“Twenty-five… twenty-six…” said the Old Man, as he placed the coins on the table before him. He stared at them a moment, then glanced up. “Your hauls get smaller and smaller,” he noted.
“Well, we’re finding less and less people on the road,” replied Bayezit casually.
Hrol scratched his head. “Probably weather,” he stated.
The Old Man snorted. “Doubtless.” He gave a sardonic shake of his head. “I don’t know why I pay you two sometimes. You’re a damned cancer. You keep killing the herders, for reason I suspect only the Lady knows…”
“No, no, no!” said Hrol. “Many good reasons. They mock us. Or they have gold. And things we want.”
“Or we’re bored,” added Bayezit.
Hrol nodded. “Oh, yeah. That too.”
The Old Man yawned. “Ahh. Thank you for the clarification.” He gave another yawn, then shook his head. “And… you do not see the flaw in your reasoning in this matter? About what will most definitely happen if you keep killing goatherds?”
Hrol thought it over. “A lot of goatherds be dead.”
The Old Man stared at him blankly. “That will be part of it, yes.” He let out a lengthy sigh. “Well, enough elucidation. Let us focus on the next job.” He looked at them significantly. “The Abbey of Secret Wisdom. You remember the route they will take, yes?”
The pair nodded. “The Southerly by Southeasterly,” stated Bayezit.
“With big beech trees,” added Hrol.
“They’re ash,” said the Old Man, rolling his eyes.
Hrol looked at him, puzzled. “You sure?”
“Yes,” replied the Old Man, with a frustrated nod.
“Huh,” said the Ogre. “What you know?”
The Old Man shut his eyes. “I am pleased I could be of service in your quest for edification.”
Hrol stared at him, puzzled. “What… edifacution?”
“Learning things,” stated the Old Man. He yawned once again. “Perhaps it would be best if you two went about your business…?”
Bayezit turned around, stretching as he did so. “Mmmm… I think you’re right. Come on, Hrol.” The Dev’s hand idly strolled over the stones of the wall. “We have work to do. We can come back, and watch the Old Man pull coins out of thin air when it’s over.” He walked casually to the door--and then with a pop, vanished from view.
He appeared behind the Old Man, holding a knife to his throat. “Come on!” hissed Bayezit. “Where’s the money? Where do you hide it?”
“Where you can not find it,” answered the Old Man calmly. His head lolled back--and then snapped off, turning to dust as it did so. As Bayezit watched, his hostage crumbled in his hands.
Bayezit and Hrol stared at each other. “Huh,” muttered Hrol. “Didn’t expect that.”
Bayezit frowned. “Neither did I. Obviously.” The pair glanced around at the Old Man’s ‘Great Hall’. As buildings went it wasn’t that impressive--the pair had seen larger ones--but there was a strange sense of age in it, and at moments like this, power.
Suddenly, a pillar of shadows emerged from the floor. It parted, revealing The Old Man, who glared at them. “You know--it pains me at time to have to employ a pair of treacherous rats such as yourself. I am the Peer of Old Stones. A true Dark Lord, of the old style, before the nine-times-damned Nine bastardized what it meant. Once a man such as I could live in a manner befitting his station. But now… now…” He gave a frustrated growl. “Go. Do your business. But know that the only reason I am not flaying the skin from your bones is that my hatred of the Abbey of Secret Wisdom outweighs my ire at your pathetic attempt to rob me.”
Hrol and Bayezit bowed and scurried out the door. Hrol suddenly paused and turned towards the Dark Lord. “We still get paid after, yes?”
The Old Man snarled, but then gave a nod.