Get off my damn lawn!
One major problem with being the mastermind behind an assassin squad of hobos was the smell. Lee had stuffed cotton into her nostrils and wore a scented sachet on her neck, but when she opened the door, it washed over her nonetheless. The stink of dirty human – sweat, piss, shit – further muddied with the cloying scents of their business – blood and old flesh. She took one last breath of fresh air in the alley and entered.
The room, even with the stench of rot and the piles of rags and trash scattered on the floor, was nothing out of the ordinary in the Puddles. The only unusual feature was the carving in the wall, easy to miss in the shadows. Lee knew it was a mantis, although the carving was crudely done. She made the sign of Achaekek and bowed her head to it, murmuring, “One in the Brotherhood.” Then she kicked at the nearest pile of rags on the floor. “Shift your lazy arse, Pot,” she snapped. “The rest of you, up. I have news.”
The piles of rags stirred and rose, revealing dirty faces and unkempt hair. Had someone told her five years ago that she’d be able to distinguish between the ragged humans facing her, she would’ve laughed, but a good commander knows her soldiers. The Blod was too big to mistake for anyone else, and Potatoes, the one she kicked, had pockmarks all over her face. She recognized Plain Sam by the vestiges of great good looks in his face, and Prince Anubis by the bits of copper he strung on the rags of his clothing. Hatchet-ass wore his horned helmet as usual. Her army.
Because who better to carry out the dirtiest work of a society than its lowest drudges? Who moved more invisibly than those that people deliberately looked away from? They came cheap, were untraceable, and should something happen to one of them, there were a dozen more waiting. Best of all, no one believed a hobo. A “hobo assassination squad” sounded about as plausible as “The end is nigh!” or “I was abducted and probed by goblins!” to the average city guard.
She had schooled them in the ways of Achaekek and the Brotherhood, had taught them to move silently in armor, to use knives, swords, and broken bottles, all in the hopes that some of them would be lucid enough to remember it later. She kept the entirety of the contract price, but she let them keep whatever they could scavenge from their victims and even sold some of it for them (pocketing a bit off the top for her trouble, of course). When her army had outgrown her ability to house them all in one place, she had contracted with a hedge sorcerer to create iron tokens that would become warm when she wanted them to gather at HQ and distributed them among her soldiers. She had triggered the spell early that morning, and before her stood those in the district who had been sober or alive enough to respond.
Lee pulled a map case from the folds of her robe and unfolded a map on the table. “Target is in Andoran, at a lumbercamp near Piren’s Bluff,” she said, pointing. “The nearest port is in the village of Chimeras Cove. Very tall, 30s-ish, red hair with freckles, skilled with a bow. He will be carrying a letter; bring that letter back. Andoran. Lumbercamp. Piren’s Bluff. Red hair. Andoran. Lumbercamp. Piren’s Bluff. Red hair.” She found it helped to repeat herself. “Andoran. Lumbercamp. Piren’s Bluff. Red hair. Bring back the letter. Got it?”
“Get the fuck out of my house!” Prince Anubis yelled at no one in particular off to Lee’s left.
She looked at the others and reiterated, “Andoran. Lumbercamp. Piren’s Bluff. Red hair. Bring back the letter.” She let them examine the map for a few minutes before she tucked it back into her robes. With one last look at the motley assortment, she quietly opened the door and stepped out into the alley.