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Kalamere
Devils Advocate
Legendary Adventurer
Legendary Adventurer


Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1446
Locksmith, Gambler
Location: Dragon's Gate
110,838 Silver Nobles


PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 4:57 pm    Post subject: The Line Reply with quote

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Dragon's Gate, home to my favorite things in RhyDin. The dueling venues, swords in particular, and the Red Orc Brewery. Finding property to buy here hadn't been easy. It's a popular district, so those properties that aren't long standing family homes and business which make their way onto the market don't tend to stay long. I found a nice little shop across the street from Jake's joint though and, as luck would have it, the previous owner went missing a couple days before the mortgage was due. A stroke of luck that, really.

As I made my way down the street, returning from a bit of scouting in the Outback, I was once again struck by the monstrosity that is the Red Orc Brewery. Don't hold me to it, but I think Jake was preparing for a siege when he planned the place out. Who knew Orcs were so security conscious? Of course, Jake is only half Orc. Maybe it's the other half that's hard coded for strength in construction. Maybe it's Dwarf. That would make him, what, a Oarf? Nah, maybe a Dor.. oh, hmm, best not bring that up with him.

The security of the Red Orc lends itself to the whole street I've found, which is perfect. Just the sight of the place seems to make folks behave a little better and, as long as I can figure out a ward to keep that Goblin out, my place reaps the benefits. My little Betting House sits right across the street and on most days the scent of hops isn't too over powering. It's actually almost pleasant. Plus, restocking my bar is all the easier for our proximity.

Tearing my eyes away from the Fortress / Brewery, I'd reached the point down the street where I could see the betting den. A simple wooden sign hangs over the door and reads: "The Line", which I thought a proper name. The name is underlined with what I hoped most folks won't recognize as a garrote. It struck my fancy to pay homage to my other day job (or, really, that's more a night job I guess) when I had the thing designed. Lastly, down on the right corner in a blue script, it reads: "Proprietor: Kalamere Ar'Din". Or, at least, that should have been all there was to the sign.

I narrowed my eyes and gave out a quiet curse when I noticed the new addition to my original design. Hung from two short links of chain from the big sign was a smaller one that read: "Funding Guaranteed By: SwordPlay Enterprises." More disturbing and going completely counter to what I've already related about the street's security, I noted a light burning towards the back room.

Refusing to sneak into my own place, I walked up to the front door and took note of disturbance number three. That was not the lock I had installed. I wondered briefly if the previous owner had returned. Well, no, I didn't really wonder that...but someone else might have. I drew the picks from inside my cloak and a few seconds later silently closed the door behind me. Pretty good lock though really, I made a note to mention that to whomever was in the back before I killed him.

The inside of my place looks like a small tavern, or a sports bar if you're familiar with dimensions where those are common. In the back there is a bar about twelve foot long with shelves of various bottles of scotch, whiskey, tequila, etc. and a few tap heads to one side. I had to arrange the glassware on shelves as well. I tried an overhead rack, but placed high enough for me not to be shattering wine glasses with my forehead, some of the staff couldn't reach them. On the wall behind the bar as well as the two side walls are hung the viewing portals. These are six foot long mirrors that, when enabled, open portals to where the betting events are taking place so the customers can see where their money is going. Easily the most expensive feature in the place. Opening the portal I can do, but a good wizard to cast the permanency spell and supply an on / off switch? Even the non-union ones charge a fortune. When set to off, which I do whenever I'm not around because I don't want somebody crawling in from the other side, they're just mirrors with a bluish kind of haze surrounding them.

Behind the bar stands another door. There are a few things back behind there. There's storage space for spare bar stock, a pair of offices and a stairway that leads to the upper floor apartment. Also, and more importantly, this is where the light was coming from. I moved silently back around the bar and, as I did, slid a throwing knife from my bracer sheath and paused momentarily to apply a couple drops of a thick silvery liquid to the tip. Not the strongest poison I tend to carry, but its thickness and dry speed made this concoction particularly good for missile application. No sense applying a poison that's just going to fly off the blade when you throw it. I had an apprentice nearly blind himself that way once. Suitably armed, I moved into the back room and saw the light coming from the spare office rather than mine. I'll admit to mild disappointment at that, I'd been hoping to see if the traps I'd set in there had worked.

I knew who it was before I took another step. If not for the aroma of hops flowing in from across the street, I might have picked up the scent sooner. Earl Grey tea. Some people may tell you that all tea smells pretty much the same. Maybe they're right. To me though, Earl Grey stands out, maybe it's the particular association since I can't really claim extraordinary olfactory sensitivity. Knowing what I knew then, the intruder wasn't a physical threat, so I lowered the knife and tossed open the door.

What I saw was shocking. Not the intruder, he was his grey pin striped self. Immaculately dressed without a wrinkle to be seen, his cane resting against an extra chair beside him. I felt rewarded by the shocked, followed by discomforted, expression on his face when my abrupt entrance startled him into spilling tea on his leg. Score one for me and the dry cleaning service. No, the shocking part was what had become of what I thought to be a barren office. Computers, monitors, keyboards, adding machines and some kind of high tech looking communication devices littered desks stretched across three walls. Unlike the portals I had set up, there's no need to turn off a computer display. Scenes from half a dozen arenas and gladiator pits played across some of the monitors while others seemed to be running automated number crunching exercises, weather displays, troop analysis and more.

While the proper English gentleman grumbled about the tea stain on his leg and attempted to dry it up, I tried to conceal my shock at the display, or at least get my jaw working again so it would close. He recovered first. "Good Evening, Mr. Ar'Din. I hadn't heard you come in."

"B", I called him. Mostly because I knew he hated it. "What're ye doing in m' place?"

"Our place, you mean." he corrected me, while reaching for a brown leather satchel which sat on the floor near to his cane. Out of the bag he pulled a bound document that looked pretty familiar. All one hundred and fifty pages of it. "You did read the contract, Mr. Ar'Din, didn't you?" and he slid it onto the desk where I could reach it.

"'course I did, I learned tha' lesson the las' time I signed wit SwordPlay an ended up under contract fer ten years, 'stead o' one."

"I'd thank you to drop that particular accent." He said with a quiet sigh, "and turn to page Eighty-Six".

I'd forgotten the counselor's problem with the accent I typically affected in RhyDin. I'd picked it up from a village I spent a few years in when I was young, just after fleeing WayDale (long story, we'll save that for another day) and it's one of my favorites. According to the barrister, it sounds like a cross between a scotsman and an irishman, and being English he detests both. I was half temped to try on the New York accent picked up in the arena, but decided it might be more fun to just copy how he spoke. I flipped through the contract until I found page eighty-six and began to read.

"Third paragraph down, second to last sentence." he helpfully instructed.

"Ok, this looks like what I agreed to. The signee seeds a partnership interest, controlling the aforementioned business effects and affairs...and so forth. That line?"

"Yes, that is the one. May I direct your attention back to what you were reading and the placement of the comma."

Damn. There is was. I hate punctuation. The comma was after the word controlling, not before it. I had signed over a controlling interest rather than a partial interest controlling certain affairs. Double Damn. Left with nothing better to do, I sighed and dropped the contract thumping back down onto the desk. In truth, I can't complain too much. I had found and gotten corrected a number of other misleading lines in the document. There had been three attempts to sign me back to a professional dueling contract, one to use my name and likeness in a marketing campaign for what I later learned was a teenage deodorant product, another that had me waiving claims to any bets secured with SwordPlay money (which would be pretty much all of them) and even one that tried to arrange a marriage between me and the CFO's daughter if the venture wasn't profitable after six months.

"I guess that explains the new lock on the front door?" I asked, moving straight to the acceptance phase. I've tried to fight this guy's contracts in the past, with the best attorneys I could find in three different dimensions. It was sure to be iron clad and I knew it.

"Of course. It appeared you forgot to send us a key and I had this equipment which needed to be installed. You'll find a copy of the new key for yourself in the cash drawer behind the bar. Speaking of the equipment, I would direct your attention to the gold line on the floor." Sure enough, just in front of my foot was a golden line. From the look of it, it was real gold smelted down and poured in a thin line from one wall to the other, standing maybe an eighth of an inch off the tiled floor. "Our technician has indicated that to be the safest distance for you to approach this machinery, so I would ask you to kindly remain behind that line at all times."

"You've been reading Jim Butcher again haven't you, B?" I couldn't help but chuckle. The thought that a wizard couldn't be around technology without it going snap, crackle and pop was disproved constantly here in RhyDin, and I'm not a particularly strong wizard. To demonstrate the absurdity, I blithely stepped across the line towards the desks. This, as I found out, was perhaps not the wisest decision I made that day.

No sooner had my left hand crossed over the line than we discovered just how accurate SwordPlay's techs are. The closest thing to me was one of those rolling clicker things...a mouse. I'm told these are very simple devices with very few parts. Certainly nothing incendiary. Maybe I was told wrong? It literally blew up. Red and orange flame shot out the bottom and sides while plastic shrapnel flew about the room. At the same time, the flare of pain in my left hand, particularly on the ring finger, brought me to my knees. With an effort of will, I threw myself backwards to get to the safe side of the golden line. Tendrils of smoke flowed up from my ring and the fact I couldn't feel the pain anymore was a bad sign, meaning I'd just gotten one hell of a burn. Good thing that whole tech vs. magic thing is just make believe.

"What the hell?!?!" I calmly inquired.

Pausing to wipe small bits of plastic from the pin striped sleeves of his jacket, my visitor didn't look all that surprised. As a matter of fact, I believe that mouse was placed a good foot closer to the door than any of the other equipment. Sacrificed to make the point, unless I missed my guess. Shame I hadn't noticed before I blew it up.

"As I was saying, I would thank you to remain behind the golden line at all times. The machinery isn't simple technology. It is magically infused to capture signals from other dimensions." Which I also should have guessed at. Being familiar with a couple of the gladiatorial arenas on display, they obviously weren't here in RhyDin. Of course, tech isn't really my thing. "In particular," he continued, "it is exceedingly sensitive, volatilely so, to blood magic." At some point he had picked up his cane, and was now using it to point at the still smoking ring on my left hand. At some point soon, that was really going to hurt. "Unless you can figure out a way to remove that ring, the equipment is off limits I am afraid."

Another long story, but suffice to say the ring isn't coming off.

"Ok, do not cross the golden line. Understood. So far we have a new lock and demonic computers with a thing against jewelry. Anything else I should be aware of?" If he demanded I stock Earl Grey, that could have been the final straw.

"Yes", he said. Imagine my surprise. "We've made an addition to your staff. Your new enforcer will begin tomorrow morning." He turned and punched a few keys and the display on the large central monitor began to shift.

"Enforcer? I already had plans to hire... Oh, come on now, you can't be serious?" The image on the central screen crystallized and the image of my new enforcer came into focus. "He's a client. One that owes me money even."

"Us, Mr. Ar'Din. He owes us money. He was likely to be the first un-collectable, so we decided it would be better if he worked off the loss."

"He bet on a frog jumping competition, B." Seriously, who does that?

"It was a well attended event and he did pick the favorite."

"He ate the favorite."

"Which is why he owes us," stressing the word again, "money. He is muscle Mr. Ar'Din, he does not need to be capable of understanding the intricacies of the business. We've already arranged room and board for him over by the docks and taken care of his tailoring needs."

"Tailoring needs?"

"Yes, we feel that even our collection officers should represent the sophisticated nature of the establishment. His suits and a selection of ties will be delivered on Friday."

"You're going to put a half-ogre in a suit. You aren't expecting me to wear one are you?"

"No. You had that clause struck from the contract." Yes, yes I did. I told you I caught a lot of things beyond that little comma. I still couldn't quite get over the thought of the Ogre in a tie though. I wonder if I could get play putting up odds that he'll strangle himself?

"I do believe that concludes our business for tonight," he continued. Leaning lightly on his cane as he stood and lifted his satchel. "I'll be back in a couple days to see how your new staff member is doing as well to check the equipment. Again, do not..."

"Cross the golden line" I finished for him. "Got it."

The barrister brushed past and made it towards the front door before turning back once more. "Enjoy the rest of your night, Mr. Ar'Din, it will be a pleasure doing business with your again, I'm sure." Neither of us really believed that. "Next to the key in the money drawer, you'll find some salve for the burn on your hand, you should be fine by morning, with only the lightest of scarring." And with that he stepped through the door and locked it behind him.

I knew I'd been set up.

Shakespeare was so much wiser than folks give him credit for
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