“They went too far this time.”
“They’re just children…”
“They literally tore a queen out of history. You realize that’s kidnapping right?”
The two men sat at the far side of the bar near a roaring fireplace. The nights had grown quite brisk and the warmth was welcome. Plain clothed, hoods drawn, they spoke in soft, hurried voices.
“I know, okay? I get it. But still…” The one murmured.
“There is no ‘but!’” The other exploded as his companion desperately tried to quite him.
“Alright,” The man conceded, head hung low. “Alright, you’re right. This has gone too far. They aren’t trying to be malicious, but they can’t keep doing this. They’ve gone too far and...”
He trailed off, head in hands. The thought was so agonizing that it threatened to break him.
“Look, man, I get it.” His companion laid a hand on his shoulder. “It’s going to be hard. You’ll probably never do anything this hard again. But it’s for their own good. Nobody deserves to live like this.”
A pall of silence fell over the room. In the early hours of the morning, only a handful of drunkards lay drooling at their tables. Not one to pry, the bartender kept their head down, drying a tankard with a stained rag. All the regular patrons had already walked into cool autumn night, returning to their families, off to relieve their fellow guards of their posts. It was as though the entire town had somewhere else to be that night. When the quiet became too much to bear, the dejected man finally spoke.
“This man,” His voice trembled—as though he were about to shatter into a hundred jagged pieces. “You trust him? I mean, you think he’ll actually find a way to fix this? I’ve been trying to end this for years but—”
The other man gave a wicked smile, the fire reflecting off the circular rim of his glasses. “Oh, you can trust him. Him and I go way back. Been through a lot. More than I can say. More than I should say. You know what, forget about all of that. He’ll end this. Just you wait.”
As the spectacled man lifted his tankard to his lips, the oaken door swung open with a rush of night air. In stepped a third man, clad in red, who scanned the room with a single eye before stepping over to the bar.
“Gimme an ale.” He rasped.
“You know, I really should call your tab, Chaz.” The bartender muttered, giving the disheveled man a hard side-eye.
“Just gimme the damn drink!”
With a sigh the bartender begrudgingly drew the ale before sliding it down to Chaz. With a sip and a satisfied grunt, Chaz crossed the room, pulling a chair up to the fireplace.
“Evening, boys.” He grinned. “Nice night, innit?”
“Let’s cut to the chase,” The solemn man frowned. “You’re going to need a lot of people if you’re going to pull this off. What’s your plan?”
Chaz’s smile fell, “Not one for small talk, are ya? Eh, don’t get your panties in a bunch—I gotta plan. People from all over Arawyn owe me favors. Well, except the ones that I bribed. And the ones I signed contracts with… Anyway, don’t worry about all that. The point is that I got people, I got a plan—this is gonna work.”
The solumn man locked eyes with Chaz, his gaze practically burning a hole through him, “Alright, I’ll trust you. But Gods help you, if they suffer because of you—”
“Oh, lighten up,” Chaz sat back in his seat with a frown. “The girls ain’t gonna suffer. Listen, let me lay it all out for you…”
*. * *. *. *
Upon a plush, golden daybed, in a lavish home not so far away, three elegantly dressed girls leaned over a massive slab of crystal. Figures danced across the slab, cutting down hoard after hoard of monsters; they watched with glassy eyes until one figure flamboyantly flourished their sword as golem fell to the ground in a pile of rubble.
“Ah, most entertaining, that one.” The first girl muttered, flicking her hair absent-mindedly over her shoulder.
“Let’s make sure they can entertain me a little longer.” Another said airily. With a flick of her finger, the warrior on screen straightened up, as though they were suddenly feeling refreshed.
“That one is interesting, as well.” Another lounged with her feet up on the slab. “Giving them a few extra spells might be entertaining.” She snapped and another figure on screen raised their hand, calling forth a burst of magic that felled another beast.
A nervous man dressed in butler’s attire hovered nearby, opening and closing his mouth anxiously, unable to force his words out. Wringing his hands, he raised his voice, a strangled, desperate sound, “My dear Witness, we’ll want to be packing soon if we want to be timely. We don’t want you to miss the show, now do we.” His wide eyes flicked apprehensively between the girls as they stared at the screen with mild interest.
“Yes, I do suppose we should prepare ourselves, shouldn’t we Donald?”
“Er, my name is Dorian,” The butler stammered.
Another girl piped up, “Damian, would you be so kind as to summon Relenna?”
He gaped at them, “But I’m—Well, yes of course, my dearest Witness. I shall summon her at once.” With that, Dorian turned on his heel and fled the room.
One of the girls slouched over and stared at the ceiling, combing her fingers through her hair. “This should be a very entertaining show. Better than the last, I should say.”
“This group heroes seem very strong—very entertaining, indeed.” Another put in.
The third girl drew herself up, rising from the plush daybed, “And why shouldn’t it be? I deserve to bear witness to the finest entertainment that can be offered. A fine show they’ll put on for me.”
A neatly put together young woman strode into the room, her hands clasped delicately in front of her. She spoke in a saccharine sweet voice, “Yes, my lovely Witness, how can I serve you?”
“Relenna, see to it that my belongings are packed.”
“The journey is long and I won’t be without my finest gowns and jewelry.”
“Oh, and run out to the market for some cheese and wine. This trip is bound to be dreadfully boring and I won’t be without some manner of cultured entertainment. Food and drink will have to do.”
Relenna dipped in a polite curtsey, “As my Witness wishes. I’ll see to it immediately.”
As she turned and exited the room, she rolled her eyes and muttered a single, barely audible word under her breath.