Jason Croakhand. Some knew him as a cutpurse, while few others as a thief. He never denied being either but they never agreed on calling him as he wanted them to – an Artist.
“I am a bloody artist,” he shouted at the top of his voice. His triumphant cry, however, was cut short as he fell face first into a squishy substance in front of him.
He lifted his hand, rifled through his hair and yelped as he found the big, angry lump on his head.
He stood straight, eyes red, nostrils flared, his interlocked fingers on the back of his head to show off muscular shoulders, then took a step front and roared, “Who dares…to…hit…mm…phhh…thoo.”
The bravado of his effect was slightly spoiled as he tasted dung in his mouth. So, the jelly substance that broke his fall is actually Eru’s manure. Rotten luck.
He spat once, twice, but the bad taste reluctantly stayed in his mouth. Thankfully, someone handed him a pitcher of water. He sloshed his mouth and drank the remaining water.
He turned his head and saw an old woman make her way slowly towards him, with a big stone in her right hand. As she moved close, he saw her oyster head, vulture nose, suspicious eyes and toothy grin with the crooked, bent fingers of her left hand pointing at him. His eyes widened with recognition.
So, it is she who threw that stone at him. Damn her!
“You big, addle-brained, buffoon boy. I have finally caught you. You can’t escape,” cackled the virago.
“Vixen” Matrim Aleshar was known as the most ruthless debt collector in all of Agleam. She lent money to the most hopeless fools and they spent the rest of their days tilling her fields.
She was not worth borrowing money and certainly not someone to be stolen from.
And he had done both.
But, how had she found him so easily? More importantly, did she know that he stole from her?
He held his right hand in front of his mouth and cleared his throat.
“Ah! Mrs. Vixen…Ahem…Good evening Mrs. Matrim. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
“Where is the money you have stolen from me, you conniving rascal?”
“There seems to be a grave misunderstanding, you see,” he spread out his hands, as if that explained everything.
Then gently he took a step back and mused.
Doubtless, there are three or four of Matrim’s boys around him. He could outrun them if he just has a better start. A distraction…..I need a distraction.
He felt the round curvature of Smoky tugging at his belt. The peddler had told him to pull the pin, throw the damn thing and run like hell.
Well, no better time than to use it now.
He pulled the pin, threw it at the feet of the surprised Mrs. Matrim and ran. He looked back and saw the area covered by a satisfactory amount of smoke.
He continued to run. After he had just turned a corner, he felt queasy in his head and felt his hands and legs going numb. He tried to grab walls for support, but with his blurred eyes and lazy hands, he just only managed to scratch the wall, and fell down face first for the second time that day.
In a few moments, he heard the voice of Matrim whispering behind his ear. “Boy! I knew you would try something like that. Good that I had the thought to mix a few poppies in the water you just drank. I would not let you get away so easily.”
Something hit the side of his head and he slipped into sweet oblivion.