Sybil is doing nothing but minding her business while walking along a quiet dark street when naturally two murdering thugs decide to rob her of everything she has. Which should be easy. She is rather small, afterall.

The next day the town's crime boss is puzzled by their dead bodies. And who is the friendly new barmaid in town?

Character Series: no character series

Group Series: Hadesdorff, 1

Genre: Fantasy

Author: Chris Wilkins

    She came along the alley without a care in the world, while at the same time trying to wake the dead.

    Johan looked at Hans, his fingers playing over the razor sharp dagger he carried for just such jobs. “She has no idea, does she?”

    Hans smiled back at Johan, if you could call it that. It was the smile of someone who took joy in inflicting great pain on others. Hans held up his blade, similar to Johan’s, and ran his tongue along the sharp edge.

    They had done this many times before, finding lost souls on the streets of Hadesdorff and unburdening them of the weight of their money. And this one clearly needed quite a lot of unburdening.

    She was on the small side, wearing dark pants and top with a long flowing blue coat. Her sharp scimitar at her side would make a nice extra to the haul. She had dark shoulder length hair, and a strange dark vertical thick line running down her chin. But what really set her apart was the noise that accompanied her as she moved.

    It was as if a thousand metal knives and forks had been dumped on the cobblestones all at the same time, clanging, blinging, blonging and tingling in a mad cacophony that put dogs on edge and cats jump fences to get away. She had: bangles, bracelets, metal necklaces, trinkets and jewels on her wrists, on her forearms, dress, cloak, and hair that all banged together in one orchestra of noise.

    Johan didn’t care about any of that. All the noise just meant it was easier to track her down in the darkness. What attracted him like a moth to a bright light was the duller yet just as clear noise of a money belt clinking with far too much money in it.


    Hans and Johan had gone about tracking their prey just like any other. They had waited in the main tavern of the town, quietly drinking and observing the comers and goers, looking for their next meal ticket. This had been their job for years, plus they had been given full charter by The Syndicate, the shadowy body that had a monopoly on crime in the town. Not a purse was picked, not a coin swiped, or blade thrust between ribs to end someone’s life unless it came with permission from The Syndicate.

    That was of course totally separate from the constant warring and bloody murder the various factions around the town inflicted on each other in their constant and never-ending struggle to gain over lordship of the town. Johan often thought making a living by mugging and killing people was far more honest than struggling and shoving in the shield walls that kept forming in the streets. He made more money, he was sure of it.

    And Johan had checked with Stanton, the leader of The Syndicate, and he had okayed the job. Johan had never known Stanton to refuse any request because the more people were robbed, the more Stanton made. Johan had not told Stanton about the money belt because he knew that Stanton already knew about it. Stanton had a knack for knowing everything about money in the town.

    The small lady drew next to Hans and Johan when they stepped out of the shadows. She looked at one and then the other. The look of terror and surprise on the woman’s face was something Johan always loved to see. Making others terrified of him made him come alive in ways he did not know or understand, but ways that made life worth living.

    Johan started to laugh. He looked at Hans, who laughed back.


    “I don’t think this woman knows what is about to happen to her.”

    Hans laughed harder. “No. I’m sure she doesn’t”.

    One thing about the blond brothers was that whenever they were on a job they always talked in their native tongue, from a land far to the north, that had more snow than people. The local language was guttural and disgusting to their ears, but they had learnt it. It was just so much fun to speak their native tongue, especially as it always scared the victims more. It kept them on edge, not knowing if they were going to be robbed, or robbed and murdered.

    The small woman looked at Johan, and back to Hans, her mouth and eyes wide with fright. As she moved she continued to jingle and jangle. This made Johan laugh ever more.

    He ran his finger over the edge of his blade again. “What should we do with her? Hey, there are so many options.”

    Hans grinned like a hyena. “You know, we haven’t killed anyone for a while. Plus I haven’t had a woman for just as long.” He leered at the cowing victim.

    “Yeh. But Stanton didn’t give us permission to murder her, never mind rape. And you know he really doesn’t like rape.”

    “C’mon. He’ll never know.”

    “Who’s Stanton?” the woman asked.


    Stanton was used to violence. He had seen men and women killed in all sorts of ingenious ways, quick ways, slow ways, ways that sometimes people begged for the end, and others where the victims went screaming to their graves. But even he felt squeamish by what he was looking at.

    “One went quick. The other, not so,” the Guardsman said. Stanton nodded.

    “I think I could have figured that out by myself.”

    The Guard stood up, wiping his hands on his leather jupon. “One of yours?” he said with a cheeky grin.


    Stanton did not look at the man straight away. Instead he turned his gaze slowly from the lifeless Johan and Hans to the Guard, with a dead look in his eyes, and then just kept staring straight at the Guard.

    Who nervously looked back at Stanton, then down at his feet, then at the bodies again. “Ahh. Do you want me to investigate who did this?” He asked nervously, now wishing he hadn’t made any wise crack.

    “No,” was all Stanton replied. He turned to look at Johan.

    The man had clearly been tortured to death by an expert. Hans, he would have gone quickly, one slash across the throat and he was done for. But then Johan seemed to have a small puncture wound to his inner thigh. His tendon would have instantly been cut, and he would not have been able to run for it. Then there were all the other puncture marks, just above main joints, deep enough to sever tendons, rendering the arms and legs useless. Johan would not have been able to move. The attacker would have been able to do what they liked to the two thieves.

    “So, I was saying …..” the Guard started up again.

    Stanton looked at the Guard, then at Mick, his huge bear-like personal guard, and jerked his head indicating the Guard. Mick, over six foot six, bald as a baby’s bottom, with arms as thick as trees, carefully and resolutely grabbed the Guard by the arm and moved him down the alley way. The scar over Mick’s right eye and continued down to his cheek made him look menacing and helped get others to do what Mick wanted.

    Stanton did not have to worry about the Town Guard. They were there to try and keep the peace, but they did an awful job of it. They were unable to stop the constant warring amongst the different factions, and if they couldn’t stop that Stanton didn’t see why he should do as they told him.


    Besides, the entire Guard was in his pocket. Which was why this lowly soldier had come straight to Mick to tell him about the two dead Syndicate thieves in the street, and not report it to the actual Guard.

    Stanton squatted down. The wounds, at first, were clearly deliberate and well aimed. They were designed to incapacitate the target. But then the next were all to inflict maximum pain.

    “Why do you think they didn’t scream?” Mick asked, having come back from escorting the Guard out of the alley. He respectfully stood five meters away, hands clasped in front of him. He always knew to be obsequious to his boss.

    Stanton looked at the face of the Johan. There was another puncture wound right under the chin but above the throat. “Because I think whoever did this made sure he couldn’t talk.” He glanced up and down the body. “And then they slowly and carefully worked their body over from top to bottom.”

    It made his stomach churn just looking at it. Every few inches of Johan’s body had a slight cut, enough to puncture the skin but not deep enough to damage anything inside. But then there were other things. The tops of his fingers had been removed. His right boot had been taken off and the toenails all ripped off. Part of the right cheek had been cut off. Skin had been removed in other parts. It looked like the torture had gone on for at least an hour.

    “Who do you think could have done this, Mick? We know pretty much everyone in the town who’s good with a knife, but no one who could have done this, with this precision.”

    “I don’t know, Mr. Stanton.” Mick always addressed Stanton with a “Mr.” He’d once said it was to clearly show who was boss. Stanton actually liked the title. “But it wasn’t one of ours.”


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