“The Heart of the Soldier? Jewel of Pandora? This’s some wacky shit, C.” Lucky sipped his lager and looked across the table at Crawford. “I’m guessing you’re after a specific soldier’s heart.”
“Hell, at this point we’re not sure we’re even looking for anything literal,” Crawford replied, a mostly full can of PBR getting warm in his hand, “But we figure if anyone knows where to start on this, it’s you, and our time frame is… limited, at best. Have you got anything?”
“Well…” Lucky paused, deep in thought. "Jewel of Pandora… I know a chick, antiquities dealer, if anyone knows where to get a valuable magical artifact, it’s her. Might ask her about the staff, too.
“Whatever. No idea about any soldier, though. Or his heart.”
Crawford let out a sigh, and took a sip of watery beer. Another dead end. This was starting to get repetitive.
“Nothing? No war stories, urban legends, friend of a friends that might know a guy? This is the least talkative I’ve ever seen you.” Crawford leaned in and stage-whispered: “I think you might be losing your edge.”
Lucky narrowed his eyes. “Nope. No urban legends. But now that I think of it…” Lucky finished his beer in a single mighty gulp and smiled devilishly.
“How about a fairy tale?”
Crawford attempted to slam his beer, choked, and coughed. When he had managed to clear his windpipe, he choked out “At this point, I’ll take what I can get.”
“My grandma, Aleksandra, used to tell me a story from her homeland. About a soldier and his adventures. After finishing his duty in the Tsar’s army, he was given three biscuits and sent on his way.”
“Three biscuits? That’s it?”
“This was Russia in the time of the Tsar. Three biscuits was a lot back then. Now pipe down, this is for your benefit. Now, on his way home, he was approached by a beggar, seeking alms. He gave the beggar one of his biscuits and continued on his way. Further along his path, another beggar approached and asked for alms, so another biscuit he gave away.”
“Man, this guy has zero business acumen.”
“I mean, giving away 2/3 of his assets like that.
“The point is that he’s a good man. And shut the fuck up, I’m telling a story.”
“Don’t apologize, just be quiet! Jesus. Alright, alms given, he walks away. Further on, be comes across a third beggar, asking for alms. Dutifully, the soldier gives him his very last biscuit. But this beggar had something to give in return. He handed the soldier a deck of cards and said ‘play with these cards, and you will always win.’”
“Shush! He also gave the soldier a flour sack, and said ‘anything you command to get into the sack, will be compelled to get into the sack.’”
“How long is this story?”
Lucky reared back as if to smack the hipster, but stopped himself. “Grandma was Russian. She loved long stories. Know what, I’ll skip to the cool part. So bladibladibla, the soldier becomes good friends with the Tsar, marries and has a kid, and the kid falls ill. Real ill. Deathly so. And lo, Death comes for the kid in the form of an old crone, as Death is wont to do. But the soldier has a trump card.”
“Don’t tell me; the sack?”
“The sack. As soon as Death reared her ugly head, he commanded her into the bag, and hung the bag from a tree in a deep wood. And for years afterwards, no one died. Finally, the wailing of the sick and maimed grew to be too much, and he released Death from the bag. Death returned to work, and all seemed normal. But when it came time for the soldier to die, Death was too afraid to come and retrieve him. So the soldier went on living, and presumably lives to this day.”
“That… Is certainly a story, Lucky. Well, thanks for your time.”
Crawford dropped a 20 on the table, said his goodbyes and left Donovan’s.