Friday, September 23, 2011

Yershi the Mild

NOTE: This popped out of my head on the bus Thursday morning. I couldn't go to sleep until I had it typed into my iPod Touch. It also helps if you read it with a Peter Lorre accent.

What you need to learn about Yershi is that Yershi is a killer. Not the romantic, roguish kind who kill only the bad people oppressing the good, but the kind who quietly cuts your throat if someone pays him enough groats to do it.

You should know as well that he is not an impulsive man. He will not kill you, or even glare at you, if you happen to jostle his elbow and spill his beer. If you offer to buy him a round to replace what was spilt, he will be gracious. He may play darts with you if you buy him a bowl of nuts to go with the beer. But even if you ignore him, he will do nothing. He does not mind spilled beer. There is no profit in a bar killing, he says, though the bartenders are usually kind enough to ignore the body.

He is a tender man. He does not kick dogs. He does not speak harshly to the beggar children. At his small house, he keeps cats and grows marigolds.

But he also knows how to sneak up behind a man to kill him with s quick jab that always reaches the heart, whether through the ribs or up through the stomach. He is fastidious that way. A slit throat may be easier, but a slit throat is messy.

He does not give lessons, by the way. A good killer, he says, does not want competition, because competition among killers means killers killing other killers and that is selfish. “There are plenty of groats to go around for those who are good,” he says, “but why give groats away just because some imp wants to learn the trade?”

He is generous. Widows who knock on Yershi’s door do not leave without a few silver groats knotted into their hankies. Bumpkins waylaid by highwaymen know they will find a sympathetic ear in Yershi if they have enough pennies hidden in their shoes to buy him a beer. They know the pennies will be returned to them, plus what was stolen, plus a little more. And, more often than not, the ears of the man who stole the money in the first place. All done up in a nice leather pouch. Yershi is a great friend of the tanneries.

Yes, the mayor and the aldermen know Yershi lives in town. They know everything I have just told you, and so much more. Yet they do not know it because Yershi is a braggart. Yershi is humble. Yershi is quiet. His clients know the job is done only when Yershi arrives to collect his leather bag of groats, not because ethe news has traveled from Yershi through the bar maids and hangers-on who live to spread such news among the populace hungry for the news of who was killed the night before.

No, they do not mind that Yershi the Mild - for that is his name - calls their town home. There is a certain cachet in bragging to officials in competing cities that yours has a quiet, accomplished assassin as well as a street of cobblers, another of apothecaries and wine merchants, and a garrison of soldiers of the Duke Rampant.

How do I know all this?

I listen at the bars. I listen to the men talking in the dark street corners, in the smoky tents at fairs. Yes, I have been beaten for such eavesdropping. But when you are an orphan who has slept with the pigs to stay warm as you wander the countryside in winter, you do not much mind an occasional beating if you get the information you want.

I have come to Alderny to ask Yershi the Mild to take me on as an apprentice.

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