Threshold of Twilight
Viktor came to the city many years ago for reasons all his own. Finding a niche in the information-gathering market, Viktor is one of the few reasons why neither the light nor the dark has managed to gain any major ground. You can buy his information or you can buy his silence, either way Viktor seems to come out on top.
Thus far, he’s tolerated by both light and dark because of the valuable place he’s put himself in, but there are people below him hungry for his power and it won’t be long before he meets a challenge even he can’t slip out of.
What follows is one of the early stories Viktor spread about himself in an effort to place those he dealt with off guard. It has largely been proven false, as eyewitnesses place Viktor in Solanthus when this apparently occurred, but to this day the Palanthus Knights have yet to solve the murder it details.
Augh, the Dwarven draught burns my throat as I drink it down. This tavern is known for one thing, and it is not the alcohol. It is the fact that you can get a drink of the swill without being bothered, which makes it a popular place for criminals and the like to do business. Tonight is unusually busy, though; there seems to be a very large number of bruisers getting very drunk. I am not sure how they can stand the slop; it must come from having never tasted the better, human, stuff.
Another stinging drink causes me to shudder; I look down into the mug and swear I see something floating in it. Suddenly I realize I am no longer alone at my table, I look up and see a man in dark clothing sitting across from me. He has a mug similar to mine, but freshly filled, and he seems to be extremely drunk like most of the patrons in this bar. He gives me a wolfish grin, and then with a hiccup it vanishes.
“Hope you don’ mind mah bargin’ in, the other tablesh were full.” He hiccupped again, and followed it up by taking a large draft of his disgusting Dwarven draught. I swig a little down while looking him over, he appears relatively harmless, and probably is not one of the people hunting me. Been coming here four nights and this is the first time I have had company just barge in on me, although this is also the most crowded night so far. My companion drains half his mug in the blink of the eye, I wonder how he can swallow so much of the stuff at once, and figure it must be the faster you drink it, the less of it you taste. I take another quaff and look into my mug again.
“Life’sh rough, ain’t it?” I hear my companion moan “Almosht got it earlier, some fanshy pants in the market thought I pinched ‘is purse, started callin’ fer the guard an’ all tha’. Nah, not me, I don’t do that. Not a pickpocket, no sir.” He pauses, I look up to see that he is imbibing another mouthful of the piss. I wonder if he can sense how alike we are, both on the run. It did not use to be this way, times were better, but then I lost my temper. If only I could take it back, return what I took from her, but no, it is far too late for that now.
Hell, her father would never forgive me no matter what I offered. For all I know, he has his own boys on the case as well as the guards in every city in Solamnia. It is okay now, though, I will just lie low here in Solanthus for a bit before making my way on. Yeah, Palanthus is not that far away, but they surely expected me to go to the coast and hop on one of my uncle’s ships and take for the islands. Plus, who would look for me here in this seedy shithole?
“An’ this one time, I nearly got awa’ with stealin’ the sword righ’ outta a guardsh sshheath!” My companion is rumbling on about something, his past exploits I venture, or perhaps just making it up as he goes along, who knows. “Yeah, never make a bet when yer shnickered, had to leave town for tha’ one an’ wait for it ta blow over. So, what abou’ you? Ain’t this dwarven ale amazin’? Straight outta Garnet, it is! Been there once or twice mehself, though the dwarves aren’t as crafty there as the ones that live under tha earth. I got sorta this… this… uh… interesht in Dwarves, yeh see? Never seen finer blades in all meh years. Hope tah get me shome someday.”
“’Course, then there’sh the Gnomes, thinkin’ theys all crafty. Don’t know if I trusht them, kinda like that mechanicalist guild that popped up in town recently, you heard about themsh? Yeah, I agree with them about the godsh an’ all, don’t need ‘em, but seemsh like they’re just takin’ one god and replacein’ it with another, in my opinion. I don’t feel like thatsh anyway to live, either. Only man ye sheem to be able to trust these days is a dead man, ya know?”
I realize my companion has no interest in my response to any of his questions as he drones on and on about his self, some of it seems quite unreal and highly doubtful, but I do not interrupt him. I cannot help thinking about her, and what I did—Forever on the run now, never able to go back, and unsure of what to do now. Unfortunately, I was not prepared to have to work much for a living, I guess I could go into thievery; I have already got murder on the list of accomplishments. My table-mate slams his mug down on the table, and I jump slightly as I realize I was lost in thought while he was talking.
“Done! An ye’ve hardly touched yersh! Get to drinkin’ mate, the night is young, and the girlsh are beatin’ yeh!” My companion glances around at the fairly comely girls scattered throughout the bars, being hit on by hideously ugly or maimed brutes, ruffians, and scoundrels. I catch myself muttering the last word slightly under my breath. “Shcoundrel?! I’m no scoundrel! I already been over that once, I’m jusht a handy individual to have ‘round if you so need someone to tell ya what’sh ahead, or if you forgo’ yeh key or somethin’. I’m a tradeshman! Yeah, a tradesman!”
I shake my head, and take in another mouthful of ale and shudder as it goes down. I can feel a headache coming on, but I figure I better at least finish this mug before I head off to my room in the inn down the street for the night. I will make my way down south tomorrow, maybe I can find a caravan or something heading that way, I can be pretty handy with a blade sometimes. My hand absentmindedly goes to the rapier at my side, the only heirloom I have left from my past. I realize what I am doing and look up, my companions eyes seem to shine at the sight of my blade. I quickly cover it up with my cloak and go back to my booze.
“That’sh a nice blade yeh got there, nearly as good as what tha dwarvesh make, I bet. It sheems awful fancy to be here, tha’s for sure.” I ignore him while he banters on about dwarves again, but I glance up in just in time to see him suddenly chuck his mug over the heads of the nearest people and start chuckling about it. I look to see where the mug has landed and realize it solidly hit one of the larger bruisers on the other side of the room. The man looks none too happy to have been hit by a flying tankard, and seems to be taking it out on the nearest person to him. Everyone in the bar seems to go quiet and then all turn their attention to the bar fight that starts taking place as the man being beaten to a pulp gets reinforcements from his friends at the table, and the large bruiser in turn receives reinforcements from his overly-buff friends.
Well, guess it is time go to before the guards get here to break things up. I do not need any more harassment for the night. I stand up and toss a couple coins down on the table and turn to leave; my companion seems enthralled by what he caused. I start heading toward the back of the tavern, where there is a second entrance that hardly anyone uses and it gets me out closer to my inn. I exit into the street and start making my way along when I see a small patrol of guardsmen heading toward me being led by one of the Dwarven barmaids. I casually turn down an alleyway to avoid contact with them, and they continue on without paying any attention to me.
Suddenly I feel a sharp pain in my lower back, and before I can let out a shout I feel something cold slide across my throat, and then I hear a whisper in my ear.
“You been a bad bad boy, my friend.” Out of the corner of my eye I see my table-mate, but he no longer seems inebriated at all. He is also holding a dagger that seems to be dripping with reddish black liquid, I realize it is blood. My blood.
“I forgot to introduce myself.” My companion releases me and I tumble to the ground, staring up at him and unable to move as I feel life fading out from my veins. “I am Viktor Ariakas,” he says with a bow and flourish of his hand, “and I was sent by Amelia’s father to extract vengeance for what you did.”
He crouches down in front of me, staring me in the eyes. “I hear you murdered her when she seemed put off by your request for her hand. Disgusting. Even I have more honor than that, and that is not saying much. Guess you’ve got your just desserts, now, though.” He reaches out toward me; I follow his hands. He cuts the belt around my waist and pulls the rapier and sheath free, and I vaguely make out his wolfish grin as he stares down at the blade while I succumb to the pull of the darkness, and I feel myself flowing away down the alleyway into nothingness.
Viktor slipped back into town under cover of night. It had been a long trip to Palanthus and back, but he felt it was worth it. The old man got closure, and he got a rapier as reward, mainly because the old man couldn’t stand to see his daughter’s murder weapon. It’s not the blades fault that its former wielder was irresponsible and had an uncontrollable temper. Now it’s in better hands, though, as Viktor is very good at maintaining his cool.
Viktor made his way through the streets of Solanthus toward the hole in the ground he currently calls home. He quietly slips into an alleyway off of one of the side roads and makes his way toward an old well that hardly sees any use these days, mainly because of the out of the way location. With a quick glance around at his surroundings to make sure the coast is clear, he swings a leg over the edge of the well, hooks his grapple to the lip, and then slides down the rope into the darkness below. He lands on a slight ledge about halfway down and with a quick jerk the grapple comes free and he manages to catch it before it tumbles further down into the waters below.
He slides his way long the ledge to a small section of Dwarven tunnel that has long since been separated from the rest of the tunnel network underneath Solanthus, he was fortunate to find this while searching for the tunnels that he heard rumors of from some of the less honorable denizens of the city in an attempt to satisfy some of his curiosity about Dwarves and their lifestyle. This section of the tunnels was caved in long ago, and the exit shaft had been turned into a well since it was far easier to have a head start while digging. Viktor was not sure where the other end of the tunnel went, since there seemed to be far too much rubble in the way for clearing out. He had managed to clear enough of a hole to get to a room-sized gap between two sections of collapsed tunnel.
Of course, Viktor highly doubted that he was the only one who knew of this, so he set up a simple stonefall trap at the entrance to his room. He made sure to put in a dummy trip line so that any would-be rogue might accidently disarm the wrong line and end up with quite a bit of rock on top of them. He made sure to disarm the correct portion of the trap, which would allow him to slide through the opening into the room he called home. It tended to keep the rain out, but the heat and cold was always an issue. He liked to think of it as camping without the need to bring a tent. Once inside, he reset the trap and then prepared his bed for a long needed rest.