Tales of a Crow - Ulric's Tale - 1
“I guess today ain’t ye day, Crow!”
The blonde man pushed a sizeable pile of gold coins to the centre of the table. He then looked at his hand of cards and smirked.
“I’m goin’ all in, baby! You don’t wanna lose your shinies, do ya?”
The other man, a taller fellow with dark curls, simply sighed. He glanced at the other bloke. In this motion, he attempted to read the blonde’s face for any signs of doubt but found nothing beyond greedy giddiness. He sighed again as he scooped up all his coins and dumped them in the centre. The serious face was now painted with a toothy grin.
The blond was taken slightly aback by the sudden change in expression but after he checked his cards again, he simply chuckled.
“It’s your funeral, buddy.” The blond snickered as he placed his hand face-up. “It’s a Straight Flush! There is no way you can beat that!”
The dark-haired man simply laughed as he revealed his hand. It was a Royal Flush. He finally spoke.
“I guess I got my shinies after all. A Royal Flush for the King of the Gamble!”
The blonde bit his lip in frustration as he shouted, “Ulric, you cheated! How the hell could you’ve gotten such a crazy hand?”
Ulric merely gave a sly smirk as he began to pool the coins back to his end of the table. However, as he moved the coins towards him, a loud thwack was heard. Ulric found a dagger embedded in the table. It only managed to nick his black leather gloves.
“Now, now, Ermes. Don’t go accusing me of things.” Ulric said as he nonchalantly moved his hand out of his glove. However, as he did that, a card fell out of his glove. He then looked down at the fallen card and surmised that his trick was up.
“Ah… Darn.” Ulric said under his breath.
As Ermes reached for his belt for another knife, he felt a stinging sensation on his throat. Then, the blond felt something drip. He looked at his hands, now stained red. His throat began to fill with blood as he gagged. Any attempt to stifle the bleeding proved to be futile as Ermes ended up on the table, covered in his own blood.
While this was happening, the gambling den became silent as the patrons stopped to look up from their games. Once they assessed the situation, they shrugged and returned to their vices.
Ulric got up from his seat and removed a bloodied playing card from the nearby wall; a trick card, reinforced by steel. The card he thrown earlier to slit Ermes’ throat.
Then, he heared a voice coming from below his waist.
“What the heck, Ulric?”
Ulric looked down to see a bearded dwarf wearing a purple waistcoat. Ulric merely shrugged with a resigned smile.
The dwarf then said, “I can’t keep cleaning up after ye. Ye always come here and make a mess of the place.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Leper-chaun. Business is business.”
“For the last, flippin’, time, I ain’t a leprechaun, ye damn nitwit.”
Ulric laughed and said, “Of course, whatever you say.”
Then, he passed the dwarf a fistful of his winnings. After the dwarf palmed the coins, he sniggered.
“Well, Mr. Ulric. I guess that is why ye’re my favourite customer. Ye know how to treat a leprechaun.”
“Glad that you like having me around,” Ulric then passed the short-stack a few more coins and said, “But the Law is the Law after all, so keep me posted if Ermes over there has any living relatives. I rather not get jumped while I sleep or eat. I think it is best to deal with the problem before the Law of Vendetta takes place. As much as I love the Falkhen Isle, I find the Law to be ridiculous.”
The dwarf laughed and said, “Yeah, keep crapping on the customs here and see where that gets ye. Just because ye are backed by the Merrowsongs doesn’t mean that they can’t just boot ye out again.”
“Better with Familia than on the streets I say.” Ulric nodded to himself as he exited the gaming quarters.
The weather outside was chilly as the island-city was covered in a dense fog. Shadows danced across the thick white mist as they were illuminated by whale-blubber lamps. Ulric wrapped his scarf around his mouth as he walked towards a manor.
As he navigated through the sprawling labyrinth of the City, he gazed upon the filthy canals that ran under the cobble and steel. As he absentmindedly looked around, he reminisced to the days where he, like the other vagrants, would have found a half-eaten rat to be a luxury. He liked to think of those days as it helped tune out the occasional call for help or cry for charity from the very people that he was once a part of.
“I worked my way up. There is no reason I should help these bums.” He thought to himself. “They didn’t do much for me when I needed them. In the end, the only one that matters is mi Familia.”
After a few minutes of walking, he looked up and saw the emblem of his Familia, a green serpent with a fish tail. He opened the doors quietly and entered his home. A voice spat in his direction.
“Back from the Sin Bin are we? How much money did our little Crow lose us this time?”
Ulric shook his bag of wealth and said, “Well, Brother, this Crow has brought back a sizeable fund.”
The other man stepped out of the shadows, his face was sharp and his hair was well-kept. He said, “Well, keep this up and one day, you’d lose all our money. When that happens, I will personally acquaint you with all my instruments.”
“Yes, Maestro, I get it. Torture. Wordplay. How clever.” Ulric sighed.
“I don’t know why Father let you, the addict to all things wrong, handle the treasury.”
“Well, Father would trust a man who had known hunger to manage our wealth. A person born with a golden spoon in their mouth would never understand.”
Maestro palmed his face and said, “That is not how the saying goes.”
Ulric only shrugged and walked away.
Maestro yelled, “Don’t just walk away!”
Ulric laughed to himself. He knew his silence would piss off Maestro even more.
Once he got to his room, he locked the door and counted his profits under the warm glow of candlelight.
“It seems like I made about 230 gold from Ermes. Tough luck though. He wanted to play around at the big boy table while lacking the guts needed. I could have lost my hand today.”
As he meticulously organised his coins, a sudden gust of wind, seemingly from nowhere, blew out the candle. Ulric reached for the hidden knife beneath his table but he felt a prick on the back of his neck.
“Well, if you want me dead, you’d have killed me already, so what do you want?” Ulric raised his hands in surrender.
“I want something from you. Yes. But I don’t want it from you now.” The voice seemed soothing, melodic, charismatic.
“So, why show yourself?”
“Well, you see. In about a month or so, things will be really bad for you. Well, bad for everyone. But once that bad thing happens, I want you to find me.”
“How can I find someone that hasn’t named himself yet?”
“Oh, forgive my manners, my name is Morningstar.”
“Morningstar, eh? So, why would I want to help you?”
“Well, aside from staying alive. I will owe you a favour. Believe me, favours from me are… hard to come by and immensely valuable.”
“Believe you? Why would I do that?”
“Well, simply put. You don’t have a choice, do you? But I can understand wanting a little something in exchange for your services.”
Ulric heard something heavy drop behind him as the fire miraculously returned to the candle. The presence of the mysterious Morningstar gone. He turned as he felt the sting of the knife to his nape but what he saw was a bag filled with gems and gold. The gold pieces, however, looked different. They were thin pieces with holes in the center, unlike Falkhenian gold which were thick and stamped with the crest of a Falcon.
As he looked upon his newly gifted treasures, he decided that it would be best for him to rest and process what just happened through the night.
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