Horton Mitus Taegrin
The unstoppable cutpurse of The Docklands
Not much taller than you or I. Of sleek and slender frame, with a shock of black hair, and tights to top it off. Under his double breasted felt and kashmir coat wait a few daggers for throwing – just not the nice jeweled one we promised that dirty man in the alley. A fine mustache rounds out his handsome features, crowned with a purple chaperon to hide his devious eyes.
Chanceway was cloaked in darkness, a mist hung from the rare few windows that remained lit. The brick-paved footways were slick with moisture and glinted in the rare moonlight. A shadow moved through the echoless streets of the Bricks, towards a dark house on the eastern hill of the Parminian Island.
The house was old, the mortar between its cracking bricks was withered and crumbling. An ocher grease covered most of its walls giving the impression there was no house from the street at all. The three towers that contributed to its eerie perception were topped by gambling spires, teetering on dangerous angles.
A flight of brick-worn steps leading up to the house was like a short maze that split apart and reconnected several times. The dual doors that shuttered the front from the rest of the world were carved into a glorious montage of knights, and dead men, and fantastic things that could not be real. Though the house was old, and it was obvious no one had entered it in years it had a visitor on this uncanny evening.
Rumor had spread amongst the throngs of people who inhabited around the house’s neighborhood; tales of odd colored lights in the night lighting the highest windows, and eery noises beckoning out to whomever is haunted enough to pay them heed. On this particular night a person of impeccable interests prowled the house’s outer courtyards in search of a vulnerable portal. The figure moved about with superb stealth, passing a cat before it could see him.
Finally, after escalating to the third-story, around a narrow corridor there was a window that budged and opened. Slipping through the dark crack and lowering the window once inside, the figure drew out a set of lock picks and began an inspection of the interior. The goal: anything locked.
A grotesque array of drab antiques lay strewn about in piles that ended in pokey and lumpy duress. The man wondered if he was actually robbing someone. A smell hit his nostrils, old dust. Centuries old.
Looking about there was little evidence anyone had entered the house in a very long time. No prints gave way to use or inspection. Most of the interior was boarded up, with curtains drawn over that to allow zero light penetration. He remained by the window for a short time to draw out a candle and light it.
Removing himself from that room put him in a lopsided corridor. Parts of the walls were crumbled and decayed. He took his time moving about, hearing the pleading of the old planks beneath his feet. Most of the rooms contained masses of junk piled upon more junk. Corpses of dead rats left by feral cats that had managed a home were the only occupants he could find, and they were rude at best. Fleeing in hysteria before him and scaring him out of his wits.
Then he came upon the room with the box inside. After opening a door he was sure would be another boring junk room he found an almost empty room, were it not for a short stand containing a well inlaid looking chest, and it had a lock on it.
He moved toward it and gripped the lock. Setting the candle down to provide light for himself he set to work on the pretty lock. The lock itself was inlaid with gold, and would fetch a hefty price on the black market. A train of thoughts possessed his mind as greed took a one way trip down to insanity. He cracked a few picks, but possessed by the obsession of opening it he tried anew.
When finally it opened he bit his lower lip, saliva pooled at his jowls with the thought of being so close. He placed the lock aside and threw the latches that held it fast – to lightly and with dignity open the case. The hairs across his body stood on end.
When the case opened he stood back as light poured out of it. The room was more revealed now in this bathing echo of soft white light than the candle provided. It was warm and inviting at first, and he stooped to get a glimpse inside when the light softened and dimmed slightly; a hazy white mist began to pillow out. The shimmer remained, but the sight was a pure mystery. He approached with caution.
When he was close enough to deduce it was no poisonous vapor he wafted the air to reveal something he had never seen before. Encased inside the chest was a precious stone so cold to the touch that it caused pain to use your bare skin. He closed the chest and threw it over his shoulder, pocketing the lock to leave the way he came in.
No sooner had he made his escape, and with something obviously invaluable. He began to wonder who he could fence it to. Perhaps the dark boat that rests at the end of the docks on full moon nights, or the strange merchants that sail the yellow boats and wear the turbans to cover their horns to blend in with the men. He thought long and hard and finally deduced he should just take it to the Merchant in the small book business down in the Docklands. Strange bearded men were always about in his book store. Someone there would take interest, he was certain.
Awaiting the next day he approached the bookstore. He knew the owner only by his first name, Ra’Sheed. An elder by many years to himself and wise in books beyond measure. The man dressed plainly, as a merchant.
The doors to the shop were airy and open. So early in the day there was little to get done by some peoples standards that they come here to relax with a warm drink and pass time with texts, scrolls, tombs, and books. Passing through the main arch a huge carved sign in fancy foreign letters spelled out a name, then under it a list of names in different languages that reached across the world. When finally he got to some trade tongues he recognized he found plain Common: Mazashazhapan’s Book World!
“Greetings young man,” a voice called out through the open lobby.
The gentleman turned to the advancing Ra’Sheed regarding his dress. The old man wore a bright turban with loud colors, his robe was fine white silk, and his beard was several feet at the end. Being in the presence of Ra’Sheed gave you an intonation of your own ignorance towards life.
“Eh, hello Master Ra’Sheed. I am Mitus. Hortin Mitus Taegrin. I come with an offer and hopes to make coin.”
“Whe-hell let us see. If it is a rare text than I am surely interested.”
“It is no words, but a magic stone Master.”
“Magic stone? What need would I have with such a stone? Can it make me better paper? Haha! I cannot say boy that I am much interested in a stone, especially one of magic. Why, you have it in that box there? Do you know what kind of box that is?”
“That is a magically sealed container. I am no sorcerer boy. Please. Leave now before someone sees you in my shop with that,” and with a wave of his hand Ra’Sheed turned away and walked off.
Backing out into the streets Mitus held the box in front of him. He hadn’t realized it was a magically sealed box. He opened and found the stone inside, and it was cold to the touch. Nothing bad seemed to happen when he opened it. What started to be a short walk home, turned into a nightmare.
Ahead in the road a cart pulling more weight than it could manage was embarking on a gruelling uphill battle. Several men watching the load pushed with their backs, but to no avail the cart snapped at its center column, losing the back half of the cart to the hill. The men around it fled in horror as screams rang through the air.
Mitus turned to see what the matter was. Seeing the over piled fruit cart gave him a fright and he attempted to run, were it not for the melons already rolling at his feet. Tripping, the case flew through the air and came to a loud crash some ways over where Mitus couldn’t see. The cart flew past him smashing through small shop areas and eventually come to rest inside the best tavern on the docks. All of the locals were in a fuss.
Coming to his senses Mitus looked about for the chest, only to find it open several feet away from him. It was empty. He flipped it upside down to make sure and nothing fell out. Searching around him the only conclusion came when he looked down the alley way between the buildings he was at. Down the intersection he could make out a small figure running through the days shadows of the overhead laundry between the buildings.
Mitus bolted off at a heroic pace intent on reclaiming the jewel. Down the alley he ran, when to his horror ahead of him the small being he took for a thief leapt into the air, and flew up to a nearby window. A maiden had just been there taking dry clothes. The little man-thing wormed inside before Mitus could do anything. He stopped at the foot of the building listening, when he heard a blood-curdling scream he tossed the box aside and bolted in to the second story. When he swung the door wide he was horrified to find a small hunchback of a man suckling at the teat of a dead women. She looked as sun dried as a grape turned raisin.
A mocking laughter poured out of the filthy little man, his spindly hair a twisted mess. When he looked up Mitus saw that his face was pale white, teeth gored with blood, and eyes black as coal. His gnarled and pointy nose twitched with delight at the scent on the air. When it spoke it’s lips barely parted to show a maze of shark teeth, and its voice was a curdled bog that could literally kill you.
“Ohh little maaan. Thhanksss for taking that lovely lock off. I just don’t get out enough these days. Ehehehehehehehehehehe…..”
“What? How? Where is the stone, demon!”
“Bah! Greedy bastard. I am the stone. I used that to get you to get me out. Hah! Your as stupid as you look little man. Now I’m going to suck your blood till the marrow runs through you. Dry as a bone.”
Mitus fell back against the wall, to frightened to do anything more. He covered his face with his hands, to terrified to peel them away. The demon’s presence was just too much, too real. He never expected an experience such as this.
“Boy! Move!” a voice thundered out from nearby.
Mitus could barely peel his gaze away enough to be even more exponentially frightened at the sight of a man juggling lightning between his hands, volts shot a game of pong between his eyes. Mitus got to his feet and ran back to a corner with a window, which he hastily attempted to open while looking back. The sorcerer advanced to the doorway as the white demon came towards the rooms entrance. They met at a few feet, as Mitus was opening the window to escape, he was blasted out by an explosion that rocketed him across the backyard across slick rocks and some mud.
Coming to a few seconds later Mitus was in the presence of the man that was handling the lightning and just behind him a giant in armor. The robe suggested this younger sorcerer was with the city, and his handler was probably someone of note, a warrior of songs and poetry. Mitus couldn’t recognize either of them.
“Where did it come from boy?” the young wizard asked.
Mitus was speechless for a moment, not wanting to reveal how he’d let loose whatever the demon was. What he knew didn’t sound believable anyway. He started to look for any sign that he could flee the scene.
“Did you loose it from a box? Was it you or a friend? You look too young to know the makings of nice locks.”
“I…I…I didn’t know!” Mitus fell into a beggars pose.
“What? Did not know? Did not someone warn you? Were you not the least bit suspicious? Unless…,” the wizard trailed off into thought. His gaze was locked on Mitus for a time, which turned into a scowl for a brief moment. The young wizard turned and left, the giant followed.
When Mitus looked up at the building the corner room they were in looked like a cannon blast zone. Parts still on fire, the owners screaming in dismay, a few people lay about shell shocked. Mitus turned to see the young wizard pick up the beautiful inlaid box, a look of astonishment on his face. He then began to look about searching the grounds nearby. Mitus fingered the lock in this pocket and approached the duo.
“Here. This was what was on it. It was just…a nice piece. I thought it would get me out of Chanceway. Far away,” Mitus extended his hand with the lock in his palm.
“You may be cursed now for it. Who knows what sort of trickery you’ve unleashed. If you’d not gone to look for the little beast I’d never have assumed it was you.” The wizard took the lock from Mitus.
With reassurance in his voice the large armored man spoke, “Apprentice, we must keep searching now. I will continue on.”
“Can I help you search for it? The man?”
“It is a demon. It’s presence is known to me like a light in the night. Even now. I know which direction to take. It’s scent is like an otherworldly odor to me. Stay out of the way if you don’t want to get hurt,” and then the young wizard took off after the giant.
It didn’t take them long to discover that the little demon had taken up in a nearby Inn. Having killed a patron, the Innkeeper, and a young barmaid sent the populace out screaming in all directions. That was how they knew where to find it.
When they entered the young wizard stood between the giant and Mitus. The white hunchback goblinoid stood atop the bar, guzzling down leftover beer. The Innkeeper’s corpse lay over the bar a few feet over. The blood had already pooled into a large puddle on the floor below.
“Take the back in case Jhoseph,” the wizard pointed to the back.
“I’ll stay right here,” Mitus decried.
“Good idea,” as the wizard lifted his arms and chanted a word, “Shin-sah!”
A flare of energy beamed out from in front of the wizard, like a pike it flew through the air and impaled the demon to the wall. There the demon stayed, clutching the pike and screaming in despair. After a brief moment of it being lit, it faded and then as it nothing were there the goblinoid fell to the floor holding its gaping wounds.
“Quickly, the box. I have the lock.”
Mitus handed over the open box. He watched as the wizard stepped forward, holding it open like he was about to bag a cat. The demon, seeing the wizard approach, crawled back. One of its hands up pleading mercy.
“No! No, please! Not back in there! Please!”
“Cease your yammering demon! Many people are dead now because of you!” The wizard snapped his vision back for a brief moment to lock eyes with Mitus. Then turned back to cast another spell.
“Lish-nah Moo-ray Ochem Dee-ay!”
The demon shriveled up into a ball, his skin folding in on itself, swallowing it’s hair and features. It was a disgusting ball of pale flesh with teeth, nails, and even the impression of an eye could be seen poking through the things flesh. Suddenly it glazed over and shriveled down to the size of a palm sized rock.
The wizard scooped it into the box, dropped the lid and secured the lock. He turned to leave, indicating Jhoseph to the front, as the giant still had an astonished look on his face. When the wizard passed Mitus he stopped briefly.
“I don’t know where you found this box , but I strongly suggest you do not go searching out similar items. I would take such an expensive piece back, but as it is very dangerous I don’t think that will be happening. I hope you found this lesson valuable, unless of course you do not value your life. Carry on citizen, another day, another demon.”
The young wizard tipped an invisible hat and left. The giant gave Mitus a brief look of acceptance and also stepped out. Mitus then sat down and pondered what to do next.
He figured old relics like that couldn’t just be sitting around by themselves. Surely something of value had to be in that house that wasn’t cursed. With intentions set he left that night for the Bricks. Back to a particular house on a particular hill. On any other particular night in the most particular city in the world, Chanceway.