Matilda found the King’s Armpit — no relation to the King’s Arms by the central square — just where Joe told her it would be. Down a dark alley that reeked of stale beer, urine, vomit… and something else. Was that a pile of rags in that alcove? No, a decomposing corpse. Clearly, this was an area completely ignored by the Chamber of Commerce.
The King’s Armpit’s sign was hanging crookedly by one nail. As she approached, a local heavy stepped out from between the bar and the building next to it, a knife in his hand.
“Your money or your…” The robber glanced down at the sword that had just appeared in her hand and stepped back. “Never mind. I was looking for someone else.” As the would-be robber vanished back into the shadows, she patted her chest, where her money purse hung under her leather vest.
It was gone. She spun around, her sword out. While she’d been distracted by a robber — or, perhaps, sometime earlier, someone had managed to sneak up on her and cut the strap and pull the purse out without her noticing. The thief was good.
Lucky for her, she only kept some of the money in that purse. The rest was at the bottom of the tow sack that hung on her back, under her cloak. She pushed the cloak aside and reached for it.
“Darn it.” The bag’s bottom had been sliced open and everything in it was gone.
Grumbling to herself, she walked into the King’s Armpit.
Joe was sitting at the bar. When he noticed Matilda walk in, he gestured at the guy sitting next to him. The guy glanced back at Matilda, picked up his beer, and wandered off towards the back, where a group of beer-drinking card players was gathered around a round table.
Matilda sat down next to the guard. “Buy me a beer.”
Joe raised his eyebrow.
“Not like that.” She punched him on the shoulder. “Someone just stole all my money.”
He rubbed his shoulder. “You need to keep a firm hand on your purse when you’re walking around.” He pushed his beer over to her and ordered another one. “So. You’re interested in mercenary work?”
She sipped her beer, frowned, and put it back down. “Actually, I’m looking for someone. Roland. Roland Wrangella, movie producer.”
“Haven’t heard of him. But then again, they don’t film on Krim. Privacy rules, you know. No recording allowed.”
“I believe you about the rules,” said Matilda. “But look at this place.” She gestured around the bar. “I mean, not this place in particular, but the whole world. No offense, but it’s a pit.”
Joe shrugged. “It may be a pit, but it’s our pit.”
“What I mean is, if someone offered the owners money, I’m sure they’d make an exception.”
“So have you seen any signs of filming around here? Like a large group of strangers standing around somewhere, doing stupid stuff over and over again, while someone screams instructions at them?”
“Doing what kind of stupid stuff?”
She paused. “Well, his first project was an epic fantasy. He filmed it in World of Battle. Cast of hundreds. Won an industry award.” She made quotes in the air when she said the words “industry award.”
“Anything I would have heard of?”
“It made the rounds of the festival circuit but I don’t think anybody actually saw it unless they themselves were in it.” She tapped her beer mug, which was mysteriously empty. “Forge of Air of the Colossus of the Wind and the Crimson Flame.”
“Not too catchy.” Joe waved at the bartender and pointed at her beer mug.
“Or something like that. Like I said, nobody saw it. But last I heard, he’d switched away from filming epics to medieval porn. You know, Romeo and Juliet with actors that look like they’re barely legal.”
“I haven’t heard of anything like that,” said Joe. “But if they’re hiring extras, there might be signs at the Chamber hiring hall.”
“He’d probably bring in everyone he needed from off-world,” said Matilda. “But he might buy local supplies. Costumes, props, things like that.”
Joe shook his head. “I mostly work the main plaza,” he said. “But you might ask around with the local merchants. You know what’s a good way to do that?”
He pulled out a pamphlet and handed it to her. “Join the mercenary guild. The local merchants always need security services. You can meet everyone, learn your way around the city.”
Matilda unfolded the pamphlet, which featured woodcut prints of buff warriors holding swords. “Hiring hall,” she read. “Networking social.”
“There’s also a continuing professional education program,” Joe said.
Matilda turned the pamphlet over.
“How to select honing oil. Efficient footwork techniques. Ooh, beginning and intermediate torture techniques.”
“There’s also an advanced torture class, but it’s by invitation only,” said Joe.
Matilda folded up the pamphlet and tucked it away inside her vest. “I like the sound of that.”