On her first evening shift, Diana was greeted with a woman that had dark horns curving out of the top of her head and a thin tail that swished behind her like an aggravated cat.
“What’s wrong, newbie?” the woman asked when Diana stared at the horns a second too long. “Ever see a hybrid before?”
“Well, no,” Diana said. “Can’t say that I have.”
“You have now,” was the brisk reply. “Name’s Anita, the assistant manager of this joint. I’m from Dimension 33, a place where horns and tails aren’t the oddest things you’d see. Heard you’ve been doing well with the register and thought it high time that you start memorizing and making the drinks. You ready?”
“Good enough answer,” Anita said. “You should be more confident, though.” She motioned for Diana to follow, and the pair went behind the cash counter and toward the drink-making area. Diana waved to Ellie by the register, but didn’t stop to say hello. Anita’s swift steps ensured that Diana had no time to pause.
“You won’t be making too many drinks by yourself tonight, if at all,” Anita said. “We do have a guarantee that, if a customer does not like his or her drink, we’ll remake it for free. Don’t give the customers an opportunity to use that.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Diana nodded.
Anita pointed to a booklet hanging on the wall over one of the sinks. “This is our recipe book. It’s all the basics. Obviously, the majority of customers customize their drinks, so learn where all the syrups and flavored shots are. Every ingredient has its own place in this area. Do not mix them up. Drinks can be made faster when you don’t have to second-guess where everything is.”
Diana nodded again, her gaze flitting over the tubes of caramel, hazelnut, and cinnamon, among others. A large tub with a pump was labeled espresso and was next to even bigger containers named coffee and decaf. There was a refrigerator under the main cabinet that, upon getting a sneak peek at from Anita, revealed canisters of whipped cream, jugs of milk, and packages of cream.
“I’ll handle the register tonight,” Anita said after the tour of the mixing area. “Ellie will make the drinks and you’ll shadow her.”
The majority of Diana’s shift was listening to Ellie ramble back and forth about the drinks she was making and about gossip regarding customers from earlier in her shift. Diana watched Ellie carefully, seeing how she moved and barely looked at the ingredients she used to make the drinks correctly. The shift was steady with customers, not too busy. In fact, Diana’s shift felt as if it was lasting much longer than the usual four hours.
“Not many people want caffeine at this time of night,” Ellie said. “You still got a few, of course, that hop in between the crossroads and their own dimension if it’s morning where they’re from.”
“I think it’s funny,” Diana said, “that, no matter what dimension one is from, the love of caffeine seems to be universal.”
Ellie laughed and glanced at the screen for the next order in the queue. “Why don’t you try making this one, Hon?”
Diana saw the order, a medium hazelnut coffee, cream, extra, extra, extra light, and three sugars. She blinked. “Why all the extras for light? Does the customer want the low-fat version?”
“If they wanted low-fat, they would have said so,” Ellie explained. “Well, most would, if they had any sense in their heads. When a customer wants it light, they generally mean the amount of milk or cream in the drink. I usually leave about half an inch per ‘extra’ that the customer orders.”
Diana got to work, getting the medium sized cup and placing it under the coffee tank. Using the few seconds it took the machine to fill the cup with a couple of inches to spare, Diana grabbed the hazelnut syrup and cream. She gave the syrup tube a quick squeeze, mimicking the way Ellie had been working throughout the shift, and dumped the sugar in the drink before adding the generous amount of cream. Under her coworker’s watchful eye, Diana put the special lid on the cup and put it in the blending machine for a couple of seconds before bringing it over to the counter.
“One medium hazelnut with cream, extra, extra, extra light, and three sugars,” Diana called out. A man with an elongated face and other features of a horse grabbed the drink with a quiet word of thanks and a wave to Anita.
“See ya later, Bill,” the manager said as he went out the door. Immediately, Anita turned her attention to the next customer in line and growled. “You are only welcomed here if you are planning on paying for an honest drink!”
Diana, startled at Anita’s aggressive tone, looked up at the customer and shrunk back when she recognized him. Luke was glowering at Anita.
“Nadine doesn’t work here anymore, and with good reason,” Anita interrupted. “She has no clout here. Frankly, she never really did. Either show me money when you order, or get out.”
“He’s back again?” Ellie whispered from behind Diana. “Hon, you may want to get back in case Anita needs my help getting rid of him.”
Diana obeyed, but asked, “What can you do to help?”
Ellie grinned. “Honey, my home dimension is good, ol’ 52, where we’re descendants and relatives of dragons. If Luke really starts pushing Anita, I’ll just show you what I inherited from my great-grandmother.”
Diana found herself wishing that Luke did something stupid enough to get Ellie angry. Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on one’s opinions – Luke took the hint and backed off, being sure to slam the door on his way out.
“Aren’t there other places he can get coffee?” Diana asked when Ellie and she returned to the mixing area.
“You ever explore the Dimensional Crossroads?” Ellie asked in return, not even looking at the drink she was mixing. “There’s not too much here, Hon. With so many different creatures passing through, not many businesses survived. Too much cultural differences. We got a few places for basics, some apartments, and then the dimensional portal station.” She shrugged.
“I guess I’ll have to go and sight-see one of these days,” Diana said, handing the chocolate drizzle to Ellie.
“Only if you got some skills to protect yourself,” Ellie said. “Where are you from, anyway?”
“Dimension 21,” Diana said.
“Which one is that?” Ellie asked. “Is that the dimension where everyone is British?”
“Uh, no,” Diana said. “I don’t even have that accent.”
Ellie shrugged again. “Sorry, Hon, I’m not too up-to-date on the dimensions these days.”
“No worries,” Diana said. “Dimension 21 doesn’t seem to have anything special about it, actually. I can’t really think of anything that would make it stand out. Not like dragons or hybrids.”
“I’m sure there’s something fascinating about it,” Ellie said with a smile before going to call out the drink.
Diana hung back and shook her head to herself, disagreeing with Ellie’s words entirely. There was a reason why she wanted the job in the Dimensional Crossroads in the first place.
Tag Archives: sugar
The next part of the Common Grounds Cafe. These things are fun to write! I hope you enjoy it!
The scent of cinnamon-sprinkled apples awakened Diana’s nose and made her feel almost at home again. She wore a lazy smile as she walked into the café, her shoes shuffling across the tiled floor in a soft hush, as she enjoyed the smells of flavored coffee.
“G’morning,” she said, and got a nod in response from Michael. As she put on her apron, Diana asked, “You always seem to open. Is that your normal shift?”
Diana blinked. Butterflies began to assault her stomach, a feeling that she hadn’t experienced in almost a week since her first few days at Common Grounds. Had she done something wrong, something that prevented Michael from talking to her?
“Michael’s a mute, Hon.” Ellie appeared from the back room, her arms balancing sleeves of plastic cups and covers to get ready for the morning rush. “You haven’t realized that yet, huh?”
“Oh.” Diana glanced over at the manager, who, upon hearing his name, had glanced up at the women and gave them a quirked smile before continuing to open the register for the day. Diana wasn’t one to discriminate, of course, but she was curious as to how Michael could effectively manage and deal with difficult customers if he could not speak to them.
“The higher-ups like having Michael on the morning shifts,” Ellie said, as if she could read Diana’s mind. With a snake’s grin, the woman added, “This is the time when most jackasses are out, but they can’t argue well with a guy who just shakes his head at them.”
Diana smiled in return, oddly eager to see a customer try to argue with Michael. She got her station ready and, in no time at all, Michael was unlocking the front doors.
When she had first joined and learned that she would primarily be working the register for the first couple of weeks, Diana had been skeptical at how quickly she would be able to learn how to operate the machine. Her bosses apparently knew how to train their new workers, considering that Diana almost knew the register’s options by heart. With the simpler orders, Diana barely needed to look at the screen anymore. Her fingers flew across the options, hitting the correct buttons by heart.
“Seven twenty-five, please. Would you like your receipt?” Diana smiled at the customers as she counted their money or swiped their credit cards, and kept the line moving along as she wished them a good day.
“Large half-sweet, non-fat caramel macchiato.” A tall, thin man with a dark goatee matching his narrow eyes made his way to Diana’s register. “And it’s free.”
“Okay, that’s five thirty-eight—Excuse me?” Diana paused.
The man rolled his eyes. “It’s free. Name’s Luke. Everyone here knows me.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Diana said. “I’m new, so—“
“Just let me go and check—“
“What, you don’t believe me?” Luke glowered, and the butterflies were attacking Diana’s stomach in full-force. “You calling me a liar?”
“Of course not, but—“
“Then get me my free drink.”
“You got no free drinks!” Ellie, probably curious as to why Diana wasn’t inputting any orders in the queue, bustled over to Diana’s side. “Everyone here knows you as a cheat, Luke, including this new gal once we’re through with you. Either pay up or get out.”
Luke’s permanent scowl intensified. “Manager. Now.”
“Michael’s right over there, sir,” Diana said, pointing over toward the tables that the manager was cleaning up.
“He’s no sir!” Ellie scoffed, and returned to the drink-mixing area for the next order.
Luke marched over to Michael, and Diana took a deep breath before taking care of the next customer. She tried to ignore the customer’s increased volume with his shouts, and she felt guilty for foisting Luke onto Michael. However, when she snuck a glance at the two men while in between orders, she was impressed at how stoic her manager seemed. Michael’s arms were crossed, a cleaning rag in one hand and a spray bottle of disinfectant in the other, as he stared down Luke. Every so often, Michael would shake his head once, much to Luke’s aggravation. Eventually, Luke said something about calling corporate and getting everyone fired before stomping out of the café. Michael simply turned back around and continued to clean tables.
When there was a lull in the café, Diana’s first question to Ellie was, “What was that Luke guy’s problem? Who was he?”
Ellie huffed. “He’s a jerk that comes in once in a while, either early morning or late at night, always demanding his drink be free ever since he used to date one of the previous managers here.”
“That’s… ridiculous,” Diana said.
“People are,” Ellie said. “Let me just tell you this, Hon. If any customer claims that they are entitled to a free drink, always check with a manager. Doesn’t matter if the customer keeps arguing with you. Lie and say you don’t have the ability to make the drink free in the register or something. Just get a manager.”
“Alright,” Diana said. “I probably would have done so, anyway.”
“You got a head on your shoulders.” Ellie nodded with approval. “The last kid that was here got fired since he was so gullible.”
Diana winced in sympathy. She glanced over at Michael, seeing him through the office’s open door in the back of the café at the main computer. “Michael doesn’t mind that we sent the difficult customer to him, does he?”
“That’s his job,” Ellie said, cleaning some of the utensils and instruments used to make the drinks. “Don’t worry about it. Luke isn’t the first jerk that Michael’s faced off, and Luke won’t be the last.” Diana nodded, but wasn’t too convinced. Apparently, her skepticism showed, for Ellie added, “You’re going to meet a lot of different kinds of characters here, Hon. Working retail is crap, but it’ll give you tough skin and appreciativeness for others.”
A bubble popped from behind her, making Diana jump. She sighed and gave Colin’s smirk a crooked smile in return.
“Unless you’re Colin,” Ellie said to end her speech.
“What,” Diana said, “Colin doesn’t appreciate others?”
“It’s not that,” Colin said, tossing his belongings in the back room and giving Michael a nod, which Diana began to understand as the universal greeting between guys. “I don’t have tough skin. I’m very sensitive, you know.”
“As sensitive as a rhino’s hide,” Ellie muttered, and Diana laughed. “Your shift is done, Hon. Clock out and go home.”
“Unless you want to do my shift too,” Colin said. “You know, get the extra practice and all.”
“I think I’m good,” Diana said, taking off her apron and hanging it up. “Besides, you need to work on getting tougher skin, right?”
His smirk grew. “Not sure. After all, girls like sensitive guys, right?”
Diana shook her head. “Not if they’re lazy! See you later, everyone.”
I’m more of a pantser when it comes to writing. I don’t do outlines much at all. Granted, I have a general idea as to where I want the novel to go, but I enjoy the ride when it comes to writing, liking the surprises that the plot, the setting, and the characters spring on me. For July’s Camp NaNo, though, I do have a tentative written outline for a novel.
Usually for NaNo, instead of starting a new novel like you’re “supposed to,” I just add my word count to whatever story I’m currently working on. This time, however, I’m going to try to “play by the rules” and write a new story at the beginning of camp. Due to this, I’m trying to get into the habit of writing every day, at least 500 words, on something, whether it be just a story idea or a new part to an existing novel sitting on my flash drive. Hence why there have been scribbles and prompts posted on here for the past couple of days.
Critique and comments are always appreciated on them! If anyone wants to share prompts, or use one of the prompts that I have used, let me know and comment with links to the stories that use the prompts. I’d love to see them!
Another scribble that I hope you folks will enjoy. Critique is always appreciated!
“It’s all fun and games until someone gets hit over the head with a frying pan.”
Cosmo blinked as he heard Murphy’s words when the other young man entered the dining area with a tray full of chocolate cake pieces. “Goofing off again?” he asked.
“No, I was legitimately asking Lydia if she would go out with me,” Murphy said. “If it wasn’t for my awesome reflexes, I would have been decapitated. The forearm strength of our gorgeous cook is amazing!”
“She’s going to file for sexual harassment one day,” Cosmo said, glancing around his host’s podium to be sure no customers were within earshot.
“Nah, she loves the attention,” Murphy called out as he went to deliver the desserts to table ten. Cosmo shook his head and plastered on a fake smile as a young couple approached him to ask for a private booth. Being a slow Tuesday night, he was able to offer the pair a wide variety of seats and decided to place them in Zoe’s section; if they were put in Murphy’s section, Murphy most likely would not have been able to resist flirting harmlessly with the woman.
“Your waitress will be with you shortly,” Cosmo told the pair after they had been seated. As he left to return to his station, he added, “Enjoy your meals.”
Cosmo fidgeted by his podium and kept glancing at his watch. He still had a few more hours before closing time, and the restaurant was almost deserted. Cosmo wondered how much trouble he would get into if he faked a plumbing or electrical problem and closed the place early.
“Hey, boss.” Murphy reappeared, his shirt covered in what appeared to be wine. “The lady at table twelve isn’t too happy.”
Cosmo groaned. “What happened?”
“The wine wasn’t red enough.”
Murphy was looking down at his shirt. “I disagree with her,” he said conversationally. “My white shirt is definitely red now. Anyway, sorry, but she wants to see a manager to complain.” Murphy clapped Cosmo on the back as he passed by to go back into the kitchen. “Good luck!”
Cosmo took a deep breath before calling over Zoe to watch the front, and made his way to table twelve. There a solitary woman sat, a long cigarette clutched precariously between her fingers as she stared at a newspaper. Her dark red hair was pulled up in a tight bun with blue and green feathers poking out of it. Her lips were drenched in crimson lipstick, matching the dress that looked as if its’ seams were about to burst. Cosmo didn’t remember seating the woman, and guessed that the previous host of the day had given her the private booth. He wondered if she would be offended if he reached over to open a window to get rid of the hazy smoke circling her head.
“Hello, ma’am,” Cosmo said. “I am Cosmo, one of the managers for the night. How can I be of assistance?”
“Your wine,” she muttered, “is inadequate. I require something more…red. Like blood.”
Cosmo tried to school his expression into remaining neutral, despite the fact that his mind was racing with the possibility of this woman being utterly crazy. How close were the police to the restaurant? Was a lady wanting blood-red wine enough of a reason to call them?
“I apologize if you did not like the wine that was brought to you,” he said. “I will personally go into the kitchen and find our reddest wine for you.”
She chuckled. “See that you do.”
Cosmo couldn’t walk fast enough away from the woman, and nearly ran into the kitchen.
“Jesus, that lady is scary…!”
“Aw, Cosmo, that’s not very nice.” Murphy was still there and leaning against one of the counters. “Lydia’s not scary.”
“Not Lydia,” Cosmo snapped as he went to the wine rack. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Lydia shove Murphy away from her counter to start kneading dough for more bread. “I was talking about the woman at table twelve.”
“Ah, the Lady in Red,” Murphy said. He began to sing the Chris DeBurgh song, and even attempted to pull Lydia into a dance. Lydia threw some flour on his shirt to add to the wine as she ignored him and returned to her dough. “At least my shirt’s white again—”
“Lydia, is this our reddest wine?” Cosmo asked.
She glanced at him, clearly bemused, but looked at the title. “That’s it,” she said, and returned to her duties. Cosmo thanked her and left the kitchen, dragging Murphy with him to go clean up some empty tables while Murphy waited for the food for his occupied tables to be done. Cosmo ignored Murphy complaining about Cosmo interrupting his alone time with Lydia while making his way back to table twelve with the wine.
“Ma’am,” Cosmo said, and waited for her to look up from her newspaper. He held out the bottle for her inspection. “I’m afraid this wine is the reddest that we have. Will this do?”
She peered at it critically, looking at the bottle on all sides including the bottom. Her nose wrinkled, and Cosmo had a sudden fear that she would throw the bottle back at him, but she eventually shrugged and said, “I suppose. Pour me half a glass and leave the bottle here.”
Cosmo stole a glass from a nearby empty table and did as she said. “I hope you enjoy it.”
She just waved him away, her attention back on her newspaper. He glanced at the paper, curious as to what story she was so enthralled with, but soon hurried back to his station. Murphy was by the podium, apparently choosing to let Zoe return to her tables instead of cleaning like Cosmo said.
“Do you know what she’s reading?” Cosmo asked.
“I think she’s in the middle of one of those romance books,” Murphy said. “You know, the supernatural ones—”
Cosmo stared at Murphy, dumbfounded. “What?”
“Yeah, I saw the novel sticking out of Lydia’s bag—”
“Stop obsessing over the cook,” Cosmo said, lightly punching Murphy’s arm. Murphy rubbed the spot as Cosmo continued speaking. “That red lady’s newspaper is all in some sort of weird language with symbols instead of letters.”
“So, she has a Japanese newspaper,” Murphy said with a shrug. “I thought we already established that she’s a bit eccentric.”
“The title has little pictures of wings and sparkles decorating the letters,” Cosmo said.
The waiter stared at him. “Okay, so… I have no idea what to say to that. I’m not sure why you care—”
“Make sure you take good care of table twelve,” Cosmo said with a sigh. “I want that lady out of here as soon as possible.”
Murphy raised an eyebrow. “She seems to like you,” he said, glancing behind the manager at the table’s direction. “In fact, she’s beckoning to you right now.”
Cosmo turned around and noticed that the woman was indeed motioning with her index finger for him to return to her. He gave her a polite smile, had a ten-second whispered argument with Murphy about who should go, lost the sequential rock-paper-scissors game, and made his way over to the table.
“Hello,” he said. “How may I help you this time?”
“What is the best area to see the full moon around here?” she asked.
He paused. “In all honesty, there are not too many places within the town’s limits,” Cosmo said. “Perhaps you could try Green Park? There are some sections of it around the pond that don’t have too many tall trees or buildings to block out the sky.”
“Where is that?”
Cosmo tried not to cough from the cigarette smoke she had exhaled toward him when she spoke. “It’s right after the town’s center,” he said. “You take a right after leaving our parking lot and you go down Main Street. Keep going straight until you see Woods Lane on your right. Go down that road, it’ll curve a bit as it goes around the pond, and you’ll eventually find the parking lot for Green Park. Walk along the park’s sidewalk until you find a spot you like to watch the moon.”
She hummed in thought, and then nodded. “When does this restaurant close?”
“It closes at 11 o’clock, ma’am,” Cosmo said, glad for an easy question.
“Are you here until then?” was her next inquiry.
“Yes I am, ma’am.”
“Very well.” She turned her attention back to her newspaper. “I shall wait until you get off to take me to this Green Park.”
Cosmo’s stomach dropped. “E-excuse me?”
“I do not know this area,” she said. She turned a page of the newspaper, her eyes not leaving it. “I will require you to take me to Green Park.”
“Ma’am, I will be needed here past 11 o’clock to supervise the clean up routine,” Cosmo said, grasping at imaginary excuses for this woman to leave him alone.
“There are benches outside for me to wait,” she said. “I have lived a long time and am a very patient woman.”
Cosmo glanced at her, figuring that she didn’t look any older than her forties. “Um, ma’am—”
“Hey, boss.” Murphy clapped Cosmo on the shoulder, and gave the woman a polite, “Excuse me,” before directing his attention back to Cosmo. “Sorry for interrupting, but I wanted to tell you before I forgot. Your mechanic called and said that your car wouldn’t be ready for a couple of days. It looks like you’re stuck with the town bus for a bit.”
Cosmo raised an eyebrow at Murphy, whom flashed a grin at the red lady and apologized once more at interrupting before making his way to the kitchen.
“You do not have your vehicle?” the woman asked.
“No, ma’am,” Cosmo lied, thinking of his little truck in the employees’ parking area. “I was just about to mention that. The tire blew out this morning on my way to the bank.”
“It will take a few days to fix a tire?”
Cosmo inwardly cursed his stupidity, but settled for a polite shrug. “I guess my mechanic found something else wrong with it, in which case I was lucky the tire blew at this time. Better to get it all fixed now, I suppose.”
She stared at him before looking back at her paper. “Very well, I will find this Green Park myself. Good luck with your vehicle.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” He waited for half a second to see if she was going to say anything else before speed-walking back to his podium. Murphy was there and grinned at him.
“So, can I take your car for the night to help with the story?” he asked.
Cosmo sighed and gave the waiter a crooked smile. “Fine, but don’t scratch it or dent it or eat food in it—”
“Alright, alright, I’ll take good care of your baby,” Murphy said.
“Thank you, though, honestly,” Cosmo said.
“No problem,” Murphy said. “That lady sounded so sketchy, asking you to take her to the park.”
“Tell me about it,” Cosmo muttered. “I’ll trade you my car keys for your bus fare, if you don’t mind…?”
“It sounds like a deal,” Murphy said. He went back into the kitchen, and Cosmo shook his head as he heard Murphy say to Lydia, “Hey, I got a car tonight! Now can we go out?”
The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, and Cosmo was thankful that the lady in red walked out of the restaurant around quarter to 10. She didn’t pay for her wine or rare steak, but Cosmo wasn’t too concerned with it. The woman was bizarre, and he hoped that she wouldn’t return to the restaurant ever again, or at least not when he was working. After they closed up the restaurant and cleaned up at the end of the night, Cosmo watched forlornly as Murphy took his car for the night (Cosmo had even asked to call the deal off, but Murphy mentioned the possibility of the scary lady watching from the bushes to be sure that Cosmo really did take the bus, and Cosmo didn’t really argue with his friend), and went to the bus stop for the town bus.
The bus ride took about twenty minutes to get to his stop, and it took Cosmo another ten to walk home. During that time, he tried to forget about the lady, instead focusing his thoughts on what he was going to do on his day off tomorrow without a car. He made it to his front door, inserted his key into the lock, and looked up at the sky as he turned his doorknob in time to see the full moon blow up.
Hi everyone! This is just a quick post talking about random generators and how awesome they can be in helping to jump-start stories or ideas for those that love to write (or whatever… I’m sure the generators can be used for many other things as well).
I recently discovered this little gem of a site: Fantasy Name Generators. Not only does it have a plethora of generators for character names, there are also description and name generators for places, animals, spells, superpowers, book titles, and so many other categories. I took inspiration from the tavern description generator and the cafe name generator for my latest scribbles The Steelclouds and Common Grounds, respectively.
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.