"Hello, goblin. Ye've moved up in the world a little."
"Aye. And ye've moved down, old hag. Caterin' to a bunch of hillbillies? Tisk."
"Well, anything to earn some coin."
I confess that, during this conversation, I was holding a blade to the witch's throat. Not the poisonheart - I didn't want to accidentally kill her, and poison drips off that sword every now and then - but something sharp enough to get her attention.
Five minutes in 'May's' clinic convinced me that, aye, we were dealing with June. I've not told the rest of the crew, but I visited her once or twice to deal with common and uncommon ailments in Goblinoster. Right terrible swamp she lived in, there, but even its putrid scent wasn't enough to mask the stench of wrong 'round the woman. I'd recognize it anywhere.
I knew if I told everyone else on the crew there'd be an uproar. They'd want to leave and find Dragomir a healer somewhere else, at the very least. So I paid a visit to her alone, a few hours before our 'appointment'. She was sitting in one of the clinic's back rooms, a bit of parchment shaking in her knobbled fingers. Sneaking up on her was a piece of cake.
"Where's yer doggy?" I lifted the dagger half an inch, pressing it hard against the bottom of June's chin. "Gonna spring from the shadows 'n rip my throat out?"
"He... she... they... are out shoppin'." June's voice remained calm, though tired. "I needed some supplies. S'not easy to keep up with sick people."
"I know." I peered around the room. Truth be told, the werewolf was not my number one concern. "And your blonde boy toy? I don't smell 'im."
"You wouldn't." June sighed. "He's, ah, a little different these days. Growin' up can be hard on a lad."
"Puberty doesn't change a man's scent." I twisted the dagger enough that it drew blood. "Talk. Where is he?"
June lifted a finger, pointing to an adjacent hallway. I pushed her out of her chair and, dagger poised at her crooked back, I ordered her to lead me to Grayson. I also assured her that any funny business would get her shanked. She only chuckled. I soon discovered why.
Dragomir's older son was laying on a bed beneath a heavy, woolen sheet, his head propped up by a lumpy pillow. His breaths came in subtle gasps, so infrequently that I might have thought him already dead were his eyes not fluttering. He seemed to be whispering something, but even my ears couldn't tell what he was saying. His scent was so slight and so alien that I ne'er could have noticed him without tripping over his damned body.
"Huh." I motioned June into a corner where I could keep an eye on her. "He looks... sick."
The witch coughed out a bitter laugh. "Oh, you've no idea, goblin. 'e's dying, that one. Bet he'll be gone within the month. Probably be a corpse already, if I hadn't forced 'im to settle down in this tepid little burg."
"Shame." I kept my distance, wary. "What's he got? Pick something up in that fucking jungle?"
June lightly tapped her head against the wall. "No. He's been sick longer than that. This boy has a bad case of possession, and I canna lift the damnable spirit out. It's tryin' to take him over, he's fighting back, they're at an impasse. Ruinin' a perfectly good body in the process, too..."
One eye still on the witch, I crept over to Grayson. He took no notice of me, though his limbs jittered and spasmed when I jabbed his cheek. As his head lifted off the pillow I noticed a faint, white outline moving with it, peeking out of his body for the briefest second. It floated through my finger, leaving it icy cold. I pulled back immediately.
"Heh. Cool." I sucked on my frozen digit, watching Grayson settle back to normal. "That's a fun trick. Should charge the locals a gold piece te come in and poke 'im with a stick. Ye'd be rich in no time."
June coughed. I noticed later that she'd left a few flecks of blood on the wall. "Hilarious. You'd be my first customer. Are ye done? Ready te leave us in peace?"
"Much as ye left us in peace, hag." I turned back to the witch, the dagger dancing between my fingers. "I've met worse people in my life, but ye've fucked with me plenty. Should do you for that... though I think I'll be content slittin' Grayson's throat and goin' on my way. We can always find another healer for the mayor..."
June's eyes widened. She took a step forward, raising a hand; I brought my knife up faster. She immediately backed off. "You can't - "
"Oh, I can. And don't think your magic will put a damper on my sword arm, missy." The dagger danced more rapidly, from finger to finger and hand to hand. "No reason I shouldn't. One less worry on this stupid trip. Dragomir needs to kill his enemies more often anyway."
"No reason?" June hesitated. A little smile crept onto her face, though she couldn't take her eyes off my dagger as it flitted from knuckle to knuckle. "Oh, I think I can give ye a reason, little goblin."
I pressed the point of the dagger to the side of Grayson's neck. He shuddered away, the ghostly outline of his unwanted occupant immediately chilling the handle. I tried my best not to flinch. "Heh. This should be good."
And then she told me.
Gods bless Goblinoster,
Grylock the Bargainer