It was a typical night at The Broken Keg, a quaint little tavern in Kasinthia, Kasinthia. The patrons seemed to be enjoying their night, whether they were drinking with their buddies or playing an (almost) friendly game of cards. Everything seemed fine and dandy, that is except for the distressed looking man slouching over his drink at the bar counter. He did not look like a local; his unkempt red hair and the furs he wore on his back were a big tell to that, and the spaces near him on the otherwise crowded counter were empty. To the onlooker, it would appear that he was having a rough day.
“What’s bothering him?” a dwarf nearby asked her friend.
“Probably lost his money on a bet. And his shirt too!” the friend said.
“Look how sad he is, did someone break his heart?” another said, “Or maybe his drink just tastes that bad?”
What those people did not know was that this man was actually a Crusader and that only about a week and a half ago, he had nearly caused the end of the world.
The man shivered with the recollection of the terrifying scene. Most of it was a blur to him, but he remembered the demons, and he remembered his fellow Crusaders fighting. He can’t remember what they said or what was going on but he remembered the box, clear and vivid as a beacon in the fog. The man winced as he remembered what had happened next. Recklessly and thoughtlessly, he slipped by everyone unnoticed and dived towards the box, pressing its button. The moment of victory felt unending, but it was all brought crashing down by a single utterance from the Emissary of Pestilence:
He had frozen in terror. All hope was lost and he had doomed them all! Thanks to Orynn though, the Crusaders were able to foil Pestilence’s plan and the world was saved. As they cheered for victory, though, the man couldn’t bring himself to join his comrades, still in total shock of what had just happened. Over what he had just done.
‘How? How can they celebrate over this!?’ he had asked himself. ‘They don’t know what happened, do they? I…I need to tell someone!’
He went to his Commander, Potchus, certain he would feel better about it after telling him what happened. It didn’t, and it only made him feel worse over what he had done. The plain and obvious misery of his fellow Crusader, Dis, compounded those feelings with every moment. The urge to talk to someone else, to just say something, overwhelmed him, and the only other person he could possibly tell was —
“Tully? Yo Tully? You ok?” Sparrow, a human man in a flannel shirt, and under a wide brimmed hat, asked his friend, who had been lost in thought. “Ya’ need to stop spacin’ out like that man, ya’ freakin’ out the locals.” Sparrow sat down next to him, setting down two drinks.
Tulyar snapped back to reality, and the memories faded away. His fellow Crusader gave Tulyar one of his signature goofy and drunken smiles. Sparrow was the other person that Tulyar told his secret to, but for whatever reason Tulyar felt different from when he told his Commander. Sparrow is an avid drinker and somewhat aloof but underneath his sleazy exterior he’s got a pretty friendly personality, and if it weren’t for his personal hygiene you’d almost want to go up and hug the guy. Tulyar couldn’t remember the reason why he trusted him enough with his secret, but Sparrow just shrugged it off like it was no big deal. Maybe he didn’t let it bother him like it bothered Tulyar, or maybe he was just that detached. Whatever the reason, Tulyar felt better being able to talk to someone, even if that someone could hardly walk a straight line.
“Sorry, I was uh, just thinking—”
Sparrow interrupted him. “Yer’ always thinkin’! You have to relax sometime.” He began. “Ya’ can’t blame yourself for what could’a happened, ‘cuz ya’ didn’t know! Hell, I didn’t even know what was goin’ on!” He took a swig of his drink.
“Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel better…” Tulyar murmured sarcastically.
“Aw quit yo’ grimace, and drink up! Tonight, drinks are’n me!” He took another swig. “Tully, what ya’ need is a vacation.”
“Sparrow, we’re already on vacation…”
Sparrow gave him a look, that quirked lip and eye roll he liked doing. “Well ‘n that case ya’ need a vacation from yo’ vacation,” he said with finality, as if he were reciting some great wisdom. Tulyar raised an eyebrow, but held his tongue. There was no stopping Sparrow when he got himself going. “I know a real happenin’ place in Bawerstrom where even a stick ‘n the mud like you can have a good time!”
He thought for a long while and sipped his beer. Tulyar could not remember the last time he enjoyed himself. It was only a short while ago that he joined the Crusaders. He thought that he would feel better about his problems if he joined them and did the right thing, protected the innocent and saved the day, that story. And then things got worse when the Pact Demon interfered. And since then he hadn’t done a great job ‘saving the day.’ With that in mind, he came to a conclusion. ”Y’know, maybe I do need to take a break from all this drama…” he said and finished his drink. “Alright Sparrow, I’m listening…”
“Welcome to Merna!” the lady said to Tulyar and Sparrow when they entered the city. “We hope you enjoy your stay!”
Tulyar still wasn’t used to large bustling cities, and Merna was no exception. People packed the streets, so many talking and walking around and oh so many places to see. Stores. Inns. Bars. Theatres. Tulyar’s head spun!
“This place, it’s uh…loud.” Tulyar plugged one of his ears, trying not to sound impressed. He couldn’t help but be both amazed and overwhelmed by the overabundance of things around. “I’ve never seen so many people at once…”
Sparrow broke Tulyar’s trance with a sharp slap on the back and a laugh. “Gee Tully, don’t stare so much! Ya’ look like a country bumpkin who never saw a city!”
Tulyar shot him an embarrassed look, but bit back the retort he had. “So Sparrow, where do we go from here? I mean, there’s so much to do and see…how do we even know where to go?” He looked around confused.
“Aw don’cha worry! I know the perfect places to spend our vacation’s sabbatical! Just let ol’ Sparrow be your guide!”
The two of them explored the streets looking for different attractions and eating various foods. Tulyar felt like a weight had been lifted from his back. The usual crummy feeling wasn’t so present that night, like a curtain had been pulled across it, and it felt kind of nice. For once, Tulyar wasn’t thinking about the past or the mistakes that were made. He felt like a completely different person, but, as Sparrow might have said, “an instant is all Lady Luck needs to make your day run topsy turvy!.”
Tulyar and Sparrow were hanging outside of a bar feeding Tulyar’s wolf puppy when Sparrow came up with a brilliant idea. “Are ya’ ready for the best thing about Merna, Tully?”
Tulyar looked up from what he was doing. “Sure, where are we going?” he asked.
Sparrow led Tulyar down streets and through alleys until they came to their destination, a very bright building adorned with accents of marble white and bright gold, with waves of people entering happily and leaving distressed, and tough looking bouncers guarding the door. Large signs on top of the entrance said “PYRITE” and “WIN WIN WIN”. From where they stood, they could see that the walls inside were decorated with upholstery of royal shades of purple and blue, and the loud clattering of the exchange of Arvirs from inside could be heard even from outside
‘I should’ve known…’ Tulyar thought. He turned to Sparrow with an unimpressed look and arms crossed. “Really Sparrow? Gambling? This is your idea of a main attraction?”
“Hey! This ain’t any old gambling house, y’know. This is the Pyrite Gamehouse, the best source of money-making entertainment in all of Merna!” he shot back.
“Don’t you mean money-losing? You couldn’t gamble if your life depended on it.”
“Ah but my friend, that may be true in other places but not here!” Sparrow pulled Tulyar to his side with a shoulder around his arm, and gestured toward the signs. “For ya’ see, the Pyrite is the very place where luck and opportunity are born!” Sparrow said, with a certainty and woodenness that betrayed him, even if Tulyar hadn’t already seen the poster Sparrow had read off of already. “Lady Luck will shine on me tonight!”
“That doesn’t make any sense…”
The wolf pup poked his head out and noticed a sign that said “No dogs allowed” and he pouted. Sparrow patted his head. “Aw don’cha worry lil’ guy, we won’t let anyone take ya’ away. Tully, make sure ya’ keep Domino in yo’ furs, ‘k?”
Tulyar raised an eyebrow. “Domino?” He looked at Sparrow, who nodded his head and smirked..
“Yeah, doesn’t the lil’ guy still need a name?” He tipped his hat to one of the bouncers and walked inside. “Evenin’ mister!”
Tulyar looked to his furry friend resting on his shoulder. “Domino?” The dog grimaced at the mention of the name. “Yeah I didn’t think so either.” he chuckled. He gently pushed the dog back into his furs and followed Sparrow inside.
The inside of the Pyrite was packed with people, either sitting at their chairs rolling dice and flipping cards, crowding around the other gamblers like moths to an open flame, or yelling obscenities in several different tongues, most of which Tulyar thankfully could not understand. They had a lot of money on them and they weren’t afraid to throw it down on the tables.
Tulyar looked like a deer in lamp lights, while Sparrow looked like the lion in the lamb pen. “All right!” Sparrow shouted, waving his hands in a ‘gather to me my gamblers’ fashion above his head. “Who wants to go up against the one and only Crusaders o’ Council, WOO!”
A short and stubby man twirling his mustache scurried up to them. “Why good evening to the two of you!” he said elatedly. “Is this your first time visiting the Pyrite, fellas?” He wore an extravagant, and not a little tacky, outfit of purple silks and gold tassels. In one hand he held a glass of wine and in the other a fancy cane with a silver fox head for a handle.
“Sure is!” Sparrow exclaimed. “My buddy here and I are on vacation so we decided that we’d come check out the best in Merna!” Tulyar waved to the man quietly, uncomfortable with the man’s friendly smile but hungry eyes.
“Ah, I see…” He looked over the two for a moment, paying special attention to Tulyar’s lack of a shirt and Sparrow’s odd, leather pants.. “My boys, forgive me for prying but you don’t seem to be around from here.”
Sparrow chimed in. “Ah well y’see good sir, that’s cus we ain’t from around here. Ya see, you might not have noticed, but we” he paused to build suspense, “…are actually Crusaders!” he shouted, his hands splayed in as if he had shouted “Ta da!”
Tulyar grunted into the hand that covered his face. “Yeah, barely,” he muttered into his palm.
The man’s eyes lit up in an instant. “I thought I heard Crusaders! But of course! Oh how could I have been so foolish! Forgive me for not noticing before gentlemen, this is truly embarrassing of me.” He bowed his head.
Tulyar didn’t know what to make of the man’s outburst, but Sparrow nodded knowingly. “S’okay, can’t blame ya for not knowin’. It’s our job to keep a low profile, you catch what I mean?”
“Well of course! Oh just where are my manners today?” the man continued. “I am Tomas Wyndmoor, and I am the one in charge of this fine establishment. It’s very nice to meet the both of you tonight.” He placed his glass on a tray that appeared from behind him, and shook both their hands. For such a small man, the strength of his grip surprised Tulyar.
“Uhh, it’s not a problem, sir…” Tulyar said, still a bit confused. Mr. Wyndmoor put a hand on Tulyar’s shoulder and led him through the commotion of the game room, Sparrow in tow.
“Come Crusaders, let me give you a private tour. I hope you enjoy yourselves to all of the Pyrite’s wonderful services for tonight my friends, you are my honorary guests! Trust me when I say you’ll not have a better night anywhere else!”
Tulyar’s vision clouded, and a sharp pain at the back of his head caused his eyes to water. He couldn’t place it, but something about Wyndmoor felt off. Before he could say anything, though, Wyndmoor had taken his hand off of Tulyar, and had instead thrown it around Sparrow’s shoulder.
“That’s real nice ‘o ya’ Mister! Thanks a bunch!” Sparrow said, a devious smile gliding up his face as he looked at all of the money being exchanged at the nearby tables. Tulyar continued to just look around silently.
“Oh think nothing of it. It’s the least we can do for you Crusaders. You lot deserve some down time after all the hard work you have to deal with all the time.” Mr. Wyndmoor replied.
“Yeah, no kiddin’! Ya’ hear that Tully?” Sparrow said nudging Tulyar’s in the ribs.
“Yes Sparrow, I get your point.” Tulyar said almost gritting his teeth. He already wasn’t happy about Sparrow dragging him all over the city just to go gambling, not to mention a place that looked so expensive for the both of them, and to top it off this Wyndmoor character was creeping him out. “Thanks for the offer and all, but gambling isn’t really my thing.” Tulyar said to Mr. Wyndmoor. “C’mon, Sparrow.” he said grabbing Sparrows shoulder and pulling him back.
“Oh but please do stay, good sir!” Wyndmoor said, desperation crawling in his face. “It’s not everyday that we at the Pyrite are able to serve Crusaders like yourselves! If you do not wish to partake in any of our main entertainment, then that’s ok but at least stay for the night. It would be our honor and you wouldn’t have to pay for an expensive inn here in Merna.”
Sparrow gave Tulyar a pleading look. “Come on, Tully! Just the night!” His eyes darted between Tulyar, Wyndmoor, and the tables. Tulyar could not help but feel bad for ruining Sparrow’s fun.
“Well…” Tulyar began. Wyndmoor clapped his hands and nearly kicked his heels.
“Excellent! I assure you fellas, you’re going to absolutely love the Pyrite. Trust me.” He snapped his fingers and instantly a steward walked into the room holding a silver tray. On it was a bottle of wine, some cups, four Arvirs, and a key. “Your room key, sirs. As well as your complimentary wine and four Arvirs. Say the word and I’ll trade them in for one hundred Wellingtons, and from there to four thousand Pyrites” the steward said poshly.
Tulyar eyed the steward suspiciously. “Wellingtons? Pyrites? I’ve never heard of those.”
“OH, GRAVY! One hundred Wells!” Sparrow turned to Tulyar. “A Wellington, well that’s what people in Bawerstrom use to gamble. It’s against the law to use real money, so at some point the Wellington was made the national standard gambling token, with a state set conversion rate with gold Suns, and from there the Arvir. Past that, plenty of casinos have their own token. That way, you can convert your winnings from one place to Wellingtons, and go hit up another casino!” Sparrow looked far too pleased with this knowledge.
Tulyar turned to Wyndmoor. “Oh, well then, is that how much you give everyone then?”
Wyndmoor threw his head back in a laugh. “Oh heavens no, my boy! I’d go bankrupt if I threw just a single Arvir at anyone who just walked in! But as my guests, you deserve nothing short of the best.” He looked to the steward, and with a gesture he was gone.
The business with the different coins made Tulyar’s head hurt. It didn’t make much sense, from where he stood, but he figured it had to be another part of “city life”.
Before Tulyar could say anything more, Sparrow took the room key and handed it to him. “Ah don’ worry Tully. I know you don’ wanna stay and play, so you can jus’ head on up to the room. I’ll meet up wit’cha when I finish down here.” He smiled, but it wasn’t that wolf, “I need to get gambling right this minute” smile. It was his old goofy smile, and just seeing that set Tulyar at ease. This was Sparrow’s world, and Tulyar would have to trust him on this one.
“Thanks, Sparrow…” He took the key and proceeded up the stairs rooms.
“Your friend is quite the thoughtful one, no?” Tulyar heard Wyndmoor say.
He stopped halfway up the stairs and then turned to Sparrow. “Just don’t get carried away, got it?” he called down.
Sparrow smiled his goofy smile and gave a thumbs up. “No problemo! You can trust me!”
Wyndmoor popped open the bottle and began to serve. “Would you like some wine?” he asked Sparrow. “Don’t mind if I do, Wynmoor!”
Tulyar sighed and continued to his room.
The next morning, the wolf cub barking woke Tulyar up. “Huh,” he groaned, rubbing his tired eyes. “What is it little guy?” The puppy was barking at the room door. Feeling uneasy, Tulyar, opened the door, and outside on the floor sat a Sparrow. His shirt was untied, his hat gone, and he was missing a boot. He looked up at Tulyar with bloodshot eyes.
“Oh heeeeey, Tully! Good mornin’!” he said enthusiastically, flashing a wide, sleepy smile.
“Morning.” Tulyar yawned. “Why are you down there?”
“Well, I got up here, and I realized I mighta misplaced the key.” He laughed nervously.
Tulyar sighed. “Why didn’t you know? When did you get back?” Sparrow mumbled something that Tulyar could not hear. “Speak up, Sparrow!”
“I said, I got back, well, now.”
Tulyar slapped his hand to his eyes. “You were up all night gambling, weren’t you?”
“I find ‘up all night’ to be a loaded, subjective phrase.” Sparrow said with a harumph.
“How much did you lose?” Tully asked. Despite himself, a smile tugged at his lips. After all the grandstanding, it was nice to see Sparrow get his for dragging Tulyar all around town to a gambling den.
“Well, you see, that’s got an answer which is just a mite complicated, you get what I’m saying?”
“I told you not to get carried away, didn’t I?” Tulyar shrugged. “Well, that’s what you get, I guess. So much for ‘where luck and fortune is born’ or whatever it was, right?” Tulyar shook his head, then held out his hand. “Okay, get in here, then tell me how much you lost.” Sparrow grabbed Tulyar’s hand, who pulled him right onto his feet. For such a tall guy, Sparrow was scrawny, and light as a feather.
“Okay, so, here’s the ticket, right,” Sparrow slurred after he stumbled into the room and into a chair. He reached for a drink that wasn’t there, and stared blankly at his hand for a moment. “I lost, okay give me a minute. Um, well, just, uh, hundred-five thousand Pyrites.”
Tulyar’s heart stopped a minute. The rung in his head, and for a minute it was all he could think about. But then he realized, wait, just last night the guy was talking about four thousand Pyrites like they were nothing. One hundred and five thousand sounded like a lot, but it was just a big number.
“How much does that mean? You know, in Arvirs?” Tulyar asked, hopeful.
“Just give me a second, would ya,” Sparrow said, reaching for the jug of water on the table. “And try not to yell so loud. Let’s see, if you do the math, that’s, uh, about, uhm, just, you know, hundred and five Arvirs.”
Tulyar stopped breathing, and this time the shock did not pass so easily. “A hundred what!? Sparrow, do you even have a hundred Arvirs? Do you even have fifty?”
“Well, about that…” Sparrow looked down guiltily. A sense of impending doom fell across Tulyar like a massive weight. He tore across the room to his bag. Ripping that open he found in place of his money pouch a piece of paper. On it written: I.O.U. — Sparrow!
“Sparrow!” Tulyar bellowed.
“Now wait just a second here, before you get mad, I tell you the odds were in my favor! I’d be dumb not to keep going.”
“You were dumb to steal my money! How am I going to get out of here. Dammit Sparrow, ugh.” Tulyar scratched his head. “Look, we’re just going to have to talk to this Wyndmoor guy, all right? See if we can’t work anything out.”
“Work wha*hic* out?” Sparrow asked.
“Just something! Didn’t Elder Cupboard give you that fancy ring? Do you remember what that did?”
“*hic* Not really.”
“Whatever. Worst case, we can sell the ring and get out of here. And don’t try complaining! This is your mess, remember.”
“Um, about that, Tully…” Sparrow said.
A silence pregnant with despair and woe hung in the air between the two of them as Tulyar put the pieces together.
“…You bet the ring! That was an Eldar artifact! How can you be so so stupid?” Tulyar positively fumed with rage and betrayal. So much for the good natured, aloof, understanding Sparrow!
“Oh, now no one is gonna be calling Sparrow an idiot! Not to my face!” Sparrow shot out of his, and into a boxer’s position. “Come on, we’re having it out, right here!” He tried to dance around the room, but his feet tangled together and he began to stumble back and forth. Despite that, he threw a shaky punch that whiffed Tulyar by at least a foot. Tulyar rolled his eyes, and with a shove sent Sparrow flying across the room onto the bed. “Oof!” Sparrow said when he hit the cushion, but he didn’t try to get up.
“Lie down. I’m gonna talk to this Wyndmoor guy.” Tulyar said. Shoving Sparrow had let him calm down enough to not want to kill him, but he was still pretty pissed, and was hoping that Sparrow would get up for another round of drunken boxing. The snores coming from the bed signalled that wouldn’t be happening, and Tulyar left the room.
The casino proved a maze without the guiding hand of Mr. Wyndmoor. Every way he looked Tulyar found more tables, more cards, more tokens being exchanged and gambled away. Some tables made strange, ringing sounds that at once made his ears hurt and his heart pound, but despite himself the cacophony attracted him, and he would wander up to the table before stopping himself.
At long last, he found a large, important looking door, and decided there would be the best place to look. He approached the door, now nervous, and wishing he had dragged Sparrow so he could force him to do it. Then again, he thought, Sparrow probably was not in a state to be speaking with anyone, let alone Wyndmoor. With trepidation, Tulyar knocked on the door.
The door flew open and a balding and brawny middle-aged man poked his head out. “WHAT! Whatd’ya want!?” Startled by the suddenness of the door opening and the man’s shouting, Tulyar did not know what to say. “Well!?” the man snarled.
Clearing his throat, Tulyar began. “U-uh hi, I’d like to speak to Mr. Wyndmoor…if that’s ok…” The man gave him a look like he spoke in some strange, vulgar language.
“Huh!? Who the hell do you think you ar’!?” the large man yelled at him, spit flying onto Tulyar’s face. “Da boss don’t got time for nonames. The tables back that way, so git yer coin or git out!”
A voice came from inside the room. “Benny please, there’s no need to yell. What’s going on out there?”
Benny’s tone immediately changed. He looked over his shoulder, a subservient smile replacing the sneer. “Oh, sorry Mister Wyndmoor sir. Some goon’s askin’ to speak to ya’, sir.” Tulyar took Benny’s moment of distraction to wipe the saliva off his face. “Want me to kick ‘em out?” Benny said.
Wyndmoor stepped out from behind the oversized guard dog. “Ah, Crusader! Forgive my assistant’s ignorance, he didn’t know it was you. Benny, let my boy Tulyar in, would you please.” He disappeared behind Benny. Benny turned to Tulyar.
“Well, you heard the boss. Come on in.” Tulyar stepped around Benny, squeezing himself against the door frame to avoid any possible contact. Benny smelled like sweat, humiliation, and fear.
In the office, paintings of Wyndmoor with several important looking patrons adorned the walls, including what looked like a guard captain, and an old man wearing a gold suit and a top hat. Wyndmoor sat behind his massive mahogany desk.
“So Tully my boy, what can I do for you?” Wyndmoor gestured to the chair across from him. When he did, Tulyar noticed a ring with a large red gem on his middle finger, and he could not remember a ring like that being there yesterday. It must have been Sparrow’s ring, he realized.
“Hey, so here’s the thing. Sparrow was…enjoying himself by…partaking in your games last night…”
“Ah yes, I remember that. Last time I checked he wasn’t doing very good. Pity, he started strong, from what I remember. I had a meeting, and when I got back he must have had enough money to buy the Pyrite!” Mr. Wyndmoor barked out a laugh. “Of course, you know how those stories go. I felt bad, but them’s the draw, if what I always say to my customers.”
“Yeah, anyway, he said he lost all of his, um, our money, right?” Tulyar said.
“Well, more than that. He managed to turn those four Arvirs I lent you boys into ten, then lost that all too. Truthfully, I believe you boys owe us,” Wyndmoor opened a drawer and pulled out a sheet of paper with numbers on it. “One-hundred-twenty-five Arvirs. Whooh!” Wyndmoor put the paper back. “I could retire on that, I could.”
“Wait, lent? I thought that was a gift!” Tulyar said.
“I’m wealthy, but I ain’t Wellington Wealthy, boy!” Wyndmoor said, visibly agitated. “I don’t got Arvirs to just give to people, Crusader or no. It was a loan, with the understanding that you would pay it back with your winnings. Being Crusaders, I thought you’d be, well, luckier. Well, what about it?”
“We can’t pay that!” Tulyar shouted. “No one could pay that! What do you expect us to do?!”
Wyndmoor leaned back in his chair, his hands clasped on the table. “Well, I’m sorry to say, but you gotta pay. Casinos are protected from fraud by law. It’s no fault of mine that your friend bit off more than he could chew. If you can’t pay, well then it’s a matter of the authorities.”
“The authorities! Listen, Mr. Wyndmoor, isn’t there something we can do?” Tulyar slouched forward. He hated begging, and he hated Wyndmoor for making him beg.
Wyndmoor looked over him. “You know, there just might. Come, walk and talk with me, Tully. Can I call you Tully?” Wyndmoor got up out of his seat, and came around to Tulyar. He threw his arm over Tulyar’s shoulder like he had done with Sparrow, making Tulyar visibly uncomfortable. He kept his grip, though, and Tulyar had to take it. He was in debt, and did not want to go to prison over this.
Wyndmoor guided Tulyar through the Pyrite as he talked, bringing him close to several of the louder tables. “Now see, Tully, I like you, so I wanna help you, right? You gotta trust me on that.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Tulyar thought he could see the gem on Wyndmoor’s finger, which sat next to his face, glint, but the thought dripped out of his mind like candle wax. The hand, which had just felt oppressive, felt calming and father like, and he nodded along. “Yeah, I get you,” Tulyar said.
“But I have a predicament, you see.” Wyndmoor had a look of genuine regret as he spoke. “I can’t just give you the money, and I’m booked up on help, so I can’t just hire you. I mean, what do you want me to do? Pay you in Pyrites?”
What Sparrow said about Pyrites and Wellingtons floated into his mind, mingled with the sound of Pyrites hitting the tables and floors. An idea popped in, causing Tulyar to beam ear to ear. “Wait, why can’t you?”
“Why can’t I what?” Wyndmoor had a suspicious look.
“We work for you, and you pay us in Pyrites. Eventually, we can win enough to pay our debts!” Tulyar looked at Wyndmoor, feeling less confident. Said out loud, it did not feel like a good plan. “I mean, that can work, right?”
“Hmm,” Wyndmoor thought for a second, looking over the room. Tulyar followed his gaze, and stopped at a table nearby him. The dealer threw dice, the players threw coins, everyone smiled and looked excited. Tulyar wanted nothing more than to join them. It didn’t look that hard, and hey, they were games right? There were worse ways of making money.
“I think that might work,” Wyndmoor said. He smiled, “in fact, that’s a great idea! I wish I had come up with it myself. You’re a smart son of a gun, you know that Tulyar?”
With the kind words, Tulyar began to swell with pride. It had been a great idea! He needed to stop doubting himself so much, he thought, because he could be pretty clever.
“In fact,” Wyndmoor said, before dropping a handful of Pyrites into Tulyar’s hand. “Why don’t you go test the waters. You’ll start tomorrow.”
“I need to tell Sparrow the good news!” Tulyar exclaimed, but Wyndmoor placed a hand on Tulyar’s chest.
“Let me do the honors, Tully my boy. You go on and start earning that coin. Oh, and before you start working, talk to my boy Benny about a shirt. Can’t have you working half naked, this ain’t that kind of establishment. Oh, and we’ll need to take your weapons away. Just a matter of safety: don’t want an unhappy patron grabbing them and making a fuss.” With a wink, Wyndmoor removed his arm.
With the arm went much of Tulyar’s confidence, and the coins felt heavy and foreign in his hand. He realized that he didn’t actually know how to play any of these games. But he smirked, remembering that he was going to be paid in tokens. He would have all the time in the world to learn, so long as Wyndmoor did not fire him. With that in mind, Tulyar hit the floor, and promptly lost all of his tokens, but thankfully learned to play some of the games.
Working for the Pyrite was rough. The maze like quality was amplified through service, work shifts were long and barely allowed time for breaks, everything and everyone smelled like cheese and wine. At any given moment, Benny was yelling his head off at someone, and worst of all the customers were snotty, stuck-up snobs who did nothing but flap their gums and wave their tokens around like some kind of fashion statement.
Getting tips was nearly impossible but somehow Tulyar and Sparrow were able to scrounge up around half an Arvir (if Sparrow had his math right) worth of Pyrites within a week of picking them up from the floor. The two of them were given different jobs depending on the day but because of Tulyar’s strength, he was mainly tasked with escorting some of the more rowdy patrons out of the building. An easy enough job as it was, but still a hassle nonetheless.
Every night, they were paid their share of Pyrites: ten each for an hour of work. Tulyar tried saving up so he could win big once and get out of there, but the allure of the tables proved too strong, and he would have to wait too long anyway. Sparrow hit the tables first chance he could, and actually managed to win some for a while, before inevitably losing all his coins. Tulyar began to improve, and won some of the lower stake games, but he too lost all his coins by the time morning came. But when they went to bed, each had dreams of the Big Win that was surely waiting for them the next night.
For a week and a half, the days had fallen into a routine. The hours felt endless, the customers were as inhospitable as ever, and the ring of coins was intoxicating. Even still, Tulyar began to lose his patience.
One day, he was asked to escort a particularly distressed patron out. Typical day: if the guy went nicely, that was that. If he did not, Tulyar would have to physically throw him out, which was not hard; the loud ones tended to be fragile twigs, not unlike Sparrow. The man looked as thin as a toothpick and his outfit was the only tell that he may have been wealthy at some point. ‘
He must’ve lost bad… Tulyar thought then approached the grieving man, who was shouting at a dealer. “Hey sir, you’re disturbing the other patrons” Tulyar said as politely as he could.
“Oh I’m SOOO sorry that my CRISIS is DISTURBING YOU!” the man yelled, tears rolling down his face and mixing with his snot. “Not that your simple, meat-brick mind can comprehend that! Who raised you, trolls!?” The man continued shouting insults, but his sobs made them unintelligible.
Tulyar did his best to give the man his best fake smile while holding back the urge to rip the man’s head off. Still, he balled his hands into fists. “There’s no need to act like that sir…” he said through his smiling teeth.
“Shut up! Who asked you! No one! That’s who! Cause you’re no one!” The man went back to his crying and screaming, shaking from the force of it all..
Tulyar let out a breath through his teeth, and in one motion picked the man up and threw him over his shoulder. The man did not seem to care, instead shouting into Tulyar’s back. “Ahhh! Why’s this gotta happen to me? Why? Dad was right, I’m always gonna be a failure.” The mention of the guy’s disapproving dad made Tulyar pause, but he shrugged it off. He had found the back entrance already; Benny told them not to use the front, it looked bad.
Outside, he tossed the guy on the ground, where he continued to cry and snivel. Tulyar look guiltily to the side. “Look, I don’t care where you go, but you can’t stay here, okay? Get out of here.”
“Damn that Wyndmoor,” the man said, ignoring Tulyar’s order. “He took advantage of me. Told him I couldn’t gamble but he let me anyway!”
The accusation against Wyndmoor made Tulyar angry. He picked the guy up by the cuff of his collar and slammed him against the wall. “What did you say about Mr. Wyndmoor? How does he got anything to do with your bad habits?”
“Ah, leave me alone, meat-brick. *sniff* My wife is going to kill me.”
‘Ok, that tears it!’ Tulyar punched the wall next to the man’s head, almost making a hole in the brick. The man screamed, but Tulyar put a hand on the guy’s mouth. “Listen buddy, they don’t pay me enough here and I’m already pretty ticked off from all of your shit, so I suggest you ease up on the attitude otherwise you and me are gonna have a problem.” Tulyar said. “I wouldn’t be worrying about your wife if I were you,” he growled and glared at the tiny man
The man shook his head rapidly, his eyes popping out of his skull. Tulyar removed his hands, and dropped the little guy, who fell to the floor and almost crumpled were it not for the wall. Tulyar had not realized he was holding the guy two feet off the ground.
Shaking in fear, the man struggled to find his words. “O-o-okay, calm down. I’ll talk. W-well, I’m not m-much of a gambling man but I was running a bit low so I decided to try my luck. Things were fine and I was on winning streak, so I didn’t think it was weird when the manager decided to pay me a visit. I thought he was just saying hi!”
Tulyar looked confused. “Wait, why would he visit you? Why are you so special?”
“How should I know, I’m just a banker! It was probably because I was winning so much! He just showed up after a few minutes, we talked, had some wine, and then I started betting more. I was planning on stopping, but the manager told me to keep going and well, you know, I did. Felt dumb to stop. I can’t even fathom how he convinced me, but he did and now I’m poorer than dirt!” the man cried out. “I just kept on playing and playing and playing and playing! I just couldn’t stop! I kept betting more money, and he kept talking to me.”
“What did he say to you,” Tulyar asked, feeling uncomfortable. It had been a while since he had talked to Mr. Wyndmoor, and the feeling of creepiness was starting to come back.
The man composed himself, then positioned himself into a crude imitation of Mr. Wyndmoor’s posture. “‘Oh, Gulliver my boy, you’re smarter than you think! But don’t trust this old toad, trust the cards! Not everyday someone wins so much, don’t you know?’ Blah!”
“Wait, did you say ‘trust’? Are you sure he used that word specifically?”
The man thought for a moment. “Yeah, I think, I don’t know. I’ve had so much wine, most of it is a blur.”
Tulyar’s head began to hurt. “Okay, look, whatever, just go home okay.”
A window nearby opened, and Benny poked out his head. “Ey! Meat pie! Woz that you punching walls?” Benny saw the chipped brick. “Oooh! That’ll be comin’ out of yer paycheck, I’ll be makin’ sure. Hey! I thought I told you to throw that guy out.” Benny pointed at the once-rich man. “You! Go on, get!”
The man, Gulliver, squeaked, and tore off down the alleyway. When Tulyar looked back, Benny’s head was gone. Tulyar went back inside, lost in thought over what the guy had said. Now that he thought about it, he had seen that particular wine all over the place at the Pyrite. Something didn’t feel right. He looked for Sparrow, who he found dolled up in a steward’s outfit, serving drinks to some wealthy(-er) looking patrons.
“…So when ya’ take all of that into consideration, the world being controlled by shapeshifted beetle people is not THAT farfetched! Not sayin’ I buy it all, but ya’ gotta keep your mind open, y’know what I’m sayin’?” The group politely chuckled, while one man, a dwarf with a yellow and purple beard pulled and tied above his head, nodded sagely. Sparrow noticed Tulyar looking around the room. “Hey Tully, over here! You’re just in time for—” Tulyar grabbed Sparrow by the arm and pulled him away. “Hey, what’s the big idea, huh? What’s the rush?”
“Hey, Sparrow,” Tully whispered, looking over his shoulder for Benny. He saw him across the floor, arguing with another patron, “no time to talk about it, but can you snatch some of that wine for us tonight? A bottle would be ideal, but I just need a little.”
“Sure thing, Tully! Leave it to Sparrow!” Sparrow went to take a sip of his own glass of wine. Tulyar placed his hand over it before he could, shaking his head.
“Don’t drink that. Don’t drink any of it, okay? Just bring the wine. Head right up to the room, too. Don’t bother gambling tonight.” Tulyar looked in Sparrow’s eyes, trying to impress upon him the importance he did as Tulyar said. It seemed to work, as Sparrow’s smile faded and he nodded. Tulyar walked away, just as Benny barked at him.
“Ey! Meat pie! We got another sobber!” Benny yelled. Tulyar nodded, and got to work. Throughout the rest of the day Tulyar thought on the wine, on Wyndmoor, and on Gulliver.
That night, he pulled himself away from the gambling tables, and trudged downstairs to their room. Since they were no longer honored guests, they got to sleep in the basement, on moldy mats with moth eaten blankets. Sparrow greeted him with a smile and a bottle of the wine.
“Who’s the man? Sparrow’s the man. Okay, Tully, we gonna drink up?” Sparrow asked, holding up the bottle of wine.
“I didn’t ask you to bring the wine so we could get drunk, Sparrow,” Tulyar said, rolling his eyes.
“Good thing too, cause this ain’t nearly enough!” Sparrow looked at the wine and scoffed. “Call this wine? More o that hoity toity nonsense. Couldn’t get a weasel wasted! You’d need at least a keg of this crap to even get wasted.”
Tulyar sat down, opened his mouth, and closed it. He gave Sparrow a confused look. “You were completely shit face our first night, Sparrow! How much did you drink?” To Tulyar’s question, the only answer Sparrow gave was a couple of blinks and silence. “Okay, forget it. Look, I think there’s something off with this wine. What do you think?”
Sparrow opened the wine, and gave it a sniff. “Well, it sure don’t smell like no wine I know. Come to think of it, it don’t taste like no wine I know, but I wouldn’t call it strange just for that, know what I’m sayin’ Tully?”
Tulyar grabbed the wine away, and gave it a whiff. He felt a pain at the back of his skull, and his eyes began to water. He pulled away, his face scrunched up. “What the hell? Sparrow, what’s in this?”
“I dunno, alcohol and money? Try it out, if you think it’s so weird.” Sparrow lay back on his mat, his hands behind his head.
Tulyar looked at the bottle. He took a deep breath, then took a shot of the wine. His head lit on fire, his eyes watering. He might have yelled, but the breath had been knocked out of him. He could hear Sparrow saying things, but could not understand any of it, a ringing in his ears blocking everything out.
When he opened his eyes, he was on his back and Sparrow was over him. “Hoe-Lee shit, Tully! Give me a warning next time, would ya?” Sparrow helped Tulyar into a sitting position. Tulyar hissed, his head still ringing. “What was that?”
Tulyar thought, then realized what it was. “Magic. Magically resistant. Ow. That’s what I feel whenever someone uses magic on me. It’s just that, you know, I’m usually fighting someone when that happens, and don’t notice. That’s why I didn’t pick up on it before.”
“Before?” Sparrow’s voice showed concern. “When before?”
“When we were first talking to Wyndmoor, when he had a hand on my shoulder. He said, ‘Trust me when I say you’ll not have a better night anywhere else!’ Wait a minute, that’s it!” Tulyar turned to Sparrow, wincing from the movement. “He tried to cast trust on me then, Sparrow! And he cast trust on another of the patrons, and who knows who else. Where’s the wine?”
From behind the one pillow they shared, Sparrow pulled out the bottle. “Here it is, but slow down, Tully. What are you implying?”
“Sparrow, do you know if you can brew trust into a potion?” Tulyar asked, ignoring Sparrow’s question and grabbing the wine. He inspected it, tried reading the label. It just said “Pyrite” across it with no other markings. “Are we even sure this is wine?”
“Tully! Don’t leave me out of the loop!” Sparrow said, throwing his hands up.
“Okay, okay! I think that there’s a scam going on here, don’t you?”
“Oh, well obviously there’s some sort of scam,” Sparrow said, waving his hands in a dismissive manner. “Tully, you don’t go to a casino thinking you won’t get scammed a little. That’s part of the fun! It’s a mind game, and if you win you come out wealthy!”
“No! No, Sparrow, listen! I think it’s something in the drink. I think this isn’t even wine! It’s a drug. A drug that casts trust on you, or something. I don’t know. I react the same way to it that I do to magic attacks.”
Sparrow grabbed the wine away, sniffing it again. He narrowed it eyes at it, and frowned. “You’re right, Tully, this aint no wine. That rotten cockroach has been drugging his clients, without their foreknowledge!” He slammed the glass down. “This establishment is making a mockery out of a sacred agreement between gambler and casino and the entire household of honest swindlerment! I’ll tear him a new hole! Dammit, I knew I was feeling too sober!”
“Okay, calm down!” Tulyar said. “We’ve gotta make a plan, okay? We can’t just barge into his office. We need proof. We’ll sit on this, and watch. Look for where the wine comes from. Watch to see what happens when people drink the wine. We need to be sure before we do anything.
The frown stayed on Sparrow’s face, but slipped off in favor of an angry grin. “You got it Tully. Patience. I’ll keep an eye out, tail Benny when I can, you catch me? I’ll get this information. Besides, I need to let this crap run out of my system.”
The plan set, they went to sleep. For the next week they watched. One time, Tulyar got serving duty, and he kept careful watch over the patrons as they drank the wine. Sure enough, with just a sip they became more suggestible, far more so than simple tipsiness. Once, he got an overweight patron to stand on his head, but did not push it after that. He was just about convinced after that. He also stopped gambling; the tables lost their attractive quality: the gamblers looked desperate, not happy, and the dealers looked predatory.
One night, when Tulyar went downstairs for bed, Sparrow pulled him to the side at the bottom of the stairs.
“Ah! Sparrow, don’t do that! What?”
“I found it! Your old buddy Sparrow found the center of operations.” Sparrow pointed at himself, grinning like he had won the Kasinthian lottery. He started walking, pulling Tulyar with him. “It aint even in this building: the wine or whatever it is is coming from the warehouse district, where I’ve seen Wyndmoor and other shady folks. I haven’t got inside yet, but that’s what tonight’s for!”
“Tonight?” Tulyar asked. “What do you mean?”
“We’re hitting it tonight! That’s what I mean! We aint gonna be getting a easy chance, so may as well do it now! Here’s the door.” Sparrow stopped in front of a door. “Gimme a second.” Sparrow held up a long bag he had been holding, and produced from it a large bottle of whiskey.
“Sparrow, really?” Tulyar asked. “This isn’t the time. You getting drunk is what got us into this.”
“Me being drugged is what got us into this! And besides, I wasn’t even drunk then, as we have established, and this is no ordinary drink. It’s my special brew, that I keep for important occasions!”
“Wait, you’ve had that?” Tulyar quirked his eyebrow. “Why didn’t you bet that along with your ring?”
Sparrow hugged the whiskey protectively, a look of horror hugging his face. “Tully, there are line you just don’t cross. Drink is for enhancing gambling, not to be gambled. Now hush, I need silence.” Sparrow uncorked the bottle and, in an act that both amazed and horrified Tulyar, downed the entire bottle in one continuous drink. When he pulled back, Sparrow unleashed an unholy burp, and began laughing. “WHOO! I’m ready to kick some ass, Tully! Let’s go! You got Skipper with ya?”
The wolf cub poked out of Tulyar’s furs and growled. “That’s not his name, but yes,” Tulyar said, scratching the dog behind the ear.
“Whatever! Let’s go!” Sparrow flew out the door, and down the street. Tulyar kept up easily enough; Sparrow did not run too fast, but he was running much better than Tulyar would have expected of someone who just drank an entire bottle of whiskey.
They ran all the way to the warehouse district, a decidedly less glamorous part of Merna. When they found the building Sparrow talked about, they stopped. Men and women, most of them not human, hung around on the street, several by the warehouse.
“Any number of them could be guardin the place,” Sparrow whispered. He winked, “but, there’s a back entrance, and no one’s gonna be there guardin’.”
“How do you know?” Tulyar asked.
Sparrow tapped Tulyar’s stomach. “Call it a gut feeling. Come on, Tully!” Sparrow sprinted off down an alley, and Tulyar followed. They came to the back, and Sparrow proved right: no one guarding the unlocked door. Tulyar and Sparrow sneaked in, and found themselves in a maze of crates and shelves.
The crates had signs in various languages, none of which Tulyar could understand. He pulled one down, after telling Sparrow to keep watch, and opened it up. Inside was a couple dozen bottles of the Pyrite wine. He looked up at Sparrow. “Yeah, this is the place. Good job, Sparrow!”
They searched around some more, dodging goons whenever they found them. After a couple close calls, they found an office looking room. After Sparrow spent some time rummaging around, he grabbed Tulyar, who had been keeping watch. “Hey! Hey Tully, I found them: trade manifests. These describe exactly what’s in those crates: poisons. Better yet, they show where it’s coming from, a brewery in Famardy.”
“Well that was easy.” Tulyar said. “Let’s go, before someone finds us.”
“Too late for that,” a voice said. Tulyar turned to where the sound came from, but then felt a sharp pain in his neck. The world went black.
When Tulyar woke up, his hands were tied behind his back. Sparrow sat next to him, also tied up. He was already awake, but a gag had been shoved into his mouth. Before them stood Benny, six goons (three men and three women, four of them orcs, one a dwarf, the last a halfling), and Wyndmoor.
Wyndmoor spoke first. “Good to see you awake, my boy! Hope we didn’t disturb your prowling too much.” Tulyar did not have an answer, and he could not if he wanted to: the poison’s effects were just wearing off, and he could barely feel his face. “I’m disappointed, you know that, son? I let you into my house, even give you a job, after begged for it I might add, and this is how you repay me? For shame. What has today’s youth come to? No sense of gratitude.”
“Shut up,” Tulyar choked out. Benny punched him across the jaw.
“No one speaks to Mr. Wyndmoor that way!” Benny shouted. Tulyar looked up to Wyndmoor, and saw only coldness in his eyes.
“Now, what am I to do with the two of you, hm?” Wyndmoor said.
“Save it, ugh, Wyndmoor!” Tulyar growled. “We got the evidence we need! The city guards will be here any minute to find all of this and shut you down. This place is going under and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Tulyar shouted, giving his bluff as much confidence as he could..
Wyndmoor chuckled. “I don’t think so. I’m a long time player in this business, son, and I know a bluff when I see it. Besides, when would you have had the time?” Wyndmoor asked in a calm yet sinister tone. “I am correct, no?”
Tulyar struggled to break free of his binds but couldn’t. “As soon as I get out of this, you’re gonna be sorry you ever crossed me, Windbag!” Tulyar growled.
“Stop barking, dog.” he said sarcastically and chuckled again. “Now seeing as how I am quite a busy man and a firm pacifist, I shall not be staying to witness your untimely demises. However before I do, I wish for my curiosity to be sated.” He walked over to them. “Are you two buffoons actually Crusaders? I’ve heard the rumors, but you two have got to be the saddest excuse for body guards, let alone Crusaders, as my eyes have had the misfortune of seeing!”
Sparrow made muffled noises into his gag. With a gesture, an orc woman tore it out. “OH! Think whatever the hell you want, but we are both true blue Crusaders! Ain’t nothin’ gonna change that!” Sparrow shot back at him. “Right, Tully?”
“Damn, well, there goes the Kingdom, I guess. No matter. Just means we need to dispose of you two quiet like. Don’t worry!” Wyndmoor smiled. “I’m an expert. Though I can’t say I’m not disappointed to see you two young ones leave. I had hopes for you two. Was gonna bring you into the family maybe, like I did old Benny here!” Wyndmoor gestured to Benny, which was when Tulyar saw what Benny was holding: his spear! Tulyar struggled against his binds with renewed rage, baring his teeth and snarling.
“Down, boy!” Wyndmoor said. He turned to Sparrow. “You, you might have made a good wetman, you know that Sparrow? You’ve got that charm, and that versatility. I am impressed that you found the place. And you, Tully,” he turned to Tulyar, “I think you could have made a fine head of security, had you just kept your head down. Such wasted potential, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
“Screw you, Windbag!” Tulyar muttered under his breath.
“And I would have done good by you,” Wyndmoor mused, “the both of you. You would have been more useful here than with that band of fools the Crusaders, at any rate.”
“Leave the others outta this!” Tulyar shouted. “The Crusaders aren’t fools, they help people and—”
“Cause more mistakes than fix them…” Wyndmoor interrupted again. “If there’s a danger to society, it would be them. Bawerstrom wouldn’t be in the pit it is if it weren’t for them. Rumors of opium smuggling. Hell, I heard tell it was a Crusader that brought on the first demon invasion, and another that summoned Mingeleh. So many people have died because of them, I won’t let you sit there defending them. Must mean you’re the biggest fool of them all, I guess.”
Tulyar growled and snarled at him. Never has a single person ever angered him in such a way that Wyndmoor had today. He had not only insulted him, but his fellow Crusaders as well. In his mind, Tulyar recounted the incident with Pestilence. The scene of him pressing the button would forever repeat itself and he’d be forced to remember his terrible mistake. Wyndmoor’s words echoed infinitely in his head. The greatest fool among the Crusaders was himself, and he knew it. Tulyar gritted his teeth and shuddered.
Wyndmoor sighed. “Imagine, the things you two could have accomplished with my help. What do you hope to accomplish in life otherwise.”
“What do you hope to accomplish in life…”
‘What do you hope to accomplish in life—’
These familiar words swam around in Tulyar’s head.
‘What do you hope to accomplish in life…‘
The words kept repeating.
‘What do you hope to accomplish in life…‘
The words got louder.
‘What do you hope to accomplish in life…if you’re just going to be weak!?
Suddenly from the deepest part of Tulyar’s mind, rose an image that he had wish he had forgotten:
A young boy, no older than five years, lay on the cold hard ground beaten, bleeding, and bruised by his brothers and sisters. He struggled to get up, as his siblings laugh and taunt him. His mother had fled in shame. He mustered up his remaining strength and wobbled to his feet, but as he looked up he saw the enormous figure that stood before him.
His father’s face, half-concealed by shadow, would display a hatred so intense that it would haunt the child for years to come, if he even survived that long. Without a single word, the man turned away from the boy and walked away. As the man left, the children would follow again without saying a single word. No matter how much the boy pleaded for them to wait, they did not stop and only moved farther and farther away with each painful second. Eventually the boy collapsed, all of his energy gone and spent.
He cried bitter tears and curled up tight so that he could protect himself from the cold winter wind. That was the last time Tulyar ever saw his family. His last memory of them was a painful one, but it wasn’t all for naught. For as he braced himself for the fast-approaching blizzard, a new feeling powerful silently grew in him. This feeling would be his driving force that allowed him to brave the storm all of those years ago and would allow him to become even stronger than before.
That feeling was hatred. It was because of his hatred for his own family that he was able to live through the blizzard and become the powerful Crusader he is today, and it is his hatred that will guide him to reach his ultimate goal.
‘But what was that goal?’ he asked himself. He thought back to another one his greatest mistakes, the day when he was tricked and became possessed by the Demon Walpurgisnacht. Since then he had grown stronger. He trained diligently every day for the chance to fight his demonic archenemy once again. It was because of the interference of that demon that Tulyar had forgotten most of his bloody past.
Upon a second look, finding his family wasn’t all that important to him anymore. In fact he couldn’t care less about them anymore, for he had another and more important task, and he wasn’t going to stop until he saw it through.
“You…you wanna know?” Tulyar finally asked after a long pause. Wyndmoor who was about to leave the room, turned his attention to the Crusader. “You wanna know that badly?”
Wyndmoor cleared his throat. “Well, might as well tell me, now that I have you here.”
Tulyar sat there silently with his head down.
“Well? What did you hope to accomplish in life!?” he asked, annoyed by Tulyar’s refusal to give an answer. “Well!?”
Tulyar simply chuckled and with it a slightly unsettling breeze rolled into the room. “My goal in life…is a simple one…” Shadow in the room began to grow, and the candle in a lamp flickered, sending those shadows dancing.
Wyndmoor’s bodyguards felt uneasy as Tulyar began speaking. Sparrow just smirked and nodded his head. “Tell em, demon boy.”
“My goal in life…” He raised his head and looked directly into Wyndmoor’s eyes. “…is to find and slay the demon who made me hurt my friends! And no one’s gonna stand in my way, not even you. ”
The look in Tulyar’s eyes was that of an animal’s hunting his prey. Cold, fierce, and daunting. Startled, Wyndmoor stumbled and scuttled back to his bodyguards. Tulyar grinned a wolf’s grin, and began to speak.
“Why do you step away, Wyndmoor?”
The goons began to step away, looking to each other uncomfortably. Benny looked to Wyndmoor. “What’s he saying, boss?”
“I don’t know…” Wyndmoor said, staring at the man who sat in the chair. The darkness seemed to consolidate around him, the shadows a black deeper than he thought possibly. “Sparrow,” he called without taking his eyes off the darkness, “what did you mean by ‘demon boy’?”
“Oh,” Sparrow said, “you’ll see in just a minute. In just a minute, this party is gonna get fun. Tell ‘em, Tully. Tell em what you’re gonna do.”
“I’m going to rip the flesh from your bones, Wyndmoor.”
The goons backed away further.
“I’m going to tear out your heart and stomp on it, shred it, and devour it, Wyndmoor.”
Tulyar did not know where this was coming from, but it felt good to say. It felt good to believe it. Just speaking, he could feel strength coming to his muscles, tightening up against the ropes that bound him together.
“What the hell are you waiting for, Benny!” Wyndmoor shouted out. ” Kill him!” But before Benny could move, with an inhuman, demonic snarl, Tulyar ripped apart the rope binding him. He stood up, and looked directly at Wyndmoor and said, in a mix between Common and Demonic,
“I’M COMING FOR YOU! WYNDMOOR!”
“Benny, protect me!” Wyndmoor squealed. Benny leaped forward obedient, undaunted by the darkness that played about Tulyar like flames. He jabbed forward awkwardly with the spear he clearly could not use.
Tulyar side stepped him, and then had a thought. He knew what he could do with a weapon, but could he do the same thing without one. Shape the darkness and use it like he had grown used to. Benny readied another lunge, and the others were preparing to attack. He concentrated as they crowded in, and felt it. Yes, he could do it. He smiled at Benny and whispered in Demonic.
He whipped his hand in front of him and a blade of black, evil energy glided across Benny. His eyes widened as the front of his armor, clothes, and skin opened apart in a spray of blood. He fell to the ground, suck in air desperately.
Another attacker closed in with a large overhead strike with a club. Tulyar had only a second to react, but that was all he needed. That feel of hatred that had driven boiled to the front, and he uttered,
The club smashed against his head and splintered ineffectively. The woman’s eyes widened in terror, while Tulyar grinned. He grabbed her around the throat, and tossed her bodily through a window.
“Tully! Don’t think you can have all the fun!” Sparrow shouted. Tulyar looked to his weapon, sitting beside Benny. With a thought, the shadows tossed it into the air and into Tulyar’s hands. The shadows stayed with the weapon, dancing about its edge. He swung, and Sparrow was free, cracking his knuckles and smiling as devilishly as Tulyar.
The fight that ensued required little description. Tulyar with his spear and Sparrow with his fists made quick work of the rest of Wyndmoor’s goons. In the end, one managed to escape, but with Sparrow hot on her heels.
Tulyar approached Wyndmoor, who had been backed into a corner. “Wait, wait! Please, please don’t kill me. I’ll do anything!” He blubbered like a fool before Sparrow and Tulyar. Tulyar ignored him, grabbing him by the throat and holding him in the air.
“Give me a reason, Windbag,” Tulyar said in common, but the shadows still danced around him,
“I was wrong, okay, I was wrong! You’re no fool. Ooooh no! You’re no fool at all, not like any other Crusader I know of. Or anyone else! Gosh darn it you’re just about one of the most interesting men I know.” Wyndmoor choked this out, then grasped Tulyar’s hand. “Trust me, young buck, we can talk through this.”
Tulyar saw the gem, but it was too late. His mind clouded, and the anger dissipated. He nodded his head. “Yeah, we can talk about this,” he said.
“Just put me down, okay?” Wyndmoor said, smiling and nodding his head. Tulyar did so, and Wyndmoor took a deep breath. “Now see, we are both rational men, aren’t we? You don’t really need to do me harm, or even to tell any authorities.”
“No, I mean, I guess not,” Tulyar said. Just thinking about telling the police made him feel silly.
“No, not when you’ve got a friend like me, right? Come now,” Wyndmoor took Tulyar’s hand and gestured to Benny, still gasping in breath. “You’ve done a number on him, and he’s not likely to survive much long. I’ll need a right hand, but better than Benny ever was. What do you say? All of those riches, and I’ll even forgive your debt.”
Images of wealth and power flooded Tulyar’s head, and he began to smile. Even to nod. “Yeah,” he said, “that’s a great idea.”
“Good. Now, I’ll I need you to do is-“
“ROSCOE I CHOOSE YOU!”
A flying wolf pup slammed into Wyndmoor, snarling and biting and going for his neck. Wyndmoor squealed as he fell to the floor, trying to fight off the pup while taking his hand off of Tulyar. Tulyar got angry, and turned with his weapon in hand to whoever threw the dog, but Sparrow barreled him over without giving him a chance to talk.
“Get!” Slap “Out!” Slap “Of my friends” Slap “Head!” He kept slapping Tulyar several times before getting up. “Stop being trusted, you demon possessed son of a bitch!”
“I’m not possessed Sparrow!” Tulyar shouted, but he smiled none the less. His head wasn’t clouded anymore, and he could think once more. And he thought about how much he really wanted to hurt Wyndmoor.
He got up, and approached the man, still struggling on the floor with Tulyar’s dog. Truthfully, the cub did not have much hope for ripping out Wyndmoor’s throat, but the dedication was cute.
“Off boy!” Tulyar commanded, and the pup obeyed. He pointed his spear at Wyndmoor, not letting him move. “So, what do I do now, Wyndmoor?”
“I say gut him,” Sparrow said as he pet the wolf cub. “Let the gods sort his sorry ass out, same with the rest of these fools.”
Just hearing Sparrow say it made Tulyar really want to see that. The scene played out in his head, and he loved the image of it. But he shook his head. “No, we’re not those sorts, Sparrow. Hey! Wyndmoor! Do you have a health potion?” Wyndmoor nodded, too busy whimpering and massaging his face to talk. “Toss it to Sparrow!”
Wyndmoor did so, and Tulyar turned to Sparrow. “Give that to Benny, then knock him out.”
“Aw, shit, Tully, really?” Sparrow whined. “Just look at ‘im; better off dead’s what I say.”
“Please, Sparrow,” Tully said, sounding tired.
“…All right,” Sparrow said, then walked over to Benny, gave the potion, and promptly knocked him out with a kick in the head. “Know, the concussion will probably kill him anyway.”
“Whatever. And you!” Tulyar addressed Wyndmoor. “You’re also going in for a nap.”
“Wait! One last thing. Put your hand out, the one with the ring.” Sparrow ordered. Wyndmoor nodded and did as he was told. Sparrow ripped out an unassuming stick from his pants and pointed at Wyndmoor’s hand. A bang cracked open the air, and Wyndmoor howled in pain. His finger, with the ring, lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Sparrow picked up the finger, and plucked off the ring. “There you are!” he cried.
Tulyar looked aghast at Sparrow. “Sparrow!…Why didn’t you bet that either?”
“There are multiple lines, Tully!” Sparrow shouted, another look of horror on his face.
Tulyar sighed, and, with the butt of his spear, knocked out Wyndmoor.
When the authorities eventually arrived, due to an anonymous tip given to the Governor’s office, they found a large pile of unconscious thugs waiting for them in the basement. Next to the pile of bodies, was a bottle of wine with a ribbon, and attached where trade manifests, and a note saying “Cheers ~~ S+T.”
Soon after, they arrested each and everyone of them, especially the old fat man who was too terrified of someone or something to lie anymore. The Pyrite Gamehouse would eventually be shut down and most of the stolen money would be returned to their rightful owners. Wyndmoor’s scheme was discovered and stopped but the authorities didn’t actually ever find out who or what exactly foiled his plans.
Tulyar and Sparrow eventually returned to their typical hang out at The Broken Keg. Tired and beat, Sparrow ordered his usual drink and slumped into his seat. “That,” he began. “Was not my idea of a vacation’s vacation.” As he said that, Sparrow tipped the brim of his brand new hat.
Tulyar sat down and ordered his drink, but said nothing. The bartender served them their drinks and Sparrow took a swig. Tulyar waiting a minute before saying, “Hey, shouldn’t you say something?”
Sparrow burped. “Like what?”
“Like, I don’t know, I’m sorry for getting us into this mess?”
Sparrow nodded, and with a serious look said, “Look, Tully, I am rightfully and truly sorry for getting us into that mess. But!”
“Oh dear,” Tulyar said, smiling and shaking his head.
“I think we got out of it pretty nicely. We got our money back, for one, neither of us got hurt. Well, I got enough drugs to kill a hinbilinbear, but besides that, we came out scott free. We took down an evil gambling ring, AND!” Sparrow gave Tulyar a friendly punch on the shoulder. “You ain’t wallowing in yer own self pity. Personally, I consider this a vacation well vacationed!”
Tulyar smiled and took a sip. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Next time though, I decide where we go spend our vacation.” he said with a chuckle. “Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about you ‘borrowing’ my money, heh.”
“Oh, uh…hehe, yeah… Sorry about that.” he said scratching his head. “Won’t happen again, I swear.”
“Mhm…” Tulyar didn’t sound quite convinced.
The puppy hopped onto Sparrow’s lap and tried to get a taste of his drink. “Whoa there, this ain’t for you!” he said holding his mug back and pushing the dog away. “Hey Tully, this little guy still needs a name. Might I suggest Blitzer? Or maybe ‘Wynd Slayer!’ Hah!” The dog sneezed. “Oh c’mon, you don’t like it?”
Tulyar pet the puppy. “You’re right,” He thought for a moment while Sparrow listed off a bunch of other unsatisfactory names. The dog looked bored. “Runt.” he finally said aloud.
“Runt!? What kinda name is that, Tully?” Sparrow asked.
“My father used to call me that.” There was a brief silence. “He always said that I’d never get strong. Ha! If that old damned fool could see me now!” Tulyar said smiling. “He’s gonna grow up big and strong, so it won’t matter what your name is. We’re gonna show them that you mean business! Ain’t that right?” The dog barked triumphantly. “Then it’s settled, your name is gonna be Runt. Hahaha, welcome!” he took a sip of his drink.
Sparrow let loose a loud “harumph”. “Tully, I think you drank a bit too much tonight.” Tulyar just laughed and finished his drink.