“The world we live in… belongs to the enemy. We must live… carefully. We look out for our own kind, Zigo. When all is said and done… we’re all we got.”
His father’s words rang in his head, over the dull hum of chatter coming from the nearby strangers. In typical Niranese custom, the proprietor Sarbawa offered them a hookah and the hospitality of the Golden Lilac Den. Zigo could do little more than scowl.
Damn tourists nearly got me killed… Guess that’s what I get for jumping into something I got no business in.
The halfling’s hand drifted to one of his many pockets, where a now crumpled letter, unopened, sat. If the goons of Ur’s high priest were after this, the reward for its return could set him up for years. All he had to do was sneak out…
…past the over-zealous priest, the spear-thrower from up north, the living suit of armor, and the Denmaster. It was the lattermost character that Zigo feared the most; his ear was still burning. Not to mention he had the local guard under his thumb—speaking of which, they were still likely just outside, investigating the mess the outsiders made.
Zigo scowled towards the oblivious tourists—five strangers from all over the world, and clearly from all walks of life.
First was a Yaguran priest—a goody two-shoes with bright blonde hair and a serious attitude. She had managed to shake one of the thugs outside to his core, though it had more to do with the naginata slung across her back than anything. She had demanded he hand over the letter, after he had bullied its courier out of both it and his wallet.
Ten silver and a bit of string… hardly worth my time. And what’s this to her, anyhow? She’s not the type to appreciate value, or how things work in this City of Thieves.
Next was one of two human men; Zigo could tell his origin didn’t come from too far, likely somewhere around the Bay. Probably some pilgrim or wandering merchant—he wouldn’t bother with the fight. Still, he was quick to come to Blondie’s aid.
Funny how she tried to trip me—hah! I’m better than that. …Not better than a squad of the local muscle, though.
Speaking of muscle, the second human man had plenty to spare—he was carrying three—THREE—spears, plus a shield and full armor, and wasn’t breaking a sweat. He was clearly not Yaguran or Niranese; Zigo had seen enough of them to know. Perhaps one of those northerners he heard about now and again? He could be useful… maybe.
Looks more the kind to be buddy-buddy with Blondie, not to mention he’s babysitting a gnome.
The gnome was a strange case. She had clearly been on the road for quite some time, and likely from somewhere a little less civilized. Same blonde hair and green eyes as the priest, but both were far more wild and unpredictable. The gnome herself was clearly far giddier than she would’ve been normally.
Guess the wine’s a bit much for that one.
The final outsider was… strange, to say the least. More machine than man, with a large heavy spear by his side and as stoic as the statue he looked liked he could be. Maybe he was animated? Either way, his piercing gaze was unnerving—it sent shivers up Zigo’s spine earlier.
And these five tourists come into Mahza and think they can just rough up the locals? Clearly they don’t know this town like I do—know how things work like I do.
Zigo had left home nearly ten years ago, now, with dreams of becoming a mercenary. He’d heard the stories of such halflings hundreds of times before, the “Jaguar Guard” being the most renown. Defending the richest nobility from the most dire threats, the Jaguars were cunning, agile, and highly effective. It was little wonder they earned such fame and fortune…
Fame and fortune that I should have, too. This will have to do for now.
He was no Jaguar, but he had become the next best thing: whatever he wanted to be. He had stalked the streets of the bay’s biggest cities, ambushed the well-to-do on its roads in the countryside, and most recently, had sailed its waters with the exact kind of scum he loved the most.
Zigo smiled briefly, thinking about the old boys. “Rat”, they called him—he was small, fast, able to take whatever he wanted, and was impossible to keep down for long. For being named after such a dirty pest, he was honored by the title, and his skills were much admired by his partners in crime.
Until those Kartiya bastards went and smoked us out.
They had torched his crew’s den; leaving nothing behind. Everything—all the loot, the weapons, even the boys—gone in flames. Zigo counted his blessings every day since then to have made it out with what he managed to take with him; being the “Rat” truly paid off.
For the past month he had been stalking the alleys of the City of Thieves—he fit right in, after all. Just earlier that night, he had swiped a small idol from a merchant’s stall, and had made dozens of similar pulls in the recent weeks. Zigo knew that, eventually, he’d need to slum it with one of the local gangs, or even the Cult of Ganushim that ran the underworld… but that would be highly dangerous.
Zigo looked to the group of tourists again, enjoying their stay. They had managed to deal with some of the town’s roughest goons, without so much as a scratch. His hand drifted to the letter again. Maybe, just maybe…
“We look out for our own kind, Zigo. When all is said and done… we’re all we got.”
My own kind. Who was his “kind” anymore? Not the family he ran from, or the gangs he had cheated, and not the pirates he once ran with. There was nobody left… except for five strangers around a hookah.
My kind… is up to me. Who I choose.
Taking a deep breath and stowing away the letter, Zigo slowly walked over to the circle of tourists, joining them silently.
Guess we’ll just see what happens.