AUTHOR’S NOTE: This tale could be considered NSFW and best suited for a "mature" reader.
It doesn’t contain any explicit sex scenes, but has strong language and mild violence in it.
Rodrigo was pacing back and forth through the warehouse glancing at the wounded soldiers, the thinning supplies, and the spare weapons they were stocking just in case... in case what? Who could have foreseen that something like that would happen, Maker cane, Andraste maiala and all the Divines in carretilla? His eyes were darting around, looking at anything but the two biggest headaches he had at that particular moment, curse him and the day he decided to take over from Leonardo as the lead of the Grumpy Boars. Mona scowled at him nodding towards the two with that look that told him "grow a pair and tell them, by the Maker!" so he finally turned towards Pato and Miga and sighed.
They were definitely an odd pairing: Pato was so young, barely eighteen, tall and lean, a beanpole you might say, but growing on mass. He was stronger than he may have appeared at first sight, he could swing that two-handed maul like no one else, though he preferred his bare fists. Miga was older, but so much smaller than the youngster: in her mid-twenties the little elf was a little dash when it came to fight, and took great pleasure in killing and swinging her axe and mace. She held his look with defiance, while Pato had at least the good sense to lower his gaze sheepishly.
"Very well, I'll ask you again, and this time I will have none of your bullshit. No excuses, no accusations, no "he said", "she said", "I told her", "I told him". I want to know the facts. Bare and simple facts." he leaned closer to them and lowered his voice. "What in the Fade happened so that a walk-in-the-park job turned out as this casino cosmico I have to deal with now?"
Pato sighed and turned his face away from Rodrigo. He hated to do that to the boy who, he knew, wasn't much more than an eager puppy willing to please his master... well, actually more like a son wishing to make his father proud of him, but even sons and puppies have to be reprimanded sometimes if they want to learn how to live in this world.
Miga scoffed: "Come on, we all know you're gonna put the blame on me. Andraste forbid the fault is on your special pupil-"
"I SAID..." Rodrigo shouted cutting her off and making them both flinch, "...The bare facts, please."
"Well..." Pato mumbled, "The job wasn't a walk-in-the-park, as you put it, to begin with. There were some things Donato didn't tell you and if he did we would have acted differently. Though we made questionable choices. Definitely."
"As if you didn't have fun." Miga groaned. "Point is, Donato was a sneaky bastard and he should have told you the cazzo di Crows were after him..."
"...And that he was smuggling lyrium..."
"...And fencing stolen dwarven crafts..."
"...And stolen jewellery..."
"...And Orlesian Masks..."
"...Amongst other things..."
"...So quite a few people wanted him dead."
"...Not only his wife."
"...And his three mistresses, which he forgot to mention, by the way..."
"...One of which was even pregnant..."
Rodrigo's eyes were bouncing from one to the other while his brows were rising with each sentence. Once they reached his hairline and his face muscles didn't know that to make of his forehead any more, he stopped them: "Ok, ok, I get the picture. So let's say it's not entirely your fault, can you please start from the beginning? And one at the time, please."
Pato sighed and looked at Miga who shrugged.
"Very well..." she said, "We left the headquarters early in the morning, as you remember and we did it in less than ten minutes. Donato's house is not far from here, but once we arrived he wasn't there. We met Mistress number one there..."
"Mariella." Pato reminded her.
"Whatever. What's-her-name pointed us to the docks, since according to her there was an incoming expedition and Donato had to check the log and sign the paperwork..."
The docks were bustling with activity but I was quite bored. Having grown up in the alleys around the harbour of Antiva City, Seleny was just a little more lively than a graveyard, in my eyes. The so-called crowd scurried about, but in my eyes it was like everyone was in slow motion.
"I don't understand why his wife wants this Donato person dead. She seems so nice..."
I groaned. Speaking of slow-motion, Pato's brain was another league entirely.
"That wasn't his wife, she was his mistress. He left his wife for her, that's why she wants him dead." I tried to explain using the simplest words I could think of.
"That woman, Mariella... was his mistress then? Not his wife?"
"Ah. Madame Nightgown. Yes, she was."
"Well, she is beautiful, I can see the appeal. And how's his wife?"
"Che cazzo I know, Pato? Who has ever seen her?"
"Well, I was just asking..."
"What? You want to make a comparison and see why he left his wife for a woman probably younger and thinner with half his age?"
"No, I was just thinking... Rodrigo said we shouldn't expect the crows to appear, since she can't pay for a contract with them, but if she really wants him dead... I mean, if you're a poor woman and want someone to make your husband pay you hire a cheap mercenary or a strong cousin and send them to beat the crap out of them, but if you want him dead you may ponder to do it yourself. It takes a poisoned dagger and a little cut..."
I was shocked. That ice-brain of his had produced an idea that actually made sense. "Rodrigo told you that?"
"No, I just imagined the possible scenarios..."
"Well, quit imagining things and keep it real."
"But what if she comes? How do we recognize her?"
"We don't. He would, if it comes to that. Do you think he's not in a state of paranoia, seeing his wife everywhere and glancing around waiting for a knife in his back?" I heard a loud laugh and turned to see a fat man in his early forties slapping a sailor's shoulder while laughing his fat ass off. "Do you expect him to be like that loud fellow over there?"
He glanced at the man and made a face: "Well, first: if he was in a paranoid state he'd be locked up in his house and hiding under the bed, he wouldn't have come to the docks alone and unguarded... and second: that loud fellow is Donato."
"What?" I spun around and gaped. "The Fade he is!"
"Have you ever actually seen him?"
"You were at the meeting with him, I was on a mission!"
"Then you'll have to take my word." he walked towards the man and called "Mastro Donato? We're here on behalf of the Grumpy Boars..."
"Ah yes! I remember you! Paco?"
"Ah right, Pato. You were with Rodrigo when we talked, right?"
I spent a good solid minute trying to locate my jaw, which should have fallen somewhere on the dock and possibly rolled down into the water. This wasn't a man his wife had just threatened to kill; this was a man with secret suicidal tendencies! I mean, come on! You leave your wife for another woman, she stalks you, leaves you threatening messages, tries to off you not once but twice before you decide to hire some bodyguards and what do you do? You go unguarded in a very public place, stay there in plain sight surrounded by all the lowlife in Seleny being a loud jackass? I mean, tattoo yourself a target on your belly, there's plenty of space for that! You got the belly button? Bullseye! One-hundred points!
"This is Miga." Pato introduced me while I stood there slack-jawed, "And we're here for granting you protection, though maybe you should have waited for us to join you before you came here..."
He rolled his eyes and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "No one knew I was coming here today, the shipment arrived one day ahead of schedule... besides, I thought your presence alone would make Giovanna desist in her foul plans of killing me, even if my bodyguards are Duck and Crumble..." he muttered without even trying to downplay his disappointment for our names.
"I assure you that we are most capable in our job, sir. I may be only eighteen but I’ve done mercenary work since I was thirteen, and Miga" he nodded to me, "Is even more experienced than me..."
"She's three pounds soaking wet, how could a skinny elf like her be intimidating?"
I had enough. In a blink I was behind him pushing one of my daggers in his fat side and whispering in his ear: "Believe me, sir, I've earned quite a reputation over the years."
Well, at least he looked impressed: "You're fast! Well, that was to be expected, just... do you mind?" he slowly pushed away the dagger away from his tunic, "This is Rivaini linen..."
I wanted to stab the coglione right there and then.
The rest of the morning passed by without incident, though each minute passing I wanted to strangle the fat bastard. His attitude was annoying on a level I believed was not possible to reach: he spent the morning strolling around places doing his business like we weren’t even there, and kept calling me "Mollica". Ok, Miga and Mollica are synonyms, but guess what? The first is my name, the latter is not.
At least he kept calling "Pato" Papero, so I wasn’t alone in my grief, only the big lug didn’t seem to care. The idiot found it funny!
"They’re just our nicknames in Eastern Antivan..."
"No, Pato, first Miga is my name..."
"Your folks called you crumble?"
"Dad was the Alienage baker. But that’s not my point! It’s friggin’ disrespectful to us!"
He gave me a funny look: "Miga, we’re mercenaries. We’re just like whores, we just use other muscles than our inner thighs. When was the last time you showed a whore the respect she deserves?"
I flipped. "We’re nothing like whores, and whores deserve no respect. Easy life you get when you just spread your legs and get a hot meal for being always available for a price!"
He frowned: "Correct me if I’m wrong..."
"...But don’t we offer services to the ones who can’t do it on their own or have them for free, offering our bodies and putting our ass on the line every time someone jiggles a money pouch?"
"You could say that in a way that makes us sound less like... ok, I get your point."
"And for the record, a whore’s life is not an easy one. What would you think if you were forced to do sex instead of fighting every time our job requires it?"
When in Fen-Harel’s name did the big troll grow a brain? "I probably wouldn’t feel my walla-walla any more after noon, on a good day."
"Here you have it."
I gave him a look that would have probably set him on fire if he wasn’t so friggin’ huge and just sat there consumed in my hatred.
"...Walla-walla?" he asked after a good minute.
III. Rodrigo again
"That’s mostly entertaining, Miga..." Rodrigo rubbed his temples in a futile attempt to keep a major headache at bay, "But I’d be grateful if you stuck to the point."
"I was getting there." She said defiantly. "That’s when they attacked us."
"Who ‘attacked us’? By Andraste, Dumat, Fen-Harel and all the witches popped out Flemeth’s Qun, who the hell offed that fat bastard?"
Miga turned to Pato with a smirk: "See? He agrees with me, he was a fat bastard indeed."
"But a fat bastard who PAYED!" Rodrigo shouted slamming his fist on a table. "SOLID. GOLD. MONEY. FOR PROTECTION WE DID NOT PROVIDE HIM."
Miga stared at him wide-eyed, while Pato lowered his gaze again.
"It was my fault." he murmured.
"See?" Miga said pointing at her companion, "He admitted it, now can we..."
"The Fade you can!" Rodrigo growled. He moved to Pato and put a hand on his shoulder. When the boy didn’t look him in the eye, he lifted his chin and gave him a smile to reassure him, noticing that Pato’s eyes were glistening with tears that were about to burst.
"Va bene, Pato. I’m not angry at you, either of you. I just want to know what happened. How was it your fault..."
"Now he isn’t angry..." Miga murmured.
"No, but I’m about to kick your ass into next week if you don’t shut up your cazzo di mouth."
Pato sighed and lowered his gaze again. Then he started talking.
"At first we didn’t understand what happened. It was so sudden I still don’t get how many of them there were, we counted the bodies in the end, but some made it out alive and left after all of it was over... they didn’t come to us all at once, but they wouldn’t have been so well timed if they arranged the whole thing in advance."
"You mean they actually coordinated the attacks?"
Pato scoffed: "Seriously Rodrigo? When was the last time you heard about the Crows and Carta working together? Not to mention Giovanna, Mariella, Ramona and Daniela..."
Miga and I were sitting in our lunch break at the counter of the tavern Donato had decided to stop by for a meal. It was a quiet day so far, from our point of view, though I could see Miga was quite annoyed by the fact we were forced to follow him around in his errands. I was annoyed too, but mostly because he told us to ‘go for a walk’ since he had a meeting he wanted to attend in private. We spent a few minutes arguing since I didn’t find that sort of behaviour safe, but he insisted so we came to a compromise: he would eat alone at a booth while we would sit at the counter keeping an eye on him.
We were almost done eating our sandwiches when the first one came. I overheard him calling her Ramona and let me tell you: she was a real beauty. She looked Rivaini, with ample breasts and long curvy legs, there wasn’t a plane in her body that wasn’t curve, and her hair was curly and soft. She looked like the Queen of Antiva had merged with Andraste. At first I was confused, since I thought she must have been one of his business contacts, but the way they were interacting was quite... intimate.
I mean, you don’t Orlesian kiss and grope your business partner, do you?
I heard Miga scoffing beside me: "I can’t friggin’ believe that!"
I nodded equally shocked: "He left his wife for another lovely woman... and then he cheats on her! Unbelievable!"
"What? Pato, that man is a rotten cesso a pedali! He’s a sweaty pig ugly in culo, I can’t believe one woman was able to spread her legs for him without money involved, let alone three women!"
I shrugged: "Maybe he’s got some hidden qualities..."
"He may have a foot long cock, but the remaining five feet are a disgusting cesso all the same. You have to get the woman in bed in the first place, to show those sorts of qualities."
"I didn’t mean that... who knows, maybe he’s got charm..."
"...Or gentle manners..."
"I don’t think so."
"...Makes them laugh?"
"Ok, he’s got money, maybe his seducing techniques involve a lot of presents?"
"Uhm, I bet that’s it."
That bantering had us distracted, so we didn’t notice the other woman approaching the table until she started shrieking like an eagle. In our defence, her being visibly pregnant she completely flew under our radar: we knew how Mariella looked and we didn’t think Giovanna was with child since Donato left her one year ago and she wasn’t over him yet, not to the point she had a new lover who could have knocked her up, that is. In fact we were right, the lady wasn’t Giovanna.
"YOU BASTARD!" she screamed. Donato immediately ripped his face from Ramona’s lips with a loud pop and turned to the screaming mother-to-be. His face drained of all color.
"Daniela, what are you doing here?"
"You lied to me! You told me you left her!"
"Funny!" Ramona said with an ice cold voice, "He told me he had left you! Care to explain yourself, dear? What’s your wife doing here?"
"His wife?" Daniela looked confused, "I’m not his wife, I thought you were!"
"Now, now, dear, let’s take all a deep breath, I can explain..."
"I’d really like to hear this." another voice interjected. Miga and I turned to see Mariella at the door, her arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
"Oh-ho, shit’s gonna hit the ceiling..." Miga grinned, "This will be fun!"
I shifted from my stool and started to walk towards them when she stopped me. "Wait here, Pato."
"He’s in trouble..."
"He’s in a mess, not in trouble, and you don’t want to be involved in that. None of those women are the wife who threatened to kill him, and if he’s such an idiot he deserves to sweat his way out of this. Not that sweating is something he can’t do."
In the meantime Donato was trying to tame the wild beasts that were once his mistresses. Ramona was shouting at him slamming her hand repeatedly on the table, Daniela was hysterical, shrieking and yelling at the sky with her arms raised, while Mariella was approaching with a death stare daring him to make up some lame excuse. All Donato could do was turn to them one at the time trying to work his charm on her with the only result being pissing off the other two even more.
Miga was laughing delighted by the scene they were causing, but I had had enough so I walked to them and put myself between Donato and the three women.
"That’s it, ladies. You got him. I think it’s pretty obvious what happened, there’s no need to cause a scene. There are other patrons in this tavern who would like to eat in peace. Whatever your problems may be, you’re not gonna solve them here, now and - most of all - this way."
"Excuse me," Ramona said, "but chi cazzo are you? This matter doesn’t concern you, boy."
"On the contrary, ma’am, being his bodyguard, his physical health is a matter of concern to me, and you three looked quite threatening to me." I admitted.
Miga scoffed and came to my rescue. "Very well, ladies, here’s the deal: Mastro Pig here did leave his wife, apparently because he had an affair with you... as in plural. I take it none of you knew about the others, but here’s the situation: he cheated on you just as much as he cheated with you. If you don’t want to have anything to do with this, I’d suggest to dump his fat ass and move on, I may say you could do - and deserve - way better than him."
"And who the Fade are you?" Mariella asked her before turning back to Donato, "You do elves as well, now?"
"Wait there, round-ears..." Miga approached the woman wearing a frown I didn’t like, so I interjected.
"Ladies, this is not the appropriate time and place. If we could just..."
"SHUT UP!" the four women yelled at me simultaneously.
"I’m not going anywhere. This bastard knocked me up, and he’s gonna pay. I’m not rising his child alone and penniless!" shouted Daniela trying to reach around me to grab Donato.
"I wasted enough time with this bastard. I think we all deserve some compensation!" Ramona added.
"Listen up you racist bitch, not that I’d be interested, but if you have a problem with me being an elf, I do have a problem with you not thinking I’m not good enough for your third-hand garbage..." Miga growled in Mariella’s face
"I have no problem with you being an elf, but this doesn’t mean I think you’re good enough for even my eighth-hand garbage, knife-ears." Mariella sneered at Miga equally pissed, "You’re just a whore with armour. Your kind knows no honour."
"Very well, I didn’t want it to come to this but..." Miga sighed before hauling a fist and decking Mariella right in the jaw, sending her flying over the table behind her and onto the lunch of its occupants.
Now, I believe you’ve seen enough bar brawls in your experience to recognize a trigger. As soon as the first punch flew, it was like the Divine had freed the doves, but the crowd instead of roaring in cheer, abruptly started to kill each other. Daniela took a dive at Ramona, grabbing her hair and trying to rip it off her head, one of the patrons that was sitting at the table Mariella landed on started yelling at her only to be shut up by her punch while she was trying to stand up and get a piece of Miga. The other patron grabbed her shoulder, but Ramona had disentangled herself from Daniela and had pushed the other woman so she landed over him, sending the man against the back of another patron who was plunged face first into his soup from the impact. In less than a minute, everyone in the tavern was trying to kill someone else, except Donato, who was cowering behind me. Those who weren’t involved in the brawl made a fast exit, and I sighed in relief: soon some guards would come and stop this nonsense, right? I tried to warn Miga it was time to get our asses out of there, but she was too engrossed in redesigning Mariella’s face to notice me, and I was too focused on getting her attention to see the dwarf sneaking between the fighting men and women until I heard him talk to Donato behind me.
"The Carta doesn’t forget, scum."
I turned around just in time to see the dagger flashing and it was only my luck that the maul that I was carrying on my back and still had not unsheathed, got temporarily stuck against a chair to be immediately released, the handle smacking the dwarf’s wrist and making him drop the weapon. I immediately punched the dwarf and smacked his head against the wall, knocking him unconscious. Then I turned to Donato.
"The Carta? What’s with the Carta, now?"
"I, ah... I may have some fine goods from Orzammar in my stock that I didn’t quite acquire legally-legally... or illegally-legally..."
"You acquired them illegally-illegally?"
"And what in Razikale’s blaze does illegally-illegally mean?"
"Uh, well... I stole them from the smugglers."
"It looks like..."
I groaned. "Never mind that. I bet the guards are on the way, so they will take ca..."
"The guards? And who coño called them?!"
" I saw some patrons leaving. I think they might have..."
"I can’t be here if the guards come!"
I raised my brows: "You got more illegal-illegal stuff on you?"
"Well, not exactly, that's legal-illegal..."
"Ok, I don’t think I follow you anymore... if legal-legal is legally bought, I suppose illegal-legal is fenced or bought from smugglers, and you told me illegal-illegal is practically stolen from thieves... what’s legal-illegal?"
"Well, confiscated goods that were stolen... for me."
I sighed and rubbed my hand on my face trying not to strangle him myself.
"What? They were rotting in a warehouse anyway!"
"What did you get?"
"Just some lyrium..."
"LY-" I dropped my voice remembering we were in a public place, albeit no one was quite paying attention to us anymore, "Lyrium? Are you fucking kidding me?"
"And some Orlesian fine masks. Grab Mollica, we have to get out of here before the guards arrive..."
Now, I don’t judge clients. I don’t pretend to be better or worse than the people who hire me, I just do my job as long as I’m getting paid, and this often implies doing something questionable or something which requires me to operate outside the law, but honestly the sly bastard was starting to get to my nerves. I don’t mind being involved in risky situations, that’s my job, but what I’d like is to be warned beforehand of the risks. By omitting to mention his other enemies and shady dealings, he had put all three of us at risk! I just grabbed him by the shoulder and dragged him through the fighting crowd towards the door.
Once there, I turned to see where Miga was, and I saw her wrestling with Ramona a few feet away from me.
"Stay here." I growled to Donato, and reached for my partner, pulling her off the shrieking woman who was trying to stab her face with a broken bottle and turned to go back to our client. It didn’t take more than ten seconds, but when we turned an elf man had grabbed him from behind holding a dagger at his throat.
"The Crows send their regards." he said.
"Oh, man!" I groaned, and tossed the maul at him. The head of the hammer hit him on the forehead, and he stumbled backwards, stunned, letting Donato go. He ran towards us while two more assassins poured from the entrance.
"The Crows? Seriously?" I shouted at Donato.
"I don’t know who hired them! Giovanna can’t have enough money to get a contract on me!"
"Darling, I know you all of three hours and I’d gladly put a contract on you," Miga hissed, "I bet you have enough enemies to put together a nice sum if they collect two bits from everyone..."
I elbowed Miga and lunged for my weapon, but the first Crow was already on me and I had to fight him unarmed.
For a while it was just a blur of people assaulting me and me pushing them off, so I lost Donato and Miga in the crowd, but after some minutes of intense fighting, I had managed to recover my maul, and I was able to knock down most of the assassins. The last one took off and ran outside and, as I realized Miga and Donato weren’t in the tavern anymore, I took off behind him.
V. Miga again
Once Pato engaged the Crows, I figured the only way to keep the bastard alive was getting him out of there. He was clearly no fighter, and if he was involved in the brawl around us he’d be just as dead as if the Crows took him, so I grabbed him by the vest and dragged him behind the counter through the kitchen. Thanks to Mythal, there was a back door, so we ran outside and took off towards his home.
"What about Papero?" he asked.
"It’s Pato, asshole, and he’s a big boy, he’ll be fine."
"But those were the Crows, shouldn’t you go... dunno, help him?"
"Hey, we were hired to protect you, not each other. Besides, he’s buying us time, we have to go to your house. You’re gonna sit there and I’m gonna get to Rodrigo and ask for reinforcements. You should have told us about the Crows!"
"I didn’t know that! Just like the Carta..."
"The Carta?" I shouted. "What’s with the Carta now?"
"There was a dwarf who tried to stab me back there..."
"And it looks like he failed." a rough voice said behind us. It was a group of three dwarves, heavily armed, and every one of them had an S-shaped brand on the cheekbone.
"Oh, bugger!" I moaned, "Run to your house and barricade yourself inside, I’ll take care of them!"
With that I was on them. I’m pretty skilful with my daggers, and in less than a minute I had two of them down and I was engaging their leader, that’s when I heard Donato scream. Again.
One of the Crows from inside had reached him and was about to cut his throat, but suddenly Pato was behind him and swinging that huge-ass maul of his he knocked him down. The blade had just scraped the side of Donato’s neck, but he was screaming like he was fatally wounded, and that distracted me enough for the dwarf to clip me in the knee sending me on the ground. Pato was panting, but he stood in front of the whining Donato protecting him from the dwarf when a woman’s voice echoed in the alley.
"Stop right now!"
We all turned towards the hooded woman who was walking towards us.
"That man is mine!" she said as she raised a crossbow from behind her cape and fired at Donato. Thank Andruil, Pato was ready to push him out of the bolt’s trajectory getting the dart in the shoulder himself. The situation was quite dire now: I was crippled, his injured shoulder didn’t allow him to fully use his right arm - and in turn his maul - and there was still the dwarf and the woman with the crossbow to deal with...
VI. Pato again
There was no way I could fight the dwarf back with a bolt in the shoulder, let alone him and the archer woman. The dwarf knew that, so he jumped at me, and I barely managed to parry his axe and push him back. He was about to charge again at me when he suddenly started drooling blood and fell face down on the pavement, a bolt sticking out of his neck.
"I said he’s mine."
"Giovanna, my love!" Donato whimpered, "You came to save me!"
She ripped off her cape and stared at him with fury burning in her eyes. "Save you my ass! Killing you is a pleasure I want for myself!"
"Now, now, ma’am, there’s no need to get violent here..." I started, hoping the man would get the chance and run for his life. After all he was the only one between us that wasn’t injured.
"There is need to get violent, boy. And if you stand in my way I’ll kill you just like the half-leg there." she nodded pointing at the dwarf while raising the crossbow towards me.
Obviously Donato stayed where he was.
"Ciccina, please... the boy is right, there’s no need to get violent. I wanted to talk to you, you know, to beg for your forgiveness. I was wrong, piccolina, I should never have left you. You’re the only one I love..."
Miga rolled her eyes and groaned, and it took all my self-control to not do the same. That was the lamest attempt ever.
"To bad I do not love you. I never did." Giovanna said coldly. "What I loved was your money and the gifts you gave me to make up for your guilt when you returned home from your dates with your sluts. Yes, I knew about them all along." she added with a grin, "But as long as I was your wife, it didn’t matter. When you left me and started talking about divorce... well, that was a different song, wasn’t it. I’d be cut off your properties and will, so the only way was killing you before the divorce was final..."
"Bu-but if we settled for half my riches as alimony!" he blabbered, stunned at Giovanna’s admission.
"Half of your legally owned riches, dear. And why settle for half when I can have the whole thing?" she said while her grin widened.
In the meantime I had managed to pull the dart out of my shoulder. It was still hurting and bleeding, but it wasn’t as bad as before, and I could move my arm better. "You do realize that you’ve got two armed witnesses here, Giovanna?" I asked. "If you were charged for his murder, you won’t see a copper, most likely you’d get the gallows instead..."
"Oh please..." she laughed, "You don’t owe him anything. I bet we can reach an agreement so we both win out of this situation. Whatever he’s paying you, I can double that after he dies, and no one needs to know..."
"We have a code of ethics, you know..." I countered.
"In that case I have enough bolts here for all of you." she scoffed.
In the meantime Miga had managed to get up and silently shift behind her. I smiled as she grabbed and turned her to face her holding one of her daggers at her neck. I knew she would exploit the time I was buying us to our advantage. Little did I know what she considered "our advantage", though.
"Tell me more about that agreement." she said to her with a grin.
In that moment I realized that if I had to do something I had to do it alone. I knew Miga is unpredictable, but in that moment I couldn’t be sure if she meant to buy more time and distract her from me so I could take initiative or if she was seriously considering Giovanna’s offer. I mean, she could have stopped Giovanna herself but her wound could have impaired her, making her feel less confident about her skills... but my injury directly impaired my offensive capacity.
In doubt, I chose to act. I lunged myself at Giovanna, who was now turned sideways from me, and I tackled her to the ground, disarming her. We wrestled for some minutes, since I had one arm not functioning properly and she was stronger than she looked, but in the end I managed to neutralize and block her. Miga sighed and finally decided to help me tie her. The woman was screaming bloody murder, completely hysterical.
With a sigh I finally turned to Donato ready to escort him back home when I saw it: a sword was sticking from his chest. He was dead. A group of guards finally came to the alley while Miga and I were still staring in disbelief at the body: where did that sword came from? None of our foes carried one, not even the Carta dwarves: there were daggers, yes, and axes, maces, mauls, crossbows... honestly, to this day I never understand what had happened. Yes, someone must have sneaked behind him while we were fighting Giovanna and killed him without a sound, but who? Was there another party involved? The Crows, the Carta, his wife, his mistresses... who else wanted him dead so badly? Is it possible for a man to have that many enemies?
VII. Rodrigo once more
Rodrigo stared at the both of them in disbelief. Miga was holding his stare proudly while Pato was once again studying his boots in shame.
"Seriously guys... I-I can’t believe that." he said eventually.
"I swear Rodrigo, this is the truth!" pleaded Pato.
"No, Pato, I do believe you. I have no reason to doubt anything happened just like you said but... wow! That was quite a show you put there. I mean, the Crows, the Carta, the wife, the girls, the bar brawl... this is just... it seems like one of those tales the Hahren used to tell us back in the Alienage!" he shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose.
"At least it wasn’t Giovanna who killed him, so we did fulfil our part of the contract." Miga tried.
"Miga, don’t." he snapped, pointing a finger right at her nose, "I’m still pissed at you. Had you not started the bar brawl..."
"I dragged Donato’s ass out of there, didn’t I?" she hissed.
"But you put him in danger in the first place." Rodrigo retorted.
"I fucking didn’t! Wasn’t me who cheated on all his mistresses, smuggled lyrium, stole from the Carta and Maker knows what else to earn the Crows contract!"
"She’s right, Rodrigo," Pato interjected, "She may have started the brawl but she had no clue things would go downhill so fast."
Rodrigo groaned and stood silent for a few minutes while studying Miga’s defiant expression, then he finally sighed: "Get lost. Both of you. And remember Valeria said your bandages need changing before you retire for the night."
He dismissed them both with a wave of his hand and slumped over his chair. Mona came behind him and started rubbing her hands on his neck to soothe him.
"At least, he paid us in advance..." he murmured.
The woman chuckled.
Doing the last inventory check, Mona rose and went to the warehouse door to see if anyone was still outside. She didn’t see anyone and she was about to lock up for the night when she heard Miga’s voice from down the alley.
"That’s not what we agreed."
"We didn’t agree to any sum, dear." an unknown woman’s voice replied.
"You said you’d pay us double, and that’s hardly what he paid us in the first place. Remember I’m a witness, I could go to the guards and tell them the sword was yours, not Daniela’s."
"The guy that was with you could say otherwise..."
"He never noticed Daniela was armed, and he didn’t notice that I took her weapon. He saw me with two blades. He didn’t notice one was a shortsword and not one of my daggers. I could always say you threw it while he was fighting you and managed to kill your husband..."
"All right, all right. Here’s more, but I have no more money on me right now. Come to my house tomorrow and we can settle this matter."
Mona was outraged. So it was Miga who killed Donato! The very person she was supposed (and paid) to protect!
"Pato must never know about this." Rodrigo’s voice startled her. Damn, the man was silent when he wanted!
"I don’t understand, the bitch double crossed us and nearly got Pato killed! Wait..." she looked at Rodrigo right in his eyes and he lowered his gaze, "You knew it? For Andraste’s sake, why is she still here! I’d have kicked her ass out and slit her throat for good measure!"
Rodrigo remained silent as Miga approached them. "Evening guys. I’m going to hit the hay, have a good night." she grinned at Rodrigo who nodded.
Mona stared at both of them with her mouth agape. "You’re fucking her?" she hissed once she was out of sight. "Oh, that’s great, you could have told me she was untouchable since she was your plaything..."
"She’s not untouchable, Mona, but I can’t send her away."
Mona frowned: "Is she blackmailing you or something?"
"No." he said a bit too quick to be true, "Not exactly, I mean... she and I have... history. And my family had a debt with her family I cannot quite repay."
"But now she’s working under you... in whatever sense." she retorted.
"Yes, and as her boss I can’t overlook things like this. I’ll talk to her, but I can’t send her away. And Mona, you must promise me Pato will never know the truth about what happened today."
"Because..." he sighed, "Pato is not like us. He’s an idealist, the fact that he refused Giovanna’s offer without a second thought proves it."
"Why? You would have agreed like Miga did?"
"I won't say I would have, though I would have at least considered it" he admitted. "But if Pato finds out there wouldn’t be only a matter of hurting his feelings, Mona, we’d completely destroy his faith in us. What Miga did today was taking his trust and pissing on it. And despite I did understand what happened, I didn’t tell him."
Mona frowned: "So what? Do you think he’d leave us because one of us double-crossed him? Rodrigo, it's Pato we're talking about..."
"Precisely. I don’t think he’d leave us," he interrupted her, "but if he can’t trust us this means we couldn’t trust him either."
"Pato?" she scoffed raising a brow in disbelief. "He’s just an overgrown puppy, he’d do whatever you’d tell him to do. Feck, whatever I or whoever in the Boars would tell him to do! He’s a beta dog from head to toe. He’s lost without guidance!"
"Don’t speak of him this way!" he growled. "The boy is too good for us. If we shatter his illusion of a little cozy family, he’d be destroyed."
"His illusion or yours, Rodrigo?" Mona retorted, "The boars are anything but a family. Yes, we do look out for each other, but no one to the point of risking our ass to save some incompetent rookie, and only if the pay is good enough. Well, no one except for..."
He looked at her and she understood what she was about to say.
"...Except for Pato" she concluded and sighed. "This is not about the boars, this is about you and him, am I right? You love him. He's a son to you, isn't he?"
He nodded lowering his gaze again.
"He’s so young," she continued, "And his parents already failed him once. You don’t want him to discover again that Father doesn’t always know best."
Rodrigo didn’t answer, but turned and re-entered the building without looking at her.
Mona sighed and shook her head: "I’m not getting paid enough for this shit."
Then she locked to door for the night.