hours, we decided to go on ahead to the city.”
She considered. “Not bad. I couldn’t do it, but you play stupid well enough to make it seem at least plausible.”
He bowed in her direction, adding a playfully foolish flourish simply to make her smile. “I do my best.”
Rat rolled her eyes, but he’d earned the smile she gave him. Then she glared towards the city. “I can’t say I’m thrilled that we didn’t just take the horses and gear back towards Bralta. With some decent feed, those horses would have fetched a good enough price. Probably be treated better than they have lately, too.”
Will shrugged. “But we’d have lost the chance to get into Morgans Reach easily. Possibly lost the job, too. And you’ll still get the jewelry and the weapons you stashed when we’re finished.”
“Fine.” Rat sighed heavily enough to make him smile. “This is going to be a pain in the ass. You know that, right?”
“Isn’t it always?” Will asked. “That’s what makes it fun.”
She grumbled, but didn’t bother to hide her answering bloodthirsty smile. When Will was right, he was right.
An hour later, the sun was fast dipping towards the horizon. They approached the gates of Morgans Reach carefully, certain that the city leadership must be missing the guards they’d killed by now. Two guards in familiar uniforms stepped forward, swords drawn, to stop them. “Announce yourselves.”
Will smiled in a friendly, vacant way. “Where are the men we talked to earlier?”
The man frowned. “We ask the questions. Announce yourselves.”
Will didn’t seem to notice the frown, and kept smiling too wide. “Of course. I’m Will and this is Rat.”
The man gestured with the sword. “Why are you coming here?”
He shrugged. “We didn’t mean to be, but now we need some repairs.”
The other guard pointed at the pile of carcasses piled on their pack pony. “What’s with the dead shit?”
“We were attacked by wolves, sir.” Will’s beaming expression brimming over with open-eyed innocence only an idiot would believe. “They broke things, so we thought to sell the meat to help get the things repaired.”
“Look more like dogs than wolves.” The guards shared looks that clearly said what they thought of his intelligence.
“Oh.” Will said simply, pretending to miss the meaning of their looks entirely. “Ok?”
Rat nearly rolled her eyes as the guards began to relax. She knew what they thought they saw when they looked at Will: a dumb aging merc who’d managed to survive a bit too long due to good luck and decent looks. They took in his guileless blue eyes, full blond hair, and still roughly pretty face and thought he’d be an easy mark on his way down to wherever dumb old mercs went before they died.
“What about your dwarf girl, there?” The first guard pointed at Rat. “What’s her deal?”
Will swung around and looked at Rat, as though ensuring he knew who they were talking about. He snuck a quick wink at her and turned about. “I don’t know, sir. She’s a good cook. She wouldn’t cook the wolves though.”
“You mean the dogs?” The guards were both smirking now.
“Yes?” He looked at them hopefully.
The men put away their swords. “Does she fight with you?”
Will pulled a confused frown across his face. “Sometimes…” He glanced at her, then lowered his voice conspiratorially. “She can be grumpy about things.”
The guards laughed. “She’s a dwarf. Aren’t they all?”
The other man reached up and punched him on the arm good-naturedly. “But you’re a merc, right? Does she help you fight?”
“Oh!” Will beamed proudly. “Sure! She’s very good with knives!”
The men grinned, certain they were talking to the stupidest man alive. Rat couldn’t help shaking her head. These two were nearly too stupid to live. No merc that stupid would be out on his own, still alive, and wearing pants. They elbowed each other and one of them snickered, “I bet she knows right where to put the pointy end.”
Behind the empty smile, Will’s neck was growing red. Rat hoped Stupid and Stupider let them in before he hit one of them. Holding his temper better than she’d have done, he shrugged rather helplessly and the men guffawed and continued making rude remarks.
Still, the one who’d first approached them gestured meaningfully to the other who turned to go back to the gate. Then he held out a hand. “It’s two silver entry fee for mercs.” He grinned darkly at Rat. “But I’ll only charge you half for her, seeing as she’s about half sized.”
Rat met his eyes with cold indifference and he nearly stepped back. Unlike Will, Rat wasn’t good at looking innocent or harmless. Because she was small, she could avoid notice, but if people got a good look at her, they weren’t likely to forget it. Sometime in the past, she’d tangled with something nasty and clawed. She’d survived, meaner than ever, but it left it’s mark on her face in the form of claw marks that bisected her left eyebrow, cheek, and mouth. Her left ear was torn in several places like a cat’s. All in all, it made her uncomfortably memorable.
Luckily Will was making a show of pulling small change from various places, distracting him from Rat. “I’m sure grateful to you. Do you get lots of fighters here? You must if you have a special fee. Let me see, I have twelve copper here, and five over here…” He pulled together a handful of copper and one full silver and dropped it into the waiting hands of the guard. Rat noticed that there was nearly four silver worth, but was unsurprised when the guard accepted it all as if the amount were correct.
“Right.” He said, suddenly more efficient. He gestured again at the other guard and the gate began to rise. “Stay out of trouble, and be out of town by next week, or you’ll need to pay up again.”
“Thanks very much, sirs!” Keeping up the ploy to the last, Will smiled gamely to each in turn, but Rat ignored them completely as they walked the horses slowly under the rusted metal. Both had to work not to jump at the sound of the gate falling hard to the stone behind them.