Summer Swelter

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Summer Swelter

Postby Ulthanon » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:53 am

He pinched the bridge of his nose with a quiet sigh, eyes straining to hold their focus on a collection of parchment field reports he'd been given. He'd read them all in passing before, but his attention had always been tenuous at best, and so he now attempted to collect his patience and plow through them all at once. The effort was, to say the least, a decided failure.

It was hot, too hot to sweat. The harbor's breath hung heavy in the air until every district smelled of salt and brine, as it had for a week past. Always the air was just thick enough to tease with the promise of an impending storm, but... for whatever reason, the squall the city so dearly wished for was always over the horizon, or caught on the other side of the mountains, or spent itself to nothingness as it passed through Duskwood. The perpetual soupy quality that resulted made even the smallest exertion torturous.
With the weather causing most of life to slide to a drooping halt, so too had contracts and jobs become scarce. The typical influx of requests for curiosities from troll ruins, some bandit's head on a pike, artifacts of reportedly wondrous (though actually dubious) power from the soaring pinnacles of the Four Winds- these requests had trickled down to an infrequent drip. As a result, with less and less money coming in, most whose veins held an adventurer's blood could no longer afford the explorations and rangings that they were used to. Ulthanon found it humorous (or he would have, if he weren't so busy wiping sweat from his eyes) that, under these circumstances, people had taken refuge in the same place that they fled to during great celebrations and great tumult alike- in a bar.

The table next to him was playing a game of cards. It seemed like they'd been playing the same hand for days now, none truly saying anything, the same money passing from hand to hand as if the five men at the table were all in truth being held underwater, passing a hollow reed between themselves to allow each to breathe in turn. It was not clear if any of the men had an intention to actually win the game.

Many days ago, Ulthanon had signed up for Stormwind's contract lottery. If the crown needed some menial and bloody work done, they would typically outsource their task to would-be glory seekers and sellswords. In the best of times, the Crown would call a team of five men to arms as quick as you please. In the worst of times, it would be hours between calls for a single team. During days like this, Ulthanon found himself wishing for those previously-named "worst of times".
To keep himself busy during the wait, he'd began reading reports from the Firelands front; detailed metrics of, say, a Core Hound's size and musculature, the recorded pressure its jaw could exert, fastest recorded charge- bits of information that bored even the most academic of magisters, but that needed to be committed to memory if one wanted any hope of surviving an excursion into such a treacherous landscape. ...Fire Scorpions have chitanous armor thick enough to survive glancing blows from all projectile compounds save hardened elementium, attempt to engage from above to ensure the best angle of...

His train of thought was interrupted once again, but this time the distraction came from without. Two large men walked into the bar and past his table, their heavy chain boots clomping loudly on the wooden floors. Both had rifles slung over their shoulders; a human and a dranei, familiar to him from a handful of past rangings.
"Jaico," he hailed the dranei, and the other hunter nodded a hello. "What news?"
"Hot," the response came, and not a word more. Jaico of Argus had never been one for words.

"Ulth," one of the other men said, "You're still haunting this damn place? Thought your old ass had long since shriveled up and died."
He extended a hand behind his head as the man strode over for a shake. "You were right on the shriveling, Billick. I could show you if you're keen."
"Pass," the man replied, "Seen enough of pale death for one day."
Ulthanon cocked his head to one side and repeated his original question. "What news?"
"Will Tommen's dead," the answer came curtly.

Ulthanon hissed between his teeth. Will Tommen had been a promising young tracker and an excellent shot for his age, one of the better human marksmen he'd seen in some time. He hadn't had much personal dealing with the boy, but he'd heard his name in good circles and had seen him in the field a few times. Though no older than sixteen, Will had been a boy of strong talent and... acceptable moral character. Stormwind would be weaker as a whole without his like. "How?"
Billick shook his head. "Nasty stuff. Not even a good death. Got rolled up with some girl, then her friends. Turns out they had a taste for the lotus and got him interested. Died covered in his own shit after his first dream- dirty dose, seems."

In spite of the sodden heat, Ulthanon jerked up from his slouch. "Lotus?"
"Coward drug," Jaico rumbled, looming over Billick as he spoke, "We hunt."
"Did a little digging and found that there's been a spat of this goin' 'round these days," Billick spoke ever quieter and leaned in off of the back of Ulthanon's chair, casting his glance about as if he expected to catch someone eavesdropping. "Did a little more digging and found an address, if you're keen."

He rolled his parchments back up and slid them into his pack. "How much?"
Billick raised his hands in mock offense. "Sir Kaidos, you wound me. How could I charge you for this?"
"Will was friend," Jaico nodded. "No charge."

Ulthanon nodded in return, and without a further word, the three walked out of the Pig and Whistle, Billick leading the way.

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Re: Summer Swelter

Postby Ulthanon » Sun Jul 17, 2011 2:23 pm

"You asked us to tell you the moment there was any movement out of this group, sir. Here's what we know."

A thin stack of papers slid across the desk, and the man who sat behind it thumbed through them, regarding each of them in turn. The grandfather clock stood against the wall to his right, ticking the seconds by as it had for years before, but today was so humid that he thought he could feel the ripples in the air as the ticks and tocks came and went, sounds dropping like pebbles in a pond.

"This one," he said, "This one's name is familiar. Who is this?"
"Ah," his subordinate nodded, producing another (much larger) file, "He was suspected of involvement with the warehouse slaugherings about a year ago, and after that we believed him to be behind the string of robberies against noble houses who'd donated to our coffers."
Desk nodded, pursing his lips. "I remember the warehouse." Those sorts of memories were hard to forget. "We know where he's going?"

"No, sir. Not yet. When we do, you'll know."

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