The sky above the port was the color of a crystal ball, tuned to a dead vibration. I slunk into the vast throng that filled the teeming docks of the port city, looking for my contact.
I turned the corner and passed a few humanoids, with even a few bugbears' heads poking above the milling riffraff. Rough town. It was there that I saw my contact, sitting on a crate of some unknown goods.
"Nithiz! Good to see you!" he said, and we shared a handshake that contained as much genuine warmth as you could find among thieves.
"How've you been?"
"Well, I was trapped in a dungeon with a self-righteous paladin, a fanatical cleric, and a sorceress who really never should have left the ivory tower. But I'm fine now. And you?"
"Well, I'm okay, but I---urrkkk!"
Our conversation was interrupted by the whistle of a crossbow. I turned around to see a few figures disappearing into the darkness of the alleyway, too fast for me to follow.
I hate this town.
I actually kind of like dungeons. Not the sort the lord tosses you in after you've been caught with your fingers on his scepter or after you get into scrapes with the town watch, but whatever it is you want to call those tunnels and rooms far away from any real town, full of the stuff of nations that actually could feed all their peasants every day and have time left over to craft jeweled swords and have mages occupy their time with nonsense.
I mean, I actually had to adventure with a mage who got to the rank of thaumaturgist and didn't learn the fireball spell because it didn't jive with her research interests. Her otyugh-intestine-covered research interests! Look, babe (and she wasn't no babe), when you're with an adventuring party, they don't expect you to pursue your research interests, they expect you to cook monsters! The whole point of a wizard is to convert owlbears into poultry (or bearmeat), not to devise spells to make your hair turn three different colors a minute or make people next to you glow different colors based on their intelligence and personality. I think she was planning on using that last one to find a boyfriend.
Oh, and that obnoxious little cleric! Rich as a dragon's hoard and twice as rigid! I think she had to be born with a golden spoon up her arse. That lousy mountain we were in, she had to go around letting me know how her family used to own every last bit of it and how the monsters were on her ancestral turf. Mercifully she was prejudiced enough not to try to convert the orcs and hobgoblins. Or the annoying cult we found down there that was sending spiders and snakes after us. But me, I had to listen to annoying lectures about her god's forgiveness and infinite glory. There's a reason 'cleric/thief' isn't in the standard list of professions, you know. It was fun watching her spar with the sorceress.
And that frickin' self-righteous paladin who wanted to liberate that lizardman we found shackled up in the gnolls' lair. Which meant fighting the whole gnoll tribe. Not to mention the guy had somehow gotten all the way to the fifth order of knighthood despite not having anything in the way of exceptional strength. Which meant we had to rely on Little Miss I-Don't-Believe-in-Fireballs' sleep spells until we found the loser a pair of gauntlets to bring him up to speed, or, rather, strength. Nothing's less practical than a paladin with his ethics too swollen to fit in the door of reality.
But the dungeons. You know, the funk of forty thousand years, the clink of gold, the glitter of artifacts left over from real civilizations. I mean, let's face it, I wasn't born for an honest day's work. I get too bored, and I just can't let a nice bag of coins go like that. 'Tain't right, you know? I don't have the back to haul loads of dung on a farm, and I don't have the heft to hire myself out as a sellsword. And I sure as heck didn't have hoity-toity parents to pay for me to enter holy orders or waste two good working years of my life to teach me to frickin' read regular script, let alone the weird stuff the mages use. But I can hide in the shadows, pick locks, or shimmy up walls with the best of 'em, and I can get a chest open without getting your whole party dead from poison gas.
So, hey, everybody's got their niche, you know?
Just get me back into the dungeon where all I had to worry about was a stuck lockpick and the minotaur seeing me before I got my dagger into its backside.
But, hey, contacts who get killed before I can even find out what I'm supposed to filch?
I hate this town.