Music, song, laughter and cheers filled the air of the Hangman’s Haunt; a beloved bar and hangout to many a rogue and ruffian in the city of Holgar’s Helm. It was a typical evening for the establishment. This particular night, one of the bar’s regulars played cards at a table in the corner. His back to the wall and towering over the rest of the players, Krel, the half-orc, drank deeply from his mug and shouted loudly throughout the game which included some of his own gang, the Kings of Chaos, and some others who were not part of the organization.
The scene was not unique. Oftentimes the Kings drank and ate at the Haunt when not on some mission and the city was glad for it; as they were not sowing chaos when they were content to enjoy the libations of the bar. The money they spent during their outings was well worth the noise and violence that tended to accompany them. Most nights anyways.
The card game lasted for several hours. As usual, Krel was doing exceptionally well. Either through skill developed from many years of playing, or intimidation, the half-orc often was the winner on the night. To his right was one of his closest companions and another King of Chaos, Thiemo. Thiemo was one of the few who never considered Krel’s race. Although most pure humans were afraid or at least nervous around those with orc blood, Thiemo showed no concern and always treated his thief friend as an equal. Each believed the other would defend him with his life.
The card game went well until too much ale and too many conflicts pushed it to something more than friendly cards. As usual, Krel won more hands than everyone else in the game and was busy taunting the rest of the table about it. He laughed and cheered his own success and that behavior had a tendency to get under the skin of most.
One player at the table was a sailor named Judd. He played many hands with Krel that night and was nearly out of money. Having just pulled into port, Judd was paid on his arrival yet was nearly out of his pocket money; mostly because of losing to Krel.
The half-orc knew the sailor wasn’t doing well and could see the distress on his face, but rather than go easy on the man, Krel upped his taunting.
“Maybe stick to tying knots and leave the cards to people with some sense huh?” He mocked. Judd ignored him while the blood heated in his veins. With his thinking more on Krel’s words than the game before him, he remained in the round much longer than he should have.
“Think you have a hot hand there, sailor?” Krel chuckled.
Judd just grit his teeth and willed his cards to prevail, then placed all his remaining coins in the pile. Daring the half-orc to call.
“What’s this? Putting your entire wage on this hand of yours are you?”
“Just call or fold and quit fooling around already?” Judd spat. “I’m sick of your words.”
Krel drew deadly silent and glared at the sailor who could not endure the weight of his eyes and looked down to his cards. “I never fool around, son.” Krel warned. “Do not take me for a clown when I’ve spilt more blood than you have in your entire body unless you want to know just how serious I am.”
The threat hung heavy over the table. No one else dared move, and scarcely breathed. Krel continued to stare at the sailor without a blink or a single movement. At last he simply added, “I call,” and pushed the appropriate number of coins towards the pile.
Judd revealed his hand then looked up to Krel. The half-orc didn’t even look at the man’s cards, but instead held him with his eyes that seemed to steal the very breath from Judd’s lungs.
“Well?” Judd begged.
Krel slowly placed his cards face up on the table but never moved his stare from his opposition. Everyone looked and saw that the half-orc had a much stronger hand and therefore won the round.
Judd leaped back toppling his stool and screamed, “Curse you, you dirty cheating orc! How dare you swindle me!”
Thiemo gripped the dagger in his belt but Krel was far ahead of him. The orc threw the table in the air with a mighty roar sending drinks, cards and coins flying as he drew his devilish long sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. Judd stumbled backwards as others took cover.
Krel threw the dagger in one smooth motion using the flying debris as cover for his blade and it flew beneath the table avoiding any obstruction towards its target.
Judd had two friends, sailors as well, who were quiet throughout the conflict but now that violence was unavoidable, they reached for weapons of their own as they tumbled backwards from the force of the table being thrown.
Krel stood tall against the wall while all but Thiemo fell back. He still had not broken his glare from Judd. The sailor’s friends began to rise with blades drawn. The first aimed for Krel who appeared not to take notice of him, but Thiemo plunged a dagger in his neck so quickly that the man turned to look at the King of Chaos, eyes searching for an answer, before he gripped his neck only to find it badly severed, then his vision blurred as his legs gave out.
The remaining friend rose as well but, without looking to his target at all, Krel slashed to one side, splitting the man’s belly open, sending entrails to the ground. The man howled in pain as he scrambled to try to hold his body together and the pain seared his mind.
Krel continued to stare at Judd who fell to his back and looked down to find the blade the orc threw lodged in his groin. Judd’s thoughts raced in various directions and he couldn’t quite put together that he had already been mortally wounded. Blood poured from the wound and his head became light before he collapsed entirely to the ground.
For a long moment the King of Chaos stood tall as everyone in the bar watched, frozen in fear and amazement.
“It appears the game is over, my friend, we should leave,” Thiemo suggested.
“Too bad,” Krel replied, “I was having a very good night.”
“Any who report this to the magistrate will get the same!” Krel cried. “Keep the coins for your silence.”
The Kings swiftly moved for the rear exit and then ducked into an ally. Their boots were trailing blood behind them so they stopped briefly to rinse them in a puddle.
“You didn’t want your winnings?” Thiemo wondered.
“Bah. Money is easy to make and even easier to lose. But tonight we won far more than that?”
“Did we? What’s that?”
“We won the respect of every man present tonight and even that of those they tell of the events.”
“I suspect you mean fear, my friend.”
“Fear is simply respect clothed in the reminder that their lives are easily taken by our blades. Tonight we added to our reputation and that is priceless.”