Last week I let people in on all my distractions. I’m such a disorganized mind, but I love order. I’m a walking oxymoron. This week we get back to our regularly scheduled programming of Drunk and Disorderly and chapter 9. Actually I’m working on chapter 14 later today, so don’t worry, much to come yet.
This chapter builds tension between Zaralynn and a few of her crew members. I didn’t want a perfectly cohesive crew because that gets done repeatedly. I wanted my characters to have as many internal conflicts as external. They are a family or are meant to be one, but it’s going to take time to develop that comfort.
“Traitor,” Zaralynn spat back. “I hope you’re consumed next time a god dies.” She was shaking as she spoke. Her hand slipped to the revolver at her hip.
The dwarf chuckled deeply. “You may be good elf. I’m just as good with this here rifle.” He patted the butt. “I’d think deeply afore you’m make any moves.”
Clemens shuffled around to the middle of the room, standing between the pair. If he thought this would really stop the pair, he couldn’t be more wrong. He was in no danger of being in either’s line of sight as he was a head shorter than the dwarf. Still, it didn’t stop him from speaking, his hands raised in the air as if he was separating them.
“We’re all friends here,” Clemens announced as if it was fact. “You said you wanted Norsed. He’s a fine shot- he’s no Tarnoak.”
“Aye,” the dwarf agreed. “I’m first rate, I am.”
“You betrayed your clan and worse, you betrayed your unit. I cannot do business with you.”
Clemens disagreed. “You will or you don’t get my help. Tarnoak has been with me awhile now. He can’t burn anymore bridges. It’s useful to have a caged animal that’s been abused at your side.”
Tarnoak growled, whether it was him playing or being offended, Zaralynn couldn’t tell. He pulled on the red braids in his beard, waiting.
“That’s sick,” Zaralynn gritted. “There are others who could help me. For a lot less than a thousand nuggets.”
“That would be an unfortunate choice missy.” Clemens squared towards her. “You offered terms. I would hope you’d honor those with me.”
“My terms did not include a dwarf who sold our tactical plans to the enemy,” Zaralynn retorted. “You are hired on Clemens. The dwarf is on his own.”
“Clemens is right about a lot of things,” Tarnoak agreed, smoothing out his brown trench coat over his chest. “Everything I’ve done was fur greed. I’m tryin’ to be all respectable like. You’re offerin’ a thousand nuggets. You think ma greed won’t be quenched?”
Zaralynn leaned forward, pointing her finger at him. “You know how many soldiers died because of you? I do. Good soldiers. Soldiers that died thinking they were going to make a difference. But you sold our locations, our plans, our numbers to the enemy. They knew exactly where to hit us. Your greed will never be quenched as long as you breath. There is a remedy for that.” They all heard her cock her revolver with her hidden hand.
They stared at each other for a long minute, each daring the other to flinch.
“Zaralynn,” Clemens intervened again. “No Tarnoak means no Clemens. He needs this and I can vouch that he won’t betray you.”
“Ha,” she scoffed, easing up on the hammer. “I’m taking the word of a two timer speaking for a turncoat. You both take orders from me and you,” Zaralynn let all of her hatred fill the glare she shot the dwarf. “You will be locked in whatever quarters I find for you or in my sight unless I state otherwise. Agreed?”
Tarnoak nodded. “Fur a thousand nuggets, I’ll let ya shave my beard.”
“Whoa,” Clemens moved away. “You make promises like that, I won’t protect you.”
“No not one touches a dwarf’s beard,” Tarnoak chuckled at his joke.
“Unless he has been disowned by his clan,” Zaralynn quipped. “You think I don’t know dwarf culture. Did they shave it when you left?”
Tarnoak fell silent, gritting his teeth.
Clemens brought the topic back around. “You mentioned Spolt. You know where he is?”
“Not exactly, no. I’ve some ideas. Most likely Procyon as his family owns the golf course there. I doubt that he has done much since the war and I’m sure he has an itch that needs scratchin’.”
“Makes sense. I’ve not heard word one of him since you tried to hide. He was always an upstanding gent. An orc of pride. An orc after me own cut.” Clemens patted his pockets on his vest fondly, rocking on the balls of his feet. His eyes had misted over and his gold tooth was catching the little light as he slipped into a daydream.
Zaralynn knew that look. “Nope.” She snapped her fingers in front of the gnomes eyes. “Not happening. You’re a clever gnome, always on the take, but you’ll not be doing any extra dealing while in my crew. I’ve seen you work both sides before and it won’t happen here. Someone will attend any meeting you set while you’re with me.” Glancing at Tarnoak, she added, “Someone of my choosing.”
The gnome frowned. “Still not trustin’ no one. Ya know that some of the places we may need to go, they’ll only speak to me. You know that.”
“I didn’t say we’d have an easy time. You’re being paid well enough, you’ll make it work. Or do I need to find another less than reputable source that can get me what I need? That would kill two birds with one stone.” Again another flash of anger as she glanced at Tarnoak who only shrank further into the shadows the corner of the room had to offer.
Clemens surrendered. “Fine, fine. Your way. When we leavin’? Where’s this ship you’ve commissioned yourself captain of?”
Zaralynn bristled. “I commissioned nothing. If you remember right, I was a captain when the war ended. It’s not something I can lose like you did your looks. Though to be honest, I’m not entirely sure you ever had those.” She held up a hand before they devolved into a pointless argument. “We leave as soon as your ready. I’ll collect the doc and Flake and we can be on our way. You think your second can take us back to Collinstown? Unless you want to ride lizards back.”
“I’ll arrange for it. Meet here in two hours and will go to this ship. I expect it’s cozy, so I’ll pack light.”
With a nod, Zaralynn stood, eager to leave Tarnoak behind. The one thought she had was that if she knew one thing about the doctor, his ship would be more luxurious than cozy. Not that Clemens needed to know that.