A man seeks vengeance on the powerful people that stole the love of his life.
oratio called out over his shoulder, “Chia, Chio, come here,” while he tightened a tiny screw, just barely visible, on the inside, just below the left eye-hole, in the mask held by the vice mounted on the workbench. The exquisite mask was polished brass. It was a feminine face that is delicately heart shaped with wide-set, almond-shaped eye-holes and full, red enamel lips. The nose is slightly upturned and the eyebrows, carved above each eye-hole, are filled with silver and have embedded red gemstones. The point of the chin has a blue gem embedded in it. Around the perimeter, on the inside, are runes inscribed with red enamel.
“Yeah, boss?” A tall, thin goblin stepped into the pool of light around the worktable Horatio sat at. She wore an off-white peasant blouse that reaches mid thigh and was belted at her narrow hips. Her leggings were heavy denim and there is a long knife on each hip hanging from a belt around her waist. Her feet are shod in heavy leather boots.
“Bring that casket over there to me. Where is Chio?” Horatio waved his hand toward a table on the back wall and then released the mask from the vice then wrapped it in a velvet cloth.
“He is … will be along shortly,” Chia said then stepped over to the table and picked up an ornate wooden and brass casket. She picked it up without effort and brought it back to the light around Horatio.
Horatio unlocked the casket, flipped the lid up and placed the wrapped mask inside. He stood and looked at it for a moment, then closed and locked the lid.
“Sorry boss.” Chio entered the room looking around. He was a foot shorter and 25 lbs. Heavier than his sister Chia. He was dressed identically except he had a leather vest with pockets on it.
“Here is the key and deliver this to the witch … I mean to Shenan the Blue.” Horatio handed a brass key to Chio then added. “Follow the plan, no dilly-dallying, we have a rendezvous tonight and I will need you both with me.”
Chio tucked the key into a pocket on his leather vest and lead Chia out of the laboratory, carefully shutting the door behind him. They quickly took the stairs and were out on the front curb in time to catch the cross-town steam-bus.
Horatio returned to his stool and sat silently for several minutes gazing at a green gemstone.
hio and Chia stepped off the bus at Bluet and Pixie. It was midday and the foot traffic was light. Chio set off down Bluet with Chia one step behind and to his right. They walked three blocks and paused in front of a public house, "The Cask and Crank". It was open for business and not particularly crowded. The sibling goblins looked at each other and without speaking a word turned and entered the pub.
The ceiling was low but not low enough to bother either of them. The bartender looked up, frowned, shrugged and waved them to a table without moving. Just before they sat, Chia placed the casket on the floor between them under the table.
A dwarf serving girl stepped up to their table and in a heavy hill dwarf accent asked “Willyagobbiesbehaventh’ dally o’ ya wanna sumptin’ ot’er?”
Chio and Chia shared a look then Chia said, “The daily and two pints of bitter, please.”
“Aveityerway,” the dwarf said as she headed to the back of the tavern.
Chio and Chia sat silently, looking out the window.
At a table in the corner, far from the door sat one man, a dwarf and a troll. Each had a mug in front of them.
“Look, gobbies. Got something,” The troll said.
The man twisted around to take a look. When he turned back he said, “Looks like errand boys for that tinker on Septh, whatshisface.”
“Horatio Hornblatter. He makes good stuff; the Scarecrow will pay good for it,” The dwarf replied.
“Not here. Tarbla, you drink up and head out the front. Wait across Bluet and follow them from that side. Bo, you slide out the back and wait in the alley, near the Bluet end. I’ll come out the back when they leave,” the man instructed.
“Got it,” the dwarf said, finished his drink and left the pub by the front door.
“Bo, finish your drink and remember: wait for me, don’t go charging at ‘em,” the man said to the troll.
oratio stood back from his workbench and admired the long thin object on it. It was an ornate walking cane with an intricate silver jack-o-lantern on the end of the collar making a handle. The cane was a yard long, black lacquer with a brass ferrule and collar. The collar had 4 green gemstones evenly distributed around just under the jack-o-lantern. There were red enamel runes arranged in columns on the collar. The face of the jack-o-lantern had quartz teeth and blood red gemstones for the eyes. He picks up a black silk cloth and wraps the cane in it. He placed the cane in a long narrow box, closed and locked the lid.
hia and Chio step out of the pub and set out along Bluet. Two blocks later they are joined by two more goblins. No words are exchanged between Chia, Chio and the new group. One ranges 5 yards ahead and one hangs 6 yards back. They move warily to the next corner and turn on Liropre.
As the lead goblin passed the empty building, he tumbled out into the street and Bo stepped out to confront Chio. Tarbla moved up behind and thumped the trailing goblin with his shillelagh on the head. As Chia turned to move away from the building, Irl burst out of the door and grabbed the box out of her hands, turned and dashed back into the building. He was gone before she could draw a knife.
Both Tarbla and Bo withdraw as soon as Irl went back into the building with the box. The goblins regrouped and moved into the building but found it and the alley behind empty. They wound through the alley until it let them back out on Bluet then followed that to the steam-bus stop where Chio passed some coins to the other goblins and they left on the next bus. Chio and Chia had to wait for two more buses before their's stopped.
rl, Bo and Tarbla walked through several alleys until they reached a set of stairs going up. At the top they passed through a poorly maintained doorway and walked down a long hall. They stopped before a door with a small stylized cat on it. Irl unlocked it and stepped inside. The front room was nicely appointed with a couch and two overstuffed chairs around a long, low, narrow table. Irl set the box on the table and stepped back. Bo knelt in front of it and studied the lock. She pulled a set of small tools out of her blouse and began picking the lock.
It was only a few minutes before the lock opened and Bo flipped up the lid. Tarbla reached in and took out the velvet wrapped mask. When he removed the velvet cloth to reveal the exquisite mask his hands began shaking. Tarbla held it up and turned it this way and that; even in the dim light of the apartment, it’s beauty shined.
“We are going to be rich. The ‘crow will pay a lot for this, I bet,” Tarbla said.
Reluctantly he covered it and placed it back in the box. Irl stepped over to a cabinet, rummaged around in it for a few moments then returned with a different lock, this one with a key. He relocked the cask and left the key on top.
“Tarbla, how do we get this in front of the Scarecrow?” Irl asked the dwarf.
Tarbla was quiet for several minutes then said, “He has a regular schedule and I know a guy that knows where he’ll be tonight.”
Irl nodded and Tarbla left the apartment.
hia and Chio knocked on Horatio’s apartment door and waited quietly. Horatio opened a few moments later and said “Good, you are here, let’s go to the laboratory.”
“How did it transpire?” Horatio asked.
“Almost exactly as you planned. It took them longer to take the bait but eventually, Irl and his trio attacked us. Theo and Plio did their parts perfectly. I already paid them.”
Horatio smiled and rubbed his hands together then said, “Now to alert the witch. I sent a messenger earlier announcing the delivery to her. Chio, you need to go to the witch and tell her about the theft.”
Horatio paused and looked at the shorter goblin for a moment then continued, “She is likely to be upset by that news. She has a tendency to take it out on the messenger. Be careful, respectful and apologetic.”
“I unnerstan’, boss,” Chio said resolutely.
“Use your knowledge of the thieves as a bargaining chip. Don’t mention her br … the Scarecrow. She needs to reach that conclusion on her own. Whatever you do, don’t lie; She is very good at detecting lies.”
“Now, Chia, we must get the final piece assembled. I will need your steady hands for this,” Horatio walked over to a workbench where a small brass box with the lid off rested. Inside the box is a clockwork of gears and jewels. For the rest of the afternoon, they worked on the box. The face had long rectangle centered in it. 5 runes showed up in the rectangle, next to each other. By pressing on a rune and pushing towards the bottom of the face a new rune could be displayed. Horatio tested each rune and then placed the box in a velvet bag.
hio stood in the foyer of the witch’s mansion, shifting from foot to foot. Before entering he’d torn his blouse to look like he’d been a fight. The servant, a half-ling, had bid him wait while he fetched the mistress. The foyer was circular with the entrance behind him and a hallway in front. To his left was a half-size statue of an angry Wyvern and to his right, a painting of a battle.
Before he could orient himself to the painting, the manservant returned and guided him to the parlor. Chio found a tall, thin woman with wide-set, almond eyes, a slightly upturned nose, and full lips. He recognized her from the mask.
“I do not see my item,” She stated.
“Ma’am. I am Chio and I have some very bad news.”
Her eyes narrowed and focused on him in a way that felt like she was reading his very thoughts.
“We were set upon by ruffians and they stole your casket. I understand that it was my fault, as I only brought my sister and two cousins for protection and delivery. I ...”
“Spare me,” She said imperiously, then softened her tone adding. “I am surprised anyone would set upon 4 goblins in broad daylight for an unknown box. You did get a good look at them, right?”
“Yes, ma’am. I know at least one of them.”
“You might as well tell it to me from the start. Toshi, bring us some refreshments and a new blouse for this brave young goblin,” she said to the halfling as she waved Chio to an overstuffed chair. She sat opposite and after a cup of tea had been deposited in front of them asked Chio to tell his story.
Once she heard the story, the description of the thieves and the name Irl, she frowned deeply. She rose and paced around the room. She was muttering but too low for Chio to hear. Chio sipped his tea quietly trying to look like someone beneath any sort of interest or retaliation.
“I don’t suppose you would know where my br … the one known as the Scarecrow will be tonight?” Shenan the Blue asked abruptly, looking at him questioningly.
“Yes. Yes, I do,” Chio said and nodded his head.
Shenan continued to look at him questioningly, this time with a raised eyebrow.
“We have a delivery for him, so are going to meet him at the Red Bull this evening,” Chio said and nodded his head.
“Very well, I won’t keep you. Tell Horatio, I will pay him tonight at the Red Bull.”
Chio nodded and then wasted no time getting out of there. The manservant, Toshi, handed Chio a blue velvet blouse on his way out. Chio thanked him and kept going out the front and down to the street.
nce he was back in the apartment, Tarbla said, “Red Bull tonight.”
“Ah, that's good,” Irl said then paused for several minutes before continuing. “We are going to have to dress a lot better to get in there. I have a good set of clothes that will work, Tarbla?”
“Yes. Gimme a couple hours,” Tarbla said.
“Uh,” Bo muttered and refused to look Irl in the face.
“Bo, we have to wear better clothes to get into that place. Do you have better clothes? If you don’t you can wait outside for us.” Irl offered.
“Yes. I have … something I can wear,” she said blushing with a frown.
Bo and Tarbla left the apartment together.
hio reported back to the laboratory to find Horatio changed into black half-boots, black knee pants, hose and half jacket with a scarlet trim. His blouse was magenta with white highlights. The black made his head of gray hair stand out.
“Go change, we need to leave within the hour. Chia is already in the apartment changing,” Horatio said.
Chio left the laboratory and entered the apartment. He found his sister standing in front of a full-length mirror set up in a corner. She was wearing a form-fitting teal gown that went to mid-calf. The sleeves ended a mid-forearm. She wore a hint of makeup around her eyes and light rouge on her cheeks. On her brow rested a silver tiara with blue gemstones embedded in it.
“Wow! Chiana, you look … look like mother,” Chio paused and his face went flush. He took several breaths and let them out slowly then asked. “Where are you going to carry your knives?”
Chia turned and showed him her back. Worked into the back of the gown was two sheaths that would hold her blades. The handles would be at her shoulders and would not be visible from the front.
“Chiolo go get changed. We need to get moving,” Chia said to her brother. He disappeared deeper into the apartment while she turned to the mirror again. She turned to the table next to the mirror and picked up a long knife. The blade was silver over steel with bone handles. The handles had been died to match the color of her gown. She practiced sheathing and pulling the knives several times until she was comfortable with them and the over-the-shoulder draw.
Sitting at a chair she drew on a pair of calf-high, black leather boots. She stood and moved around the room trying the boots out.
“OK, how do I look?” Chio stepped back into the room.
Chio wore similar knee pants, hose and short boots to Horatio. Instead of a jacket, he wore a short-sleeved, mid-thigh length, teal tunic with a black leather belt at his waist. The buckle was enameled black. The knives were similar to Chia except the handles were black. He wore a black, half cloak that reached mid-thigh.
“Handsome! Here let me fix your cravat,” Chia stepped up and adjusted the cloth at Chio’s throat.
“Help me with my cloak,” Chia requested pointing to a long black cloak hanging from a cloak rack on the wall.
They left the apartment together stepping up to the laboratory where they found Horatio waiting. He looked them over and said, “Marvelous. Here Chio you carry the box with the cane in it.” He pointed to it while he slipped the box that he and Chia worked on into a pocket in his cloak. They left the laboratory and stepped into the street.
A steam-cab was waiting for them. Chia entered first, then Chio handed in the box to her, helped Horatio in, closed the door and then climbed up to sit with the driver. Horatio tapped on the roof and they took off.
rl slipped his pale blue half jacket with tails on and looked at himself in the mirror. He wore matching pale blue knee pants, hose, and half-boots. While white shirt was not flashy but it was serviceable. He stepped into the front room on hearing the door open.
Tarbla had returned wearing a black and red kilt, black knee socks and black half-boots. He had a dark blue long-sleeved blouse on with a pair of crossed daggers embroidered on the left breast. Belted at his waist was a wide black leather belt with a long knife on his left hip and his shillelagh on the right.
“Good. Now we wait on Bo,” Irl said and waved the dwarf to a chair.
Only a few moments later the door opened and Bo stepped inside. Both men stood immediately mouths agape.
Bo wore a cream colored off the shoulder gown that hugged her figure. Her skin was almost glowing. The skillfully applied make up made her almost unrecognizable. She wore a red fur shawl and completed the outfit with dark red half-boots.
“What?” Bo asked.
“Bo, you look lovely. Please step in and close the door so we can talk about tonight.”
Bo blushed at the compliment, stepped in then shut the door. Irl waved her to the couch and they all sat down.
“I sent a runner to make reservations at the Red Bull. It cost about a quarter of our stash,” he paused then continued. “I know, but it was the only way to get in. Hopefully, we can quickly conduct business and get out of there without actually paying for more than a drink or two.” Irl paused then passed on a few more instructions.
Both nodded, asked a few questions then they got up and left the apartment.
he large oval shaped dining hall of the Red Bull had All-hallows-eve decorations hanging from the ceiling beams. The entrance was on one long side and the kitchen entrance was on the opposite side. The tables in the room were divided in half by a two-yard wide walkway that went from the entrance to the center and on to the kitchen entrance. Despite the room being an oval and the clear area in the center was a rectangle. The long side of the rectangle matching the long sides of the oval room.
Horatio arrived and was seated at a table on the right narrow end of the room. At the table Horatio sat with his back to the entrance, Chia sat across from him and Chio sat to his right. The table was one back from the first row. Horatio removed the box from his pocket but not from the wrapping.
A servant stopped at the table and took their orders. When he had left Chia reached across the table and touched Horatio’s hand and said, “It’s the box, but they look very different.” Horatio turned his head and watched a tall, elegantly dressed troll woman enter with her escort.
Bo was lead to her table by Tarbla who was following a servant of the Red Bull. Irl walked behind carrying the casket. They were seated on the opposite side of the room as Horatio’s group. They sat with Bo at the back of the table and Tarbla in front and on the left and Irl on the right.
About half the tables in the room were occupied and Irl, Bo and Tarbla did not see Horatio’s group on the opposite side. They watch each new arrival carefully.
hia whispered, “He’s here,”
“He will approach us. Put the box on the table and unlock it, but don’t open it,” Horatio whispered back, dropping a napkin over his little brass box. He then added looking at Chia, “He will hand you his cane to hold, touch only the shaft, none of the metal parts. A present from his sister that shocks anyone who touches it.”
Chio set about putting the box on the table between Chia and Horatio, then retreated to the other side of the table. Horatio turned and looked at the entrance way and saw a tall man in a gold embroidered, deep green, half-jacket with tails, matching knee pants, hose and half-boots enter the room. His traditional broad-brimmed floppy hat and patch-work cloak had been, apparently, checked before he entered. He was escorted by two tall trolls in dark green and gold livery, a dwarf in black and red half jacket, knee pants, hose, and half boots, and a thin female goblin in a floor-length, flowing, dark green gown.
Horatio stood and looked at the man. The man smiled and took long, loose-limbed strides to reach the tinker.
“Welmet, tinker Hornblatter. Is that what I think it is?” The man said with greed in his eye.
“Welmet, Sheran the Green and yes it is.”
As Horatio predicted Sheran handed his simple wooden cane with a brass collar topped with a large, green gemstone to Chia. She handled it as instructed; there was a brief flash of disappointment across Sheran’s face and that of the goblin companion. Sheran the Green opened the box on the table and pulled out the wrapped cane.
He unwrapped and checked it carefully; finally said, “It is exactly what I wanted and more. How do I activate it?”
“You must charge it on a full moon with a minimum of three drops of blood, from the wielder, into the mouth of the Jack-O-Lantern. That will get you 5 discharges. To discharge grip the collar and point it at your target, then invoke the rune carved into the top of the Jack-O-Lantern. Range is about 4 yards and perhaps a bit farther.”
“Ha. Excellent. So 3 for 5. Limit?”
“15 discharges. 18 will work but damage the cane beyond use.”
“Understood,” Sheran said and turned to his goblin companion. “Jlia pay the man. In fact, pay him double!” He laughed, turned abruptly and walked over to the table he customarily occupied at the Red Bull.
Jlia slipped a hand into her gown and brought out a small leather bag, handed it to Horatio and then repeated that 3 more times until Horatio had 4 bags in his hand. Chia attempted to return the cane to her but she waved it off and left them for Sheran’s table.
“Place the cane in the box. We will deal with it later,” Horatio said, never taking his eyes off Sheran the Green.
ot long after Sheran the Green settled in at his table, Tarbla approached the group and was met by the dwarf. They spoke briefly and Tarbla passes the rolled up message to the other dwarf. That dwarf returned to the table and spoke to Sheran, passing him the rolled up message. He read it and signaled assent to the dwarf who nodded to Tarbla.
Irl took a deep breath and let it out slowly, picked up the box and followed Tarbla to the Scarecrow’s table. Irl placed the box on the table, unlocked it, flipped the lid open, and stepped back slightly. He looked at the Scarecrow’s face as the man stood to look into the box. The man face was almost pretty with wide-set, dark, almond-shaped eyes, full lips and a slightly turned up nose. The only flaw was a long, poorly healed, scar that ran down the right side of his head from the temple to the throat, disappearing into the high collar of his yellow blouse.
The Scarecrow lifted the wrapped mask out of the box and unwrapped it. A low hiss escaped his mouth as he admired the work of art in his hands. He flipped it over and ran his fingers over the inside and out. He looked at Irl and a thoughtful look came over his face. He turned to the goblin and said something in a different language. She nodded and pulled a soft leather bag out of a hidden pocket in her gown and passed it to Irl adding “This should be sufficient. Leave the key. This should prove interesting.”
Irl accepted the bag and he and Tarbla headed back to their table.
“He has the mask,” Chia said to Horatio. That worthy looked up and whispered, “Let me know when she gets here.”
an we leave now?” Bo asked as soon as Irl and Tarbla returned.
Irl looked around and noticed that all the trolls in the place were staring at their table, more specifically at Bo. He shared a look with Tarbla then said “Yeah. I don’t like the attention we are getting. You have caused quite a stir, Bo. Not that it’s a bad thing.”
Irl placed a coin on the table, rose. Bo practically leaped out of her chair to follow. Tarbla took up the rear as they left by the entrance. Pausing only to get their cloaks they headed outside. As they entered a steam-cab and started out, a private steam-cab pulled into the spot it’d vacated. A footman in blue livery jumped down from the guard mount and opened the door. Shenan the Blue stepped out with a determined look upon her face.
She stormed up the low stairs, the doorman barely got the door open before she arrived at it.
he’s here,” Chio said.
“Alright, the stage is set. You two take this money and the box and leave. I will meet you at my apartment.”
“But we shouldn’t leave you ...” Chia pleaded.
“We discussed this. This is for your mother and I will have my revenge upon these people.” He paused, then continued in a low voice “There is a price to pay for what I have done. I will gladly pay it. There is no need for you to be tainted by this act. Let it be enough to know that it will be done and done tonight. Now go.”
Reluctantly the two goblins left Horatio’s table and went out the front door.
Horatio glanced up, caught a glimpse of the witch as she strode across the floor to the Scarecrow’s table. He quickly rotated the runes on his box until they lined up with the ones he needed. He began to speak them in a low voice.
henan the Blue confronted Sheran the Green at his table in the Red Bull. The two Troll guard interposed themselves between the brother and sister. With a slight gesture of her right hand, they went flying out of the way. Sheran the Green rose quickly from his chair; the mask in his right hand.
“What a pleasant surprise, dear sister.” He said in an even tone.
“You have something of mine and I want it back.” Shenan the Blue hissed back.
Horatio intoned the third rune on his box. The spoken runes began to glow an angry red. Horatio had beads of sweat on his brow.
“This little mask?” The Scarecrow held up and moved it toward his own face.
Shenan hissed again and raised her hands, then stopped. She spied the cane leaning against the table and made a swift gesture with her right hand. The cane leaped to her hand. Just as her hand closed about the collar, the scarecrow fitted the mask to his face.
Horatio intoned the fourth rune his voice, though low, seemed to carry power now. He focused on the brother and sister as their confrontation continued.
The Scarecrow said something but it was muffled by the mask. He swiftly raised his hands and tried to remove the mask but it seemed to be suck to this face.
Shenan’s left hand closed about the center of the black lacquered part of the cane and she found she could not let go.
s Horatio intoned the last rune, the box glowed red and a red nimbus climbed up his arms. The smell of burning flesh permeated the air around him.
he gemstones on the mask the Scarecrow wore began glowing brightly. Shenan found her hands involuntarily separating the cane into a thin blade and the sheathing. Once free of the sheath the point of the blade pulled her towards her brother’s heart.
A blue nimbus flowed from Shenan wrapping around her arm down the sword. Where the blade pierced Sheran’s flesh a green nimbus rose to the blue one. The gemstones in the mask focused an intense magenta light on Shenan. As the blue and green nimbus’ intertwined the blade sank deeper into Sheran the Green. Both brother and sister gasped as then energies engulfed them.
oratio groaned as he lifted the box above his head, stood and with a mighty effort, heaved it at the brother and sister. When the box landed on the floor below the cane-sword, a horrendous sound filled the room as a red-tinged nimbus rose out of the box engulfing the pair. Time seemed to slow for a moment, the sister with the sword cane embedded her brother’s heart, the brother with a magenta beam of light on his sister’s head and shoulders surrounded by red. The sound reached a crescendo; the brother and sister disappeared. Silence followed marked only by the sounds of the mask, sword cane, and sheath hitting the floor. The box made small clicking sounds then fell quiet.
Horatio sat heavily holding his seared and torn hands over the table, sobbing quietly. Chia’s hands wrapped his hands in napkins, helped him to his feet and guided Horatio out of the Red Bull and into a waiting steam-cab.