Port Dreq maintained a small but formidable fortress. The amount of soldiers tasked to hold it, however, was quite wanting. The central hallway was rather long, with torches projecting light that bounced off of the huge stones that formed the walls, floor, and ceiling. There were rooms along the corridor that served as barracks and officers' quarters. All of these rooms were empty, save for one at the end of the hallway, as there were no personnel to occupy all of them. At the end of the corridor there was a lengthy spiral staircase, which descended a considerable distance underground to a small cell block of four cages. Captain Tyboon and his men escorted the foreign bounty hunter down the helixing steps to his new lodgings.
“Lock him up!” Tyboon ordered as the group of warriors entered the dungeon. He placed his spear on the top rungs of the weapon rack along the wall. One of the guards threw a powerful right cross into the bounty hunter's face before hurling him into his cell and locking the door.
The bounty hunter wiped blood from his lip before standing upright. He glared around at the iron bars keeping him from the rest of the world.
Tyboon approached him. “What is your name?”
“Hmm. Well, do you want my real name or my fake name?” The bounty hunter asked snidely.
“In this situation I think full honesty would serve you best, bounty hunter,” Tyboon responded.
“This situation is looking rather bleak for me either way. What do you think my chances are of getting out of here alive?” The bounty hunter inquired, standing squarely opposite to the imposing Captain Tyboon.
“Despite the fate of your friend back there, I am not an executioner. Cooperate and you may yet leave.”
The bounty hunter let out a cold, harsh laugh. “You think that man was my friend? I should be thanking you, actually. Once I bring the thief back to Tandris I get twice the pay.”
“Thief? What did this man steal that would lead you to Vega?” Tyboon pressed.
“From me, or from you?” The bounty hunter joked. “Someone in your profession must have what qualities? Bravery, nobility, honesty, and of course strength. All fine traits, to be sure. But in my line of work you get paid to be patient and observant.”
At these words Sergeant Glenn opened his satchel and a look of fear consumed his face. “Captain. There's only one gun in here. This is impossible, I had them both in the bag.” His face was white with worry.
“What?! Damnit Glenn!” Tyboon rushed to the satchel and conducted his own futile search of the small bag. There was indeed only one of the strange firearms, accompanied by a single piece of wood, similar in size and weight to the weapon. “Malcolm, Patrik, come with me. We are going to arrest every one of those pirates and that lying sack of shit thief, too! Glenn, you're in charge here. Don't mess up again or you will be replaced. We will return soon,” he said, grabbing his mighty spear on the way out.
“Nice job, Glenn,” the bounty hunter mused from his cell, before finding his way to a wooden bench and laying down.
Captain Tyboon hurried through the dark village toward the docks once more, with guardsmen Malcolm and Patrik at his flank. Over an hour had passed since they had finished cleaning up the wreckage.
Upon arriving at the docks, Captain Tyboon was surprised to find that Jill had already packed up and left. The berth where her ship had been docked previously was now vacant.
“Shit!” Captain Tyboon was furious. “Patrik, get three patrol vessels ready. They can't be far. We will send one ship along the southern coast, one ship out west, and we will take the last ship along the northern coast ourselves. Malcolm, go find Mayor Leto and fill him in on everything that is happening. Show him the weapon, tell him that Sergeant Glenn is in charge until my return, and continue questioning the bounty hunter.”
The two guardsmen lined up and replied “Yes, Sir!” before following through with their tasks.
“Deep into these different lands,
trapped within another's hands,
companion rotting into sand,
fortune now made twice as grand.”
The tune echoed off of the hard stone walls of the dungeon. Sergeant Glenn sat silently, replaying in his head the moment that the weapon must have been swiped from his possession. He recalled joining the group to lift the largest piece of debris at the scene of the night's incident: the crow's nest that lay severed from the Lady Helena. The man adjacent to Glenn was none other than the traveler who had brought all of these events into place.
Glenn, a warrior in his late twenties, was one of the finest combatants in Port Dreq. His keen mind for strategy, both in and out of combat, was noted by Captain Tyboon early in Glenn's training. He wasn't one to be easily made a fool of, but alas, he had been played by Kenny Rothman. Silently he sat, hoping that Captain Tyboon might walk through the door with the thief in chains.
“What did he steal that brought him here?” Glenn raised his head and finally asked the prisoner.
The bounty hunter remained horizontal on the bench, staring at the roof of his cell. “I'm not sure you'd even believe me if I told you. I think I'll bide my time before divulging any more information. Besides, unlike you, your Captain actually seems quite capable of bringing a task to completion. I'm sure they will all return soon and your question will be answered.”
Sergeant Glenn rose from his chair. “Tell me, is living preferable to death?”
“Depends on the style of life. For me, yes it is. I can't speak for us all, though,” the bounty hunter said, unmoved by the sergeant's threat.
“Then I implore you, tell us what we need to know about that man. My job is to keep the people of this town safe, something I can't do with a powerful weapon like that out there. There are families that live here, and this type of weapon doesn't belong. I understand that you are a bounty hunter, and while I can't speak directly for my Captain, he is of sound mind like myself. You may possibly be able to return home with your prize, if you will cooperate.”
“Ah, but that man of sound mind stuck my associate like he was a slab of steak. And he claims he is no executioner.”
“Fair point. However, I can assure you that he will at least hear my proposal, but that would require you telling us about yourself and your target. What do you say?”
“And what of my weapon? Will that be coming back home with me as well?” The prisoner asked, though he knew the answer.
“Once again, I cannot speak for my Captain. You'll have to ask him that yourself.”
The bounty hunter laughed. “You know, I like you, Glenn. Most of the men in uniform, back home anyway, have an air of corruption about them, but not you. Have you ever been to Tandris?”
“I can't say that I have, nor do I wish to ever visit the place. The people there think too fast for the rest of the world. Your weapon is a fine example of this. A warrior aught carry a blade, not a gun. It is a travesty to destroy a fine ship with the pull of a finger. If everyone were to carry pure destruction like that in their hands, how long could we hope for our buildings to stand?” Glenn asked pensively.
“Make stronger buildings, my friend.”
Guardsman Malcolm entered the dungeon. “Sergeant Glenn.” he bowed.
“Malcolm, where is Captain Tyboon? And what of the thief?” Glenn asked urgently.
“The pirates had left the docks by the time we arrived. We have men looking for the thief, but he is elusive. However, the men down at the docks specifically mentioned seeing the thief leave the company of the pirates. We think he's still in the city.”
“Jillian opted to set sail with the amount of damage done to her vessel? And what of Tyboon? Mayor Leto?” Glenn inquired, lamenting the desk duty he was stuck with.
“Captain Tyboon is following her. There's no way she will make it very far without having to dock, or sinking herself.” Malcolm said in an effort to calm Glenn. “Mayor Leto is incapacitated for the night. I found him sleeping on a pile of villagers at the pub.”
“I see. Speaking of sleep, it's been a long night, guardsman. I have this covered. Go home and get some rest.” Glenn told his subordinate.
“Are you sure, sir? I have no problem waiting until the morning guard arrives.” Malcolm insisted.
“I am sure. See your wife.” Glenn assured him.
“Thank you, sir. Until tomorrow,” he bowed before leaving.
Glenn sat and relaxed at the table. He looked at his prisoner, who remained laying on the wooden bench. The bounty hunter's eyes were closed, but he was most certainly still awake and very alert. Again, Glenn replayed the night's events in his head.
Twelve people gathered around the chunk of wood, five pirates, six guardsmen, and of course one burglar under the guise of a clumsy deserter. Everyone lifted the massive log at the same time, at which point the deserter shifted as if losing footing, brushing up against Glenn's satchel for but an instant.
“What is the name of your target?” Glenn asked the bounty hunter.
The bounty hunter chortled. “You can't get my name, so you might as well try for his, is that it? What good is a name? I can give you his real name or a thousand fake ones, but what will you do with it, anyway?” He stretched along his bench. “His name is Kenny.”
“Kenny.” Glenn repeated. He got up from his seat and approached the iron cell bars once more. “And what plunder does he carry?”
The bounty hunter sat up and swiveled, planting his feet on the ground and acknowledging Sergeant Glenn eye to eye. The bounty hunter's firearm remained resting on the table some distance behind Glenn. “I hope you can see this from my perspective, Sergeant Glenn. My partner and I entered your land quite legally. Your hothead Captain is now a war criminal, and his actions will have severe consequences, I am afraid. Azkalarex Jukizan.” The bounty hunter spoke an old Tandrian phrase. As the ancient words filled the room, the weapon let out a high pitched buzz before self-detonating.
The explosive blast was minor, but still enough to char Sergeant Glenn's backside and propel him forward, causing him to collapse into the hard metal bars of the cell door. The prisoner moved briskly across his cell to catch the guard, grabbing and squeezing his neck to choke the life out of him. Sergeant Glenn struggled to break free, but he was off balance and already losing consciousness, suspended only by the prisoner's grasp. Within a moment, Glenn's breathing came to a full stop.
The bounty hunter pilfered the corpse and obtained a small ring of keys which he used to unlock his cell door. He unbuckled the finely crafted sword and sheath belonging to Glenn and equipped himself as the two guardsmen who were posted upstairs entered to investigate the incident.
The escapee drew the recently confiscated blade and stood at the ready. The two guards split and began to flank the bounty hunter, but their sword skills posed no threat to the former prisoner. A few quick parries were enough to throw both of the novice guards off balance. In a moment the conflict was over; the two brave souls had joined their Sergeant in death.
The bounty hunter retrieved his brown cowl and light leather armor from a sturdy chest. After fitting his equipment snug and tight, he slipped out of the dungeon and slithered through the town. He suspected Kenny might be making a bee-line to a specific location: The Lucos Mountains.
© 2017 Jesse Pennington