The Heroes of Westfall
Bugbear Rogue/ Daggermaster/ Deadly Trickster
As she sat in her niche fifty feet over the floor of the cave polishing her knife for the twentieth time and watching the seconds slowly slip by on the extremely expensive brass hydrochronometer her boss had given her for this mission, it occurred to Anna that she was not, perhaps, a typical bugbear. Short, wiry, clever, and neat where they seemed to be uniformly big, burly, dim and…somewhat less-than-meticulous grooming habits, Anna had never minded being raised by humans, though the boys and girls in her small village outside Westfall had not felt the same. Anna’s father had always told her, “Anna, you don’t have to be like anybody else. There’s nothing wrong with being different.” Well, she mused, she was certainly that.
Once the overly ornate brass hand met the hydrochronometer’s meticulously intricate three, she would have a two minute window to subdue the guard, extract the package, and make her exit. Assuming the little brass device was still accurate after her painful eighty-foot drop on the way in. And assuming Benson didn’t foul up the diversion. And assuming her patron’s slightly odd behavior when he explained the mission was not poorly disguised nervousness at betraying her into a trap. Her ears twitched in irritation. She hated assumptions. Almost as much as she hated waiting. Almost as much as she hated this pretentious time piece she couldn’t help but stare at. Honestly only a few more baroque curliques and the number three would become completely unrecognizable.
She breathed in slowly through her nose and took out her knife to begin polishing again. Her patron had seemed oddly guarded around her lately. She couldn’t really blame him. He was a man who relied on his secrets and anonymity almost as much as he relied on her skills. If she took it into her head to betray him, he’d be in a tight spot indeed. While she liked to think they’d come to a mutual trust and respect, especially after that business in Tu’narath, she did not think him beyond a preemptive betrayal. Perhaps it was time to find a new employer, though finding one who paid as well would be a challenge.
At the strike of three, she slipped the time piece back into her pack and leapt down from her hiding spot. She dropped fifty and landed neatly on the shoulders of the single armored guard, her feet and hand making contact just after her knife slipped down over the high metal collar of his armor and right between his vertebrae. He hit the ground hard and she held still for a moment listening. She didn’t hear Benson yet, but that was okay. She had another minute before things became serious. A few moments of searching the guard’s body produced the key. So far so good.
She strode to the far end of the cave where stood a large steel door. It looked like it was opened regularly, but she checked for traps anyway. None. The key fit the door. Excellent. She turned it, swung the door open, and found herself staring at the pointy end of a medium sized ballista. She couldn’t say she was surprised at who stood at the other end flanked by a pair of orcs with spears.
“Benson, you unscrupulous son of a prostitute.”
“Charming, to the last,” he said with a self-satisfied smirk.
“He’s not even paying you extra for this, is he?” Anna said.
Benson’s smile began to falter. Anna dove, the machine jumped, and three feet of steel-tipped oak came hurtling through the doorway, just over her shoulder. She rolled and sprang to her feet in a blink. As she made for the exit, part of her mind couldn’t help but count the negatives. She hadn’t been paid upfront, she needed a new boss, most of her contacts would now become enemies, and she’d have to move again. On the other hand, she had a very fancy hydrochronometer to sell. It always paid to look at the bright side.