Chapter 16:

First Encounter with the Underworld

The Children of Eris

Downstairs, stood throughout the room, hands on their swords, were eight nasty, rough looking men in leather and chainmail armour. Two were stood by the entrance, three were spread out around the ground floor and three more of them were standing close to the bar, talking ‘politely’ to the staff. Bookmark here

What other patrons were in the tavern had left once those men had entered. Bookmark here

Mímir and Mania confidently walked downstairs as the men turned to look at them, a few of them eyeing up and grinning at Mania. Mania felt her skin crawl from their gazes.Bookmark here

Master, I really want to kill them, she cursed in her head.Bookmark here

Sensing her rising bloodlust, Mímir tapped her back, warning her not to, then walked right up to the men sat at the bar.Bookmark here

“Is there something I can do for you gentlemen?” Mímir calmly asked.Bookmark here

A gruff looking grey-haired man who seemed to be their leader grunted and said, “More like there’s something we can do for you, sir.”Bookmark here

“For me?”Bookmark here

“Care for a drink? I’ll buy it.”Bookmark here

Mímir shook his head and put on his best fake smile he could. “I don’t drink while I’m working and I’m afraid that we’ve recently increased our prices threefold for drinks. I hope you have the money on you to pay for that.”Bookmark here

While the grey-haired man laughed, one of his men tightened his grip on the dagger by his side. Bookmark here

“What’s another few Rhams, eh?” The grey-haired man mused. “I’m Ryan, by the way.” He offered Mímir his hand but it wasn’t taken, so Ryan withdrew his offer. “It’s customary to introduce yourself when someone gives you their name in these parts, Curtis Forest.”Bookmark here

Mímir feigned surprise. They had, obviously, discovered who it was that had bought the Hierophant beforehand and had uncovered the fake story that Mímir had started circulating among the streets of Stonefall since they bought the place.Bookmark here

Curtis Forest was a now retired adventurer who lived in the northern city states all of his life and had settled down after meeting the love of his life, Olivia Vander. With his considerable wealth, they had bought the Hierophant and were already attracting attention from their competition.Bookmark here

“From where I’m from,” Mímir began. “It’s rather rude to dig into someone’s personal life before meeting with them. I take it you fine gentlemen are mercenaries.”Bookmark here

Ryan chuckled. “Of a sort, you could say. More like, protectors than anything, sir.”Bookmark here

“Protectors?”Bookmark here

“Oh yes. Stonefall might seem like a pretty little place, but, here in the merchant’s district, it’s always a battlefield fought in the shadows. One day, you’ll be on top of the world, raking in massive profits the likes of which most folk wouldn’t see in their lifetime and then bam!” Ryan slammed his fist into the bar to emphasise his point. “Someone’s paid someone to come and take you down.”Bookmark here

Mímir remained perfectly calm during Ryan’s explanation. The staff that they had brought from the castle, however, were spooked, amusing Ryan’s men.Bookmark here

“I take it that fine men like yourselves exist to stop such things from happening, correct?” Mímir asked.Bookmark here

“Indeed we do, sir,” Ryan said with a toothy grin. “My employers are actually the main supplier of protective mercenaries in Stonefall and anyone who’s anyone is kept safe by us, I assure you.”Bookmark here

“I find that hard to believe when you won’t give us your name,” Mania spat out.Bookmark here

Mímir glared at her as he knew that she was fed up of listening to this farce, but they had to appear as if they were people of this world and not the Demon Emperor’s chosen generals. Bookmark here

In reality, if Mímir or Mania wanted to, they could cut Ryan and his men into ribbons in an instant but, as per their orders, they couldn’t afford to draw any unnecessary attention to themselves and that meant not attracting suspicion upon their operation. Bookmark here

Mania, I know how you feel, but please do not ruin this, Mímir requested in his head.Bookmark here

Ryan, clearly bemused by Mania speaking up, grinned at her and whistled. “Shouldn’t a pretty thing like you know not to be so stupid?” His men chuckled beside him. “You wouldn’t want something bad to happen to your beloved or your home, would you?”Bookmark here

Like you ants could do anything to us! Mania screamed in her head.Bookmark here

Externally however, she just sighed and folded her arms. Bookmark here

“I believe my wife asked you to identify yourselves, Ryan,” Mímir repeated. Bookmark here

Mania quietly feigned throwing up in her mouth. Bookmark here

“We, good sir, are the Sons of Tartarus,” Ryan boisterously declared. “We are the prime defenders of good honest folk like yourself from all the nasty people in the world. We exist in the shadows to protect you from those in the shadows, if you get my drift?”Bookmark here

“…I do.”Bookmark here

“All we ask of you, Curtis, is a small fee every week to ensure that you’re kept from the many dangers of Stonefall. I mean, for all you know, the militia or legion might come over here one day, get drunk, trash the place and refuse to pay for the damages. What would you do when that happened? I’ll tell you what; we’d cover the costs for you out of the fee you’d paid us.” Ryan grinned again. “It’s a good deal, no?”Bookmark here

Mímir bitterly smiled at him. “And how many Rhams would that be a week I wonder for such kind services?”Bookmark here

“Nothing much, just two thousand Rhams and you get to go to sleep happily every night. Otherwise.” He leant forward and whispered, “Something bad might happen to your missis. I’d hate to see such a beautiful woman reduced to something even her lover couldn’t bear to look at.”Bookmark here

“Try it, worm,” Mania spat. Bookmark here

Mímir could clearly see a vein in Ryan’s forehead pulse at that remark. He bit his lip, chuckled and slowly turned to face Mania. Bookmark here

“The fuck you say to me?” Ryan growled. Bookmark here

Mania smiled, unfolded her arms and stepped closer to Ryan. “Try it. Worm. Was I not clear before?”Bookmark here

Everything went silent.Bookmark here

Everyone watched anxiously to see what Ryan or Mania would do next. To the Sons of Tartarus, it was unthinkable that someone would stand up to them in this situation and, to the servants from the castle, they were scared to see Mania get angry again.Bookmark here

Then, in an explosive second, Ryan drew his sword and swiped at Mania but, before he could, Mímir leapt over the counter, grabbed Ryan’s arm, broke his wrist and twisted his arm behind his back. Bookmark here

Ryan roared in agony as his sword cluttered to the floor and Mímir pinned him to the counter. Bookmark here

The two men beside Ryan drew their weapons but Mímir pulled a knife from his belt and held it to Ryan’s neck.Bookmark here

“One wrong move and he’s dead,” Mímir threatened.Bookmark here

Ryan’s men hesitated.Bookmark here

In their arrogance, they had spread themselves out so thinly around the room that they were far away from the staff and Mania, meaning that there was no one they could quickly grab and hold as a hostage without the risk of losing Ryan’s life.Bookmark here

Ryan grunted and struggled against Mímir’s iron-like grip, but Mímir dug the blade a little into Ryan’s neck, drawing blood. Bookmark here

“Alright, alright!” Ryan shouted. “We won’t do anything like that again, okay?”Bookmark here

“Did you really think I’d be dumb enough to believe you?” Mímir mumbled, digging the blade a little deeper again.Bookmark here

“I swear it on my life! On my honour!”Bookmark here

“Honour? Rich coming from scum like you,” Mania hissed.Bookmark here

One man went to run at her, but stopped when Mímir twisted Ryan around to face him. Bookmark here

“Try it,” Mímir said. “I am a former A-ranked adventurer of the highest honours from a place far greater than the gutters you’ve come from. If I see any of you or your men come even close to my tavern again, I will kill them. Is that understood?”Bookmark here

Ryan nodded his head just a little bit so he didn’t make his wound any worse.Bookmark here

“Get it down in writing. You.” Mímir gestured at one of the men near the counter. “You have paper on you, don’t you?” The man nodded. “Take it out and cross out whatever contract you had written and write what I just said down. You have ten seconds.”Bookmark here

The man quickly did as instructed and then showed Mímir the paper as evidence. Mímir then made Ryan sign it before finally releasing him. He then snatched up the paper before Ryan could get it and pocketed it.Bookmark here

“Now then, I shall be reporting this to the appropriate authorities later today and you know what happens if you were to break a legally binding contract, correct?” Mímir asked them.Bookmark here

Ryan spat at Mímir, dirtying his white shirt and then beckoned his men out. Ryan was the last one out and he left after a few parting words.Bookmark here

“This isn’t over.”Bookmark here

Once the door was closed, one of the staff members locked it and hurriedly backed away, fearing that the thugs might still be nearby. Bookmark here

“This isn’t good.” Mímir dismissed his illusion and sighed. “You there!” He pointed at a random servant. “Take one of the Ravens and to the nearest guard post and ask who to give this document to, then get it submitted at the city’s records if possible.”Bookmark here

“A-at once, my lord,” the servant said with a bow. “B-but what do we do when they return?”Bookmark here

“We shall have to simply find new ways of scaring them off. Perhaps it might be worth seeing if we could disguise the Machai as human soldiers to act as our guards. If push comes to shove, Mania or I would be more than enough but that’s the worst-case scenario.”Bookmark here

“My lord, where is Lady Mania?” A man behind the counter asked.Bookmark here

Fearful of what he already suspected, Mímir swiftly turned around and searched around the room for Mania, but found no signs of her.Bookmark here

Oh no.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.