The adventures of Gortat the Warlock - Part I

Later, it was said the man came from the East, from Orlando's Gate. He came on foot, leading his laden horse by the bridle. It was hot, like always in the desert, but the man had an orange coat thrown over his shoulders. Beneath his coat he wore a worn purple jersey and around his neck a silver amulet, shaped like a blazing sun. The stranger was huge, almost 7 feet tall, but his most distinctive feature was his enormous nose. He drew attention to himself.

He stopped in front of the Old US Airways Inn, stood there for a moment, listened to the hubbub of voices. As usual, at this hour, it was full of people.

The stranger did not enter the Old US Airways. He pulled his horse further down the street to another tavern, a smaller one, called the BSOTS. Not enjoying the best of reputations, it was almost empty.

The innkeeper, known in the town as "Old Seth", raised his head above a barrel of pickled cucumbers and measured the man with his gaze. The outsider, still in his coat, stood stiffly in front of the counter, motionless and silent.

"What will it be?"

"A Polish sausage," said the stranger. His voice was unpleasant, yet somehow with a funny accent.

Seth the innkeeper wiped his hands on his canvas apron and put a meat-like substance on a chipped earthenware plate.

As the stranger took off his coat those around him noticed that he carried a weapon - not something unusual in itself, nearly every man in Phoenix carried a weapon - but no one carried a huge hammer strapped to his back.

The stranger did not sit at the table with the few other guests, who were busy chatting or staring at the wooden message board at the other end of the room. He remained standing at the counter, piercing the innkeeper with his gaze. He took a bite of the sausage.

"I'm looking for a room for the night."

"There's none," grunted the innkeeper, looking at the guest's sneakers, dusty and dirty. "Ask at the Old US Airways Inn."

"I would rather stay here. I'll pay." The outsider spoke quietly, as if unsure, and the innkeeper finally recognized the stranger's accent. He was Polish. Then the whole nasty affair began. A pockmarked beanpole of a man, called KG, who, from the moment the outsider had entered had not taken his gloomy eyes from him, got up and approached the counter. Two of his companions, Rondo and Pierce, rose behind him, no more than two paces away. The three men were members of the Celtics clan, a criminal organization, and were staying in Phoenix for a road trip.

"There is no room to be had, you Polish second-round draft vagabond," rasped KG, standing right next to the outsider. "We don't need people like you in the Free States!"

The outsider took his plate and moved away. He glanced at the innkeeper, who avoided his eyes. It did not even occur to him to defend the stranger. After all, he preferred Lopez.

"All Polish are idiots," KG went on, his breath smelling of beer, garlic and anger. "They don't even know how to light a torch. Do you hear me, you bastard?"

"He can't hear you. His ears are full of shit," said Rondo and Pierce cackled.

"Pay and leave!" yelled KG.

Only now did the Pole look at him.

"I'll finish my sausage."

"We'll give you a hand," KG hissed and knocked the plate from the stranger's hand. One of the men behind him raised a fist to strike. The outsider curled up on the spot, throwing KG off balance. The hammer hissed and glistened briefly in the dim light. The place seethed. There was a scream, and one of the remaining customers tumbled toward the exit, while others tried to hide behind the message board. Seth the innkeeper, his lips trembling, looked at the horribly slashed face of KG, who, clinging with his fingers to the edge of the counter, was slowly sinking from sight. The other two were lying on the floor, Rondo motionless, Pierce writhing and convulsing in a dark, spreading puddle.

The stranger retreated toward the wall, tense and alert. He held the enormous hammer in both hands, sweeping it through the air. No one moved. Terror, like cold mud, was clear on their faces, paralyzing limbs and blocking throats. Only one old, black man, who was still sitting in the far corner of the tavern, had an almost delirious look in eyes. "Finally, thank Gods, finally," mumbled old Alvin "this must be our chosen C!"

To be continued...

(Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction and almost entirely stolen from the work of A. Sapkowski. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons is not coincidental.)

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