All the Kingman’s Forces
Greenwort, the excommunicated mage of the Lower, was not overjoyed about journeying into the Redlamp to meet his stalker. At the man’s own apartment, no less. But he was doing so on his own accord, the wizard had to remind himself, for there seemed to be something of great interest in this Mr. Junip’s possession: the Magmorb, an Artifact of Olde, and on the off-chance that Mr. Junip did actually have the thing, Greenwort was not about to let Fate decide who came by it next. Goldwater was a mortal, as it were, not a Learned man like Greenwort. To have a mortal carrying around an Artifact like it was some trinket from his grandmother was unthinkable. It was basically Greenwort’s civic duty to take it off his hands.
And so the wizard found himself in the very humble abode of Goldwater Junip, who was gleefully staring back at his guest, completely beside himself that Greenwort had shown up at all.
“Mr. Green! What perfect timing,” Goldwater exclaimed as he resumed bumbling about, gathering clothes and books and rather pointless knickknacks from around what Greenwort could see was a very untidy living room. Greenwort’s impression of the short, overweight man could best be described as pouchy. He wasn’t sure why.
“I was just about to head out!”
“Oh?” Greenwort almost immediately regretted uttering any sort of response. Artifact or no, he had decided as soon as Junip opened his mouth that it was not worth suffering through another conversation with the man.
Goldwater paused and turned to the mage. He flashed a grin, and continued, “I’m going on an adventure!”
It was too late now; Greenwort was actually becoming mildly interested in where Goldwater was going. From an academic standpoint, of course, he rationalized to himself. He removed his thick, smoky glasses and went through the futile motions of cleaning the lenses on his tunic. “Where to?”
Goldwater was smiling wryly now, and said, “Why, the Halajord of course.” He paced over to one of several bookshelves in the fairly spacious living room. From it he removed a burlap-wrapped orb. Greenwort instantly knew the nature of the item inside without having to lay his eyes upon it. “I’ve been thinking – I’ve done so little with this life and I’m already in my thirties – what better time for an adventure than now! And with all the do-no-gooders about – it’s not like I live in a good neighborhood, and I’m probably not moving anywhere respectable any time soon–”
“Why the Halajord?” Greenwort placed his glasses back onto his aged face. They were no cleaner than before.
Goldwater pursed his lips. “Truthfully?”
“Even if it sounds completely and utterly insane?”
“Yes, especially that.”
Goldwater paused. He could feel (who he knew as) Mr. Green blinking at him.
“This thing has been giving me dreams about it.” He unveiled the prize beneath the burlap, whisking away the cover like he was a magician performing to a very unimpressed audience of one. Before the two men lied what was very unmistakably the Magmorb. “It’s been showing me the way to The Mountain.”
Greenwort had trouble showing any facial signs of emotion in his later years, his leathery jowls sagging so much on his face is was almost as if he had more skin than the insides it covered up. But at this particular moment, his right eye glistened perhaps a bit more than usual. He reached for it.
Goldwater snatched it back and threw the burlap back over it in a blink of an eye. He almost seemed hurt. “I call it the Hot Ball.”
Maybe it was all the excitement, or the warming presence of the – did he just call it a Hot Ball? – or maybe it was simply because his prostate was enlarged beyond belief and probably riddled with cancer, but in any case Greenwort was suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to pee.
“Where is your commode?”
• • • •
The man known as Goldwater Junip resided a small flat (which, admittedly, for as tiny and rundown as it was, was still difficult to afford on the meager salary of a columnist who specialized in writing uninspired horoscopes which bore no mark of truth about them).The shoddy apartment lied on the third floor corner of a building made of crumbling stone and plaster. This was at the intersection of Rample and Crap, the unpaved streets of which never quite got the memo to upgrade to something a bit more suitable for urban wear and tear. It was not a busy or cloudy night by any means, and the light salty breeze bore upon it the sickly salty smell of the Bungle River just a few blocks north. Tattersaw Lower always had that odor about it, the Scrubber thought to himself. He rarely even recognized its presence most times – save for nights like these, where he solemnly awaited the moments when he was to go to work.
Pericot Woodworth pondered little, arms folded neatly on his lap, as he sat in the handily embroidered carriage which the Kingman always readily provided him on his nightly jobs. As the Kingman’s sole Scrubber – a title which he bore with an intense pride and diligence. He had alternate motives, of course, for cleaning up after the Kingman’s needless murders, but he did not dwell on those thoughts when his duties were at hand. He watched the dim light which glowed from Goldwater Junip’s apartment as he awaited the Aftermath.
Lindemindt Bullstrop, a Vassal of the Kingman and a faefolk of sorts, fidgeted next to the Scrubber in the black carriage. This was Bullstrop’s first big task, the Scrubber could tell, and the impatient man would not cease the minute bouncing of his left leg. The Scrubber inhaled deeply and barely turned to deliver Bullstrop a subtle glare. The Vassal didn’t seem to notice.
In fact, he seemed to notice little. A permanent squint seemed to be screwed upon his face.
Finally, the Scrubber noticed movement on the rusty fire escape (as if a fire escape of even the finest blacksmith would have allowed anyone reprieve from even a small candle fire should the building decide it was time to set itself aflame). It was the nearly invisible billow of a black cowl, which was absolutely unmistakable against the dark backdrop of the night to his keen eyes. The Scrubber, unlike his companion, had been on enough of these jobs to recognize the hallmark of the Hangman when he saw it.
The Hangman’s tolls were always quick and clean, which is something he as a Scrubber always appreciated. It was easier to call upon the twisted magics of the shadow to disguise the means by which a cadaver bit the big one when the kill was neat.
He gently nudged the Vassal and nodded toward the window of the target. “It’s nearly time,” he whispered flatly. The Hangman moved stealthily yet rapidly approached his destination. The Vassal, fed up with the tiny angle allowed by the viewport in the carriage door, exited rapidly and spun on his heel to try and see what was going on.
“What?” the Vassal demanded. “I can’t see a damned thing, how can you?”
The Scrubber silently clicked his door shut and buttoned his taupe colored topcoat. This was his only response.
“I don’t like you very much,” muttered the Vassal.
• • • •
The Hangman stood motionless outside the Target’s window. Glass, he thought to himself. A glass pane? This was a strange amenity for Tattersaw Lower. He hated glass windows. There were volumes he could speak on how glass windows impeded the progress of a true assassination. They always creaked. Opening them meant a certain change in atmosphere to what lie on the other side. And the few times he’d had to jump through them to make a quick escape had been far less than a pleasant experience.