Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Winding Road: Sunder Zool Swiftblade

By Frank Gori

Zool wore a tight smile as his eyes swept the room once more. Only those who spent enough time with the Geato Abira would even notice the smile, as lizardman reptilian faces were hard to read for mammals. It was his all-business smile, one his employer Malleck would recognize.
Despite being a blacksmith, Zool wasn’t very muscular. His strength was unremarkable and he was undersized, even for a Geato Abira male. Sometimes mammals assumed he was an adolescent, or simply assumed he was weak. Those who underestimated his abilities soon learned otherwise; the broken sword tattooed on his sword arm signified his skill at arms, though few recognized the meaning.
Malleck, Zool’s employer, was of mixed heritage. The blend of elvish and orchish traits seemed to work on the mammalian females. Zool was hopeless with women and occasionally liked to watch Malleck work his charms in hopes of learning something. Geato women found his mastery of steel too feminine. Being a warrior was women’s work.
The Sawhorse Tavern was a shit place for a meet. Place was crowded, and the spilt beer and scattered oyster shells would be murder on footwork if the night called for a fight. Unsurprisingly, the furniture seemed to be of solid construction, it was after all a carpenter’s bar. Zool made a mental note of every chair, table, and stool that would hold his weight, he also noted that the carved log booth corner Malleck chose was too far from the exits for a quick escape. He flexed his sword hand, if it things went south Zool and Malleck were going to have to fight their way out of this dive. Part of him hoped for a fight.
The Blacksmith Guild took him as a Sunder, accepted for his power of destruction rather than his gifts as a creator. Zool was recognized for his abilities rather then judged by his sex. His craft work on any object other than horseshoes was entirely unsuitable for sale, and so he was most commonly trusted with tool sharpening when they didn’t have sunder work. He simply wasn’t gifted with the creative power of a Smith. Dealing death was his gift.
Zool heard a song in all metal, which defied explanation and was somehow tied to his magic. Very few Magus could master the talents, but steel bent to his will in a variety of ways. Zool could sense every scrap of metal nearby, and could attract iron headed arrows to his shield. He could lighten his armor, call his sword to his hand within ten feet, and more easily part the armor of an enemy. His ability to cut steel like paper was why he wore the Sunder badge, in some ways the dedication he applied to his craft defined him.
Zool could move through various fencing maneuvers with the fluidity of quicksilver and the speed of a striking serpent. His techniques were unorthodox, no other Sunder strapped a buckler to their sword arm melding defense an offense in an intentional imbalance. He wore a tail spike that sometimes drew laughter, but only with those who didn’t witness its use.
Every Workman carried his tools and most of those tools doubled as weapons. The bar patrons were all armed, and about a third of the room carried blue hatchets of high quality. A small group of them kept glancing at Malleck, telegraphing their intent. One of them kept mindlessly stroking his axe, which was just obvious. Given the numbers, Zool didn’t like the odds. If things got dicey, he and Malleck would both have to use magic. If the Chaos Man realized that, his reaction would just make things worse.
Zool muttered to Malleck, “you always bring me to the nicest places.” It was a code, a heads up for his client to prepare for trouble. Zool shifted his weight on his stool and quietly repositioned his hand. The stool was far enough back so he could clear his scabbard on a cross draw. Zool recognized the implications of the Workman’s impatience, they were waiting for the mage.
Zool took a pull off his hip flask, and new strength coursed through him. The five grunts knew he made them and were boldly striding forward. Zool accessed the floor space and made a decision. As he hopped forward to close on the five orcs he spotted the crossbowman.
A swift act of will and a flick of his wrist and he snapped the bolt out of the air, the strike made a note that pleased Zool. Three of the group of five that were to swarm in got tangled up by a clumsy waitress, making it an uneven two against one, Zool decided on the larger one first. Killing him quickly would put the odds even more in Zool’s favor.
Just as he closed with his intended foe, something struck the orc from behind and killed him. One of the two tangled with the waitress was clutching his heart and someone yelled “Shenanigans!”
A dagger flashed past Zool and landed squarely in the throat of the crossbowman, and about a dozen calm faced killers stood up as the rest of the bar erupted into Chaos.

Zool smiled, hazard pay was triple.