A wizard holds the only key to his own death.
Jack felt his luck changing when he found a table near the back, a dimly light corner where he could sit back and enjoy his time off. The tavern was one of the oldest structures still standing, after fire swept through the city some fifty years back, a time before the lighthouses were erected when pirates ruled the Nine Seas. An age old cherry bar ran the length of the room, with tall brass stools standing straight, like mushrooms growing up from the floor, spaced out just far enough to keep one patron from bumping elbows with another. There was only one rule the tavern went by. If you’re there, you had better be seated to eat or drink. If you’re standing, you had better be searching for a seat, or heading for the door. It was hard to fight while seated, and once someone stood, his or her seat was quickly taken.
Bork, the half human, half Orc owner stood some three feet taller than anyone there. A giant of a man, built like an Orc but with human features, he was always keeping his eyes peeled for danger. Whenever he served drinks, his hands smothered whatever glass or bottle he held, yet he was always able to pore without spilling a drop, much to the surprise of the patrons. He was always there, with a soft voice and large ears for listening. He would keep a lookout for the occasional straggler who couldn’t find his seat fast enough, or stood idling, watching the lovely barmaids whom the inn was also famous for, walking by. Bork would count to five under his breath, only because he didn’t know how to count any higher, before stepping around the bar. For a large man, he walked deadly silent, weaving through the many chairs, tables and patrons, grabbing the straggler by what ever means possible, and explaining the rules of the tavern as he walked the hapless former patron out. He would sit them back on their feet, shaking a heavy finger under their nose, before turning to step back into his establishment. There were always a few men who tried fighting with Bork, thinking they were right and he was wrong.
All of them lost the battle with one blow.
It was said their bodies were dumped in the bay and their severed heads placed in large pickle jars under the bar. Bork would take one out and place it on the bar when someone started getting loud. One glance at the head in the large green pickle jar had sobered up many a man, and woman alike.
“What will it be tonight, Jack,” Lea, one of the many barmaids, asked over the drone of the crowd, her voice soft, seductive. Her dark green eyes seemed to glow with admiration while she spun one of her ponytails against her rose red cheek. A long legged beauty with chestnut brown hair her full figure was matched only by her heart. For as long as Jack had been coming to the Gargoyle, he had never seen her frown.
“The usual?” she asked, her smile captivating, her tight fitting clothes leaving little to the imagination.
Jack had to admire all of the girls who worked at the Gargoyle. There wasn’t a moment went by where someone wasn’t out to play a game of grab-ass, yet they were able to skirt right past them without so much as a frown. Laughter and bets were always abound as one man after another tried his luck, only to fail or fall out of his chair trying. Jack knew the girls were trained to dodge anyone, and the small necklaces each of them wore warded off any real advances, unless the girl allowed it.
“You know me far to well Lea,” Jack laughed. Reaching into a pocket, he pulled out a small silver coin, tossing it up with a flip of his thumb. The coin landed between the folds of the young woman’s breasts causing her to act surprised. She didn’t even bother to reach in for it. Instead, she turned on her heels and vanished through the crowd, her hips swaying tantalizingly from one side to the other. She glanced back and winked at the gray-haired captain before disappearing through the kitchen door.
“That coin was not very well spent,” a deeper, more seductive voice called out, turning Jack’s blood ice cold. Looking up, he spotted who was talking. Reaching up he pinched the bridge of his nose and with a deep sigh, he held his hand there, praying to the fates what he had just seen and heard was nothing more than an illusion. Something one of the wizards conjured up for their own enjoyment. Yet, despite his best intentions, he glanced up again, just to be sure.
“I’m off duty, Eve! Can’t it wait until morning? I just ordered...”
“You’re usual? Yes, I happen to overhear your little conversation. Lea speaks better with her hips than her lips. You do know she’s wears a glamour spell, don’t you? They all do! And it’s Winters, Jack. No one calls me Eve and lives.”
Jack dropped his hand. His shoulders sagged as he took another deep breath. Standing there with one hand on her hip, the other resting on the hilt of her blade stood the captain of the night guards, Winters Eve. She was a striking beautiful young woman, if being elven could be considered striking. What with her long, white hair she kept tucked behind her pointed ears, honey dipped skin, almond shaped blue eyes and a figure any woman would kill to hold. She stood much taller than most normal elves. She was High Born, a princess from a vanishing race to the west. The way she stood there, cold and unmoving while the world seemed to slip around her, caused Jack to wonder what she wanted. She wore the uniform of the elite guards, tan over tan, but her clothes looked as if she had been poured into them, fitting her full figure like a glove. Her movements’ were like liquid, her muscles were like steel springs waiting to be unleashed on some poor, unsuspecting fool.
The fool was him this night.
“Yes...I know! But I never come here for that. I come here for the atmosphere and the spiced potatoes they serve. I’m not here to ogle the barmaids, glamour spells or not. If I wanted to ogle someone, I could watch you when you turn around and leave me in peace,” his voice rose over the crowd, causing Bork to look his way. A large hand reached under the bar before Jack waved him off.
If Winters smiled, it did not show. Leaning forward, she placed her open palms flat on the table. Looking Jack square in the eyes, she whispered, “There’s been a murder!”
Leaning back in his chair, Jack reached into his shirt, pulling out a small silver charm on a thin silver chain. Rubbing it between finger and thumb, he tried to break her gaze, but he was drawn to her eyes, like moths to a flame. There was something there; something caused his hand to shudder before he dropped the charm back to his chest.
“So? Why bother me with a simple murder? Sven’s on call tonight. Let him take care of it. I told you, I’m off duty...”
“It’s not that easy, Jack,” Winters said, her tone low, her eyes scanning the room. “You’re needed! That’s all I can tell you right now. I was told by one of the five to either escort you back alive or drag you back kicking and screaming. What’s it going to be Jack? Make it easy on yourself.”
About that time, Lea came back with Jack’s order. She stood there, acting impatient, holding the tray of food in one hand, a tall wooden mug of fresh drafted ale in the other while dodging stray hands. Clearing her throat, she nudged Winters with her hip, pushing the night captain to one side before setting her tray and mug down in front of Jack.
“You know the rules, Captain. If you’re going to drink or eat, you must sit down,” pointing her chin at the sign resting behind the bar. “If you’re not going to do either, you must leave! Or I’ll have Bork escort you out.”
Reaching out, Winters stabbed one of the spiced spuds off the tray with a dagger before pulling out a chair. A low growl emitted from her throat, causing Lea to turn in a huff and walk away without as much as a glance back. Biting into the hot spud, she chewed slowly, her eyes never leaving Jack.
“What’s eating you,” Jack asked, his brow arching up, “Why all this secrecy?”
As the elven guard swallowed, the dagger she was holding slammed into the table, right between Jack’s finger and thumb. Slowly, she rose back up as the room fell silent, all eyes suddenly turning their way. Even Bork stopped to stare, but one quick glance from the white-haired captain and the voices resumed, but at a whisper. Pulling the dagger free, she placed it back by her side.
“Don’t make me do it, Jack. I am in no mood for your stubbornness. Now are you coming or must I drag you out of here by your ears?”
Grabbing the mug in his large, callused hand, Jack quickly downed the sweet-tasting ale in a few quick gulps before wiping his lips off with the back of his hand slowly. Slamming the mug down, grabbing a hand full of potatoes, he stood, kicking the chair back out of his way. Stepping around to the front of the table, he bit into one of the tots right in front of her nose.
“This had better be good,” he growled. Swallowing, he turned away, pushing anyone who got in his way as he went on to explain, “You had better have a damn good reason for this interruption, or I will personally pin those pointed ears behind your head!”
Winters glanced around before stepping away from the table. She quickly followed Jack out of the tavern, all but bumping into his large frame when he stopped and turned to face her. Steel blue eyes met ice blue as he tried to curb his temper, his hands flexing to his side, his breath catching in his throat. He started to speak, to tell the other captain what he thought of her for interrupting the only break he’s had in weeks. But her words deflated his mood, with six simple words.
“It’s Malicks, Jack! He’s been murdered!”