“I am a simple man.”“Come again mate?” asked the young man sitting across from him.
The young man was a gambler, usually found drinking at the inn after a losing streak. The man across from him was the only other person seated at his table. He looked disheveled and tired, giving the impression that the beer he was consuming might be consuming him. He threw a scrap of meat to the tiny dog sitting on the floor next to him before speaking again, “I am a simple man who wants simple things. But simplicity has eluded me for some time now.”
The young gambler looked down at the dog and noticed the vicious looking creature was lapping beer out of a bowl. “Mate, don’t you think your dog would prefer some water instead?”
“Did I ever tell you about the time I took on the skaven?”
“Mate, I’ve never met you before…”
“Or when I helped save a city from the demon apocalypse?”
“Oh christ.” The gambler started looking around the room for empty seats at other tables.
“We were in Bogenhaafen and had tracked these cultists to a warehouse where they were summoning a demon. We dealt with them accordingly, but it resulted in a bit of carnage. There was a Sigmarite priest with us who used his hammer to turn those cultists into quivering piles of jelly, and an ogre who dealt with demons like they were rats on a stick. He sent that god damned bastard-of-a-changeling back down to hell, the same one that framed me for arson. He hung onto the ceremonial knife too, corruption be damned. The minstrel and I dealt with the thugs outside.”
The gambler resigned to the fact that his new found compatriot would continue with the story, and audience was of little import.
“We left the warehouse in pursuit of the remaining thugs, but the city guards came after us. Not to thank us, mind you, but to detain us. You see, at this point we were framed for murder, covered in blood and leaving the scene of a demonic ceremony. We figured this would all work against us if the guards caught up. We looked like a guilty lot. Not to mention the squashed brains on the ogre’s boot.”
The gambler looked perplexed.
“You see, there was a female sacrifice who had seen better days. The ogre put her possessed soul out of its misery with one small step.”
It pained the gambler to have to sit through such an outlandish story. He was tempted to call the man out, but refrained from engaging him further.
“We knew we had to get out of sight quickly. The priest suggested finding a bar and having a drink. You see, while I’m always up for a beer, I felt we needed to lay lower. We had access to a safe house so we fucked off there for a night…” he stopped to take a sip from his stein, “…and it seemed like a good move too. Turns out the whole town was searching for us. You see the safe-house belonged to this man named Baumman. We were working with him on a related matter. Now be aware, you had to be careful with him. He was powerful and could turn nasty on you. Cross him and he’d have his men drowning you in a pool of shit.”
The gambler was wondering what kind of edge he would have if he suggested a game of cards. He could probably win back some of the money he lost earlier.
“Didn’t matter though. You see, he was our only way out. He sent his men to retrieve us at the safe house. We followed them back to Baumman’s inn. There he told us we were fucked. Whole town was looking for us, and the city exits were under close surveillance. He seemed to know all about the goings-on at the warehouse too.”
The man threw another scrap of meat to his dog and reached down to pet him on the head. The hideous beast responded by wagging its tail and looking slightly domesticated, if only for a moment.
“This man, Baumman, offered us a deal. Said he would provide the four of us safe passage out of the city if we agreed to transport a package to Weissbruck. We agreed and settled down at the inn. We planned to stay there for a couple days while they sorted everything out.”
“What was in the package?” asked the gambler, surprising even himself that he cared.
“The package? Oh man, the priest went rat-shit insane over that package. Wanted to know what was in the package. Had to know! He even got the ogre riled up. They were both ready to burn our only bridge out of that town. I saw where they were coming from, but I feared prison all too much. Luckily, being the diplomat that I am, I was able to calm everybody down and settle on a deal. ”
The gambler rolled his eyes, and signaled the bar maid for another beer.
“So like I was saying, Bauman allowed us to stay at his inn free of charge while they figured out the transportation. And drinks were on the house. The priest and the ogre took full advantage of this. Challenged each other to a drinking game. Almost got lethal as they considered using pure alcohol. I tell you, that fellow drinks unlike any other Sigmarite priest I’ve ever known. “
“How many have you known?”
The man ignored the question and continued, “So in the interest of staying alive, they decided on very strong alcohol instead. I joined in as it seemed like there wasn’t much going on. Thought we could get some gambling involved, and that I could trick everyone by drinking water instead of alcohol and win the challenge…”
“…which never came to fruition, you’ll be happy to hear. I was out in the first round. Had been a couple days since I had a drink and I lost my tolerance a bit. Normally I can outdrink anyone. Just ask Noseless…” the man trailed off for a second pondering what he had just said.
“I miss those days. Simpler days. I wasn’t rich, but I had a job, and a routine. Always met Noseless at the bar after work. Y’know why I went to Bogenhafen? To sell rats on a stick. I barely survived the Skaven and I just wanted to take it easy. Next thing I know I’m wanted for murder and arson. There’s no hiding from that minstrel. Who wants to be hunted by the authorities?!?”
The man became tense and alert as he spoke these words. He stared right through the gambler for what seemed like ages until he relaxed and eased back into his chatter. The gambler again scanned for an empty seat elsewhere.
“Anyway, we were stuck at the inn watching the ogre and the priest go round-for-round like maniacs. They eventually both passed out at about the same time. It seemed like the priest was less hungover the next day, so it was decided that he was the winner. Can you believe that? A priest out drinking an Ogre?”
“I don’t really believe anything you’re telling me.”
“During the drinking game we were introduced to this fellow Badigon who would be the one smuggling us out of the city. The plan was to take a boat up the river. Seems like Baumman’s men had their fill of us, so we left early. Departed the next day. Just had to fetch the ogre’s belonging’s first.
“While on the boat, the ogre remembered he still had the ceremonial knife from the warehouse. Not the kind of weapon you want to keep tucked in your belt for too long. But he’s a hardy beast and was able to avoid its corruption. Almost threw it off the boat but decided to hang onto it for the time being.”
“What did the knife look like?” asked the gambler, wondering if this conversation would ever cease to be one-sided.
“That’s your question?” the man replied indignantly. The dog growled.
“So we sail off from the city with this Badigon fellow,” the man carried on. “The ogre and the priest are in a bad way. We hoped to have smooth sailing, especially Badigon, who was visibly annoyed with all of us. I couldn’t blame him, tasked with transporting a right bunch of assholes, myself included. I needed just a couple days of rest, but the gods had other plans. Before too long we saw a mutilated corpse floating down the river, full of cross bow bolts. Wasn’t a good sign, and with the ogre and the priest violently hung over, we were unprepared for anything requiring brute force. The ogre tried to scoop the cadaver out of the water but fell in after it…”
“Shocker.” The bar maid brought the gambler another beer.
“…Another riverboat came into view and it was at this moment that Badigon’s mood changed. He told us that we were being watched. He spied something in the tree and shot it down with his crossbow. It was an owl with hands. A freaky looking thing. Then all of a sudden some tentacle creatures appeared in the water and started swimming towards the ogre. You want to know what happened next?”
At this moment a seat opened up at a table filled with dwarves. The gambler quickly switched over without saying a word, leaving the disheveled man to drink alone with his dog. Un-phased, he reached down and patted his pet on the back. Muttering to himself he said, “It all was so simple once, but there’s no going back.”
The man put a coin on the table and waited for the bar maid to bring another drink.
by Michael Morgan (AKA Falco)