Cleric + Thief | Episodes | Journal | About

00001. Cleric + Thief

Introducing Iofi and Maddox

Iofi knocks on the front door of the apartment while Maddox turns and faces the other way, inspecting the immaculate lawn and the empty tree-lined street.

“Does the formality of it ever strike you as funny?” asks Maddox. They are short and fidgety, with a ruddy face, small squinting eyes, and short shaggy blonde hair.

Iofi drags the fingers of one hand gently across the face of the door. Her other hand starts to reach instinctively for the satchel around her waist, but then the returns it to her side after all. “Funny?” she echoes quietly, almost to herself. She is tall, almost gaunt. Her long dark hair is pulled back into a low tight bun. She has slightly buck teeth and a slight overbite, and large dark eyes with hooded eyelids.

“Knocking like that. Like you need permission.” Maddox continues quietly, their voice just above a whisper. “You don’t find it funny?”

“It’s the right thing to do,” Iofi answers, turning her head slightly toward her partner.

Maddox turns from the lawn, satisfied for now, and leans over the railing to peer in through the window.

“The right thing to do,” they counter, “is whatever gets you what you need.” They squint, trying to make out the inside of the room through the thin curtains. “And right now, we need to find the merchant.”

The door opens a crack just as Iofi raises her fist to knock a second time.

Maddox quickly straightens up and tries not to look like they were just spying through the window.

In the doorway is a small bald man with a thin, meticulous goatee and mustache. He stands in the small space between the door and its frame and peers out at them with large watery eyes and a gaping mouth like a goldfish.

“Yes?” he greets them with a soft, high voice.

“Hello,” Iofi smiles, revealing an impressive amount of teeth, her mouth giving a round shape to her vowels. “We’re looking for Mister Dedric Blackguard. Is he available?”

Maddox clears their throat and tugs on their sleeves on the front porch. The small man glances at them briefly before flicking his eyes back to Iofi.

“No, I’m afraid Mister Blackguard is not here at the moment.”

Maddox asks, “Do you know when he will be back?” their voice a little raspy as they speak up to be heard.

“I’m afraid not,” he answers in his childlike voice. There is a heavy thump and a scrape from somewhere behind the door. The doorman flinches and smiles nervously.

Maddox narrows their eyes, and concern appears on Iofi’s face. “Is everything alright?” she asks. The doorman’s eyes flit quickly behind the door.

“Yes! Yes, everything is quite alright. It, erm. It was just the cat!”

“The cat,” echoes Iofi.

“Look,” the doorman squeaks, “I really must be going. I really am busy. I’ll tell Mister Blackguard you were here. Miss?”

“Iofi.” She gestures behind her, “and Maddox. From the office of the Governor.”

The doorman meeps quietly again. “The governor? Oh, um. Yes, very good. I will let Mister Blackguard know. Now, as I said, I am very busy. Good day!”

The small man closes the door in their faces. There is the sound of a key turning in a lock, and the sliding of a bolt.

“Do you think he’s in trouble in there?” Maddox asks Iofi, their voice a little more melodious as it drops to its natural register just above a whisper.

“If he is, it would be the right thing to do to help him, wouldn’t it?” Iofi answers dipping her hand into her satchel.

“I’m more concerned about losing a lead than doing the right thing, but you know. Tell yourself what you need to hear.”

Iofi places her free hand on the door and when she speaks next, she does so with two voices at once. “This door is unlocked.” She lowers her hand to the door handle and turns it, and steps aside making room for Maddox at her side as she silently opens it a crack.

Maddox peers into the empty foyer on the other side of the door. There is a staircase leading up to the second level, a hallway receding away from them toward the back of the house, and a large doorway on either side.

A second Maddox walks briskly but silently in from the room on the right and looks expectantly at the two of them lurking in the doorway. The Maddox on the front porch nods at Iofi, who pushes the front door open wide enough for them both to fit through.

Maddox tells the other Maddox, “Continue searching the downstairs. If everything’s clear, head back to the safe house and wait for us there.” Maddox nods, and silently continues through the doorway on the left into a dining room.

Maddox turns back to Iofi and nods questioningly toward the stairs. They go first, a dagger suddenly in each hand. She pulls a glass rod out of her satchel, something between a large hammer and small club, and follows.

At the top of the stairs is a hall with four rooms. Two to the left, one to the right, and one straight ahead.

Muffled voices drift down the hall from the room at the far end of the hall.

Maddox and Iofi creep forward. One of the voices is the high, soft, trembling voice of the doorman. The other voice is low, calm, and commanding.

“I told you I don’t know where he is!”

“And I told you that is not an acceptable answer.” Maddox frowns at the voice’s western accent and glances back and up at Iofi. She nods, a single line of concern creasing her brow. She heard it to.

“He has something of ours,” the voice continues. “We need it back.”

The doorman yelps and there is the sound of a brief scuffle, and a thump, and the doorman cries out in despair.

Iofi leans over Maddox and places her hand on the door. “Ready?” They crouch and raise their daggers. “We’re already on the other side.

In an instant, Maddox and Iofi find themselves on the other side of the door. Two thugs are holding the terrified doorman down in a chair. One is pressing his hand flat down on the table in front of him, fingers splayed. A third brute is standing before the doorman, a cleaver in his hand, raised over the doorman’s fingers.

Maddox flings one dagger at the brute with the cleaver. It lodges in the meat of his shoulder and he howls. All eyes turn toward the door, which remains closed and locked.

Iofi points her rod at the brute and says, “That’s not a cleaver, that’s an eel!” The brute watches in amazement as the cleaver in his hand bends and warps and elongates and grows flesh and teeth. Teeth that the eel sink into the brute’s forearm.

The brute cries out and throws the eel to the ground and stumbles back.

The doorman scoots quickly away as the thugs release him and lunge toward Maddox, the first drawing a shortsword, and the second swinging an axe.

Maddox parries the shortsword, but the axe slices them across the ribs. They cry out.

“Maddox!” Iofi cries and brings her club down on the thug. It’s an awkward swing and glances off the thug’s arm, but it lands a substantially more solid blow than a frail glass rod ought to.

Maddox dashes to the side and throws another dagger, striking up to the hilt in the brute’s chest. He clutches the blade and staggers to the floor.

The thug with the shortsword hesitates and takes a step back. But the one with the axe charges forward and swings at Iofi. The blow is heavy and rattles her bones, but she deflects it and swings her club again, this time cracking the thug in the head. He stumbles.

Maddox, having produced another dagger, lunges for thug with the axe, but the slash in his ribs is so painful that he is unable to strike a killing blow. Still, the axeman cries and stumbles.

Seeing his opportunity, the swordsman darts forward and pierces Maddox clean through the shoulder. Maddox cries out, barely still standing.

Iofi advances in a fury and the swordsman falls beneath a flurry of blows.

Maddox collapses in her arms and she drags him over to the doorman, who is huddling wide-eyed in the corner.

The thug with the axe staggers forward and raises the blade over his head as Maddox reaches out and weakly grabs the doorman by his lapel. Iofi looks up and makes eye contact with the axeman as he grunts and swings down on them. At the same time Maddox whispers, “Snap,” and the three of them blink out of existence.

The axe buries itself in the floor, and the axeman looks around the room, empty except for him and his dead and dying comrades.

They arrive in a heap on the floor in safe house. Other Maddox is standing over them. They look gravely concerned, but they don’t move forward to help them.

“I saw,” they say softly. “I already called for help.”

Iofi, still holding Maddox in her arms, looks up at the other Maddox. “Thank you,” she says.

The doorman whimpers and tries to crawl away on all fours, and vomits on the ground.

Maddox groans, doubled over in pain. From between gritted teeth they hiss, “Wait outside. Stand watch.”

Other Maddox nods and silently exits the room.

Maddox drags himself over to the doorman, the two of them both on the ground, and they shove him onto his back. From somewhere, they have produced another long bladed dagger. “Now,” they whisper, holding the tip near the doorman’s face. “Whatever it is you were about to tell those goons, you’re going to tell us instead. Where’s Blackguard?”

Iofi, her gown covered in blood, stands up and walks over to Maddox and the whimpering doorman.

She crouches down and reaches into her satchel and pulls out a turtle shell the size of her hand. It is jet black, with a bright orange dotted line around the edge. She places it on the ground next to the doorman, and watches it intently.

The doorman glances from Maddox to it, as first one and then another head pokes out from the shell. One looks at the doorman curiously, and the other ignores him, looking as much in the opposite direction as is possible.

“Yes,” Iofi nods and says to the doorman, eyes still on the turtle, “I suggest you tell them what they want to know. It would be the right thing to do.”