What would you do for some Kronars? August 2019 Winner Wierd Tales Contest. WC:2000.
Terkinville: A Job
What would you do for ...
For 50 Kronars?
take, what I hope, is my last look at the stable-cum-room that Krow and I have been staying in. It’s 8 foot by 4 foot with clean straw on the floor. The walls are old wood, what kind I can’t say but I can say that I will not be sorry to go without knowing.
“Krow, let's go. It’s dark enough and I really want the money for this. We can get a decent meal, clothes and get the heck out of this burgh,” I tell my companion.
Krow is well over 6 foot tall and used to have a bit of heft to him. Living here as both of us on a crash diet. He is naturally bald and has a good set of muscles on him. That muscle has saved us from certain starvation. I have lost the little fat I came with and have developed some muscle from the labor we’ve done to get at least one meal a day. Our sole possessions are the loincloths we wear and this small blanket. Weeks ago we each had a lot more but thieves have made off with everything but what we are wearing.
We step out into the street, checking carefully all directions before crossing to the other side. The night is cool, clear and there is only a crescent of a moon out. Fortunately, there is little foot traffic out and we are able to thread our way through town to a district with mostly warehouses without being seen.
Stopping across the street from a narrow, long building I go over the plan with Krow again.
“In that building is a woman, passed out. All we gotta do is pick her up and take her to this address,” I say as I point to a slip of parchment in my loin-cloth.
“What if there are, I dunno, guys guarding her?”
“We leave. In a hurry. We are not dying for 50 Kronars.”
Krow nods and we quickly cross the street. The street lamps are few in this area so we are able to keep to the shadows once we are next to the building. We walk along the long side of the building until we find an unlocked door. Inside is a hallway with light coming from the far end. We walk cautiously toward the light. At the end is a room with what looks like some kind of altar with someone laying on it. I study the surroundings but can’t really see much. The light is focused on the altar.
We approach the altar trying to look in every direction at once. The altar is pretty basic as altars go. No carvings on the sides or blood channels in the floor although there were some chains hanging from the sides; oddly they didn't have any cuffs on the end. We step into the light and look at the body on the altar.
It is definitely a woman. The very thin veil she has wrapped around her didn’t hide much. I watch her for a minute and see that she is breathing. I am not sure how Krow would feel about carrying a dead body across town. I am not sure how I feel about it. 50 Kronars is darn good money but lugging a body around? I don’t know and I am glad I don’t have to make that decision tonight.
“She is breathing and doesn’t appear to be tied to the altar. Do you think you can pick her up?”
“Yeah, she don’t look that heavy.”
Krow gently picks her up and the light goes out abruptly.
“Oh rut!” Krow says.
I remain silent urging my eyes to adjust faster. Just as I could almost see a light goes on by some curtains opposite where we came in.
“Looks like we are supposed to go that way,” I say quietly.
“Yeah. Feels like a trap.”
“Yes, yes it does. Let’s take it slow.”
We walk towards the light with me leading the way. The closer I get the more nervous I become. I don’t have so much as a toothpick on me. I am about 2 yards from the curtain when a guy leaps out brandishing a sword and yells, “Put that woman down, spawn of Dagon!”
I froze for a moment then bolted back to the altar. It was not my finest moment, I will admit. Yes, I abandoned Krow and the woman to their fates. I am a coward, I admit it.
As I ran I could hear him following me! I doubled my speed and rounded the altar to put it between us. We went around a few times before I ran out of breath. I manage to stop with the altar between us. He stops too. He is breathing pretty hard.
Once I caught my breath I say, “Look, fella, you want the woman, she is yours. No need to get all stabby about it.”
“Hand over the … What?” he says between gasps. He is tall but not as tall as Krow. He has some kind of long-sleeved tunic on under a shiny chest-plate. He is wearing black leggings but is barefooted just like us.
“We could really use that 50 Kronars but if she means that much to you, Krow will gladly give her to you,” I say then look over at Krow. He is looking at us and so is the woman.
“50 Kronars?” he asks.
“Yeah, last night, Krow, that guy over there, and I just finished a shift at the Eldehn stables when this guy approached us and told us that we’d get 50 Kronars if we pick this woman up from here and deliver her to an address in uptown.”
The man, finally, getting his breath under control, sighs, re-sheathes his sword, then says, “I too was offered 25 Kronars to stop a couple of guys from stealing a woman from this place and deliver to an address in uptown.”
Now that we’d stop running Krow had walked back to the altar.
“You can put me down now,” the woman says.
Krow almost dropped her when she spoke but caught himself in time. He set her on her bare feet.
“I was offered 15 Kronars to lie here until some guys picked me up,” she says.
“Yeah! And I had walk all the way down here from Tomago row, barefoot, wearing only this,” she says as she tugs on the very thin fabric wrapped around her. “I wasn’t going to do it but that scrawny bastard said something to the owner and I was told I’d lose my waitress job if I didn’t take this one.”
We stood there for several minutes in awkward silence.
“I could really use the money too,” she says quietly.
I turn to her and say, “My name is Serl, this is Krow.”
I turn to the man and introduce all of us.
“Jestin, pleased to meet you,” he says with a slight bow.
“Were you supposed to kill us?” I ask him.
He thinks for a moment then says, “No. Just stop you from taking the woman.”
“Here is the address we were supposed to go to with Marta,” I say putting a slip of parchment on the altar. He pulls a similar-looking piece and lays it next to mine. They are different addresses but not far from each other.
“I bet this was some kind of gambling thing. I expect there was some bet going on whether you’d show up or we’d show up.”
“I have overheard people talking about things like that,” Marta adds.
“What should we do?” Jestin asks.
“Krow and I really want to get out of this town and that 50 Kronars would get us outfitted and out of here.”
“Me, too,” Marta and Jestin say in unison.
“Well if Krow and I take her we’d get 65 Kronars between us. If you take her back we’d get only 40 Kronars. Krow and I need 10 Kronars to replace our stuff, another 5 for camping gear, 5 for some food ...”
“Plus 4 each to leave,” Jestin adds.
I cursed a little. OK, a lot. That’s up 2 from a couple of days ago. We stand there for a while then Marta reaches out and moves the pieces of paper so she can read the addresses.
“I have an idea where we get paid by both,” she says, with a smile.
It was a long hike, especially barefoot but we made it while the moon was still up. Krow and Marta are waiting for us midway between the two addresses. Jestin and Marta went up the block to the address he had.
Krow and I hid in the shadows. It seemed like years passed before they returned.
“It worked, we both got paid,” Jestin says excitedly when they reach us.
Krow, Marta, and I turn and head to the other address while Jestin waits. The front door has ornate carvings around the edges. There is a rope pull next to it, so I give it a yank. Moments later the door opens and the tall, thin man that hired us ushers us in, down a short hallway and into a small room.
We wait nervously for a few minutes. The door opens and the same man hands us each a small leather bag. I open mine, count the coins quickly; there are 25 Kronars in it. He hurriedly ushers us out the front door and we head back to where Jestin is waiting, then all of us waste no time getting out of the area. As we leave, I think I hear footsteps behind us but I don’t look; I don't want to know.
Once we are a few blocks away I say, “I guess that we have until mid-morning before we start being hunted.”
“I agree we need to be out a gate well before noon,” Marta says quietly.
We pause at the intersection of Hellner and Poor.
Krow says, “We can’t go back.”
“True,” Marta says before I can.
We look at Jestin.
“Oh, yeah. We need to leave but we can’t go out there with what we have, we need clothing, supplies, weapons … and 4 or 5 Kronars to leave,” he says then adds. “We can’t get any of that tonight, we will have to wait until morning. I have a place we can stay. It’s the cellar of a supposedly haunted house. No one bothers me there. You are all welcome.”
Jestin starts out and we follow. The house is a good spot; it’s not far from the shops we are going to need to hit before we leave. He leads us around back and down into a cellar through a weed-covered door. Once the door is closed again Jestin lights a lantern and leads us deeper into the cellar. We reach a large area where there are furniture and rugs. There is even a feather bed! He lights a few more lamps and bids us to be comfortable. I settle on to an overstuffed couch, Marta sits next to me, Krow chooses a large overstuffed chair. It feels good to sit on padded furniture again. We all sigh in unison then laugh at ourselves. Jestin returns with 4 goblets he sets on a low table in front of us, then heads back the way we came in. He shortly returns with a dusty wine bottle, a wedge of cheese, and bread.
He pulls the cork and fills our goblets then says, “To a successful endeavor!”
“Who is Dagon?” Krow asks Jestin.
“The demon that drives people to do evil. Sorry about calling you guys that.”
We sorted out sleeping arrangements: Marta got the bed, Jestin the couch, Krow and I slept in chairs. The basement was warm and I fell asleep pretty quickly.