A Short Story by Kyle Viveiros
“Well, this certainly seems like the place, eh Auggie?”
James slowly came to a stop in front of the old, and slightly rundown Limp Possum tavern.
“Not exactly the classiest winery here in Neverwinter, but the payoff for this information should be invaluable. So we can slum it up for the night.”
As James made this remark, a small shadow darted out from on top of a nearby lamppost, and glided over to land on his shoulder. As big as a squirrel, Auggie, the homunculus, looked up at James with an inquisitive look in his large, amber colored eyes.
“Oh gods. This is where the meet up is taking place? This smells like a trap from a mile away. Who is this informant anyway?”
“Now now Auggie! Have I ever led you astray before?”
“…did you want me to remind you of the time where I was almost killed and you were nearly sold into slavery by the Zhentarim?”
“I swear that gnome was cheating. There are only 4 aces in a deck! How in the hell did he have 5?! Also, you were supposed to be my eyes in that game! Don’t try to pin all of that on me!” James exclaimed. “Still, there’s no need to worry. If this person has the wherewithal to contact me or any other member of The Kingdom, they either have some serious balls or some real information,” said James, trying his best to quell Auggies worries. The little homunculus stared back at him, a doubting look in his eyes.
“Okay, if it worries you that much, I’ll use the Hood.” James pulled the Hood of his cloak over his head, and as he did his form instantly changed. Where once there was a younger-looking half elf with dirty blonde hair and matching goatee, now stood an elderly, white-haired elven man with a slight hunch in his back and drooping pointed ears. James pushed up his horn-rimmed glasses and turned to look back at Auggie.
“What do you think? Pretty convincing for an old fart, huh?” James said in the most decrepit voice he could muster. “Once we get in there, you know what to do. Be my eyes, buddy.” Auggie nodded, seemingly comforted by the elderly visage James had taken, and ducked into the collar underneath his cloak.
Upon walking through the front door to the tavern, James was immediately hit by the stench of the cheapest ale he’d ever smelled. For such a small, rundown pub, the place was packed, with almost no empty chairs to be found. Elves, dwarves, gnomes, and halflings alike talking, smoking, and gambling while simultaneously throwing back drinks. As James took in this scene of debauchery, Auggie climbed out of his collar and flew up into the shadows of the rafters above. He looked back down at James, and telepathically said,
“Alright, I’ll be up here if you need me. I’ll be your eyes and ears, as always.” James could detect the dry sarcasm in his voice.
“Oh and O’Byrne?”
“Please don’t get yourself killed.”
James approached the bar in the center of the tavern. The barmaid, a young, beautiful elven woman with brown hair and freckles that dotted her face made eye contact with the disguised James and warmly greeted him.
“Evening there sir! What can I get for you?”
“Well young lady,” James replied in the most geriatric voice in his repertoire, “I was wondering if I could have a pint of ale?”
He watched as she walked over to the keg and closed one of her eyes and stuck out her tongue as if she were concentrating on an intricate spell. She poured the ale deftly and brought the pint to James as he handed over a silver piece.
“Thank you very much sir!” she said with a wide grin. James sat for a moment taking in the sounds and smells of the bar, and upon finishing his pint turned once more to the barmaid.
“Excuse me? I’m also supposed to be meeting someone here tonight. Have you seen a dwarf with red hair and leather armor?”
She pointed over to a booth in the back corner, nearly obscured by shadow.
“Oh yes, I believe he’s waiting for you over there!
“Thank you kindly, my dear.” He said as he stands up from his bar stool and began to cautiously approach the booth.
“Hello there my dwarven friend, I believe you are in need of some company.” James said as he sat himself down into the booth. The dwarf stared at him with a suspicious, yet dismissive look. This “gentleman” seemed like anything but gentlemanly. From the little bit of skin that was showing from under his leather studded armor was covered in scar tissue and tattoos. His beard reeked of tobacco and you could see some of the ale he had been drinking still sitting in the corner of his mouth. As he spoke, the words almost sounds like they were being spit out.
“Look, I don’t know who ya are ya geezer, but I’m waitin’ for someone. So if you don’ mind, piss off!”
“Ahh waiting for someone you say? And who might that be?” James replied.
The dwarf’s eyes narrowed, staring daggers into James.
“Well if ya must know. I’m waitin’ for The Great Owl of The Kingdom. Happy now? I say again, shove off!” the dwarf grumbled.
Auggie’s voice popped up telepathically in the back of James’ head
“The Great Owl, huh? I thought your title was just The Owl? You’ve always striked me more as a Snow Owl or a Barn Owl. Great Owl sounds way too important.” The snarky homunculus’ comments almost broke James’ facade. He was right, Great Owl did seem far too important.
James cleared his throat and pulled out the small pendant from around his neck, shaped like an owl mid-flight.
The dwarf stared at him in amazement.
“You..? I never thought an old geezer would be The Great Owl!”
James chuckled softly and replied, “ah well that’s where you must remember: old geezers, like the owl, are full of wisdom.”
“Are old people and owls also full of bullshit like you?” Auggie’s voice piped in.
James sat back and tucked his pendant back into his shirt. “Now, what information do you have that pertains to The Owl, and, more importantly, The Kingdom?”
The dwarf took a quick look around to make sure no one was paying attention and then turned back to O’Byrne.
“Not a lot of information, just that you and the rest of The Kingdom are in danger. There’s going to be attack against you all.”
“Oh really now? And who exactly are our assailants?” James said skeptically. Very few people know that The Kingdom even exists, let alone the identities and locations of the members. “How can I trust this information? I don’t even know who you are.”
The dwarf’s mouth slowly curled into a big grin. It was at that moment when James noticed something different about him. The dwarf’s teeth were all pointed like that of an alligator. His eyes changed from their brown color to bright yellow with a slitted pupil like a reptile. When he spoke again, his voice was raspy and words spewed from his mouth like a fog.
“You will be the first to die, Owl. The Hive sends their regards.”
In a flash, the dwarf drew a narrow dagger and threw it across the table at O’Byrne’s head. Instinctually, James leans to the left, narrowly avoiding the blade. He turned back and extended his right arm forward, launching his venomous dagger from its’ hidden compartment in his sleeve across the table. The dagger embedded itself into the dwarf’s clavicle and James watched as the poison took hold of him. The dwarf looked at James in disbelief and with once final gasp of breath, fell face first onto the table. James pulled out his dagger and quickly sheathed it.
“Well, that could’ve gone better.” Auggie said, gliding back down and landing on James’ shoulder.
“We gotta get out of here before officials come asking questions.” James said, propping his empty pint in the dwarf’s dead hand. “We also need to make it back to headquarters and warn the other members of The Kingdom, especially Lion and Tiger.” James started to head for the door when he intercepted the barmaid.
“Excuse me, miss? It appears my friend in the corner has drank far too much and could use a room for the night. Could you take care of that for me?” James said as he hands her 5 gold pieces. “You can keep the change.”
“Oh absolutely sir! Not a problem at all!”
James moved to leave the bar and just as he got to the doorway, he turned back to look at the beautiful young barmaid. He removed his Hood to reveal his handsome true form, and winked at her as he disappeared off into the night. The last image he had in his head of the bar as left that night was her blushing, freckled face.