"Taffer of Taffers"
by Scott Myers

Cold. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been cold in this town. If the sun had a favorite spot to shine upon in this big world, this place is definitely not it. I guess that’s the sole reason why people of my... caliber... seem to flock to this big city.

Ah, the Sanguine Fang, my most favorite of taverns. A great place to plant myself in a dark corner and drink my ale in peace. This is a great place to be when your reputation in this town isn’t as great as some would like it to be. This is also a great place to hear tall tales of people’s deeds and the women they’ve conquered. I’ve seen many people enter and leave this place, and I’ve heard all of their lies and half-lies. Some of those people are just looking for attention, while others actually believe that their stories are true. Maybe some of them are, I don’t know.

Stories. The one thing that a community can have to feel closer together is each other’s stories... and I’ve got a whopper. But this particular story isn’t to be told to the folks at the Fang. No, I’d rather not give these poor people one more reason to keep looking over their shoulder, or to sleep with a few more daggers next to their beds. This is a story best kept to myself and to the few who can understand its meaning. I sure as bloody hell ain’t one who understands it. But I feel I must tell someone my story before I end up losing control over my sanity. My tale happens to begin in this exact chair, at this exact table.

It all began one dark night a few months back...

‘More ale, Jais?’

‘Need you ask, Kelanna?’

With a wink and a smile, I slipped Kelanna a silver piece. I rarely speak to anyone, let alone smile at them. Kelanna was different. I liked her. With her long blonde hair, green eyes, I thought she was the most beautiful thing to walk this earth. She never believed me when I told her, she thinks too much about the long scar on her left cheek. She’d never go for a dog like me, no matter how much I wished it. She always had her eye on another thief.

Kelanna brought the ale and I finished it slowly. I needed to get out of here soon anyway, my contact needed to have a visit. I hoisted myself up out of my chair and bid my farewells to the lovely barmaid and headed out the door. Just as I was opening the door, I ran into... him.

‘Out of my way, pal.’

Garrett. I have never met a more smug, full-of-himself thief. I didn’t have any witty remarks for the man as I edged my way past him. I figured it was best if I just kept quiet and stayed away from him. I didn’t want to make a scene. I left the Fang just as I came, quietly. I did happen to catch a glimpse of Kelanna blushing and smiling warmly towards Garrett as I left. I made my way through the moonlit streets of town being as inconspicuous as possible, of course. I needed to learn more about the job I was set up to pull tonight, and maybe ask my contact if I could possibly get a little more cut of the profits this time. Money was tight this year. I finally found my way to the western part of town where Cutty was holed up. Poor old man, he’s been living in that dirt shack forever. I guess it’s a perfect cover when you’re filthy rich with stolen goods. ‘I need to talk to you about my job tonight, Cutty.’ I said as I closed his door quietly behind me.

‘Good, because I need to talk to you as well, Jais.’ I was taken aback slightly, Cutty never has anything to say until the loot is in his hands. I was sure this wasn’t going to be good. ‘It seems as though I’ve found a better man for the Bafford job tonight. In fact, my informants have told me that he’s already completed the task and is stopping for a drink before he gets the goods back to me. I would have told you sooner, but I thought it best that you fill up on drinks before I gave you the bad news. I think you know him, it’s...’

‘Garrett.’ My eyes became mere slits.

‘Yes. Garrett. He seemed much more qualified than you, Jais. I hired him only weeks ago and he’s been proving himself to be my most valuable asset. Sorry to disappoint you, but I figured you’d be used to disappointments by now. Be sure to close the door on your way out.’

I stormed out of that worthless shack muttering curses that are best unheard by young ears such as yours. How dare Cutty give MY job to someone else? And of all the people to give it to, Garrett?! That was the end of my very long fuse. Garrett was going to find out just how dangerous a man I was. Oh, and the local Hammers found an anonymous tip under the guardhouse a couple hours later linking Cutty to many... unlawful activities. I hope that bastard gets locked away for a long time. I sure as bloody hell won’t weep over him.

Sleep came slowly that night for me, and it was a restless night at that. I had dreams of walking through town and all the towns people stopped and laughed at me as I passed by. Each one of their faces looked just like Garrett’s. Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy that night.

Over the course of the next few weeks I developed a plan to get Garrett back real good. I figured I’d find out where’s he’s been hiding himself in town and then rob him blind while he was out doing jobs that were meant to be mine. It wasn’t easy figuring out where he had been living, but after a few faint trails and few breaking of other people’s fingers, I found the place. I learned that Garrett would be away on the night the moon was half-full, something about a new and important heist he was going to pull. I just hope it’s a difficult one... the longer he’s away, the more gold I can swipe from him.

I was approaching the steps to Garrett’s place when I heard someone running in my direction mighty fast. I ducked into the nearest alley and watched what happened next.

Garrett came flying down the street faster than I have ever seen him move before in my life. Under his arm he was holding some long item wrapped in a roll of carpet. I thought I saw what looked to be a sword hilt sticking out of one end. Panting, but not slowing, he ran into his building and closed the door behind him.

‘Damn,’ I thought. ‘Tonight was going to be the perfect night to kick Garrett while he was down, so to speak. Hold up, who’s that?’ A woman appeared walking down the street from the same direction Garrett had been running from. She stopped in front of Garrett’s place, and then headed on up. To this day, I still have no clue as to what she said or did to him.

They both emereged together a few minutes after that. Garrett was still sweating from his little trot around town. For some reason, I decided to follow them instead of continuing on with my master plan of payback. I still wake up in the middle of the night wishing that I had left those two alone. I tailed the two to the new mansion in town. I learned a week ago that this owned by a rich fellow named Constantine. Most of the stories I’ve heard say that he’s insane. I wouldn’t know, I never met the guy. I hope I never do.

The two entered a smaller house right next to the mansion and I just waited outside patiently. Very patiently. Now, I like to think I’m a guy who can wait forever, but even this was beginning to wear on me. What seemed like days later, it was only hours, Garrett and his new girlfriend left the house. I overheard the two talking about Garrett’s new job for Constantine. I guess he got himself a new employer. The two parted and headed off into different directions. Garrett headed for the old part of town.... rumored to be haunted. If Garrett just happens to be killed by a ghost or whatever, who am I to care?

I decided to learn more about this guy Constantine by casing his place.

And if I happened to find a few gold pieces for myself, hey, I wouldn’t complain. Getting into his mansion was fairly easy, since there seemed to be no guards about. I figured this guy could afford better security than this. I shrugged it off and just thanked the powers that be that this was going to be very easy.

Over the course of several hours I learned quite a few things from doing an exhausting search of the place. One is that Garrett obviously robbed this guy blind not too long ago... I couldn’t find a gold piece there if my life depended on it. Another thing I learned is that guards that have been unconscious for a few hours have a pretty nasty temper once they come to. They are also very easy to put back to sleep with the bludgeoning of one of my many toys. And, oh yes, Constantine truly must be insane because of his obsession with plant life.

I also learned some things that Garrett obviously didn’t, since I found a few hidden doors here and there that hadn’t been picked. Constantine is looking for some rare gem or something that he refers to as ‘The Eye.’ For what purpose, I never did find out. I did, however, learn that this ‘Eye’ was located in the old cathedral in the abandoned part of town. I guess that’s why Garrett was headed in that direction. Fortunately for me, I found the exact location of this cathedral... I doubted Garrett had such luck. Maps of the old city are hard to come by; especially accurate ones. With luck I could get to the cathedral before Garrett did, swipe the Eye, and get it back to Constantine for a hefty sum. That would sure show Garrett who’s the better man around here.

Getting into the old part of town wasn’t too hard, since I could easily find traces of Garrett’s attempts of climbing walls. Finding my way around the place wasn’t too hard either, since the street lights were still working for some odd reason; built to last, I guess. On my way to the cathedral I never did see anything that convinced me that this place was haunted. Sure, I saw bits and pieces of corpses strewn about the place, but I never saw any of them get up and walk around asking for my soul. Just stories, I suppose. I made it to the cathedral rather easily. The front doors were locked, as I figured they would be. I was reaching into my pocket for my lucky lock picks when I hear a huffing and grunting coming from the gates behind me. Being the thief I am, I really like to avoid confrontation... so into the nearest bush I dove.

It was Garrett who I heard... surprise surprise. He was carrying a large sack which was obviously heavy. He went straight to the doors of the cathedral and dropped his sack on the ground. He pulled out a stone tablet with a weird symbol on it and placed it in the hands of one of the statue’s that surround the doors. He did this another three times with three other tablets. The doors swumg open for him after he placed the last tablet in the arms of one of the statues.

I’ve never been one to follow a person blindly into a building I’ve never been in before. I snuck around the side and observed Garrett through the many windows of the cathedral as he moved from room to room. I learned something else that night... I will never set a living foot in that cathedral, my friend. Ghosts and walking skeletons do exist, I swear this upon my life. Garrett destroyed them without giving them a second thought. He’s got more gall than I do, I’ll give him that. Or maybe he’s just gotten used to fighting the undead... I’ll never be sure about that.

Eventually, he nabbed the Eye and headed out the back door of the cathedral. I scaled some big walls to follow him, but I found my way around. If I could pick Garrett’s pocket and grab the eye without him knowing it, that would be more glorious than my previous plan. I let Garrett deal with all the other ghouls and waited for him to get back into the safe part of town. He sure took his bloody time.

I pride myself in knowing that I was able to tail Garrett successfully this whole time. Garrett is always boasting at how good a thief he is and how well he can follow anyone without knowing he was ever there. I figure if I can do the same to him, I must not be too shabby myself. One thing about Garrett though, he likes to stick to the streets when moving around town. Personally, I prefer moving from rooftop to rooftop. Because of this, fate or luck or whatever had a hand to play this night.

Garrett was on his way back to Constantine’s house with his prize and I was following him high above the buildings. If I could move fast enough, I could knock him out on one of the darker street corners I knew about, grab the eye, and be gone. It seemed so simple, I thought. It probably would have been.

‘Sees him do you?’

The hiss stopped me cold in my tracks. It was unlike anything I ever heard of in my life and it sent a chill up my spine.

‘Yess. Father Woodsie be pleased tonight!’

I saw where the sound was coming from. There were two shapes up on one of the houses not too far from where I was. They hadn’t seen me, but seemed to be watching Garrett make his way through the streets.

‘We kills sneaksie and take shiny eye to Father Woodsie!’

‘We feast on manflesh tonight!’

Now, I really don’t know why I didn’t just turn around and sneak away. I don’t know why I did what I did, but the past is past and I can’t do much about it. Maybe it was because these guys were going to kill Garrett and I didn’t want him dead... I wanted him alive to feel the shame of me beating him at his own game. Maybe it was because these weren’t human and Garrett didn’t deserve a death like that. Maybe I didn’t want to see Kelanna with tears in her eyes. Maybe I was just mad at the cards life had dealt me and this was a way to unleash some anger. Either way, I’m still surprised to this day I was able to put fear to the side for a short moment.

One of the creatures was waving its hands around and a red mist was beginning to form around his arms. He started to take aim at the shrinking form of Garrett as he was quickly disappearing into the big city and away from the three of us.

The first creature was easily taken out by a broad arrow to the neck. That’s my favorite way to kill something, quiet and bloody. The shadowy figure of the second creature seemed stunned by the sudden vanish of its friend and the red mist faded away from its arms. It turned and saw the corpse that once was its friend or wife or something. It let out a bloodcurdling growl and scanned the rooftop. It saw me in an instant and then started to charge me. My blood froze and then sank into my feet. This is where I began to feel that fear I hadn’t been feeling a moment before.

I hadn’t been able to get a clear look at what these creatures looked like until that moment. The thing was upon me and I could see into his cold, grey eyes. This thing wasn’t human. I can’t describe to you exactly what it looked like... it had a nose like a pig, was covered in fur, had a long tail like a lizard that curved upwards, and claws the size of small knives. It had tackled me onto my back in a second. The force made my bow fly from my hand and onto the street below.

Howling and clawing, it was giving me gashes in my face and chest deeper than any I’ve ever received in a sword fight. I’ve never been close to death before. I’ve never had the feeling that I was about to die... until that moment. The hatred in that beast’s eyes was unbearable to look at, but not as unbearable as the pain I was receiving.

With all the strength I had left, I was able to raise my leg and let my small dagger fall out of my boot and onto the roof top. Focusing on blocking out the pain, I stretched my hand as far out as I could to reach my dagger. I finally grabbed it and with everything I had I rammed the blade deep into the creatures back. It let out a roar of pain... and then I twisted the blade upwards and it let out a roar even louder than the one before it. It fell silent pretty quickly after that.

Covered in blood that was mostly my own, I looked over the edge of the roof to see if Garrett had heard any of this. Maybe he would lend me a helping hand... maybe not. He was nowhere in sight. I don’t think he had heard any of it.

I was able to slide down one of the lower ends of the roofs and stumble blindly through the night until I found a house with the lights still on. I thumped on the door, and when it opened I passed out.

The rest that followed is still a little hazy for me. I was patched up by a kindhearted family and sent on my way when I was able to walk again. Since then I’ve been back to make sure that they had enough wealth to live a long and happy life, though they never did see who the person was who left that gold in their bedroom. I figure Cutty won’t be needing all that gold anytime soon.

I’ve only seen Garrett once since that night. He was his usual brash self towards me, though he did look a little different... I was never able to see into the darkness of his hooded cloak very well. I don’t know if I’ll ever let him know what I did for him. I doubt he’d believe me anyway... he’d just laugh and push me aside.

I don’t know why I tell you this tale, maybe just to pass the time. But I believe you to be someone who doesn’t disbelieve everything that you hear. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll come to know my words are true. If anything, you now have a tale to tell others for when there is nothing else to do when everyone is drunk around a roaring fire. Whichever you choose my fiend, know this: Garrett is a man with things haunting him that he may not even know. Death follows that man like a hound on a scent and one day it will catch up to him and will destroy anyone around him at that time. I learned this the hard way. I think I’ll pack up my belongings and see if anyone in the town of Edgewater has need of a ‘not-so-great’ thief these days.

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