Chapter 1: What Boredom Spawns
Mijinji sat in the back corner of the dim tavern and watched the other patrons from within his hood. Beside him, Vermogen was equally on alert and equally disguised. Hopefully luck would be on their side and the mage they'd been told about would show. To pull of the next job they were desperately in need of a mage.
The pair watched with interest as a hooded figure made its way over to their table and stood in front of them with an expectant air.
"Are you Clessan?" Mijinji asked.
"Damn that Bormith! He mangled my name again. It's Clessa." A distinctly female voice said from within the hood.
"A woman?" Vermogen said in surprise. "Bormith made you out to be a tough as nails guy."
Clessa thumped down into the extra chair with a snort. "That bastard." She muttered before saying louder. "I've been looking for work for a while and harassing him. Sometimes he pretends I'm a guy to try and find me work so I'll leave him alone."
"Not that we don't appreciate your situation but the job we're about to undertake is not going to be a dance about the maypole. You sure you're up for this?"
Clessa glared at Mijinji. "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I don't know how to fight properly." She hissed.
"I didn't mean it that way. I looked your profile over. You don't have a lot of practical experience."
The mage shrugged. "I'm not going to freeze up or anything. And this is the only way to get experience."
"I think she'll do fine. Things'll work out." Vermogen said.
Mijinji sighed. "You always say that. Alright then Clessa, you've got the job. This'll be a sort of test run. You do a decent enough job and we'll keep you around. Sound good?"
Clessa nodded, grinning beneath her hood. "Sounds great. What's the job?"
"Monster slaying. Some huge magical monster has been causing problems to trade around here. We've been hired to kill it."
"How has a monster been causing problems to trade? Hunting I could understand, but trade? Or is it just scaring the trade away?"
"It is scaring them away but mostly because it keeps eating the trading caravans." Mijinji replied, giving Clessa a hard look.
"Oh." The mage replied in a small voice.
"Well since Clessa's taken the job with us, why don't we head back to the inn? We can go over all the details and make a plan." Vermogen said hastily into the tense that had begun to build.
"Alright. We might as well." Mijinji said getting up and tossing a few coppers on the table to pay for the drinks.
Clessa and Vermogen got up as well and followed Mijinji out. Once out in the bright afternoon light, the three dropped their hoods and the pair of mercenaries got their first look at their new companion. Catching them staring, Clessa raised one light coloured eyebrow in a mocking gesture. Wisps of her honey coloured hair that had escaped her braid, hung down in front of her amused grey eyes. "What?" she asked. "Never seen a girl before?"
Vermogen grinned. "Nope. You're the first."
The mage laughed. 'I hope you're not too disappointed."
Why having seen a woman of your outstanding beauty has ruined me for
the likes of the ordinary girls."
"But I thought I was the first girl you'd ever seen?" Clessa replied, face only slightly pink.
"Ach. You're right. Alright you win this time. Next time I'll beat you." Vermogen vowed passionately, arm above his head, one finger pointing towards the heavens. His passionate display was hampered by the wide smile still firmly affixed to his face.
"If you two are done, I'd like to get moving. You're starting to cause people to stare." Mijinji was right. People were starting to stop to gawp at the two of them.
"Alas!" Vermogen cried, clapping a hand over his heart in a dramatic display. "Whatever shall I do? To have caused a scene? What kind of person am I?" Very likely the overly dramatic monologue would have continued had Mijinji not grabbed Vermogen's arm and begun to drag him away as Clessa followed laughing.
"Must you do that every chance you get?" He asked the still grinning Vermogen.
"No. I haven't been doing every chance I get. I could do it if you'd like."
Mijinji groaned. "Will you please act serious?"
"Hey I act serious all the time. Ask Clessa."
"Clessa just met you."
"He was serious when I came in." The mage offered, wearing a smile to match Vermogen's.
"Oh wonderful. Now there's two of you. My life is going to be miserable from now on."
"Not miserable! Exciting. Entertaining. Interesting. Never miserable."
"You know what? I give up." Mijinji said just as they reached their inn. The three climbed the flight of stairs that led to where Vermogen and Mijinji's rooms were. They ended up in Mijinji's room; Vermogen's being far to cluttered with the oddments he always managed to collect, and got down to the serious planning.
"So what's this monster like?" Clessa wanted to know.
"From what we've been able to gather it's huge. About the size of this inn, maybe bigger." Mijinji replied.
"Bigger then a two-story inn? Are you sure?"
"No, but all we're getting is gossip and speculation. We couldn't find anyone who'd actually seen the thing to talk to us. It's either scaled and lizard-like or it's furry and bear-like. Also it apparently uses some kind of magic which varies on who you talk to, which is why we need you."
" You need defensive magic?"
"Maybe some offensive depending on what we find when we get there."
"If you don't mind me asking, what do you two do?"
"I use the axe in the corner," Mijinji said, jerking his chin in the direction of the huge war-axe leaning behind the door. "Vermogen… Vermogen does whatever he feels is necessary. He doesn't really have any one set of dominating abilities."
"Most of the time I act as a distraction. Or bait. Sometimes I fight if the situation calls for it." Vermogen said with what Clessa had come to realize was his usual wide grin.
"Bait? You act as bait? Aren't you worried about getting killed?" Clessa asked incredulously.
"Things have a way of working out. Besides, I'm pretty fast."
Mijinji shook his head. "He once dodged the arrows from eight different archers while I snuck up and killed their leader. His antics made the leader and his guards stare at him giving me the perfect opportunity. I even got away without a scratch."
Clessa shook her head, impressed despite herself. "You two must have some kind of luck."
"Not me." Vermogen said. "I'm not really lucky at all. Ask Mijinji."
"Actually it's true. He's the one who always get hit by stray objects or shot at or spotted or pick pocketed. It's almost funny. I'd think he was completely unlucky if I hadn't seen him dodging those arrows. I swear I saw about ten of them hit him but when we got to the rendezvous point he was sitting there completely unharmed."
"How long have you two been partners?"
Mijinji frowned. "About half a year I'd guess. We've been doing fairly well with work and what not. This is actually the third time we've been hired for monster slaying. First time the monster used magic though."
"You do a lot of odd jobs?"
"Yeah. We pretty much take whatever job's available that matches our skills. We're not really picky. So what about you? Why do you want work so bad?"
"I want to leave this city. I've been stuck here for nearly my whole life. I lived with my great-aunt until she died. I then ended up apprenticed to a mage. I was granted full mage status two years ago but I haven't been able to find work. No one wants a female mage. Or if they do it's for things I'm not interested in doing."
"Parents?" Mijinji asked.
The glare Clessa levelled him made the warrior wish he'd never asked.
Vermogen cocked his head to the side. "Well why not just pick up and leave. It's not like you need a job to leave the city. I'm sure had you tried a bigger city you'd have had better prospects."
Clessa turned to stare at Vermogen, open-mouthed. "I…I never thought of that." She whispered in shock. "It's just so…so simple."
"Well then even if we don't hire you full time you're all set now." Vermogen replied with his typical cheer.
"If everything's settled now, let's get down to business. We still haven't come up with a plan yet."
"How about I go in first, act as bait and lure the things into whatever kind of trap you two can set up. If all else fails it'll be easier to fight it out in the open. Then we can harass it from all sides."
"Why do all your plans involve you as bait?" Mijinji asked, shaking his head.
"Because it's easier that way."
"You know it might not be such a bad idea in this case. I know this spell that'll turn the ground into quicksand. Vermogen just has to lure the beast into it and we're set." Clessa mused aloud.
"What if Vermogen gets stuck in the quicksand?"
"Then we'll pull him out."
"I don't like the idea of him going in alone. This beast has some kind of offensive magic. Who know what it'll do to him if he just walks right in."
"I'll be alright. If it tried anything I'll just run away. No worries."
Mijinji sighed. There was no use arguing with Vermogen when he got and idea like this firmly wedged into his brain. "Fine but Clessa puts protective spells on you before you go in, alright?"
Vermogen grinned. "Sure."
"Clessa your room's the one beside Vermogen's. Let's go get some decent food and then some sleep. We'll try to kill this monster in the morning."
The other two nodded and got up with their leader, all three trooping down to the common room to get fed.