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  1. #1
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    Conrad Ramsay: Chapter 1: The Tournament, Gentleman, and Bitter Lady

    “The sign says Commoner Tournament” I said to my friend Erick “In light of Sir Brandons unfortunate death of old age, a tournament will be held where commoners can compete for a chance at his title, and properties.” I continued. It was a minor title barely above a peasant really, but all that land could mean actual money, a better life, but there in lay the rub, there was an entry fee. Enough money to buy a fatted goat, or ram a lot of food for a commoner.

    After much contemplation I shook my head “nope!” I said, and made my way from the sign with Erick following after me as I headed for the Inn.

    As we sat down, Erick tried to convince me that I would do good in the tournament.

    I shook my head again, and said “Not gonna happen, I’d lose.”

    “Well that’s negative” Came a voice from nearby.

    I turned to see a middle aged gentleman with a trimmed salt, and peppered beard with more salt. His hair was still an auburn color with tinges of grey on the sideburns, He wore a wool workman's shirt, and canvas trousers, but something deep down told me that he was not what he was trying to look like. There wasn’t anything off by his looks, he looked after all like any other run of the mill commoner. For the moment I pushed the thought from my head, and answered “no it’s not actually, it’s simple pragmatism.”

    The gentleman leaned forward, and simple said “elaborate for me please”

    I nodded, and answered “It’s cold calculation first I have only been in about three fights in my life, two when I was a child, and the last one was against a blind drunk man, and while I acknowledge that most everyone else in this county hasn’t either, there are still plenty others that have, and enjoy fighting quite a bit. Further there’s several minor lords around here that are sponsoring some of the more…”

    I took a moment to think of a polite term “less observant citizenry.” I pointed at a big oaf near the bar “Take him, he knocked teeth out of a draft mule simply because it bit him while he was hitching it to a plow, and he’s dumber than a bag of hammers. The bitter want to be baroness Lady Rebecca has already bought him a shiny new suit of gambason, and has been making sure he’s been eating meat, and will be till the tournament.” I took a breath “And she isn’t the only one. Then there are the wild cards the old soldiers, hunter’s, and such that have many scars, and years on them that won’t pull their punches for such a prize.”

    The gentleman listened, nodded, and agreed “that’s quite an astute observation. Why would a noble want someone who is… non observant to win the tournament?”

    I smiled, and answered “Stupid people are easy to control, they get offered a pittance of what that farm is worth, and because they don’t know any better they accept it, while the lord, or lady gets a significant boost in power, and ofcourse money.”
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  2. #2
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    Then it hit me, it was the gentlemans smell that was throwing me off, he didn’t smell “common” a commoner by the very nature of working in dirt, dung, and grim, and not having much better to clean themselves in than a ditch, or stream if they’re lucky had a kind of smell to them. Mostly a mild earthy aroma with touches of sweat, and whatever their occupation was, sometimes covered by lye soap.

    Hey we did our best!

    The gentleman smiled “That makes sense, what are your plans for the tournament then?”

    I chuckled “Work, I don’t have much opportunity to do much else if I want to eat more than one meal a day. But if I do have time I’ll probably make a few bets once the preliminaires are over. ”

    The gentleman chuckled, and nodded “I can understand that, what is it that you do to work?

    I could tell that this gentleman was sizing me up, his questions were intelligent, he was educated. I figured he was a noble, or a very successful merchant. I kept my deduction to myself for the moment. “Four days of the week, I work for the butcher two of the days of the week I work the local farms, and finally I rest one day reading what I can.”

    The gentlemans eyebrows rose at that, “You can read son?” he asked in surprise.

    I nodded “Not many books around here, I think I actually have read all the books in the county at least all the ones I could get my hands on.”

    The gentleman nodded, stood, and excused himself, but before he departed “ I said in a lower voice under the general humm of the inn. “If you’re going to pretend to be a commoner, take a walk through a herd of sheep.”

    The illicated a smirk from the gentleman, as he made his way out of the door.

    Eventually the tournament began, the preliminaries were a spectacle in unskilled, ungangly brawling, where winners were mostly chosen by mere dumb luck. I was glad that I didn’t start betting right at the start. But eventually everything mellowed out, and there were thirty two competitors, as predicted the sponsored competitors did well for themselves. It was time to start betting.

    Sixteen pairs of competitors, I picked one, Justin VS Grady. Taking a leap of faith I put all my money on Grady because Grady, while somewhat older than Justin, had a lot of scars on his face, and knuckles. More scars translated to me more experience, or better tolerance for pain at the least.
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  3. #3
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    The fight was quick, and decidedly one sided in Grady’s favor, more to the point my favor. I walked away with my money doubled, and went back to work cutting up pigs.

    The next day of the tournament came, and the fight was between Rick the big oaf, and a quick waif of a guy named Potter.

    Now Rick was decked out in his sponsored armor, and was carrying a big club. David on the other hand was armed with a dagger, and a leather cuirass. Neither one of them was fully armored but Rick the oaf with his makeshift weapon had the reach on Potter. I placed a bet on Rick, even though things could go either way between the two I decided to bet it all again.

    As the match was about to begin the gentleman showed back up, and greeted me. “Good afternoon, how has the betting been treating you?”

    I looked on as the two competitors were preparing for their fight. “Won the last one. This one I’m not too sure about, but I like the big oaf.”

    The gentleman looked on, and asked “How come? I thought you said he was umber than a bag of hammers?”

    I nodded “Yeah he’s also slow, but he has reach, and can take a hit. If he can connect with that tree branch of a log he’ll win.”

    A gravely woman's voice came from behind us “I do pick the winners don’t I.” It was the bitter want to be baroness Lady Rebecca. I already felt myself getting annoyed. She was looking down at both of us. She wasn’t the brightest star in the sky, definitely not as smart as she thought she was.

    I replied with as much respect as I could muster, which was not very much “I’m sure he’ll win this match. But I doubt he’ll be the champion, fight’s starting.” Which it was, and left Rebecca in an impotant rage at my assessment of her sponceree. This amused the gentleman.

    Potter was definitely quick, slipping in past Ricks club, and in a swift fluid motion sliced a gash in Ricks arm. Rick countered with a kick, it was clumsy but powerful, and Potter was able to dodge most of it taking it in the hip. Not too harmful but it still knocked the wind out of his sails somewhat. Now speed wise the fight was even which spelled Potters doom with a lucky blow from his massive club. Rick the big dumb oaf won, much to the bitter lady’s gratification though she was still brooding. I now had a nice sack of money.

    The gentleman congratulated me on my winnings, and aske “who do you like for the champion?”
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  4. #4
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    I already had him picked, and would likely be betting on him in the last 3 bouts “Morigan, the hunter. He’s an older ass hole, but as a hunter he’s familiar with the boar spear, and knife, and he’s no nonsense. He won’t try any sort of fancy footwork, or over complicated maneuvers that’ will provide an opening.”

    The gentleman chuckled “Morigan the Ass Hole” chuckle “has a certain ring to it. He a friend of yours?”

    I shook my head “Na, not so much, but his skills should be acknowledged.”

    The gentleman nodded, and said “If you’re right than you’ll be set up for a while. What are your plans for your winnings?”

    I nodded “Should be, depending one how much I win, I’ll probably improve the horse stall I live at the very least, or see about become a partner with the livery.”

    The gentleman smiled “Smart man, I wish you the best of luck in the remaining bouts.”

    The gentleman departed, with a piece of advice “The bitter lady will probably want to prove a point.”

    Later that evening, the bitter want to be baroness proved the gentleman right. Erick, and I were enjoying ourselves at the Inn when she stepped in with a decent sized bag of coins in her hand. It must have been worth two hundred silvers. Compared to my winnings of ten silvers worth of copper, that was a statement to say the least.

    Was she really going to risk blowing that huge wad of cash on trying to prove her decisions superior, just because she was a noble woman!?

    She came up to me, and asked “want to make a bet?”

    Bet your ass she was. She let he coin bag hit the bar with a heavy thump, and asked “which match are you going to bet on tomorrow?” With her smug smile, and voice being stained with a lot of cheap wine.

    I smiled at her, and replied “I plan on betting on Morigan in his next bout against William.”

    She nodded, and said “good, how about a lordly wager?”

    I shook my head replying “no thank you, it’s a bad idea for you to bet that much on this kind of tournament. Besides I don’t have the coin to match your bet.”

    She grimaced, and nearly shouted “nonsense! How about we make an arrangement? If you win you get this sack of silver, but if I win.” she drew out the I, and pointed at her self “I get your earnings, and you become my serf till the rest is paid off. And don’t presume to tell your betters what is a bad idea!”
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  5. #5
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    To anyone who doesn't know a serf is actually lower than a commoner. Think indentured servitude but without the guaranteed release after seven years. Well as traps go this one was pretty self explanatory; Morigan, and William were pretty evenly matched, I was betting on Morigan because he wasn’t known to pull punches, even in friendly bar fights here at the tavern. He was one of those guys that liked to fight that I mentioned to the gentleman a few days ago. If I accepted her bet, she would bet on William, and probably try something to make sure Morigan lost.

    She was already halfway to being drunk, so what if I brought her all the way to dizzy land? That would prevent her from getting to William for the rest of the night, and most of the day, after that people would be anticipating the next bouts, and she wouldn’t be able to interfere with him without being caught. So I took a chance, played dumb, and said “I’ll take your bet, we’ll leave the money here with the bar tender, drink on it?”

    The drunken lady happily agreed, and I had the innkeeper pour us some of his better stuff not wine, but black berry brandy. He caught on to my plan without me saying a word, and offered it to her in a wine glass. She began pouring it down her gullette, almost as fast as the innkeeper could pour, and for every drink I bought for her, she bought four I stuck to a few mugs of beer. She was sloshed before an hour, and I made sure that I was in the bar, in front of a lot of patrons making a total jolly ass of myself for everyone's amusement by the time that her retainers had taken her home.

    The next day there were four bouts, the two most anticipated were the one that Morigan was fighting, and the one that Rick was fighting. All that day no one seen nor heard of the bitter want to be baroness, my plan worked. She actually showed up on time enough to see Rick just barely win. It was time for Morigans fight.

    Morigan was decked out in well used hunting leathers, was wielding a common boar spear the kind you could find in almost any house around here it was a supremely versatile hunting weapon. He was going up against William, he was a former city guard, he was armored with a battered metal cuirass, and well used arming sword.

    The bitter lady gawked at William, and her face turned red, apparently she forgot to do something the night before. I grinned at her, and gave her a hearty “Good Afternoon Lady Rebecca!”

    She winced and was about to utter an epitaph at me, but I cut her off “Fight’s about to begin.”

    At the signal Morigan began circling William, and William followed suit. Morigan wasn’t circling William to size him up, he circled William to kick a pile of horse manure into Williams face.

    That was another thing I liked about Morigan he didn’t fight in a way that a lot of people considered fair; he fought to win. William threw up his off hand, and parried an incoming thrust, locked, and pushed Morigan back. To the cheers of the crowd, this was an actual fight, not just two blunt instruments pounding away at each other but two rather capable people looking to win.
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  6. #6
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    After the first quick clash the pair circled again, and Morigan kept firing off thrusts to keep William on his back foot, and test his defenses. William once again parried a thrust from Morigans spear, and pushed forward passing the spear’s tip, and drove his elbow into Morigans face.

    Morigan rolled with the hit, and with the back end of his spear butted William in the back of the head sending him sprawling forward. Then he thrust at William with its head, but a blind swing from William deflected it.

    The fight went on, lasting quite a bit longer than any other before it, and both of the competitors were beginning to tire. Once again Morigan thrust was met with a deflection driving his spear to the ground, William pressed his knee against it causing its head to snap off.

    William grabbed the broken end, and struck Morigan in the chin with it, and Morigan hit the ground flat on his back, his hand cupping his nose that was gushing blood, and low guttural growl came from his mouth.

    And my blood ran cold…

    The bitter lady’s lips contorted into an undignified smile and she said “I think you will be emptying out my chamber pots.” And sauntered off.

    I knew that there could still be an up set, but I was counting on the reach of Morigan’s spear to still win the day, but sometimes things don’t go your way, and I was over a barrel.

    William chuckled, and stepped towards Morigan asking “Do you yield?”

    Morigan mumbled something under his hand, but William couldn’t understand, and took a step forward, and asked “Do you yield?”

    Morigan’s hand left his face, his nose broken, and a smile across his face, and snarled “Like hell!!” and drove the heel of his boot into William. William let out a loud groaning expulsion of air, somewhere between a scream, a sigh.

    Morigan then kicked the inside of William’s knee; William would never be able to walk right after that. William fell on his side grasping his knee moaning in such fantastic pain it was almost fascinating.
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  7. #7
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    The bitter lady was stomping with all due haste to the Inn now, and I smirked at her.

    Morigan rolled onto his feet using the shear haft to help himself up, picked Williams sword, and pointed it at him, and asked “Do you yield” William nodded, and the asshole acknowledging a good fight then helped William to his feet, and I helped them get to the Inn. After setting William down, I sauntered over to the bitter want to be baroness, and said “I believe you owe me some money.”

    Her face went red, and she screamed at her retainers “I want this man arrested!”

    I was somewhat taken aback, as the bartender produced a falchion, and all manner of blades were drawn in my defence, and I asked “Arrest me for what?” crossing my arms “You don’t want to pay your debt to me, after trying to trap me?”

    The bitter lady stammered “I..I...I don’t know what you’re talking about? But you! You, got me drunk, and tried to have his way with me last night!”

    That was a harsh accusation, and it brought an absolute uproar. The bartender piped “Lady he was here all night, and your retainers had to carry your drunk ass home, every lord, lady, and peasant between here, and your high, and mighty manor all can vouch for this. Now you made a bet, you best honor it before it gets taken up with the Sheriff.”

    Now a Sheriff is a noble position that is a mix bag of law enforcement, tax collection, conscription, and day to day administration of the realm he’s entrusted over, also military leadership.

    The bitter lady palled, and turned to me “You have won this time, but I will, I swear to the four elements, I will ruin you!”

    I was saddened at her attitude, and said “Lady Rebecca, take your loss for what it is, and don’t waste any more resources on me for some ill perceived slight”

    The gentleman who had been conversational with me for the last few days spoke up “I would listen to him if I were you.”

    The bitter lady turned absolutely scarlet “And who asked you?! If you speak up again I’ll have you flogged in the square!” She then stormed out of the Inn, and knives, daggers, and swords were all put away, and I walked away richer than I had ever been.

    There were only two days left in the tournament, and the bitter want to be baroness, was turning into the scary bat shit insane lady. I stepped over to the gentleman, who once again was sitting at a nearby table, and asked “can I trust you.”

    There was a glint in his eye, and he never answered yes, or no simply asked “how can I help you?”
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  8. #8
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    Taking a chance based on all the clues that told me he was a noble, or a merchant of some sort, and thus not needing money I asked “ Can you hold on to my winnings? I have no safe place to keep it.”

    The gentleman cantered his head, and asked “oh, and you think I do?”

    I smirked, and replied “I think you are someone that if my money disappears from your hands, you have the resources to get it back in a pinch.”

    He smiled, clean straight, white teeth formed a formidable grin “I will watch your winnings.” I thanked him, and ordered food normally you don’t get a lot of variety as a commoner mostly roasted meat of some kind, and root vegetables. So tonight I ordered a veritable feast of roasted meat, a full loaf of bread, and a wedge of cheese plus a full bottle of wine. I would have ordered a full cask but that would have cut into too much of my winnings.

    I was starting to wonder what sort of trap the bitter lady would try for the morning, and the day after that, and the day after that. I had royally pissed her off, and she was the kind of bitter bitch to not forgive me for breathing after something like that. That meant one thing escalation would start. It had already started, with the bitter want to be baroness trying to trap me with that money, I saw it coming a mile away, but I was sure she would try again.

    She had to know that I was on to her, I told her I was on to her. I was so deep in thought as to how I was going to survive the long term because of the bitter lady’s ill perceived sleights that I didn’t hear the gentlemans talking to me. “What is on your mind son?” He asked probably the fifth time.

    I shook off the haze of my concentration, and replied “If I were a betting man, and I am. Lady Rebecca isn’t done with me, at least not in any pleasurable sense.”

    The gentleman chuckled “So you wouldn’t mind her not being done with you in a pleasurable one?”

    I coughed, and took a pull from my wine at the suggestion “never really thought of it.”

    The gentleman got the conversation back on track by asking “so what’s your next move?”

    I thought for a moment, and finally replied “She’s really a blunt instrument, she’ll most likely try another what she thinks is a clever trap. I know she’s out to get me, and knowing that will keep me cautious. I think I shall stay visible, her little escapade earlier will let the entire town that she’s after me, and most people can’t stand the bitch. She’ll have no choice but to be sneaky which is out of her depth. I think tomorrow I will take a break from making a bet. Besides I have no money.”
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  9. #9
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    The gentleman nodded, and frowned “what would that do?”
    I cantered my head side to side “It’ll make her imputant. She’ll have no way to trap, or attempt to bully me into something. It’ll frustrate her.” I grinned a bit. “The final bout she’ll almost demand I make another ludicrous bet, it’ll have to be another lordly bet enough to get her money back, and embarrass me just as much as she embarrassed herself. It could be enough to hurt her in the long term if she loses.”

    The gentleman looked awfully grave at that “I see, it’s a shame she’s bringing this on herself.”

    The next day I was busy, up to my arm pits in horse manure. Even a few horses can make a mess of things in short order, and the livery had a few clients. Also lords, and ladies tended to not come within ten feet of that much horse dung.

    The bitter want to be baroness Lady Rebecca nevertheless showed up, and I made it incredibly inconvenient for her to talk to me by unloading a wheelbarrow full of the smelly stuff on top of a newer pile. She had another sack of coins, and I smirked when she tromped up the pile of crap, and asked in a stilted “would you like to make another bet?”

    I shook my head “No bet” I said, and made my way off the pile, and back into the livery to continue mucking. The look on her face as I passed showed just how much she resented me at the moment.

    She persisted “I’m talking real money here, an amount so high that your little commoner mind couldn’t wrap around it.”

    The corner of my mouth twitched in a half smile “And if I lose you will ruin me? As you have sworn to the four elements? Have me emptying chamber pots, and likely any other demining task you can think of.”

    She palled once again “what? What?!” Her mind was starting to boil to come up with some sort of cover.

    But before she could spit anything out I said again “No bet, sorry” and for good measure, the manure I was digging, and loading missed the wheelbarrow, and landed on her boots causing her to storm off.

    The bitter lady's antics over the last few days had only served only to worsen her reputation, even the other knights, and nobles were telling her that she was stepping over lines, all this had the effect of making her even more bitter.

    By the time of the main event came the following day she was in what could be a blind rage if she was actually fighting with me. We were both in the Inn, and she was staring at me, and if looks could kill, hers would have destroyed an entire city. I simply smiled at her. See smiles, and being happy can be the best insult to a person like her.
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

  10. #10
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    Earlier that day I had retrieved my winnings, and my sack of coins felt heavier, I guessed that the gentleman placed my standard bet for me. As the bitter lady glared at me, I dropped it on the table in front of me, with a nice heavy thump. Her face turned a shade scarlet, beyond her typical wine drunk rouge.

    “Wanna make a bet?” I asked with a smile, I reached in my bag of coins, grabbed a few coins...one of which was gold. I let the coins fall from my fingers like poker chips. It was loud enough for the entire Inn to hear. She’d either refuse, and look shy, or accept and fall deeper into the spiral.

    She took the bait, and strode over, as elegantly as she could in her perpetual drunkenness, and said “I thought you wasted all of your money.” Then asked “what do you have in mind.” She said in anticipation of something grandiose.

    I grinned, and plopped down twenty five coppers. “I see that the man you sponsored has somehow made it to the final bout, so my bet is even money Rick VS Morigan.” If she took the bet even if I lost I would still have a bag full of coins, if she refused I kept twenty five coppers. Things would only get dangerous if she made a counter bet. I was hoping that she would make a counter bet, if it was big enough I could make it to where she would leave me alone.

    “That’s not good enough!” She announced to the entire Inn...big mistake “How much is in your coin bag?” She asked in full voice, I dumped the contents of my bag, and was pleasantly surprised. Twelve gold crowns, two hundred silver scepters, seventy five copper coronets. In five days I had apparently become a moderately if temporarily wealthy man.

    The bitter want to be baroness’ hackles went up “that’s more than what you took from me!” she hissed.

    I shrugged , and said “make your bet.”

    The bitter lady wiggled mentally, it was a mental acrobatic that i’ve seen a few times, she needed that money back desperately. She also wanted to make the point that she was superior all because of noble birth, unfortunately for her the only way she could prove this was to throw ever increasing sums of money at me in the not so vain hopes that I’d eventually lose a bet. “Three-hundred fifty silver scepters” she said.

    I winced, and asked “really, you’re going to try the same trap again, in the vain hope that I would accept that bet? Then you knowing that I don’t have enough to cover the bet if I lose would put me into indentured servitude? Serfdom?”

    The bitter lady’s eyes narrowed. She'd been caught setting the same exact trap that I had caught her setting last time. Then I nodded “You know what?!” I said giving the bitter lady a glare “The real bet here is humiliation, so how bout this even money, if Rick wins, you get a year of my service free. I win however…”
    "By any stretch of the worlds view I am a monster. But sometimes, more than they want to admit, the good people of this world need a monster to do all of the things that they're too afraid, or ashamed to to themselves, to cross lines they can't, to enter the dark places they wont because they are afraid of the corruption they might be subject to. I am that monster, and I plan on being the most dangerous monster that many will meat."

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