An ogre’s head rolls out of a blood-stained burlap sack with a sickening plop.

The garroter is a man named Jon. He huffs, irritated. It is too late to move the parchment; it is ruined. Instead he moves his gaze from the besmirched paper to the milky-eyed lifeless gaze and brown snaggletooth gaping jaw of Ozo, an ogre with a price on his head.

“You’ve just destroyed a day worth of effort” he says looking up and flinches at what he decides is a slight man, stooped with slanted shoulders attached to a thin bird-like neck topped with a head that looks likely to fly off with a stiff wind. He has claw-like fingers of which only the tips are visible hanging from the end of the sleeves of his threadbare robe. A robe which underneath doesn’t appear to contain much man.

“That’s your warrant,” the man says with a voice that crackles as if bones were loose in his throat.

Jon catches pale blue icy eyes. They flitter across his face as if he were of no more interest than a leaf falling from a tree.

“I believe this head to be worth a bit o’ gold.”

“That’s true,’ Jon answers, ‘but to the souls I tasked with collecting it. That wouldn’t be you, would it?” He stands and looks down at black-haired man attempting a frigid gaze of his own.

The garroter isn’t an overly big fella, maybe normal, maybe he’s felt a few hard days worth of effort in his forty years of existence, maybe he had a few battles where he was the only soul to walk away, maybe he has been the last man many executed criminals saw before hood and death met their fate, but when he sets his eyes on the figure in front of his desk he feels a chill that scrapes at his bones.

Still he tries to face down the dark stranger even though every inch of him wants to flee.

“Your deputies are dead.”

Maybe it’s his lawman instincts, but he can tell the man standing in front of him has told the truth. He knows that. He knows that like he knows the feel of his own boots, or the comfort of his own mattress, or the smell of his own bride.

But he also knows this man is evil. It’s just an impression maybe based on how he averts his eyes when gazed upon, or how he looks shifty and a bit guilty even when just simply standing in front of the garroter’s desk.

“Care to say how you ended up the victor over ole Ozo?

Ozo deserved to die. He was king of his own cave. A cave filled with the bones of anyone careless to be travelling off the King’s road. They were a dirty murdering lot and many lives were spent trying to rid them from the face of the map.

“I said your deputies were dead, not useless.” He snaps his fingers and through the door four badly battered corpses walk. They stand swaying as if unsteady on their once blood-fed feet.

Jon finds himself staring at Moradin’s cleric, a hairy redhead named Lela now missing the bottom half of her face and through a giant crack in her skull through which a large piece of brain flows. Her eyes are half-lidded and white, far from the vivid green he would rather remember them as a week ago.

None of them seem to be seeing anything now.

The mage has only one arm attached to his body and in its fist is his other arm, as if he would be willing to use it as a club.

The two deputies he sent as muscle swayed in blood-stained armor punctured with many holes as if they had been victim of a pick axe wielding frenzy.

They smell of death and shit and mold and ogre blood.

Jon stares open mouthed at the four dead bodies used as puppets to claim Ozo’s head. He doesn’t feel his bladder empty. He’ll notice later.

Clancy doesn’t mind. It happens all the time. Instead he asks in a gentle whisper, “Now about that gold?”



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