The clatter of dice filled the room as the small cubes hit the wooden table and rolled across it. It was a quiet noise but the previously rowdy tavern had suddenly gone silent a moment before. A dozen eyes watched with complete focus as the two dice finally came to stop.
“It’s demon’s eyes. You rolled a two, and that means you lose,” a rough looking man observed in carefully neutral tone.
That was the signal for everyone else in the tavern to let their breath out and start moving again. The room suddenly filled up with background noise. The watchers sat back and began talking to themselves as the barmaid wandered away with a tray full of dirty dishes.
“Shit, I was so close! Everything was falling into place,” Elyias swore in disappointment. “I just needed another good roll to finish off the straight set.”
The young man was standing at one end up the table and he punched its wooden surface in anger. The impact shook the table only slightly. It hadn’t been a strong blow.
“Well, that’s definitely the end of your little lucky streak. You just lost everything you had won and then some,” a portly man in the fine clothes of a merchant told him.
“You win some and you lose some. The gods have no favorites among men. The fates they weave suit them; not the likes of us,” another man laughed. He sitting on a chair and leaning back with his boots resting on the table, and he grinned cheekily when Elyias threw him a sour look.
“Bah, I will get a lucky break eventually. My bad fortune can’t last forever,” Elyias muttered to himself.
His remark just caused the man that looked like a merchant to chuckle. He then scooped up the pile of coins Elyias had placed on the counter earlier. It wasn’t a small heap. Several of the coins glinted with the sheen of gold. Elyias had just lost a fair bit of money.
“I wish you nothing but good luck with that, unless of course you decide to come back here and bet with me again, and then I’ll gladly take more of your coin,” the merchant replied happily.
“I think I’ll find another den to place my wagers at. I don’t think place is good luck for me,” Elyias said as he stepped away from the table.
“Suit yourself, lad. Personally, I don’t think you’re going to be finding luck like that anywhere,” the seated man told him.
Elyias just frowned to himself and headed for the door. He didn’t see the point in staying here, since he had no more coins on hand. He’d spent them on drinks and lost them gambling.
“I was so bloody damn close this time,” he muttered to himself as he pushed the tavern door open and stepped outside.
Outside, the cloudy sky overhead was growing dark. It was late in the afternoon and well after supper. Elyias looked up at the sky as he walked back to the inn he was staying at. The clouds were gray and heavy looking. There was a good chance it would rain.
After eating supper Elyias had gone out to find a new gambling spot. That was what he had done every night since arriving in town. After parting with Blacknail, he had headed East until he’d found a fair sized town. The walled settlements that were left in the North were hardly thriving but it was easy enough to find a place to sleep as well as a good place to play some games of chance. Having a lot of gold helped.
Elyias had quickly sold one of the larger chunks of gold that Blacknail had given him. That had given him more than enough to spend several days in luxury. The best wine and women in town had been his. Tonight he didn’t feel like celebrating much, though. He just wanted to get to bed early. Tomorrow was a new day, which would wipe his slate clean.
It probably wasn’t a great idea to keep spending so much money in one place. It would attract attention. However, Elyias wasn’t ready to leave town just yet. Travelling was a pain, and wanted to win some money back here first. He couldn’t leave without getting one good lucky break at dice or cards. That would leave a bad taste in his mouth. Leaving on a high note was important.
There wasn’t very many people in sight as Elyias made his to the inn. Those people he did pass kept walking without doing more than glancing in his direction. It was getting late so people wanted off the streets. Elyias passed a single guardsman with a truncheon who was leaning up against a wall, but the uniformed man barely glanced his way. He didn’t seem to be paying much attention to his surroundings. The guards in towns like these were usually lazy and corrupt.
A minute later, the guardsman was behind Elyias and out of sight, and the entrance to the inn he was staying at lay before him. As he walked, a group of three men exited an alley and headed his way. The men were dressed as common laborers and weren’t suspicious in any real way, but Elyias was suddenly nervous.
Every since he had escaped that crazy hobgoblin that had entrapped him he should have been feeling ecstatic. He was finally free and he had more money than ever before! However, a lingering sense of dread had remained within him. Instead of fading it had grown steadily stronger over time. Elyias had tried taking a hot bath and scrubbing himself clean but that hadn’t helped. Getting completely smashed on hard liquor had also proven to be but a temporary reprieve, with foul consequences of its own.
Under no circumstances was Elyias planning to do the things Blackail had told him to. He was quite happy to spend the gold he had in peace. Getting in touch with Werrick’s men or any other bandits sounded dangerous and stupid. No, he would just head East away from the cursed hobgoblin. If Blacknail ever did manage to track him down – unlikely – then Elyias was sure he could come up with a good excuse, like that the gold had been stolen before he could show anyone.
“Oh, pardon me,” one of the three passing laborers said as he looked up and gave Elyias a friendly grin.
“No problem, thank you,” Elyias replied as the group of three men stepped to the side and walked past him.
A sigh of relief escaped Elyias’ lips. It had really been foolish of him to worry about some random people on the street. Once he was safely at the inn he would order a nice cup of wine and hit the sack.
That was when someone grabbed the back of Elyias’ shirt and pulled him backward. Elyias yelped, went stiff with surprise, and then froze in terror as he felt something thin and cold press itself against his neck. It was knife.
“Actually I just remembered that we have some business with you,” someone said as Elyais was pulled off the street and into another alley.
Once there, he was spun around and confronted by the three laborers. They grinned maliciously at him.
“What do you want?” Elyias gasped.
“You’ve been flashing a lot of coin around lately, newcomer,” one of the men replied.
“You can have it!” Elyias hurriedly told his assailants. “I don’t have much on me but I have some more in my room at the inn.”
“Oh, we know. We’ve already gone and taken a look around that room of yours,” one of the men chuckled as he held up a familiar looking sac.
Elyias’s hopes fell. That was the bag where kept all the raw gold he had been given. He had nothing else of value.
“Then what do you want from me?”
“It’s not often you quality find rocks like this around here, and you don’t seem like a miner to me. We want to know where you got it. Information like that could be very lucrative.”
Several different responses flashed through Elyias’ mind. He quickly chose the one that gave his assailants the least reason to kill him and leave his body in the alley to rot.
“I found it in a cave! There’s lots more gold there, and I can take you to it!”
“Huh, that is indeed promising. Personally, that doesn’t sound like something I’d be interested in going out to find – I’m a city man, myself – but I’m sure we can find someone who would be interested.”
“Ya, Derial’s band is in town. This sounds like something they could profit from. They’ve done a fair bit of raiding for Werrick.”
Elyias chocked down a sob. It seemed like he was heading back to Shelter after all. Why was his luck always so terrible?
Free Bonus Chapter!
Get access to a 9000 word bonus chapter set in The Iron Teeth and a new world map by joining my mailing list today.