Another random story scribble. Enjoy!
From the outside, the tavern looked dull and dirty. It was difficult to see through the grime-caked windows, but there were flickers of candlelight fluttering from the inside to indicate someone was home. Porter went inside, the large wooden door creaking to announce his entrance. The bartender was using a rag to wipe a glass that was not getting cleaner did not even acknowledge Porter’s presence.
The tavern itself was nearly empty, and those few patrons scattered among the tables and chairs were silent, plotting. Not a one looked Porter’s way and he was okay with that. He paused, glancing around toward the low fireplace, and debated on whether or not he should order a drink from the bar. The bartender had yet to look Porter’s way, yet Porter figured he should buy something in exchange for having a meeting at the establishment.
A stranger in a hooded cloak puffing on a pipe beckoned to Porter from a table on the far wall, making Porter’s decision for him. Porter strode over to the table and took a seat, ignoring the dust and streaks of who-knows-what that were on the chair.
“Mr. Porter.” The hooded stranger breathed out the greeting with wisps of tobacco smoke.
“Mister…” Porter hesitated, acutely aware that he knew nothing of the stranger in front of him other than the fact that the stranger represented the Steelclouds. The stranger grinned, enjoying that fact as well.
The stranger lightly pushed a piece of parchment toward Porter. “Contract.”
Porter took the parchment in his hands and began to skim through the terms and agreements. He did not have too many options other than hiring the Steelclouds, to be honest, to get rid of certain problematic people in the court’s circle, but he wanted to be sure the job would be done.
“Your payment clause,” Porter said hesitantly. The Steelcloud took out his pipe and sat up straighter. He nodded as a gesture for Porter to continue speaking. “I don’t quite understand it. It’s not in monetary terms… Actually, it’s more like in terms of—“
“Years.” The Steelcloud leaned over the table and his voice dropped to a low whisper. “We take a life, and we get a life in return. Or rather roughly about thirty-five years, if the life lives that long.”
“Oh.” Porter’s mind attempted to grasp the concept. “Such as a servant or a slave, you mean.”
“Another body,” the Steelcloud said. “The body should be young enough to be trained well, depending on which job we wish for the body to do.”
“Like cooking or cleaning, then.”
The Steelcloud’s grin would make a snake proud. “Among other… tasks.”
“That should not be a problem,” Porter said. “I have several servants that I could use as payment—“
“I already know which body I want,” the Steelcloud said. “You want the royal family out of the way, as you put it when you first contacted us. The king and the queen we will kill as a package. The young princess, however, will be our payment.”
“That will still leave the bloodline alive—“
“No one will know who the princess is, least of all her once she’s ours,” the Steelcloud said, waving a hand as one would casually wave away a fly. “If you are truly paranoid, I may be able to find a suitable substitute to kill as the princess, but it would cost extra—“
“No, that’s quite alright.” Porter cleared his throat, not comfortable at all with the idea of the Steelclouds killing a random little girl just for the sake of pretending to off the princess. “I’m sure your skills and plans are more than adequate for the job. I accept your terms of payment.”
“Then sign.” The Steelcloud handed Porter an ink-dipped quill, and Porter only hesitated for a breath before signing away the lives of Opar’s royal family.