Monday, March 24, 2014

Hound Hunting - Chapter 10.



With Garuff gone my head was still spinning with thoughts of malicious matters and missing money. I couldn’t keep myself from fearing what else the less than likable landlord might have been up to while I was away. This meant that a quick check of my belongings was in order.

My humble home isn’t much to look at, kind of like me I’d wager – but looks aren’t everything. It is a curious little caravan that has seen better days but still manages to keep holding itself together. Without its wheels the rectangular base rests on the dirt ground removing the requirement for a step up to go in. Rising up from the sides its canvas covered rounded roof is supported by ribbed struts.

I made a mental note as a reached for my door to make more efforts to take some time out to really repair things. My eyes caught several potential candidates for some tender loving care. There was looses exterior pieces of siding that threatened to come loose along with the growing gouges in the canvas. And now my door had been roughed up and marred with holes to hold a chain. All gifts I could be grateful to Garuff for, no doubt.

The second I opened my door I found myself regretting it. Like I said, I don’t have much nor is my diminutive dwelling able to accommodate a horde. But even so it is my stuff and my home – neither are things I had ever really had since I was a child. A wiser man than I could probably say it better but the simple truth is it is never a good idea to mess with a man’s home or what he holds dear. It just isn’t.

On the right my cot took up a good portion of the floor space surrounded beneath, above and on both sides by a series of cabinets, shelves and other containers. The cot had been tossed and every drawer, door or anything that could be was flung open and pilfered through. Even my small collection of ledgers, journals and what few books I owned were carelessly strewn about. Who manhandles works of literature? I pushed the query aside, already sure of the answer.

The left of my intimate interior had held space for a small stove to cook and heat with when I needed. Along with it was a serviceable basin with a container for water and various implements for cooking. In the corner I had kept a couple of comfy chairs across from a tub that doubled in use for both bathing and washing things in.

Luckily I hadn’t been in the habit of leaving my tub with anything wet in it. And who would? When you live in a confined space like man it wouldn’t be smart to just leave a big open topped container just ready to spill over and turn your home into a swamp. I’d played it smart when I first started to set it up and installed a little valve and hose to drain the thing off when not being used. I suppose I do have my clever moments, go figure.

The tub had been flipped onto its side, both my chairs were busted up fairly good but after a few minutes I managed to piece them back together at least in a sort-of working fashion. They wouldn’t be holding up to any heavy-duty use anytime soon but I figured I could make do until I could more thoroughly repair them. I’ve never been big on jumping into thoughts of replacing something – never been able to afford that line of thinking.

Even my clothes and other sundry stuff had been unable to avoid intrusive inspection. They were everywhere, mixed up into all manner of piles and some things were even dangling off of cabinets or other objects. I wanted to ask what reason there could be for someone to so savage my simple sanctuary. But even that I could guess; it wasn’t to seek out anything of value. It was because nothing here held much worth to anyone other than me. No, it was yet another carefully contemplated and executed effort to express to me that whenever I didn’t pay Garuff; I would still pay in other ways.

I wasn’t sure if it was from my long night or from the recent closer than I cared for contact with Garuff but I felt dirty. Between my head and the shape of my surroundings I grabbed the first thing I reached for and started putting some water into my basin. It may have been an old shirt or even some undergarment, I didn’t care, I just plunged it into the waiting water and started wiping my face and arms down.

The cool water tried its best to make my mind admit it was something that it should feel but to little affect. Already I was trying to establish my next steps, and even though I thought taking care of my rent would remove a distraction it only left me with a lingering other one. And while I didn’t have the time to take towards the task I could at least make some attempt to address it.

Hunting around through what had become a mix of my things I hooked my hand on the first clean-looking clothes I came across and put them on. Falling into the automatic routine or practiced ritual I started securing my sword and dagger, making sure to tightly lace up my armor as well. Dark humor gripped me as I finished putting on my bracers, pieces of prepared leather reinforced with steel that wrapped around my wrists and forearms. I wasn’t wearing the thick impressive plate that protected the likes of Corrin or others. And to some who looked on my leather exterior studded with steel they might look on that as a factor that made me less dangerous. While instead I had always found that it had often made me quite the opposite.

I let that thought warm me, putting a wicked grin on my face as I collected my money and my jacket before going back out the door. Once my feet struck the stone dust beneath them I trained my senses on tracking down a singularly familiar trail. There was one acquaintance I had made while living in Gutterside, someone I had even ran across on occasion before I was released from royal service. We weren’t fond friends or anything, but I knew him to be trustworthy.

Glitch was a gremlin, a kind of creature related to imps and cursed with an overwhelming curiosity for all manner of magically crafted creations. He and his kin are happiest tearing something apart to fiddle with. There was a time when they were a real problem, always destroying anything with a trace of magic to it. Even now they aren’t exactly looked on favorably by most – they are small fiendish looking folk after all. Add to that their innate natural magical talent for meddling with magical objects, a driven desire to dismantle things and it isn’t too hard to understand.

Most of the gremlins are happy to call home a portion of the deeper depths of Emberhelm where they are left alone. But Glitch, for whatever reason, had managed to find himself like so many others calling Gutterside home. I had never asked him and he had never offered an explanation. It wasn’t like we sat and talked the night away or anything. He’s fixed a few things for me, helped unravel unusual objects origin and some other jobs. And all the while he has always been honest, fair and dependable. It’s rare enough to find such dealings with most folks, but I figure Glitch must have to work extra hard at it to prove himself.

His trail wasn’t too hard to find, it was a curious mixture of mingled magic braided around a base black-grey core. It was stretched about all over Gutterside, but as I carefully observed it was at its strongest leading back to where he lived. Which wasn’t much; Glitch lived in what you could at best describe as a hovel of salvaged scrap. I whispered my appreciation to the stars above that I was spared the time it might have taken to stalk him down and wandered towards his home.

Without so much as a glance at me, a hand was raised in greeting and long pointed ears pricked up at my approach. Glitch’s eyes were focused firmly on an odd orb of worked silver and sapphire that floated before him with a hushed hum. His other hand carefully felt around it to try and discover its design, all the while muttering to his self.

For a second I watched in appreciation as he probed his project, reminding myself that Glitch couldn’t see the energies that I could. That didn’t halt him from being able to blindly feel his way around to sense the spells that shaped it. Even being able to see how arcane energy had been altered to power it and give it life, I had to confess I was fairly ignorant in the intricate methods that were used to invent such things. Glitch on the other hand, just had some kind of impressive instinct about them instead.

Sitting down made Glitch seem even smaller I thought to myself while I waited. Standing wasn’t much more impressive, but at least when he was upright he could meet me just above my belt. While he was working from a makeshift mat on the ground it only made his size even more pronounced. The ball before him cast a glow that when mingled with the morning sun also highlighted his charcoal skin.

After a few more gestures from his deft hands I detected a subtle shift in the way the small sphere was moving. Gradually it softly lowered itself to the ground and fell asleep, its magic now fading away into a faint whisper. As it did, Glitch smiled humbly to himself and nodded politely towards me.

“Heard greedy guy and his goons have favored you for their fun lately,” Glitch told me, wrapping up his trinket in an oiled cloth to put it away. “Shame says me, that he cannot be happy without hurting. If he keeps it up, I think he should deserve a different skin; something similar to my own would be fitting. What thinks you?”

I had to laugh at that, it made for a funny mental image. And it would be welcomingly fitting as punishment for Garuff – making him look like something more appropriate to his nature. The only downside is that it would be an insult to all gremlins in my opinion. Still, it would be worth it to watch people react to him when he showed up trying to act all civilized.

“We’d all enjoy that entertaining experience I bet,” I agreed, amusement all over my face. After a good laugh he turned his twinkling teal gaze towards me and I could almost feel the curiosity clawing away inside him. Glitch might be lacking in height but his intellect was impressive enough to require respect when dealing with him. And I generally stuck to a policy of being genuine and honest with anything I handled with Glitch. It did seem only fair since he typically did likewise.

“What brings you here today,” Glitch asked. Somehow he even was able to make the question sound more like a pleasant greeting for customers than a desire to uncover anything. Although with Glitch it was likely to be a bit of both. “Need a fix, something fiddled or figured?”

Typically people came to Glitch to have a possession patched, explained or outright taken apart for whatever reason. Today I didn’t need any of those things. So I just decided to skip straight to the point and held up a Steel Shield in my hand to catch both the light and his attention. And just as anticipated it worked well enough.

“Glitch, what I need from you today is a little outside your usual work,” I tried to explain. “There is some important work of my own that I have to be seeing to, and I can’t keep getting distracted by the notion that Garuff might be harming my home. Could you keep an eye on it for me and just make sure it isn’t bothered?”

An eager eyebrow raised itself up at the idea but the world had taught Glitch the value of being wary as well. “You pay me only to just watch wagon,” he called me to clarify. I nodded in agreement and placed the coin into his hand, still smiling.

“All you have to do is keep an eye on it. If anyone bothers it you can get word to me and I’ll deal with it. Is that fair enough?”

With a great grin my gremlin associated gave the coin to his pocket and held his head a little higher. “The deal is good and accepted,” he agreed. “Glitch will keep your worries as his own while away.” And even without him giving me his own form of assurance I was quite certain my concerns were in good hands.