J: Jack of No Trades, Pedro Carina "You Don’t Have Any Friends" (Short Story)

Pedro Carina, Jack of No Trades, Lovable Loser and Luckiest Unlucky Man Alive (Art by Lunaairis of Mythic Scribes)

For those unaware, I recently started doing a “blog exclusive” (whatever that means…) series of short stories featuring lovable loser and Jack of No Trades (meaning not good at most anything) Pedro Carina. You can check out the first story “Cannon vs. Cannon” at this link here: Cannon vs. Cannon

This will be a very short adventure, so hope you enjoy!

 You Don’t Have Any Friends
by Philip Overby

Never date a witch, especially if she also moonlights as a bounty hunter. I learned this lesson the hard way when I found the quite splendid hotel I’d been staying at in Bul-Bulee City went up in a gout of black witchflame. And my good hat was in there as well. Luckily, all of the guests–mostly families in town for a polka festival–were standing outside the hotel in shock covered in ash. It didn’t look like their tubas and accordions survived. Damn, that Sharlan. She always was heartless when it came to people’s belongings. Although I suspected her torching my hotel was just a really vicious way of saying, “Hello, remember me?” Of course I remember you Sharlan. How could I  forget a woman who tried to kill me a dozen times? Three of those times with a flaming hatchet, two with her bare hands?
I huddled in my coat and scooted away from the burning hotel before anyone started pointing fingers at me. Being one of the few Magellans in a Calypsian city already had scores of people staring daggers at me. The war raged on between the two petty countries over minor border disputes and I remained as neutral as the man who blesses the onions he sells to both sides. Think his name is Harold. Smelly man, but neutral. Firm in his neutrality as I shall forever endeavor to be. I didn’t have time to deal with larger worldly problems when I had an ex-lover trying to smoke me out. An ex-lover who happens to be a witch and a bounty hunter. I sure knew how to chose them.

I ran smack dab into a Ulmic lizardworl in a black felt coat, his beady yellow eyes staring at me from underneath a dented top hat. 

“Sorry, good sir,” I blurted out, forgetting that lizardworl’s didn’t like to be called “sir.” They didn’t like to be called anything from my estimation. 

“I’ve been looking for you.” The lizardworl grabbed me by the arm.

Oh, the words I loved to hear. “Pedro you’re so charming.” “Pedro, kiss me now!” “I’ve been looking for you.” Music to my ears.

“Uh, why?” I stammered and tried to pull away. “I’m just a simple merchant, traveling about and all that.”

“You’ve got three bounty hunters looking for you.” The lizardworl jerked me into the alleyway. “I’m one of them. Lucky for you, I’m not one of the ones that wants to kill you.”

“Lucky for me.”

“Listen to what I say and everything will be fine. Name’s Twifgeld. I might be the friendliest bounty hunter you’ve ever met.”

“You think?” I asked. “I’ve met some nice ones. Some even let me share a bed with them at some point or another.”

Twifgeld glared at me and pushed me up against the wall. “You have a sharp tongue, do you? No wonder people want you dead.”

“That’s not why. Misfortune just seems to follow me. You’d know that if you were around me for more than five minutes.”

“It’s been at least three and nothing’s happened yet.” Twifgeld shuddered as the shadow of an airship lurched overhead. 

“So who sent you? You have to at least tell me who hired the great Twifgeld who I’ve never heard of to drag me in kicking and screaming.”

“Roberta Van Horn.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Her? She actually remembers me?”

Twifgeld tightened his grip on my collar. “She definitely remembers you. Says you put a baby in her belly.”

“That’s impossible.” I gulped hard as I tried to wriggle free. “You go back and tell her that’s impossible.”

“Ms. Van Horn doesn’t lie. She’s a former priestess after all.”

“She’s a former priestess because she lied.”

I needed to find out the real reason Roberta wanted me brought in. We’d flirted in the temples before she got kicked out for affairs with several Paladins of the Mood. Seems causing holy warriors to break their vows was not becoming of a priestess of the Long Eye of Lurga. “The Long Eye sees nothing, yet sees all,” as they say.

Twifgeld and I never got to finish our conversation. 

“There you are.” Sharlan’s raspy voice came at the end of the alleyway, her black hair gathered up on her head like a nest built by a drunken, lazy bird. Soot smeared her face. Her heels clicked on the cobblestones as she bounced her hips back and forth in that way she did. Black lace hung in wisps from around her neck and her worn-out purple velvet coat trailed behind her. A long lash of witchflame dangled from her fingertips, sweeping ash across the ground as she advanced.

“Back off. Found him first.” Twifgeld’s hot mouth was suddenly at my neck. 

My muscles tightened and I stood up straight. “I’ve had knives held to my throat, but never this.”

“I bite him, bacteria goes right into his bloodstream.” Twifgeld’s snout hung over my shoulder, saliva dripping down across my shirt. “I only know one shaman that can reverse lizardworl venom and I’m sure you don’t know him.”

“You’d be surprised,” Sharlan said. “Release him now and I don’t kill you. I’m sure you have plenty of eggs waiting to hatch at home. Be a shame if they lose such a dapper daddy.”

“He is quite dapper, isn’t he?” I tried to keep the conversation light. Two bounty hunters quarreling over who gets to sort me tended to end badly. “My new friend here was just taking me to see Roberta Van Horn. You met, right?”

“I burned down her temple,” Sharlan said, flicking her tongue across her teeth. “We’ve met.”

“Ah, that’s right. You do like burning things, don’t you?” I cocked my head, but Twifgeld jerked me back straight. “I much rather go with my new friend than you, if you don’t mind.”

“You don’t have any friends, Pedro.” Sharlan’s lash of witchflame curled around her fist. “Everyone knows that.” The witchflame darted out, snapping Twifgeld’s top hat right of his head. It burst into a ball of ash, showering the both of us. He stumbled back, looked ready to fight, but thought twice about it and ran out of the alley, trailing wisps of ash behind him. Must have been in a hurry to check his eggs. 

“And now you come with me, little roach.” Sharlan’s eyes danced with white flame. It wasn’t a dance I wanted to be a part of.

“I never liked that nickname.” I backed down the alley. “But it does make a lot of sense.”

“How so?” Sharlan gave a crooked smile to match her crooked eyebrow.

“I always survive.”

I backed into an open manhole and splashed down into the sewer below. I was pretty sure I twisted my ankle pretty good, but when I got up, my limp wasn’t nearly so bad. I heard Sharlan’s screams echoing down the tunnel, but I’d navigated my way around enough sewer tunnels trying to escape this bounty hunter and that disgruntled girlfriend, that I’d made an art of it.

Once Sharlan’s voice died down, I assumed she gave up the search. I crouched in a small tunnel and watced the rats go by. When the coast was clear, I hopped out of the tunnel right onto my newly sprained ankle. That was dumb. 

“Hello,” Twifgeld said and snatched me by the throat. 

“I thought you gave up,” I croaked.

“Nope. Sorry, friend.”

“Didn’t you hear?” I tried to smirk to no avail. “I don’t have any friends”

To be continued…

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