Hyul 39, Spring-
I have been tasked to collect four artifacts for an exhibit in the Guild Museum. Four seemingly simple assignments: the Maxcaliber, the Moonblade, the Wicked Staff, and Death’s Head. According to legend, four foul souls are the keepers of these lost relics. A dead skeletal warrior wields the great obsidian blade. The ghostly soul of an ancient thief menaces the Buyans with a curved blade glowing of moonlight. The tortured and corrupted soul of an arch-magus is bound to his skeletal remains, clutching a staff whose flame burns eternal. Finally, the one who sealed their fate in keeping them on the mortal plane. An evil shaman who thought he could cheat death roams the graveyard, leaning on a staff crowned by the head of the Reaper himself.
This should prove to be an amusing assignment. I will plan to lure them all into the deepest recesses of the haunted graveyards. Greed is a powerful motivator, especially to the corrupt souls of four such men. Making a deal with the devil is a dangerous game, one I shall surely enjoy.
They have all taken my bait. The chance for final rest brought the warrior. Treasure enticed the thief to come to my little game. Power beyond his imagining got the old wizard to bite. A chance to spread suffering was too good for the shaman to pass up. In three nights, when there is no moon in the sky, they will meet me in the valley. Hopefully my plan works. If not, I will have to rely on my luck to get me out with my life.
Midnight approaches, and so do my four marks. A large flat rock is in the middle of the clearing, with five small stools surrounding it. I gesture to the approaching undead, and they all four take a seat. With a little bluffing, I explain to the four that I have found a way to make their dreams come true. Four scrolls are laid out on the table. One for each of them, if they can beat me at a little game of chance. In exchange, I explain their wager will be their rusty old weapons they’ve clung to for centuries. It is not an easy sell, but their greed gets the better of them as we agree to the terms.
The game? Cards. Twenty-one. Black Jack. Everyone knows the house always wins, and the dealer has the advantage. Well, these four don’t. The game post-dates their passage into the afterlife by dozens of decades. It takes some explaining of the rules, and cards are dealt. The warrior pulls a seventeen. For probably the first time in his existance, he goes the safe route. Hopes I’ll bust. The greedy little devil beside him draws fifteen. Not good enough, he hits an Ace. Sixteen. Again. A deuce. Eighteen. Pushes his luck, he hits a face card. The Moonblade is mine! The mage draws a sixteen. Reminding him the Dealer hits to seventeen, he reluctantly takes another card. A three. The mage stands on nineteen, feeling safe that he will best me.
The shaman draws two aces. Greedily, he wants to double-down. I ask him if he’s got something to sweeten the pot? He pulls a glowing crystal talisman from around his neck. The power emanating from it is great. He explains that it carries the spirit of a totem guardian. Casually, I agree that it’ll do. My side of the wager is another scroll that’s supposed to do something evil for him. Glad that I brought an extra rolled up blank parchment, I set it on the table next to the first four. He pulls two more cards, a three and four. Fourteen and Fifteen. Two more. Five, and a Jack. Nineteen, and still Fifteen. Once more. Jack. Busted. I slip the talisman into my pocket, patting it lightly against my thigh.
.:Flipping the black parchment over, you find the story continues.
So now it’s the dealer’s turn. I need a twenty to walk out of this valley with my life and four relics. Facing my three opponents across the table, I flip over my cards. Six. Four. Total is ten. A hint of a grin begins to crack across my face behind the veil. I know something they don’t. Card-sharking can be a fun game, especially when you know how to work it like a mechanic. With an experienced hand, a bottom-dealt card flops over beside my other two. The ace of spades. Twenty-one. To the victor goes the spoils. My new “friends” begrudgingly surrender their weapons. Strapping them to my rucksack, I step away from the table into the darkness, leaving behind the five scrolls and scattered deck of cards.
The four undead men grab the scrolls quickly, figuring they’d better make off with them before I return. I’m not coming back for five sheets of paper with noodle soup recipes.
Note to self: Next time you venture into the graveyards at night, keep a dagger handy. This is one scam these four will not soon forget.