“Well fellas, heh,” Jundibar said twitchily, “I’m afraid I was unable to get a proper alchemical analysis on the sample of skooma you brought me. I’ll need an unburned sample, you see, heh.” The three young constables left the alchemist’s lab with their heads down and their shoulders hunched.
“Well, now what?” asked Alton dejectedly.
“Let’s see if Demetrius knows anything,” Nazeel said to Maur’tion, who nodded and walked out of the constabulary. Nazeel followed him.
“Wait, who’s Demetrius?” asked Alton as he trailed behind the other two constables.
“Just a low-level skooma producer we know,” Nazeel replied.
It wasn’t long before the three constables reached the filthy looking hovel Demetrius called home. They stood in a huddle, trying to decide what to do from there.
“I’ll, uh, let you take the lead on this one,” Nazeel said to Maur’tion and motioned to the door. “You remember last time.”
The minotaur smirked as he went to the hovel’s patchwork door and knocked firmly three times.
“Wassat then, eh?!” Demetrius’ muffled voice could be heard through the door. “You fackin pound on my door like you’re the damn con-“ Demetrius’ voice cut off as the door opened and he suddenly saw who stood at his threshold.
“Well, what have we here, then, eh?” A fake smile lit up Demetrius’ face. “If it ain’t me favorite friends.” His head peeked past the side of Maur’tion’s massive torso, “Ohh, who’s this then, hmm? Got a new friend with us now, have we, ehh?”
“You know anything about some skooma that’s been messing with people, Demetrius?” Maur’tion asked, ignoring the small fey’s question.
“I mean, I may have heard something, mate, but what’s in it for me, eh?”
Maur’tion sighed as a look of exasperation crossed his face, “Look,” he said, “I can see your damn skooma production from right here!” Maur’tion gestured with his large hand inside Demetrius’ grimy home. Demetrius responded with a nervous smile and a laugh as he launched into a mumbling tirade that he could explain it and it wasn’t his, but Maur’tion cut him off. “Just tell us what you know and we’ll forget your little lab back there, okay?”
Demetrius gulped, nodding. “L-look, I’d never make stuff like that, right mate? It’s bad for business, you know? Anyway, I’ve just heard from people there’s a nasty batch of the skoom goin’ round and it’s killin’ people and whatnot, you know? I swear, I don’t know nothing else.”
“Who’d they get it off of?” Maur’tion demanded. A look of confusion crossed Demetrius’ face at the question.
“What, you tellin’ me you don’ know who’s got the run on skoom ‘ere on Sea Street, eh connies?”
“Just tell us!” Maur’tion yelled. “People are dying!”
Demetrius smiled at Maur’tion. “You three really are green, ain’t you? The Giants, mate! The Giants have a monopoly on petty skooma sales on Sea Street. Gods, your fellows over at the ol’ constabulary don’t tell you nuffin’, do they?” He chuckled, head shaking as he closed the door and the rookies walked away.
“So…” Alton started slowly after they’d walked a few places down from Demetrius’ hovel, “we have to go find some giants? Luckily, they should be easy enough to find, right?” He chuckled as he tried to mask his obvious fear at the thought of confronting giants.
“Oh no, nothing like that,” Nazeel reassured him, “No, they’re a gang of gnomes and dwarves and such – they call themselves the Giants.”
“Ohh, great,” Alton replied with a relieved sigh.
“Yes, we’ve had a small run-in with them before,” Maur’tion explained with a smile, “and Nazeel-“
“Anyway,” Nazeel interrupted, “I think we should let Alton here do the talking since they won’t recognize him and know he’s a constable.”
Maur’tion mulled the thought over in his mind for a moment before saying, “Sounds good. I’ll stand over where they can’t see me. I’ll come help if you get in a bind, Alton.”
“And I’ll fly up to the top of the alley to keep a watch out and improvise if I can,” said Nazeel. He pulled out the burned skooma sample and handed it to Alton.
“Alright, I’ve got this,” said Alton as he tucked the small bag into his pocket.
Maur’tion walked past the burly dwarf enforcer that stood guard at the alley’s entrance and Nazeel flew over the rooftops out of the gang members’ eyeline. He crouched on a roof’s ledge overlooking the alleyway. Alton straightened himself up before going to speak with the dwarf. He walked slowly, as he imagined a skooma addict would.
“Hey, my man,” Nazeel said to the burly dwarf, “how’s it goin’?”
A confused look came over the dwarf’s face. “Evening, connie,” he replied in a rumbling baritone. “I ‘aven’t seen you ’round ‘ere before, now ‘ave I?”
“No, you haven’t,” Nazeel said slowly as he looked down at himself and realized he’d forgotten to remove his uniform before going up to the dwarf. “But don’t worry about that, my man. You see, I’ve got this stuff,” Nazeel pulled out the small bag, “and I was wondering if you guys had some more because it was like, a bum batch, you know?”
“I ‘ave no idea what that is, sir,” the dwarf replied, suddenly businesslike.
“Oh, come on, man, yeah you do,” said Nazeel, “I just want some more. It was a bum batch.”
“No, sir, I do not what that is and I’ve never seen it before in me life.”
“I know you know what this is, man,” Nazeel replied, an edge of frustration to his voice. He stepped closer to the dwarf and the difference in their size became more noticeable as Nazeel towered over the smaller figure.
“I can’t say that I do,” said the dwarf, nonplussed at Alton’s attempt to intimidate him.
“Yes, you do,” said Alton, “and you’re going to tell me where I can get some more!” He reached for the scruff of the dwarf’s shirt, but the stocky figure easily deflected Alton’s ham-fisted effort. The dwarf pulled his fist back, ready to strike the young constable, when suddenly Maur’tion pushed himself between the two, separating them.
As Maur’tion touched the dwarf, he channeled into him a feeling of familiarity and said, “Oh hey there! It’s me, Maur – you remember me, right?”
The dwarf looked confused for a moment, but the feeling quickly passed and he said, “Hey that’s right, Maur was it? Yeh, you’re a good bloke.”
“Sorry about my friend here, he’s just so rude,” said Maur’tion as he jerked his thumb at the other constable. The dwarf laughed.
“Yeh, he really is rude, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he is… Say, what was your name again, friend?”
“Jonno, at your service, me lad!” the dwarf replied jovially. “Say, what brings you by, anyway?”
“Ah, just this idiot here,” said Maur’tion, “He needs his fix, you know?”
Jonno laughed again, “Yeh, these damn junkies always need their fix. You wanna go see Dino, eh?”
A smile crossed Maur’tion’s face, “You know, that’d be really great, Jonno. Could you do that for us?”
Jonno turned to look over his shoulder and shouted, “Oi, Rocko, let ‘em past, eh?” A grunt of acknowledgement was heard from beyond as Jonno moved to let the two constables by. “You watch your tone in there, eh junkie?” Jonno said, glaring at Alton, who nodded in acknowledgment as he followed Maur’tion into the shadowy alleyway.