Content Warning: This episode includes combat violence and violence against a minor.
Still sprinting, I hurl my sword at the fleeing elf. I must have missed, for I hear a clatter of metal striking something hard, but he keeps running. I switch my sickle to my right hand and send it whirling through the mists. I hear a thunk and a cry. I've knocked the elf down.
He is just rising from the ground when I slam into him, knocking him back down. We roll over and his knife blade slices past my face. I grab the wrist of his knife hand and pin it to the ground. He punches me with his off hand, hard, but I don’t let go of his knife hand. As he pulls back for another hit, I grab his other wrist and pin it down, holding him to the ground with the weight of my body. I press down on his chest with my cuirass.
“Whatcha gonna do now, scum?” I growl.
He pushes ineffectually against me.
“Get off of me!”
We’re at a stalemate. He can’t move, but I can’t hurt him without letting go of him, and I have no weapon. I am easy prey if his partner catches up to us, though I am hoping the other elf might think twice about saving the so-called friend who just threw him in my path to save himself.
The noise of the marketplace is loud beyond us. The elf underneath me notices it too, and cranes his neck back to see if we are close to the end of the alley. His mouth opens, and I see his lips forming the call for help.
“Gua-“ he begins to yell.
I lunge forward, sinking my teeth into his vulnerable neck, biting, grinding, crushing. His yell turns to a high-pitched scream and then a gurgle as I crush his windpipe with my teeth. I bite like a wild animal, ripping and tearing. Suddenly, the elf’s neck starts shooting blood, into my mouth and all over my face. Choking, I lift my head away. The elf’s head jerks in pain; his eyes cross my face, constricting briefly, before his eyelids close and his head slumps back. He continues to gasp raggedly, and a raspy sound creaks out of his broken windpipe like the sea breeze through the sewers. As it grows fainter, I rise. His life is ending. No need to stick around.
I back away, casting about for my sickle. I find it a few paces away, resting in the mud against the alley. I trace my way back down the alley until I find my sword. Its blade is cracked, useless. Damn it! It must have struck something hard. Well, no sense in leaving it. I sheath the ruined weapon and pause for a moment to wipe the blood off my face as best I can. I spit in my hands and wipe the blood off them with the filthy bottom of my cloak.
The taste of blood is bitter in my throat. With the surge of melee wearing off, I am sickened by what I just did. Instead of worrying about how the Bouncy Tart’s whores are going to fit in up north, I ought to be worrying about myself. I’m no better than a stinkin’ animal. Feral and vicious. How will I be able to sing songs of inspiration tonight through a throat tainted with the residue of orcish violence?
I could go back and look for the other would-be attacker. But he’s probably long gone. And that’s the direction of the Bouncy Tart, which I probably want to avoid right now.
I need a drink. I head toward the market to buy a pot of ale or wine, whatever I can find. No one has discovered the elf in the alley yet. As I slip by him, I see that he is dead now. Did he really deserve that? Would he have been a hero tonight? Or would he rob other elves of their few belongings on the road to freedom? That seems more likely.
“Stop!” The voice screams, angry and shrill, as I step out of the alley and into the mist- shrouded marketplace.
I stop dead. What the hell?
A few paces away a breadseller stands, cleaver raised over her head. She’s not looking at me. Beneath her cowers an urchin, hand outreached on her table, still clutching a small breadroll, caught trying to steal. He releases the roll and pulls his hand back, but she is quicker. Down comes the cleaver and the street rat screams. Something flies over toward me, landing in the mud of the market at my feet. A tiny elven finger. The child stares in shock at his hand, bleeding profusely and missing his fourth finger.
“Thief! That’ll teach you!” the matron shrieks in anger. “Now get out of here before I take this blade to your head!”
The little one runs away screaming.