That petty gang that hangs in The Drop is up to something. The other day they cut a lift that Piyu was working. The trader from Qin, by way of Telse, lost a crate of dry goods, and the front of their boat needed repairs. It seems that riverboats don’t take well to cargo falling from several dozen feet up near the lower level of Ooshar Bridge.
Plus, that poor trader lost one of his crew’s monkeys. I sent Alleway after the cut-boy. The little halfling scampered up a stair on Uphill side and then slipped through the crowds to Sheljar side. Alleway got stuck at the top of a down pole. Couple minutes later I’d found the little guy, at least he got quiet. It only took one time commanding him and now Teegan didn’t mind him around. It only took three years for her to accept the dude.
Picking him up and scratching behind that left ear as the pup looked down the hole it was clear the cut-boy was in The Drop. The odor was there too. The Drop is where all the waste and feces collects from the Ooshar Bridge chutes. Then it falls into the river. North River is clearly marked and the gate only opens every few hours, but The Drop always reeks.
I imagine that none can see us. A gasp behind me let’s me know that I’m gone, but noticed. I’m invisible and down the pole.
Some meat goliath (Tlipa?) is there with the cut-boy Aron, little Pip, that human girl Rista and Willan that crusty, old halfling that they all looked up to. I scratch Alleway’s ear again. I can feel his tail wag, but he’s quiet.
There’s a little nook behind Tlipa, yeah, it’s Tlipa. I slip off that direction. I can make that shadow and listen.
“Aron, excellent, I needed that jade. It was an outsider, right?” Willan asks.
“Of, course,” Aron responds. “She should be leaving tonight, came on a flatship.”
“Perfect.” Willan tosses a few silver to Aron. The boy gets a huge grin. He pockets three of them, one just twirls across his fingers. Then he tosses it right at me.
Obscon! I cannot move fast enough. My right hand drops to my dagger. My left hand drops Alleway. He yips as he hits the ground. He’s visible. I’m not. We’re down-pole. There’s a stair through a couple passages and doggie doors in the Drop, but Alle isn’t down here enough to know how to get home. Home for him is up. He can’t get up. He can’t get up!
Willan, Tlipa, Rista, Pipa and Aron… where are their companions?
I throw that dagger at Aron. Now I’m visible. Aron’s down. Whoa, got him in the neck. He’s down. A whelp and whimper comes from behind a set of crates.
I look quickly. Tlipa’s duck just flies out through one of the holes. A little retriever follows after a whistle from Pipa. It’s two v. six. That’s not good. I’m alone. Estrella is expecting me back this evening.
Can I dive that hole? No. It’s over a hundred feet down. There might be a boat there. Can’t wait.
I cast my missiles – four of them. Pipa, Rista and Tlipa twice. Smack, smack, smack-smack. Willan opens a chest and tosses the jade in there. There are two books in there. I’ll review that memory if I survive. Alleway screams. There’s a Obs-worshiping rat biting him.
Tlipa charges me. I duck, but that’s like a dozen halflings landing on top. I can’t pull a blade, plus I’m down to one. It probably wasn’t a good idea to merely wound a goliath. Bastards are huge.
It’s been a few seconds now. Pipa collapses. I shouldn’t laugh, but the idiot sent her dog out the hole. Alleway growls, tosses the rat against a wall and chases it as it scurries away.
I try to slip through Tlipa’s legs. Willan is staring at me and then I see horns. Oh, my, he has horns. I can’t do this I can’t escape. I’m out numbered and Willan is possessed with some kind of forsaken curse.
Rista let’s out a blood curdling scream. I try not to laugh. Alleway’s a terrier. A rat is easy for him to deal with. He killed it. Crazy woman bonded with a rat. Still that’s two healthy against me, and one dude has horns. The other is nearly ten feet tall.
“I was just watching,” I cower. “It’s just petty theft, and let’s be honest the Sheljar guard likes me less than you. Please, please, get the big ass off me.”
Willan’s laughter is loud without echoing. He has powers. “Tlipa, up.”
The command is immediately answered. Tlipa isn’t free. Unlike Piyu, he just found a new controller.
Extra begging can’t hurt at this point. Willan has a gang behind him. I don’t think Alleway or I killed any, but they aren’t well and that’s our fault.
Willan’s voice drops deep. It is filled with authority and I am filled with fear. “You are spared. Little Rohan, you are spared. But you are ours now. You do not talk to Piyu. You do not talk to Kellamon. You do not talk to your sister, Teegan. You serve.”
Alleway is running back. The hole is still open. One of the chutes aimed at it empties a slush of feces, piss and rotten food. Alleway leaps over the chute, landing at my side.
I nod. I do not talk. I serve.
“You go now. Do not come to the Drop. You’ll know when you are needed.”
While I walk away Tlipa kicks me in the ass. His foot is the size of my butt. I stumble a few feet right hand rubbing my butt. Tears pour down my face. I’ve been dominated mentally, Alleway is bleeding from a hind leg and I’m beaten. Fuckin’ Aron stole a few gems and gold. He didn’t even share the gold with Willan.
Never try to steal from the local gang. I head down river. Estrella’s house is there. She’ll have a salve for All, poor All. He’s limping. One of Sheljar’s guard glares at me. I’ve got blood, but the guard watched me come up from the Drop. I reek. He’s not going to talk to me.
What would I say?
Estrella is surrounded by pigeons. It’s so beautiful. Feathers, and wings, and life just surround her. She waves. I smile. Alleway tries to run after one of the birds, but looks back to me, yipping happily.
‘Strella makes everyone happy. There is no crowd in the evening. Most are eating, or on the Bridge, or down at River. I run to her, covered in tears. I am bruised, battered. I cannot stop crying.
She holds me. As always, she is warm and welcoming. I need welcoming. I need warmth. The space in front of her hearth is warmer. That fire is always strong. I settle into blankets leaning away from the boot print. Alleway curls in front of me. He’s so weak. That leg is giving out, and it stinks.
a day later
His leg is gone. His belly is disappearing. Alleway is about to die. Willan’s gang, who I cannot talk about, is killing Alleway. He’s fading away.
My little terrier isn’t breathing. I just wanted a bit of jade to give ‘Strella and Willan’s gang killed Alleway with a rat, A RAT. They took him via disease, but now they’ve angered me.
Those books were ‘…omicon’ and ‘llusions.’ Jade and a couple books in a chest, and big key in Willans pocket.
Those bastards killed Alleway for a few gems and a couple of books. They took him from me!
A sharp bark wakes me from my strife. I look down at my puppy. His body is rot. The bark continues, it’s his happy bark. We’re both wrapped in the blankets, trying to heal from that day. That and hide, we’re trying to hide from life.
Alleway isn’t alive. But he’s barking he keeps barking. He sounds so happy, but this body is empty. The barking is from my right. There he is off to my right. How? How is my little one there with me.
He is shadow. He is incorporeal. He is loyal. Beyond death, he is loyal.
Now, I rise. Willan has a key and two precious books. I have a dog that cannot die and my powers. I need not talk again. Alleway walks through the wall towards the bridge. It is fifteenth night in winter. The Dragon is full, but the other moons are new.
Alleway is powerfully striding towards the downriver stairs. That’s where Rista preys on the poorest of Fort Ooshar’s visitors. It takes me a bit longer to get to the top. Alleway doesn’t slow down for bushes and trees.
My little terrier breathes my hate for Willan’s gang and is fueled by my love. We see Rista. He charges at her leaping into her mouth. His ghostly form enters her. She runs to the side of the cliffs and jumps off. Little Alleway jumps back to me.
We continue. Tlipa is next and then Willan. I’ll take his jade, his books and his gang. I will speak again. Willan will suffer, because I can no longer touch my little dog. I can hear him, kind of see him, but no longer will he sit on my lap or snuggle with me. Alleway remains, but he is only a representation of love now.
This story was originally released on my Patreon. Become a Patron to see fiction set in the World of the Everflow. These stories are set in the time of the Awakening.