|The Lunatic of Westerly City
Author: Linguistic PM
The criminal Hodger Barns is a master of disguise, but he is not very bright. When he is hired to free the 'Lady Lunatic' (the craziest woman in the country) from her Asylum, he finds himself reluctantly caught up in a rebellion against the perfectly nice old king of Westerly.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Crime - Chapters: 3 - Words: 3,456 - Reviews: 8 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 01-27-13 - Published: 01-25-13 - id: 3095359
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Lunatic of Westerly City
Chapter 1- The Note
The trick to becoming someone else was to forget yourself. There were two ways to go about doing this. The first way involved years of intensive discipline: meditation, martial arts, and a strict diet of green tea and rice. The second way was to be an idiot. Hodger Barns was an idiot.
His mother had a very simple explanation for this: when the Gods had been handing out brains, he had stood at the back of the crowd and pretended to be a turkey, and they had given him a bird brain. This was probably true.
The other thing about Hodger was that he was a master disguise artist. In just moments, he could become any person he desired. This skill did not rely on makeup, or magic, or prosthetics (thought all three did sometimes play a part) but rather his simple, chameleon nature. Becoming someone else was as natural to him as putting new clothes on in the morning. More natural, in fact, because he usually worked nights, and the mornings were the only time he had to sleep. Needless to say, he was very popular with crime syndicates.
Right now, he was impersonating a Tour Guide. The tourist season was on, and there was money to be made for any enterprising young criminal who wanted it. After a recent revolution in Suth, the new wealthy middle-class had to to find ways to spend their money. Travelling to Westerly was one of them.
"This here is Soldier's Road." He told his customers. They were a small group: two families of four, a young couple, and a solitary man. "This section of the city, before our last war with Estmark, used to hold over four thousand troops. It is mostly empty now, but many of the brothels and gambling dens from before the soldiers left still exist." They couldn't see it, but he was reading from a small brochure that he had picked up off a real Tour Guide. He neglected to tell them that, for the most part, this part of the city was run by gangs.
They turned the corner, and suddenly found themselves face to face with a large group of dirty men with clubs. The leader of these men, a big ugly brute with a harelip, stepped forward and greeted Hodger politely.
"Eh' der Hodger. G'day, yeh mate?" He said. "Nice catch 'ere. Lookin' pretty loaded!"
"Good day, Jarl." Hodger said."They're alright. Not the best I've ever caught, but the fishing season's almost over."
"Yeh. These'll prob'ly be some of the last." Jarl replied. He turned to the terrified customers. "Alrigh' yeh lot. Put yer wallets on the ground, and put yer hands where I can see em'." He scooped up the fat purse of the young couple, and threw it to Hodger, who fumbled and dropped it. He had to stoop to pick it up.
"Thar's yer share, mate. Now get outta here." Jarl said. Hodger, who did not like to look his victims in the eye, was happy to oblige.
The first place he went with his day's pay was the Smokey Shack. The bartender there, Gracie Adams, was pretty and free with her affections. He ordered a beer, took the purse he had stolen, and poured its contents out onto the table. His drink arrived, and he sipped at it slowly, while he counted out his earnings for the day. He lost his count twice, and had to start again, but finally he figured it out: twenty four Silver Nobles, and seven Copper Barons. That would pay his rent for three months, and give him money to spare.
He left the bar smiling. His next trip was to his apartment, the only place in the city where he felt comfortable keeping his money. The Central Bank was notoriously corrupt, ever since it had been bought out by Estmarkian investors.
The busy street outside his apartment was better security than anything he could have hired. Even at night, everyone knew what was happening and when. In fact, the only person that nobody in the whole neighborhood knew was Hodger...
"Hodger Barns?" A voice asked. There was a short silence. What? Hodger turned around quickly. There was a man standing in the alley in front of him, blocking the doorway to his apartment. He recognized the man: the solitary bloke from the Tour. This was not good.
"I'm, uh, sorry sir. I think you have me confused with somebody else." Hodger tried to push past him, but the man stuck out a rigid arm and held him back.
"I know you're him. I followed you to the Smokey, and from there to here. Don't worry. I'm not here for revenge. I've been searching the city for you for a few days. I heard a rumour you were working as a fake tour guide, so I decided to try my luck there. One of the thugs called you by name." The man said. "I just want to offer you employment."
Employment. Sure. "Sorry." Hodger replied, ducking under his arm now. "Love ta' do it, but I already got work, y'know?" He started to walk briskly away, checking over his shoulder to make sure the man wasn't following him. He was.
"The fishing season's almost over, Hodger. I was a petty criminal once too. Has the pay got any better?" The man asked, catching hold of the hem of his shirt. It was a firm move, but not an aggressive one. "Because as I remember, it was pretty shit. The summer pickings were nice, but in winter..." The man shuddered.
This caught Hodger's attention. Money was always on his mind. His work as a 'tour guide' got him through the summer months with ease, but the winter was a harder time: the tourists were like geese, and moved south during the cold season.
Reluctantly, he didn't keep moving. "How much're you offering?" He asked.
The man smiled. "Not anything but this." He held out a white, sealed letter. "The instructions are inside."
Hodger took the letter reluctantly. "Why all the secrecy?" He asked. "Is it illegal?"
The man winked. "Of course." He said. "But good luck." He slid past Hodger, and left out the end of the alley. Hodger stared at the letter in his hands for a few seconds. He could still burn it now, and remain none the wiser, or he could open it.
Finally, he made a choice. He stuck the fingernail of his thumb under the note and peeled it open. It looked almost empty. He turned it upside down and shook it. A small note fluttered out. He caught it before it hit the ground.
'Noon. The Dragon and the Freak. Come alone.
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This is a sister story to my other story, 'As a Dragon'. It is not a sequel or a prequel. It is meant to be read stand alone, and has an entirely original cast of characters. It is, however, set in the same world, and may have spoilers for the unwritten (but planned) end of As a Dragon.