Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Winding Road: Dab Koom

by Frank Gori



The mage walked into the bar just in time to ruin the best day of Dab Koom’s life.  Earlier that day he followed a lead on a new employer and was hired on the spot. His new boss advanced him two weeks pay, a fine blue hatchet indicating employment, and extended a tab to him at the Sawhorse, the best carpenter bar in Hub.
 
It felt good to work as a carpenter again. Dab was tired of fighting for his dinner in dive bars against opponents he knew nothing about. Dab saved money for months to get forgeries from a Music Guild painter that would pass inspection. The papers got you the belt, the belt allowed you to work honestly as a carpenter. Dab’s original guild belt got revoked when the man who had taught him was caught embezzling funds from the guild. His near journeymen status revoked, Dab either had to find another occupation or suffer starting over as an apprentice first circle again.
 
Dab had chosen to become an underground pit fighter instead. Unlike some of the other fighters that blew their money like it was always going to be there Dab saved. He saved and saved, figuring he’d start a business somewhere or be a small town carpenter somewhere away from Hub. His last opponent was a bear and all he was given to fight it was a dagger and a wooden shield.
Fuck fighting.

The Sawhorse was in a celebratory mood tonight. Several men with shiny new blue hatchets, indicating they were his co-workers,  all seemed to be drinking freely on the same tab. That blue hatchet was the finest tool Dab had ever held, the weight perfectly balanced and the edge sharp enough to shave with.
 
Dab had just ordered his third crab apple cider from the pretty half Elven bar maid when it got quiet. It was a bad quiet and about half the bar looked when the mage came in. The mage was tall for a human and skinny, with dark black hair and large blue eyes that manically scoured the room for someone.

Dab knew it was a mage right off because of the fine dark grey silk robes and light blue sash, which restrained a pair of wands. As a minotaur carpenter Dab knew little about wands but for the stories that they could shoot fire. What Dab did know for sure was he didn’t like bullies and when several men seemed to find their weapons and proximity to said wizard, Dab knew he didn’t have much a choice.
 
Dab remembered hearing the sound of steel chiming on steel then a loud crash and someone yelled “Shenanigans” before it all faded to black. His next thought as he awoke in the alley with a pounding headache and the unfamiliar weight of a full purse of coin at his belt was that he hoped the mage made it out ok. 

They’d ask him later about the waitress, a comely half elf girl with seductive full lips, a quick smile, and agile body. He remembered the grace in which she flitted about the crowd avoiding groping hands and her uncanny ability to deliver drinks without spilling a drop. The girl waited tables like a master mason carved stone and had he more money he’d have tipped her well.
They’d ask about the melee with the bad-blood and the scrawny lizardman. They’d ask who called out about their being a shenanigans and why he helped the mage, all fine questions he’d wish he’d had answers for but it all faded to black.
 
The blackout bothered Dab. It’d make sense if he'd had another half dozen or so ciders, but truth is Dab wasn’t even buzzed. He remembered seeing the mage and a spark of recognition and that was it. For some reason he recognized the mage and saw things were about to get ugly for him, he remembered thinking he owed the man something as he stood up. He even remembered thinking how the fellas he was about to fight were all wearing blue hatchets like his, but that was all Dab could recall.
 
On waking in the alley, he found himself armed with 4 hatchets, wearing some kind of chainmail, and he had a purse  with more money then he’d ever seen. It was old empire coin though which was passingly strange. Dab’s first thought after processing his condition was that he was late for work. The building he was hired out of was burned out and that’s where the Brute Squad caught up with him.
 
Admittedly Dab probably shouldn’t have fought them bringing him in. Even without bringing arms to bear three members of the Brute Squad were going to have a rough morning.
 
According to his captors there was no true call for shenanigans, and the two or so blocks of absolute chaos around the sawhorse tavern was being classified as a riot. The blue axes at his belt weren’t marked by a member of the blacksmith guild meaning they were illegal and while there were plenty of corpses to account for with apparent axe wounds in a deadly bar melee (though most of the bodies were burned severely.)  No one found any blue hatchets except on him, and no one knew about a new employer looking for carpenters.
 
There was also a fire. A fire that spread and burned everything within two blocks of the Sawhorse and dozens of people were victims of the melee and the fire.  According to the Brute Squad, witnesses described Dab as the instigator, and that he and the Chaos Man brutally attacked the crowd causing the ruckus.

Talking with the Brute Squad triggered some more recollection. Dab now remembered the mage, no wizard’s name was Lazeron and he wasn’t the Chaos Man. But even a self admittedly slow minotaur with a headache could tell it would do him no good to mention that. The brute squad was going to pin this mess on him and there was nothing to be done for it. He hoped Lazeron escaped the fire though.
The full purse Dab was found with contained empire coin which wasn’t really in use anymore. The kindred had melted and repurposed the gold and only loyalist scrum still carried it, thinking it still retained any value. They also found his papers out as forgeries and another purse on him with more pay then he’d walked in with.
 Whatever the truth was didn’t matter, the Brute Squad was going to torture him into a confession and then hang Dab publically. He’d be paraded before the crowd, which would shout obscenities and throw things at him, and his siblings would suffer for sharing his surname.
In a desperate moment Dab held onto one thought, the wizard would come. For reasons Dab couldn’t quite explain, he felt he knew Lazeron’s character and he’d not be left to die, he’d just have to hold out against the torture long enough for rescue.