By David Pontier
When Goblins Attack is the property of the author, David Pontier and is used with permission by Candlekeep. Email David with any comments and feedback on When Goblins Attack and visit his website at: http://www.geocities.com/piqsid/stories.html.
Chapter 4: The Dinner Party
Entreri walked down the street, enjoying what would probably be the last moderately warm day they would have till spring. He had just finished the last section of his house, and now he wanted to work on the inside. For this he needed different wood.
The clerk who owned the lumber shop was very agreeable. After Entreri's encounter with Buster, he had found it necessarily to find a different blacksmith. This was partly because Buster had left town for a short while until the matter with Quinton had been taken care of, and mostly because Buster would never treat Entreri fairly. The rest of the shop owners treated Entreri like a normal customer. Most treated him very well due to the timely fashion in which he paid his bills, very rarely arguing over the price.
Quinton Palluge had been the most prominent gem and precious metals dealer in Garrilport, and with his departure, several people stepped up to take his place. Entreri made sure he visited them all when he exchanged his treasure into more easily tradable currency. He did not want one of them to get suspicious about him, and he hoped they did not talk among themselves.
Torrance Kelly, the man who ran the lumber shop, was not his usual chipper self when Entreri entered. Even after seeing one of his better customers enter, the man only gave a half-hearted smile. Entreri tried to ignore it as he approached and gave his order.
"I'm sorry, Artemis," Torrance replied, "I won't be able to fill that order today. You see, I had an accident last night. I was robbed."
"Robbed?" Entreri had hoped the crime sprees of before would disappear once the people of the city saw how violently John and his men had dealt with Quinton and friends. Of course, Entreri quickly realized, John and most of his best men were not in town right now. "They stole wood?"
"No, they stole money, but now I can't purchase wood from my supplier. I have what you need in stock, but I need it to fill other outstanding orders. It will be some time before I rebuild enough bank to resupply myself. Of course, if you could pay your credit line, it would help."
"Of course," Entreri said pleasantly, though inside he was fuming. It was not that Torrance had been robbed, but that Entreri was being passed over for more important customers. He was not used to being passed over. If in Calimport someone owed Entreri money, they would ignore all others until they had repaid the deadly assassin. Entreri could probably get what he wanted from this man through a little "creative" bargaining, but that would ruin his reputation, and word would get around. "How much do I owe you?"
Entreri knew what the bill was, but he also knew he did not have it on him. While Torrance looked in his books, Entreri removed his ivory rod from his vest. He had gotten very good with the portal and quickly opened a small window behind the privacy of the counter. He reached in and picked up a coin bag that was sitting on the distant cave floor.
"Oh, it is too much," Torrance said, once he had found the entry in his logbook.
"How much?" Entreri asked again, holding the large bag of coins below the counter.
Torrance flipped the book around so Entreri could see it for himself. Entreri heaved the bag onto the counter and then plucked his normal coin pouch from his waist. He counted out a few more coins until he had the exact amount. "You can count it if you like," Entreri said, "but that should be all of it."
Torrance just looked at the amount dumbfounded. He was not surprised that Entreri had the money; he knew how rich his customer was. He was just shocked that Entreri had it on him. He looked up at his new favorite customer with a smile on his face. "What did you needed again?"
Entreri repeated his order. "I'll see what I can do," Torrance said slowly. "I can't make any promises, but my boy will be by your place later today with what I can scrounge together."
"I appreciate it," Entreri said. As he turned to leave, he thought that it would be highly unlikely for Torrance to decide not to complete his order in its entirety. Either that or he would call on his other customers and only accommodate those who could satisfy their credit line as Entreri had just done.
Entreri had not planned to do any work till after lunch, but he had also counted on helping the delivery boy with his order. Now he had a few hours to burn. He had worked mainly on the outside of his house, but now with winter coming, he realized the inside could use some sprucing up as well. As he approached the textile shop, he looked around carefully to make sure no one saw him enter. If it were known back home that Artemis Entreri, the most deadly man in Calimport, had visited Nancy's Fine Fabrics, people would start to talk.
Even Entreri, with his new role in life, could barely stand to be in the shop. Artemis Entreri had faced down the horrors of the underdark. He had fought to the death with Drizzt Do'Urden. He had gone up against many different powerful battle mages. He could survive staring down colorful floral patterns if he had to. He needed new curtains. The ones he had were old and full of holes, plus he had half a dozen new windows now that did not have any curtains.
As he moved through the rows of fabric, he was glad that not many people in the city knew him. The chances of him getting caught in here were slim.
"Artemis! I did not expect to see you here."
It was Ellen, the mayor's daughter. Entreri turned to give her a smile. "I guess even us vicious killers have our soft side," he managed.
She laughed at him. She did not believe the reports of his previous exploits, even when they came from his own mouth. "I don't suppose you are here looking for new clothes."
"Not quite," he agreed. "Curtains are on the agenda for today. I was wondering if they have anything more . . . well, plain."
Ellen laughed again. "I think they have some more 'manly' patterns back here." She led Entreri to the corner of the store where there were some simple hatched patterns and a few solid prints. Entreri found something he could live with.
"Do you do your own sewing too?" she asked. Entreri looked confused. "Nancy's is a great shop," Ellen continued, "but she only sells the fabric. You need a seamstress to make your curtains."
"I suppose you know the location of a good seamstress I can go to," Entreri responded.
"I might," she said coyly. "And I suppose I could show it to you, but only if you come over for dinner tonight."
Would this ever end! Entreri let out a long sigh. "What is the occasion?"
"Nothing," she replied. "It's just that the first day of the week we usually have John over, and since he is out of town for a while, there will be an empty spot at the table."
Entreri carefully weighed the task of finding his own seamstress and cooking for himself against following Ellen to another shop and then being congenial for an hour or so during dinner tonight. It was all about keeping up appearances. If he wanted to stay off the short list every time there was a murder in town, he was going to have to make a few sacrifices. He agreed.
* * *
The dinner was quiet for the most part. Jerithon tried to bring up topics that he thought would be interesting, but the mayor was used to talking with John or the members of the city counsel. The only thing he knew about Entreri was that he was a lethal killer. It was not quite dinner conversation. Entreri was not exactly helping matters, and most of his replies were as monosyllabic as possible. He did not want to be there.
Ellen broke the silence. "Do you know anything about goblins, Artemis?"
"A little," he replied.
"Are they as dangerous as that ranger implied?"
"Not if they handle it correctly."
Ellen waited for an elaboration, but none was forthcoming. "Do you think they will handle it correctly?"
Entreri put down his utensils and looked at the young woman. "How long has he been gone?" he asked, sensing the concern in her voice.
"Five days," she responded.
"I think it takes them at least two days travel to get where they are going. Their business should take longer than a day, so he is not overdue. Do I think they will handle it correctly? I don't know. Each situation is different. Elliorn has her wits about her, and as long as she does not underestimate her enemies, they should be fine."
"Why didn't you go?" she continued.
"I was working on my house," he said carefully. Ellen was a fan of his, he knew that. And while he did not seek her favor, she was on the city counsel now and it would not hurt him to keep her favor. "Besides, I do not work well in the cold. I grew up in a dessert."
"Which one, exactly," Jerithon entered the conversation finally, happy that it was moving.
"Calimshan," Entreri replied simply.
Jerithon frowned. "I don't believe I'm familiar with that one."
"No," Entreri agreed, "I don't suppose you are."
This looked like the end of the conversation. Ellen tried to think of a different way to approach the subject of goblins, but she was interrupted when the door suddenly burst open. John stood in the entryway.
"John!" Ellen cried getting up from the table and running over to him.
"Captain," Jerithon greeted him, also rising from the table. "How did it go? We did not expect you back this soon."
"It was a massacre," he said emotionlessly. He realized he needed to clarify for whom and continued. "I was the only one who escaped alive. The rest are dead or captured. The ranger walked us into an ambush."
The rest of the room was speechless. John appreciated the lack of questions. "I am going back. I need 30 men at least. I will draft them if I don't get enough volunteers. I'll take an army up there and we will destroy every last one of the vile creatures. We were caught off guard. That will not happen again. With enough men I can-"
"No!" Entreri said boldly, standing up from his own chair and turning to face the captain. He had to do something now. John would rip this town apart to enact his vengeance. Entreri could not allow that. He liked it here. Already John's absence had caused him some inconvenience at the lumber shop. If he took the rest of the guards and all the noble fighting men, this city would be cast into chaos and anarchy.
John had not seen Entreri in the room, but now looked at him with contempt. Not only had this man selfishly refused his services when John had first come to him, but here he was sitting in John's chair. Before he could lash out at Entreri, the assassin spoke first.
"You and I will go back alone. Together we can do in stealth what you failed to do with force."
"You pompous arrogant ass!" John screamed. "Who do you think you are? Elliorn was right. You don't see things as they really are. Didn't you hear a word of what I just said? Eleven fighting men - all dead save me. And it took them ten seconds to do it. What do you think you can do that we could not?"
Entreri was mad, but he did not have time to kill John right now, that could come later. Right now he needed to help him. "You did not listen to me either. Your goblins have themselves quite a bit of protection, don't they? They are locked up tight in their caves and ready for intruders. They are doubly ready now. When you want to assassinate the king, do you take twenty men to go knock on the front door of the castle? No, you hire the silent assassin to slip over the wall at night and attack when everyone is sleeping. Trust me; I know."
John was not happy. He wanted to kill or break something, but he knew Entreri was telling the truth. The goblins would out number them no matter how many men he took. And there were the giants. He did not know how to fight them straight up. They would have to be sneaky.
"Can you ride tonight?" Entreri asked. The captain looked dead tired, but he also had a look in his eye that Entreri understood well. John was a fighter. He could go all week without stopping.
"I need to change horses," John said.
Entreri nodded and walked toward the door to pick up his coat and discarded weapons. "Please be careful," Ellen said before Entreri left. He turned to look at her. "Please, bring him back alive."
"We will be back in four days. I promise," Entreri said with such confidence that Ellen believed him.
"I will be waiting."
Entreri nodded and left.
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