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We stumbled into a room of a house over shadowed by a three story apartment building next to it. We usually didn’t come to this part of the city. Bad neighborhood; for humans and fays. But there was a job, and the cake the kid bought for the fifth anniversary yesterday cost more money than a piece of bread ought to. The kid tried explaining that it was because of the icing being customized, but sugar doesn’t cost too much…and we didn’t even get to taste it.
The house belonged to an human oracle. Not common, as most humans weren’t born with the gift. But really, we wouldn’t care if she were or weren’t an oracle. Money was money, just as long as the job was reasonable, we were in.
That was another problem, oracles hardly ever had a reasonable job, it was always, save the world or some messed up thing like that. The reason we were stumbling was that this particular oracle seemed to have hoarding issues. There was more sofas than any sane human would need, small books written in languages long dead (some I’d witnessed diminish in the human memory), and things that shined in the dim light that filtered through the curtains.
“Watch your step,” I said, not so he wouldn’t trip (he was extremely agile for a human kid) but because people and things that hoard are obsessed, and who knows what obsessed people will do for touching their possessions. We had to lift our feet practically to our heads to step about the cluttered room. And more than once the kid had to pick me up because I was to short to step over what he could. Eventually we traversed the room to stand before a door behind a lazy boy. I looked at the kid, then at the lazy boy, and took a step toward it. After looking it over thoroughly ( at least I thought thoroughly) I hopped into the sofa and pulled the lever that raised the leg support, and smiled at the kid.
The kid smiled back, “What ever happened to ‘don’t touch anything’?” I grinned wider and forced my forked tongue at him. Then I turned to the door to my other side and knocked. A muffled “come in” sounded from behind the door.
“There’s one of your chairs blocking the door,” the kid yelled back. Something like, “move it” came back. The kid and I shrugged at each other, I hopped down and together we moved the sofa. There were scratches on the door frame in writing that predated my birth so I couldn’t read them. It made me uneasy, but doubted the oracle would create something that could harm the offspring of a dragon-descendent, we walked into the room.
We passed through something invisible, and both sneezed immediately after. The kid and I caught each other’s eyes and laughed at the oddity of it. We stopped as we noticed that another laugh had joined ours. The oracle swiveled the chair she sat at to face us, one hand cover her mouth as she laughed. The fact that the oracle was laughing at us sent me and the kid laughing again, and the oracle dropped her hands and tossed her head back. We laughed together until we our stomachs ached and we had tears streaming down our cheeks.
“Well,” the oracle said, “That was a novel introduction. I take it you’re my mercenaries?” We nodded. She looked us up and down, measuring us. The kid and I shifted uneasily, we didn’t like being stared at. I looked around the room it was bare. There was only the swivel chair the oracle sat on and a fold-out lawn table between us. On the table was a folder with a read ink stamped corner of a paper sticking out. I motioned to the kid and we moved closer to the table. The stamp was of a swift holding a star between it’s talons. We opened the folder and looked through the paper while the oracle swung from side to side on the chair. It was something about sightings of a human, a magician, in the city. The stamp was of some federation against dark magic and all who perform it, apparently. I looked up at the oracle, she had both fists under her chin and was staring at us.
“And we will…?” I had an idea, but I was hoping I was overlooking some crucial bit of information, or that this female human in front of me was not part of the federation.
“Kill him.” she said. There go my hopes. See what I meant, it’s always some messed up save-the-world for-the-greater-good nonsense mission.
“He’s got golems protecting him” the kid said with a whine in his voice that reminded me that he really was just a kid. Not an average kid, but still just a kid. I place a clawed hand on his arm. He looked at me and I and a shook my head slightly, telling him not to speak aloud. Then I looked at the oracle.
“We don’t usually do this kind of job,” I told her.
She lifted her head from her fists, “A mercenary with principles is a rare thing.” That made me laugh. This time I was the only one that was laughing. I looked at the kid and saw him staring at me as if I were crazy. I quickly stopped, I wish I could say that it was the first time he looked at me like that, but it’s still made me uncomfortable when he did.
I turned to the oracle, “A mercenary with principles is probably in existent.
We’re mercenaries with guide lines.” She chuckled at that. “We’re sorry.” I turned to leave and the kid walked toward the door. But when we tried to cross the threshold we found that we couldn’t.
“No.” the oracle said, “I’m sorry. You came in here looking for a job, and I’m afraid you’re not getting out without one.”
The kid pulled a face the mirrored how I felt, “Very persuasive,” he said. The oracle smiled at that. He looked at the oracle, then back at me, nodded.
“You sure?” he nodded again, then to the oracle, “Fine, we’ll kill him.” She nodded, we turned and this time we crossed the threshold with only a sneeze on the other side. It wasn’t as funny as the first time. We crossed the oracle’s hoard (we were less careful about not touching the sofas, books, and shiny objects) and stepped out into the shadow of the three story apartment building. I sighed loud and long.
“Damn,” the kid said, and I nodded. We had a job, but we didn’t want it. And though we would have loved to just skip out on it, but we both knew that even though the oracle didn’t say so herself, it wasn’t an option. “Damn.” the kid repeated, and we went on to find our target.