the smuggler’s bible


“You’re a highwayman. It’s dishonorable to hold such an advantage over somebody, especially in their time of need.”

“I resent the accusation.”

“Any piece you take diminishes the whole pie,” Snake-in-the-Grass says, waving his arms in exasperation. “And this payoff already ranks as extremely dubious.”

“My dear boy, I don’t want any money. I just want to meet whomever concocted this delightful magical formula.” Branbildon gives the flask a little shake and watches the color swirl.

“Oh my god,” Bloodtooth says, cradling his head in his hands near the fire. “Oh my god, she is going to be so pissed.”


Snake-in-the-Grass peeks at the bundled form by the fire, then plucks at the musty little wizard’s robes and draws him over behind one of the stalagmites.

“Listen, doc,” he whispers, “I’ve got plenty invested in this mess. What if you just sorta gave me the goods so I could get a head start on things?”

“I understand completely,” Branbildon says, pulling a shimmering purple flask from deep inside a sleeve, “but, of course, I couldn’t possibly hand this over except to a primary signatory on the original quest documentation.”

“Ah, yes,” Snake-in-the-Grass says glumly, “I suppose I see your point.”


Snake-in-the-Grass gets the grapnel stuck good and tight between a pair of stalagmites and spools off a few dozen feet of rope. He knots the end around his waist, gets a running start and vaults himself out of the rock chimney. For a moment, he can see it all. Bloodtooth is below him tussling with the goblins, and the spell is spinning wildly on the stone plinth.

Then there’s a shout and a flash, and a sudden gust of wind lifts Snake-in-the-Grass up and up until something sturdy is pressed against the top of his head. After that, it’s darkness.


Vipers coil and squirm against the rough stone three stories below the rim of the well. Snake-in-the-Grass slides his way slowly around the lip—boots sending plumes of dust spiraling down. His fingertips are dug into seams in the wall behind him, but the mortar keeps crumbling loose under his grip.

“Steady now,” he mutters, sweating. “Nice and easy.”

He hears a goblin howl somewhere behind and below him, followed by the faint sounds of metal scraping on stone. Snake-in-the-Grass figures Bloodtooth can last five minutes alone in the cavern, but that is, admittedly, an estimate based on incomplete data.