It comes on a nice warm morning in Earth Season, and I am standing outside the Temple of the Air Gods, thinking of not much except how to raise some scratch to bet on the next Trollball game. The reason I am standing there is because this is a place that many adventurers are bound to stop at on their way to the Rubble, and if they are lucky, on their way back also, and on such occasions I may be able to make a touch. If they are going in, I offer to pray for them for a few clacks, and while everyone in this man's town knows that a prayer from me is about as much use as a Mostali crossbow 1, there are always new adventurers, and every now and then one throws me a few clacks for luck, to pray to Orlanth Adventurous, or maybe Humakt or Storm Bull. Of course, I do not actually go and pray for them, because I know nobody is going to check up. For either they do not come back, or if they do they make a nice score and cannot be bothered over a few clacks, or they have other things to worry about, such as broken arms.

I look out for those who come back also, and try to figure out who makes a nice score, for such persons are often soft touches, and I hope to get to them before they feel the bite too often and become disillusioned with the whole experience. And I wish to say that I do not do too badly, at that, for I always ask them for their story first, and as everyone knows adventurers dearly love to tell their story - in fact, the chances are that the only time they are not telling their story is when they are doing more adventuring. At the least they may stake me to a drink, and while I am by no means a guy who has to have his drink, I will not say no if a drink comes along, and someone else is paying.

I must hear ten thousand stories in my time, and I sometimes figure I will open an advice bureau for adventurers and make a mint, but then I remember that they are likely to come asking when I am trying to catch up on my sleep, and so I drop the idea. Many of the stories are interesting, and even instructive, and sometimes there is a good laugh in them, such as when a guy fumbles so much he takes off his own leg instead of a Troll's, but of course I do not laugh unless the story-teller thinks it funny also.

As I am standing there, who do I see but Lucky Eddi. I know Eddi from around and about Pavis for many years, in fact, I know him from before he gets called Lucky. The reason he has this name is because he makes his living guiding adventurers in the Rubble, and it is really remarkable how he always comes back with a whole skin, particularly since at first he is the only one who does come, back. But this begins to cause gossip which hurts Eddi's business, so parties start coming back sometimes, and they may even have something to show for the trip besides cuts and bruises, though in such cases nobody is able to find out what happens to them afterwards, as they seem to disappear. But adventurers are always coming and going in Pavis, so few people give this much thought.

Anyhow, Eddi goes along with his business, and it is rumoured he does fairly well at it, for adventurers are a clack a dozen in Pavis, and Eddi is very good at picking parties who will make it worth his while, and will trust him, and at avoiding parties who look to be too tough or too smart. He has plenty of sense and keeps moving around, so nobody will know where to find him and his dough, especially his dough, though some persons try. But unpleasant things seem to happen to such persons, and it is generally believed that Eddi has very good connections on both sides of the Walls. He certainly keeps in with the hard guys on this side. While it is nothing that Big Nygg nods to him, because he will nod to anyone when he is feeling good, I once see Wolfhead do so, and anyone will tell you this is practically phenomenal. For Wolfhead is such a guy as never seems to be feeling good, but is extra-mean, and he generally looks right through you, and will tread on your toes if you do not get out of his way.

I do not see Eddi for quite some time before this morning, in fact I hear that he finally decides to retire, but it seems he is still in the same old business, for he has a doll with him who has adventurer written all over her. Now, personally, I strongly disapprove of dolls being adventurers, because no doll adventurer stakes me to anything in all the years I am in Pavis. But I am very careful never to voice such sentiments, for the chances are any doll adventurer will knock you bow-legged if you say such things, and I hear some will do so if they suspect you are even thinking them. So I step up and smile very politely at her. When I get a good look at her, I wonder how she figures to be an adventurer, unless she is going to charm anything she meets to death, for while she looks as pretty a doll as ever I see, she stands about as high as a stunted Trollkin and does not look as if she can deliver a punch that will go through paper. She packs a cute little sword, and carries a very new-looking spear, and a shield that does not have one dent in it, and I judge that she has a fair bit of dough behind her, for all her armour is shiny new ringmail. The only funny thing is, she wears a traveller's hat with such a broad brim that you cannot see her eyes properly. But she smiles back at me very pleasant, and so does Eddi when I ask him how he is doing.

"I cannot complain," he says. "In fact, I am really retired, but I come out of retirement to do this one job."

"I hear of Master Eddi as one of the most experienced guides to the Rubble of all time," says the doll, "and I have to have a good guide, to find my ancestor's treasure."

I can see that she is a gabby doll, and will tell me the whole proposition in a moment, but Eddi shushes her and says you never know who may be listening. And indeed, who comes around the corner just then but Wolfhead, but he walks through us all as he loves to do, paying nobody any mind, and goes on his way. The doll looks after him and asks who he is.

"That is one of the worst guys in this whole town," says Eddi. "But do not worry, miss, because you are safe with me; he will not bother us."

Of course, this is nothing but a falsehood, as the way I hear it, Wolfhead will bother anybody if he sees a way to make a profit by it, up to a Zorak Zoran Death Lord. But the doll seems to believe Eddi, and smiles up at him, and he smiles back in such a way that I commence to wonder if he does not finally fall for a doll after all these years. Then she says she must go and do some praying to Orlanth Adventurous, and I take the chance to ask Eddi about the proposition.

"It is really remarkable," says Eddi. "I do not have to do a thing. She seeks me out and is wild to have me, because of my great reputation."

"What is this treasure?" I ask.

"She has a chart," says Eddi, "and it is not one of Treasure Trove Hurbi's, either. It seems her ancestor caches some stuff long ago. I may even look into it if I get a chance."

"Then you do not figure on going for it?" I say.

Eddi laughes and shakes his head. "Do you think I am getting dumb? No, she tells me all about her family, and I figure they will pay a nice ransom to get her back in one piece. It is a pity, because she is really very cute, but business is business. My partners and I can always use a little more."

Well, this is really quite indiscreet of Eddi, to be letting out details of his business to me in the street, and I figure this doll must have him a little dizzy, after all, but just then she comes back, and off they go towards the Rubble, and I think no more about it.

A whole lot of time goes by and I do not make a touch, even when I move near the People's Gate, which is the main way into the Rubble for adventurers, and finally I am figuring on giving up for the day and trying the grog-shops, when I see two persons coming through the gate from the Rubble, and I recognise one of these as the doll from her hat, which makes her look like a walking mushroom. Now this is strange, to be sure, but not half so strange as who is with her, for it is by no means Eddi, but Wolfhead. I am so surprised that I step right up to them and say, "Where is Eddi?"

Then the doll takes off her hat and looks me slap in the eye, and I see that she has a pair of very blue eyes, but the expression in them makes me go cold all over. "Eddi will not be back," she says. "We make quite sure of that, after we find out where he keeps his dough."

"You mean you leave him helpless in the Rubble, when all you want is his dough?" I say, somewhat horrified. "At least you can bring him back alive. What does he ever do to you?"

"He takes my brother Rory into the Rubble and does not bring him back," the doll says. "My brother Rory is an honest sap, and will trust anybody, but I love him just the same. Of course, I cannot do it without Wolfie here." And she smiles up at Wolfhead, though I will just as soon have a snake smile at me, personally.

Wolfhead says, "It turns out that Griselda is my long-lost cousin, and so is her brother, though of course I do not know it then, or I will make Eddi hard to catch. I never have a cousin before, that I know of, but kinsfolk must stick together, no matter what."

It seems he gets a great bang out of having a cousin, for I never see him like this before.

"So Eddi's luck finally runs out," I say.

"No," says Wolfhead. "He gets lucky again at the end there. I do him a favour and finish him off. Perhaps I am getting soft-hearted."

Then he and the doll laugh very heartily and go off arm in arm. Wolfhead is carrying what looks like a pretty heavy sack, but I know there will be no sense in trying to touch him, for he is a very hard-hearted guy indeed, whatever he says.

1. A Mostali crossbow will self-destruct in the hands of a non-Mostali.



© 2000 Oliver Dickinson
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