We left the inn late in the evening.
We had watched Bolander cycle through his emotional outbursts and his sleepy snoring until we could estimate and anticipate them. He’s not called The Broken just because of his horn.
I inspected the dose of pebble that Janus had given me. From top to bottom, there was no evidence that the drug was made by alchemical means. Point of fact; however it was created, it was more costly to manufacture than it was to sell it. It’s existence made no sense.
How was it made? Why was it made? Why did the townsfolk use it, again and again?
The little dose between my fingers was round, a circle. And the path it took to each individual was also circular. Purchased at the shady apothecary, smuggled home or to an empty alleyway, ingested and enjoyed in some way, only to bring the buyer back for more.
In some ways; a perfect business plan.
Speaking of plans, ours was simple. We were to go to the north side of the town to witness and engage a transaction between to parties at one bell past midnight. Lavlock and her dogs would back us up if we needed it.
The three of us found the old unused temple, barely standing on its own. We quickly improvised a strategy. Hatch would raise her battle cry when the time was right and Varvara and I would spring from our hidey-holes, hopefully in a flanking situation.
Half of our prey showed: some silly kobolds and a fiendish bugbear. Each of them had a large sack of what we could only assume was pebble.
They sat waiting the other party for an impatient hour. They were finally preparing to leave the scene. No alarm was made by Hatch. Upon inspiration from nowhere inside me, I decided to act with my own idea. I brandished The Mustache and sprung into the scene.
“Oh, there you are!” I said.
That got their attention. They trained their weapons on me.
I thought I could use their confusion. “You’ve got the stuff. I’ve got the money,” I said to the Bugbear. His name was Crust. CRUST.
“You’re not the usual guy,” said Crust suspiciously.
“I’m the new guy,” said me, with no believable confidence.
“Nope,” said Crust, “You’re the dead guy.”
Then he tried to kill me.
When Hatch finally sprung the trap and she and Varvara came to my aid, I’d already had a couple of holes in me. My bombs only seemed to make the angry Crust angrier.
He focused his attention on me. I did not like his attention. Then Hatch distracted him for a while so that I could blow up the kobolds.
Crust was really pissed off at me for this. He shot me in the face.
The arrow seemed to buzz as it struck me. I could feel the arrowhead with my tongue; taste the malign it had for me. The arrow wanted me to die more than Crust did.
Somehow, the bugbear shot me so hard that the shaft of the arrow shattered from the impact to my head. I didn’t realize this until later, because I was too busy dying.
I remember a white light, shining down on me. I saw a figure, vaguely elven, vaguely female. I’m confident she was beautiful.
I thought, “Well, number 997 has failed and gone.”
The figure approached me and put her hands on my face. They were warm and soft.
Then I felt a chill as I woke up slightly, looking into the face of Varvara. She had brought me back to life with her holy touch. I spat the arrowhead out onto her feet.
Crust had been dispatched by Hatch and I had been patched up.
It was then that the guard arrived to save the day. We drug the drugs to the guardhouse and turned them in as evidence. Our hands were shook and the promise of more work was given.
Our circle of a day was complete as we returned to the inn and sat in our same seats.
To myself, I thought of another circle, another return. I had myself a half dozen doses of pebble and I wondered if they might be a path to find that mysterious figure in the white light.