Der are rules, sire sir… yessir… rules.
Even such as us, der be it true, we gots rules. Ain’t never, ain’t never in life taken nuffin’ from no one ain’t look like dey weren’t need it anyhow. Poor bugger come runnin’ trough da hills and lookin’ like he ain’t worf nuffin’ and carryin’ only da rags on his back and such, me and my boys ain’t touchin’ him. Poor bastard gots enuff problems, dat’s what I’m of a mind of.
Sensible. Dat’s the word. I’m a sensible robber and only ‘cause der ain’t no work to be had in da hills. Never were, ‘cept runnin’ from Arcs. And dey run faster.
Why any fucker or fucker or fucker would be out in dese hills, ain’t no secret. Only two suches out here. Only two. We gots Arcs—big ole green bastards what love fuckin’ sheep and killing people and playin’ dat mountain clan music wit’ noise and rancor. We gots dat. And den we gots dat elfin fuck on da hill up north a ways. No, don’t know his name, sire sir… ain’t never been invited to dinner or nuffin’.
But dat fucker is famous in the hills. Him and his friends or fam or whatever dey are. Womens? Mens? I hear dere kind goes all ways and it ain’t my way, but nobody never asked me nuffin’ about dat.
Dey at da castle. Dey make lights and fearsome noise and such. All sounds like what a howler monkey gibberin’ at da bottom of a well might sound like—all floaty and weirdly. But dey dance to it like it were a bawdy tune on a good ole fashioned six string lute in a tavern after a drought. Elfin, do I say you mind, are weird damn creatures. All wearin’ gaudy lookin’ finery and rings and such. Here. In da hills.
Wit little men and whatnot followin’ ‘em around and servin’ derethirst or whatnot. I seent ’em put fine wine (in bottles, sire sir, bottles) on da heads of dem little men and whatnot and have ’em go out fifty pace and den just spend afternoons shootin little lights at ’em. Bust a bottle. Soak a little fucker thing. Laugh.
What da hell sense is dat?
Its like when my cousin got his da’s farm when we was youngerns. Sold it to da first fancy man what come to ask on it, took da gold and coin and started talkin’ fine and dressin’ fine and it was all “roast chicken from dat inn” dis and “lookat my new necklass, Cord” dat. Ugly fuckin’ necklass, too.
Dey shoulda never given dat fuck money.
But dey ain’t ask me, so it is.
Elfin. Weird damn creatures.
But da strangers came. Like a shot in da night and like an arrows flyin’ wit’ purpose. Da’ big man caught me and my boys doing a little robbin’ (no harm, no foulin’). Told us off, and let us go—I suspect he’s one of dem heros I hear about from da city. All pretty and feirce. Shiny sword and servants to carry his stuff and a woman to warm his tent. I’ll tell ya fine, he let us go wit a warnin’ and we took it.
But next day I saw dem track and trail—dey don’t seem to care about leavin’ one. Scary dat.
Dey went right to dat elfin castle.
Right dere, say it.
Me and Cobb watched from da Bastard Hill, right over dere, sire sir. Right dere.
Went right in, like dey was King Adoku hisself. Proud as you like.
Right up. And goes in. And about twenty minutes later, I fink or so, dat big tower dere… no, it WAS dere, sir… dat rubble… yeah. Dat pile of stone. It starts comin’ down! Boom! den a minute later BOOM! a little more. Den BOOOOOOM, nearly all done. Den a great fuckin’ crash and the whole fuckin’ tower just a pile o’ rocs. True, I say it true.
Pile o’ rocks.
I’ve pissed longer den it took for dat to come down.
Fuckin’est damn sight—’scuse me fine, sir.
Den dey just come strollin’ out, blastin’ hell and fire and lights and colors all behind ‘em like casual. Like dey were wavin’ friends away, but blastin’ em with fire and hell instead of wavin’. All casual. Like nuffin’. Dey looked like dey been stuffed in a sack and beat half-to-death against a tree like ya’ do with a snake on da farm… but, dey just strolled out to da courtyeard and would sit a while and walk back inside and light da place right up and den come out and someone else would go in.
Da whole time, dat whole hour more and more of da castle fallin’ apart like a crumblin’ loaf of hard cake.
Den, dey turned, and walked right off.
An I tell ya’, I walked da’ other fuckin’ way. Me and Cobb. Dey spared my shit life once, I don’t tempt no fate twice, and I say it true.
Free of ’em, sire sir.
Hang on… hang on a minute… I know a spot of the Kalamaran… “THReeeeee”?
“THReee” of ‘em. Big man, pale lady, big fuckin’ damn creature of one? No idea. Is dat what merfolk look like? Or mebbe is dat a demon? Dunno. Scaley, brownish. Ain’t wearin’ no shirt, I don’t know dat its a man at all.
Dem, yessir. Just dem.
Any free fuckers who can walk into an elfin castle where an elfin lord or whatever has made his home for as many generations as my family can remember, wit his whole crew o’ bastards wit him… and bring da entire place down to rubble in da span of about an hour?
Dey can have it. Whatever dey want. Cord and his boys ain’t got no business wit dem.
Dey went dat way, yessir. City-wise.
Iffin’ ya could let me go, as a kindness, dat would be grateful. I have a wife, sire si—what do ya’ mean “dead”? I’m talkin’ fresh as can be. True, I don’t feel in pain after dat sword… dead?
The body twitched on the ground as the armored figure took his hand away from its head and stood. Cord’s soul would move on. He’d know rest, now. Holding his shade here made her queasy, and she was grateful the plate armor and helm hid that disgust—her companions didn’t need to know how little she liked doing that.
But the information was helpful. The old robber was watchful and clever, she’d see some of her brothers and sisters did right by his wife. A few coins, maybe a place in one of the temples inland.
Sonya walked back to the group.
“Darling girl. What did he tell you?”—dreadful as the weather was, Viscount Echai’s voice was rich and warm—as though the rain and storms were a joke and he would always find them funny.
“Captain Malleus. The Dragonborn. Astrid Firekin. Just them. He never saw the other two”, her voice was slow and heavy. She’d castigate herself over killing Cobb and Cord for weeks, it was a heavy price to pay, but she’d pledged her service to the Viscount and he never left witnesses to his investigations where he could help it.
The Viscount closed his eyes and raised his head to let the light rains splash down his narrow, pointed face. Dreamily. In contemplation. Of what? Sonya never knew. But she’d seem him think like this before and knew to be patient.
The others were by the horses, down the hill.
After a few minutes, which stretched out like an eternity in the silence, he shivered and shook his head—brushing away the thoughts that consumed him for those moments and returning to the now and the near.
“Stretcher! Grieflaw! Sir Moizeurs! We’re coming down, saddle the horses, we ride for Bet Seder! We found them, now let’s finish this!”
Cord saw the light… Cord rose… Cord found peace.