Bad Day in Center – Free Short Story

I thought it would all be so simple.

Just walk in, show a little steel, and walk out with everything I could ever want in hand.

Of course, my bad luck just wouldn’t let that happen, now, would it?

The day started out with a beautiful sky; the purples were striking as they mixed with the yellow of the sun, just peeking over the horizon line. The clouds were puffed but not from rain; it would be just enough, if it kept up, to give some shade from the warm sun later in the day.

I knew the market would be a busy one this day, and I was right. As the morning started to take full effect, the people from the countryside started to pour in.

You could find most anything at the city market. This place was famous for attracting the exotic. Want some freshly preserved meats? They’ve got that. Spices? More smells came from the market from the spices than from the livestock.

There would almost always be a guy selling dragon scales and mystic pearls, even, if that was what you were looking for.

The city is named Center for good reason. No other market in the world compares to the one here.

It’s really what brought me to Center to begin with. Where there’s a place like this, with the flow of money like water over falls, there will always be people like me.

I was meeting Janos at this little place on the West side of the market area; it’s usually darker in there, compared to the other eateries, and the owner doesn’t bother the patrons, other than to take the orders. It makes for a good place to make a few plans and split a few deals.

Janos said he knew of just such a deal we could get involved with, but wouldn’t tell me anything til we could meet at Parston’s place. This wasn’t unusual ; most of the time, Janos is one of those loose kind of men. One you can get along with, but as for relying on their intelligence to get through a jam, you;d be better off asking a goat.

Still, he had come through in the past for me, and I’ve made a fair bit of coin in my time working with him. I figured this job would be much the same.

Parston’s shop was a little hot, more so than I liked, and Janos wasn’t there at the time he told me to meet, but I hung out for a little while longer anyhow. I thought he might have gotten pinched, but, just as I was ready to make my exit, he walked through the door.

“About time,” I said, sitting back down at the table. “Where you been?”

He sat, as well, putting his sword beside him. The scabbard was dirty as ever, but I knew from working with him in the past the blade itself was spotless.

“Had to make sure everything was set,” he said, nodding to Parston, who held up his hands across the room in acknowledgment of Janos wanting his usual drink.

“So what are we looking at?” I hated to think I had wasted my whole day and wanted to get all of this over with. The dust from the street outside was getting to me a little bit more than I would have liked.

“We’re looking at a lot of money,” he said with a small smile. “What else would I have wanted you for?”

“My charming ways with the opposite sex?”

He rolled his eyes, but I was not offended. It was a common banter between the two of us.

The whole thing really did seem simple enough. Just a small building, barely guarded most of the time because of its location. It had easy access to streets we could get away on and, if necessary, go above, since was in a cluster of buildings packed close together.

I liked the odds and told Janos I was in.

I should have stayed in bed.

Then again, I relied on Janos’ intelligence to get us by. I should have known better, should have checked it all for myself after holding off for a day or two.

Isn’t that how it always goes, though?

So there I was, standing beside Janos in the middle of one of the biggest money exchanges in Center, with my reliable short sword in my hand, and he going into a rage with his long sword in his own, while two dozen guards, hidden in the back playing cards or something, pointed their crossbows in our direction.

I thought it would all be so simple. My bad luck just would not let that happen, though, would it?

So, here I am, laying in a pool of my own blood, looking at the feathers of the crossbow bolt sticking out of my chest. I know I should have just said no to it all, just gone to my little hovel (Goddess, I am going to miss that stupid place) and maybe found a nice little someone to waste away the heat of the day with.

I’ve always hated this place, but that’s just how things go sometimes in Center. A bad draw from the cards of the Fates will get you, no matter how lucky you think you are.

If the Goddess allows me to come back again, I’m going to ask to be a cat.

At least, then, I will know better than to trust a person like Janos.

They’ve got common sense.

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