After going back to his barracks and changing into civilian clothing, Roscoe went around to some of the seedier taverns in the city. Despite only being just after midday, the first two were almost halfway full already. As soon as he opened the door, every eye turned his way. Most did so openly, but a few were good at hiding it. Roscoe didn’t want to attract this kind of scrutiny, especially from an entire room full of people, so he scanned the crowd and pretended to be looking for someone in particular. When he didn’t spot the imaginary person he was searching for, he spun around and walked out.
The third tavern wasn’t as full as the first two, but it was still more crowded than he liked. It wasn’t until he arrived at his fourth place that he was satisfied with it. Only two of the tables were occupied. One table had three people at it and the other was taken by a single man. This would work out better for him. Sure, he’d still get scrutinized by people, but it would be as each person came in and not as a crowd.
Roscoe didn’t want to stand out so he ordered ale and sat at a table near the back. He sipped on his ale while he kept his head down and eyes up. Never much of a drinker, he was afraid that he’d get drunk trying to maintain his cover. The tavern’s ale was so watered down that it didn’t become a problem.
He sat there for most of the afternoon before the place started getting busy. Most people looked him over as they came in, but a few of them paid him no heed. Those were the ones who were strictly here to drink, he knew. Of course, he also knew that anyone who came to drink the swill served here had to be poor and desperate. Therefore, he had to be careful around them.
A loud bang interrupted the majority of conversations going on around the room. Roscoe felt the bang on his table and looked up to see a large man standing before him. He let his eyes drift down to the empty mug the man had slammed down. His eyebrow raised in question to the man’s actions while he started to slowly move his off hand toward the hilt of a dagger he had in a sheath on his belt.
“I ain’t never seen you here before,” the man growled.
“That’s ’cause I ain’t from ’round here,” Roscoe retorted in an exaggerated accent.
“Whatchu doin’ in here?”
Roscoe put anger on his face. “I’m just lookin’ for work, so why don’t you back up before I put you down?”
The large man stared hard at Roscoe. For a moment, he thought he had pushed too far and began tensing for a fight, but it didn’t come. The man just gave a soft chuckle before walking away. Roscoe kept his relief of his face and downed the rest of his ale. He got up, walked over to the bar, and ordered another. By the time he got it, and returned to his table, there was another man sitting there.
The new man wasn’t as physically imposing as the first one, but Roscoe got the feeling that he was more of a threat. There was a dangerous intelligence behind his eyes. “I hear you’re looking for work,” the newcomer said.
“So did everyone else here,” Roscoe responded. “That don’t make you special.”
“If that mouth of yours hasn’t got you killed yet, you must be decent with a sword.”
Roscoe shrugged. “Not the best, but better than most.”
“You willing to prove yourself to get a job?”
“Depends on what I’ve got to do. I ain’t gonna do something suicidal like storming the castle by myself.”
“What about a one-on-one fight?”
“Who’d I have to fight? You?”
“No, not me,” the man chuckled. “You’re of no use to me dead.”
Roscoe was about to protest that statement, in order to stay in character, but he found that he couldn’t do it. Something inside told him that agitating this man wasn’t a good idea. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the man would be able to kill him, if they came to blows. So, he stayed quiet and just looked at the man.
“Like you,” he continued, “we’re new in town, and my organization is looking to add a few more faces for our operations in the Kingdom. Two of the three positions have already been filled. I want you to fill the other, but another member of our organization would rather have it be someone else. If you want the job, you’ll have to fight the other guy in order to win it.”
“To the death?”
“That’s entirely up to the combatants. If you win, and want to let him live, you’re welcome to, but he may not be that merciful. So, Mouth, do you want the job, or not?”
Roscoe looked down for a moment. From what he knew, Merlinus was new to the Kingdom, like the man claimed to be. If this man worked for Merlinus, this may be his only chance to get close enough to him. If he did it, though, he’d be on his own, with nobody to save him if he fell. What should he do?
A steely resolve burst from within and he looked up into the man’s eyes. With a cold smile, he said, “Let’s go.”