He hated this city. Its strange cobblestone streets, the disorganized architecture and of course the utterly deplorable people that lived here. But as much as he despised this place, there was something he had to do. And it seemed that he would need the help of someone he hadn’t spoken with in a very long time.

The man walked quickly down the different pathways and back alleys seemingly at random, his long sapphire jacket trailing behind him. Pandaemonium was an outright confusing place for anyone who didn’t know their way, some people have been said to lose their path and get lost for years at a time. Despite this the outsider weaved his way through a slew of markets, taverns, brothels and other various establishments that seemed to have no particular order.

This was a great city of chaos and per its name, it was an absolute mess. People milled about in great numbers, all of different shapes and sizes. Thievery was commonplace here, almost considered a given when going about your business. The streets were ruled by the quick and nimble, the brawny and brave. If you weren’t getting pickpocketed then you were getting scammed. If you weren’t getting scammed you were most certainly getting mugged. And if nothing of the former was happening, you were without a doubt getting harassed.

However this stranger walked through the city like a ghost. No one even looked at him, let alone spoke to him. Not that he went unnoticed; you had to be observant if you wanted to survive here. But anyone who saw the stranger seemed to keep their distance. There was something unnatural in the way he moved through the place. And there was a distinct smell of Order about him that made most beings of Chaos cringe.

It was almost as if he knew the exact location of where he was going, which was exceedingly rare here. The streets were filled with djinn, imps, sorcerers, familiars, homunculi and everything in between. Incredibly diverse but with one common denominator: everyone was completely deranged. In this city you’d find shades of good, evil and something in between, but nothing resembling Order. Everything was based off of impulse and spontaneity. No one had any idea what was in store for them from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to sleep. But it would probably be exciting. And a bit dangerous.

Arlas Vextrin was a former boxer turned enforcer turned tavern bouncer in his old age who kept a strict watch over who was allowed through the door of The Pit. It was as upscale as an establishment could get in Pandaemonium, so no ordinary riff-raff could just get in. It had been a relatively boring day for him. Most of the regulars came and went about their business. Only a few unlucky newcomers had attempted to get past this mountain of a man. And they were rewarded with a few broken bones and a multitude of bruises.

He hadn’t had the chance to throw anyone in the river yet today, and that disappointed him. Unlike most rivers, the Turvy didn’t like to abide by the laws of nature. It streamed up, down, sideways and sometimes decided that it would change its direction every so often. No matter what it decided to do, the city accommodated to it, with buildings to seemingly shift out of the way. Strangely enough it always went right past the tavern. Or maybe the tavern just stuck close by. It was a raw, primal power and anyone who had the misfortune to fall into it would never come out of it the same, if they would come out at all that is.

Arlas always enjoyed throwing folks in the river. He never knew what was going to happen afterward. Most of the time nothing happened, however on a few occasions the unlucky person would drag themselves out of the river looking horribly disoriented and babbling utter nonsense. That always gave him a laugh.

Like everyone else who had seen this particular outsider today, Arlas immediately wanted to avoid him. But that wasn’t his place. Even though the city thrived off of chaos, there were some rules. They weren’t mongrels after all. “Oy. Stop it there. Regulars only. And you e’nt regular” he said putting an imposing hand on the strange man’s shoulder.

The man stopped and met his eyes with a look of pure disdain. “Filthy beast. If you have any sense at all you will take your hand off of me right this instance” the man said quietly with a malicious edge to his voice.

In most cases Arlas liked to have a little fun with his fights. It was always enjoyable to see how tough someone thinks they are before he knocked them down a peg or two. But this one was different. Something about him wasn’t right. It was a perfect opportunity to feed the river. He aimed a kick at the outsider’s legs to throw him off balance and get him to the ground. Though something about him made Arlas uneasy, he was of a slight build and no match for the blow. The kick however only served to unbalance Arlas himself who found the stranger to suddenly reappear behind him.

“Oh good. Finally one of you was foolish enough to strike first. I’ve had a mind to clear out this rabble all morning” the stranger said breaking out into a toothy grin.

He barely had time to center himself again before the man struck again, lightning fast. In a blinding flash of agonizing pain, Arlas found himself laying on the cobblestones in a pool of his own blood. It had been years since anyone had bested him, but he had finally met his match.

“You bastard. Not even givin me the decency of dyin standin up” he said struggling to rise. The monster had sliced right through the top of his legs down to the bone. And he never saw a thing. “Give me the honor of at least seein what had done me in”

The man walked over to him, doing his best to avoid the slowly accumulating pool of blood and picking up his brimmed hat he lost in the conflict. “No. I don’t believe you deserve to see her” he said nonchalantly. With that, he kicked the old and dying Arlas in the sternum and sent him flying into the Turvy with an unceremonious plop.

Producing a handkerchief, he wiped the blood from his boots and made his way to the front of the tavern to open the heavy wooden door. When he entered, all mirth and laughter ceased. The once boisterous and excitable room became completely silent.

“Bring me to the butcher” the man said with an authoritative glare at the barkeep.

“He isn’t here master. He left but a few moments ago…” the barkeep started, sheepishly looking into a drinking glass.

“Don’t lie to me. I could sense him the moment I walked in the door. Now take me to him at once. Unless you wish to end up like your thug outside” he interrupted, cutting the small man off with a wave of his hand.

The barkeep nervously came from behind the bar and gestured down a hallway to the right. “Follow me this way…i-if it pleases you master” he stuttered. Dozens of eyes watched as the outsider followed the poor barkeep down the hall, to what most thought would be his untimely demise.

The Pit was the premiere destination in all of Pandaemonium. And like most buildings in this plane of existence, the rules of physics didn’t seem to apply to it. While on the outside it looked of a modest size, wandering the halls without knowing your way could get you lost for ages. Many a poor sod had wandered off to relieve themselves only to find that they were lost in a labyrinth of hallways and doors. This wasn’t the case though for the unlikely pair. The barkeep knew his way around the establishment very well. Upon fear of death, he would lead the gangly outsider dressed in blue to a man who had given him explicit instructions to turn away such a fellow. Besides, he didn’t make nearly enough coin in tips for this.

After what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time twisting through different hallways it seemed they reached their destination. The barkeep stopped in front of a heavy wooden door with the façade of a wild pig as a knocker. Taking it in his hands he issued three heavy knocks and turned to scuttle away. “This is where I leave you master. You’ll find him inside if it pleases you” he whimpered as he passed the man and walked quickly down the hallway.

He was finally close to getting out of this stinking place. It would have been one thing if he had a mark. That at least promised reward at the end. But to have to come here for assistance was another matter entirely. Maybe it was time to retire, the man in blue mused for a moment breaking out into a rare smile. Not that it was an option. There was always work to be done.

“I told you lot not to bother me” a deep voice sounded, muffled by the door. After a moment, the sturdy door swung open to reveal a large bearded man in a butcher’s apron. He stood a full head taller than the unwelcome visitor and was a considerable amount wider as well. No man would have ventured to call him portly however. He was a solid brick of muscle with arms as thick as the stranger’s legs.

“Why brother…aren’t you happy to see me?” The outsider sneered while weaving his way through the doorway into the modest room. He hung his long blue jacket on a nearby coat rack along with the matching hat.

“What do you want Menta? I told you I wanted nothing to do with you or our old life. And now you show up again, decades later and unannounced. I have a mind to chop you into bits” the large man said, slamming the door behind him.

“We have a job” the man said casually leaning against the wall.

“I don’t do those jobs anymore. Ya know that” he said with a hushed tone. “Not after the last one.”

“That won’t happen again. It can’t” Menta said moving closer to his estranged brother. “I need you for this Coro. I can’t do it without you.”

“Where’s the job?” he replied curiously.

“The Center” his brother stated nonchalantly.

“Earth? Haven’t been there in ages…” With a resigned sigh Coro slumped into a nearby chair. “I admit. I have missed it. And my arm has been getting out of practice…” he mumbled in a resigned tone.

“See? It’s in our blood man. And the pay is unlike anything we have ever seen!” Menta said grinning while clutching his brother’s large shoulder.

“Just answer me one thing mate. What happened to her…that day?” the large man said quietly, looking at his brother in a grave manner.

The grin Menta once wore disappeared and was replaced with a look of pure grief. Going over to his jacket, he retrieved a small dagger and showed it to his brother. It bore the same color as the rest of his ensemble and the blade shined like pure silver and was curved to a wicked point. “This is what happened to her” he replied distantly.

“Aye. She deserved better’n that man. Much better’n that.”

Somewhere in the Turvy, the man formerly known as Arlas was now a fish. A resplendent one with lovely colored fins. And as he swam up and down in the river he realized that he fancied it a lot more than being a tavern bouncer.

Next Chapter: Chapter 1