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The Loom Chapter 3: Just Say No To Drugs
It was a small restaurant, perhaps a dozen tables, nearly open air with the walls pierced nearly to non-existence by open windows; and yet, the air was thick with the smoke of half a dozen different drugs, everyone present except for the table in the back sharing from the extensive menu. Three men sat around that small table, two of them accompanied by a small but very heavily armed contingent. The unaccompanied man sat, leaning his chair back on two legs, smoking a thick and sweet smelling cigar.
“Gentlemen. Thank you very much for having me; I was worried that I would have to eat alone tonight.” He was middle aged, tall, and with clothes that looked as expensive as his cigar.
“Of course not, Sanis. We were more than happy to invite you, as per the request of your attache.” The second replied, fiddling with his bracelet.
The third man at the table spoke quickly, “We would never turn down an offer from a guild representative, sir.” A quick glare from his companion, and the second man spoke.
“And, of course, it is a pleasure to eat with you. Your company is increasingly famous in these parts; we dine with you as much for the company you offer as the company you operate.”
“Thanks for the kind words, but I'm feeling a little bit tired today. Possibly from the smoke from all this opium. So let me quickly address my business interests here.” The other two paled ever so slightly. “I was looking my ledgers the other day, and I noticed that our shipments to you have fallen almost thirty three percent over the past year. This is taking into account seasonal variations and population shifts in the area due to the depredations of that horde. Now, that's not a problem in and of itself. Lots of businesses run through a rough patch, lots of businesses run through problems; it only makes sense that a recreational endeavor such as yours will suffer a loss of revenue in a time of war. No, that's not my problem. My problem is this: you've got an exclusive contract for this town, and that's a responsibility that you have to live up to. Your town is small, but you've got a lot of soldiers, and soldiers bring in a lot of silver to an establishment such as your own in time of war. So why, I'm wondering, have your sales apparently dropped by so much? Particularly when I come for a social call, and find that there is not a table that is not covered in pipes smoking some very high grade poppy?”
“Well, sir, this is one of the busiest days we've had – but that is an aside.” He paused, drew in his breath, and let out the rest in one quick run. “In short, sir, the goods that the guild sold to us were inferior. Wormy opium, cut cocaine, and dried out marijuana. All of it delivered at above market cost and on irregular schedules. We simply cannot run a business that way.” The man looked a little deflated, having released his spleen. His coworker, a rat-like man in clothes overlarge, looked shocked.
Sanis smiled. “Shh, shh. Now now. I take it this is what you are trying to say – you didn't like our product – product that is famous across the east, I'll have you know, for its quality and its quantity, and so you decided to find yourself a second supplier. You violated the terms of our exclusivity agreement, and you contracted with an independent, specifically against Guild contract stipulations. That's not good, I'm sure you realize. But I'm a nice guy, I'll go easy on you this time. Look out the window to the east.”
The two men leaned, and watched as a plume of smoke floated leisurely across the whole eastern horizon.
“That's an independent poppy field that our researchers discovered yesterday. I'm sure you wouldn't be working with someone in such violation of Guild rules; and so I'm willing to overlook what you've done. In exchange, I'll expect that your sales numbers will double, and when I come back in three months you'll have enlarged your operation to a better building. Now, you can't afford to build a new place, I'm sure, I've heard it all before. So here's what I'm offering, and you'll not hear a more generous offer in the world. The Guild will buy your contract for exclusivity to this town for its current value. Then, we'll build a gambling house, brothel, drug den and all round pleasure house that will make this town the envy of great forks. You two will be managers, although of course your salaries will be docked fines for your transgressions, and you will report directly to me.” He leaned back and smiled broadly, clenching his cigar between his teeth. “Now, let's have some food.” One of the two men signaled to a waiter and momentarily soup and wine was brought to the table.
The two men waited until the representative had a sip, before the older of them spoke. “I'm impressed by your very generous offer, sir. However, I'm very sorry to inform you that the offer, as it currently stands, is unacceptable. Our arrangement with our independent supplier will continue unabated. As much as I would like to work with you, I'm very sorry, sir.” The guild representative looked up sharply. “Pardon me? Are you sure that is final? I would like you to be absolutely clear on the choice that you are making, here. I've given you an excellent offer, one that is vastly superior to guild policy, which would be to have you both emasculated and quartered for violation of contract and fraudulent sales reports.” Sanis' stomach rumbled violently, and he looked at the two of them. “I see. And I can add to your list of violations the attempted poisoning of a guild representative.” Now the two men looked shocked, and as they stared Sanis laughed; a long chitinous leg, bone white but iridescent, erupted from his chest leaving no spray of blood but rather a faint rippling across his chest. It was followed by the chittering body of a massive insect, a foot and a half across, that clicked momentarily and spat a thin green bile back into his bowl, before diving back into his chest. “Good girl, good girl. Dorek, your assistance.” Sanis rolled backwards from his chair to stand with his back against the wall as a shape took form on top of the table, shimmering into place as a massive blood-red gorilla on all fours, smiling a malicious smile. The two merchants looked on, frozen in place, as the blood ape held perfectly still; with a sharp crack, the table's legs snapped underneath the demon's weight and the top of it, born to the ground by the ton of malfean beast, crushed their legs to the ground with a snap of bone. Their femurs cracked into splinters, and before they had time to scream, it had taken their heads each in hand and rose up onto its hind legs bellowing, raising its arms upwards and leaving their torsos behind. Their bodies flopped to the ground, and the guards scattered like sparks from a flame, shooting in all directions, aimless and chaotic. Only one guard stood, momentarily pausing before hefting his spear and charging towards the gloating demon, piercing through its thick hide and carrying his own weight headlong, with shoulder down, into the thing's chest; they flew backwards, demon limp as a rag doll before the man's charge, hurling the demon's bulk back against the wall, the spear passing through the beast, through Sanis, and pinning itself six inches deep into the wooden wall. The guard, a man six feet tall and broad as an ox, stood back, glowing brightly golden; seeing the light pouring off of his own flesh, he yelped, more afraid than he had been at the demon's appearance. The demon took one swipe at the man's side, cutting a long rent in his thigh with bestial claws, before it collapsed; the man kicked it in the head once hard, stoving in the side of its thick skull, and sprinted out through a rice paper wall into the back alleys of his town.
The patrons of the den looked on, mostly through half-lidded eyes, as the shocked looking demon and the shocked looking guild representative hung, transfixed, from the wooden haft of a spear for a few seconds before there was a guttering crack and the spear's shaft snapped off just before the wall, sending the two corpses to the ground, curled about each other. There was a momentary scream before the patrons went back to their entertainments.
Jassin Terros ran until he found a dark corner of an empty alley and hid behind barrels until the gold faded from his skin, looking in terror at the faint radiance of his flesh. It was late at night when he peered over the boxes and heard a voice in the back of his head, felt the heat of its presence, the golden pressure of it bursting from his forehead.
“My child, there is much that must be done.”