Kalow 5

Mar. 31st, 2010 10:53 pm
Kalow 5

Even though it was a couple hours after dark, Spiro yelling “Boss! Come quick!” woke Kalow from his nap in his bar. Kalow has not been tired as he had just woken up eight or nine hours ago, just bored, and as a result perked right up when Spiro called out.
“Yeah? Whatcha got for me?” he said as he ran over to the open door where Spiro waited, panting and out of breath.
“Old Maddy, she’s dead” Kalow raised an eyebrow, waiting for Spiro, or somebody, to tell him why this is important. “She was ripped to shreds on the roof of the boarding house next door” Now that was interesting and Kalow, without waiting for further explanation, ran-jumped-climbed up to the roof across the street where the body was said to be.
Somebody not used to dead bodies and how much blood was contained in one might have been quite surprised at the vast amount that all seemed to have come from this one little old lady. Kalow was not an educated healer or forensic specialist but he had killed enough people to know that this person was dead before they were brought up to the roof. The soft spot on her skull and the lack of emotion on her remaining face told him that much. Still, something looked to have whacked her hard on the head and brought her up here to, hmm, yes there were parts missing, to eat her. Whatever it was, it had claws and carried her up two stories to a roof. It looked a bit like wolf or wild dog marks but it was too hard to tell.
Leaving the body much as he found it he made his way down to Spiro and his bar again. He walked past Spiro and those neighbors who were out to see what was happening already and sat again at his table. Spiro followed although the other locals stayed outside. “Okay, Spiro, get one of the kids, one who has not gotten in trouble yet, and send them to the City Guard and tell them about the body. Then wait till there is some official report from them and get it for me.” Spiro acknowledged the order and ran off to see it take care of. There would be no report for a couple days at least and then he would see what he would see. If Kalow had to do everything by himself like in the old days he would never get anything done. It was a good thing that Spiro was turning out to be a good lackey. Now, however, it was time to get some exercise. A good run across the rooftops was just what he needed. He made Spike invisible and clambered up the side of the nearest building and off he went. Yes, he could fly by magic as needed but this was far more fun with just a tiny touch of danger. Besides, you never knew when you might have to do without magic someday.
In the dark of night, even though he could see quite well in even full dark, one did not “see” arrows flying past you. One could, however, hear them if they were particularly close as this one had been. Kalow quickly went invisible himself and began to search for the attacker. Now that he was silent he heard sounds of a battle in the street below and a hundred yards away.
Now he flew, quickly and quietly, with Spike just as quiet a few yards above and behind. It seems that some unlucky group was being ambushed while passing an intersection on the street. There were attackers down all four streets and nowhere for the victims to hide. One victim had a bow out and was returning fire at targets on the roofs above him. It must have been one of his arrows that missed its target and came so close to Kalow. By the time Kalow came close enough to see details about the attackers another two victims were down. A small open wagon was not much cover and there were only six victims in the first place. It looked like the horse had been the first to die.
Kalow looked on with professional interest but no care as to who won. The man with the bow obviously was quite skilled and had some magical protections to be standing in the middle of the road calmly firing arrows at his attackers. Kalow noted more then a few attackers with arrow wounds now that he could observe closely. Still, it was inevitable what the outcome would be. A few moments later when the last other defender fell was when Kalow became interested in the outcome. From a nearby doorway three men came at the last defender. He was peering up at the rooftops and did not notice them until they were nearly upon him. Even so he got a shot, at point blank range, into the closest attacker which put him out of the fight right away as it was sticking out his back while only fletching showed in his chest. Kalow’s cared less about that than on who was the last of the three to enter the fight. It was the “Guild Second”. He who was technically Kalow’s superior in the thieves Guild and who was also an enemy.
The bow literally disappeared and into the defenders hands came a flaming sword that gave pause to the attackers. There was no way the attacking archers could fire now as they would risk hitting those now in melee so it was two on one. The one with the flaming sword was already noticeably damaged but still appeared strong. The Guild Second and his flunkey were fresh but had planned to attack a wounded man with a bow instead of an angry one with a sword. Kalow watched with interest and even approached the nearest ambusher with a bow as he recognized him as having worked with the guild before.
“Hey Ralph, how goes” Ralph swung around and nearly dumped a load in his pants before recognizing Kalow’s voice. Kalow then told him to make the sign and have the other archers pull out. They were done for the night and Kalow would take care of it. Ralph, knowing he was caught in a tough spot as this was not Kalow’s mission, none the less did as he had been told and the rest of the archers were gone within 30 seconds or so. By then the Guild Second was facing flame boy alone and Kalow saw that his flunkey’s head had neatly parted from his shoulders. Now Guild Second was fighting for his life. Fortunately for him, he was pretty good at it and would likely win unless flame boy got lucky.
Neither opponent made much reaction when two small magic missiles hit the former archer but you could see the victim’s resolve flow out of him and now all he wanted was to take down the guy in front of him. Kalow leveled his wand again and fired another charge into him just as the guild second took a serious blow that nearly took off his left arm and would have taken his head had he not dodged aside at the last second. Flame boy raised his sword for a last weary strike just as Guild Second danced aside and thrust into his chest and Kalow fired again. This last defender fell and Kalow watched as his superior took a healing potion and gazed in shock around him. The mess was for him to clean up and Kalow had done, just barely, his guild duty. Kalow knew that his name would be mentioned and there would come a time, soon, when words needed to be spoken.

Kalow 4

Mar. 31st, 2010 10:52 pm
"Hey, your little bastard cat stole...." The large merchant stopped his harangue in mid sentence as Kalow looked up at him with his eyes narrowed and no expression on his face.
"Start over" Was all Kalow said.
"Uh, yes, uh, m'Lord. Your, uh, pet, uh..." Kalow glared at him and stood up, his hand resting on the pommel of his sword. The merchant gathered his wits and courage.
"Sir, I saw your friend Spike take a few trinkets from my cart."
Kalow looked up at the merchant "Mr...Kesedra is it not?" The merchant nodded. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention." Spike walked out from under the table that Kalow had been sitting at. Merchant Kesedra, with some effort, kept his attention on Kalow. "You pay me protection money each month, yes?" Kesedra nodded yes "Simply deduct the cost of these items from next month's fee. You will not need to come to me again for this type of issue if it happens again in the future. Remember, that is the cost of the items, not the customer price." The merchant nodded, bowed, and excused himself.
After he was out of sight Kalow swatted his familiar lightly and laughed. "You were right Spike. He has brains as well as balls. Do it again tomorrow but make sure he sees you." Spike chuckled and went hunting rats, or neighborhood dogs, or whatever.
 
Kalow was finishing lunch when Spike came up and dropped an amber necklace onto his plate. Kalow raised an eyebrow "And?"
"The bastard glared and told me that this cost too much. It cut into next month’s payment too." Spike chuckled a bit. Kalow raised it to the light and appraised it carefully. "Yes, yes he is right". Kalow called for his wife and told her that Spike had chosen a gift for her. Her dubious expression showed what she thought about what Spike might choose. He laid the necklace on her hand and saw her eyes widen. "It suits you?" She nodded and put it on then bowed at Spike.
"Thank you Spike. It looks marvelous."
"Honey?"
"Yes dear"
"Make sure you stop by the merchant Kesedra and show him you like it. Buy yourself a matching something else as well. I like it on you." She smiled, nodded, and immediately went out shopping. Spike followed. It just wasn’t safe in this town sometimes. An innocent girl like her could get hurt.
 

Kalow 3

Mar. 31st, 2010 10:51 pm
Kalow 3


"Damn him, where did he go"? Kalow paused, he was invisible so he left no shadow. Long years of training assured he made no noise. Spike was hovering five feet above him, also invisible. The guy Kalow was looking for was still nearby, Spike could smell him and telepathically told him so. But where?
Kalow stood in the lobby of an old abandoned inn. It had a two story tall ceiling with a balcony around 3/4 of the second level. Without looking, Kalow knew the former front desk was in front of him, and the main door was to his back. To each side of the desk was a hall, the left toward the stables, the right towards the kitchen and servants areas. Stairs ascended along both walls. Kalow was quite familiar with this place as he had been trying to purchase it for some months now, but today he was here for a different purpose.
His quarry was also invisible and had similar, although not so extensive training in stealth. But he was an Elf and was naturally gifted with the ability to move quietly. Kalow extended his senses, nothing magical, just training and skill. Spike floated to the entry of each hall and said nothing, therefore his quarry had not gone down those ways, probably. The Elf had fled into here with Kalow in close pursuit but Kalow had lost him briefly and now it came to this. Kalow could hear a rat up on the balcony to his left. It stopped and chittered and fled from something. Spike was off to his right near the hall there. Anything could have made the rat flee, but there was nothing else there. Moving with the grace and skill of long practice, Kalow slowly made his way up the left staircase without making a noise. The inn creaked, as old buildings do, and creaked again, near the front wall above the door. Kalow now knew where the elf was. He was good, very good. Lesser people, with lesser skills would not now know that the elf was literally clinging to the wall above the door. Kalow had closed the door behind him upon entry so the elf could not leave that way without showing his exact position. The slight increase in the amount of light coming through certain cracks in the wall, the tiniest of noises and knowing that this Elf had not yet panicked told Kalow he was trying to cross to the other balcony. Kalow crept across on the balcony above the desk and made no noise. Standing in the hall he looked towards where the elf would have to come over to and held a dagger at the ready. Spike was now on guard in front of the main entrance. Kalow had deliberately left footprints in the dust, had the Elf seen them? He waited, the minutes went by and Kalow made no movements except with his eyes and to breath. Either the Elf was also waiting, he had found a way around Kalow, or he had gone back. Kalow was confident that the Elf had not reversed his path. It was easy to observe if he had if you knew what to look for. Spike said that he could still smell him in the room and then called the Elf many unkind names. Kalow smiled. Fortunately, Spike was well trained also and did not move or make any sound either. There was a creak near the stairway that Kalow had come up, twenty feet to Kalow's right. The Elf had gotten around him. Kalow peered in that direction, studying the scene. Yes, the balcony handrail was slightly bowed, and now it was not. A tiny puff of dust told Kalow exactly where his opponent was. He was standing at the top of the stairs. Kalow weighed his options. He could rush the Elf and hope to cause him to make a hasty decision, he could throw a dagger and aim for the center of where the Elf should be, or he could sneak his way over there and hope to surprise him. The latter was his choice.
Kalow made his way over to the elf, moving at almost a walk and silent as a cat on the hunt. A wagon was going by outside and Kalow moved faster than he might otherwise with the covering noise. There, the dust print at the top of the stairs was now smudged. The Elf was now moving and was only five to six feet away. A sudden commotion outside and Kalow took a few fast steps, making only the slightest of noises. Spike moved to the bottom of the stairs and became more alert as there was a noise only a few steps up from him. Kalow was at the top of the stairs still and seeing no dust of the banister, knew how the elf had reached the bottom. The elf was good, Kalow had respect for his abilities. "Boss? he is right here, he is" Kalow heard in his mind. "ROOWWLLL" The elf had finally made a real mistake, possibly a fatal one. He had stepped on Spike's tail. Spike attacked the offending foot, becoming visible as a result, his abnormally large claws slicing clean through boot leather and into flesh. KZZAPPP, Spike had discharged a significant electric shock into the unfortunate Elf also. The Elf's legs convulsed and he leapt back uncontrollably, landing on his backside. "Spike, no!" The Elf was dazed and Spike was in mid-leap when Kalow called out. Spike landed on the Elf's chest and snarled up the stairs at Kalow, just now becoming visible, walking down them. Spike loved the taste of fresh blood and on instinct had attacked the first time and then with glee had followed the Elf, preparing for his demise. Spike swore out loud and with imagination at Kalow and walked down the Elf's prone body to the front door. He left a trail of tiny punctures upon the still invisible Elf.
Kalow, now visible, sat upon the second to bottom step and waited for the Elf to say something. Seeing death in the form of Spike walk painfully down his body woke him and he looked up at Kalow. "Sir, I failed, didn't I?" Kalow nodded yes and replied, "You are good, but not quite good enough. You must anticipate your opponent's moves. You should have known that the obvious and easy way out would be guarded somehow. Kalow paused for a moment and the Elf dropped his invisibility. But I will allow you to try again when you feel you are ready. When you pass, you will be a Master Thief. Training is over for today." Kalow rose and left closing the front door behind him again.
The Elf, blood dripping from deep gashes in his ankle, a black scorch mark on his boot, and his tailbone bruised from his involuntary flight, picked himself up and left the inn by a back door. He hated Kalow, he greatly respected Kalow and he feared Kalow. He would try again in a few days and would do better. Now he needed to heal, then, as Kalow was his Guild assigned trainer for this level, he would need Kalow's approval and that would take every ounce of skill he had. He might not live through another failure.

Kalow 2

Mar. 31st, 2010 10:48 pm
Ehbehr was moving quietly, looking all around himself, trying to see everywhere, never once thinking to look up. Not a young man anymore and far from an imposing figure he tried to move carefully nonetheless. He had no experience in this type of thing, far from it. He was an accountant. All his life he had dealt with numbers. Sneaking around in back alleys was not among his skills. Fear though, could make a man do many things. Fear for his life for knowing too much about the wrong things. Technically he was a sergeant in the city guards, technically. Actually he worked as a scribe and oversaw what money went where for a precinct building. He has not even held a weapon since basic training, a long 20 years ago. But now he wished he had paid better attention to the stories in the wardroom. He might then have an idea as to how to stay alive for the next few days.

It was simple actually, he knew too much. He had pieced together a trail of paper and money that lead to a Guard Captain, a City Council Member, a few minor city officials, and Kalow. It was the last one that had him worried. Kalow scared him. Various Guardsmen and others had been looking for something on Kalow so as to arrest him. Arrest him for almost anything. Kalow was on the secret wanted list ( not so secret actually ) for people who were under investigation but with no charges were pending. Somehow he had never been caught at any illegal activities and no evidence had ever come to light. He knew why now. A pattern of bribes, money transfers, and favors was clear to him and he had the evidence. If Kalow found out then he knew his life was as good as over. But who should he tell? The only person he thought he could trust for certain was the Paladin whom was Guard Captain at the Governor’s palace. He did not know him personally but knew his reputation and, well, he was a Paladin after all.

Deciding to go find the Paladin and getting there were two different things however. He did not live in a nice area of town and therefore the precinct he worked in was not in one either. If he could quickly get to a nicer area then he might be able too hook up with a few city guards or at least travel well-lit and occupied streets. So off he went, slipping as quietly as he could through late night alleys, trying to not be seen.

Kalow lurked above him, moving from rooftop to rooftop, seeing that he never looked up. Waiting to see where he was going. Slowly his prey worked towards more lit and well off areas. If he were to do anything, it would have to be soon. Spiro was paralleling him a block away if needed, and needed he was, it was time. Spiro already knew what he might have to do and what he would need to say if the opportunity came up and Spike, whom was traveling with him, would give the sign he was needed. The sign came and Spiro ran to cut Ehbehr off at the next corner, a single block from a major avenue.

"Hey friend" a voice called from at the next street corner, " Can you spare a moment? I gotta talk to ya". Ehbehr stopped, peering around himself and saw the dark figure in front of him. He saw nobody else but his fear was too great to think the person was alone. Shoulders slumped in resignation, voice flat and unemotional " What do you want?”

"Want? I just want you to listen real quick You got a choice, you can listen real good or it will look like you were mugged, robbed and died in a pool of your own blood, your choice." Seeing no choice, he nodded. Spiro began. " You know way too much about stuff that is none of your biz. If you go and tell someone they will ask questions that we don't wanna have asked. Others will make hard choices. None of them will admit to anything. Your word will be all there is besides what papers you had in your pocket." Had? Quickly he patted his pockets...empty pockets. " If we need to, the stuff in your pockets can be used as evidence of your crimes, whatever crimes we want to stick you with. How about killing kids or raping hookers? Go home, do nothing, live your pathetic life quietly."

Kalow watched the exchange and saw Spiro leave. Spike stayed hidden in shadows waiting. Ehbehr sat there, in the middle of the dank alley, and wept. He could kill him or have him killed but others would ask questions about why he died and why he died here. Effort would need to be made to hide things. No need now, even if he went to higher authorities he would not be believed. Small things had already started to happen, reports that were misfiled, reports that were altered to say he was late or left early, reports of strange smells or sounds coming from his house. None close together but it would slowly ruin his credibility. He would probably keep his job, but his word would not be good anymore. All in a day’s work. He and his associates were safe for now and could find ways that they would not be found out again.

Just to keep in practice, he could use magic to fly after all, he moved again from rooftop to rooftop, climbing and leaping around like a child. It was welcome exercise and invigorating. Home was not far away and he came back down to street level and entered the Kheotom's Nightmare the normal way to the greetings of the patrons and employees alike.

When Kalow awoke in the morning he got the sad news. Ehbehr had been killed last night not far from his home. No one knew why he was out late but robbery was part of it all as his pockets were empty along with a slit throat. This made Kalow a bit angry, He did not kill the wimp, he did not ask anyone to kill him either. Now more effort would need to be made to make a believable reason to be found for him to have been out so that the real reason was not found. Hmmm, well, he would get the others involved to fix this one; it was not what he did best. This made his night’s efforts wasted. Well, so much for waking up in a good mood, on to start his day then, just before the crack of noon. Whose life should he destroy today?
THE CHRONICLES OF KALOW

The name of the place is Kheoghtom's Nightmare. It is a dark, dingy, and kind of dirty place from the outside but considering the part of town it was in, the bar was in pretty good shape. However, it had a sinister look about it that made a person wonder if they should go in even if they were dying of thirst. The proprietor of the place was called Kalow (that is Kay-low) and he is of whom I write. On first glance Kalow looked much like a pre-adolescent human child playing dress-up with some very expensive clothing. Upon a second look though, he turned out to be a handsome young Halfling of the Tallfellow clan. His size was misleading, you might expect him to be weak and passive while the opposite was actually true. If one spent a bit of time observing him one would soon see that there was a raw power in him that was only barely concealed. You might also notice that his eyes had no white to them and when turned upon you they almost glowed with a black malevolence. According to rumor he once made a pledge to become the most skilled Halfling fighter ever. Some of the bargains he is said to made toward that end have not been pleasant if even half the stories are true. These tales that I am about to tell are as they can be. I have done a lot of research and paid highly for the information that you will read here. No one else knows this much about the strange and deadly Halfling known only as Kalow. I should tell you though that I have a biased opinion of him. My name is Spiro and I'm the bouncer at the Kheotom's Nightmare, Kalow is my boss.
Kalow can be, mind you, a generous person. He sometimes throws around silver and gold as if he has so much money that he doesn't know how to spend it. Maybe that is why he bought a broken down bar in a bad neighborhood, fixed it up and hired some locals to run it. That was where I came in. When he first told me I was hired, I though that he was joking. I had tried thieving, bodyguarding, being a gang member and almost anything else I had to to survive and was not very good at any of them. Why would he want me? I decided that it did not matter and I would take the job just because it was maybe a way out of this part of town eventually.
Kheotom's Nightmare happens to be located in the Thieves quarter of a city called New Zonn. It also happens to be at the junction of no less than five gang territories (depending on the day) and maybe six if you count that the Assassins guild HQ is nearby. Like I said, what did I have to lose? Only my life such as it was. What did I have to gain? One could learn a lot from a guy with guts enough to set up shop in a place like this. I found out that he knew about the location beforehand too. On the side he also happens to be the #4 or #5 person in the City Thieves guild. I thought that this might be interesting, if I lived through it.
He told me once that he had been kicked out of his homeland for having too much fun, although at the time, he said, his pranks rarely actually hurt anybody. He made a (probably) long story short by telling me how the elders daughter had gotten caught in his fun a few times too many and that said elder was upset over her disfigurement (he said she was pretty homely anyways) and exiled him from his home territories for life. He doesn't talk about such things often, but when he does he speaks in a soft high voice that sounds so innocent that you might think him a nice, honest young halfling that has been horribly wronged. This is the same voice he uses when making business deals. It helps many to think of him as naive the first time they deal with him. The one time that a merchant actually got the better of him, the guy ended up falling from the top of a three story building. Unfortunately it looked like he had actually fallen from 300 feet up instead of thirty. Perhaps he had. In any case, most people are careful to act fairly with him now.
Let me give you a little background about the way the boss thinks. These are the rules that we enforce at his bar: First, no gang feuds may be brought inside. Second, nobody approaches his table without permission, even if he does not appear to be there, as sometimes he goes about invisible. If you do go into his area without his say so, the offending body part may be removed, without warning. Third, if you feel that you must fight with somebody in the bar, you do so in the small area provided for it, nowhere else. If you kill your opponent in the bar, you take care of the body, and it better not end up sitting against the wall outside the bar. The bar gets 10% of the valuables off the dead person's body. Fourth, anyone is permitted into the bar that wishes to enter. Fifth, If you stop someone from entering you will be beaten if not killed. Sixth, nobody stays the night without Kalow's say so. Seventh and last, Kalow is always right and doesn't have to follow any of his own rules. I hope this gives you some insight into the person called Kalow, now let me tell the rest of the story.

The day dawned cool and grey, like many winter days in New Zonn. But there were those that did not see this dawn, did not even know that it was morning, nor did they consider how long they had been toiling in their underground hell. A week straight of heavy rain had caused a collapse in a major tunnel in the Thieves guild. Unknown dozens were trapped and very few were trusted enough to help those that had been buried. Somewhere under the mud was the main office of the Guild Master, and, most of the workers believed, the Guild Master himself. When Kalow heard of the cave in, he threw himself into the work. It was so unlike him that when he began, all of the assembled workers stared at him for a good minute until he noticed and stopped and stared back. Without a word, everyone got back to work and dug. They dug and carried with whatever was handy. After a while, shovels and buckets were brought in and the work went faster. Word soon came that the Guild Second was coordinating the efforts on the other side of the tunnel. This seemed to make Kalow furious and he...changed...in front of everybody. The entire guild had heard rumors of this strange ability that Kalow possessed, some even told tales of seeing him change into amazing things. Some said that he was a Dragon in disguise ( everyone knew that Dragons could change shape ), others said that he was a Demon ( they could change shape too, so said rumor ). None of those assembled had actually seen this transformation though. It was quick, only taking a few seconds, and he was now a huge Gold Dragon. Long and sinuous, with no wings, he was maybe 70 feet long and 8 feet tall or so. He came just shy of filling the corridor and he pushed aside and bruised some of the workers in the change. Many of the people were in shock and could only stand and stare. Looking forward, Kalow started digging. Huge scoops of mud were flung back at the now inactive workers and Kalow said, quite clearly as all there will remember for the rest of their lives, "everybody get a bucket and carry dirt out, form a line and I will dig, do it, NOW". No one hesitated to follow his orders. After a while Kalow ordered some of them to get timbers so as to shore up what had been dug out. The work went smoothly and efficiently, workers came and went, shifts were changed, new workers were brought in, Kalow did not rest. The cave in was over a hundred feet long and Kalow had dug more than fifty when it became apparent that there was not enough people to carry all the dirt out and nowhere to put it anyways. When Kalow became wedged in with the dirt that he had displaced, he stopped. Slowly this time, he changed into himself again, took out a small ivory cube that hung from a chain around his neck and told the workers to put all the dirt and mud that they possibly could on a large table. After the table was as heavily loaded as it could be, Kalow simply walked under the table, touched a certain side of the cube and disappeared, poof. Less than a minute later, he reappeared with the table and empty containers and had the workers fill them again, faster. Again, poof, This time the workers were ready for him and refilled all the containers faster. By now they had also noticed that just before he popped out, he actually lifted the table a bit. It was hard to believe, a slender four foot tall Halfling, lifting a seven foot long by four foot wide table, stacked high with buckets and boxes of mud weighing hundreds of pounds, maybe even a thousand or more. It only added to the stories already in circulation, and made the more unbelievable of them, a little less so. This load and reload happened six times, until there was again room for more excavations. Slowly this time, he grew into the same gold Dragon. And he began again, shoveling dirt back to the others, whom put it into containers to go onto the table, or next to it. Without warning, there was another cave in, right above Kalow. The whole of the roof just came right down on him. He just disappeared except for about 15 feet of tail. The Tail got smaller and soon disappeared into the mud. A minute later he appeared in their midst. No body had moved, no body had spoken, they were all exhausted. "Does anybody know how to stop this god cursed rain?, No?" he said to the silent group. "Then somebody go get a druid and..... persuade...them to help. NOW!". No one moved. "You there, is this your son helping?" The man nodded yes, "You will go and talk to the druids, if you can not get them to help, he dies". Kalow then picked up the exhausted teenage boy and threw him into a black hole that he opened up in a pouch on his side. The man, eyes large with fear and worry, nodded yes and fled up the passage way as Kalow smiled. It was quiet, cold, and dark down there with Kalow, but none defied him and there was still work to do. This time Kalow did not change into a Dragon, he picked up a stout shovel and set to work as the others, but always his large shovel was full while others faded and grew tired. Once, just as he seemed to be tiring, Kalow stopped and took a small blueberry and a potion vial with clear blue bubbly liquid in it out of a pouch and drank the potion then ate the berry. He began work again with renewed vigor and glared at all those around him that showed their weariness openly. Kalow did the table trick a few more times and after a few hours, they had cleared to the door of the office. Everyone had expected to find bodies before they found the door, but none were seen. A quiet rumor began that there had been bodies, but Kalow ate them as the dragon. The workers fear of Kalow was strong, their loyalty to their Guild Master was stronger, for now. Using great care, they uncovered the door. This door could be deadly when touched wrong. There were traps on it to kill or stun unwary people. Kalow told everyone to get back and set to work on the traps. It was not often that you were allowed to watch a master thief at work and all of the people here looked on with as great an interest as their fatigue allowed. Kalow carefully poked and prodded, He ran small picks into cracks and went "hmmmmm" often. After a few minutes he turned to the crowd and said that he had learned an interesting thing about the way the Guild Master does things today. He is subtle and careful he said, but he had not anticipated a different way to enter. Kalow then carefully crouched down and put his fingers into the crack under the door and pulled. With a crack, the door broke and was then open for all to enter. Kalow then held up a hand and tossed his shovel into the room. There was a gout of fire and everyone flinched. Then Kalow just strode into the room as if it was a normal day, he had not just worked hard for almost a full day, and he was not covered in mud like the rest of them.
The office had also had a small cave in and a ceiling beam had crashed down onto the Guild Master pinning him to the floor and knocking him unconscious. No one else had entered the room, but all saw Kalow lifting the heavy beam off and gazing at him for long seconds, clearly making up his mind about something. He then lifted him out of the room and put him on the much abused table out in the hall. He had some of the others prop him into a sitting position and said to the unresponsive Guild Master "you owe me, and you owe me big" Then he poured the contents of a flask down the man's throat. Color came back to the pale Guild Master and he soon regained consciousness. Kalow left the area before the man he worked so hard for woke up. He left the others to clean up the mess and to tell the man what had happened. He knew that he would get a summons soon, or maybe the Guild Master would come to him. It did not matter, now the Guild Master knew that he did not desire to take his place, and that he would rather that the Guild Master stay in power over the other options. This was a very profitable day's work, the repercussions would last a long time, and if the guild second would not thank him for his efforts, good. They had been rivals for a long time, and it was now time to get him to act foolishly and attack him or cause him to embarrass himself in some way. He had another in mind that would make a better guild second, and then she would owe him one too.

Kalow smiled as he walked home. None bothered him. No one commented when he took an apple from a fruit vendor without asking or paying. Kalow was thinking, you could see it in his expression. Those that knew him, and all around here did, knew not to interrupt him, or talk to him unless talked to. No one wanted him to notice them at all. He had cleaned up the neighborhood and calmed the local gangs. He had, everyone knew, improved their lives. But there were too many whom had died at his hands, some so quickly that they did not know they were in danger until their heads parted from their bodies. No, everyone left their "benefactor" alone with his thoughts.
Very early in the morning the next day, Only an hour or so past midnight, a fire started mysteriously outside Kalow's establishment. It started strong, and scared many, as fires do in this portion of town. But it only took a moment for Kalow to change again. Only one of the witnesses had been at the cave in, and he had not been working on Kalow's side. Again his ability was greeted with great fear as he turned into another dragon. This time he was an equally large white dragon and his super cooled breath doused the fire instantly. Kalow than changed back into his Halfling form and said to those nearby "if I find out who did that, they will pay, if someone told me who did this, and they were right, I would pay them, in gold". He then went back inside and up to his rooms above the bar, presumably to sleep.
Kalow emerged from his rooms late in the morning and made his way to a local inn. Upon reaching the inn, called the Weeping Widow, he called cheerfully to all the mid day patrons and ordered a round for the house. The people were stunned. They had no idea why he was being nice. They had all heard rumors about his ability to change into dragons and a few patrons even got up to leave. Kalow, anticipating this, had not left the doorway and they could not get past without him moving. So after brief thought, all but one sat back down and accepted the drink that had been bought for them. The one was not from around here and, unlike the others, had no clue whom this little person was. She only knew that everyone here showed caution or fear of him and they did not wish to be here any more.
"Girl? What is your problem? You do not like my drinks, you won't accept my gift?" The girl was not that young, she was near 30 years old and not inexperienced in the ways of the world. Kalow saw that she moved with a certain economy of movement that spoke of hours of physical training. The easy confidence and calluses on her hands confirmed this.
She had been a city guardsman, an army sergeant, a merchant caravan guard, and an adventurer for a while. She was also not looking for trouble. After a small delay she replied "Indeed good sir, I do appreciate your generosity and thank you for it. But time is fleeting and I have many miles to travel this day". She had noticed that this Halfling was wearing fine clothes, his manner was confident, he had a great big hammer strapped to his back, a dagger on one side and a sword on the other, and he was smooth in both manner and movement.
"Sit" he said, looking her directly in the eyes, "drink with me and help me break my fast". BAM!, Kalow jerked forward and stumbled into the inn. There had been a great flash of light around him and a piece of jewelry upon his chest glowed briefly and shattered. A bolt of magical energy had come from behind him and struck him square in the back. He seemed no more injured than if he had only sneezed. "Spike! Find it, KILL IT" Kalow glared at her a moment and POOF, with a quick flick of his wrist, the hammer disappeared from his harness and appeared in his right hand. As he turned and ran out the door they all heard him exclaim to Spike "Good boy, now let me get in a whack at him". She stepped out after him, knowing that it was unwise, but wanting to watch this intriguing person at work. Kalow was a couple of dozen yards away, bashing at a huge ugly green horned demon of some sort that was standing protectively over a robed figure that had been bashed at least once and whose clothes were ripped to shreds, showing equally ripped flesh beneath. Spike, or she assumed it was Spike, was perched upon this demon's left shoulder tearing into whatever flesh it could. Spikes claws and beak were doing horrific damage. The demon was fighting well, but it could not stand long against the two of them and with a whimper it turned to smoke, leaving Spike to fall to the ground atop the fallen figure where he finished the job of dispatching him with obvious glee. The whole time of the fight, there were no visible onlookers except her. Nor, it seemed, did Kalow take any significant damage himself. His clothes were ripped from the demons claws but his body was not hurt. Spike seemed a bit worse for wear but limped along next to Kalow happily. Spike stopped at the door to the inn as he walked up and cleaned itself of ichor, blood and other less identifiable stuff. Kalow strode past her and grabbed the nearest drink and downed it in one long swallow. This was the most Halfling like thing she had seen from him yet. "Come, lady" He said to her. "Sit by my side and tell me of why you are here, in this part of town, at this time. She could hear the polite request of her, she could see in his eyes that he was waiting to lash out again and she would give him no reason to be angry at her. Kalow's anger was controlled right now, but only barely. So, sit she did, and talk she did, and listen too.
She first asked who it was out there that had attacked him. Kalow answered that it was an assassin/mage. Kalow said that the assassin had not done his homework or he would not have attacked him in that manner. Stupid, Kalow said, He got what he deserved. "Now I am richer by the amount the killer had on him and by the magic items he carried. My opponents seem to wish to kill me with wealth. Later it will be my turn". Kalow laughed, and the inn laughed with him. They talked for hours, on many subjects. In the middle of this Kalow stopped, sniffed, and looked down at his still torn and bloody clothes. Chuckling, he went into a back room to clean up and change into a new outfit.
After a short while, the rest of the remaining patrons saw that he was down to his normal level of dangerous and relaxed, as much as any local did in his presence. More locals arrived, others left and they continued to talk. She talked about her past life as a warrior and he about his current life as a bar owner and philanthropist, at this she raised an eyebrow. He chuckled and told about his work in keeping street kids busy and training them in useable skills and giving them a place to sleep. These children, he said, were learning self defense, various types of craft type skills, how to rely on others, how to care for themselves, and more. She talked about family and job prospects and he did not judge her, he simply took her at her word and accepted her as she was. Even as he obviously thought some of her ideas and actions were naive at best. No one had been so accepting of her before, as this Halfling was. It was obvious that he did not talk this way often either, He spoke quietly and calmly, sometimes hesitantly. He was possibly the most dangerous person she had ever met, and one of the most interesting also. She knew that she should be on her way, that she would be better off the farther away she was from him. Kalow, for his part, did not understand what this girl wanted from him, why she stayed, why he was even still talking to her. He thought that she was nice, pretty in a human sort of way, and intelligent, but he could always kill her later if she got in the way.
Hours later, they were still talking in a dark corner of the inn, a fine meal laying finished about them with Spike, this kitten sized and shaped creature with over large claws and a hawksbeak, curled in the middle of the table. A man came running into the inn and upon spying Kalow he sped towards him. Kalow barely looked up and said "Yes Spiro. What".
"Uh, Boss, uh, you got a letter from, uh, from" Spiro stopped, all thought fled his mind as he saw this vision of beauty sitting beside his boss. She was just shy of five and a half feet tall, well built, strong looking, well dressed in leather and worn raw silk and she had the most gorgeous, heart stopping, blue eyes he had ever seen. He was smitten and his whole world now revolved around her. "Spiro, this is Tanya. Tanya, this is Spiro, my associate". Kalow reached over the table and snatched the letter from Spiro's limp grasp and read it silently. A chuckle escaped from Kalow as he reached over and burned the letter in a candle flame. "This was a warning that a contract had been taken out on me, fools, they did not pay for the best in town, and therefore had no chance. The Assassins Guild should have known better than to accept the contract in the first place. They will pay too" Kalow stared off into space and smiled faintly, planning, plotting, thinking on how to best bring this to his advantage. Spiro, having become aware of the world around him again, began to fear for the Assassins guild. "Spiro?, do you know of anyone that might make a good bartender? We may need a new one soon" Spiro's eyes rose with alarm. Their bartender was an Assassin. He was mostly retired, but watched Kalow for his guild. If Kalow was going to need a new bartender than he was about to really anger the Assassin's Guild. It was of little use for Spiro to dwell on what Kalow would do, he thought. Kalow was far more devious, and unpredictable, than he.
Tanya had no idea why a contract would be taken out on Kalow, although, thinking about it, she was not surprised. Maybe Spiro would know. She would find out more and her business outside the city would wait for a few days.
“Both of you, walk with me.” Upon leaving the Weeping Widow, they all stopped briefly to gaze at the blue sky above them. The rains had stopped and there were only a few clouds in the sky. Kalow exclaimed "Oh. Yeah!" and pulled a shadow out from inside his shirt and unfolded it like it was cloth until it was about 3' across. Reaching into this new hole he pulled out a muddy, disheveled, and startled teenage human. After putting him on his feet Kalow said "Either your papa was lucky or convincing. Go home". Eyes wide, the boy stood for a moment, got his bearings and ran off without a word. They walked, the four of them if you count Spike, down the street towards Kalow's bar. The city had been washed by all the recent rain and was as clean as such a city ever got. The air was fresh and it was an altogether glorious day, shading towards evening. Tanya and Spiro both wondered what the story was behind the boy in the hole, but neither of them really wanted to ask. Kalow was in a good mood, it was best not to do anything that might change it. Spike, it seemed was also in a good mood. It also seemed that he could fly as he leaped after pigeons, and stooped on rats. He was not very successful in his hunting, but neither did he seem to be trying very hard.
It was a short fifteen minutes later that they arrived at Kheoghtom's Nightmare to find it open and operating but empty of all but staff and a few of Kalow's braver students. One bartender, one bar maid, and three children of undistinguishable sex and age did little to fill the bar. Normally, by this time, there would be half a dozen or more gang members of various gangs and a few locals sitting around drinking, eating and basically wasting time. "Pretty dead night , eh Spiro?" At Kalow's comment, everyone stopped. Spiro was glancing around nervously looking for the next attack. He had been told of the previous one on the way back and he was trying to see everywhere at once. Spike looked over the assembly and spoke quite clearly, as a parrot might, "Beer", and launched himself off Kalow's shoulder over to the booth where the children were at. He landed in the middle of the table and nodded at the barmaid who delivered a small bowl with a half of an inch of beer in it. As soon as Spike started to drink, two of the students began to petting him with a light touch. The third stayed as far away from Spike as the booth allowed and clutched his three fingered hand to his chest. Spike had adopted many of the children as his own and protected them when he was around. Some of the children he just did not like though. A few were no longer alive to care. "Hey Alphonse" Kalow calls out to the bartender who looks up from wiping the mugs, again. "What do you know of the contract out on me, eh?" Alphonse makes no comment except for raising an eyebrow and goes back to his cleaning. "Alphonse? Why don't you go talk to Guido and the other thugs you used to hang out with and ask. I want to know who took it out and how much it was for".
"Well boss, if you know that name, you know more than I do already. My old friends would not know about such things, we are all retired now". Kalow walks slowly to the bar and climbs upon a chair." Look friend, why don't you take a few days off, you know, talk to your buddies, ask a few questions for me". "Come on boss" Starts Alphonse "I can't do that, you should know better than to ask things like that".
"Al, we have been working together for a couple of years so far, right, And I have never asked about your past or asked for you to speak for me to your associates, true? So now I ask a small favor, seeing as I am your employer, and you refuse. You will do these things for me. Set up six heavy mugs on the counter and give me your hand....NOW" With obvious trepidation and concern, Alphonse sets up the mugs and slowly gives Kalow his hand. Kalow anchors his knees under the counter top for better leverage and grasps Alphonse's wrist. "Alphonse put your other hand on the counter hear where I can see it. Good boy Al, good boy. Now I will give you reason to do this simple thing for me, a reason that even you can understand. You see me picking up this mug and you wonder what I will do with it. You see me hold your hand flat to the counter and fear sets in. You begin to struggle, with no chance of success. KEEP YOUR OTHER HAND WHERE I CAN SEE IT! Up goes the mug, you watch it". SLAM, Kalow brings the mugs down on Alphonse's index finger with tremendous strength and speed. The mug shatters as does the finger. "How many fingers do you want this to happen to? Will you go and do this small task for me?". Al's face has gone white but he says nothing. The rest of the patrons and staff watch on with varying horrified expressions. Spiro keeps most of his wits about him and still remembers to watch the door. The children are not even looking at the grisly scene and continue to play with Spike. "Al, you now watch me again lift a mug into the air and this time you know what will happen". Alphonse is struggling now but Kalow’s grip is far stronger than he can break. He shifts Kalow's weight some but Kalow is prepared for that and it is to no avail. WHAM, Kalow brings down the second mug onto his middle finger and the already crushed index finger. Alphonse says nothing, but he breaks out in a cold sweat and his face is alternately flushed and pasty white. "Al, you can stop this as soon as you want to, just do what I ask, that is all. Then, come back to tell me the information of course. Shall I stop?" Alphonse says nothing, just clenches his jaw tighter. CRUNCH, the third mug comes down, shattering both the third finger and itself. The middle finger and index finger get pulped a bit more and are barely held on by more than torn skin. "Al, take your hand, wrap it in your towel and do what I say. Or shall I cantinue?".
"No more, I will go to them" Kalow grins and says, well Spiro, you can cover the bar for a bit, yes?" Spiro merely nods and he steps up to help Alphonse out the door clutching his broken fingers. "Also Spiro, maybe you should show one of the older kids how to tend bar, get a few of them trained a bit if they want to learn" Spiro agrees with sincere enthusiasm, glad that it was not him that pissed off Kalow.
Three days pass with no word from Alphonse and no further attempts on Kalow's life. Two of the Kids take up bartending and Tanya, who has a few skills surprises herself by teaching the kids what she knows. She knows that she should be long gone from here and it would be far safer if she were. But she stays, Kalow has nothing but kind words for her and Spiro is obviously smitten with her. He is so shy around her she can not help but smile at him. Spiro is so tough around everyone else, the neighborhood gangs, the dock workers, the local vendors, he is proud to be doing a good job for Kalow. But around her he is always looking down and rarely says anything to her. She even found a flower on her table a day ago, he did not say it was from him, and she does not know where he found such a thing in this part of town, but she knows it was him. One of the gangers even said that Spiro had a new girlfriend and he became so embaressed that he had to leave the bar, at the expense of laughter all around.
The bar is a tough place, all the patrons deal with poverty, death, and fear everyday. She and Kalow sit for an hour or so each day and talk about anything that comes to them. Politics and city politicians, stories of his youth, strange worlds he has visited and more. She realizes that Kalow knows a great deal about this town and the world and she could learn amazing things from him, if he would show her, without her getting him angry. On the fourth night after the mug incident, the bar was busy with two dozen plus customers and loud with laughter and song. All at once the bar quieted in a wave from the front door to the back of the room. An entire squad of city guardsmen was standing in and around the doorway, a grizzled veteran in the lead. They each had leather armor and short swords and the typical long clubs. With hob nailed boots loud in the silence, they approached Kalow's table, where Tanya also sat. "Kalow" growled the older Sergeant "You are a murderer and a thief and if I had a shred of proof, I would have to take you in. And from that day on, my life would be hell. This part of town is mostly quiet these days and an old man like me appreciates that". At this he grinned and sat, without waiting for an invitation, next to Tanya. Most of the bar held their collective breaths waiting for Kalow to lash out as he has done so many times before, but not this time. "Daughter, what are you doing with this lowest of the cities low lifes, your Aunt wrote to me and asked of you and I find you here, with these....people. The scum of the earth do not associate with the people here, why do you?"
Tanya reaches out to hold her fathers hand in hers. “ Father, I honestly do not know why I am still here. These people are not all bad. Or, more accurately, not all of them are all bad and a few are mostly nice.” Tanya carefull does not look at Kalow when saying this although she does glance breifly at Spiro with a small smile. “I have been here a few days and my eyes have been opened to things I had never though of and likely never would have if I had gone on to Aunt Shania’s as I had planned. I have never seen life as goes on here. Some of it is so sad I can barely stand it. I can not stay long but for now I am caught here and with luck will learn things I could not learn elsewhere.”
Sargeant Melius’s face alternates between frowns and smiles and says without words how much he cares for his daughter and how much he wants her to be happy. “Daughter” He says, looking down briefly at the table while collecting his thoughts. “If you have to do this then I wish you the best of luck. This part of town, this place, destroys and corrupts everyone who stays long though. Please leave soon.” Now Melius looks up and stares onto Kalow’s black eyes and says clearly and quietly. “Let nothing happen to her while she is here and, please, let he go when she wants to go”
“ She is free to go whenever she wants. She will leave here as healthy as she came and, I suspect, a bit wiser. But.” Kalow leans towards the Sargeants face and whispers “The day after you come for me is the last day of her life. See that that day never comes” Spike, sensing his master’s mood floats silently up behind Melius and Tanya and lands on the back of her chair and carefully, in full view of everyone, licks her ear and purrs.
The sargeants eyes get very large and he stands abruptly, his chair falling behind him onto the floor. “Get that thing away from her you, you…” Melius’s face becomes flushed and his eyes narrow and jaw clenches in anger.” Spike moves down to her lap and lookes up at the sargeant “ But I like her and I am cute and fuzzy and you, you smell like fear and …, fear and dinner”
Melius was very obviously restraining himself from drawing his sword and attacking Spike. His squad begins to put hands to weapons and prepare for a battle they can not win. Kalow stood and gestured Spike to his shoulder and soon had the dangerous creature draped on him like a boneless cat. “Now Spike, that was not nice. Please apologize to the Sargeant”
Spike tilts his head towards Melius and “ Sorry, you are not dinner”

Kalow finds a dead body. ripped and mangled, partly eaten. Too big a killer to be Spike.
Kalow is suspicious. Kalow gets distracted by guild matters. Another killing, near his bar.
Kalow sets kids up to watch. Two die, Kalow is mad now. Kalow/Spike stalk the streets at night.
Kalow considers what it might be. Finds evidnece it is a werewolf.Kalow almost catches it. It is a were Hyena. Far tougher than a werewolf.
More Guild distractions, Kalow is tired and cranky, makes enemies.
Kalow finds critter, fights it, tears it limb by limb, there are witnesses. In the fight, it hurts Spiro and a child ( not one of his ). Kalow is hero, and feared more. In the fight Kalow kills an innocent when he throws the critter into them, squish. Kalow gets hurt some. Catches guild second and a few supporters just after. Without warning, they act as if they knew of the critter and he attacks them, kills most, not guild second. She gets away, barely. Next seen with guild master. Never alone.

The next night Kalow was sitting around in the Kids barracks and relaxing with a cup of tea. The students were, as normal, quiet and careful to not disturb him. It was a large open area with curtains to cover the small sleeping rooms that all the children used. There were tables and chairs as well as an exercise area with thick rugs on the floor. Anyone who has been around children would say that it was un-naturally quiet. That you could have several dozen children in ages from 6 to 16 and have them all be so busy and near silent was not normal. Some children were practicing writing, laboriously copying letters from one book to another. Some were juggling, some were playing a dice game, a couple were learning the correct way to sharpen a blade for different uses, a dozen or so were in the kitchen area, just out of sight from Kalow, cleaning it so it shone. It was, however, inevitable, that children would be children. The four whom were playing at a dice game in the far corner we being fairly quiet and most people would have heard nothing from them but the lowest of whispers.

Kalow, was not most people. One reason he was here was to listen carefully to the kids and hear what they said to each other. One of their primary jobs for Kalow was to hear things on the street and report back to him things that he might otherwise never learn. What the kids learned though, they did not always share. Sometimes because they thought it was unimportant, sometimes because they were waiting for a bigger piece to pass on more, sometimes, but very rarely, they thought to hide things from him. It was so difficult for a child to keep a secret for long and they eventually spoke of it among themselves. And so, although nearly 50 feet away from Kalow and speaking in whispers, those whispers got a bit louder and caught Kalow’s undivided attention. Long training, natural skill, and a bit of magic allowed him to sift through the conversations in the room and focus on whichever ones he wanted to. While he did not hear the beginning of the conversation he certainly did hear “Did not, did too, don’t tell, it’s a secret, shhh he can hear us, can not, can to” and more in that vein.

Casually, Kalow rose and went toward the washroom. When he was out of sight of the four boys, although not out of sight of others, he went invisible. Some few saw him disappear and nodded to others what had happened. The fear level in the room rose a notch or two. Most children that figured out what happened went very still and quiet. A few, a promising few, took it as a challenge and looked for clues as to where Kalow actually was. They knew where he had been. None had ever caught him. Some would always try. Spike was still laying on the back of the chair that Kalow had been in and still in the boneless slump of sleep. His eyes were open to bare slits though and he watched all that went on in case, he hoped, for something interesting. The four dice players did not catch a clue and only continued their little argument among themselves.

Kalow did not try his hardest to stay quiet but even half trying for him is very stealthy. Only one child had any idea where he was and he said nothing to anyone about his suspicions as the four were snuck up upon. Kalow clearly overheard the rest of the furtive discussion as he was within five feet. Kalow had heard enough and action was called for. Spike stood up and stretched, gouging furrows in the top on the chair and squawked “ Boys with dice, come sit here.”

Several kids that had dice in their pockets flinched but Spike was pointing to just the group of four and they calmed. The rest of the room became still and everyone looked at the four young boys and wondered what they were guilty of. All but one approached, feet shuffling, heads down, looking sideways at each other and saying nothing. The other one walked calmly with his head up and watched Spike carefully. All four sat at the table next to spike and waited. All of them well knew that to speak out or start accusations would only make whatever was about to happen worse.

Kalow re-appeared at the opposite side of the table from Spike. “Boys? Children?” Several witnesses in the room shuddered and those whom had been there awhile reacted to the soft voice Kalow used now. “Yes, I heard you. Yes, I want to know the secret. Yes, you will tell me.” He looked first at the three submissive boys. “I have honey cakes to share with those who cooperate”

The boys all looked at each other. None said anything. “Boys, girls, everyone gather around, bring everyone.” Then Kalow said nothing else until all the children who could be, as well as Spiro and a few other adults, had gathered. “We will discuss this openly in he hope that you pieces of information might be a part of a bigger picture of which you are not aware. Lorn, is it?” Kalow said to the youngest of the four. Lorn looked up and nodded. “Is it your secret?” Lorn shook his head but glanced at the oldest and then down at his hands. Kalow looked at the oldest of the four who, at only nine was not so old at that. But he had a presence that the other three did not and likely never would. In some ways, inside, he was no longer a child. Kalow nodded and looked at the other two youths. “Is this secret yours?” No, they shook their heads, not daring to speak. Kalow shook his own head and sighed then looked up into the nine years olds eyes. They were about the same height and weight and even looked similar. Kalow smiled and nodded at him and said nothing.

The boy fidgeted only a bit then looked Kalow in the eye. “It is about Melekar, sir” Kalow’s expression did not change but inside he tensed. Melekar was the Guild second and anything concerning him was of great interest indeed. Kalow met Spiro’s eye and gestured for food. Spiro got up and went to get the earlier mentioned honey cakes from down in the bar. The boy, Kesander, proceeded to tell a story about an attempt last night to go over a wall in a wealthy section of town. Spiro came in with a plate piled high with the sweet treats and shared them with everyone present. All accept the three quiet boys who had said nothing. You are cowards, Kalow had said. Think for yourself, be strong, stand up for yourselves. You get nothing from me tonight he had also said. Not only would they get no treats, they would get no dinner and, perhaps, no place to sleep. Kesander began again, halting at first but better after a few moments, about how he had scaled the wall but there was a naked boy on the other side looking up at him and he could see a beautiful woman through the window in a well lit room. The boy, with long wet hair, looked up and had asked what he was doing on their wall? Kesander had said nothing to the boy and was looking for valuables when the boy spoke again saying how his father, the great and powerful Melekar, would have him beaten and then killed if he came any farther. Just then, the woman had called out for the child to come back in and finish his bath. Kesander, knowing the name well, got off the wall and went home.

Kalow was silent for a moment and when he spoke his voice was calm and devoid of any emotion. “And why did you not bring this to me earlier?”

“Sir, I did not want to admit my mistake” Kalow raised an eyebrow in inquiry. “I was caught sir, the kid was right there looking up at me as I was about to go over the wall. I did not want to tell you I had messed up”

Kalow was quiet again for a moment. “Kesander, nobody likes to admit that they were caught. This however, is more interesting, and more important. Run. Get the right city map.” Kesander ran to the desk where maps were kept and quickly brought the right maps. Every child that Kalow took in quickly learned basic reading skills and then how to read a map or they did not stay with Kalow for long. It took only a minute or so for Kesander to find the place on the map and then describe it as best he could. Kalow asked of anyone else had been there and a few comments came forward. Then others commented on the lady, the neighborhood, and one even on the boy who had been seen at the Park. Kalow stood, circled the map, asked questions about what was nearby and exits from the area then he took a gold piece out of his pocket and started flipping it between his fingers. “Find me” he said “everything you can about this house and those inside it. I want to know where they walk, who they associate with, where they buy their food, if Melekar is ever seen there. I want everything. Only the top 20 are in on this, and Kesander. Sean, take him with you. You are number two. Report to Spiro everything, no matter how small. First importance, do not get caught. We are not dealing with amateurs here. Keep your distance. You all get paid in silver at least, gold or better if it all goes well. You twenty, come forward.” The twenty top students came forward. They were both boys and girls from ages 10 to 16 or so. Each had at least one thing, from a criminal point of view, that they did very well. “Some of you do not get along. This is a test for you. You will often have to work with someone whom you otherwise hate. The hate matters not at all until after the job is done. If you absolutely can not work with someone specifically, tell Spiro. If it gets back to me that you were a problem, you won’t work for me ever again. The job is most important. Got it?”

This was the first time he had sent off all twenty on a single target but it was, as so many things Kalow did were, a test. Spiro got up and took the twenty off to a separate room to begin planning. The others, too young, too soft, or untrustworthy, did not need to hear any details. “As for the rest of you. There is plenty to do while the others are busy. Get to it. Oh, wait, if they are busy, I get to teach more. Shit. OK, dagger practice in half an hour. Everyone be ready then.

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subadai

March 2010

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