Eden the Rogue, Chapter Five: Gang Warfare


Just as fighters commonly become members of a guild, rogues usually find their way into gangs. Why Eden had wanted to join this gang escaped him. All it seemed to consist of was a humiliating and painful hazing, followed by a brief and violent meeting with the gang’s boss, a truly sinister individual who had but one snarled instruction for him: "Bring me gold and valuables and you won’t get a knife in the clavicle." On asking timidly what his share of the loot would be, Eden received a knife in the clavicle. Luckily, this was before the alchemist’s store had banned him, and a week of bedrest and intensive potion-chugging had him back on his feet.

He realised, rather too late, that the gang wasn’t for him. He didn’t have the ability to gather enough gold for himself at the best of times, let alone enough to please his "friends". So eventually, Eden turned to an aspect of the rogue that he was good at: Hiding. Roughly five years had passed since his flight from the gang, and as his old colleagues now told him, he owed them roughly two million gold pieces of plunder, or one life – his pick.

"What’s it gonna be?" Sneered one of the rogues, running a finger along his dagger menacingly. Novan was his name, Eden remembered. As he recalled, he was the one who stamped on his throat during his hazing and called him a "useless, insignificant piece of sputum who didn’t deserve to live". Eden always considered him one of his best friends in the gang.

"C’mon! Lemme cut ‘im! Lemme cut ‘im!" Giggled another rogue, Melna, deliriously. Eden always thought that she was an inmate from the nearby sanatorium that the gang had freed, and her behaviour didn’t exactly impugn these claims, "Hehehaha! I-I-I like the way the blood comes out of ‘em…"

"Fellows, fellows!" Eden soothed, attempting to cover his obvious fright, "Surely there’s a reasonable resolution to this problem! After all, I…" He stopped. Looking downwards he spied his yellow boots, which seemed to squeak in response. He had an idea. Looking up again, he continued with greater confidence, "See these boots? Got ‘em just for the gang. Enchanted. Definitely artefact-level."

This had the effect Eden intended, as the rogues surrounding him lowered their knives. Crouching down to Eden’s feet, Novan pulled a scroll of identify from his belt and read it quietly to himself. "Boots of Tom Bombadil, eh?” He mumbled, “Interesting…"

Eden’s Guile, Eden thought huffily to himself.

"Looks like your holiday wasn’t a total loss for us," Novan grinned, "I think the boss might want to hear about this."

"What?! No!" Melna wailed, "Lemme cut ‘im! Lemme cut ‘im!"

Novan grumbled, massaging his temples, "Boys, take that mad woman back to her quarters before she gives me a migraine! Steal a cow for her to stab or something. As for you…" Novan returned his attention to Eden, who watched him warily, "You sure these boots are genuine? Lots of fakes around, boy…"

"Of course they’re genuine! Why don’t you take a closer look?"



Eden leapt down a second trap door, slamming it behind him and blocking out the roars of the furious horde of rogues that were in hot pursuit. He had proved his old maxim true once again: Before you live for the next year, you have to live for the next ten seconds, so concentrate on that first. Of course, he hoped that he could continue to prove it true…

"Ahh, the intruder at last… And what shall we do with you? Why did you kill my men?"

Eden whirled around on the spot to see, with sudden horror, his old boss stood before him, the Assassin Lord. It was a title he held with no small amount of pride; after all, assassins aren’t known for their love of hierarchy, commonly silencing those in power rather than bowing to them. He was obviously a man of great skill, but he didn’t seem to be a man of great memory: He had forgotten who Eden was.

Eden decided to try and play it fast and loose, "I heard some cries, and your men… they were in my way. What’s going on here?" Eden rubbed his head in theatrical confusion. Pretending to be a gormless villager rather than a rogue outcast was a small improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.

The Assassin Lord rolled his eyes, "Oh, so this is the part where I tell you my plan before you attack me?" His voice rose to a cruel shriek, "GET THIS INTRUDER!"

"Wait!" Eden yelped, "Maybe we could work out some kind of arrangement; you seem to be a practical man."

"Manwe’s teeth," thought Eden in his head, "I have no idea where I’m going with this!"

The Assassin Lord perused Eden intently for a moment, before finally making a hesitant grunt of satisfaction, "Well, I need somebody to replace the men you killed. You look sturdy; maybe you could…"

"Please save me!" Came a shrieking voice from the Assassin Lord’s side. Unbeknownst to Eden, a ragged and petrified-looking merchant had been present for his entire conversation. Ironic, he thought, the merchant being the only one I didn’t notice in a nest full of thieves and assassins. Still, it did give him an opportunity…

"Shut up!" The Assassin Lord struck the lost merchant around the face, silencing him. Turning back to the empty space where Eden had stood, he continued, "Maybe you could work for me. You will have to do some dirty work for me, though, and… huh?"



"Yeah," Eden said to the merchant as they both emerged from the trapdoor, back into the light of day, "Shrieking-cowardly-madman-who-essentially-sissy-fights-with-knives might be a more accurate class name for me, but I think rogue carries more… presence, don’t you agree?"

The merchant was silent, his complexion almost white, except for the speckles of blood that dotted his face. Eden noticed this, and grimaced: Only fellow adventurers had seen his flurries previously. He didn’t realise what an effect his one-man charnel house impression would have on a civilian. "Still…" He said, attempting to cheer up the merchant, "You’re free."

"I’m… free…?" The merchant whispered, his pallor slowly fading, "I’m… free! Oh!" Shaking Eden’s hand frantically, he stammered, "Oh, thank you! Please! It’s not much, but please, take it! Take it!"

"Whoa, easy!" Eden struggled as the merchant fanatically tried to cram gold into his satchel, "You’re welcome, you’re welcome! Not sure how much good it’ll do me, what with my vilifying in Bree, but…"

"Vilifying?" The merchant said slowly. He stared at Eden, an odd new expression on his face, "Is your name… Eden?"

"Yep, Eden. Your hero. Your rescuer. Your saviour --"

"Thief! Brigand!" Instead of gold, Eden now found himself being pelted by sticks and pebbles. The merchant raved, "Fiendish footpad! Blackhearted bagman! Away! And don’t even think of coming to my rare goods shop in Minas Tirith!"

"Ow! What?!"

"Lacklustre layabout! Pilfering pickpocket!"

"What is it with shopkeepers and alliteration?!"

"Away! Away! AWAY!"

"Alright, okay! I’m going, see?" Eden snapped, “That’s gratitude for you. I swear, I -- OW!" One of the merchant’s shoes smacked Eden square in the face. Holding it up, he barked, "And don’t think you’re getting this back, you maniac!"



Shopkeepers, thought Eden. He didn’t like them much as a breed. Once I’m back in this town’s good books, he stewed to himself, I should start stealing things again out of spite. Shaking his head, and putting such thoughts from his mind, he turned his attention back to his current activity: Winning the hearts of Bree’s populace once again.

"Ladies and gentlemen! Good citizens of Bree!"

He had spared no expense. Having constructed the grandest stage he could muster – a small wooden crate to stand on – and having hired the greatest entertainers he could afford – Grim playing a homemade flute – he now addressed Bree’s town square. "I come before you not as a petty thief, but a warrior! Behold!" He cast the barkwood of Old Man Willow to ground, "Old Man Willow is no more! Yes, so now if any of you wish to take a walk in that dark, damp, gloomy, terrifying Old Forest, you no longer have to worry about being inconvenienced by a giant, sentient tree! Well, apart from the huorns. Plus, just about every other animal and plant there will try to kill you as well, but I digress…"

The town square was empty, except for one man – the mayor of Bree. Listening to Eden’s grandiose speech, he held a hand to his forehead. "Mercy, Eden."

"What?" Eden said, hopping down from his box and slapping the flute from Grim’s mouth. She didn’t know how to either make or play a flute, and had essentially been blowing into a tree branch with holes randomly cut into it for the duration of Eden’s speech.

The mayor of Bree, while he mistrusted and disliked Eden as much as any other townsman, at least treated him with civility, "Did you not say that you were going to slay Bill, not Old Man Willow?"

"Well, yes… but there was this --"

"Out of Bill and Old Man Willow, which has routinely beaten and killed innocent townspeople in the lands surrounding Bree?"

"Well, like I was saying --"

"So, if I understand you, instead of travelling to the Trollshaws to put an end to this menace, you instead headed in the other direction, attacked a tree, and now believe that dropping an old piece of bark at my feet is enough to make this town forgive you your many, many, misdemeanours?"


"I think you have unfinished business to attend to, Eden."

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