Yumic the Loyalhearted idly strummed his mandolin as he bounced down the road in the back of a beaten-up cart. His friend William Silvertongue wasn't the best driver and seemed to hit every rock in the road. Yumic really couldn't complain at that, or at the boards broken off of the cart, or the smell of the venison that the cart used to carry, or of the pony pulling it, driven to near exhaustion. Their vehicle was somewhat hastily appropriated and it had served the purpose of quickly removing them from the last town. It wasn't many minstrels who made a habit of hijacking a cart and leaving town after every job. Or gig, as Will liked to call them.
Yumic turned his masked face to Will. "Let's stop for the night, Will. This pony is near wilting and it's beginning to get dark out here."
"Aw c'mon, Yumic, we can make at least another league or two before we lose all the sunlight."
Yumic's harlequin face mask grinned back at him. "This ride is going to stop, or our pony is going to pop." Yumic tugged his cowl down over the mask.
Will grumbled a bit and shrugged. "All right, let me find a good tree, ok?"
Yumic could never understand Will. The man could be so reckless at times and so paranoid at others. He was a contradiction of good intentions and foolish actions. But Yumic never argued when Will insisted to sleep in trees. Let the fool break his neck, Yumic thought. Will never did fall out though.
The next day they untied the pony and let it graze freely. The pair smelled enough of rotting meat without riding a messy cart into the next town. Travel by foot was not unfamiliar to them, and it was definitely a smoother ride than Will's driving. By midday the two of them had reached the town of Lilyander. It seemed populous enough and it was on the trade route the partners were following, so it would likely have some inns and taverns willing to give them a steady job for a week or so. That is, until Will invariably caused some form of trouble that forced them to leave town post haste. Yumic never understood what inspired Will to pick the mayor's pocket, or to brutalize a rival bard after a show, or to bodily beat up a man and carve 'William' in his arm, over an insult. Yumic reminded himself once again that Will was a skillful flautist, and that it was far safer to travel with a partner than without, especially on the open trade routes.
Not far inside the town was a place called The Green Roof Inn, named such because the roof still bore shingles with flaking green paint on them. The pair inquired for a job inside and after a quick demonstration, the innkeeper offered them one night and more if they brought in good money. They arranged a deal for room and board with a fraction of their earnings going to the inn. Innkeepers always seemed to be suspicious of vagrant performers, but Yumic had been refining his show for years and was well able to bring in several hundred gold pieces a night in large enough cities. His act consisted of fine music, his own impressive acrobatics, any stunt Will wanted to try, like knife juggling, and Yumic's newly perfected fire-breathing routine, which he did with the mask on. Yumic always kept his mask on when in public. Maintained the mystery of the wandering performer.
Satisfied with their deal, Will looked to Yumic as they exited the inn. "Well, we've got all day to kill, and I've got near two hundred gold pieces burning a hole in my pouch. I say we go shopping."
Yumic shrugged. "It sounds fine by me, but I'm sticking by you the whole time. I don't need to find out that you stole a potion, or killed somebody's goat, or kidnapped someone's daughter."
Will squinted at his friend and gave that dazzling smile that Yumic envied. "C'mon Yumic, buddy. What in the Nine Hells would I gain by killing a man's goat? Honestly. Now c'mon, let's go find a smithy that sells daggers."
Yumic shook his cowled head and followed his excitable friend down the street. A shop was just down the street and the clear ring of an anvil came from the forge right behind it. As they entered the shop displayed various works, mostly horseshoes and nails, but also some fine swords and an axe or two. Yumic was impressed with the quality of the craftsmanship. Will rang a bell nailed to the counter to call in some service and was just about to check how sturdy those nails were when the smith appeared through a door to the forge, wiping his hands on a rag.
"What can I do for you lads?" The blacksmith smiled under a thick moustache, sweat causing his balding head to gleam.
Will smiled to the man in a way that Yumic dreaded instinctively by now. "I'll take that dagger on the wall there, some tacks and, er . . . you got any thief's picks?" Will winked and nodded to the smith. Yumic got the feeling they wouldn't be playing at the Green Roof tonight.
The smith furrowed his brow. "Excuse me?"
"You know the stuff," Will nodded. "a little set of tools so I can pick locks and stuff. Precision instruments. Y'know, survival gear in today's world."
The smith seemed confused and a bit nervous. Yumic's mask was hiding the look of outrage on his face. A slow nod came from the blacksmith. "Uh . . . yeah, I can have them ready for you in about an hour."
Will perked right up. "Great! I'll see you in an hour then, but you're not seeing a copper until I inspect the goods."
Yumic flashed his mask's harlequin smile and hauled Will out of the store. "You bleeding idiot!" Yumic fumed, "You had to ask the decent man for lock picks?! What do you need stinking lock picks for if you're not a bloody locksmith? And not even that, you asked for thief's picks! Thief's picks! Are you trying to get us arrested again? Who knows what he's about to cook up in an hour, probably call over the magistrate and have us both hanged. You stupid bastard, how do you get me into these messes?"
Will shook his head and smiled. "You underestimate me, my friend. I know these people, know their lingo. You just gotta send the right signals and all the resources of the city's seedy underworld can be ours. Besides, it's better than trying to jimmy a lock with a knife.
Yumic sighed and shook his head. "Fine, but don't expect me to bail you out of this pickle when it goes sour on you."
One hour later, Yumic walked into the smith's shop with Will, head hung and muttering condemnations. Will walked past a burly man to the counter. "So," Will asked the smith, "Is my . . . order ready?"
The smith had more sweat shining his head and replied. "Yes, but first I'd like you to meet this man." He gestured to the burly newcomer.
"Sir," The man began, setting his square jaw. "I'm a constable of this town. You are under arrest."
Will was shocked and was grabbed roughly by the larger man. He struggled, but was quickly subdued and manacled by the constable. Will was being led out of the shop, when Yumic gave a sigh, shook his head and drew his small hand crossbow. He pressed it to the official's back.
"You're going to take those manacles off him right now." Yumic threatened. He hated that it always seemed to come to this. It made him feel so barbaric. Like a common street tough. The constable did as he commanded and routinely put his hands up.
"You're not going to get away with this," the officer said, "You're only making things worse."
"Shut up!" Yumic barked from behind his mask, and pushed the officer into the street. "You're going to take us to the Green Roof Inn and . . ." He stopped when he felt a point in his back. A quick glance told him that another officer was holding a crossbow to his back. "Well . . ." He quipped. "aren't we a lovely little caravan line?" A crowd of onlookers had gathered with a generous berth around the multiple-hostage situation.
With lightning speed, Yumic shot his free hand back and plucked the quarrel right out of his captor's crossbow. "If you try anything clever like this again, I may just have to kill this man." The second officer backed down, holding his hands up.
Yumic nodded and turned his attention back to the man at the point of his hand crossbow. "Right, now, we're going to the inn and you're going to procure us some horses. We're going to ride out of town and we'll all just pretend none of this ever happened." The constable was in no position to argue and did as he was told, leading them back to the Green Roof Inn.
"Actually," Yumic said in a low voice so the constable only heard him, "I'm really terribly sorry about all this. In fact, here." Yumic took his coin pouch and tucked it in the constable's belt. "There's about a hundred gold pieces in there, and that's my gift to you. It's not a bribe, I assure you, I just want to recompense you for the trouble and humiliation we've put you through today. Terribly sorry."
As Yumic, Will, and their hostage approached the stables, Will addressed the stable boy, "Listen up, give us two horses or the lawman gets it." The stable boy quaked at the knees and quickly ran to get them two horses.
Once the horses were tacked up and Will was mounted, Yumic shoved the man to the ground and leapt to his horse. No sooner than the officer was clear of Yumic than a collection of glowing projectiles raced at the duo and struck them violently. Yumic was nearly knocked from his saddle and both horses reared up in panic. Yumic regained his seat before regaining control of his horse and Will's was racing off for parts unknown. Yumic reined in his horse and charged to catch up with Will.
"Drat! They've got a wizard working with them!" Yumic shouted. "Damn it all, Will! You had to commit a crime at a place with a bloody wizard!"
Will was trying to fuss over his scorched tunic while at full gallop, "I did nothing wrong! It's society that's to blame!"
"Save it for when we're not fleeing for our lives, Will!" Yumic was ready to strangle his companion himself.
They rode hard for most of the day, when darkness came, they slowed and agreed to make camp for the night. They made no fire and Yumic decided to try one of those tree branches that Will was so fond of sleeping in.
And yeah, this was an actual game.