Sunday, July 26, 2015

Adventuring Season: Short Fiction

Adventuring Season
Chris Costello

The barbarians were always the worst. The higher-ups told us to avoid profiling, and I did my best to heed their advice. But if you walked around my city in nothing but a loincloth, I was going to assume you were trouble. Especially during Winter. It was cold outside. Have some sense and put on a fucking tunic.

After that came the thieves. People stole, I understood that. Sometimes, they even had a good reason. But anyone who actually called themselves a thief with any amount of pride was bound to be an ass. I know that from experience.

And wizards. Everyone knew not to get me started on those guys.

“Taste my Fires Of Doom!” The spellcaster shouted. He delivered the line with all the confidence of a pubescent teen talking to a girl. He raised his gnarled wooden staff, and a howling orb of green flame appeared above his head. He murmured another incantation, and the fireball rocketed towards me.

“Oh, hells no.” I muttered. I took a deep breath and raised my pistol. The caster’s face went chalk white, and I failed to stifle a chuckle. With a smirk, I aimed the device at the center of his chest. I probably could’ve hit him in the shoulder, but you don’t take chances with magic-users. That’s from experience too. 

Blood spread across his robes, and he wobbled like a sapling in a hurricane. For a brief moment, I entertained the notion of letting him hit the cobblestones. I eventually thought better of it. It was against protocol, and I was already on thin ice.

I gave a small nod, and a trio of constables surrounded the unresponsive mage. They slapped a pair of anti-magic manacles around his bony wrists and hauled him to the center of the street.

That done, I turned my attention to a far more pressing matter.

The barbarian stood there, monolithic and, frankly, terrifying. His huge, meaty hands were curled around the hilt of a sword the size of an oak tree, and the expression on his face let me know exactly where he wanted to put it.

“I am Throgg The Slayer!” He roared. His voice was rough and deep. It sounded like he enjoyed eating gravel for lunch. Now that I thought of it, that was fairly standard for his kind. “I will not fall to a few puny men.”

He scooped up a handful of officers and swallowed them whole. They didn’t even have time to scream.

“Cut the monologue.” I said. Somehow, I managed to keep my voice from quivering. “You’re wasting our valuable time.”

“Give my regards to whatever gods you worship.” Throgg snarled. “You’ll be able to speak to them soon, because they’re in hell. Just like you soon will be.”

I thought about this for a moment, reloading my flintlock as I did so. His banter was above average for someone like him. But it was against protocol to let him know that. “That the best you got?”

“NO ONE INSULTS THROGG!” He let out a deafening scream and swung his weapon wildly. I sidestepped out of the way, grinning all the while. Throgg glared at me, looking baffled. His sword arced past me, and I felt a gust of wind whoosh past my ear.

The blade sliced into a nearby tree, and I let out a joyous whoop. As the tree came crashing down, Throgg realized his mistake. He tried to mimic my move, but it was impossible for someone of his stature to move that quickly.

The tree slammed into the road, pinning Throgg down. He thrashed about, sobbing pitifully and leaving handprints in the pavement. This temper tantrum amounted to less than nothing, and eventually he gave up.

Moments later, the officers had Throgg detained. Wrapped in chains, muscles bulging in unseemly ways, he scowled at me. “I refuse to be enslaved.” He muttered.

I thought about shooting him, right then and there. Just to put the poor dumb brute out his misery. But that was also frowned upon, apparently.

“Well, it’s a good thing that’s not happening, then.” I said calmly. “You’re being arrested.”

“Whatever diabolical fiend hired you, tell him-”

I jammed the barrel of my gun into his mouth, cutting him off. “The people hired me. You know that.”

A pair of grunts appeared in front of me, bringing with them the stench of sulfur. My department looked down on most Practitioners of the Art, but we weren’t above using them ourselves occasionally. I would’ve been pissed, were it not for the black-clad form slumped over at their feet.

“Just like you said, mister Crimeus” Said one of the men. His helmet obscured his face, but if his voice was any indication, he wasn’t more than sixteen years old. “We caught her with her hand in the Captain’s back pocket.”

Thieves. I thought. Better than assassins, at least.

Just then, I caught something moving in the corner. Wasting no time, I fired a slug into the sellsword’s gut. I heard her gasp, and she fell to her knees. “Son of a bitch.” She growled. “That hurt.” 

I shoved the guards aside and started walking. I stopped when I was standing over her slumped form. She was a peasant, bowing to her king. 

“You’re lucky I didn’t kill you.” I snarled. “Trying to stab one of my men. And from behind, too. Not very sporting. Next time, you won’t get off so easy.”

I snapped my fingers, and the guards dragged the assassin and the thief to the main road, where Throgg and the caster were waiting.

“That’s all of them, I think!” The wind carried my voice past the city and into the Black Forest nearby.

A shadow fell across the city, turning the day into night. A smile inched its way across my face. I had done some good today. Then there came a thunderous roar, and the dragon took a nosedive towards the ground. At the last second, the beast unfurled its legs and touched down on the street.

“Hey, Crimeus.” Said the dragon. “How’s it hanging?” The Wyvern had scales that gleamed in the waning light, and its claws left indentations in the stone.

“I’m doing okay.” I gestured to the adventurers, their unconscious forms surrounded by a ring of officers. “Are these the people who raided your lair?”

The beast peered over my shoulder. “Yep.”

Out of the corner of my eye, the barbarian began to stir. Throgg sat up groggily and goggled frantically at the dragon. “Aha!” He shouted. “You have been corrupted by this monster’s foul influence and mean to sacrifice it to appease us. But you will find-”

“Oh, shut up.” The dragon interjected.

Throgg did as he was told, but he seemed genuinely hurt by the interruption.
The dragon narrowed his eyes. “You know, humans tend to look a lot alike to me. But I’d never forget that one.”

A smile played at the corners of my mouth. “Oh, really? And why is that?”

The dragon shivered. “He nearly slayed me.”

Throgg gulped, and huge drops of sweat ran down his face. “You, uh, you must be mistaken.”

It was all I could do to keep from laughing my ass off. “Word of advice. If you want to deny attempted slaying, you should probably avoid calling yourself The Slayer. Just an idea.”

Before Throgg could reply, an officer hauled the adventurers away. Another guard proceeded to take the dragon’s statement. As for me, well, I took a second to enjoy the quiet. Moments like these were all too rare during the questing season.

Just then, an elderly couple approached me. They had heads the size of melons, and their skin was a sickly shade of green. Goblins. Bruises covered their arms, and the woman had a huge red gash down the side of her face. I winced visibly upon seeing it. Not because I felt particularly bad for them, but because I knew that I’d have to postpone my lazy afternoon. Again.
“Please help, sir.” The woman’s voice came out as a pitiful croak. “A paladin just smashed up our bakery.”

I sighed and adjusted my cloak. Paladins were the worst.

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