The bar was loud, the cigar tasted of ash, as he’d lit the damn thing wrong, but the sharp smoke made the ale a little sweeter, so Niklos was grateful for small favors. The fella in Almas had said they were from Molthune. Nik had wanted to tell him he couldn't give a flying fuck where they were from, but the little guy had seemed proud of the fact, so what the hell. The wrapper was a little sweet, and it smelled of mulch. The walls of Jak’A’Napes were solid enough - more solid than The Sitting Duck, where they had been drinking earlier. Nik looked at the fancy crossbow hanging behind the bar and reckoned the bar needed to be sturdy to hold that mini-ballista in place.
Zeke looked so pleased with himself, Nik expected him to steeple his fingers in cunning triumph any second now. The human’s usual shadow of stubble was more substantial after some days on the boat, swallowing more of him than usual into the shadowy tones of his dark clothes and armor. Mira was diligently adding some new aphorisms to her Placard of Wisdom, her short dark hair trying to fall into her face as she concentrated. A chalkboard as holy text still struck Nik as weird, but weird was so standard now, Nik reckoned he needed a new word to describe it.
He had stepped from the boat to shore in the early afternoon, his legs shakily readjusting to a ground that didn't move. His belly thanked him for stopping the sway of the world, but also informed him he had not eaten properly in several days. Autumn’s chill was winning the seasonal struggle with the fading summer, and Nik pulled his poncho down a little to block the cutting breeze. His hood was back though, revealing his white hair, dyed black on the underpart, horns the color of stone, and alabaster skin. Several dockworkers and passers-by stopped to stare, but never for very long.
It took all the way until the first person they talked to for someone to offer him work as a laborer. Being six foot four and 21 stone was always good for something. But his purse was still heavy, and he wasn't looking for that sort of work. Not yet, at any rate.
Zeke was speaking of the future in that broad, non-specific way of his. He had a talent for making everything he said sound only half sincere, which meant that you never knew when he was giving it to you straight (rarely), or when he was telling a complete lie (also rarely), or when he was mixing the truth with his own version to suit his purposes (almost fucking always). Right now he was talking about taking over the Red Rocks guild, in the hopes of using whatever limited amnesty they had with the lumber dictator to set up shop. Mira was making that little frown she made whenever Zeke proposed a plan that involved inflicting harm without any clear benefit to them being ground under boot. She wasn’t opposed to mayhem, as such - she’d just rathered it lift someone up while it was taking assholes down.
Nik had met the corpserobbing pigfucker of a gnome after they’d dropped their stuff and started to get the lay of the land. Bric-a-brac, or whatever the fuck his name was, played the goofball, but he picked stuff off dead people like a vulture. Probably didn’t even have the decency to kill them himself. And then there were the faeries. As he squatted on the stump outside the shop, Nik’s throat tightened, just as it had when he first saw the stuffed and mounted little corpses in the shop.
He had known two that looked like that - small as his hand with little bug or butterfly wings. He’d called them “Frik” and “Frak.” They’d put sap in his boots and scattered his pack across a clearing, filling his backpack with mushrooms. When he’d started dating Arthelea, they had cut back some, and had helped him learn Sylvan. And they were always funny, though sometimes only after Nik had gotten his hair clean.
Nik drained the last of his ale, trying to hold the horn mug delicately, because it seemed thin as glass. He stood and nodded to his compatriots as he went to get another round for the table. He had done some solid work in lightening his purse today, but probably to good ends, or at least “good” as he saw it. Jak Criminy smiled in that way that people smile at you when you’re a terrifying monster, but your money is good. Nik smiled back in a way that he hoped was comforting, and ordered some more drinks. Jak didn’t have time for small talk, what with the place full of thirsty lumberjacks, so three ales later, Nik headed back towards the table and more of Zeke’s talk of the seeds they’d planted that day.
Nik walked out into the dirt road in front of The Sitting Duck, watching as Zeke and his chosen opponent sized each other up. The drunk had three drunk friends that were carrying weapons, but they were just watching for now. Zeke twirled his slender, curving blades and advanced on the balding, wiry fella with the dagger. Nik thought his friend was toying with his prey, but maybe Zeke was tired. Still, the dagger never got near Zeke, but its wielder sprouted angry red slashes across his chest. When Zeke leaned in on his sprawled opponent, blades seeking the poor bastard’s throat, Dagger’s friends, Mace, Shortsword, and Other Dagger, decided to get involved. Dumbasses.
Nik crossed the fighting space in four steps and stuck out his arm. He caught Other Dagger in the neck and clotheslined him to the ground. Mace went after Zeke, who had already killed their friend on account of them getting involved. Shortsword reared back with his blade and barreled in, hopping halfway over his prone friend. The steel slammed into Nik’s chain mail and pain shot through Nik’s chest, but the chain held. Other Dagger thought about getting to his feet. Nik lowered his legs into a crouch and raised his arm up. It looked for all the world like he was reaching for Shortsword’s blade, but the tiefling’s hand dropped and clubbed Other Dagger across the temple, sending him sprawling back into the dirt, and opening a fountaining gash above Other Dagger’s eye. Nik then lunged from his crouch, throwing both hands into Shortsword’s chest. Shortsword’s alcohol-laced breath blew out in a distillery wind on Nik’s face and the human fell over his friend, slamming to the dirt. The impact tried to force out air that was no longer there to be forced and Shortsword blacked out.
Nik looked down at Other Dagger, who was trying to keep his knife, crawl away, and wipe blood from his eye all at the same time. A familiar bile boiled in Niklos’ throat and he smiled.
“Beg,” the tiefling said.
“Please, please. I don’t want any more,” Other Dagger whined.
Nik’s hands twitched to reach out and crush Other Dagger’s stupid little face, to snap his bones and see if his screams could be heard at either of the splotches of fucking color in this miserable little clusterfuck of half-rotted wood that passed for a town. “Louder, so they can hear you.” he hissed at the terrified little man. Wretched lesser creature, a voice that was Nik and not Nik growled in the back of his mind, Mewl and cry so I can feast.
Other Dagger’s begging became shrieky and he dragged himself through the dirt like gravity had shifted and he was trying to climb the road. Nik stopped, tasting the man’s fear in the air, and straightened up. In a breath, the moment was gone.
“Go on, then.” Nik murmured, almost whispering. Other Dagger scrabbled to his feet and sprinted as Mace gurgled and died on Zeke’s swords, just off to Nik’s left.
Nik, more or less, understood what that had been all about. Zeke had wanted to let everyone know that they weren't to be fucked with, and that was, more or less, how it had gone: Zeke was marked out as dangerous, Nik was a monster, and Mira, who hadn't gotten involved, was a question mark. Put everyone on the back foot. Sure.
But take over the town? There were gangs in Westcrown that had more people than this whole shitpile of a town, and all the decent people seemed scared of the fucks on the hill.
Well, Nik reasoned, maybe this town needed a little more indecency then.
The major events and journals in Niklos Mazinan's history, from the beginning to today.
The list of amazing people following the adventures of Niklos Mazinan.
Falcon's Hollow, Andoran