Monday, December 16, 2013

Spirit of the Season: Part One

            The snow was falling as the group entered the outskirts of town. They had traveled most of the way on foot catching a ride on a merchant's wagon for only the last few miles. The ride was a welcome rest for Leopold's feet, but it was certainly a trade off. Now that he wasn't moving, the bitter cold of the place seeped into his bones. He had on multiple layers which served to break the wind, but everywhere his skin was exposed had gone numb long ago.
            "Why did we have to come here of all places?" Midas complained. "It's so cold I can't feel myself think."

            "That doesn't even make any sense," Leopold argued. "You can't feel your brain in that way, so cold wouldn't make it go numb."
            "That doesn't answer the question," Midas said. "Why are we here? This isn't exactly my idea of an ideal way to celebrate the new year."
            "We're here because this is where the money is," Daniel finally responded to the original question. "We go where it pays to go."
            "That's what you keep saying," Midas grumbled.
            "I say it because it's true," Daniel said. "Just because you don't like it doesn't change the facts."
            "Besides," Leopold put in, "if we just do the job quickly, we can be long gone before the new year comes."
            "What doesn't make this anymore pleasant while we're here," Midas shot back.
            "And neither does your whining," Raven pointed out. She had a low tolerance for complainers and Midas was one of the worst.
            Leopold was about to say something when the wagon hit a pothole. Raven had been adjusting her position beside him, and the sudden motion knocked her off balance and into his lap.
            "Sorry, Leo," she said as she righted herself.
            "Don't worry about it," Leopold said. "This isn't exactly riding in style, you know.
            It was true that the ride had not been the smoothest and that they had been bouncing off of each other for most of it, but that was only part of the reason that he didn't mind the intrusion of his personal space. Truth be told, he had begun to suspect that he was developing feelings for Raven, feelings that he had never felt for anyone else in his life. He had first noticed them during their last job, the one where they floundered around in the marsh for several weeks. It was there that he had begun to notice how attractive she was and how even the sight of her sent his emotions into a tail spin. He had managed to not show the inner turmoil that he was experiencing, after all his life had been spent masking and suppressing his feelings and he was quite good at it by now. Then when she was almost killed in the swamp, the feeling of utter loss blew through all of his lies and mental defenses. This girl clearly meant more to him than he would admit. He was still having difficulty sorting all of these feelings out, but even now he definitely didn't mind physical contact with Raven.
            "So what exactly is the job that's paying for us to be here?" Raven asked in an attempt to divert attention away from her awkward spill.
            "We'll talk about it when we get to the inn," Daniel answered with a sidelong glance at the merchant driving the wagon. Up until now he had just sat in silence, putting nothing into the conversation but just listening. Nosy people were exactly the ones that they needed to avoid saying too much around.
            "You aren't going to give us anything?" Midas asked. "How about a hint?"
            "You've waited this long and I think you can wait a little longer to find out," Daniel said. "But, just so that you'll stop bugging me, I'll tell you that Leopold will be doing most of the work on this one."
            "Well that makes it one of two things, doesn't it?" Midas asked. "Anyone care to make a wager on which it is?"
            "Oh, grow up, Midas," Raven said.
            "Suit yourself," Midas said. "I'm just trying to make this infernal trip go by quicker."
            "Actually, I'll take you up on that wager," Leopold said.
            "Really?" Midas asked in surprise. Leopold was not normally the person to get involved in wagers of any sort. "Which job are you thinking it will be?"
            Leopold narrowed his eyes at his brother and motioned with his head toward the merchant. Slowly he drew his index finger across his throat while making a low gurgling sound in his throat.
            "That's the one that I was going to pick," Midas said. "You're going to have to give me favorable odds to go against you on that one."
            "Five to one?" Leopold asked.
            "Make it ten to one and you've got a deal," Midas said.
            "Seven," Leopold responded. "Final offer."
            "It's a deal," Midas said, shaking his brother's hand. "So how much do you want to put down on this?"
            "We're here," Daniel said before Leopold could answer. "Midas and Leopold, grab the gear. The inn is right down the street. Raven and I will be there getting a room. Oh, and seven to one? I'll get in on that. Whatever Leopold puts down, double that for me."
            "Oh come on!" Midas exclaimed at the wizard's back. "Way to go and ruin everything. Now we can't put any money on it."
            "Yes we can," Leopold said with a grin. "I'll put a hundred thousand gold up."
            "Shut up and grab the stuff," Midas growled. Leopold laughed and followed his brother toward the inn.

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